World War II Campaigns: Area of Operations (1939-45)


Figure 1.--None of the combatant countries were ready for World War II, even the Germans and Japanese. The British were even less prepared, but one area they had prepared for was a German aerial bombing campaign, in part because of World War I Zephlin and bomber attacks. Modern interceptors were brought into service just in time as well as the Chain Home radar network and spoter system. And a plan was ready to evacuate the children in London and other large cities. The British preparations proved just enough to defeat the Luftwaffe. The importance of the Battle of Britain was not immediatetely preceived to be as important as it finally proved to be.

World War II included land, air, and sea campaigns. The various campaigns were conducted in in different theaters or continents. It was, however, in Europe that the outcome of the War was determined. The Allies recognized this an adjusted their campaign accordingly. The Axis failed to reach a consensus on this and as a result never effectively coordinated their operations. Histories of the War often focus on the land campaigns. Certainly the cataclismic struggle on the Eastern front between the two great totalitarian powers, NAZI Germany and the Soviet Union, in large measure determined the outcome of the war. Here the air campaign was not the dominant area of operation. The air campaign in the West, however, was critical to the outcome of the War. This included both the Battle for the North Atlantic and the sucees of D-Day permitting Allied armies to reach the Reich. A critical theater was the North Atlantic. A German victory at sea with their U-boat packs would have almost guaranteed German dominance in the West. The Allied air campaign not only destroyed German war industries, but it broke the back of the Luftwaffe. Without air support, the Germans were unable to resist the growing power of Allied land forces.

Land Campaigns

World War II is generally dated from September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. There were in fact military engagements throughout the 1930s beginning with the Japanese seizure of Chinese Manchuria in 1931. Many of these conflicts influenced or in the case of Japan's onslaught against China continued and became an integral part of World War II. The 1930s were in fact a steady series of victories by European Fascists and Japanese militarists and the unwillingness of the Western democracies to confront the growing danger. When the Soviet Communists joined the Fascists in a Non-Agression Pact in 1939 it looked like the vallance of power had swung against the Western democracies which was further confirmed by the devestaing fall of France in 1940. Few at the time believed that Britain could hold out against the NAZI onslaught. Only America could save Britain, but the American people were stongly isolantionist and intent on staying out of the War. President Roosevelt with great skill and political courage managed to not only support Britain in its hour of maximum peril, but with considerable political skill managed to push through Congress measures that would lay the ground work for turning American into the Arsenal of Democracy, producing a tidal wave of equipment and supplies not only for the American military, but for our Allies as well in quantities that no one especially the AXIS believed possible. In an incredible 5 months of 1941, NAZI Germany was not only fighting a beleagered, isolated Britain but the two most powerful nations on earth, the Soviet Union amd America. Hitler's desire for Lebensraum and hatred of Comminism had led him to invade the Soviet Union in June. The Japanese attackon Pear Harnor in Devember brought America onto the War. Hitler's gamble in Russia almost succeed and the Panzers wre stopped within sight of Moscow. The Japanese attack on Park Harbor destroyed much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, but the carriers FDR had insisyed on stopped the Japanese at the Coral Sea and Midway. Some of the major camapigns in the European and Pacific theaters are discussed here.

Air Campaigns

One of the countroversies surrounding World War II is the Allied bombing campaign of Germany. Of course it was the Germans who began bombing civilian populations as a terror tactict to destroy civilian morale. This began even before the World War II during the Spanish Civil War with the bombing of Guernica in 1937?. Once the World War II began the tactic was used on Warsaw (September 1939), Rotterdam (May 1940), and on numerous British cities (1940-41). Once America joined the War in December 1941, a much larger bombing campaign was launched on Germany which by 1943 began to inflict serious civilian casulties. After D-Day (June 1944), the Allied bombing campaign was significantly intensified. The Americans bombing by day, attempting to hit specific targets using the Nordon bomb sites. The British bombed by night and at best could hit specific cities. Large numbers of German civilians were killed, injured, or rendered homeless. Contrary to popular conceptions, the German economy was not effectively harnessed for war. Only when Albert Speer was put in charge did German industry begin to reach some of its potential. The Germans, as a result, despite the bombing were able to expand war production. Here the question that should be asked is how much more they could have expanded production had it not been for the bombing. The bombing significantly clearly disrupted the economy and the ability of the NAZIs to persue their development of new weapons.

Naval Campaigns

The most important battle of the War was the Battle of the Atlantic. Churchill was to write after the War that it was the the loss Battle of the Atlantic that was the only thing he feared. Battles could be lost or won, but the cutting of Britain's life lines to the Dominions and especially America would have made it impossible for Britain to have continued the War. It was no accident that Anglo-American military cooperation began in the North Atlantic well before America entered the War. Hitler on the other hnd gave lttle attention to the U-boat fleet until after the War began. The Germans with U-boats, surface fleet, and long range aircraft hope to cut off Britain from its Empire and supply from the United States. Although neutral in the early years of the War, President Roosevelt was determine to support the Allies. The fall of France in 1940 tremendosly increased the effectiveness of the German naval campaign, providing indesendanle French Atlantic ports. German u-boat operations proved highly effective, despite the fact that Hitler launched the War years beore the Kriegsmarine was prepared. Even before America entered the War, the U.S. Navy was deployed in the North Atlantic to protect British convoys. It was a Japanese carrier attack that brought America into the War. The Japanese Imperial Fleet was a superbly trained force with moder, wll designed vessels. The lack of radar proved a huge disadvantage. While Pearl Harbor was a stunning tactical victory, it was a strategic blunder of incaluable proportions. American industrial capacity soon created a naval force with which Japan could not cope. Anglo-American naval and scientific cooperaion resulted in the defeat of the u-boat campain by 1943. Combined with American construction of liberty ships, not only was Britain kept supplied, but America assembled a massive force of men and supplies in England that in 1944 was unleased on Hitler's Atlantic Wall. While the German submarine campaign in the North Atlantic failed, the American submarine campaign in thePacific proved spectacularly successful. The Japanese merchant marine was almost completely destroying, cutting the country's war industries off from supplies and bringing the country close to starvation.







CIH






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Created: 1:47 AM 11/23/2006
Last updated: 1:47 AM 11/23/2006