World War II or the Second World War (1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945) was a global military conflict which involved a majority of the world's nations organised into two opposing military alliances, the Allies and the Axis. The major participants placed their complete economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Over seventy million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history. The Allies won.
Many of the activities of Nick Knight, his vampire family, and the other vampires from Forever Knight remain unknown for this period. However, some details are certain. At some point during the Blitz, Nick, LaCroix, and Janette were in London. By 1942, Nick was working with the French Resistance in Lyon; and LaCroix was also lurking in the same area (though Janette's whereabouts at that time are unknown). And, at some point during the war, Nick became friends with Gordon Barrington (then an airman) and his wife, Katherine.
In the aftermath of World War I, a defeated Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, as a result of which it lost a significant portion of its territory, notably the industrial Saarland, had strict limitations put on the size of its armed forces, and had to pay massive reparations to the winning side. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became the leader of Germany. He abolished democracy, and began rearming. The situation was aggravated in early 1935 when Germany reoccupied the Saar and repudiated the Treaty of Versailles.
Meanwhile, Russia's civil war led to the creation of the Soviet Union which soon was under the control of Joseph Stalin; Benito Mussolini seized power as a fascist dictator in Italy; China was unified in the mid-1920s, only to become embroiled in a civil war between the Kuomintang and its former communist allies; and an increasingly militaristic Japanese Empire, which had long sought influence in China as the first step toward expansion through Asia, invaded the Chinese province of Manchuria in 1931.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1935, Hitler and Mussolini supported Francisco Franco's fascist forces in a civil war with the Soviet-supported Spanish Republic. Tensions mounted; and, in response, efforts were made to consolidate power through alliances. Germany and Italy formed the Rome-Berlin Axis; and, a month later Germany and Japan—each believing the Soviet Union to be a particular threat—signed the Anti-Comintern Pact. In China, the Kuomintang and communist forces agreed on a ceasefire to present a united front to oppose Japan.
In August 1935, the United States, concerned with events in Europe and Asia, passed the Neutrality Act.
The Start of WarEdit
The start of World War II is generally held to be in September 1939. At that time, Germany invaded Poland; and, as Polish allies, the British Commonwealth and France declared war in response. The Soviet Union also invaded Poland; and, after it was defeated, split the territory with Germany. The Soviet Union then proceeded to invade the Baltic states. Meanwhile, Japan launched an attack on China.
British troops deployed to the Continent; but neither Germany nor the Allies launched direct attacks on the other. Instead, in April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway to secure shipments of iron ore from Sweden. Allied support to Norway was ineffectual, leading to the replacement of the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, by Winston Churchill.
On that same day, Germany invaded France and the Low Countries, using blitzkrieg tactics which were swiftly successful. British troops were forced to evacuate the continent at Dunkirk. Italy also invaded France, which was forced to surrender. Much of the country was split between German and Italian occupation zones, but an unoccupied rump state continued under the Vichy Regime. Although resistance groups formed in most occupied territories, including France, they did not significantly hamper German operations until late 1943.
With France neutralized, Germany began an air superiority campaign over Britain to prepare for an invasion. It failed to destroy the British air force; and by September the invasion plans were cancelled. However, using newly captured French ports, the German Navy was able to enjoy great success using U-boats against British shipping in the Atlantic. Their bombing campaign against England was also highly destructive, though it was not effective in lowering enemy morale.
With the situation in Europe and Asia relatively stable, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union made preparations. The Soviets were wary of mounting tensions with Germany, and the Japanese were planning to take advantage of the European War by seizing resource-rich European possessions in Southeast Asia: the two powers therefore signed a neutrality agreement in April 1941. The Germans, meanwhile, were steadily making preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union.
Throughout this period, the neutral United States took some measures to assist China and the Western Allies. Still, a large majority of the American public continued to oppose any direct military intervention into the conflict.
On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler's goals were to eliminate the Soviet Union as a military power, exterminate Communism, generate land for German colonization by dispossessing the native population, and provide access to the strategic resources needed for a decisive victory elsewhere in Europe.
Japan, hoping to capitalize on Germany's success, seized military control of southern Indochina. The United States (which supplied eighty percent of Japan's oil) responded by placing a complete oil embargo. This was considered by the Japanese to be tantamount to an unspoken declaration of war. They decided to create a large defensive perimeter stretching into the Central Pacific so that they could exploit the resources of Southeast Asia without interference. To do this, they decided to pre-emptively neutralize the United States Pacific Fleet by destroying it in its harbour, simultaneous with attacks on British and Dutch held territory in the Pacific. This finally brought the United States into the conflict, as the Allies declared war on Japan.
In 1942, battles in the Pacific gradually pushed the Japanese back towards the mainland. The Soviets decided to make their stand at Stalingrad; and, after prolonged and bitter fighting, started to turn the German army back. However, the disastrous Dieppe Raid demonstrated the Allies' inability to launch an invasion of continental Europe without much better preparation.
On 6 June 1944 (known as D-Day), the Western Allies invaded northern France. Paris was liberated on 25 August; and the Western Allies continued to push back German forces in western Europe during the latter part of the year. Despite a major German counter-offensive in December 1944, the Allies entered Germany the following February. Meanwhile, the advancing Soviet offensive forced the German troops back from occupied territory in eastern Europe, prompting resistance forces in Poland to initiate several uprisings. On 4 February, American, British, and Soviet leaders met in Yalta. They agreed on the boundaries along which they would each occupy separate territories in post-war Germany, and also agreed when the Soviet Union would join the war against Japan. German forces surrendered on 7 May 1945.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth forces in Southeast Asia had begun to push the Japanese back on the mainland, while American forces continued to press back the Japanese perimeter. In August, when Japan continued to refuse to surrender, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As well, the Soviets invaded Japanese-held Manchuria, as agreed at Yalta. On 15 August 1945, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
The Soviet Union and the United States emerged from the war as the world's superpowers. This set the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 45 years. The United Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The self-determination spawned by the war accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa (leading, among other things, to the Vietnam War), while Western Europe itself began moving toward integration.
- Adapted from the Wikipedia article on World War II.