The World War II Portal
World War II, or the Second World War, was a global military conflict. It began as the joining of what had initially been two separate conflicts, with the first beginning in Asia in 1937 (the Second Sino-Japanese War) and the other beginning in Europe in 1939 (the German and Soviet invasion of Poland).
The war split the majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It involved the mobilization of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history, and placed the participants in a state of "total war", which erased the distinction between civil and military resources and resulted in the complete activation of a nation's economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the purposes of the war effort. Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.
The Allies won the war, and as a result, the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as the world's leading superpowers. This set the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 45 years. The United Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The self-determination spawned by the war accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Europe itself began moving toward integration.
British anti-invasion preparations of World War II
entailed a large-scale division of military
and civilian mobilization in response to the threat of invasion by German armed forces in 1940 and 1941
. The army needed to recover from the defeat
of the British Expeditionary Force
in France, and 1.5 million men were enrolled as part-time soldiers in the Home Guard
. The rapid construction of field fortifications
transformed much of Britain, especially southern England, into a prepared battlefield. Short of heavy weapons and equipment, the British had to make the best use of whatever was available.The German invasion plan, Operation Sea Lion
, was never taken beyond the preliminary assembly of forces. Today, little remains of Britain's anti-invasion preparations. Only reinforced concrete structures such as pillboxes
are common, and until recently, even these have been unappreciated as historical monuments.On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland
; two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany
, launching World War II. Within three weeks, the Red Army
of the Soviet Union
invaded the eastern regions of Poland
in fulfillment of the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
His Majesty's Ship Royal Oak
08) was a Revenge-class battleship
of the British Royal Navy
, torpedoed in Scapa Flow
by the German submarine U-47
on 14 October 1939. Launched in 1914 and completed in 1916, Royal Oak
first saw action at the Battle of Jutland
. In peacetime, she served in the Atlantic
fleets, coming under accidental attack on more than one occasion. The ship became the centre of worldwide attention in 1928 when her senior officers were controversially court-martialled
. During a twenty-five year career, attempts to modernise Royal Oak
could not address her fundamental lack of speed, and by the start of the Second World War
, she was no longer suited to front-line duty.Royal Oak
was anchored at Scapa Flow
when she became the first of the five Royal Navy battleships and battlecruisers
sunk in the Second World War. The loss of life was heavy: of Royal Oak
complement of 1,234 men, 833 were killed that night or died later of their wounds.
The second Battle of Smolensk (7 August 1943 – 2 October 1943) was a Soviet strategic offensive operation conducted by the Red Army as part of the Summer-Autumn Campaign of 1943 in the Western USSR. Staged almost simultaneously with the Battle of the Dnieper (13 August – 22 September), the offensive lasted two months and was led by Generals Andrei Yeremenko commanding the Kalinin Front and Vasily Sokolovsky commanding the Western Front. Its goal was to clear the Nazi Germany presence from the Smolensk and Bryansk regions. Smolensk had been under German occupation since the first Battle of Smolensk in 1941.Despite an impressive German defense, the Red Army was able to stage several breakthroughs, liberating several major cities including Smolensk and Roslavl. As a result of this operation the Red Army was able to start planning for the liberation of Belorussia. However, the overall advance was quite modest and slow in the face of heavy German resistance, and the operation was therefore accomplished in three stages: August 7–20, August 21–September 6, and September 7–October 2.