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Timeline of World War 2

Page Created
April 3rd, 2022
Last Updated
May 10th, 2023
World War 2
World War 2

It is consensus under history scholars all over the world that World War 2 started with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 to end World War 1. The loss of territories, reduction in military forces, and reparation payments to Allied powers were the cause for the unrest in Germany that eventually led to the rise in power of Adolf Hitler.

After World War 2 the Western Allies followed a different strategy. During the Yalta Conference from 4 – 11 February the leaders of the United States (Franklin Roosevelt), Great Britain (Winston Chruchill) and the Soviet Union (Joseph Stalin) negotiated over the future of Germany after the war. After tough negotiations they agreed more or less about the following subjects.

  • Germany had to surrender unconditionally.
  • Germany had to demilitarised and denazificised.
  • A world organization called the United Nations would be founded.
  • They agreed on helping all countries that had suffered under the war, including the Axis.
  • They also agreed that all liberated countries, including the Axis, would become democratic countries with free elections.
  • Germany would be divided in three occupational zones. Churchill insisted that France would also become one of the occupational countries. Stalin Agreed if that part would come from the U.S. and British zones. The Capital, Berlin would be divided under the three (four) occupational forces. The Allied Control Council would control the four zones.
  • Austria would be divided in the same way.
  • Germany would not have to pay reparation but would have to compensate the Allied countries.
  • Use of German labourers to compensate is permitted.
  • Poland would have to give land to the Soviet Union but would be compensated on the western border. Poland would also receive a democratic government but under control of the Soviet Union.
  • Yugoslavia would also receive a new government and parliament, but they would have no legal decision-making yet.
  • German war criminals would be trialed.
  • The Soviet Union promises to help the Western Allies to defeat Japan. It receives the territories lost in the Russian Japanese war of 1905 as compensation for the effort.

After the unconditional surrender of Germany, the three countries came again together at the Conference of Potsdam. Because of the death of Roosevelt, Vice-President Truman had taken the office of the President. Winston Churchill had lost the elections and was replaced by Clement Attlee. During the conference, the topics the three countries had agreed on during the Yalta Conference were described more precisely and ratified. A few new topics were added.

The United States, Great Britain, and China also signed the Potsdam Declaration. In this declaration the three countries specified the surrender of Japan. The Soviet Union had not declared war on Japan yet so was not included in this declaration.

However, during the end of the Conference Truman had hinted on using a new weapon on Japan after her was informed that the trinity test of the Atomic Bomb was successful. Stalin got the hint and rushed his generals in participating in a war against Japan. Stalin was not going to let the Japanese be defeated without him. The Soviets rushed a complete army towards the East and on August 8th, 1945, two days after the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, they declared war on Japan. The very next day, the day of the second Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki, the Soviets attacked on three fronts in East, West, and North of Manchuria. On August 10th, 1945, the Japanese declared they would accept the conditions of the Potsdam declaration. On August 15th, 1945, the Japanese Emperor announced the unconditional surrender of his country, according to the Potsdam Declaration, on the radio.

The Soviets, however, were not going to stop their attack. They continued fighting until September 2nd, 1945. On that date all parties officially signed the unconditional surrender of Japan onboard the U.S.S. Missouri. The Soviets suffered some 40,000 losses with their Asian campaign, the Japanese 60,000.

After World War 2 ended, the plans made in the Yalta and Potsdam conferences came into effect. Germany and Austria and their capitals were divided under the four occupational countries. The Allied Control Council was founded to control Germany as one. Land annexed by the Germans before or during the war was given back to the countries it belonged to. German and Austrian war criminals were trialed in Neurenberg. Germany was demilitarised and denazificised. The German industrial capacity was reduced and partly dismantled.

But with the fast-worsening relationships between the West and the Soviet Union, East Europe came more and more under Soviet influence. Soon it became clear that democratic governments and free elections were going to be allowed by the Soviets. Instead, Soviet puppet governments were installed. The Soviets completely dismantled their part of Germany. Industry, railways, and anything of value was transferred to the Soviet Union as reparation. In that same period, it became clear to the United States, that Europe would have a challenging time recovering from the war if Germany were not allowed to have a firm industry. Also, as a future Allie against the Soviet Union Germany needed to be rebuilt properly with a proper (war) industry.

The Marshall Plan of the United States (also known as the European Recovery Program) made sure that Germany and other European countries that had suffered under the war were able to recover from it. The Unites States invested 12,4 billion dollars in Europe. This was not an unconditional help program. France and Italy for example had to clear their government from communists and the Dutch had the program almost stopped because they didn’t want to deliver troops for the Korean War. The Marshall Plan made sure that most Western European countries would come into the Influence of the United States.

In a way did the Yalta and Potsdam the same as what the Versailles Treaty had done. In the end it was the start for a new war, The Cold War.