THE WORLD AT WAR 1939-1945


Philip Jenkins   







Or, what is wrong with this picture?


1.World War II began in 1939 with Hitler’s invasion of Poland.


2.In 1940, Germany conquered most of the countries of Western Europe, occupying France.


3.Britain survived, fighting off the Germans heroically in the battle of Britain, but stood alone against the Germans, supplied by US convoys.


4.In 1941, the US entered the war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.


5.US forces gradually defeated the Japanese, beginning an island-hopping campaign that included such great battles as Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. By 1945, US forces were poised to strike at Japan itself.


6.US forces fought the Germans in North Africa and Europe, fighting a series of campaigns in Tunisia and Italy. Meanwhile, US bombers were devastating the German homeland.


7.In 1944, US forces invaded the French mainland on D-Day, and defeated the Germans in a hard-fought series of battles. The Germans tried to recover by launching a new surprise attack at the end of 1944, but the ensuing Battle of the Bulge resulted in a US victory.


8.In 1945, the Allies occupied Germany, ending the war in Europe.


9.In 1945, the US used atomic bombs against Japanese cities, bringing the war to a close.


10.We won.






1 Leningrad, WWII (8 Sept. 1941-27 Jan. 1944)                                                         850,000

2 Stalingrad, WWII (Sept. 1942-31 Jan. 1943)                                                            750,000

3 Moscow, WWII (Sept. 1941-Jan. 1942)                                                        719,000

4 Kiev, WWII (7 July-26 Sept. 1941)                                                              678,000

5 1st Smolensk, WWII (10 July-10 Sept. 1941)                                                           535,000

6 Voronezh-Voroshilovgrad, WWII (28 June-24 July 1942)                           371,000+

7 1st Belorussia, WWII (22 June-9 July 1941)                                                             375,000

8 Operation Bagration or 2nd Belorussia, WWII (23 June-29 Aug. 1944)                    350,000

9 Kursk, WWII (4-22 July 1943)                                                                     325,000

10 Somme, World War I (1 July-18 Nov. 1916)                                                          306,000

11 Verdun, World War I (21 Feb.-16 Dec. 1916)                                             305,000

12 Rzhev-Vyazma, WWII (8 Jan.-20 Apr. 1942)                                             272,000+

13 2nd West Ukraine, WWII (24 Dec.-17 Apr. 1944)                                      270,000+

14 North Caucasus, WWII (25 July-20 Apr. 1942)                                          262,000+

15 Berlin, WWII (16 April-7 May 1945)                                                         250,000

16 1st West Ukraine, WWII (22 June-6 July 1941)                                          189,000

17 Battle of France, WWII (10 May-22 June, 1940)                                        185,000

18 Lower Dnieper, WWII (26 Sept.-20 Dec.1943)                                           173,000+

19 Königsberg, WWII (13 Jan.-9 April 1945)                                                  168,000

20 Donbass-Rostov, WWII (29 Sept.-16 Nov. 1941)                                       157,000

21 Passchendaele or 3rd Ypres, World War I (31 July-12 Nov. 1917)              150,000

22 Okinawa, WWII (1 April-21 June 1945)                                                     148,000

23 Normandy, WWII (6 June-19 Aug. 1944)                                                  132,000

24 Gallipoli, World War I (19 Feb. 1915-9 Jan. 1916)                                                 130,000

25 Budapest, WWII (late Oct. 1944-mid Feb. 1945)                                        130,000


Source: http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/battles.htm





1.The coming war would closely resemble the First World War

2.It would be decided in the lands between France and Germany

3.Combatants would use biological and chemical warfare, including against cities and civilian targets

4.Bombers would annihilate cities on both sides from the air, probably in the opening stages of the conflict

5.Social unrest sparked by the war would generate revolutions across the world, and probably help spread Communism

6.The war would destroy financial structures.

7.The war would conceivably cause a reversion to barbarism, a new Dark Age.






Comparing The Wars


MYTH:  WW1 was utterly different from WW2. WW1 was a struggle of greedy empires; WW2 was a titanic moral conflict

REALITY: Both wars had very much the same combination of ideology and self-interest


How The Wars Started


MYTH: The nations stumbled into war almost by accident

REALITY: Long-term plans by particular powers – especially Germany – ensured war


Germany’s Role


MYTH: Germany was no more guilty of aggression than any other country (All Quiet On the Western Front)

REALITY: Germany’s war aims in WW1 look very much like those of WW2 – see the treaty of Brest Litovsk


How The War Was Fought


MYTH: Trench warfare and military incompetence (Somme and Verdun)

REALITY: Incredible innovation at every stage, tactical, strategic and technological: chemical warfare, tanks, aircraft, artillery, storm warfare, submarines, long-range bombing


How The War Ended


MYTH: US intervention swung the balance between exhausted European Powers

REALITY: Brilliant and total Allied victory over Germany during the Hundred Days Battle of 1918








May                             Axis forces surrender in Tunisia

July                             US 7th Army and British 8th Army invade Sicily, in Operation "Husky"

July-August                Allied massacre of Axis prisoners at Biscari

September 3                Allies invade mainland Italy

September 8                Italy surrenders

September 9                Allied 5th Army lands at Salerno, Operation "Avalanche"

September                   Germans murder thousands of Italian soldiers in the Cephalonia Massacre

December                    German air raid on Bari

December                    Canadians fight Germans at Ortona



January                        Allies land 50,000 at Anzio, in Operation "Shingle"

February                      Allied bombers destroy monastery of Monte Cassino

May                             Polish forces take Monte Cassino;

                                    Allied offensive breaks the Gustav Line

June 4/5                       Allies occupy Rome

June                             Fall of Orvieto

June                             Germans retreat to Gothic Line

July-October               several separate massacres by SS of Italian villages,

each claiming hundreds of victims

August                        Allies invade Southern France, Operation "Dragoon"

August                                    Allies take Florence and Pisa

October                       British intervene in Greece and liberate Athens



March                          Allied air raid on Venice

April                            Final Allied offensive in Northern Italy; Allies capture Genoa, Verona, Brescia, and Bologna

April                            Italian partisans lynch Benito Mussolini


The Mediterranean was "a venue where the Western allies could warm up against the Axis B team" (Douglas Porch)






CASABLANCA, Morocco,              January 1943

Major themes:                                     Demand for Unconditional Surrender

Western Allies Mediterranean Strategy


TEHRAN, Persia                              November 1943

Major themes:                                     Promise of Second Front in France, Overlord; Stalin

promises simultaneous attack in East

Reconstruction of Germany

                                                            Support for Yugoslav Partisans

                                                            Agreement on the United Nations                  


QUEBEC II, Canada,                      September 1944

Major themes:                                     Reconstruction of Germany – the Morgenthau Plan


YALTA, USSR                                 February 1945

Major themes:                                     Reconstruction of Germany  - occupation zones;

demilitarization and denazification

War crimes trials

Settlement of Poland – Lublin Poles; new borders; issue of elections

Soviets promise to attack Japan 90 days after Germans surrender

Compromise with Soviets in China


POTSDAM, Germany,                     July 1945

Major themes:                                     Reparations to Soviets

                                                            Soviet demand for Polish borders

                                                            Control of Balkan states

                                                            Removal of German populations in the East

                                                            Demand for Japan’s unconditional surrender






In May 2005 President George W. Bush said that the Soviet domination of central and eastern Europe after World War II was "one of the greatest wrongs of history" and that the United States played a significant role in the division of the continent and that the Yalta conference "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. … Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable."



The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.



In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, or race or creed. Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

 The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

 The right of (every) farmers to raise and sell their (his) products at a return which will give them (him) and their (his) families (family) a decent living;

 The right of every business man, large and small , to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

 The right of every family to a decent home;

 The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

 The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, and sickness, and accident and unemployment;

 And finally, the right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

FDR, State Of The Union Address, January 1944




There are two schools of thought, those who would be altruistic in regard to the Germans, hoping by loving kindness to make them Christians again - and those who would adopt a much 'tougher' attitude. Most decidedly I belong to the latter school, for though I am not bloodthirsty, I want the Germans to know that this time at least they have definitely lost the war                                                                                                              FDR, 1944


We have got to be tough with the Germany and I mean the German people not just the Nazis. We either have to castrate the German people or you have got to treat them in such a manner so they can't just go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past                                                                                    FDR, 1944


At a conference between the President and Prime Minister upon the best measures to prevent renewed rearmament by Germany, it was felt that an essential feature was the future disposition of the Ruhr and the Saar. The ease with which the metallurgical, chemical, and electric industries in Germany can be converted from peace to war has already been impressed upon us by bitter experience. It must also be remembered that the Germans have devastated a large portion of the industries of Russia and of other neighboring Allies, and it is only in accordance with justice that these injured countries should be entitled to remove the machinery they require in order to repair the losses they have suffered. The industries referred to in the Ruhr and in the Saar would therefore be necessarily put out of action and closed down. It was felt that the two districts should be put under some body under the world organization which would supervise the dismantling of these industries and make sure that they were not started up again by some subterfuge.

This programme for eliminating the war-making industries in the Ruhr and in the Saar is looking forward to converting Germany into a country primary agricultural and pastoral in its character.

Morgenthau Plan, 1944


If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An "iron curtain" would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered. The Jewish press in London and New York would probably still be applauding.                                                                                                              Josef Goebbels 1945   


It is difficult to say what is going on, but in general the Russians are acting little better than thugs. They have wiped out all the liquid assets. No food cards are issued to Germans, who are forced to travel on foot into the Russian zone, often more dead than alive. An iron curtain has descended over the fate of these people and very likely conditions are truly terrible. The promises at Yalta to the contrary, probably 8 to 10 million people are being enslaved.                                            Allen Dulles December 1945


From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an "iron curtain" has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Winston Churchill, March 1946