World War II also referred to as the Second World War was a war that was fought globally in the period straddling 1939 and 1945. It involved a majority of the world’s nation but was mainly spearheaded by the great powers such as the United States, United Kingdom, Russia (then USSR), France and China amongst other nations. These were organized in military alliances that were either known as the Allies or the Axis with the effects of the war affecting the economic, political, industrial and social aspects of the combatants.[1] Further, it is noted that World War II was the deadliest war in the history of mankind with over 50 million fatalities and destruction of property. This paper aims at reviewing the history of World War II by offering insights on its origins, outbreak, the war in Europe, developments within the entire period, defeat of the Axis powers, costs and the general impact that it had on the world.
The Origins of World War II, 1929-39
            Even before the actual beginning of the Second World War in 1939, China was already at a state of war with the Empire of Japan which had been trying to exert its superiority and dominance within the Asia and Pacific region. As early as 1923, Adolf Hitler had predicted a war in Europe that would lead to the annihilation of the Jewish race in Germany. Soon after becoming the Reich Chancellor in 1933, Hitler consolidated his rule and power by asserting himself as the supreme leader of Germany beginning from 1934.[2] Further, with the desire to exterminate the Jewish community and create a pure German race referred to as “Aryan”, he adopted the idea that war was the only solution to the attainment of this dream.
The period in the mid-1930s, Hitler began rearming Germany in blatant violation of the Versailles Treaty that prohibited the same. It is also around this time that Hitler’s Germany signed treaties with Italy and Japan to join hands against the Soviet Union. Beginning with the 1938 occupation of Austria by German troops and the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1939 it was evident that the stage was being set for a confrontation.[3] It is worth noting that the other European powers including the United Kingdom and France did not want to be involved in a confrontation while the United States and the Soviet Union were grappling with internal politics. These offered the perfect opportunity for Germany led by Hitler to prepare and implement their desire for a fully-fledged war.
Further, the signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact between Hitler and Soviet Union’s leader Joseph Stalin in August 1939 created an alarm amongst France and the United Kingdom as it was a clear intention of the Germans to initiate a war probably beginning in Poland. The aforementioned two European powers had guaranteed that they would protect Poland in case it was invaded by the Nazi Germany.
The Outbreak of War
The actual war began on the first day of September 1939 when the National Socialist Party (Nazi) Germany led by Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. Subsequently, France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany with the aim of preventing the advancement of Hitler and his Nazi ideology. The invasion of Poland began in the west but two days after this aggression by the Germans, France and Britain declared war on Germany which marked the outbreak of the war.
Subsequently, on September 17 the Soviet Union troops made an invasion of Poland from the East, which led to the fall of Poland in the shortest time possible. As early as the beginning of 1940, Poland was under the control of Germany and Soviet Union pursuant to the agreement they had made under the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact.[4] The latter troops also occupied the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while at the same time subjecting Finland to a defeat during the war between Russia and Finland. Following the invasion of Poland, the absence of action by the Germans as well as the Allies in the west of Poland led many to believe that it was a pretentious battle. However, there was a continuous battle at sea between German troops who sunk merchant ship that were taking supplies to the United Kingdom.
The War in Europe, 1939-41
            After the invasion of Poland in 1939 by the Germans and the Soviets as well as the latter’s aggression in the Baltic States, the war spread to other nations. On April 9, 1940 German troops invaded Norway while at the same time occupying Denmark. In addition, the Hitler’s troops carried out a quick war that swept through Netherlands and Belgium also referred to as “blitzkrieg”.[5] Within this time, they also crossed the Meuse River and hit French troops stationed at Sedan along the Maginot Line. At this stage, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was evacuated from Dunkirk through the sea while the French troops that mounted a resistance at the south were defeated. With imminent defeat, Benito Mussolini’s Italy enacted its Pact of Steel that it had signed with Germany and also declared war on France and the United Kingdom.
The raid of Paris by the German troops created two regions with one of them under German military rule and another under Marshall Philippe Petain.[6]  From this point, Hitler embarked on Operation Sea Lion, which was to invade the United Kingdom through amphibious means. Despite this, the bombing of Britain by the German Air Force during the summer led to massive loss of life and property. However, during the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force (RAF) defeated the German aerial bombardment troops which forced German to call of Operation Sea Lion. It is at this point that the United Kingdom began receiving aid from the United States under the framework of the Lend-Lease Act.
Fronts, 1940-41
            Between 1940 and 1941, there were multiple fronts for the war as opposed to the already discussed invasions from the west and east of Poland as well as the Baltic states. While the Germans were defeated by the RAF during the Battle of Britain, they used French ports to attack British shipping supplies within the Atlantic. Through the Lend-Lease Act, the United States supported Britain during the war against the combined offensive by German and Italy.
By the end of 1940, the Tripartite Pact that brought together Germany, Italy and Japan was formalized and given the name of the Axis Powers.[7] In this agreement, the three nations agreed that any nation that attacks them and with the exception of USSR will be compelled to go into war with all of them. As at November 1940, this front also included Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, which all participated in the fronts provided by the Axis.
While this was happening, Italy began several wars in the Mediterranean region beginning with the siege in Malta, attack on British Somaliland and Egypt as well as the Greco-Italian War between it and Greece. In the latter war, Britain supported Greece with aerial support against the Italians while at the same time focusing on a counteroffensive in the occupied Egypt and territories in East Africa and North Africa occupied by Italy. Subsequently, German also reasserted its influence by raiding Yugoslavia and Greece and driving the British out of the Balkan region.
In 1941, German led Axis also attacked the Soviet Union under Operation Barbarossa where it greatly relied on the support of Italy and Romania.[8] While the Eastern front meant that the Axis diverted most of their troops, the United Kingdom and USSR moved in to secure the Persian shipping line. With increased troop numbers the Soviet managed to launch a counteroffensive that could not be attacked even by the Japanese troops.
In the Pacific, the United States renounced its trade treaty with Japan while the latter also attacked Japan. With Japan threatening the European interests in Southeastern Asia, the United States, the United Kingdom and other allied forces moved in to protect these resources. With biting sanctions, Japan opened another front in the region on October 17 1941 by planning the seizure of European colonies. At this stage, the US, UK, China and Australia as well as other nations declared war on Japan while the Soviet Union maintained its neutral stance towards this nation. It is also at this stage that German also declared war on the United States in solidarity with Japan.
Developments from 1941 to 1943
The most significant occurrence during this period is Operation Barbarossa that occurred between 1941 and 1942.[9] Here, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania joined the Axis with the effect that the German troops overrun Greece and Yugoslavia in April 1941. It is imperative that the German invasion of the Balkan States was a strategy to invade the USSR so that he could use its large territory to advance the Nazi ideology of creating a pure race. This could be achieved by exterminating the Jews in every territory that Germany conquered and occupied.
Therefore, on June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union through Operation Barbarossa. Importantly, the Germans had better aerial technology as compared to the Russians and this enabled them to be within a reach of 200 miles from Moscow. However, this advancement was stopped by the Soviet troops who launched a counteroffensive in October as the winter began to bite in the region.
Developments from 1943 to 1944
Defeat of the Axis Powers
Costs and Aftermath of the War
The Impact the War had on the World
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of Cornell University. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1942.
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[1] Bains, Alisha. World War II. 2017.
[2] Parker, Robert Alexander Clarke. The Second World War: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 54.
[3] Bains, Alisha. World War II. 2017.
[4]  Parker, Robert Alexander Clarke. The Second World War: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 78.
[5] Parker, Robert Alexander Clarke. The Second World War: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. P. 136.
[6] Bains, Alisha. World War II. 2017.
[7] Parker, Robert Alexander Clarke. The Second World War: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. P. 136.
[8] Bains, Alisha. World War II. 2017.
[9] Parker, Robert Alexander Clarke. The Second World War: A Short History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. P. 65.