World War II
World War II killed more people, involved more nations, and cost more money than any other war in history. Altogether, 70 million people served in the armed forces during the war, and 17 million combatants died. Civilian deaths were even greater. At least 19 million Soviet civilians, 10 million Chinese, and 6 million European Jews lost their lives during the war.
World War II was truly a global war. Some 70 nations took part in the conflict, and fighting took place on the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as on the high seas. Entire societies participated as soldiers or as war workers, while others were persecuted as victims of occupation and mass murder.
World War II cost the United States a million causalities and nearly 400,000 deaths. In both domestic and foreign affairs, its consequences were far-reaching. It ended the Depression, brought millions of married women into the workforce, initiated sweeping changes in the lives of the nation’s minority groups, and dramatically expanded government’s presence in American life.
The War at Home & Abroad
On September 1, 1939, World War II started when Germany invaded Poland. By November 1942, the Axis powers controlled territory from Norway to North Africa and from France to the Soviet Union. After defeating the Axis in North Africa in May 1941, the United States and its Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943 and forced Italy to surrender in September. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in Northern France. In December, a German counteroffensive (the Battle of the Bulge) failed. Germany surrendered in May 1945.
The United States entered the war following a surprise attack by Japan on the U.S. Pacific fleet in Hawaii. The United States and its Allies halted Japanese expansion at the Battle of Midway in June 1942 and in other campaigns in the South Pacific. From 1943 to August 1945, the Allies hopped from island to island across the Central Pacific and also battled the Japanese in China, Burma, and India. Japan agreed to surrender on August 14, 1945 after the United States dropped the first atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2013). Overview of World War II. Digital History. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/era.cfm?eraID=15&smtid=1
- Was the road to World War II inevitable? What were its causes?
- How did the role of the U.S. in world affairs change as a result of World War II?
- Do people have a responsibility to respond to injustice?
- How are freedom and democracy threatened during times of war?
- Is it ever justified to use a weapon of mass destruction?
- How did the end of the war begin to shape the postwar world?
- To what extent is the policy of neutrality a reasonable one?
- Does appeasement always (sometimes, or never) make an aggressor more aggressive?
- Why is genocide even possible? How did the Germans make it so?
- To what extent should or can a nation limit civil liberties in times of war?
- How influential was the US to determining the outcome of the war?
- What cost is worth the price of victory (for both the US and the Japanese)?
- Did World War II make World War III impossible, impractical or inevitable?
Assignments: Homework for this unit is to complete the Document Based Question.
- Level 2: Social, Political or Economic Causes of World War II
- Level 3: Causes of World War II