World War II: Country Pages M-R


Figure 1.--We are not sure where this photograph was taken, but it may be Poland or the Soviet Union about 1942 or 43. The model of trucks may help date it. We note many images of Wehrmacht soldiers with children. We are not entirely sure how to interpret these images. NAZI policies of exploiting occupied areas created food shortages and thus the children were drawn to soldiers with food. While the NAZI plans for the occupied East was genocidal in nature, images like this suggest that this was not the attitude of the average Wehrmact soldier. Perhaps readers might have insights here.

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.

Madagascar

Diego Suarez on the norther tip of Madagascar has a large bay and fine harbour and as a result was some geopolitical importance. After the the fall of France (June 1940), Governor General Armand Léon Annet was steadfastly loyal to Vichy. After the German victory in the West, NAZI planners briefly toyed with using Madagascar as a kind of remote island ghetto for Jews never botherong vto discuss the plan with the French. When the British refused to surrender, the Royal Navy made this impossible. With France and the French fleet out of the War, the Axis using the Italian fleet and air bases closed the Mediterranean to British shipping. This meant that the British army in the Egypt and the Western Desert had to be supplied by comvoys around the Cape of Good Hope abnd up the eastern coast of Africa. Possession of Madagagascar and especially Diego Suarez could block Allied cargos. This possibility was not lost on Axis naval planners. The Japanese were interested in the Indian Ocean and conducted a carrier raid into the eastern Indian Ocean even before forcing the American carriers to battle (March 1942). After sizing Malaya, a small sunmarine force was dispatched into the Indian Ocean (May 1942). The American carrier victory at Midway (June 1942) meant that the Japanese would be unable to commit significant naval forces to the Indian Ocean, especially surface forces. British naval planners began to discuss the need to take Madagascar (November 1941). General DeGualle pressed Churchill for a joint operation to seize Madagascar from Vihy control (December 1942). Churchill declined citing the lack of available resources. He saw the need, however, to seize Diego Suuarez which the Japanese could use not only to stop convoys to the 8th Any in the Western Desert, but also to Cylon and India. Prepatations for the operation began in South Africa (March 1942). The seizure of Madagascar ws coide naned (Operation Ironckad). It was a British operation. For reasons we do not fully undestand, Churchill did not want the Free French involved. The British landed near Diego Suarez (May 5). The landing force was composed of British infantry, marines, and comandos. Much of the defending Vichy force was Makagassy. There was some force fighting. Diego Suarez was in Britidh hands (May 7). Most of the intense fighting took place in the fight for Diego Suarez. Japanese submarines damaged HMS Ramilles an aging bsttleship. Governor Annet withdrew to the south and operations continued at a low level until he surrendered (November 6), 2 days before the Torch landings in North Africa. .

Malaya

Britain in the late 19th and early 20th century established contol over Malaya through a variety of treaties. Agricultural input was of minor importance in the 19th century. Planters experimented with different crops. Then in the early 20th century rubber cultivation began to take off. Along with rubber plants, the British brought Indian workers to man the new plantations. This occurred just as the development of the automobile created a vast demand for rubber. Malay which had been an economic backwater rapidly became one of the most valuable British colonies. One part of the Japanese offensive following Pearl Harbor was the invasion of Malaya. The Japanese 25th army commanded by Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita launched the invasion of Malaya (December 8, 1941). Yamashita's 25th Army was smaller than the defending British force. Yamashita commanded only 30,000 men, but he had a well thoughout campaign, an adequate air cover, and naval support. Yamashita landed a small force in the nort. English commander General Arthur Percival when of the landings was advised to set up a defensive line and famously is sad to have worried about the effect on morale. A staff office is said to have replied, "It would be bad for morale when the Japanese start running all over the island." Yamahita moved down the Peninsula in a stunning 8-week campaign. Sinapore had substantial defenses. There were 15-inch gun implacements and a 88,000 man garrison. It was called the "Gibraltar of the East". The garrison, however, was undersupplied. The shore guns had anti-ship ammunition and could not be turned back on jungle roads that the Japanese were using to approach from the land. The RAF had 158 aircraft, but many were obsolete types, including biplanes and the retreating units could not hold major airfields Yamashita after taking most of the Malay Peninsula commenced the assault on Singapore (February 2). Lieutenant General Arthur Percival surrendered Singapore (February 15). This was the greatest defeat ever suffered by the British Army. Percival surrendered 130,000 Allied troops. Churchill was staggered. The Japanese held Singapore and Malaya for the duration of the War. Conquest of Malaya not only gave the Japanese tin mines, but the great bulk of the world's rubber resource. Tin was important, but the Allies had altermative resources. There was no real alternative to Malaya as a source of natural rubber. The Allied could not have fought World War II unlss a new source of rubber was found.

Malta

Malta was the cornerstone of the British campaign in the Western Desert. British possession of Malta and the invaluable naval and air bases there played a major role in interdicting Italian and Germany supply convoys to Libya. And it was supply shortages that played a key role in defeating Rommel and the Afrika Korps. Malta became the most bombed place on earth. German and Italian air forced relentlessly pounded the island. The island somehow managed to with tand the fiercest air assault of the War. The Italians began bombing Malta in 1940. The Luftwaffe joined in the campaign (January 1941) even before Rommel arrived in North Africa. Malta by March 1942 was enduring an average of 10 air raid alerts daily and there had been 117 straight days of bombing. The bombing was devestating. It also prevented supplies, food, and fuel from reaching the island. At one point Malta was near to capitulation, left virtual no fuel, food, or fighters. It was a convoy with an American carrier that finally succeeded in getting needed supplies through. Civilians suffered teribly. They had to move underground. Newsreels in Britain and America showed school children moving rapidly into undergrond bunkers when the air raids sireens sounded. The population was near starvation at one point. The Axis did not, however, launch a parachute assault on the island. They had the capability as shown in Crete. Senior Axis commanders advised just sych an action. After the German terrible losses suffed by the German parachute units on Crete, however, Hitler demured, After the War, historians have taken to summrizing the assul on Cretr as "the wrong island". The Axis seige was not fully lifted until July 1943 after the Axis surrender in Tunis and the invasion of Sicily. [Holland] Operaions from Malta also played an important role in interducting Axis supply lines to Tunis, fforcing the surrender there. Some orphaned children were sent to Australia.

Martinique

Martinique was one of the two principal French Caribbean possessions. The other was Guadelupe. After the fall of France, Martinique authorities remained loyal to Marshall Petain's Vichy government. Elements of the French fleet, including an aircraft carrier, were interned at Marinique. The situation on the island, however, as volitile. Unlike France itself, support for Vichy seems limited on Martinque. Vichy was neutral in the War, but in many ways cooperated with the NAZIs. This was of considerable concern tamong American authorities over Martinique because of the security of the Panama Canal, vital in American defense strategy. French French support grew on the island. At for a time an insurection was possible. The United States prepared to intervene. The United States organized a joint Army-Marine Corps task force on Puerto Rico (the 295th Infantry and the 78th Engineer Battalion). American intervention proved unecessary when Martinique authorities decided to recognize the French Committee of National Liberation.

Mexico

President Lazaro Cardenas, as Europe descended into war, declared Mexican neutrality. As in several other Latin American countries, tensions began to develop betweem right wing pro-Fascist and left wing pro-Communist groups (mid-1930s). Mexican attitudes were larely determined by their political oulook. Virtually no Mexicans understood how their largely Mestizo population would fare in a world dominated by the race-obsessed NAZIs. For that matter it is not well undserstood today. The United States, concerned about tensions in Mexico and other countries, began to offer support to many countries, including Mexico. Before the War, the United States as part of the Rooosevelt Administration's Good Neighbor Policy to improve relations in the area, assisted the Mexican Govennment whethered a financial crisis by buying silver and providing low-cost loans backed by the U.S. Treasury. Mexico cooperated in FBI actions throughout Latin Americara rounding up Axis agents. The Germans had been ctive in Mexico. Mexico held one of its pro-forma elections (1940). Conservative candidate Juan Almazan faced the governing Partido Revolucianrio Institucional (Revolutionary Institutial Party--PRI) candidate Avila Camacho. Mexican elections at the time were rigged so the PRI and Camacho could not lose. Mexican and many other Latin American countries broke diplmatic relations with Japan shortly after Pearl Harbor. The Government a few months after Pearl Harbor declared war against the Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan (May 28, 1942). German U-boats had begun sinking Mexican tankers in the Caribbean. Mexico and the United states igned agreements permiting unlimited reciprocal use of airfields and facilities. The U.S. Army Air Force established several bases in Mexico to train personnel. The United States under Lend Lease provided military equipment and supplies to Mexico. President Camacho accepted a U.S. invitation to provide Mexican air force units in the war against. Escadeon 201 equipped with Lend Lease Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter bombers was deployed first to the Philippines (February 1945) and then to Okinawa (July 1945). They flew 795 combat sorties ahd lost 7 pilots.

Monaco

Both Germany and Italy wanted to seize Monaco because it was a banking center. Italy invaded southern France (June 1940). Italian troops marched in to the city, but the Germans forced them to leave. Germany had plans for Monaco as early as 1933, and it was seen as a possible location for the Reich’s international banking activities. After the occupation of France they were in a strong position to do just that. Italian troops re-invaded and created a Fascist puppet government (November 1942). The Germans in response to the Allied invasion of Italy and Italy switch sides occupied Monaco (1943). They immeiately begam rounding up Jews and deported them to killing centers. The Allies invaded southern France (August 1944) and liberated Monaco (September 6, 1944).

Morocco

France in the early 20th century expanded its position in Morocco. Morocco was the scene of provocative incidents with Germany. Morocco became a French protectorate under the terms of the Treaty of Fez (1912). Moroccan units fought for France on the Western Front during World War I. Oposition to French colonial rule existed and serious figting occurred during the 1920s. French military force, however, firmly secured the Protectorate during the inter-war era. After the World War II began, the fall of France (June 1940) shocked many nationalists who thought French military power was invincible. The situation did not immetiately change because under the Franco-German Armistice the Vichy regime retained control of France's colonial dependencies. This essentially created an associated with the Germans and thus Moroccan natioinalists viewed the Germans differently than other Arab nationlists. French Moroccan authorities were loyal to Vichy. They instituted actions against Jews based n Vichy racial laws. The Allied Torch landings changed the situation radically. American forces rapidly occupied Morocco (November 1942). Morocco was used as a supply base for the Allied forces driving east toward Tunisia. The actual fighting thus took place to the east. The Allies held one of the most important conferences of the War at Casablanca (January 1943). Roosevelt, Churchill, and DeGualle attended, but Stalin declined. It was at Casablanca that the call for "unconditional surrender" was issued and the decession to launch an expanded strategic bombing campaign was made. President Roosevelt gave personal assurances to the Sultan (future King Mohammed V), that the United States swould support independence. The French in Morocco went over to the Free French and Allied side. The Allies promised Morocco independence within 10 years if they cooperated with the war effort. Nationalist groups later based their campaign for independence on such Allied pronouncements as the Atlantic Charter. The Istiqlal (Independence) Party issued a manifesto demanding independemce (1944). France after the War, however, did not honor the pledge.

Mozambique

Mozambique was a Portuguese colony. Portugal fought with the Allies during Wirld war I, but was neutral during Wotld war II. Mozambique was administered in two parts. One was a colony under Lisbon's administration. The other was administered by the Mozambique Company. The Company's charter ended and its administrative area was merged intoi the colony (1942). American and Japanese diplomats were exchanged through Laurenco Marqes. Japanese submarine operated briefly in the Mozambique Channel from bases in Malaya (May-July 1942).


Figure 2.--Here Dutch boys at the end of the War watch the British Rioyal Enginners (Polar Bears 49th West Riding Infantry Division) asseble a temporary bridge as a short-term replacement for a bridge destroyed by the Germans, we think near Utrecht, one of the cities north of the Rhine that remained in German hands until the end of the War.

(The) Netherlands

The Dutch were neutral during World War I. There was considerable sympathy in the Netherlands for the Germans during World I. The Dutch offered asylum to the Kaiser at the end of the War and refused to turn him over to the allies for trial. After the war, the Dutch supported charities offering relief to children in both Germany and Austria. The Dutch hoped to remain neutral in World War II, but were invaded by the NAZIs as part of their Western offensive. The Dutch Air Force was destroyed and the country capitulated after the Luftwaffe terror bombing of Rotterdam. The NAZIs occupied the Netherlands for 4 years. They succeeded in killing most Dutch Jews. The Resistance had little possibility of armed oposition, but assisted the allies with relaying intelligence and assisting down airmen. After D-Day, the Allies reached the Dutch in September, but the failure of Operation Market Garden (October 1944) left most of the country still in NAZI hands until the Allies crossed the Rhine (March 1945). By this time the Dutch were near starvation.

New Zealand

New Zealand following the NAZI invasion of Poland was one of the first countries to join Britain after it declared war in Germany (September 1939). New Zealand played a role in the Battle of Britain. New Zealand like Australia also was an important part of the British forced that fought in North Africa. As a result, New Zealand and Australia found itself inmperiled after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor (December 1941). Only the remaining American fleet stood between the Imperial Fleet and Australia and New Zealand. The Japanese turned back after the Battle of the Coral Sea (April 1942). The immediate danger was not releaved until the American Navy devestated the Japanese carrier force at Midway (June 1942). American men and material poured into New Zealand in preparation for the Allied offensive in the South Pacific.

Norway

Norwegian officials were intent on maintaining the country's neutrality as they had done in World War I. Norway had no professional army and only a poorly trained militia. Officals had seen the German newsreels of what had happened in Poland and were intent on maintaining the country's neutrality. In fact they persued this course even after the NAZI invasion was underway (April 1940). Control of Norway ptoved useful to the NAZIs as naval and air bases made it difficult for the Royal Navy to bottle up the U-boats in the North Sea. Norway was also an important source of raw materials. Later after the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans were able to launch devestating raids on Allied convoys delivering war materials to Murmansk and Archangel. The NAZIs much admired Norway as a rich source of Nordic Aryan breeding stock. The Resistance was active in Norway. The resistance aided by the British staged some important raids and kept the Allies informed of German military movements. They also saved about half of Norway's small Jewish population from the Holocaust. The Germans maintained a substantial army of occupation. Later in the War, the Allies tried to convince the Germans that they were planning an invasion, to discouraging the Germans from drawing down the occupation force to strengthen the Atlantic wall in northern France.

Palestine

Plaestine was part of Ottman Empire for several centuries. The province has a largely Arab population. Zionism was founded in Europe during the 19th century and promoted emmigration to Palestine with the purpose of founding a Jewish homeland. The Ottomons permited small-scale Jewish emmigration. THe Ottomans joined the Cetral Powers in World War I seeking to regain lost territory in the Balkans. As part of the operations of the Arab Army and Col T.H. Lawrence and a 1917 Britih offensive undeder Allenby, Palestine fell. After the War, the British administered Palestine under a League of Nations trusteeship. The rise of Fascism in Europe encouraged many Jews to seek refugee and strengthened the Zionist movement. The British attempted to restrict Jewish immmigration. The expanding Jewish population also resulted in growing anti-Semitism among the Palestinians. This had opposition to British colonial rule caused many Palestinians to sympethize and seek support from the NAZIs.

Philippines

The Japanese invaded the Philippines days after the attack on Peal Harbor. The Philippino people suffered greviously under Japanese occupation. This helped fuel an effective Resistance campaigns carried out by guerillas which had achieved control of substantial areas. The Japanese, gowever, controlled the population centers, especially on Leyte and Luzaon. The Navy preferred targetting Formosa (Taiwan), but MacArthur eventually prevailed with his insistence that America must retun to the Philippines. He considered his vow to return a pledge to the Philippinp people that had to be honored. Some how his vow, "I shall return." sems less approaptiate than "We shall return", but it was pure MacArthur and he convinced President Roosevelt. Reports from resistance fighters and American pilots revealed that the Japanese were not heavily defending large areas of the Islands. The inasion of Mindanao was considered unecessary and the decession was made to strike first further north at Leyte. It was in this engagement that the Kamakazis first appeared, although still in relatively small numbers. MacArthur President Sergio Osmeña waded ashore with the invasion force at Leyte Gulf (October 20, 1944). The American Army forces advanced steadily. The Japanese resisted, but could not match American fire power. The most serious Japanese resistence occurred at sea. The resulting naval engaement following on Battle of the Philippones Sea is commonly referred to as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It was the largest sea battle ever fought and resulted in the destruction of the Japanese fleet as an effective fighting force. This opened the way for the land campaign. Further landings occurred at Ormoc (December 7, 1944).

Poland

World War II began with the German invasion of Poland (1939). The Soviets of course also invaded Poland in 1939, but Britain and France wisely only declared war on Germany. The subsequent Cold War between the Soviets and the western Allies also had its origins in Poland. Stalin's repressive measures in Poland, especially the murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forrest was revealed by the NAZIs in 1942. Soon Soviet measures against the Polish Government in exile, the creation of a rival Polish Governmrent, and the abandonment of the Polish Home Army in Warsaw (1944) were some of the major issues which began the separation of the Soviet and Western Allies even before the end of World War II. Poland was a major issue at both Yalta and Potsdam. Many critics hav charged that tht President Roosevelt in particula abandoned Poland to the Soviets. [Olson and Cloud] The simple fact is, however, that the Red Army destroyed the Whermacht. If it had not been for the relentless pressure of the Red Army in the East, D-Day would have never been possible. The Soviet domination of Poland and Eastern Europe after the War was a simple reflection of that basic fact. America and the Western Allies could not have rescued Poland from the Soviets without war. In the end it was the Polish people who would prevail. It was in Poland with Solidarity in the 1980s that the Soviet empire began to unravel.

Portugal

Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar ruled Portugal as a dictator with Fascist trappings. He maintained a neutral policy, but there were strong pro-Axis support in the country. Portugal also had a histoically special relationship with Britain that even preceeded the Napoleonic Wars. Salazar's adoption of Fascist policies (political dictatorship, police state rule, bans on trade unions, strident anti-Communism, and corporatist social and economic policies) gave his regime a Fasist aura. He supported Franco in the Spanish Civil War. As a result his regime was approved as sufficebntly Fascist by Hitler and Mussolini. Portugal was of some importance to Germany in World War II. Portugal was the principal source of Wolfram ore which yielded tungsten. This was a critical material because tungsten-hardened steel alloys had many military applications in machine tools, armor plate, armor-piercing projectiles, and other uses. The Germans pioneered the use of tungsten. As a result of these and other NAZI purchases, the Salazar regime benefited from the War. Salazar insisted on payments in gold. Here accounts vary as to the extent to which the regime profited from the War. NAZI inteligence agents were active in Portugal as were British agents. Portugal's role is complex. Salazar also cooprated with the Allies, especially as the German military situation shifted. Salazar leased the British important bases in the Azores for naval campaign in the Atlantic. Of course given Anglo-American naval power, he had no real choice. He also permitted Jewish and other refugees to escape the NAZIs by both boat and air.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was American territory and as part of the United States was involved in American defense preparations as World War II broke out. America was especially concerned with the defense if the Panama Canal, a key element in American defense planning--especialy naval operations. The Canal allowed American ships to moce from the Atlanic to the Pacific as required. It was also vital in the movement of strtegic materials. The principal American plan in event of war was Plan Orange. As part of that plan the 295th and 296th Infantry Regiments of the Puerto Rican National Guard were called into Federal Active Service and assigned to the Puerto Rican Department (October 1940). Military training were conducted at Camp Las Casas in Santurce. Tey were assigned to the segregated 65th Infantry Regiment. Purto Ricans assigned to the 295th and 296th regiments of the Puerto Rican National Guard were trained at Camp Tortuguero near Vega Baja. Naval authorities wanted to expand Caribbean naval facilities. Construction of a massive new naval base began--U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads. The initial plans were reduced because the major naval theater became the North Atlantic. And as aesult of Americ's developing alliance with Britain, the British turned over Caribbean ports to the U.S. Navy--the "Bases for Destoyers" deal. Puerto Rican units were used both to defend the Canal and in the European theater.

Romania

Romania with its important petroleum resources was a major target of German diplomacy. Germany did not have the petroleum to wage a war of any duration. The basic calculations were stark. The Germans estimated that they needed 12 million tons of oil annually to wage war. The synthetic petroleum industry in the Ruhr based on coal liquidficatioin would by the late 1930s produce about 3 million tons, leaving a defivcit of 9 million tons. Quite simply, NAZI Germany could not go to war without a secure source of additional oil. The oil could not be imported by sea because of the Royal Navy. The answer to this shortfall was Romania. The Romanian oil fields centered around Ploesti produced about 7 million tons annually. Romania posed some initial problems because the country had sided with the Allies in World War I and as a result had been rewarded with territorial concessions at the expense of its neighbors which had sided with the Central Powers. The Romanian royal family was a German family, but Romania had sided with the Allies in World War I. Romania agreed to sell most of its oil to Germany (1939). British efforts to bid for the oil failed. The NAZIs next convinced the Romanians to expel British technicians (July 1940). General Ion Antonescu, who had been the Minister of War, for King Carol when he seized power (September 6, 1940). This meant that the NAZIs had essentially turned Romanian into a satellite state and ally. Antonescu styled himself Conducator (Leader) styled after the Führer principle in Germany. Antonescu ininiated a Fascist state and unleased the Iron Guard, Romania'sersion of the NAZI storm troopers and no less vicious. The Iron Guard proceeded to murder democratic politicians. Antonescu also began the Holocaust in Romania. The Iron Guard killed hundreds of Jews in the streets of Bucharest. The regime swiftly instituted a wide range of anti-Semitic measures. Jews were fired from government jobs and many private businesses. Jewish professors were fied and students expelled from universities. [Gilbert, p. 343.] German moved into Romania, a country which Italy also has interess in, was resented by Mussolini.

Sources

Haseman. John B. The Thai Resistance Movement During the Second World War.

Marder, Arthur. Operation Menace.

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

Denniston , Robin. Churchill's Secret War: Diplomatic Decrypts, The Foreign Office and Turkey 1942-44 (Chancellor Press, 2000) 208p.

Williams, John. The Guns of Dakar: September 1940 (London: Heinemann, 1976), 201p.

Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945 (Washington, 1949). This is a compenium of German documents captured during the War.






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Created: April 25, 2004
Last updated: 12:21 AM 9/10/2017