World War II started on September 1, 1939, and ended on September 2, 1945. It was the deadliest military conflict in the history with more than 60 million casualties.
World War II in Numbers
World War II lasted for 6 years everywhere around the Globe with different intensity. The most intense clashes took part in the European theatre and on the Pacific.
It’s very hard to say that in a few sentences how many countries were on Axis and how many on the Allies’ side. The reason for that is that many countries simply disappeared from the map, other, mainly puppet states, were established during the war and everything was reorganized once again after the war.
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Axis powers (Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis) were gathered around Nazi Germany, Kingdom of Italy and Empire of Japan. A total number of countries and puppet states that fight alongside Axis was around 20.
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On the other side were Allies grouped around China, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and the United States. These were around 25 countries and colonies at the time.
Total casualties are estimated at more than 60 million that was around 3% of the world population. Still, some countries took a disproportional number of casualties.
Soviet Union had around 27 million casualties that was 13.7% of its’ 1940 population. Poland was around 6 million casualties (~17% of the population), Yugoslavia around 1.5 million (~10%), China 20 million (~3%), Germany 7 million (~8.5%), France 600,000 (1.44%), United Kingdom 450,000 (0.94%), United States 419,000 (0.32%).
Most Important Battles
Choosing the most important battle in such a large-scale conflict is really hard. While we all know some of them, for some of us, they were very distant. In the national history of any country, the major battle taking place there will probably be more important than if you’re talking about it from any other country. I’ll try to list the most important ones as objectively as I can.
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Battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943, around 1,5 million casualties) – was the bloodiest battle of the war and the turning point of the whole war and not only at the Eastern Front. Nazi Germany never recovered from this loss and was in constant retreat after it.
Battle of Berlin (16 April – 2 May 1945, around 1,3 million casualties) – was the final major battle in the European theatre. Red Army captured Berlin and Meliton Kantaria and Mikhail Yegorov raise the flag of the Soviet Union atop the Reichstag building. Hitler committed suicide and German forces in Berlin surrendered on May 2.
Battle of Moscow (2 October 1941 – 7 January 1942, around 1 million casualties) – was the successful defense of the Soviet capital. Hitler’s plan was to take Moscow and Stalingrad and put the Soviet Union out of the war. It was a pretty desperate move because even if he succeeded, the Soviets would continue fighting and Geman lines would be even more stretched. Still, that didn’t happen.
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Battle of Kursk (5 July – 23 August 1943, around 400,000 casualties) – was also a major victory for the Soviet Union. It was the deathtrap created to destroy the core of the German forces on the Eastern Front. A series of trenches, minefields, strongpoints and a vast number of soldiers and military equipment waited for the Wehrmacht to attack. And it was also the greatest tank battle of all times. After this defeat, the Wehrmacht was in constant retreat towards west.
Battle of France (10 May – 25 June 1940, around 500,000 casualties) – was a major victory for Nazi Germany. While France and United Kingdom had superior numbers and the Maginot Line, German forces went with attack through Belgium and Holland and secured fast victory due to their better training, communication, and usage of drugs.
It’s definitely hard to tell what is worse during the war and compare war crimes, but World War II (and some time before it) created genocide of proportions not seen before and after it. The decision was made accordingly Nazi doctrines and all that were identified as problematic should have been removed from society. Besides the need for an internal and external enemy, ideological conflicts, a theory about Aryan race, one of the most important reason was also a need to take wealth from one group in order to give it to the group that will follow you. It was called reprivatization, at it was confiscating privately-held companies, mostly from Jews, and giving these companies again in private hands, but this time to more loyal citizens.
All of that led to horror without and precedent. The main target of the Holocaust were Jews and 5-6 millions, out of 9 million at the beginning of the war, of them, were killed during the war – mostly in concentration camps. Besides them, the main targets were Gypys, homosexuals, communists and other political opposition, national minorities is some countries. The horrors committed there were completely inhuman and neither Soviets, neither Wester Allies could believe what had been done. German POW cried while watching what has been done in the name of the state the fought for.
We can only hope that we won’t experience any war like this one in the future.
Continue reading: World War II: Battle of Stalingrad
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