Our approach to World War II is both a chronological and topical survey. Approached this way the individual country experiences often are obscured. Thus we have created a series of national pages designed to focus on the experience of each country in the War. Some counties were central to the War. Others played more marginal roles, but the national experience of the War was still profound in those countries. Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union were the key players in launching the War and making it a struggle of unbeliebale cruelty and leathality. Poland was the first country to stand up to the NAZIs and paid a terrible proce. Britain and France were reluctantly dragged into the War. While France fell in the first year of the War, dogged British resistance made victory possible. America in the end rescued Europe not only from Fascism, but after the War from Communism as well. Almost all of the independent countries of the world were involved in the War and even those who were not beligerants (Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey) were affected by it or played not inconsequential roles.
President Martinez at the beginning of the War was sympathetic to the Germans, as was the case in several other Latin American regimes. And the population, as was the case throughout South and Central America. had a largely anti-Semetic attitude. While President Marinez was openly suportive of the Germans and Italians, with Pacific coast, he was not in a position to offer any assistance to them. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt had from an early point of his administration, announced the Good Neighbor Policy (1934). An element in that policy was no interference in the internal affais of Latin American countries. This changed with the outbreak of the War. The Roosevelt administration pushed for “Pan American Solidarity”. Given that several Latin American governments, and not just El Salvador, were pro-Axis, this required the Administration to do just what it had pledged not to do. Not only was Martinez pro-Axis, but it took 3 years for the United States to recognize his government. The United States pushed Latin American governments to move against Axis agents. This was a somewhat ham-fisted efforted as the United states was asking Latin American countries to deport German nationals which in some cases included German Jewish refugees. The American pressure worked. Martinez shifted his policies and moved against Axis agents. He shut down a NAZI radio station and associated presses. Only a few days after Pearl Harbor, El Salvador declared war on the Axis countries (1941). Inprobably, El Salvador played a role in The Holocaust. A Salvadoran diplomat was responsible for saving about 30,000 Jews in NAZI-occupied Europe.
San Marino in north-central Italy played little role in World War II. Ppress reports claimed that it had to declare war on Britain to upport Italy (September 1940). The Sammarinese Government denied the reports.
The British bombed the ebclave (June 26, 1944). The Royal Air Force was acting on reports thar it had been overrun by the Germans and was being used to amass stores and ammunition. The railway was destroyed and 63 civilians were killed. THe British government later admitted the bombing had been unjustified and that it had been executed on receipt of erroneous information. The Germans briefly occupied San Marino after the liberatio of Rome and Italian campaign shifted to the north. The Allies liberated San Mrino (September 20, 1944).
Saudi Arabia in the years leading up to World War II established good relations with the European Axis powers (Italy and Germany). Axis propagand sought to exploit the anti-British and French feeling in the Arab world. NAZI anti-Semitism was another factor. The Saudis negotiated an arms agreement with NAZI Germany prior to the outbreak of the War. Abd al Aziz, the founder of the Saudi state, maintained relations with the NAZIs and neutrality through much of the War. Gradually as the War turned against the NAZIs, the Saudis began to favor the Allies. Aziz finally issued a oerfunctory declaration of war agains NAZI Germany (early 1945). This made the Saudis eligible to become one of the founding members of the United Nations. President Roosevelt met with Aziz on the way back from Yalta. Oil had been discovered in Saudi Arabia before the War. The outbreak of the war stopped oil sales because of shipping difficulties. The importance of oil in the War made Saudi Arabia a country of strageic importance. President Roosevelt declared the defense of Saudi Arabia as of vital interest to the United States (1943). This was a declaration needed to make the Kingdom eligible for Lend-Lease aid. After the War, British influence was declining and the United States begame the major force in developing the Saudi Oil industry. By the end of World War II, British power and influence in Arab affairs had begun to wane, and during the late 1940s and early 1950s the United States emerged as the dominant Western power on the Arabian Peninsula. Aziz played a role in establishing the Arab League (1945).
Senegal was of some importance during World War II because of the deep-water port of Dakar. Dakar became the administrative center of French West Africa (1902). Senegalese soldiers fought for France on the Western Font in World War I. France used them for occupation duty in The Rhineland which many Germans found provocative. After the fall of France (June 1940), authorities in Dakar adhered to the Vichy regime. British and Free French forces attempt to take Dakar (September 27, 1940). This was DeGualle's first major attempt to rally Frenchmen to resist the NAZIs. The British despite the critical condition at home supported the effort. DeGualle commanded the 1st "Brigade de legion francaise". The British added the 101st Royal Marine Brigade. The two units sailed with a small Royal Navy flotilla including the HMS Ark Royal. DeGualle and the British expected to be welcomed by the local authorities. [Marder] They were not. The Allied cause looked very bleak at the time. Local authorities after the shock of French defeat were not anxious to join the British and Free French. A 3-day battle ensued. The Vichy authorities resisted with batteries, warships, and aircraft. The British carrier had largely obsolete, low-performance aircraft. British ships including the battleship Resolution were damaged. Finally the British and Free French were forced to withdraw. [Williams] The Allies executed the Torch landings in North Africa (November 1942). French authorities in Dakar decided to switch sides and join the Free French administration in Brazzaville. Dakar was then occuipied by the United States which extended theoughout the War. French authorities soon after Vichy authorities in Dakar switch sides convened a conference of colonial governors in Brazzaville (January 1943).
The Dakar airport vecame an important trans-Atlantic ferrying point.
The French colonial governors recommended major social reforms, including the abolition of forced labour and the indigenat. France after the War declared Senegal as an Overseas Territory. France granted French citizenship was granted to all inhabitants regardless of race or religion. Forced labour was abolished. France granted Senegal and other colonies representation in the French National Assembly, although only with a small number of deputees.
Sierra Leone is not a country normally associated with World War II. It was at the time Britain declared war on Germany (September 1939) part of the Empire. Thus the colony went to war with Britain. The British after the fall of France often talk of going it alone. In fact the British were never alone and over the long run the many parts of the Empire played mjor role. The contribution of Sierra Leone by itself was limited, but the combined force of the Empire was a major part of Britain's war effort.
The colony did not have any critical resources. The major exports were palm oil and peanuts.
The British recruited soldiers in Sierra Leone. There was no conccription, but tribal chiefs were used to encourage inlistment. There was also recritment during World War I, but in World War II recruits in Sierra Leone and other African colonies (except South Africa) had greater combat roles. Many of the men recrited in Sierra Leone fought with the British Army in Burma. There was some war-time proganda to explain what life might have been like under the NAZIs. Anti-British feeling was limited, but ITA Wallace Johnson, Editor of the African Standard regularly criticized British colonial rule and the War which he saw as both the result of colonialism and capitalism. The British finally intered him. The United States had a naval observer in Freetown. Britain after the War began to give the people of Sierra Leone more responsibility in the colony's administration. The British set up District Councils and a Protectorate Assembly (1946).
Singapore was the keystone of Britain's military position in the Pacific. Japan took the large well supplied British garison at Singapore with surprising ease. British General Percival has been sharply criticized. The defense of Singapore was bady planned. The Japanese offensive down the Malay Peninsula was briliantly executed. The key factors were that the Japanese were able to achieve aerial and naval mastery that was never anticipated in British defense planning combined with the surprising mobility of Japanese ground forces. Pearl Harbor left the American Pacific Fleet unable to respond to the defense of the Philippines, let alone Singapore. Two of Britain's most powerful ships Prince of Wales and Repulse were sent without air cover and sunk by Japanese bombers. [Gilbert] Churchill was outraged and Percival's surender. It was Percival's seeming willingness to so quickly surrender that enraged Churchill. The British 8th Division had been rushed to Singapore after it was already too late. The fall of Singapore was a military catastrophy of emense proportions. Japanese forces within 6 months moved through Burma to the border of India in the West and New Guinea in the South. Australian trops had garisoned Singapore, after previously sending forces to North Africa, left the country virtually undefended. Only the intervention of American carriers in the Ciral sea blocked Japanese expansion further south. The Japanese conquest of Malay also presented the Allies with a critical problem. The world's rubber production was centered on the Malay Peninsula. And rubber was a vital war material. Singapore's fall would have consequences after the War. The prestige of the British Empire has been irreperably damaged.
Italy at the onset of World War II held both the southern coast of modern Somalia and Eritra. An attempt to add Ethiopia to to these coastal enclaves and creat a large Italian East African colony resulted in defeart at Aduwa/Adowa (1895). It was the only European army defeated by an African army. Mussolini decided to invade Ethiopia again. It was the first Fascist aggression that wold evenntually lead to World War II. Italy invaded Ethiopia using modern arms, including poison gas. The Italians created a vast East African colony (1935). Italy at first remained neutral when Germany and the Soviet Union launched World war II by invading Poland (1939). Italy decided to join the Germans once they had largely defeated France (June 1940). The first action in Somalia was an Italian offensive to seize British Somaliland (northern Somalia. The small British force was not capable of defending the colony. The British this evacuated to Aden. Italian control of the Horn of Africa could have had disasterous consequences, if they had been able to block supplies through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea to British forces in Egypt. The naval and air forces, however, were inadequate as well as the necessary supplies. The principal British and Italian armies were deployed in the Western Desert (coastal Egypt and Libya). Thus after seizing British Somaliland, the outcome in East Africa was largely a nmatter of awaiting the outcome in the Western Desert. Italy invaded Egypt (September 1940). The British with a smaller force defeated the Italians and drove them back into Libya. With Egypt and Suez saved, the British launched an offensive in East Africa. The Italians on paper had a larger force, but isolated by the Royal Navy, the Italians were defeated by an Empire force aided by Ethiopian irregulars (1941). Ethiopia became the first country liberasted during World war II. The British took over the administration of former Italianm Somalilabnd and Eritra.
The Union of South Africa was created after the Boer War (1910). The Union consisted of the Cape Colony, Natal Colony, and the Boer republics of the Orange Free State, and Transvaal. The two major political parties, the South African Party and National Parties, merged to form the United Party in an attempt to untite Afrikaners and English-speaking whites (1934). The union did not last long, the two parties split only 5 years later (1939). The issue that split the United Party was joining Britain in war against the Germans. The Afrikaner dominated National Party sympathised with NAZI Germany in part because of the importance the NAZIs placed on race. Hertzog did not want to join the British in the War. He proposed that South Africa should remain neutral. Smuts wanted to support the British. Smuts won a narrow parliamentary vote. Smuts was appointed prime minister and South Africa declared war. The National Party left the United Party and continued to be pro-Germany even after the NAZIs invaded and occupied the Netherlands. South African units played an important role in early phases of the War before Britaon had fully mobilized its forces. The South Africans played a key role in the British campaign which defeated the Italians in East Africa (1941). They then proceeeded to play an important role in the Western Desert (1941-43). The South Africans also fought in the Italian campaign (1943-45). The South African forces were segregated. White troops (135,000) served in combat units. Africans and Coloreds (70,000) served in labor and transport units. South Africa was an important source of raw materials (platinum, uranium, and steel). South African ports (Durban and Cape Town) were also an import part of the Allied supply lines. This was especially important when the Axis had closed the the Mediterranean and supplies to the Desert Army had to flow around the Cape of Good Hope. They continued to be useful to supply Allied forces in India and Burma.
The war on the Eastern Front was the most gighantic conflict in the history of warfare. In large measure, the result of the campaign determined the outcome of the War. It is difficult to see how the Western Allies could have staged the
D-Day invassion to liberate France if the NAZIs had succeded in destroying the
Red Army on the Easern Front. The resistance of the Soviet people to the
NAZIs is one of the outstanding instances of heroism and valor in human history. It is no reflection on the character of the Soviet people that Stalin became virtually an ally of Hitler and launched a series of aggressions comparable to those of the NAZIs. Opperation Barbarossa came as a complete shock to Stalin (June 22, 1941). The Wehrmacht achieved stunning successes. In the drive toward Moscow and Leningrad, the NAZIs committed the most heinous attrocities in modern times. Hitler had made it clear from the onset that the campaign would be a war of extinction. At the gates of Moscow, the Russian Winter, interference by Hitler, and the bravery of the Red Army broke the Wehrmacht. Slowly after Moscow and Stalingrad the the weight of Allied production, the resurgent Red Army, the strastegic bombig campaign, and finally a second front with D-Day doomed the Wehrmacht.
The Spanish Civil War !936-39) is seen by many as a preview of World War II. It ended (Match 1939) months before World War II broke out in Europe. Spain maintained its neutality and never entered the War. During the first years of the War, Spain sided with the Axis and offered some support. Volunteers participated in the campsaign against the Soviet Union. Franco refused Hitler's demands to let German troops pass through Spain to seize Gibraltar. He also refused German demands to turn over Jews to the NAZI killing machine. Franco kept Spain out of World War II, although it was a close-run thing. He did consider joining Hitler, but was not offered sufficent enducements. In the end it was geographpy that kept Spain out of the War. Its peninsular situation meant it was more exposed to the Royal Navy than any other country on the Continent and thus more threatened. And Hitler's fixation on the East meant that he was not going to delay his plans with a distracting invasion in the West. It also mean that the NAZIs were forced to pay for the resources, espcially wolfram obtained from Spain. While Spain stayed out of the War, children were still affected by the ligering impact of the Civil War.
See Dutch West Indies.
Sweden was the only Scandinavian country and one of the few Europen countries not to be drawn into World War II. Like many countries, Sweden proclained its neutrality. Sweden remained neutral in World war I and hoped to do so again after World war II broke out in Europe. When the NAZIs invded Denmark and Norway (April 1940), it was expected that Sweden would be next. In the end no military action took place on Swedish soil, but tht does not mean that Sweden was not affected by the War and played a part in it. Sweden acceeded to German demands to use the Swedish railroad system to move men and material into Norway, but only after the Germans were securely in control of the country. When the NAZIs invaded Denmark and Norway (April 1940), it was expected that Sweden would be next. We do not know to what extent Hitler considered invading Sweden and what disuaded him from doing so. The NAZIs finally concluded that Sweden would prove more useful as a neutral country. Sweden's primary role in the War was to supply raw materials (mineral ores, especially iron ore), finished steel, and manufactured goods to NAZI Gemany. Surrounded by the NAZIs, Sweden had few options. Cut off from other trading partnes, Sweden proceeded to expand trade with the Germans and Swedish raw materials supported the Gernman war effort until late in the war.
Switzerland like the Netherlands was committed to neutrality. Unlike the Netherlands they were able to maintain their neutrality. Historians have asked why Switzeland suceeded. The central reason is probably that they had a creditable military force. The Swiss were prepared to fight and by withdrawing into their Alpine national redoubt could have put up a substantial resistance. The Panzers would have been lkess effective than on the flat terraine of Poland France, and Russia. There is no doubt that the NAZIs would have succeeded, but it would have been at considerable cost. There is also no doubt that if they had prevailed in the War that Switzerland would have disappeared. Switzerland has a large German population, part of which was pro-NAZI. NAZI forbarance also reflected the fact that Switzerland was useful to the NAZI war effort. Swiss raw materials and industrial production could be imported. In addition, the Swiss played a role in finanzing the German war effort. Gold looted from the occupied countries could be used in Switzerland. Swiss acquiesence to NAZI demands were understandable after the fall of France (1940), but many observers believe that it continued long after the fortunes of war changed and the danger of NAZI invasion passed. Unlike Sweden, the Swiss returned Jewish refugees who managed to reach Switzeland to the Germans. This continued even after D-Day.
After the fall of France. French authorities in Syria, recognized the authority of Vichy Government. This included a military force totling about 40,000 Legioneers and Muslim soldiers backed by 90 tanks and prepared fortifications. Admiral Darlan provided logistical support to the Germans and Italians in efforts to support the Rashid Ali revolt in Iraq. This was a clear violation of Vichy's neutrality. Syria located in the Eastern Mediterranean was of some strastegic importance. The British feared that Vichy would allow the Luftwaffe to establish air bases in the country. This would have threatened the British position in Egypt as well as provided a jumping off point to seize the oil fields in Iraq. Churchill thus ordered Wavell after putting down the Iraqii Revolt to seize Syria (June 1941). Degualle assured Wavell that the Vichy garison would come over to the Free French with little resistance. They did not. The British and Free French forces entered Syria from Palestine. There was toughh fighting, but the Allies reached Damascus (June 17).
With the death of King Prajadhipok, the crown then passed to the King's nephew--Ananda Mahidol. He was just a boy at the time. The National Assembly recognized as king (March 1935). He was a 9-year-old boy going to school in Switzerland. This meant that at a time when World War II was approaching, the monarchy was unable to influence public policy. The military seized control of te country. The Thai Government under Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Phibun) sought to benefit from the war in Europe. After the fall of France (June 1940), fighting occurred along the eastern border with the French in Indo China. Japan moved forces into Indo China which caused the United States to institute trade embargos. Attacks by the Thais begn (September 28, 1940), but were sporadic. The Thais launched a major offensive (January 5, 1941). The Japanese presured the French Vichy regime in France to meet Thai demands for territory. Thiland occupied a strategic lovation. Japanese drives toward the bastion in Singapore and toward India would have to move through Thailand. [Haseman] With limited resources and Japanese forces in Indo China, the French had little alternative. The French ceeded substabntial territory to Thailand (March 1941). This included Laos west of the Mekong. much of the Cambodian province of Battambang. This was territory that had been Thai before the French intervention into Southeast Asia. This apparent Thai victory made the Phibun Government very popular. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese crossed the Thai border at Chumphon (December 8, 1941).
Thai officials quickly agreed to Japanese demands to allow transit to Japanese forces moving against the British in Malaya and Burma. Phibun announced that the arrangement with the Japanese was "prearranged". Phibun proceeded to sign a mutual defense pact with Japan (December 1941).
Thai participation was important to the Japanese both to promote its anti-colonial propaganda line and its own Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. Cooperation meant that the Japanese offensive would not be slowed nt Thai resistance and the need for a large occupation force. There was some support from Thasi ntionalists. Pridi resigned from the cabinet to protest the arrangement with Japan but soon accepted the largely non-political post of regent for Ananda Mahidol who was absent. the Phibun regime was forced by the Japanese to enter the war, declaring war on both Britain and the United States (January 1942). Thai politics led to the development of a resistance movement. [Haseman] The country was divided between Phibul's military faction and a small civilian group led by Pridi. Inevitably Pridi and his supporters evolved from an opposition group to a resistance movement against Phibul and his Japanese allies. Ambassador Seni Pramoj in Washington was outraged and refused to deliver the declaration to the United States government. The United States looked on Thailand as an occupied country and refused to respond with its own declaration of war. Seni was from an aistocratic family and organized the Free Thai Movement (FTM)--a kind of government in exile. The FTM recruited Thai students in the United States to work with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS trained Thais for underground work. Pridi working out of the office of the regent in Thailand ran a clandestine operation that received Allied support to arm a resistance force. The Japanese conferred further territorial awatds to the Phiburn regime, including part of the Shan states in Burma and the four northern Malay states. Japan drove moved through Thailand to seize Malay and Singapore and Burma. About 150,000 Japanese troops were actually stationed in Thailand. The Japanese used Allied POWs and local laborers to build a railroad to support its troops in Burma. The Japanese Army forced the men to working under horrible conditions with virtually no tools. The railroad was needed in part because of Japanese reverses in the Pacific naval war. Thai attitudes toward the Japanese gradually shifted as the war progressed. Commercial trade stopped because of the War. Exports to Europe and America were no longer possible. This was not replaced by trade with Japan. The Japanese Army in Thailand began requisitioning supplies. Japan began dealing with Thailand more as an occupied country than a patner in the War. As the War began to go against the Japanese, the Allied began bombing targets in Thailand, including Bangkok. The railroad built to supply the Japanese n Burma also became a major target. The popularity Phibun and his military regime had achieved by recovering territory eroded. A civilian government took power (June 1944). The Japanese Army was preparing a major operation against resistance bases in norther Thailand (August 19, 1945). The Japanese surrender, however, caused Army commanders to cancel the offensive. American representatives arrived in Bangkok. Prime Minister Khuang Abhaiwongse annulled the 1942 declaration of war (August 19). The Regent, Pridi Banomyong, prepared a Royal Declaration of Peace that invalidated the two war declarations stating they were a violation of the Thai Constitution and not truly representative of the will of the Thai people. Resistance leader Seri Thai, paraded in Bangkok (August 20).
Tibet managed to avoid direct participation in World War II as it swirled all around the mountenous country. To the east the brutal Japanese invasion of China and the Chinse Civil War raged. To the south Japan invaded Burma and knocked at the borders of India. To the west the Germans drove toward the Middle East from North Africa and the Caucauses. To the north American Lend Lese supplies flowed over the Trans-Siberian Railways to support the Red Army in its life and death struggle with the Soviet Union. Tibet attempted to remain neutral, but this was complicated by the Chinese claim that Tibet was a province of China. There was fighting between the KMT and Tibetan, mostly in Qinghai. This is the ethnically diverse and sparsely populated province in western China, northeast of Tibet. It was ruled by the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang who became like many warlords a KMT general. His army became the Nationlist 82nd Army. He sought to stifel Tibetan independence as well as fight the Japanese. He tried to prevent the young Dalai Llama from reaching Tibet. The Japanese wanted to contact the Tibetans, but were preventrd from doing so by Ma Bufang's 82nd Army. Other than China, there were only minor contacts with the outside world which impacted Tibet. The NAZI Ahnenerbe pursuing SS Commander Heinrich Himmler's crazy anthroplogical ideas financed an expedition to Tibet becuse of believed connections to the Aryan master race. They made it back to the Reich just in time before Hitler and Stalin laynched the War (1938-39). A few years later a small band of Men brutalized by the NKVD escaped from a Soviet slave labor camp in Siberia reached British India through Mongolia and Tibet (1941). After being tortured and terribly abused by the Russians, they had their faith in humanity restored by the generosity and humanity of the Tibetan people (1941). [Rawicz] Austrian-German mountaineers did not get back to the Reich before interned by the British in India. Two Austrians escaped to Tibet (1944). One became a tutor to the Dalai Llama. [Harrer] He is not believed to have been a NAZI agent.
Britain created Trans-Jordon after World War I by partioning Palestine. As the name of the country indicates, it was the area of Palestine beyond or east of the Jordon. This was former Ottomon territitory seized during the War as administered as a League of Nations Mandate. The British because of their relationship with Sharif Hussein, installed his son Abdallah as emir of Transjordan (1923). Two military forces were formed in Jordon, the Tranjordan Frontier Force and the Arab Legion. Both were led by British officers. The Transjordan Frontier Force (TJFF) was formed (April 1926). It was a para-military border guard tasked with guarding Trans-Jordan's northern (Syria and Iraq) and southern (Saudi Arabia) borders. (The eastern border with Palestine did not need to be defended because the British were there.) The TJFF an Imperial Service regiment whose members had to agree to serve wherever required and not just within Trasjordon. Emir Abdullah was an Honorary Colonel of the TJFF. After the War, the TJFF was incoroprated iunto the Arab League. The other military force was the Arab League (AL). The term Arab Legion was used rather than Trans-Jordon Legion because Sharif Hussein had wanted to form an Arab nation (including Arabia, the Levant, and Mesopotamia) far beyond the limits of Trans-Jordon. At the time, the Aran Legion was one of the few Arab military forces. Britain was also helping to form the Iraqi Army and an Egyptian Army existed.) The AL in contrast to the TJFF was an internal security militia to protect Emir Abdulah and the new monarchy. It was recruited from men who conducted the Arab Revolt and intensely loyal to the Hashemite monarchy. The AL evolved into the regular army of Trans-Jordon. There was considerable support for the Axis inthe Arab world, epecially mandates like Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, and Syria. Trans-Jordon was a British ally during the War. John Bagot Glubb, known as Glubb Pasha, was appointed the AL's commander. Major General Abdul Qadir Pasha Al Jundi, a JOrdanian, was appointed deputy commander. Although small anbd lightly armed, they created the best trained Arab army during World War II. The AL consisted of 1,600 men. It was part of Iraqforce and made an important contribution in the Anglo-Iraqi War and in the Syria-Lebanon campaign (1941), two rare Allied victories in the early years of World War II. Syria was being used by the Germans to funnel arms to the pro-NAZI Iraqi Government. Afyer the First Arb-Isreali War the Arab League became the regular Jordanian Army.
The French established a protectorate over Tunisia (1881). Although supported by the British, the action was protested by Italy which also had designs on Tunisua. The French colonial era had a modernizing influence on the country, but also also served to foment Tunisian nationalism. Nationalists founded the Young Tunisian Party (1907) which worked for Tunisian autonomy. Another group Destour ('constitution') demanded independence (1920). The Bey endorses Destour (1922), but the French make few concessions. With the rise of Mussolini in Italy, the French fortify the Libyan-Tunisian border. More assertive nationalists led by Habib Bourguiba break away from Destour and form Neo-Destour (1934). As in the other French colonies, the fall of France shocked Tunisian nationalists (June 1940). One of the reasons Italy entered the War was to gain Tunisia. Hitler refused, however, to countenance the transfer. The Franco-German Armistice recognized continued French control of its colonies. Vichy thus controlled Tunisia. The Allies invaded Morocco and Algeria as part of Operation Torch under the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower (November 8, 1942). Landings in Tunisia were impossible because of Axis airfieds in Sardinia and Sicily. The plan was to dash east and seize the Tunisian ports, thus trapping the retreating Afrika Korps. Hitler immediately decided to resist the Allied offensive and ordered substantial forces rushed to Tunisia, even as the Soviets surround the 6th Arny at Stalingrad. German troops begun to arrive in Tunisia (November 9, 1942). This was possible because Vichy authorities in Tunisia cooperated with them. The initially small German force was heavily reinforced by air. Hitler poured planes, men, and tanks into Tunisia.
Rommel's retreating Afrika Korps occupied the Mareth Line (French fortifications near Libyan-Tunisian border. Rommel attacked U.S. forces moving east through the Tunisian dorsals (February 14, 1943). It was a baptism under fire for the fledling U.S. Army. The U.S. II Corps was commanded by Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall. Rommel planned to drive through the Kasserine Pass, then move northwest seizing an Allied supply base at Tébessa and then drive to the coast and trap the Allied units in Tunisia. Poor coordination between Von Arnem in the north and Rommel in the south weakened the Axis position and Rommel's force was inadequate to exploit his victory at Kasserine. Eisenhower gave George S. Patton, who had commanded the landings in Morocco, command of II Corps. The Americans had a great deal to learn about modern war, but after Kasserine the learning curve was steep. Hitler's decession to contest the Tunisia delayed the Allied victory, but it also meant that he deployed substantial forces that he could not supply because of overwealming Allied naval and air supperority. Thus the final surrender was very costly. With the German surrender, over 275,000 prisoners of war were taken (May 13 1943).
The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers and fought with Germany during World war I. As a result it was one of the great European empires that were destroyed by the War. Modern Turkey emerged fter the War. Turkey remained neutral in World War II. Although often given little attention in World War II histories, this was of major importance in the outcome of the War. Germany's most significant weakness was oil. Turkey would have provided a significant threat to the Soviet Caucasian oil fields and would have provided an important ally to the Germans in their 1942 southern offensive. Turkey almost certainly could have seized the oil fields in Iraq that supplied the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and the 8th Army in Egypt. Hitler was very interesting in drawing Turkey into the War. And as aWorld War I ally, there were links. The Germans also had a great deal to offer the Turks, especially the Pan-Turkic natiinalists. The Germans thought they had convinced to enter the War. Here we are not sure, but the disaster at Stalingrad cerainly settled the issue. Churchill also worked hard on getting Turkey to join the Allies. [Denniston] Just before Barbarossa Turkey signed a Friendship Treaty with Germany (June 18, 1941). A joint statement following the signing indicated a desire for further economic cooperation. The Germans in particular were interested in Turkish chrominum ore. The Turks promised to cooperate with the Germans to close the straits to Soviet shipping. [Documents, 12: 105 and 13: 3] In the end, however, Turkey wisely remained neutral.
Britain played a key role in World war II. Unlike World war I, it was unable to prevent the German defeat of France. This irrrivocably changed the world ballance of power. Britain did manage to resist NAZI aggression, the first county to do so. Although many felt Britain could not hold out after the fall of France, the RAF managed to do just this. Under estimated at the time was the importance of the Royal Navy and the strength of the British scientific estanlishment. Hitler when he launched World war II was determined not to make the mistake of World War I and fight a two-front war. Frustrated by the British and seeing himself as the greatest military commander in history, Hitler decided to fight the two-front war he had always imposed. Incredibly within the space of just a few months, with Britain undefeated, he invaded the Soviet Union and declared war on the United States. Britain became an unsinkable air craft carrier off NAI dominated Europe, Huge quanyities of American war material and military personnel flowed into Briitain. From Briitain a strategic bombing campaign against Germany was launched (1942) and then the cross-Channel invasion which cracked open Hitler's Fortress Europe June 1944).
Most of the Ukraine at the time of World War II was part of the Soviet Union. There was an important nationalist movement in the Ukraine and thus there needs to be some separate consideration of the Ukraine outside of our discussion of the Soviet Union. The Ukraine became one of the major prizes in the conflict between Hitler and Stalin. The famine engineered by Stalin in the Ukraine was part of his attack on Ukraian nationlism. When Hitler spoke of Lebensraum in the East, one of the principal areas he coveted was the vast agricultural lands of the Ukraine. And it was in the Ukraine that the miitary contest between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht was finally resolved. Some of the most important battles of the War were fought in the Ukraine and the death and destruction occurred in almost unimaginable levels. Hitler's focus on the Ukraine resulted in two fateful decesions which in the end doomed the assault on the Soviet Union. First he failed to utilize the Ukranian nationalist movement and anti-Soviet feeling. Two he diverted major forces from the drive on Moscow into the Ukraine at a critical point of the campaign. The intensity of the fighting and the scoarched earth polices waged by the Soviets and NAZIs left the Ukraine devestated. The Ukraine was one of the countries most heavily damaged by the War.
There has always been a strong isolationist streak in American political life. Americans separated by two great oceans resisted involvement in the war that broke out in Europe. NAZI and Japanese barbarities gradually and President Roosevelt's leadership gradually changed American sentiment. It was the surprise Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor, however, that brought a suddenly united and outraged America into the War. The Japanese attack was a superbly executed military operation and one of the greatest blunders in world history. Neither Japan or Germany had any appreciation for the ability to wage war that American industry brought to the allied war effort. America became truly what President Roosevelt proclaimed, the Arsenal of Democracy in a miraxle of industrial production. Within a year of the Japanese attack, America was involved in offensive operations that began to change the tide of the War. America in the end rescued Europe not only from Fascism, but after the War from Communism as well. Most surprisingly of all was not only how the War changed America, but America's success in fundamentally changing the nature of German and Japanese society.
The first major surface engagement of World War II was improbably fought of Uruguay--the Battle of the Rio Plate (December 1939). Before war was declared, the German admiralty dispatched its pocket battleship Graf Speah to conduct commerce raiding in the vast, poorly psatrolled resches of the South atlsantic sand Indian Oceans. The German raider was enormously sucessful. A squadron of Briitish cruisers (Ajax, Achilles, and Exeter) correctly deduced that the Germans would attack merchant shipping from Argentina and Uruguay before returning to Germany. The outginned cruisers managed to damage the German battleship which almost blew Exeter out of the water. The German captain sought refuge in Montevideo, a neutral port. The Uruguayans following international law, refused to allow the Germans to improve the fighting condition of the ship. Tricked by the British to believe a formidable British force was assembling to fight him outside Uruguayan waters, the German captain to save his crew, scuttled his ship and later shot himself.
The Vatican is a religious enclave of 108 acres in the center of Rome. St. Peter's dominates the Roman landscape. The question of Pope Pious' conduct during the War is enormously controversial. The Vatican attempted to use contacts within the German military to prevent the War by overthrowing Hitler. A factor here was British Prime-Minister Chamberlain's Appeasement Policy, caving into Hitler's demands a Munich (1938). The Vatican was during the War surrounded by first Fascist (1940-43), NAZI (1943-44), and then Allied (1944-45) forces. The most dangerous time was the NAZI control of Rome after the Italian surrender (September 1943) until the Allied liberation (June 1944). The Pope had no army, but he had enormous influence among Catholic around the world, especially in Europe. The Pope did speak in guarded terms abot Fascist aggressions and attrocities. In one of his radio addresses he spoke against those "forgetful of moral ties and bent on replacing right by force". He never specifically condemned the NAZIs. Of course if he had done so Hitler would surely have occupied the Vatican and perhaps destroyed it as well as other Church properties, many of which were harboring Jews and other refugees. The Pope allowed Italian prelates to hide Jews, saving many. He never openly condemned or even exposed the Holocaust nor the assault on priests in Poland and other countries. Nor did he condemn Catholic prelates, especially in Slovakia and Crotia, who engaged in horrendous attrocities. The Pope opened church poroperies to refugees resulting from the fighting . He also did important work with POWs. Many of the criticisms of the Pope seem valid. It must be said that it is much easier to criticise the Pope after the War by individuals who were not at the time in NAZI occupied Europe. In particular it seems somewhat unfair to criticise the Pope when the Allies themselvs did not expose or strongly condemn the Holocaust.
Juan Vicente Gómez used the Army to seuize control of Venezuela (1907). Venezuelan was a largely poor, agrarian country until the discovery of important oil resources in thw west of the country around Lake Maracaibo during World War I. President Gomez es rumored to be pro-German, but the country wasstrictly neutral throughout the War. After the War, developmnt of the oil resource brought great wealth to the country for the first time and began to transform the economy, financing an economic boom. Venezuela's per capita income became the highest in South America. Gomez benefited hugely from the oil income which he controlled and siphoned finds to his personal accounts. As a result of rampant corruption, the Venezuelan people as a whole saw relatively little benefit from the oil money. Gomez used the oil money to both centralize the Venezuelan Government and to increase his authority through well paid security forces. The Germans attracted by the country's oil resources attempted build their influence during the 1930s. Gomez died occasioning street celebrations (1935). The Gomecista dictatorship survived his death and the presidency passed first to to Eleazar López Contreras. Under Isaías Medina Angarita, dictatorial rule was relaxed somewhat and a range of reforms were initiated . These included increasing the country's share of the oil compony's profits and legalizing political party activity (1941). Isaías Medina Angarita was legally elected president (1941). He symphathized with the Allies. The Government after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor broke diplomatic relations with Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan). As a result of the stunning German victories in Europe, there were wild rumors that Germany might invade and seize the counytry's oil wells. The United States helped the counbtry improve the defenses of the oil wells and poroivided a range of assistance to the Venezuelan military region. The Caribbean with its clear, rather shallow waters was not suitable for U-boat opetations, although there were sinkings after Germany declared war on America. As the Allies improved their ASW capbility, German U-boats wiuthdrew from the Caribbean. Venezuela's primry role in the War was supplying oil to the Allied war effort. While Venezuela severed diplomartic relarions with the Axis powers and largely symphitized with the Allies, the country did not take an active role in the War. It took a range of steps like seizing Axis babk accounts and expelling the Italian military mission. In the final year of the War the Governmrnt declared war on the Axis countries. A civilian-military coup overthrew Medina Angarita and ushered in a 3-year period of democratic rule. It would take some time for democracy to take hold, but it was a beginning. We note some some Austrian/German orphans being adopted after the War. We do not know how many.
French Indo-China featured prominently in Japan's move to war. Chinese nationalists had received some shipments of war material through Tonkin (northern Indo-China). With the fall of France (June 1940), the Japanese demanded concessions and basing rights. French officals loyal to the new Vichy Government complied. The Japanese made clkear thhat they were prepared to use force if necessary, but preferred the fiction of continued French control. The Japanese from occupied southern China attacked two Tonkinese (northern Vietmam) towns before retirung back into China., In their waje tgey keft 800 dead French (September 1940). While France could not react, the United States reacted with by emargoes on raw materials. America had cracked the Jaoanese diplomatic (Purple) code and thus knew a great deal about what the Japanese objectives were and tgey contrasted sharply from the public protestations of peace. It was these actions which caused the Japanese to decide that war with the United States was necessary. The United States had also moved the Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor to back up its resistance to Japanese expansionism. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese moved forces in Indo-China west through Thailand to invade the British in Burma. One of the goals was to block military shipments to the Chinese nationalists along the Burma Road. The Japanese also moved south into Malay to attack the British bastion at Singapore. Vietnamese resistance to foreign (both French and Japanese) occupation gradually developed, led by Ho Chi Min. The Japanese allowed nominal French administration to continue under Adm. Jean Decoux. Axis ally Thailad used the opportunity to seize disputed territory in Cambodia and Laos. Several sharp engagements resulted until the Japanese Military Commission ordered the French to withdraw abd awarded the terrutiry to their Axius ally. Indo-China especially the Mekong Delta was an important center of rice production. Throughout Southeast area, Japanese press ganging of labor and seiuzure of draught animals adversely affected rice and other food production. The Japanese also wanted jute and cotton production increased to meet textile requirements. And much of the available food producr=tion w turned over to the mikitary or shipped to Japan. Thee actions were commonly carried out by the French clons still in nomimal control of the colony's adminitration. The Japanese seized the Mekong rice harvest in the last year of the War. Wihout supplies from the south, an estimated 1-2 million people in central and northern Indo-China starved or died from disease because of their weakened condition (1944-45). The siutuation was worst in Tonkin, but condituons were very difficult in other areas as well. The Japanese reportedly used some of the rice for fuel. America delivered some weapons to the Vietnamese guerillas. They rarely, however, attemopted to attack the Japanese, but husbanded the weapons for use against the French after the War. The French dutifully followed Japanese orders until the new French Government iordered colonial officials ordered an uprising (March 1945). The Japanese brutally put doen the risdung and took full control of Indochina. After the Japanese surrender the French attempted to restablish their colonial authority, leading to the first Vietnam War.
The Mutawakkilite Kingdom (Immannate) of Yemen which controlled the north of the country entered into an alliance with Fascist Italy (1936). This was just after Italy invaded and occupied neigboring Ethiopia. Yemen with the outbreak of World War II adopted an strictly neutral foreign policy. The southern areas of what is now modern Yemen, known as the Aden Protectorate, was controlled by the British who werre primarily interested in the port of Aden as naval base. Aden was an important British naval base during World War II. After Italy entered the War (June 1940), Italian aircraft bombed Aden and Port Sudan. The Italian carry out air attacks on Berbera, Aden, Burao and Zeila (August 1940). Italian troops occupied Zeila, sealing the border between French and British Somaliland and opened up the coastal route to Berbera, the capital of British Somaliland. Italian troops enter the Port of Berbera. RAF Blenheims attacked tge Italian coluns. The British evacuated 5,300-5,700 combat troops and 1,000 civilians to Aden (August 19). The Italians without significant naval forces, could not pursue the British into Aden. The British troops from Aden, as part of the larger offensive against the Italians in East Africa, land at and capture Berbera (March 16, 1941). They quickly recaptured British Somaliland. As the British stopped the Afrika Korps at El Alemaine (July 1942). Japanese incursions in the Indian Ocean did not reach Aden and for thr most part ended after Midway (May 1942). A few German U-boars operated in the Indian Ocean from Japanese-occupied Malaya. The British brought in RAF units (1942). They conducted anti-submarine warfare operations and naval escort missions out of Aden. The opposition to Imam Yahya grew substantially by the time of the War. The major underground groups, Hai’at an-Nidal, the Free Yemeni Party, and the Gamiyat al-Islah combined to form the Free Yemeni Movement (1944).
Anti-Jewish rioting followed the War.
The Royal Government resisted German demands, but finally joined the Axis. A student led coup over throw the Goverment. A furious Hitler orders an invasion and the terror bombing of Belgrade (April 1941). The Wehrmach rapidly moves through the country, experiencing little resistance from the Yugoslav Army. The Germans are enthusiatically greeted by the Croats. The Yugoslav and Greek campaign, however, forced Hitler to delay Barbarossa. The NAZIs annex part of Slovenia to the Reich. The Italians annex the rest of Slovenia and other areas of the country. The initial lack of resistance caused Hitler to assume that the Balkans would be a compliant area in the NAZI New Order. He was suprised later when a major resistance movement developed. Hitler set up a Croatian puppet state and grants the Croats "honorary Aryan" status. The Croatian Fascists (Ustashis) targeted Serb civilians, Jews, and Gipsies. Bosnia granted by the NAZIS to Croatia in particular becomes a killing field. Even the German occupation authorities were shocked by the savagery of Ustashi attrocities. The Ustashi is led by Dr. Ante Pavelic. Unlike the NAZIs, the Ustashi, left an extensive photographic record of their attricities. Whole villages were whiped out. The Germans also commited attrocities, often in retalitation for resistance operations. The Jasenovac concentration camp was he third largest camp in NAZI occupied Europe. Yugoslav Jews were targeted by the NAZIs as well as the Ustashi and Serbian Chetniks who often cooperated with the Germans. The German's Italian allies, however, did not cooperate with the NAZIs. Bosnian Moslems volunteered to form a SS division. The Allies at first supported the Chetniks, but after concluding that they were not attacking the Germans and in some cases cooperating with them, shifted support to Tito's Communist Partisans.
Harrer, Heinrich. Seven Years in Tibet (1952) a
Haseman. John B. The Thai Resistance Movement During the Second World War.
Marder, Arthur. Operation Menace.
Olson, Lynne and Stanley Cloud. A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II (Knopf, 2003).
Denniston , Robin. Churchill's Secret War: Diplomatic Decrypts, The Foreign Office and Turkey 1942-44 (Chancellor Press, 2000) 208p.
Rawicz, Slavomir. THe long Walk (lyons Press: Gilford, Connecticut, 2010), 277p. In addition to the Tibet references, Rawicz provided horrifying details about the Soviet treated civilians and POWs of the coutries that they invaded.
Williams, John. The Guns of Dakar: September 1940 (London: Heinemann, 1976), 201p.
Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945 (Washington, 1949). This is a compenium of German documents captured during the War.
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