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.
Japan with little encouragement joined the Allies in World War I. The country played only a minor role in the War, but gained German possessions in the Central Pacific which they proceeded to turn into fortified bases. Japan's Twenty-One Demands spelled out the country's expansionist goals in China. Japanese diplomats at both Versailles (1919) and the Washington Naval Conference (1921) failed to achieve rather enflated goals angering nationalist elements, especially in the Army. The Depression and resulting protectionist trade polivcies in America and Europe adversely affected the Japanese economy. The Japanese military increasingly advovated action to secure markets and raw materials. This process began with the Japanese Army seized Manchiera and set up the puppet state of Manchuko (1931). This brought international condemnation and Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. An Army revolt in Tokyo failed, but left the Army essentially in control of the Japanese Government (1936). The Japanese signed the Anti-Comentern Pact to protect their position in Manchuko (1936). Japan invaded China proper (1937). Many historians date this as the beginning of World War II. After the NAZI victories in Europe, Japan moved into French Indo China (1940). Japan formally joined the Axis (1941). The United States objected to Japanese expanonist policies and moved the Pacific fleet to Pearl Harbor and ininitated embargoes of strastegic materials. The Army had been the main force pushing for war, the Navy realizing they would have to fight the American and British fleets were less enthusiastic. Once the decession was made, however, the Navy dutifully prepared for war. Hitler as Soviet resistance stiffened expected Japan to join his anti-Bolshevik struggle. Instead the Japanese struck south with a devestating carrier attack at Pearl Harbor (1941). This brought America into the war and initiated a war of unprecedented savegery. The Japanese Army treated both POWs and civilians with unprecedented cruelty. As Japanese naval commander Yamamoto predicted, spearheaded by a powerful carrier force, Japan in 6 months swept ower Southeast Asian and the central Pacific with largely ineffective opposition. The decisive American naval vicvtory at Miday (1942) significantly weakened the Imperial Navy. This provided America's vast industrial strength to build the naval forces needed to seize the Pacific island bases to bring the war to Japan. America then laubched a desestating strategic bombing campaign vulminating in the dropping of the atomic bombs (1945). Most countries that played important roles in World War II have come to terms with the War. Japan is the principal country today which keeps the truth of the War from their school children.
Kenya faced the German colony of Tanzania in World War I. Italian entry into the World War II (June 1940) meant that Kenya was again in the front line of the war, facing the new Italian colony of Ethiopia. Once the Italian invasion of Egypt was defeated (December 1940), the British could address the danger to Kenya posed by the Italian forces in Ethiopia. Mombassa provided the British an important deepwater port and naval base in East Africa through which South African troops were delivered with their heavy equipment. South African forces deployed to Kenya played a prominent part in the brief East African campaign. The South Africans and other units attacked from Kenya supported by native troops from West Africa (February 1941). They were also aided by Ethiopian insurgents. The first step was a combined forces operation to seize Kismayu along the coast. Next another force further west drove north toward Addis Ababa. The Italians in Ethiopia were rapidly defeated (November 1941). Kenyan troops participated in other campaigns. Kenya became a backwater of the War and the primary objective of British colonial authorities was to maintain production of raw materials for the War effort. After Pearl Harbor (December 1941) the entry of a Japanese carrier task force threatened British Indian Ocean facilities like Mombassa, but the American victory of Midway meant that Axis operations in the Indian Ocean would be limited to commerce raiding. Naval forces based in Mombassa helped protect the vital convoys supplying the British 8th Army in Egypt.
Korea was not an independent country during World War II, but a totally subjegated Japanese colony. It proved of considerable importance in supporting the Japanese wae effort. The Japanese after seizing Korea (1909) actively supressed Korean culture and nationalism. Thus there was no independent Korean participation in World War II. Korea's primary importance was as a source of raw materials for the Japanese war effort. The Japanese also consripted Koreans to serve in labor brigades. Allied POWs were used as slave labor in Korean mines. The Japanese heavily industrialized the north and thus Korea was also an important source of war production outside the effective range of American bombers. The War in China was a factor in Korea's industrialization. Industrialization also mean that more of the Korean rice harvest was conuned by Korean workers rather than exported back to the Home Islands. Korea before the War had been an important source of rice needed to meet domestic demand in the Japanese Home Islands. Korean rice would have been especially imoortant because it was more difficult for the Americans submarines to interdict shipping in the Inland Sea. The only problem was that the surplus available for export declined sharoly during the War. Industrilization in northern Korea was only one reason. The War in China helped raise food prices and the peasants benefitted. This they were able to hold back more of their harvest for heir own consumption. A drought in 1939 affected the havest. Most of the resulting surplus harvest was needed to feed the Jaopanese military forces occupying Korea. Another drought in 1942 virtually ended Kprean rice shipmentsto the Home Islands. [Collingham, p. 234.] The Japanese conducted some of their research on weapons of mass destruction in Korea, including their nuclear program. There was a uranium mine in northern Korea. Considerable differences exist on just how much progress the Japanese made. The Japanese conscripted Koreans as laborors in the War. Some of these laborors were encountered by Americans on Pacific islands beginning with Guadacanal. We are not sure just how these labor units were treated. We are also not sure to what extent Koreans were drafted into the Japanese military. Apparently the Japanese did not ebtirely trust the Koreans. One of the best publicized Japanese attriocties of the War is the Japanese Army's use of Koreans as "comfort women". Syngman Rhee formed a Korean Government in exile. He attracted little international attention before the War, but this changed after Pearl Harbor. Kim Il Sung claimed to have played an important role in the liberation of Korea, but there is little evidence to substantiate this. The Soviets and Americans agreed to split the occupation of Korea at the 38th parallel. Japanese civilians were quickly repatriated after the War.
Laos was part of French Indochina during World War II. It played very little role in the War. The Japanese seized Indo-china after the fall of France (June 1940), in two steps. Thailand as an Axis ally attempted to seizw ab area involved in a territorial dispute. There was a brief fight for the area which the Japanese ebded by awarding the disputed territory to their Axis ally.
Latvia liked the other Baltic Republics had the misfortune of being caught between two vicious totalitarian regimes. The country achieved its independence from Russia as a result of World War I and the Russian Revolution. A democratic republic was estanlished in the early 1920s. The parliament was known as the Saeima. Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis over threw the democractic government with a military coup (1934). As a result of the NAZI-Soviet Pact and the NAZI and Soviet invasion of Poland (1939), the two countries proceeeded to divide up Eastern Europe. Latvia was in the Soviet zone. The Soviet Union first demanded bases and then occupied Latvia. Finally the Soviets annex the country (June 17, 1940). Soviet authorities began arresting Latvians associated with the old regime. There were executions and deportments. Other Latvians were recruited into the Red Army. The situation changed dramatically with the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). German panzers after crossing the border reached Latvia within days. Because of the brutal albeit brief Soviet occupation, many Latvians looked on the NAZIs as liberators and cooperated with the invaders. Many Latvians assisted the Germans in rouding up Jews. The Germans recruited Latvians for a "border patrol". They also formed a legion in the Waffen SS. The Germans made Latvia a part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland. Latvia was liberated by the Soviets (1944), although many Latvians saw it as just a different occupation. Latvia was one of the Soviet Union's constituent republics. There were more deportments during the Stalinist era. Large numbers of Russians moved into Larvia. Latvia finally regained its independence (August 21,1991) as the Soviet Union began to disintegrate.
Most of the Middle East was dominated by Britain and France thus the rise of European Fascist in Italy and Germany appealed to many Arab nationalists. Libya was an exception because the colonial power was Italy. As Europe moved toward war, Libyan nationalists began to see that Italian defeat in a war would create an opportunity for independence. After Germany invaded Poland and launched Wotld war II (Seprember 1939), Italian nationalists mets in Alexandria, Egypt (October 1939). Sayid Idris emerged as the most prominent leader, but the nationalist movement was badly divided. The early victories of Italian ally NAZI Germany were, however, not incouraging for the Libyan nationalists. Italy entered the War once the German victory over France was assured (June 1940). At first it seemed that the massive Italian army in Libya would easily overwealm the British in Egypt. Nationalist forces were divided on how they should react. Some (the Cyrenaicans and Idris) supported the British. Others (the Tripolitanians) were more hesitant, fearing that the Axis might win the War. Formal meetings in Cairo with Idris and some of the nationalists resulted in a formal afreement by the nationalists would support the British and the British would support a move toward independence after the WAr (August 1940). The Italians invaded Egypt (September 1940), but were defeated by a small British force which invaded Libya. This suprising British victory surprised the Libyan nationalists and first created the realistic prospect that the Italians would be defeated. The Libyan Arab Force commonly referred to as the Sanusi Army was small, but did assist the British during the campaigns in the Western Desert. German intervention in Libya resulted in a sea-saw battle that was not settled until the decisive Battle of El Alemaine (October 1942). The British 8th Army then proceeded to drive the Afrika Korps out of Egypt and Libya and liked up with the Allied Norces landed in Morocco and Algeria as part of Operation Totch. The German and Italian forces finally surremdered in Tunisia (May 1943). Possession of Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) provided airbases from which targets in NAZI-domicated Europe could be attacked from the south. The first attacks on the vital Ploesti oil fields in Romania came from Libyan bases. After the Allied invasion of Italy (September 1943), Libya became a backwater of the War.
Liechenstein on the border between Austria and Switzerland was largely ignoed by the Germans. The Liechensteiners feared annexation after the NAZI Anchluss seizing Austria (April 1938). The princes of Liechtenstein lived in Vienna until the Anschluss. Aging Prince Franz I abdicated and was succeeded by his 31-year old grand nephew, Prince Franz Joseph II. Prince Franz I claimed that old age was his reason for abdicating, it is believed that he had no desire to be on the throne if the NAZIs were to invade. His wife, whom he married in 1929, was a wealthy Jewish woman from Vienna, and local Liechtenstein NAZIs had already targeted her. The National Union Party had NAZI sympathizers. There was also a local National Socialist Party. Prince Franz Josef II became the first Prince of Liechtenstein to actually take up permanent residence in Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein managed to remain neutral during the War. The Germans did not invade because it had no strategic and was mostly surrounded by German territory. Liechenstein was a virtual Swiss protectorate. They had close relations including a customs union with Switzerland. This probably prevented a German invasion because Wsiterland was of some importance to the NAZIS. Some families safeguared their treasures by brining them to Liechtenstein. After the War, Czechoslovakia and Poland, acting to seize what they considered to be German possessions, expropriated the entirety of the Liechtenstein dynasty's hereditary lands and possessions in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The expropriations (subject to modern legal dispute at the World Court) amounted to over 1,600 square kilometres (600 mi.²) of agricultural and forest land, including several family castles and palaces. Citizens of Liechtenstein were forbidden from entering Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.
Caught between two vicious totalitarian regimes, Lithuania suffered terribly durng the War. Lithuania was targeted by the NAZIs from an early stage because under the terms of the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, the people of Memel had voted in a plebecite to join the new nation of Lithuania. Hitler accompanied a naval transport reclaiming Memel even before launching World War II (March 1939). NAZI Germany and the Soviet Union signed a Non-Agression Pact (August 23, 1939). This essentially gave Hitler a free hand to invade Poland, thus launching World War II (September 1). The NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact carved up Eastern Europe. Lithuania was initially to be in the NAZI sphere of influence. Lithuanis refused, however. to join the NAZIs in their attack on Poland. After the successful invasion of Poland, NAZI and Soviet diplomats in Moscow hammered out a more detailed agreement over Eastern Europe and economic cooperation (September 27). Further NAZI-Soviet negotiations shifted Lithuania to the Spviet sphere. Stalin targeted Lituania because as a former prt of the Russian Empire, he wanted to make it a part of the Soviet Union. Before the Soviets could seize control, Hitler ordered the ethnic Germans in Lithuania and the other Baltic states back to the Reich. The Soviets returned Vilinus to Lithuania (October 10). They thun begun a series of move to take over Lithuania and the other Baltic Republics. The Red Army occupied Lithuanian (June 15, 1940) as French resistance was collaspsing in the West. The Soviets began mass deportations (June 14, 1941). The first deportations totaled about 35,000 people. NAZI Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). Within only a few days, the Germans had occupied Lithuania. Lithuanians attempted to reinstitute an independent republic, but the NAZIs did not permit the reserection of indepedent Lithuania. The NAZIs immediately begun a massive operation to destroy the country's substantial Jewish population. About 0.2 million Jews perished in the Holocaust. After the Soviets inflicted massive defeats to the Wehrmact, the Red Army reached Lithuania (Summer 1944). The NAZI invasion was so rapid, that little damage occurred. Lithuania was, however, the location of bitter combat between the NAZIs and Soviets as the Red Army pushed toward Brlin. With the seizure of Klaipeda, Lithuania was again in Soviet hands (January 1945). The Soviets treated Lithuania as an integral part of the Soviet Union. The United States and Britain, however, did not recognize this, although they were powerless to prevent the Soviet annexation.
The NAZI and Soviet invasions of Poland launched World War II (September 1939). Britain and France declared war on Germany (September 3). Grand Duchess Charlotte joined King Leopold III of Belgium and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in maintaining their neutrality and urged a negotiated settlement. The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg ordered the recruitment of an additional 125 man company of volunteer reservists. The Grand Duchy's military had no idea of resisting the Germans. The Commandant, Major Emile Speller began planning a campaign of passive defense. Speller sought to minimize any civilian casualties by evacuating border villages and to delay German units a few hours so that those wishing to flee could do so and reach Allied lines. As part of the German Western Offensive, Wehrmacht units entered Luxembourg for a second time (May 10, 1940). The NAZIs justified the attack, as they did in 1914, as a military necessitated by Allied war plans. The Germans claimed that the Allies were planning to attack Germany through the Low Countries in cooperation with the Belgians and Dutch. In the ensuing NAZI ocupation, the Jewish children were the most affected. Non-Jewish youths were also affected. Many youths were deported for forced labor. Some of the first were the school children that had demostrated against the Germans. Other youths were conscripted for service in the Wehrmacht after the Grand Duchy was annexed to the Reich (1942). There was little damage and loss of done during the German invation (May 1940), but considrable damage was done after the American liberation when the Germans reoccupied the Grand Duchy as part of the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945).
Collingham, Lizzie. The Tase of War: World War II and the Battle for Food (Penguin Press: New York, 2012), 634p.
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