Presentation on theme: "World War II Kevin J. Benoy. Origins of the War World War II was the most destructive conflict in the history of the planet. Total losses are impossible."— Presentation transcript:
World War II Kevin J. Benoy
Origins of the War World War II was the most destructive conflict in the history of the planet. Total losses are impossible to calculate. The issue of guilt is, therefore, always important and lessons are always drawn from the conflict and from its supposed causes.
Origins of the War Most people point the finger of guilt at Adolf Hitler – not Germany and not the western leaders – though their policy of appeasement greatly facilitated Hitlers aggression.
Origins of the War Politicians generally see appeasement as the root cause of the war. Winston Churchill, an outsider at the time, is generally regarded as having been correct in his assessment of the situation – Chamberlain and Daladier lacked backbone. The lesson learned by Anthony Eden (later a British PM at the time of the 1956 Suez Crisis) and by John Foster Dulles (American Secretary of State in the early Cold War years) was that dictators should not be appeased. Appeasement is now a dirty word.
Origins of the War Historian AJP Taylor in his important book The Origins of the Second World Warn adopted a different approach. He linked the two world wars together; both were products of a German drive for domination of Central Europe. Hitler was not, therefore, the crucial factor. He was merely a supreme opportunist
Origins of the war Despite her defeat, Germany was still far more economically powerful than most of her neighbours. Her population growth and economic and military potential made German domination of Europe likely.
Origins of the War The ``German problem`` had survived the first war and had intensified. The harsh Treaty of Versailles made war inevitable.
Origins of the War Today, most historians regard the truth as lying somewhere in between. Taylor`s assertion that the treaty was a significant factor fails to note that much of the Treaty was dismantled in the 1930s – even before Hitler appeared on the scene. There can also be no doubt that Hitler`s aggressiveness contributed much toward conflict. Yet it is also true that German expansion – particularly in Eastern Europe, whether the leader was Stressemann or Hitler, remained a goal.
Origins of the War Taylor downgrades the assertion that Hitler wanted a major war. He may be correct, but there is strong evidence that Hitler desired something more limited. In the Hossbach Memorandum, it is clear that Hitler saw a war as inevitable and that he wanted it to be fought on German terms.
Origins of the War Germany certainly was not armed for a long, drawn out conflict in Her armed forces were equipped for short, sharp conflicts against limited opposition. Hitler knew that world wars drain countries and require social cohesion to fight them. Despite his totalitarian control, and partly because of it, there were plenty of potential opponents within Germany in 1939 – Jews, Catholics, Social Democrats – even elements of the military.
Origins of the War Short successful wars would keep social tensions under control and not drain the economy so much as to deprive German citizens of comforts. Blitzkrieg tactics were predicated on the need to avoid, at all costs, a war of attrition. Small wars keep options open; total war eliminates options.
Origins of the War German industrial capacity was sufficient to fight a single major opponent, but not several at once – especially if the USA were to become involved. Historians note that until 1942, Germany was able to fight their kind of war. Consumer goods were still being produced in quantity. After 1942, things changed dramatically.
The Polish Campaign Germany deployed 40 normal infantry divisions against Poland and 14 mechanized or partially mechanized divisions. Their tactics were based on British plans from the 1920s for small mobile forces. These had been much improved by General Heinz Guderian. Opposing Polish forces were similar in number, but of the 12 Polish cavalry brigades, only 1 was armoured. Polish air forces and naval units were much inferior.
The Polish Campaign On September 1, 1939 the attack was launched against Poland and Danzig. On September 8, some German units were in the outskirts of Warsaw. By September 10 the scale of the Polish disaster was clear. Its forces were being encircled and pounded from the air. On September 17, the Soviets pounced in the East – in accordance with the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact. Any hopes of Polish resistance continuing in the eastern Pripet marshes were abandoned.
The Polish Campaign On September 18, the Polish government fled into exile. Warsaw gallantly held out for another 10 days, while isolated units fought on until October 5. No meaningful help was offered by Poland`s Western Allies, since they had ruled out an assault on Germany`s western defences.
The Baltic States and the Russo-Finnish War The Soviet attack also involved occupation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Finland refused to give in to Soviet demands for Finnish territory. On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union attacked.
The Russo-Finnish War Successful in the Far North, the Soviets were repulsed elsewhere. Soviet preparation had been poor and Finnish troops were superior to their enemy – winter trained and equipped, they resisted skilfully. Western governments even considered sending military help to the Finns via Scandinavia – fortunately not carrying out the plan as they would have found themselves fighting both Germany and the USSR at the same time.
Russo-Finnish War On February 1, 1940 the Red Army attacked again, this time using more than just the Leningrad regional forces. Finland was forced to seek peace in early March, on terms favourable to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland would ally themselves with Germany to win back lost territory. Finnish aircraft later in the war
Phoney War -- Sitzkrieg From September 1939 to April 1940 the war in the West was strangely inactive. German and French forces hunkered down in defensive positions behind the West Wall and the Maginot Line. Both expected their opponent to launch a major push that did not occur. Disappearing artillery copula, Fort Hackenberg, Maginot Line
Phoney War -- Sitzkrieg At sea, things were a little more active. German U-boats sank 110 ships in the first 4 months of the war. Most of the German surface fleet, after some initial raiding, was sunk or forced to return to home ports and was not a major factor in the war. A British destroyer chased the German Altmark into a Norwegian fiord and rescued 300 British prisoners on board. This violation of Norwegian neutrality convinced Hitler that the Allies could not be trusted to stay out of Scandinavia.
Scandinavia 1940 In March 1940 the British seriously considered landing on the Norwegian coast and mining its coastline. The British and French came to an agreement on it on March 21. The move was delayed with catastrophic consequences. On April 1,Hitler ordered the invasion of Denmark and Norway, to be carried out on April 9.
Scandinavia 1940 On April 9 the Germans occupied all of Denmark and landed at Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim in Norway. Resistance was quickly overcome since neither Denmark or Norway had mobilized. In Norway, local Nazis, led by Vidkun Quisling, helped the invaders.
Scandinavia 1940 Allied landings followed, but it was too little, too late. Resistance continued until late May, but events elsewhere caused the Allies to abandon Norway. 11 inch Norwegian Gun at Orcarsborg Fortress – destroyed a German Cruiser
Attack in the West On May 10, 1940, the long awaited German assault in the West began. Hunkered down behind the supposedly impregnable Maginot Line, the French felt confident that the Germans would be repulsed. However, the French were to be mistaken if they expected a World War I style conflict.
Holland Holland was attacked immediately, with parachute landings at key locations to secure bridges and airfields. By May 12, German tanks were on the outskirts of Rotterdam. On May 13 the Dutch government fled to Britain. Rotterdam was bombed and within 4 days of the outbreak of hostilities, Holland had fallen.
Belgium & France In Belgium, parachute landings brought rapid success. Troops were dropped on top of the Belgian fort of Eban Emael and near key bridges. Dummy parachutists were also dropped over a wide area to cause confusion behind Belgian lines.
Belgium and France Successful British & French reinforcement of the Belgians temporarily halted the German advance on a line from Antwerp to Namur, but German advances further south made this position untenable.
Belgium and France Von Runstedts Army Group A had the most success, advancing through the Ardennes region – thought impassable to armour. By May 12, the Germans crashed through to the Meuse River. Soon the Germans were across it and driving on toward the English Channel.
Belgium and France The rapid German advance created confusion behind French lines. When Guderian crossed the Aisne, the French commander informed Reynaud that there were no reserves available to counter and that Paris might fall in two days.
Belgium and France On May 20, Guderian was at Abbeville, and on the 22 nd he turned northward to threaten Calais and Dunkirk. Reinhardt cut across the British rear. Now the Allied forces were cut in half, with the forces in the north encircled with their backs to the sea. The German success even exceeded the most optimistic expectations.
Belgium and France The confusion also owed much to a failure in the French command system, which was overly centralized and unable to cope with rapidly changing situations. French units were allowed little flexibility. As early as May 16, Churchill went to Paris and asked about the position of Frances strategic reserve. General Gamelin replied there is none. When Weygand replaced Gamelin and his plane was forced down as he attempted to regain contact with the front – he lost all contact with anyone for some time. For 4 days, British General Gort received no orders.
Belgium and France The Allied problem was compounded by retreating civilians clogging roads. Allied troops were sympathetic; advancing Germans simply pushed them off the roads.
Belgium and France A British counter-attack at Arras revealed weaknesses in the German forces. Two weak tank and two infantry battalions slammed into Rommels 7 th Panzer Divisions flank. The British Matilda tanks were slow but heavily armoured and German tank rounds bounced off them.
Belgium and France The light German armour was no match for the heavier British tanks (or French armour for that matter). However, German leadership was superior and Rommel ordered that his men lower their 88mm anti-aircraft guns to use against the Matildas.
Belgium and France Had the attack involved two armoured divisions, rather than brigades, the war might have turned out differently. However, the French decision to use armour as infantry support weapons instead of mobile units proved fatal. DeGaulle argued strongly for the alternative tactic to no avail. Furthermore, French tanks ran on aviation fuel, while German tanks could use ordinary petrol – so could keep moving on captured supplies, even when supply lines were cut. French Char-B main battle tank
Belgium and France British evacuations began soon after. On May 23, 4,000 troops were shipped back from Boulogne and another 1,000 removed from Calais on trawlers, drifters and yachts on the 25 th and 26 th of May.
Operation Dynamo - Dunkirk The biggest evacuation took place from Dunkirk, beginning on May 26 th. Pounded from the air, the British pulled 126,000 troops out by May 30. By June 2 nd, the remainder of the BEF was withdrawn. On the morning of the 4 th, the operation ceased. Some 338,000 Allied troops landed safely in England – though all of their equipment lay abandoned on the beaches
Operation Dynamo - Dunkirk
The success of the operation was due to the efforts of the RAF and the Royal Navy – and to the brave work of thousands of fishermen and yachtsmen who took part. It was also due to Hitlers order to stop the German advance on May 24. Perhaps this was based on discomfort over the Arras counter-attack. Perhaps Hitler felt Britain might come to peace terms if not humiliated by a surrender at Dunkirk. Whatever the case, hundreds of thousands of troops escaped to fight again.
France Collapses Though spun as a tremendous success, the French campaign was a mess. Another 220,000 French and British troops evacuated from northern ports but... In 3 weeks, over 1 million Allied troops were captured
France Collapses On June 7 German tanks under Major General Erwin Rommel broke through toward Rouen and on the 9 th they crossed the Seine. On June 10 the French government relocated to Tours and Italy declared war on France and Britain. On June 12 the high command informed Reynaud that France was beaten On June 14, Paris fell.
France Collapses After further removing the government to Bordeaux on the 16 th, Reynaud resigned and his successor, Marshal Petain asked the Germans for an armistice. On June 22 nd, at Hitlers insistence, the French surrender took place in the same railway coach at Compiegne that the 1918 armistice had been signed in.
France Collapses Germany occupied the northern and western coasts, gaining fine submarine bases. The French army was demobilized. Marshal Petain governed unoccupied France from Vichy, but this was little more than a puppet government that collaborated with the Germans.
France Collapses German successes in the West exceeded even the wildest expectations of the German High Command. Credit for the victory lies in German leadership in the field. Guderians and Rommels brilliant field generalship and German air superiority were key factors.
France Collapses In the words of British military analyst, BH Liddell- Hart: – Far from having the overwhelming superiority with which they were credited, Hitlers armies were actually inferior in numbers to those opposing them...he had fewer and less powerful tanks than his opponents possessed. Only in airpower, the most vital factor, had he a superiority...their success could easily have been prevented but for the opportunities presented to them by Allied blunders that were largely due to the prevalence of out of date ideas.
France Collapses The French surrender was not accepted by all French forces. Charles DeGaulle and the troops evacuated to Britain, decided to fight on, calling themselves the Free French.
France Collapses The French High command was obsessed with the idea of defense, to the point where they refused to accept that offensive tactics should be developed. Generals ignored the advice of experts like Charles DeGaulle, that tanks and armoured vehicles should be massed together to allow rapid movement, rather than parcelling them out to infantry division which slowed them to the pace of marching men. The use of close air support was ignored completely.
France Collapses Beyond this failure of leadership lurked other reasons for the rapid collapse: – France was economically and psychologically unprepared for war. About the only thing that the political Right and Left agreed on was that war must be avoided – so no national fervour developed. – Military defeats gave the fascist elements in the country a chance to come out into the open and defeatists overcame the efforts of Reynaud to convince his colleagues to continue the war from North Africa.
France Collapses In a move that soured British/French relations for decades after the war, the British decided that they could not allow the French Mediterranean Fleet to eventually fall into German hands, despite Vichy French insistence that this would not happen. The British launched a surprise attack on the French Algerian naval base of Mers-el-Kebir – destroying the French fleet at anchor in the port.
Battle of Britain With the fall of France, Britain (and its empire) stood alone. Fortunately, Britain did have a substantial anti-tank defense – the English Channel. It would now be up to Goerings Luftwaffe to destroy the RAF and force the Royal Navy out of the Channel to open the way for invasion.
Battle of Britain In August, attacks began on harbours, radar stations, airfields and munitions factories. The RAF was hard-pressed and it looked very much like the RAF would have to relocate from vulnerable southern bases. However, in September the German tactics changed. In retaliation for an RAF raid on Berlin, turned to bombing the British capital. The RAF in the South were given a reprieve.
Battle of Britain British radar stations and southern airfields remained operational. Though outnumbered, the British had some significant advantages: – Pilots who bailed from damaged aircraft could fly again the same day if uninjured. German aircrew were captured. – British fighters could stay in the air longer than the 90 minute limit for German fighter escorts. – Radar ensured that the British had early warning of German attacks and could allocate resources efficiently.
Battle of Britain German losses were heavy – 1,389 German planes were lost, compared to 792 British aircraft. New British fighter aircraft (Spitfires and Hurricanes) were as good or better than the planes they fought.
Battle of Britain London and other British cities were badly hit – but civilian morale remained high. Hitler called off Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain, and turned his attention elsewhere, knowing that without air superiority any invasion would be cut to pieces. Bombing of cities would continue, though on a smaller scale.
North Africa & Greece Mussolini entered the war when he was sure that Germany was on the path to winning. Though his forces did badly against the French in June, 1940, the German victory ensured territorial gains. Italy initiated two campaigns himself – against Egypt and Greece.
North Africa & Greece Both Italian offensives came to no good. The British counter- attacked against Italian Libya, thrashing them at the Battle of Bedafomm, capturing 130,000 prisoners and 400 tanks. Germany had to dispatch General Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps to prevent complete annihalation.
North Africa & Greece In another campaign, British and Imperial forces took Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. Against the Greeks, the Italians fared as badly – being driven out of the country and well back into Italian occupied Albania.
Taranto On November 11 & 12, 1940 the British launched an audacious raid that showed the importance of naval aviation. A British fleet containing the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious attacked the Italian port of Taranto. 21 Swordfish torpedo planes sank one battleship and badly damaged two others. Only two planes were lost. The Italian naval threat was greatly reduced as the Italians avoided contact with the British on the high seas.
North Africa & Greece In 1941 the tide turned again in North Africa as Rommel pushed the British back out of Libya. By June 1942 Rommel was only 70 miles from Alexandria and threatening the Suez Canal. At Tobruk the British suffered a humiliating defeat.
North Africa & Greece The Italian disaster against the Greeks also forced Hitler to act in the Balkans. In April 1941 German forces invaded Jugoslavia and drove on to Greece. British and ANZAC troops were rushed in to help – but to no avail.
North Africa & Greece In May 1941 Germany captured Crete. However, despite the loss of 36,000 Allied troops, the Balkan adventure created serious problems for the Germans. – The best units of German paratroops were decimated in the attack on Crete. – A guerilla war in Jugoslavia tied down significant German forces for the rest of the war. – Hitler delayed his planned invasion of Russia for a crucial few months.
Operation Barbarossa – the USSR Hitler did not trust Stalin to remain out of the war. With the invasion of Britain ruled out, the over-confident fuhrer looked elsewhere. Perhaps hoping that the Japanese would join him, Hitler plotted Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of the USSR.
Operation Barbarossa – the USSR The attack was a tactical mistake – but if historian Hugh Trevor-Roper is correct...to Hitler the Russian campaign was not a luxury; it was the be-all and end-all of Nazism; it could not be delayed. It was now or never.
Operation Barbarossa – The USSR The attack was in 3 prongs: toward Leningrad in the north, Moscow in the centre and the Ukraine in the south. 3.5 million troops were committed – along with 3,550 tanks and 5,000 aircraft.
Operation Barbarossa – the USSR Stalin was caught completely off-guard. – Military planning was caught between earlier plans for a defensive struggle – made before the Nazi-Soviet Pact)and new ideas for an offensive. – Stalin refused to believe British warnings of the attack – or even the warnings of his own intelligence services. – Even after the invasion began, he told forces at the front not to respond to provocations.
Operation Barbarossa – the USSR German successes early in the campaign were stunning. Entire armies were encircled and captured or destroyed. 28 divisions were destroyed and 70 divisions lost up to 50% of their strength planes were lost. However, Leningrad and Moscow remained just outside their grasp. As Autumn rains turned roads to muck and supply lines became stretched, the German advance stalled. Winter followed and temperatures dropped – to as low as -38 c. German troops were ill equipped for a winter campaign.
The Pacific War Japan was, of course, fighting in China since The decision to go South, rather than North took place in the mid 30s. However, Japan was under significant pressure from the Americans – in the form of an embargo on oil and scrap-metal after the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China in June, On October 16, General Tojo became PM and war looked imminent. The Japanese staked everything on a surprise attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii and a simultaneous attack on British, Dutch and American Asian territories. Japan would seize the resources it needed.
The Pacific War Admiral Yamamotos Naval Task Force struck Hawaii on December 7, This was an attack modelled on Taranto, but infinitely larger in scope. 353 Japanese aircraft wreaked havoc for 2 hours: – 350 US aircraft were destroyed – mostly on the ground. – 5 battleships were sunk. – 3,700 lives were lost. Crucially, none of the American aircraft carriers were in port that day Click here Click here for FDRs Day of Infamy Speech
The Pacific War The same day (Dec. 8 on the other side of the International date line), Japanese forces attacked the Philippines and Hong Kong air bases. Bangkok, Thailand was occupied on Dec. 9. Invasions soon began of the Philippines, Malaya, Burma and several key Pacific Islands. The British warships Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk by Japanese naval aviation.
The Pacific War The Japanese attack was a calculated gamble. The USA now entered the war – against both Japan and Germany. World War II would now become a war of attrition in which to superior productive capacity of the Allies would ultimately triumph.
The Tide Turns – the Pacific At Midway, in June 1942, the Americans beat off a major Japanese attack which included 5 aircraft carriers, 400 planes, 17 large warships and an invasion force of 5,000 soldiers. 4 Japanese carriers were sunk – partly because the Americans were reading the secret Japanese naval code. 2 more Japanese carriers were sunk off Australia in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Though the Americans also lost heavily, American production would soon make good the losses and British carriers were dispatched to fill the gap.
The Tide Turns - Russia October found the Germans almost within sight of the Kremlin. On October 2 the Germans launched Operation Typhoon to take the Soviet capital. The Soviets defended desperately. In December, General Zhukov mustered sufficient forces to counter-attack.
The Tide Turns - Russia Hitler and the German High Command drastically underestimated the forces that the Soviet Union could muster. Since the start of the war the Soviets lost up to 5 million soldiers – including 3.9 million now prisoners of war. Despite these losses, they still fielded 6.2 million, including around 2.7 million on the Moscow Front at the end of 1941 – including veterans of the border war with Japan in Siberia. Equally worrying was the appearance of increasing numbers of new Soviet T-34 tanks – far superior to anything in the German arsenal.
Turning the Tide - Russia Though the Battle of Moscow merely blunted the German attack, it was a huge boost to the Soviets. Events of late 1942 and early 1943 would prove more decisive. In 1942, with Spring thaw, the Germans renewed their Russian offensive. In the summer and winter of 1942/43 the worlds attention was focussed on the city of Stalingrad.
Turning the Tide - Russia The city was destroyed by August, but the Soviets still clung to a section of it. In November, a major Soviet offensive encircled the German 6 th Army. General von Paulus requested authorization to retreat, but was refused. He surrendered on February 2, The myth of German invincibility was shattered.
Turning the Tide - Russia Stalingrad was precisely the kind of battle the Germans should have avoided. It was a meat grinder. German advantage lay in manouvering ability and better local tactical leadership in fluid situations. City fighting negated this. Superior numbers and the willingness to pay any price for victory played into Soviet hands.
The Tide Turns - Russia The following summer, the Wehrmacht tried to renew successes in the field with an offensive in July and August. The Battle of Kursk proved to be the backbreaker on the Eastern Front. This was the largest tank battle in history to that time. New German tanks were rushed into service against the heavy Soviet T-34 and KV models. Equal to their Soviet counterparts in firepower and armour – they were still inferior in number. The German offensive failed and for the rest of the war Germany would be on the defensive on the Eastern Front.
Turning the Tide – North Africa Rommels Afrika Korps was always starved for supplies as the British ravaged German and Italian convoys in the Mediterranean. Even the brilliance of the German commander could not prevent defeat. When Montgomerys British 8 th Army began its offensive at El Alamein, the Germans and Italians had only 80,000 men and 540 tanks, against 230,000 men and 1,440 tanks. The British also had almost total air superiority. More significant still, the British had broken the German military code, so were aware of many German plans in advance. Soon the Germans would be pushed out of Libya and, when the Americans landed in the West of North Africa in November 1942 – the Germans who held out in Tunisia were pressed between the Americans and British. In May ,000 German and Italian troops surrendered and the way was open for an invasion of Italy.
Turning the Tide – The War at Sea As noted earlier, the Italian fleet was crippled by the torpedo attack from HMS Illustrious in The last German surface raider, the Bismarck, was sunk in May, From then on, it German naval fortunes centered on the success of its U- Boat fleet.
Turning the Tide – The War at Sea Even before entering the war, the US Congress authorized granting war material in the form of old destroyers to Britain in return for the use of Caribbean bases – this was the Lend-Lease Programme, which was later extended to other goods and to other Allied countries.
Turning the Tide – The War at Sea At the start of 1942, Germany had 90 U-Boats operating and 250 under construction. In the first 6 months of the year 4 million tons of shipping was sunk and only 21 U-Boats destroyed. In March, 1943 alone, 108 ships were sunk – but after this Allied losses dropped, even as more U-Boats entered service.
Turning the Tide – The War at Sea By July 1943 the Allies produced ships faster than they could be sunk. Improved Allied equipment – the addition of long range patrol aircraft and better underwater detection equipment – won the Battle of the Atlantic.
The War in the Air Military aviation was crucial in the war. The Battle of Britain revealed basic German weaknesses – they had no heavy bomber in their arsenal and they could not provide sufficient fighter support to bomb effectively enough. Allied production was also significantly higher for all categories of aircraft once the Grand Alliance had formed up against the Axis powers.
The War in the Air In the Pacific Theatre, bombers paved the way for landing marines in the island hopping campaign of the South-West Pacific. American transport planes kept the vital flow of supplies going to China and to allied troops in the campaign to recapture Burma. On April 18, 1942 in the Doolittle Raid, US bombers from aircraft carriers hit the Japanese home islands. When British and American troops landed in Sicily (July 1943), and in Normandy (June 1944) strategic and tactical bombings and parachute landings were all vital actions
The War in the Air Most controversial was the Allied bombing of Axis cities. With the invasion of the USSR, the Luftwaffe could no longer continue large scale bombing of British cities, the Allies committed themselves to a strategic air offensive to destroy industrial and military targets – as well as destroy civilian morale.
The War in the Air The cities of the Ruhr, Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin were all severely damaged. Fin February ,000 people were killed in a single nights raid on Dresden. Another single raid on Tokyo in 1945 killed twice that number and destroyed a quarter of the city.
The War in the Air Despite the destruction, the air campaign against Germany seems not to have paid off until the autumn of In October, the Krupp works were permanently shut down. By June 1945 Japanese productive capacity was largely eliminated. Breaking civilian morale was less successful.
The War in the Air Two key accomplishments were the destruction of railway communications in Central Europe and the diversion of crucial German fighter aircraft from the Eastern Front to defend German Cities – helping the Russian advance in the East.
The Axis Collapse - Italy Churchill believed that the shortest route to Axis defeat lay through weak Italy. Sicily was invaded in July Soon Allied troops crossed to the Boot of Italy. By October, the Allies took Naples and Mussolini was dismissed by the Italian King. Marshal Badoglio signed an armistice. Italy switched sides in the war. Germany responded by sending troops South, occupying Rome and most of the country. German paratroops freed Mussolini, taking him back to serve as figurehead leader of Axis Italy.
The Axis Collapse - Italy Fighting in Italy was tough in the rugged Italian mountains. Monte Cassino fell in May and Rome in June. The North did not fall until April 1945.
The Axis Collapse - France Stalin, facing the bulk of the wars fighting, clamoured for the opening of another front in France. After the Dieppe fiasco, the Western Allies were reluctant to do so. It took until mid 1944 for preparation to be completed. On June 6, 1944 the long awaited invasion of France began
The Axis Collapse - France Two years of planning led to the largest amphibious assault ever conducted including such engineering marvels as Mulberry (floating) harbours, PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean), and an array of novel weapons – like the funnies tanks – with flails, flame throwers, bridge layers and amphibious dual drive tanks. 326,000 men were landed and supplied. 3 million men passed through the bridgehead.
The Axis Collapse - France While it took some time for a breakout from Normandy to happen, the advance picked up speed after this. Paris fell on August 25. Brussels and Antwerp fell in September. Setbacks occurred at Arnhem (Holland) in September and in the Ardennes, where the Germans launched a massive counter-attack with the Battle of the Bulge – but this cost him 600 tanks and 250,000 men, with little to no chance of success.
The Axis Collapse - France Throughout February the Allied air forces softened up German defences. Pattons 3rd Army reached Coblenz in early March. Further south other forces crossed the Rhine. Montgomerys men crossed it in the North on the night of March and the Western Front began to disintegrate and German Generals decided it would be better to surrender to western forces than to the Soviets.
The Axis Collapse – Eastern Front War in the East was much bloodier than in the West. After the Battle of Kursk, the Soviet advance was relentless. When D-Day forced reinforcement of German forces in the West, the Axis could not hold back the weight of Soviet force. Brilliant local actions might slow the advance, but nothing could prevent it.
The Axis Collapse – Eastern Front In August 1944 Romania changed sides, joining the Allies and opening up the South. Finland capitulated to the Soviets in September. Partisans tied down German troops in Greece and Jugoslavia. Belgrade fell to Titos partisans on October 20. Russian troops were in the suburbs of Budapest by November 4
The Axis Collapse – Eastern Front Russian forces halted outside Warsaw – just long enough for the Germans to crush a Polish uprising - but the city did fall on January 17, By April 25 Berlin was encircled. On the same day, Soviet and American troops shook hands at the Elbe River.
The Axis Collapse – Eastern Front On April 30 Hitler took his own life as street fighting in Berlin approached his bunker. His successor, Admiral Doenitz did not care to fight on, but delayed surrendering until he saved as many of his people as possible. 55% of the Army of the East transferred into British and American controlled territory to surrender. On midnight, May 8, 1945 the war in Europe came to a close.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific The Allies faced two choices in attacking Japan; they could advance through the Aleutians in the North Pacific or through Micronesia in the South. Given the remoteness of the northern route, the latter was chosen.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific First the Solomon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago were retaken. Next the Americans advanced toward Guam and Saipan in mid 1944 – and also through the Philippine Islands. Japanese resistance was fierce but futile because Allied forces were superior in numbers and equipment.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific At Leyte Gulf, the wars largest naval battle was fought, virtually eliminating the Japanese Navy. Kamikaze attacks caused a great deal of damage to American naval units and were a clear example of the kind of resistance that would be met in event of an invasion of Japan. Iwo Jima also showed that the Japanese fighting spirit was far from broken – but its capture allowed more than 2000 B-29 bombers to use it in the next 5 months.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific To resist the assault on Okinawa, the Japanese launched 355 kamikaze raids and sent the worlds biggest battleship on a suicide mission with only enough fuel for a one way trip. It was sunk on April 7 – unable to inflict harm on the Allies first.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific In Burma an Allied advance in early 1945 made use of irregular troops, Chindits, dropped behind enemy lines. Rangoon was liberated on May 1, 1945.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific Throughout July 1945 the Japanese mainland was continually bombed, as if in preparation for an invasion. It never happened. On August a solitary American bomber dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A second device destroyed Nagasaki.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific Truman insisted that the use of these devices was to save Allied lives by avoiding an invasion of Japan. Others feel that the bombing was not necessary, since the Japanese put out peace feelers in July. Basil Liddell-Hart suggests that the real reason fore dropping the devices was to end the war quickly to prevent the Soviets (who pledged to enter the war against Japan shortly after victory in Europe) from gaining too much territory in the East – and a share in the occupation of Japan itself. The Russian declaration of war took place between the dropping of the two bombs.
The Axis Collapse – The Pacific On August 10 Japan agreed to Allied demands. The emperor himself announced the decision to surrender, to overcome risistance to it. On September 2 the war officially came to an end. Japanese forces still held Korea, Manchuria and vast tracts of China, South-East Asia and Pacific islands, but all were isolated and could not be resupplied. Japan had no choice but to surrender or face complete and utter destruction.
Reasons for the Axis Defeat Why did the Axis lose? – Shortages of key strategic materials put them at a distinct disadvantage. – The Allies learned from early failures and went on to build the necessary planes and aircraft carriers to win the war. – The Axis took on too much. All the Axis powers were too stretched and were incapable of holding their gains. – Italian incompetence wrecked German planning.
Reasons for the Axis Defeat The combined resources of the USA, USSR and the British Empire were so much greater than the Axis that the longer the war lasted, the less chance the Axis could survive. Stalins building of a vast industrial capacity East of the Urals put it beyond the reach of even the most optimistic German advances. By 1944 the Russians alone had 4 times as many tanks as the Germans and could field twice as many troops. When American production peaked, it could turn out over 70,000 tanks and 120,000 aircraft a year.
Reasons for the Axis Defeat Both sides made tactical mistakes during the war, but the Axis could not afford to do so. Japan continued to waste resources building battleships when carriers were needed. Hitler failed to equip his forces for a winter campaign when he attacked Russia, then needlessly sacrificed the 6 th army at Stalingrad. That the Axis lasted as long as it did is amazing.
Effects of the War The destruction of this war was horrendous – particularly for the USSR. – Well over 30 million were killed – at least ½ from the USSR. This does not include the Holocaust victims. – Another 21 million were uprooted from their homes – leaving a massive repatriation problem.
Effects of the War Among the survivors were the Holocaust victims reprieved by wars end. What would become of them?
Effects of the War No all-inclusive treaty of the kind that ended the First World War ensued. This was partly the result of mistrust between the Allies, but it was also due to the nature of the victory. This one was total. The victors imposed their will on the vanquished, stationing troops to police the results. There could be no new stab- in-the-back theory.
Effects of the War The war stimulated social and scientific developments on both sides. Rockets and jet engines powered new weapons and their peace-time derivatives.
Effects of the War In Britain the welfare state was a direct response to needs that became apparent in war time.
Effects of the War Nuclear weapons changed the nature of warfare.
Effects of the War European domination of the world, already called into question before the war, was now clearly over. Drained by the war, the colonial powers would never regain their strength.
Effects of the War The old multi-polar system in international power politics was temporarily destroyed. In its place was a world dominated by two super-powers – the USA and the USSR.
Effects of the War For the next half century, the world would now be dominated by ideological competition between American Liberalism (and neo-conservatism) and Soviet Communism. Newly independent countries would be compelled to choose.
Effects of the War Alongside this, a new solution to international conflict would be posited: the United Nations. It would be built upon the solid foundation of the League of Nations – and improved – not the least by near universal membership. Hopefully it will have results.