World War II: Country Pages C-F

World War II in China
Figure 1.--The Pacific War was fought out on and around a huge numbers of Pacific islands. From the beginning, however, the war for Japan was about China. And most of the Japanese Army was committed in China throughout the War even while American forces moved closer and closer to the Home Islands. Here we see a Japasnese soldier and Chinese boy in an unidentified Chinese village which seems earily empty. Japanese soldiers like the Germans liked to take pictures to document their exploits, at least while the War was going wll for them. We are unsure about the date this phoograph was taken, but it would be presumably after the 1937 Japanese invasion. We are unsure how to assess this image. The Japanese killed millions of Chinese people during the war, including women and children. We are not sure how to assess this photograph. It is worth noting that while the Chinese mostly resisted the Japanese, there were Chinese collaborationists including a pro-Japanese Chinese puppet government.

Our approach to World War II is both a chronological and topical survey. Approached this way the individual country experiences often are obscured. Thus we have created a series of national pages designed to focus on the experience of each country in the War. Some counties were central to the War. Others played more marginal roles, but the national experience of the War was still profound in those countries. Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union were the key players in launching the War and making it a struggle of unbeliebale cruelty and leathality. Poland was the first country to stand up to the NAZIs and paid a terrible proce. Britain and France were reluctantly dragged into the War. While France fell in the first year of the War, dogged British resistance made victory possible. America in the end rescued Europe not only from Fascism, but after the War from Communism as well. Almost all of the independent countries of the world were involved in the War and even those who were not beligerants (Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey) were affected by it or played not inconsequential roles.


Cambodia was part of French Indochina during World War II. It played very little role in the War, but was significantly affected by the War. The Japanese seized Indo-china after the fall of France (June 1940). They first occupied northern Indo-China (Vietnam). When King Monivong died (1941), the Japanese had already occupied the rest of Indochina. They left the French nominally in control admiistratively, but subject to Japanese direction. The French governor-general, Jean Decoux, who had to remain loyal to Vichy, chose Monivong’s grandson, Prince Norodom Sihanouk for the Cambodian throne. Decoux's choice was in part due to Sihanouk's youth. He was only 18 years old. Decoux assumed that he could be easily manipulated. In this Decoux underestimated the Prince's political skills. Understanding the realities of Japanese rule, the new King was a dutiful instrument of the French and Japanese. And because of geography there were no battles fought in Cambodia. The war was fought first south in Malaya and Singapore and then to the west in Burma. As Thailand had joined the Axis, Cambodia found itself deep in the Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The primary impact for rhe Cambodians was Japanese plundering of the economy. The libearation of France and the fall of Vichy (August 1944) affected Cambodia at the end of the War. The Free French Government ordered the French forcesin Indochina to rise against the Jaoanese (March 1945). It proved to be a disasterwith the Japanese easily defeating the French forces. Most of the fighting occurred in wastern Indichina (Vietmam). Direct Japanse bes rule, led to some degree of Cmbodian political autonomy. Actually pressed by the Japanese, Sihanouk declared independence from French rule. Thus for the final few months of the War, an independent Cambodin government was led by Son Ngoc Thanh, a former editor of Nagara Vatta who had been exile in Japan (1942). The Japanese surrendered (August 1945). The French retuned (October 1945). They arrested Son Ngoc Thanh as a collaborator and reestablished colonial control. Cambodia became an “autonomous state within the French Union". A constitution was issued and approved political parties were allowed to organize. The French wee, however, still firmly in control.

Cameroon (British and French)

The British and French when they occupied German Kamerun during World war I split the colony, but no equally. The British acquired a narrow mountaneous strip which was administered as part of Nigeria. The French acquired the larger proportion which they administred as a separate colony. Neither confiscated the possessions of the German settlers and many stayed on after the War. These settlers operating plantations and business. There were also missionaries. This was not a problem until the rise of the NAZIs. The Germany community became supportive of the new NAZI Government in Germany (1930s). Many hoped that the new militarized Germany might eventually reclaim the colony. When Hitler launched World War II by invading Poland, British and French officials in Cameroon seized the German-owned plantations (1939-40). After the fall of France (June 1940), the country's colonial dependencies proclaimed loyalty to Marshal Petain' new Vichy regime. Central Africa was an exception. As soon as it was clear that the British would and could continue to resist the Germans, the French Central African colonies began going over to the Free French. Much of this occurred in late-August. We are not sure just what precipitated this. Chad was the first to declare loyalty to the Free French (August 26, 1940). The other colonies quickly followed suit: Cameroon (August 27). French Congo (August 29), and Ubangi-Shari/Central African Republic (August 30). Only Gabon to the south of Cameroon retained its ties to Vichy. The Allies occupied it (October 27 - November 12). Cameroon after associating with the Free French did not play any further important role in the War, except like the other sub-Saharan colonies providing raw materials to the Allied war effort. After the War, the British and French League of Nations mandates to the Cameroon were renewed by the new United Nations. The British continues to rule Cameroon from Nigeria. The confiscated German plantations were turned over to a new Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) (1947). The CDC is today one of the largest companies in Cameroon.


Canada loyally followed Britain into World War II. The controversy over conscription became a major political issue which impeded the Canadian war effort. French Canadians in particular were unenthusiastic about fighting in what they saw as a British war. Canadian ports and the Canadian Navy played an important role in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Royal Canadian Navy almost did not exist before the War and was rapidly expanded to a major naval force. The Canadians also hosted a major effort to train the air crews for the Strategic Bombing Campaign. Canadian industrial and agricultural production and raw materials were important to the British war effort. Some British children were sent to Canada for saftey early in the War, but this was discontinued when children were lost to U-boat attacks and the threat of NAZI invasion receeded. Canadian units were badly mauled at the poorly conceived Dieppe landings (August 1942). The Canadians played a major role in the D-Day, landing at Juno Beach. They went on to form an important part of Montgomery's First Army in the liberation of France and the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) and the final push into NAZI Germany.


Chile was neutral during World War I and the scene of a notable surface naval battle. After the War a period of considerable political turmoil ensued. A liberal government led by Radical Party leader Pedro Aguirre Cerda as president was elected through a coalition of democratic groups, a popular front (1938). He launched a New Deal-like program to deal with the effects of theDepression, but was largely undone by a devastating earthquakewhich killed about 28,000 people and did extensive propert damage (1939). Facist ideas gained some popularity in the 1930s and not just among the Germn immigrant community. World War II broke out the same year. There was no repeat of naval battles off Chile in World War II. The Southern Cone countries of Argentina and Chile were where the Axis found a degree of support, mostly because of German amd Italian immigrnt populations, mostly Germans in Chile. Germans in Chile interfered domestic affairs, engaged in espionage, and distributing propaganda. The Germnd focused on anti-Semitism and avoided discussions of how NAZI racial therosts ranked Chileans and other Latin mericns--something that is still not widely undrstood in the region. Chile with its influential German minority did not join with most of the other Latin American nations after Pearl Harbor (December 1941) and break relations or declare war on Axis countries. There were both pro-Allied and pro-Axis elements. Public opinion began to change when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. (June 1941). there was pro Soviet sentiment within the Chilean labor movement. The British naval blockade on Germany and Italy and the subsequent Americn blokade on Jpanleft the Chilean dependent on Allied markets, esoecially the United States. Chile had a small, but inflential German minority with supported a NAZI spy ring. It was centered in the important port of Valpariso near Santiago. They were able to supply the German Navy and its U-boats with valuable information on Allied shipping. The Popular Front under Radical Party candidate Juan Antonio Ríos was elected president (1942). He oversaw a moderate government. Ríos led his country into a pro-Allies position. The NAZI spy ring was finally exposed (1943). The Rios Government finally entering the war on the side of the United States when it was clear the Allies would emerge victorious (1944). Chile did not actively participate in the War, but raw material exports like copper aided the Allied war effort. Both Argentina and Chile received minimal military aid from the United States, because for most of the war neither broke relations with the Axis powers. This caused concern in Chile because Bolivia and Peru which severed relations with the Axis did receive Lend Lease aid and had claims on territory seized from them in the 19th century War of the Pacific. Fascism had had some appeal in the 1930s, but this shifted during the war with the Communist Party emerged as one of the strongest political organizations in Chile. The country became a charter member of the United Nations (June 1945).


Japan in the late 19th century as it began to develop a modern military, followed the precedent set by Western nations and forced China to sign economical and political treaties. The First Sino-Japnese War (1895) resulted in Japan's seizure of Taiwan. Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) strengthened Japan's influence in Manchuria. The Japanese Kwantung Army occupied Manchuria, a Chinese province, using as a pretext a faked incident on the main railroad (1931). Japan then decalared "Manchukuo" an independent state, setting up Pu Yi, the last Manchu Emperor of China as puppet Emperor (1932). Anti-Japanese disturbances broke out in Shanghai. The Japanese bombed the unprotected city to quell the disturbances. This was the first of many Japanese terror bombings of civilian populations. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations as a resulted of the criticism of her military operations in Manchuria and China (1933). Japan invaded China proper in July 1937, launching the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese Kwantung Army turned a small incident into a full scale war. The well equipped Japanese forces rapidly occupied almost the entire coast of China and then moved up rivers and railroad lines into the interior. The Japanese in the process committed war atrocities on an unpresidented level against the Chinese civilian population. The most savage of these explosions of barbarity was the Rape of Nanking, after the fall of the capital Nanking. Here European diplomats and missionaries witnessed the brutality of the Japanese. Despite the Japnese onslaught, the Chinese government never surrendered. America even before entering the war against Japan funelled supplies to the Chinese through Burma. A covert operation set up the Flying Tigers to provide the Chinese a creditable air capability. The Chinese achieved no real military victories, but the Japanese were never able to defeat them. They moved further inland, setting up a new capital Kumintang. The War continued on a lower scale, but envolving the continued deployment of the bulk of the Japanese Army.


At the outbreak of World War II, Colombia's Scadta Airline was controlled by the Germans. All of its pilots were Germans. It flew routes that were uncomfortably close to the Panama Canal for the United States. And it had modern photographic survey facilities. The American Panair airlines had a small interest. The State Department pressed Panair and the Colombian Governent on this. As a result Panair took control. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Colombia broke diplomatic relations with not only Japan, but the other Axis powers as well, but did not declare war as many other Latin Ameican countries did. Colombia produced small quantiies of oil which it exported to the Allies. A German U-boat, the U-505 sunk a Colombian schooner. Colombia in response declared a "status of belligerency" against Germany (November 26, 1943). The German ambassador departed. Actions were initited against German nationals, including internment. Scadta had aerial photograpohy of Colombian and German cities. These were handed over to American authorities. After the War, Colombia shipped Nestle products (coffee, baby food, etc.) and coal to war devestated Europe.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica declared war on Japan immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 8, 1941) and Germany and Italy after those countries declared war on the United Sttes a few days later. President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia was a leftist and hostile to the NAZIs. He initiated several actions against Germany and German supporters in the country. Authorties permittef the United States to establish an airfield on Cocos Island which helped strengthen the Pacific defenses of the Panama Canal.


Cuba first played a role in the move toward war in Europe. Cuba denied entry to Jewish refugees attempting to escape the NAZIS on the SS St Louis months before the War began. Cuba joined the Allies immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 8, 1941) and Germany and Italy after those countries declared war on the United Sttes a few days later. The United States already had a naval station at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba. This was an important base protecting the Panama Canal and protecting Allied shipping in the Caribbean. The Cuban Navy sank a German U-boat near Havana.(May 15, 1843). The Government initited conscription, but the drftees were never committed to the War. Cuba was a source of raw materials to the Allied war effort, especially sugar and nickle. Like other Latin American countries, the economy benefitted from the Allied war purchses.


Cyprus has a rich and storied history during the ancient and medieval history. Britain as the Ottoman Empire was unraverling assumed control of the administration (1878). The island was made a colony (1925). Cypriots had varying attitudes toward the British. The Greek population strongly supported the Allies after Italy invaded Greece and the NAZIs quickly invaded and occupied the country (April 1941). The Germans then invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941). This affected the political situation on Cyprus, because the Communists who had been oposing British rule were now more willing toncooperatecwith Britishb authorities. The Allies did not draft Cypriots, but 6,000 volunteers fought with the British in Greece during the unsucessful effort to stop the NAZI invasion (1941). Cyprus' location well to the east of NAZI-occupied Greece and Crete meant that the Luftwaffe had a linmited capability to nstrike the ialand. As the War progressed, more than 30,000 Cypriots served with the British. The German invasion of Crete proved so costly, that they did not attempt a similar operation to seize Cyprus, although there were occassioinal air raids. The Italian Navy was more of a threat, but British Royal Navy delivered powerful blows to the Italian Navy in a series of ferocious sea battles (1940-41). Cyprus' principal role during the War was to serve as a supply and training base and as a naval station as well as to provide sites for air bases. The defeat of the Afrika Corps at El Alemain (October 1942) meant that Cyprus would gradually become a secure rear area. The British also used Cyprus as a location to intern Jewish refugees trying to reach Palestine.


Hitler remiliatized the Rhineland (1935) and conducted the Anschluss bringing Austria into the Reich (April 1938). Hitler's next target was the Sudetenland. The Czechs were prepared to fight. The British and French were not. British Primeminister Nevil Chamberlin delivered the Sudetenland to Hitler at the Munich Conference (October 1938). The Sudetenland was incorporated into the Reich. Slovakia suceeded and a pro-NAZI regime seized power. Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to seize the rest of the country (March 1939). Here Hitler step over another milestone, for the first time he seized control of non-Germans. NAZI policies varied depending on the area of Czecheslovakia (the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia, and Slovakia). We note that some Czechs were forcibly removed from the Sudentenland, but we have few details at this time. NAZI policies in Bohemia and Moravia were much more begin that later implemented in Pland, but vecame more secere as the occupation progressed, especially after the appointment of Teynhard Heydrich as Governor. The Czechs as the first occupied country, were the first to be drafted for forced labor in Germany. The Czech arms industry played an importan role in the German war effirt. Hitler convinced that the Czeches were being treated to lightly, appointed Reinhard Heydrich to replace the first NAZI governor. His assasination by British-trained patriots resulted in horendous reprisals by the SS.


Danzig since its creation has been on the borderline between Poland and Germany. It began as a largely Polish town (10th century AD) and is is one of the oldest Polish cities. The German Hansiatic League played an important role in Germanizing ports throughout the Baltic. The city like East Prussia, however, was beyond the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire, meaning the principal German cultural area. Danzig developed into a predominantly German City with set in a largely Polish countrside. There was also a Dutch influence. Danzig not only was a German city, but it once had a sizable Dutch community. The Old Town is a marvel of Dutch-inspired architecture. Many Dutch-German Mennonites settled there and also other Dutch merchants who had their own ships. They had an important impact on the economy. They also were contributed to the developing city by helping with typical Dutch work like building dikes in the Vistula Delta with their yearly floodings. Napoleon described Danzig as ‘the key to everything’ when he marched his army eastward in the early-19th century. As Prussia expanded after the Napoleonic wars, both Danzig and East Prussia were acquired and after unification becane part of the German Empire. A vibrant Jewish community developed in the 19th century as Germany emancipated Jews. Danzig at the time of World War I had a largely German population with Poles living in the villages surrounding the city. As part of the Versailles Peace Treaty, Danzig was made a free city so Poland would have access to he Baltic Sea and intenationl trade. Danzig was overseen and under the protection of the League of Nations. It was located at the northern terminus of the Polish Corridor or along the Baltic coast. Its status as a free city gave Poland access to the sea. Not making the city part of Poland meant that the largely German inhabitents did not have to live under Polish rule. Both Germany and Poland felt wronged by the League of Nations’ decision. The German residents of the city did not oppose at first the city's new status. The League attempted to protect the rights of the Polish inhabitants who were at first their major concern. The Jewish community was largely Germanized. The NAZIs first won seats in the Danzig Parliament (1930). Local NAZIs took over Parliament soon after Hitler was appointed Chancellor (1933). They proceded to thourgly NAZIfy the city. They supressed the democratic opposition, although not as rutlessly as in the Reich itself. They befgan to take actions against the city's small Jewish population, most of which fled the city. Danzingers enthusatically welcomed German troops when Hitler launched world War II by invaing oland. There was joyous celebration when he visited the city 2 weeks later. With the victory over Poland, Germany abolished the Free City and annexed the city, incorporating it into the newly formed Reichsgau of Danzig-West Prussia. The new NAZI authorities revoked the citizenship of the Poles and Jews still living in the city and reclassified them as 'subjects of the state'. They were subjecting them to forced labor and expulsions. Many were arrested and interned in SS concentration camps, especially Stutthof. Much the same was going on througout Grman occupied western Poland. The whole process, however occurred much more rapidly in Danzig than the rest of the occupied areas. Red Army troops reached the city (ealy 1945). The Whermacht was by this time broken and unable to effectively resist. Germans fled the city. Many who remained were killed. Surviving ethnic Germans were expelled to the West by Sovie and Polish authorities. The pre-war Polish minority and other Poles started returning to the city. The city became part of Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement. This was part of Stalin's decision to shift Poland west. Danzig is now known by its Polish name Gadansk and become famous as the birthplace of Solidarity and Polish resustance to the Soviets and Communism. .


Denmark which had been neutral in World War I attempted to maintain the same status when the NAZIs launched World War II with its invasion of Poland. Denmark along with the other Nordic countries, officially declared their neutrality. Germany nonetheless invaded Denmark (April 9,1940). Operation Weserübung targetted both Denmark and Norway. Denmark had virtually no army. After token resistance at the border, the Danes surrendered before noon. Within hours, Denmark was in NAZI hands. King Christian X decided to remain with his countrymen. The King advised the Danish people not to resist the Germans. The NAZIs allowed the Danish Government to continue to function under close supervision. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941), a few Danes volunteered to fight with the Germans. The Resisance movement slowly grew in strength and begin to oppose the Germans through strikes and sabatoge (Spring 1943). Finally the exasperated NAZIs seized control of the Government (August 29, 1943). The Danish Resistance managed to save almost all the country's Jews from the NAZI Holocaust. Denmark along with Norway were the last NAZI-occupied countries to be liberated. Forces commanded by General Montgomery reached Denmark just as the NAZI's surrendered (May 1945).

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic was one of the Caribbean countries where the United States intervened in the early-20th century. The U.S. Marines occupied the country (1916-24). When the United States left the Dominican Republiv, Rafael Trujillo was left in charge of the military. The Depression adversely affected the country's ecconmy as aesult in a sharp fall in the sugar price (1929). Trujillo won election as president in a vote with many irregularities. Like many military leaders in Latin America, Trujillo admired Generalissimo Francisco Franco. as well as Hitler and Mussolini. He welcomed, however, Spanish Republican refugees after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The Dominican Republic also admitted Jewish refugees, although I am not sure of the numbers. The Government's relatively open policy toward umigration was linked to its' anti-Haiti policy. The Dominicans pursued a policy of blanquismo--the hitening of the population by promoting European immigration. The Dominican Republic proclaimed neutrality when war broke out in Europe (September 1939). The Pan American Union countries formed a mutual defense pact at a conference of foreign ministers in Havana (July 1940). The Unites States as part of the Good Neighbor Policy returned control over customs (1940). After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, The Dominican Republic declaring war on Japan (Devember 8, 1941). After Hitler declared war on Germany, the Dominicans declared war on Germany (December 11). The country did not make a military contribution to the War, but Dominican sugar and other agricultural products supported the Allied war effort. The Dominican Republic after the Allied Torch lamdings in North Africa broke diplomatic relations with Vichy France (November 11, 1942).

Djibouti/French Somaliland

Djibouti also known as French Somalilans was a small, quiet corner of East Africa until the Italian invasion of invasion of Ethiopia (1935). Britain and France opposed the Italian invasion diplomatically, but did not intervene militarily. Even so, a series of border skirmishes occurred along the poorly delimited border between Djibouti and Italian East Africa, mostly Eritrea. These incidents largely ceased after the German invasion of France (1940). The French authorities in Djibouti declared their loyalty to Vichy. Our information on Djibouti is limited. We do not know if the Vichy asuthorities in Djibouti lent any support to the Axis war effort. There was a small Jewish population. We do no know to what extent Vichy anti-Semetic laws were enforced. Djibouti was not included in the British invasion of the Italian East Africa (1941). After the Italian surrender, the French forces in Djibouti were cut off, surrounded by Allied controlled areas. Even so, the Governorv adamently clung to support for Vichy. Eventually the British forced the issue. The Royal Navy executed a blockade which lasted 101 days. As for the rest of East Africa, it was the larger struggle for North Africa that determined the outcome in Djibouti. The British Eighth Army defeated the Afrika Korps at El Alemain (October 1942) and the Anglo-American Armies executed the Torch Landings (November 1942). Hitler proceeded to occupy tge uunoccupied zone in France. These evebts undermined any lingering Vichy sympathies. Governor Pierre Nouailhetas surrendered Djibouti to the Free French and Allied forces (December 1942). A battalion formed in Djibouti participated in the Liberation of Paris (August 1944).

Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)

The Dutch East Indies (DEI) figured prominently in Japan's decession to launch the Pacific War. The Netherlands itself was invaded and occupied by the NAZIs (May 1940). The Dutch royal family and the Dutch government fled to London and established a government-in-exile. The Dutch DEI colonial administration in Batavia recognized the government-in-exile. The DEI figured prominently in Japan's decession to launch the Pacific War. The DEI was one of the principal colonies the Japanese wanted for their empire because of the petroleum resources, primarily located on Sumatra. Japan had virtually no petroleum and had been importing American oil which the United States embargoed after the Japanese moved into French Indo-China. The Japanese demanded that DEI officials export oil to them and DEI officials complied. Even so the Japanese after the dall of the British bastion at Singapore (Fenruary 1942) invaded the DEI (March 1942). Parchute landing seized the oil fields intact. The Japanese in fact benefitted little. The American submarine campaign by 1943 was making it difficult to ship raw material from the DEI and other occupied territories to the Japan Home Islands. The American destruction of the Imperial Fleet and reconquest of the Philippines (October 1944) made it virtually imposible. The Japanese in the DEI committed terrible attrocities. An estimated 4 million civilians perished during the Japanese occupation.

Dutch West Indies

The Dutch as in World War I hoped to remain neutral when NAZI Germany invaded Poland and launched World War II (September 1939). There was only a small Dutch security presence in the DWI. The colonial executive asked for Dutch military reinforcement. The DWI had a rather small population, but there were resources that were important to the Allied war effort. Dutch Guiana had important bauxite mines which produced the ore needed for aluminum--a critical material for air craft construction. Curacao and Aruba had important oil refineries which processed Venezuelan crude. The NAZIs invaded the Netherlands and defeated the Dutch Army in a few days (May 1940). The country was occupied by the NAZIs for four years (1940-44/45). British troops were dispatched to Aruba and the Antilles to protectv the refieries. When the Japanese launched the Pacific War (December 1941), the Dutch East Indies was quickl\y overun (March 1942). The Dutch West Indies (DWI) consisted of Suriname (Dutch Guiana), the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba) were the only unconquered Dutch territories. Contact with the Netherlands was no longer possible. The DWI authorities proclaimed their loyalty to the Dutch Government in Exile set up in London under Queen Wilhimina. The United States deployed military units to safeguard Surimane (1941). American troops replaced the British troops on the Antilles and Aruba (1942).


Britain seized control of Egypt making it a kind of defacto colony (1882). The British interest was of course the Suez Canal which significantly shortened the sea route to India. The British granted Egypt independence (1922), but continued to station troops there and supported the royal Government, thus retaining political control. Egyptian forces played no role in the War, but the Suez Canal did. The British had it and the Axis, especially Mussolini wanted it. Mussolini ordered the massive Italian Army in Libya to invade Egypt (September 1940). A small British force defeated the Italians and drove them back into Libya (December 1940). The British drove into Libya and seemed poised to take Bengazzi. Hitler dispatched Rommel and a small German force which came to be known as the Afrika Korps. What followed was a see-saw battle in the Western Desert in which Rommel effectively taught the British the principles of modern mechanized warfare. Superior British forces, the interdiction of the Afrika Korps' supplies, and copious American supplies eventually led to the victory of the 8th Army at El Alemain (October 1942). The Axis persued a propaganda campaign to win over the Egyptian nationalists. The most imprtant faction was the openly Fascist Young Egypt movement. They decided not to openly attack the British and to await the Germans who never came. Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser an early adherent of Young Egypt seized power after the War, overthrowing the royal government (1952).


Estonia was part of the Tsarist Empire, but achieved independence after World War I through a war with the Bolshevicks (1918–1920). Estonia became one of the three small independent Baltic reoublic along with Latvia and Lithuania. Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe with the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact (Aufust 1939). After the start of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and annexed it (1940). Large numbers of Estonians who opposed to Communism and Soviet intervention were arrested, executed, and deported. About 60,000 Estoniansd were involved. The Soviets were especially harsh in the NARVA region where Russian "colonists" to a substabntial degree ethnic Estonians. Estonia was occupied by the NAZIs in the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa (1941). The NAZIs quickly hunted down and killed Estonia's small Jewish population. The resurgent Red Army drove the NAZIs out (1944). Estonians fought a guerilla war for independence after the War, but faced overwealming forces.


Ethiopia featured prominently in the years leading up to World War II. Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was entent on reserecting the Roman Empire. The first step was to brutally put down a nationalist insuregency in Libya (1920s). Mussolini's next step was to invade Ethiopia which at the time was an independent state (1935). Using modern weapons, the Italian Army quickly overwealmed Emperor Haile Selassie's lightly armed forces. Italian attrocities in Libya had not been widely reported. The invasion of Ethiopia was. The Allies (Britain and France) supported scantions in the League of Nation. Mussolini was outraged and the ineffective League scantions was a factor in his closer relations with Hitler and NAZI Germany. Italy entered the War once the German invasion in the West over France was secured (June 1940). This meant that the Italian colonies in Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Libya) were combat zones because they bordered on British colonies or countries like Egypt which were British protectorates. Britian had such limited forces in the area that what was available was concentrated in Egypt where a hugh Italian army launched a major offensive from Libya (September 1940). They drove a few miles into Egypt and then set up defensive positions. On paper it looked like the Italians also had a large force in Ethiopia. The Italian forces were, however, weak and their Ethiopian auxileries of questionable loyalty. It was the British, despite their numerical inferiority, who attacked the Italians. The stunning British victory over the Italians in the Western Desert (December 1940) gave the British the opportunity to deal with the Italian forces south of Egypt. The British put together a small force of South African and African colonial troops. They were supported by Ethiopian insurgent guerrillas. Colonel Orde Wingate, who was later to play an important role in Burma, coordinated the operations of the Ethiopian guerrillas forces. Behind the British forces, Emperor Haile Salassie returned to Ethiopia, arriving in Gojam (January 20, 1941) and began organizing the resistance groups.


Finland was involved in World War II almost from the beginning. The Finnish war experience was one of the most unusual of the War. The Finns fought with and against both the Sovietrs and NAZIs at differebt stages of the War. Finland was actually involved in three different wars: the Winter War (1939-40), the Continuation War (1941-44), and the Lappland WSar (1944-45). After seizing eastern Poland as part of a deal with the NAZIs, Russia next turned on Finland in the Winter War. The Allies almost sent forces to aid the Finns. The Red Army energed victorious from the Winter War (1939-40), but at considerable cost. The poor showing of the Red Army was noted by Hitler. After the NAZI's launched Operation Barbarossa (June 1941), Finland joined the Germans to regain the territory lost in the Winter war. The Finns refer to this as the Coninuation War. The Finns refused, however, to go beyond the lost territory, nuch to Hitler's despleasure. This was a major reason that the NAZIs failed to capture Lenningrad. The Finns also refused to turn their Jews over to the NAZIs, despite repeated German demands. Finally as the War went against the NAZIs, the Finns fought the Germans in the Lappland War.


France like Britain declared war on Germany after Hitler invaded Poland (September 1939). After several months of quiet on the Western front, the Germans launced the long awaited Western offensive (May 1940). Within weeks the Germans etered Paris andc te French were forced to sign a humiliating armistace (June 1940). Much of the country was occupied and the French Army was intered in German POW camps. The new government in the unoccipied zone was formed at Vichy. Nominally neutral, Vichy assisted the NAZIs in their war effort. Vichy also actively assisted the NAZIs isolated and roundup Jews. Marshall Petain who led the Vichy Government concluded that after the fall of France that Germany was the dominant power in Europe. He sought to carve out a place for France in the new NAZI-dominated Europe. Petain believed that France could form a bridge between NAZI Germany and America and the rest of the world. The Grerman victory had humiliated France, but France had fought. Vichy represented a loss of honor. After the Allied Torch landings (November 1942), the Germany occupied the unoccuopied zone. The Resistance became increasingly organized, especially when the NAZIs began concscripting French workers for war work in Germany. The Allied returned to France with the D-Day landings (June 1944). This made possible the liberatiom of France. The Allies after breaking out from Normandy swept through France (July 1944). Free French forces were the first Allied units to enter Paris (August 1944). The French quickly reoranized the French military and by the time of the Rhine crossing (March 1945), moe than 1 million French soldiers had joined the Americans and British.

French Colonial Africa

France at the time of World War II had many colonoies in Africa. Besides Algeria and Morocco (a protectorate), French West Africa (modern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad), several colonies along the African coast (senegal, Guinea, Togo, Camaroon, and Gabon), and Madasgascar in the Indian Ocea. There were also the inland colonies of Burundi and Central African Republic). Before the War, France recruited Africans both to serve in African colonia connstabularies and the French Army. Unlike the situation in Frabce itself, the colonial soldiers were all volunteers. French colonial troops played an important role in World War I and were used by the French as occupation troops. This particularly incensed the Germans. French colonial soldiers were on the Westen Front at the outbreak of World War II. Colonial troops fought with destinction in the Battle for France. There were numerous incidents of the Germans killing captured colonial troops. One such incident occured at Aubigny (May 24-28) where after suffering heavy lossess, the Germans killed woundened Senegalese. (Senegalese was a term often used for black colonial troops in general.) There were several other such incidents. There were several incidents of the Germans separating captured black colonial soldiers from white soldiers and shooting them. Wehrmacht units had no orders to kill black prisoners. These incidents seem to have resulted from a historically based racism. [Scheck] As far as we can determine, most occurred close to the battlefield. Often the shooting was done in the presence of white French sholdiers and the incidents are well documented. Estimates suggest that the Germans murdered several thousand modtly black colonial troops. Goebbels used the black colonial troops in his prpaganda, describing them as beasts and attriutted bestial attrocities to them. Large numbers of colonial troops became POWs after the French capitulation (June 1940). We do not yet have details on how they were treated by the Germans in the POW camps. We note at incidebnt at Clamency where 20 black and North African French POWs were shot (June 18, 1940). Most of the French colonies at first pledged loyalty to Vichy, but were gradually taken over by the Free French. Here thevprocess varied from colony to colony. After the Allied Torch landings (November 1942), French colonial dorces played a role in North Africa (1942-43), Italy (1943-44), and the liberatin of France (1944). Moroccan units served with special destinction.


Olson, Lynne and Stanley Cloud. A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II (Knopf, 2003).

Scheck, Raffael. Hitler’s African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940.


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Created: April 25, 2004
Last updated: 4:11 AM 3/13/2017