World War II: Part 1
Welcome to the beginning of World War II, a war so big, that it needs four lessons. I’m going to go through some of the background to WWII. Also I’m going to do a little review because some of the lessons so far have had tiny bits of WWII in them.
After the Treaty of Versailles ended WWI, Hitler rose to power, promising to restore Germany to it’s former glory. Starting his campaign towards more living space he invaded and captured Austria in 1938. Next setting his eyes upon a slice of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland, he claimed it was to be the last territorial demand he had to make. After some negotiation between a few nations, the Munich Pact was signed in the same year to give Hitler the Sudetenland. However it was not enough for Hitler and soon he forced the president of Czechoslovakia to surrender it to him.
Next in line was Poland, which was in the way of his ultimate goal, the Soviet Union. However, as of then, Hitler pretended to befriend Stalin, and both nations agreed to divide Poland amongst themselves. The German invasion started on September 1, 1939, While the Russians started their invasion on September 17. This was enough to catch the attention of Great Britain and France, as they both declared war on Germany on September the third of 1939. However they ignored Russia’s part in the invasion of Poland fearing it would be to much, so Stalin went on to capture Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland.
After Russia invaded Finland, both sides stood at a standstill, in what has been called the “phony war.” This standstill did not last long, as in April of 1940 Germany advanced to take Denmark and Norway, which it took in a few weeks. Taking Luxembourg in a few hours, taking the Netherlands in 4 days, Belgium in 18 days, and northern France in six weeks. Hitler deliberately insisted that the French sign a treaty of surrender in the same railroad car, in the same location where Germany was forced to sign an armistice. It was evident the Germans had changed their tactics, from sitting in the trenches gridlocked, to taking countries in days. The Germans used everything at their disposal all at once in what western journalists described using the word blitzkrieg which means “lightning war.” In the May of 1940 the Germans had cornered 400,000 Allied troops near the small fishing village of Dunkirk, and according to English officials only 45,000 could be saved before the Nazis swept in. However after a moving speech from the newly elected prime minister of Britain, Winston Churchill, a miracle happened. In the evacuation of Dunkirk, German ground troops stalled out for reasons that are still unknown today. And 900 boats of all shapes and sizes aided the Royal Navy in saving 338,229 troops.
Moving onto the Battle of Britain, Hitler believed if could subdue Great Britain, he could win WWII. His plan, nicknamed Operation Sea Lion was to assault Great Britain from the sky with the famous Luftwaffe commanded by Hermann Goering, an overconfident glory seeker. On the other hand Hugh Dowding, the leader of the British air force was calm and calculating. Realizing that the Germans outnumbered them 4 to 1 in aircraft he immediately ordered the production of British Hurricanes and Spitfires. He also allowed the aerial fighting to take place over Britain to cut back on fuel, salvage downed planes, and capture Germans. Though Goering was doing a good job on taking down air bases and factories, things weren’t going as overly expected. Hitler decided to target large cities to frighten the British into submission. However the British had also planned for that and had evacuated citizens to the countryside or subway systems. Despite the measures taken, tens of thousands still died. In the end, Operation Sea Lion was canceled and the Germans were forced to abandon the mission. Leaving the British to commemorate the decisive victory over the Luftwaffe every year on September 15.