13 MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS IN WWII By: Sarah Mae

EVENT #1: THE INVASION OF POLAND (SEPT. 1, 1939)

The beginning of World War II was on Sept. 1, 1939, when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. It began as an uneven fight, with Nazi Germany bringing 5 armies of 1.5 million men to Poland, while they had fewer than a million Polish soldiers. In addition to having an overwhelming amount of soldiers against the Polish, Nazi Germany also had great strategical planning techniques as well as an understanding of modern aircraft power, which proved quite advantageous. In particular, the Blitzkreig, which was a military tactic used during this time, proved its strength and was used for the first time to decimate Polish defenses. This event has proven itself critical to WWII as it was what had started the entire war, as well as the fact that this was the first significant event in which Hitler's ideologies of a Nazi party were made real. Prior to this event, there had been political threats and a manuevering with treaties which had inspired Hitler to take action. This event also marks the reason as to why Britain and France attacked Germany due to their honored border guarantees with Poland.

Hitler reviews troops in Poland, 1939.

EVENT #2: the holocaust (Jan. 30, 1933 - May 8, 1945)

The Holocaust was, and still is, known as one of the most cruelest events in history. During this time, Nazi Germany mass murdered over 6 million people, and was organized under the rule of Adolf Hitler. Anti-Semitism was quite a popular feat as well, with the majority of the murders being those of who were Jewish. This genocide was directed at anyone who spoke out against Hitler and how he ruled, such as politicians, authors, and the likes. It was also during this time that Germans began to burn books and all sources of media that would create different opinions in people's minds. However, the horrors of the incarceration that was forced about the Jews, and the concentration camps are both factors as to why this genocide is such a significant event during, and as well as before, the second World War. Through the harsh ways of the gas chambers, brutal murders, and burnings, the world at that time was certainly taken aback by such inhumane ways of the genocide. This event has remained significant, even in the current society due to the fact that it was the first insight the world had gotten into the Nazi-German mind; how they believed that they were racially superior, and anyone who did not follow the same ideas as they did deserved to be annihilated. Survivors of the Holocaust are still alive today to remind the world that this horrid event impacted not only the outcome of the war, however, also left many scarred and ruined by the way they had been treated for so long.

Jewish children behind barbwire fences in a concentration camp in Germany, 1944.

EVENT #3: operation barbarossa (jun. 22, 1941 - May 8, 1945)

Operation Barbarossa was the surprise attack of Germany upon the Soviet Union in an attempt to invade them. Hitler had launched his armies towards the east in a great invasion with over 3 million German soldiers fighting on the front. This invansion covered a front up until the Black Sea, which created an ultimate distance of nearly 2000 miles. Although the German combat field had been greatly effective, they had severely underestimated the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa became known as the crucial turning point in the second World War, because due to the failure of the operation, it had forced Nazi Germany to fight a two-front war against the only nation that had superior resources at this time. During this time as well, the Germans had gone to the Soviet Union as conquerors of the counry, and were determind to enslave the population, as well as kill the Jews. This impacted Germany negatively as 2 years prior to this, they had signed the Nonaggression Pact, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which claimed that neither country would attack each other. This became known as the biggest surprise attack in history; however, it was considered one of the top military blunders as well, due to the fact that Hitler had to slow the assault to make way for new tanks to reach the front. This event is of great significance as it was the most crucial turning point in the war. Hitler had expected this operation to last a mere year or so; however, due to their underestimates of their enemy's power, this attack lasted 4 years. This operation had thrived; however, Germany had attempted to fight on a two-front war that it could not win.

German tanks prepare for Soviet Union attack in the Soviet Union, 1942.

EVENT #4: ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR (DEC. 7, 1941)

This event marks one of the biggest surprise attacks in the duration of WWII. At this time, the Japanese army sent hundreds of fighter planes to attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii. This invasion lasted a complete two hours, and managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, leaving many wounded, and some left for death. Immediately after this, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for confirmation to declare war on Japan, to which Congress agreed. Three days afterwards, Japan's allies (Germany and Italy) declared war on the United States, and again, Congress had declared war back. This event proved its significance as it was the first time, in all the conflict that had happened in WWII, that the United States joined the war. By doing so, the attack on Pearl Harbor had awakened the "sleeping giant", and had united Americans to have a sense of motivation to win the war. President Roosevelt claimed this date to be "a date that would live in infamy." The American contribution to this war had proven to be advantageous for the Allies, as the addition of their troops made it easier to infiltrate the enemies.

U.S Battleship sinking at Pearl Harbor, U.S.A, 1941

event #5: Battle of stalingrad (1942 - feb. 2, 1943)

The Battle of Stalingrad is considerably the biggest turning point in World War Two in Europe. This specific battle had bled the German army dry in the Soviet Union after their defeat, and they had gone into a full retreat. The Russians consider this to be the greatest battle of what they call their Great Patriotic War, and most historians consider this battle to be the greatest battle of the entire war. This battle had stopped the German advances into the Soviet Union, and was also marked as the first major German loss during WWII. This proved significant as it had shown the Germans that there were other nations stronger than them, and after they had lost in Stalingrad, they did not make any attempts to advance farther into eastern Europe or the Soviet Union. Although they had stopped advancing, the Russians began to take back the land that was invaded prior to the battle, which caused Germany to lose the territory they had fought to gain. During this time, Hitler hid the news of their loss from the people of Germany as he was afraid that it would damage their efforts to go to war since this news had caused the morale of the German army to be lowered. This battle also became a significant factor that supported an Allied victory during the war.

Soviet soldier waving the Red Banner over Stalingrad, Soviet Union, 1943.

EVENT #6: THE SURRENDER OF ITALY (OCT. 13, 1943)

Italy announced their surrender on Oct. 13, 1943, after the downfall of Benito Mussolini in July 1943. General Dwight Eisenhower publicly announced the surrender to the Allies, followed by the German Operation Axis, and the Allies with Operation Avalanche, which were essentially invasions of Italy. With Mussolini's collapse from power and the fall of the fascist government, General Pietro Badoglio, the man who had assumed power by the request of King Victory Emanuel, negotiated with Gen. Eisenhower until he had approved a conditional surrender, allowing the Allies to land in the south of Italy and beat the Germans back up to the peninsula. Hitler snapped into action as well, and launched Operation Axis in an attempt to occupy Italy. One of Hitler's main goals was to keep Italian navy vessels out of the hands of the Allies, in fear that their strength would grow further. This event claimed to be significant as the surrender of Italy had opened up a third front for Germany, as well as the fact that one of the three axis powers (alongside of Japan and Germany) had been abolished. This event also proved beneficial for Germany as they now held all defensive positions.

Italy's surrender captured in a newspaper, U.S.A Publishing, 1943.

EVENT #7: Doomsday (june 6, 1944)

This day, so tactfully called "Doomsday", was known as the beginning of the end in the second World War. Codenamed Operation Overlord, this battle began on June 6, 1944, when over 100,000 American, British, and Canadian forces landed on the five beaches along the coast of Normany, France. This invasion was one of the largest military assaults in history, and required hefty planning prior to such an event. During this planning time, the Allies had conducted a grand deception campaign which was designed to mislead the Germans about who they intended to invade next. By late August of 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and in the spring thereafter, the Allies had defeated the Germans. This event has renowned its significance as the fact that it opened the war on the western front of Europe, as well as exceeded the liberation of France. This event also took a hefty amount of pressure off of the Soviets as the war was no longer centralized in the east.

U.S Troops bringing their ship back to Omaha Beach on D-Day, France, 1944.

EVENT #8: BATTLE OF PHILIPPINE SEA (JUNE 19, 1944 - JUNE 20, 1944)

The Battle of the Philippine Sea is considered on of the major naval battles in the Second World war, and it had resulted in the peril of the Japanese Navy, and their ability to conduct large-scale ships and vessels. This battle was quite a quick one, lasting a mere day, damaging many areas of Japan's army as well as causing severe injuries, and a significant amount of deaths. During this battle, the United States permanently destroyed Japanese naval aviation, and left their carriers weakened for the rest of the war. Americans had also reduced their number of battle weapons, and in less than two days, had destroyed 90% of their progress made with the reconstruction of their carrier air groups. This event was significant as it was considered a turning point in the war in the Pacific, as many Japanese forces committed a virtual suicide (also known as Seppuku) when at the front lines against the Americans. The government of Japan resigned in disgrace at this sudden defeat, and two Japanese commanders, Admiral Nagumo and General Saito, both committed suicide in attempt to rally the remaining forces. It had worked; however, this battle was considered a hefty win for the States.

Japanese soldiers making a last attempt to cripple American task forces, Philippine Sea, 1944.

EVENT #9: BATTLE OF THE BULGE (DEC. 16, 1944 - JAN. 25, 1945)

It was on this day that the Germans had launched their last major offensive of the war known as Operation Mist. This was an attempt to push the Allied front west from the north of France towards northwestern Belgium. This battle was named after the so-called "bulge" around the area of the Ardennes forest in France, pushing through the American defensive line. This battle was considered the largest ever fought on the Western front of Europe. This ended up being an unsucessful attempt to push the Allies back from German home territory; however, after throwing in many soldiers (over 200,000) into the initial assault, the Germans began to infiltrate the thin, isolated American units. Along wih this, the thick fog in the area of Ardennes had prevented Allied air cover from discovering German movement, and they were able to push Americans into rereat. The Battle of the Bulge's significance resonated throughout Europe as it had been Hitler's last major offensive in the second World War. While it was intended to split Allied lines and force peace, American forces were able to contain the battle; however, heavier losses were on the German forces than American ones. This battle had also brought the end of the Nazi reign in Germany.

US tanks having a hard time travelling in north Belgium, 1945.

EVENT #10: BATTLE OF IWO JIMA (feb. 19, 1945 - mar. 26, 1945)

The capture of Iwo Jima was part of a three-point plan that the Americans had for winning the war in the Far East. By 1944, Japan had begun to turn back in Burma, and island hopping had isolated forces that belonged to Japan in the eastern sector. Combined with the attacks upon Iwo Jima, America's desire to finally destroy Japanese merchant fleets so that the Japanese mainland could not be supplied with food was reachable. On Feb. 19, 1945, three US marine divisions landed on the island. Iwo Jima was defend by approximately 23,000 Japanese army and navy members who fought from an elaborate network of caves, dugouts, tunnels, and underground means of transportation. This battle resulted in the ultimate capture of the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese Imperial Army during the second World War. The seizure of Iwo Jima achieved all the strategic goals desired by Americans, and allowed their air vessels to fly with less reserve fuel and a greater bomb payload, knowing that the island would be available as an emergency field. This battle is considered one of the most significant battles in the Pacific as this was a key element for the Americans to capture in the final steps leading up to winning the war. Without this win, there is no way to tell if the Americans would have been able to succeed at winning the war.

American soldiers raising the American flag after the capture of Iwo Jima, Japan, 1945.

EVENT #11: Hitler's suicide (APR. 30, 1945)

Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party in Germany, committed suicide on Apr. 30, 1945. This had impacted the nation greatly as since their leader had died, it had felt as if the country had died as well. In 1943, it became clear to Hitler that Germany would fold under the pressure of the Allied forces. Prior to this, Germany was annihilated at the Battle of Stalingrad against the Soviet Union, and the hopes for a double offensive front became unrealistic. By 1944, the Western Allied armies landed in Normany, France, and began to push the Germans back to Berlin. It was at this time that Hitler began to write his last will and testament, appointed Admiral Karl Donitz as head of the state, and Goebbels as chancellor. He then retreated to his bunker where he had poisoned himself, his wife, Eva Braun, and their dogs, and ultimately shot himself to his death. This proved its significance as, due to the death of their leader, they no longer had the power nor the motivation to fight in the war. 8 days later, on May 8, 1945, German troops were forced to issue an unconditional surrender, and left their country to be split by the four Allied powers.

Newspaper clipping on the day Hitler died, Germany, 1945.

EVENT #12: hiroshima and nagasaki (aug. 6, 1945 & aug. 9, 1945)

On Aug. 6, 1945, the first uranium atomic bomb, code named "Little Boy", was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan's seventh largest city. Within minutes of the bomb dropping, half of the city had vanished. 60-70 thousand civilians were either killed or missing, 140,000 were injuried, and many more were made homeless as a result of the bomb. In the blast, due to the deadly radiation, thousands died instantly. The city at this time was unbelievably devasted as over half the city essentially dissolved. Just three days after, the Americans had intended to drop another bomb over Kokura; however, they had abandoned the primary target as the smoke covered too much of the city, and changed course for Nagasaki, which was an industrialized city in the west of Japan. This bomb, known as the "Fat Man" bomb, had exploded over the north factory district at 1,800 feet above the city to achieve maxium blast effect. Debris caused by the explosion caused many injuries, and this bomb took the lives of 42,000 people. The two bombs dropped by America were intended to cause Japan to surrender to the Allied forces, and bring an end to WWII. This event also proved extremely significant as it was the first uranium bomb from the US that had obliterated such a great amount of land. These bombs were also considered the greatest significant bombings of all time.

Ruins of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945.

EVENT #13: VICTORY OVER JAPAN DAY (SEPT. 2, 1945)

On Aug. 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. However, it wasn't until Sept. 2, 1945, that Japan's formal surrender had taken place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay at that time. Several months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, Japan's surrender in the Pacific had brought 6 years of hostility to a final and highly anticipated close. The Potsdam Declaration, which was a statement that called for the surrender of all Japanese armed forces during the war, was accepted by Emperor Hirohito, and was broadcasted over the Japanese radio for the people of Japan to hear. This event signified the end to a cruel and gruesome war that had spanned over 6 years, leaving the Allied nations victorious. This event also signified that Japan had surrendered fully, leaving itself up to the Allies. Former president Harry S. Truman declares this day as "the day when Fascism finally dies," which is quite a fitting way to conclude the war.

An overjoyed sailor kissing a woman in the middle of Times Square, New York, USA, 1945.

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