World War II
World War II is the name commonly given to the global conflict of 1939-1945. It is said to be the greatest and most destructive war in world history. The World War II military operations were conducted primarily in Europe but also in Asia, Africa, and the far islands of the Pacific as well. More than 17 million members of the armed forces perished during the conflict. It caused strain on the economic capabilities of the major nations and left many countries on the edge of collapse.
The causes of WWII are too numerous and complex to be generalized. The following is said to be one of the main causes.
At the end of WWI Europe was economically impoverished and politically divided. It faced the possibility of social revolution. During the early 1920’s Europe experienced an economic depression and the course of European politics was determined largely by the communist revolution, which engulfed many countries. In the late 1920’s Europe achieved a measure of economic recovery. However, all hope of political stability in Europe was shattered by the results of the depression that hit the United States in 1929. In the 1930’s widespread unemployment and acute distress strained social relationships in Europe. The communist movement soon overwhelmed Europe.
The triumph in 1933 of fascism, under the name of National Socialism, or Nazism, in Germany ended the threat of revolution in that country. However, the triumph of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler would prove to be more disastrous as time passed. The German society was transformed into a totalitarian state, which had withdrawn from the League of Nations. The League of Nations condemned Germany’s action for denouncing the Versailles Treaty, which provided the disarmament of Germany. Hitler wanted to establish Germany as the dominant nation in Europe and one of the leading economic, political and military powers of the world. Hitler’s conquests would eventually lead to war.
Essentially, the war was a conflict between two coalitions of states, designated the Axis Powers and the Allies or United Nations. The Axis Powers included Germany, Italy, Japan, and their satellites. The Allies consisted the United States, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, and their Allies.
The war began with the invasion of Poland by Germany on September 1, 1939. And was immediately broadened in scope by declarations of war against Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
Italy entered the war in 1940 and in conjunction with Germany spread the war to Africa. Invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany on June 22, 1941 transformed the war into a general European struggle. And the attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941, followed immediately by a declaration of war against Japan by the United States. This converted the European war into a global one.
The war ended with the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 9, 1945 and of Japan on September 2, 1945. Before it was over a total of almost seventy nations were involved in the conflict in varying degree, ranging from severance of diplomatic relations to full participation in the hostilities. Peace Treaties were signed in: Paris, February 10, 1947; San Francisco, September 8, 1951; Vienna, May 15, 1955.
I sat down to talk to my great-grandma Bernice about WWII. At first I was a little worried that she wouldn’t be able to recollect something that happened that long ago. However, soon I realized that at 96 years old my grandmother still had a good memory.
It was 1941 and she was 38 years old. Great Grandma and Grandpa were listening to their new radio when the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing came on. She said that the Japanese were over in the states trying to make peace when they heard the news. She remembers just being scared to death. She was worried that grandpa would have to go. They were living in the two-story farmhouse outside of Chapman, KS. She had still lived there until last year when she moved in to a retirement home. They were told to grow certain crops but she doesn’t just remember exactly which ones. They didn’t really help with any volunteer work just worked on the farm to make food to feed the people. There was a shortage of food. She remembers specifically that they could only have so much sugar and flour. They had to have a permit to buy gasoline it was also rationed. She also remembers there was a shortage of tires and ladies pantyhose.
Their nephew joined in the war effort and was a pilot in the army. He was shot down over Germany and killed. Grandpa’s younger brother Elmer also went over seas to fight in the war, but he made it home alive. Their two nieces left Kansas and went to California to work in the Civil Defense Factories making things for the war.
Grandma and Grandpa followed the war by listening to the radio and reading the newspaper everyday. They rejoiced when the news came that the war was over. They had felt that it was a terrible thing and they were really glad when it was over.
The World War II Memorial
The National World War II Memorial is to be the first national memorial dedicated to all who served in the armed forced and the Merchant Marines of the United States during World War II. It will also acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the entire nation during this time. It is planned to honor all military veterans of war, the citizens on the home front, and the nation at large.
The Memorial is planned to be a symbol of the spirit, sacrifice and commitment of the American people and the common defense of the nation during the Second World War. It is meant to inspire future generations of Americans while deepening their appreciation of how the World War II generation helped to secure our freedom and democracy. Above all, the Memorial will stand as a symbol of national unity and a timeless reminder of how the nation worked together.
The Memorial will be located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at the Rainbow Pool site at the east end of the Reflecting Pool. It will lie between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The chosen location will mirror the historical importance and lasting significance of World War II to America and the entire world.
Senator Bob Dole is the chairman of the national fund-raising campaign for the Memorial. The Memorial will be funded almost entirely by private contributions. The fundraising goal for the Memorial is $100 million. As of June 1999 approximately $60 million in donations had been received from corporations, foundations, veterans groups, civic associations, and states and individuals. The groundbreaking for the project is planned to begin on Veterans Day 2000.
History of WWII. World War II Overview Homepage. On-line. http://www.frontiernet.net.
Bernice Altwegg, personal interview. 11/18/99.
Ernest R. May. Between World Wars. Grolier Online Homepage. On-line. http://gi.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_2.html.
The National World War II Memorial. World War II Memorial Homepage. On-line. http://www.wwiimemorial.com/.