Major Factors or Causes that Led to Eruption of Second World War

In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and war in Europe followed. The French and British did not declare war at first, hoping they could persuade Hitler through appeasement, but Hitler did not respond. The United Kingdom and France declared war. During the winter 1939-1940 there was little indication of hostilities since neither side was willing to engage the other directly. This period was called the Phoney War. In 1940, Germany captured Denmark and Norway in the spring, and then in the early summer France and the Low Countries. The United Kingdom was then targeted; the Germans attempted to cut the island off from vitally needed supplies and obtain air superiority in order to make a seaborne invasion possible. This never came to pass, but the Germans continued to attack the British mainland throughout the war, primarily from the air. Unable to engage German forces on the continent, the United Kingdom concentrated on combating German and Italian forces in the Mediterranean Basin. It had limited success however; it failed to prevent the Axis conquest of the Balkans and fought indecisively in the Western Desert Campaign. It had greater success in the Mediterranean Sea, dealing severe damage to the Italian Navy, and dealt Germany’s first major defeat by winning the Battle of Britain.

In June 1941, the war expanded dramatically when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, brining the Soviet Union into alliance with the United Kingdom. The German attacks started strong, overrunning great tracts of Soviet territory, but began to stall by the winter. Since invading mainland China and French Indochina in 1940, Japan had been subjected to increasing economic sanctions by the United States, Great Britain and Netherlands, and was attempting to reduce these sanctions through diplomatic negotiations. In December 1941, however, the war expanded again when Japan, already into its fifth year of war with China, launched near simultaneous attacks against the United States and British assets in Southeast Asia; four days later, Germany declared war on the United States. This brought the United States and Japan into the greater conflict and turned previously separate Asian and European wars into a single global one.

In 1942, though Axis forces continued to make gains, the tide began to turn. Japan suffered its first major defeat against American forces in the Battle of Midway, where four of Japan’s aircraft carriers were destroyed. German forces in Africa were being pushed back by Anglo-American forces, and Germany’s renewed summer offensive in the Soviet Union had ground to a halt.

In 1943 Germany suffered devastating losses to the Soviets at Stalingrad, and then again at Kursk, the greatest tank battle in military history. Their forces were expelled from Africa, and Allied forces began driving northward up through Sicily and Italy. The Japanese continued to lose ground as the American forces seized island after island in the Pacific Ocean.

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