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Old 6th June 2006, 08:31 AM
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World War II, also WWII, or the Second World War, was a global military conflict that took place between 1939 and 1945. It was the largest and deadliest war in history.

Even though Japan had been fighting in China since 1937, the conventional view is that the war began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Within two days the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany, even though the fighting was confined to Poland. Pursuant to a then-secret provision of its non-aggression Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union joined with Germany on September 17, 1939, to conquer Poland and to divide Eastern Europe.

The Allies were initially made up of Poland, British Commonwealth countries, and France. In May, 1940, Germany invaded western Europe. Six weeks later, France surrendered to Germany. Three months after that, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed a mutual defense agreement, the Tripartite Pact, and were known as the Axis Powers. Then, nine months later, in June 1941, while still battling Britain, Germany betrayed and invaded its partner, the Soviet Union, forcing the Soviets into the Allied camp (although they still abided by their non-aggression treaty with Japan).

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, bringing it too into the war on the Allied side. China also joined the Allies, as eventually did most of the rest of the world. By the beginning of 1942, the major combatants were aligned as follows: the British Commonwealth, the United States, and the Soviet Union were fighting Germany and Italy; and the British Commonwealth, China, and the United States were fighting Japan. From then through August 1945, battles raged across all of Europe, in the North Atlantic Ocean, across North Africa, throughout Southeast Asia, throughout China, across the Pacific Ocean and in the air over Japan.

Italy surrendered in September 1943; Germany surrendered in May 1945. Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered, marking the end of the war on September 2, 1945.


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