War between the so-called Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan on one side and Britain, the Commonwealth, France, the USA, the USSR, and China (the Allied powers) on the other. A truly world war, it was fought throughout Europe, Russia, North Africa, and across the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards.
It is estimated that some 55 million lives were lost in total, including 20 million Russians and in excess of 6 million Jews killed in the holocaust.
The origins of the war are attributed to Germany’s reluctance to accept the geographic frontiers previously agreed at the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ following World War I, and to the aggressive foreign policy of the then German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
Returning from Munich in 1938 with the above agreement bearing both his and Adolf Hitler’s signatures, Neville Chamberlain believed he had secured peace: ‘I believe it is peace for our time’. The agreement was that Germany and Great Britain should never go to war again in the event of disagreement between the two countries. However Hitler paid scant regard to this ‘scrap of paper’ and in early 1939 his army annexed Czechoslovakia and then went on to invade Poland, breaking the Munich Agreement.
The timelines below present the major events of each year of World War II, from the German invasion of Poland in 1939 to the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, and on through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, followed by Montgomery’s famous victory at El Alamein in 1942, and onto the Allied landings at Salerno in Italy in 1943, the D-Day landings of 1944, and into the early months of 1945, crossing the Rhine and then on to Berlin and Okinawa.
Celebrations for VJ Day, 1945
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