The Axis Powers
World War II was started by the Axis Forces, which were comprised of Germany, Italy, and Japan. They fought against the combined might of almost the entire world, and, but for a supreme combined effort on the part of America, the USSR, and Britain, almost won. During the war, the Axis Powers were totalitarian states, controlled by their respective leader or leaders. These are their stories.
During World War II, there were three men who were controlling the Japanese government, none of which liked each other. The first, Emperor Hirohito, born in 1901, was a ruler from 1926 to 1989, the last divine imperial leader of Japan. During the first nineteen years of his reign, he gave over the power of the government to a militant party. The result of this was the war with China from 1937 to 1945 and adherence to the Axis Powers. At the end of the war, Hirohito wanted peace and, in 1945, he unconditionally surrendered to the Allies.
The second, Isoroku Yamamoto, born in 1884, was the reluctant Commander-in-Chief of Japan’s naval forces during WW II. He had a clear grasp of the situation and predicted that against a country like the U.S. or Britain, Japan would quickly lose the war. He died in 1943, shot down by the U.S. 13th Air Force in a surgical assassination strike.
The last, Tojo Hideki, was born in 1884 and was the most violent of the three. He was the leader of the militaristic party that controlled the government from 1926 to 1945, and the one who commanded the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1937. He controlled all government and military campaigns until 1944, when, as a result of bad military defeats, he resigned as Prime Minister. Tojo was later arrested, tried, and convicted by an international military court for conventional war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. He was later executed in 1948.
These three men had control over the Japanese government, and allied themselves to Germany and Italy, thus forming the Axis forces. So, as the Pacific was being dominated by the Japanese, Europe, and North Africa were being equally terrorized by Germany and Italy, who were under the iron fists of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, respectively.
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889, the son of a very low-ranking official, and a peasant. He wasn’t very well educated, never completed high school, and was also rejected from institutes of higher learning because of his lack of talent. Although he was a poor student, he read non-stop, and it was from books that he developed his anti-Semitic ideas. For most of his prime, he lived on meager pay, and this eventually led to his joining the army. Once again, a lacking of skills stopped his promotion to a higher rank, and he joined the German Worker’s Party. It was later renamed the National Socialist German Workers or Nazi Party, and he was eventually elected as the chairman or Furer.
Hitler wanted to try to overthrow the Weimar Republic, as Germany was then called, and, after a failed uprising in Munich and his imprisonment, he decided he would have to use legal means. During his incarceration, he wrote his book Mein Kampf, or “My Struggle,” and planned his next moves carefully.
Hitler’s emotional speaking gave the most important thing to the poor, unemployed people of Germany that anyone could have given: someone to blame. He successfully took over the government by way of power politics, and Nazified politics, business, the news, and all other cultural and social activities.
Over the next few years (about 1934-1936), Hitler directly defied the unfair (to Germans) Treaty of Versailles by rearming Germany and making pacts with the fascist Italian leader Benito Mussolini and the imperialist monarchy of Japan. None of the European nations tried to stop Hitler’s actions, despite the begging and pleading of Joseph Stalin that Hitler planned to rule the world. Even after Germany annexed Austria-Hungary and Czechoslovakia the nations refused to do anything. After this, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed by Hitler and Stalin, and in a secret deal, they divided Poland amongst themselves.
On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland and ten days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. Hitler quickly overran Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, too, but was prevented from overtaking Britain.
In 1940, the formation of the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) was complete. One year later, in 1941, because of his desperate need for natural resources and disdain for communism, Hitler attacked the USSR, violating the non-aggression pact. Though successful at first, Hitler was stopped cold by a fierce Soviet winter and the Soviet tactic called Scorched Earth. As a result of this tactic, Hitler only got 1/6 of the natural resources that he needed and was forced to retreat, thus marking a turning point in the war.
While all of this was going on, more than 6 million Jews were killed in ghettos and concentration camps by Hitler’s orders. The Allied forces did not even find out about the concentration camps until late in the war because of a lack of intelligence as a result of reconnaissance missions being on the edge of the fronts. After the allies had overrun Berlin, on April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker along with his wife, Eva Braun. The war against the Nazis ended ten days later.
Benito Mussolini was born in 1883 to a lower middle-class family with radical socialist ideas. When he got older, Mussolini became the editor of an Italian Socialist newspaper, but as a result of his support for World War I and imperialist ideas, he was thrown out of the party. He then started a new newspaper which later became a tool for the spreading of fascism throughout Italy.
After the war, Mussolini and other veterans formed a fascist party that was supported by the king and the army. After Fascists were going to march on Rome, the king formed a government with Mussolini, and after that Mussolini grabbed the power of a supreme dictator, and made the country a totalitarian state. He also made peace between the Vatican and Italy. Also, Mussolini was originally anti-Hitler but when he defied the League of Nations by invading Ethiopia in 1935, he was forced to form an alliance with Hitler. Because of Hitler’s dominance in the alliance, Mussolini was also forced to pass anti-Semitic laws, and invade Albania, which was not as well accepted by his people as the invasion of Ethiopia.
After Hitler invaded Poland, Mussolini did not immediately enter World War II, because he was not ready for war. When he did enter the war in 1940, Mussolini did most of Hitler’s fighting for him in Africa, invaded Greece, and helped to subdue the Czechs. After many defeats, King Victor Emanuel of Italy got rid of Mussolini in 1943, and called a truce with the Allies and allowed them to invade southern Italy. Mussolini, however was rescued by German forces. They set up a dictatorship in northern Italy, but Mussolini was a puppet of the Nazi forces. Near the end of the war, Mussolini made an attempt to escape to Switzerland with his mistress, but was caught and shot on April 30, 1945.
Between these five men, perhaps one of the biggest and most destructive wars of all-time was unleashed on the world. Without it, who knows, perhaps we would have never learned the secrets of the atom. They were some of the evilest men of our time. They were the Axis forces.
The Allied Forces
During World War II, there were many countries that made up the Allied Powers, and even more that was occupied by the Axis powers that fought back against them. But, there were three nations that were the main Allied Forces in the war, those being Britain, the United States, and the USSR (even though the U.S. and the USSR didn’t enter until 1941). As with the Axis Powers, there were three men who were key in their respective nations’ war-time actions, Joseph Stalin, absolute ruler of the USSR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, and Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Joseph Stalin was born in 1879 as Ioseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, the son of peasants. A Marxist and nihilist at a young age, he helped Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov, also known as V.I. Lenin, take over the Russian government from the Tsars in 1917, and after an extremely bloody rise to power, had dictatorial control of one-sixth of the land on earth.
Stalin was one of the first to recognize Hitler’s growing power and pleaded with other nations to stop him. When they did not, Stalin made a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact with Hitler which, in a secret stipulation also guaranteed Stalin control of the eastern half of Poland. Hitler later turned on Stalin, and the Soviets repelled the German attacks using the “scorched earth policy, which would leave the invaders not a kilogram of grain nor a liter of gasoline.” This tactic originated in Russia during the time of Napoleon, and Stalin introduced Hitler to it. Stalin also added his own twist on it by dismantling factories in Ukraine and reforming them in the Urals. Stalin’s simplistic, yet effective military planning pushed Hitler out of the USSR, and finally, on April 30, 1945, brought the Soviets into Berlin itself.
After the war, Stalin negotiated with Churchill and Truman, and more or less succeeded in getting the USSR the most at the least cost. In the end, though he completely politically brainwashed the Russian people and killed thousands of the Soviet peoples in his paranoiac “purges,” he succeeded in educating and industrializing the nation to a point that it was almost equal in standards to America. After post-war negotiations, Stalin not only helped China to establish itself as a socialist-communist nation but also started the Cold War and started the Russians in the space race. Unfortunately (for the Soviets) his work was cut short when he died on March 5, 1953, of a massive brain hemorrhage. No one was able to help him because he had killed or imprisoned all of his personal doctors because of his paranoid fear that they were all trying to kill him.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882. He married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin, and eventually got into politics. Then, in 1921, he was stricken with poliomyelitis, a form of infantile polio, and after a long struggle with the disease, Roosevelt lost usage of his legs.
In 1932, Roosevelt started his first term of office as the President of the United States of America. During this term, he helped to negate the effects of the Great Depression. Roosevelt also won second, third, and fourth terms with victories in 1936, 1940, and 1944.
When the war in Europe broke out, Roosevelt quickly declared the US’s neutrality, and began building up the nation’s armed forces to protect our neutrality, should it be necessary. When Nazi-Germany forces invaded France, though, Roosevelt started the lend-lease program, which provided aid for any country fighting Germany or Italy, and he also started the first peace-time draft.
Then, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese made their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. As a result, the United States declared war on all Axis Forces and became the third big player for the Allies, which included Britain and the Soviet Union. Roosevelt managed to form the United Nations after the U.S. entered the war, which meant that the nations fighting the Axis Forces pledged not to make separate peace agreements, and it later replaced the League of Nations, as the organization for keeping international peace.
Six months after the invasion of Normandy, which was planned at the Quebec Conference, the Allies were storming Berlin. Unfortunately, Roosevelt did not see the end of the war, because he died on April 12, 1945, of a stroke. The most important decision of the war, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was made almost four months later by Harry S. Truman, thus ending the war in the Pacific in one stroke.
Sir Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, the son of an American heiress and a British lord. He started out in the military at an early age, and rose through the ranks quickly, but had to resign out of the admiralty after several disastrous campaigns.
He was sometimes kept out of Parliament and other high-ranking positions because Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain (the two men who controlled the British government from 1924 to 1940, with the latter succeeding the former) disliked his positions on certain topics. In the end, Churchill was the wisest one, because when Britain declared war against Germany in 1939 for the invasion of Poland, his campaign for rearmament and dislike for Chamberlain’s appease of Hitler at Munich in 1938 were much more agreeable.
Churchill succeeded Chamberlain in the middle of 1940 as Prime Minister and rallied the British people around him telling them to continue fighting. Churchill frequently collaborated with both Stalin and Roosevelt in what he called “the Great Alliance.” Although Churchill was extremely active in shaping the post-war world, he was frequently left out of secret talks between Stalin and Roosevelt.
After the finish of the war, Churchill was still a large figure in the shaping of the world, despite the fact that the British’s military might had become subordinate to the U.S. and Russia’s, and he was defeated in the British elections because of his antiquated ideas on social reforms. Churchill finally died at the age of ninety in 1965.