World War II, or the Second World War was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved most of the world’s nations, including all of the great powers, organised into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilised. In a state of “total war“, the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant action against civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it was the deadliest conflict in human history, and it has been estimated that it resulted in fifty million to over seventy million fatalities.
The war is generally accepted to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. China and Japan were already at war by this date, whereas other countries that were not initially involved joined the war later in response to events such as the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attacks on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and on British overseas colonies, which triggered declarations of war on Japan by the United States, the British Commonwealth, and the Netherlands.
The war ended with the disintegration of the German war effort and the unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan by 1945. World War II left the political alignment and social structure of the world significantly altered. While the United Nations was established to foster international cooperation and prevent future conflicts, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which would last for the next forty-six years. Meanwhile, the United States’ strong advocacy of the principle of self-determination accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Western Europe began moving toward economic recovery and increased political integration.
The exact date of the war’s end is also not universally agreed upon. It was generally accepted at the time that the war ended with the armistice of 14 August 1945 (V-J Day), rather than the formal surrender of Japan (2 September 1945); it is even claimed in some European histories that it ended on V-E Day (8 May 1945). A peace treaty with Japan was signed in 1951 to formally tie up any loose ends such as compensation to be paid to Allied prisoners of war who had been victims of atrocities. A treaty regarding Germany’s future allowed the reunification of East and West Germany to take place in 1990 and resolved other post-World War II issues.
Belligerents Commanders Casualties and Losses
- Atlas of the World Battle Fronts
- Battles (list)
- Effects of World War II
- List of World War II military operations
- Declaration of war by the United Kingdom
- Declaration of war by the United States
- World War II Military Situation Maps 1944-1945
- September 2, 1945 Document of Surrender of Japan
- List of American military cemeteries, federal memorials, monuments and markers located in foreign countries
- Military History of African Americans
- Military History of Asian Americans
- Military History of Latino Americans
- Military History of Native Americans
Military history of the United States during World War II
The Veterans Administration http://www.va.gov/