A retired pharmaceutical and industrial chemist, author and historian specialising in military events.
Unlike the Great War which was caused, effectively, by a single assassination and as a result, the honouring of various long-standing treaty’s, between countries, at the cost of an incredible loss of military life. The Second World War was an altogether different affair. Here world peace was threatened and shattered by the evil acts of two powers set on the destruction and mass extermination of millions of innocent people simply on the grounds of race, religion and sheer murderous greed.
As mentioned World War II was primarily fought between two large alliances. The Axis Powers were a group of countries led by Nazi Germany and the merciless, inhumane Empire of Japan, and are considered the instigators and aggressors of the conflict. The Allies, led by the United Kingdom and, until its capitulation, France, were joined in the European theatre by the turncoat Soviet Union in June 1941 and by the United States in December 1941. In the Asia-Pacific theatre, the Allies were led by the Republic of China following the invasion of China by Japan in 1937 and then joined the United States in 1941 only after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Almost immediately the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India assisted by declaring war on Japan and supplying warships, aircraft and very experienced ground troops while fighting in the European theatre also.
Originally founded on the concept of the Rome-Berlin-axis (the Pact of Steel), later the Tripartite Pact, the Axis was not primarily a formal alliance. Each of the major countries went to war on their own initiative and for their own purpose (Nazi Germany in 1939, Italy in 1940, and Japan in 1937 against China and 1941 against the USA) and not necessarily to assist each other. Apart from some exchange of information and raw materials for nuclear weapons, there was little sharing of technology or resources, and also little in the way of cooperative strategic planning between the major Axis Powers, except Germany and Italy in a limited way.
With the demise of Italy, whose surrender was announced on 8th September 1943, Germany and Japan each functioned as wholly separate powers, each conducting the war in their own particular theatre (Germany in Europe, Africa, America and Japan in the Pacific). There were a number of smaller powers (sometimes reluctantly) on the side of the Axis, although for the most part the war effort was directed and powered by Nazi Germany and Japan.
Like the Axis, the Allies were not a fully unified alliance. The original Allied countries, had pledged to ensure the security of Poland, were led by the United Kingdom and France. As other countries were invaded by Nazi Germany, they were added, to a greater or lesser extent, to the Allied ranks as a free force, often based in the UK. Others were annexed and some became willing members of the Axis, although there were often strong guerrilla groups continuing the fight against the antagonist. The capitulation of France on 17th June 1940, left the United Kingdom as the sole remaining major country of the Allies, forcing Britain to remove the remainder of their BEF army and air force that had been committed to the defence of France. Most of the remainder consisted of the British Commonwealth and forces commanded by various governments-in-exile.
While the European war did not officially start until the 1st September 1939 with the invasion of Poland simultaneously made by Germany and the Soviet Union, the Second World war began much earlier in Asia and Africa with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 and the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Subsequently, with the war spreading to Europe and the Pacific Ocean, China, with one-third of the country under occupation, despatched part of its forces to help in the defence of India against Japan and the recapture of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1944, although the Chinese forces were primarily attached to the Americans. Although great in numbers the Chinese were generally ineffective due to poor training, leadership on the part of American General “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell and lack of equipment. The main work in this area was carried out by British troops, Chindits and Gurkhas, while American military forces concentrated on the Pacific Islands and Japan itself.
On 22nd June 1941, Nazi Germany's reneged on its pact with Stalin and attacked the Soviet Union, under Operation Barbarossa. The British reluctantly accepted the Communist Soviet Union into their alliance, even though they had previously attacked Poland. The aid would be a massive drain of their own resources as Russia made enormous and outrageous demands for military and civilian aid. Prior to the attack, the United Kingdom was unsure of how best to deal with the Soviet leadership, and very suspicious of their motives as they had been viewed as an aggressor against Britain's ally Poland. Winston Churchill in 1939 said that the new Soviet-German border formed an anti-Nazi front, which Hitler could never break. This passage many consider as an attempt to provoke Hitler against the USSR. However, once the Soviet Union joined the Allies, it mounted a major effort to eliminate the main forces of German Wehrmacht, but always worked in its own interests, which was to seize as many of the Eastern European countries as possible for their own domination and not to liberate them as was the other allies’ intention.
Following the Japanese Pearl Harbour attack on 7th December 1941, the United States formally entered the war, committing itself to assisting the Allies in both theatres of war, as did the United Kingdom. The United States had been a major contributor of resources and production for the European war effort prior to the attack on Pearl Harbour, selling and shipping material to most of the Allies to assist their forces, but after the Japanese attack, the United States began contributing its own military forces to combat.
A much larger number of countries joined the Allies during the war than joined the Axis. Not only did the countries attacked by the Axis join, but later in the war, many smaller countries not immediately directly involved in the war joined the Allies to ensure their own security as well as to gain the support of the Allies economically and militarily during and after the war.
Each country involved in or affected by World War II is listed alphabetically with a brief description of its role in the conflict.
King Mohammed Zahir Shah successfully kept his isolated kingdom out of the war, while retaining good relations with Britain in an attempt to deter Russian intervention. Oil prices rose and increased trade with Afghanistan making it richer throughout the whole period of conflict. However, the unscrupulous Shah secretly began to support Nazi Germany in exchange for guns and other arms. When Russia joined the allies, Shah switched sides again and reverted to pseudo neutrality and maintained this position until the end of the war when all he achieved overall was the contempt of everyone.
Albania was forcibly annexed by Italy on 7th April 1939 shortly after Germany had seized Czechoslovakia. Albania had no military ability to withstand the invasion, and ultimately became Italy's launching point for its proposed later invasion of Greece. When this failed, Greek troops launched a counter-offensive and sought to capture some Albanian territory back from Italy. Once the German Balkan Campaign was completed in 1941, Albania served as the base for the Italian garrison in the Balkans, which was replaced by German forces when Italy surrendered and joined the Allies on 13th October 1943.
Andorra remained officially neutral for the duration of World War II.
At the beginning of the war, a small detachment of French troops was stationed in the country due to the Spanish Civil War. The French garrison that had been in place to deter Franco withdrew in early 1939 and Andorra policed its own borders again.
With the fall of France in 1940 and the proximity of the Vichy regime Andorra again felt threatened. In 1942, a German military force moved to the Andorran border near Pas de la Casa, but did not cross. In 1942 when the Germans occupied southern France a German unit was sent to occupy the country but they were too late as the Spanish Civil Guards had established themselves at La Seu d'Urgell, but it too remained outside Andorran territory.
In 1944, Charles de Gaulle established a new provisional government, and assumed the position of French Co-Prince. He ordered French forces to occupy Andorra as a "preventative measure" to secure order.
Throughout the war, Andorra was used as a smuggling route between Spain and Vichy France, and an escape route for people and some escaped allied military pilots and soldiers fleeing German-occupied areas and making their way home.
Angola was under Portugal’s control until 1975. The country was split into two factions; the People's Republic of Angola was headed by José Eduardo dos Santos from 1942 to 1992 when the name of the country then changed to the Republic of Angola which he continued to rule until 26th September 2017. Due to their alliance with Portugal, they played no military role in the war and were a rich source of Oil, diamonds, minerals, coffee, fish, timber and cotton.
Under the militaristic government of General Edelmiro T. Farrell, Argentina was originally sympathetic to the Axis Powers and hostile to Britain. However, Vice-President Ramón Castillo maintained neutrality. Castillo's term was due to end in 1944 but the military coup that deposed Castillo took place on the 4th June 1943. It is considered as the end of the Infamous Decade and the starting point of the Revolution of '43. Arturo Rawson took power as de facto president. The nature of the coup was confusing during its first days:
German embassy officials thought it was a pro-Allied coup and burned their files and documentation, while the United States embassy thought it was a pro-Nazi coup. However, eventually, for political reasons, Argentina joined other Latin American countries and eventually gave in to the Allies' pressure.
They broke relations with the Axis powers on 26th January 1944 and declared war on 27th March 1945 by which time it was too late in the conflict to make their contribution anything but minimal.
During World War II, 4,000 Argentines served with all three British armed services, even though Argentina was officially a neutral country during the war.
Australia was among the first countries to declare war on Germany, on 3rd September 1939. Overall a million Australians, both men and women, served in the Second World War with 500,000 overseas. Although it was ill-prepared for a war they fought in campaigns against Germany and Italy in Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, as well as against Japan in south-east Asia and the Pacific. Their Navy was involved in operations in the Mediterranean against Italy in June 1940. Australian pilots flew in the Battle of Britain in August and September 1940. The Australian Army was not engaged in combat until 1941, when the 6th, 7th, and 9th Divisions joined operations in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
The Australian mainland came under direct attack for the first time, with Japanese aircraft bombing towns in north-west Australia and Japanese midget submarines attacking Sydney Harbour.
German submarines and raiding ships operated in Australian waters throughout the war. The most intensive and numerically largest part of Australia's war effort came after the outbreak of hostilities with Japan in late 1941. The Australian mainland came under direct attack for the first time on 19th February 1942, when 242 Japanese aircraft made a major bombing attack on Darwin town, harbour and airfields. They also attacked many other towns in northern Australia, and Axis covert raiding ships and submarines struck at shipping and shore targets around Australia, including a major submarine attack on Sydney Harbour.
With the emphasis changed, for the remainder of the conflict, the Australian war effort was concentrated in south-east Asia and the South West Pacific Area where they were involved from January 1942 in Malaya, the Dutch East Indies and the Australian territory of New Guinea.
Before the bulk of the Australian Army had returned from conflict overseas, from July onwards a small number of Militia troops fought a stubborn rearguard action in the very difficult conditions of the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea. In August 1942, at the Battle of Milne Bay, Australian infantry became the first Allied soldiers to defeat the supposedly invincible Japanese ground forces during the war. The bitter and deadly New Guinea campaign came to occupy the attention of most of the Australian armed forces until 1945. Later that year, as the war drew to a close, Australian forces led the campaign to retake Borneo.
Overall, about 27,000 service men and women lost their lives during the war, and just over 23,000 were wounded.
In mid-February 1938, following an enforced meeting, Hitler had sent the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg back home to convince President Miklas to ratify the ultimatum to turn Austria over to the Nazis. But the stubborn Miklas refused to accept all of the outrageous demands made. After many threats from Hitler, he was reluctantly forced to grant an amnesty to the jailed Nazis but refused to hand over control of the police to Nazi sympathizer Seyss-Inquart. However, under threat of enforced invasion, he granted a general amnesty for all Nazis in Austria and appointed Seyss-Inquart as Minister of the Interior with full control of the police.
Austria was annexed as part of Germany on 12th March 1938 allegedly amongst popular acclaim during the Anschluss (union). However, despite Hitler being Austrian, many were less than happy about the Nazi invasion saying “they were two nations divided by a common language”.
The first concentration camp was built outside Germany at Mauthausen, located near Linz. About 120,000 persons (mainly Jews) would be worked to death there in the camp's granite quarry or 'shot while attempting escape.'
After the defeat of the Axis Powers, the Allies occupied Austria at the end of World War II in Europe until 15th May 1955, when the country again became a fully independent republic on the condition that it remained neutral.
The Sheikh of Bahrain declared war on Germany on 10th September 1939. Bahrain had, in reality, been within the ‘zone of operations’ since the night of 19th October 1940, when 4 Savoia-Marchetti SM.82s bombers staged an ambitious but ineffective raid on the oil refineries in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The bombers had flown from their base on the island of Rhodes, over 4000 kilometres away in the Mediterranean, to drop around eighty small bombs on Bahrain and fifty on Dhahran on the mainland. Almost all missed their targets. In anticipation of this, arrangements to improve the islands’ air defences at Muharraq were already well underway. The British Government acquired more land in order to build a longer airstrip to accommodate bombers, large cargo aircraft, commissioned housing and medical facilities for a squadron of five hundred RAF personnel, and recruited a levy corps to defend the base. Bahraini forces fought under British command for the rest of the war in the Middle East theatre.
Like the Netherlands, Belgium declared its neutrality in an effort to avoid being caught in another war between Germany and France. Nazi Germany, however, did not respect Belgium's neutrality and entered Belgium as part of the invasion of France on 10th May 1940. Despite the capitulation, many Belgians managed to escape to the United Kingdom where they formed a government and army-in-exile on the Allied side. Thus, Belgium joined the Allies and although King Leopold III remained in Belgium (some suspected he had Nazi sympathies) the country maintained control over its colonial possessions until final total liberated on 4th February 1945.
During the war, many patriotic Belgians were involved in both armed and passive resistance to Nazi forces, although regrettably, some chose to collaborate with them. The towns of Brussels and Liège remained generally patriotic-Belgian and decisively hostile to Germany. This division of loyalties resulted in some Nazi support from far-right political factions and sections of the Belgian population which allowed the German army to recruit two divisions of the Waffen-SS from Belgium and also facilitated the Nazi murder of Belgian Jews of which nearly 25,000 were killed.
A total of 88,000 Belgium’s were killed in the conflict.
Bolivia remained neutral in the early years of WWII. This changed on 26th January 1942, when Bolivia severed diplomatic ties with Germany, Japan, and Italy; on 7th April 1943, it shortly declared war on the Axis. Soon after war was declared, the President of Bolivia, Enrique Peñaranda, was overthrown in a coup. The new ruler, Gualberto Villarroel, had fascist and anti-Semitic leanings, but foreign pressure compelled Villarroel to continue at war and to purge the more extreme Nazi sympathizers from among his supporters. Bolivia was a supplier of low-grade tin ore to America which was a vital war material, for Allied militaries.
However, Bolivia never participated in any military operations against them. It is a co-founding member of U.N.
Botswana (Bechuanaland Protectorate)
In 1939 Bechuanaland automatically declared war on Germany with Great Britain There was chiefly resistance when, in early 1941, the call went out again for unarmed "native labourers" to join the South African detachments fighting under the British in Egypt.
Instead, the chiefs were very willing to provide men for the British Army, so that they may be given firearms training as well as providing labour. The result was the formation of Bechuana, Basuto and Swazi companies for an African Pioneer Corps within the British Army - with about 10,000 men from Bechuanaland, about twice that number from Basutoland, and about a third of that from Swaziland.
They served as heavy artillery gunners, specialist bridge-builders, camouflage smoke-makers, drivers and mechanics, and front-line supply store shifters.
Those who served in Italy saw the greatest amount of military action, across the mountains from Sicily to as far as the borders of Austria and Yugoslavia, including one of the most intense battles of the Second World War - at Monte Cassino.
Brazil was under the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas and maintained its neutrality until 22nd August 1942. After the German attack against Brazilian ships in the Atlantic Ocean and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Brazil sided with the Allies. The timetable for this was, on 28th January 1942 Brazil severed diplomatic relations with Germany and Italy, and on 22nd August 1942, it declared war on both of these countries. On 6th June 1945, it declared war on Japan as well, although the Japanese were a spent force by then.
Brazil helped to patrol the South Atlantic and sent the 25,300 strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force in five ships to fight in Europe in July 1944, being the only Latin American nation to send troops to Europe. This army joined the U.S. Fifth Army under General Mark Wayne Clark and participated in the Italian campaign until the end of the war. During this period Brazil lost 443 soldiers in action.
British Guiana involvement during World War II begins in 1939, following the United Kingdom's declaration of war on Nazi Germany. Like all the other British colonies in the West Indies, Guiana gave full support to the Allied war effort by providing personnel for the British Armed Forces, land for an American military base (Atkinson Field opened 20th June 1941) and Bauxite raw material for aluminium production.
In the early years of the European War, Tsar Boris III and Prime Minister Filov refused to become a belligerent, however, and publicly declared neutrality.
Bulgaria was a minor German ally, signing the Tripartite Pact on 1st March 1941, their main contribution being transit rights for German units involved against Yugoslavia and Greece. Many Bulgarians were captured in Stalingrad.
Bulgaria joined the war on 20th April 1941 when its troops crossed its southern border into Greece, taking Serrai, Kavala, Xanthi, and Komotini, and gaining access to the Aegean Sea.
The King refused to turn Bulgarian Jews over to the Nazis as part of the Holocaust and he employed a range of delaying tactics. The Bulgarian Government did, to their shame, however, turn over Jews in the occupied areas of Greece and Yugoslavia. Bulgaria also refused to participate in the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). King Boris III, who was a very popular monarch, died mysteriously on 28th August 1943, after a stormy row with Hitler, possibly by heart attack or more probably by Nazi organised assassination.
As his son was only 6 he was replaced by Dobri Bozhilov, who continued with German alliance until May 1944 when he resigned and was replaced by right-wing Agrarian Ivan Bagrianov, who in turn was replaced by Kosta Muraviev of the Agrarian Union on September 2, 1944.
On the 8th September 1944, the Bulgarian government declared war on Germany. After the Communist-dominated coup d’état on 9th September and the simultaneous arrival of Soviet troops in the country, four Bulgarian armies attacked the German positions in Yugoslavia. Kimon Georgiev of Zveno became the new prime minister and sought an immediate armistice with the Soviet command. An armistice was signed with the Allies in Moscow on 28th October 1944. After the Nazis fled Yugoslav territory, the 1st Bulgarian army continued its offensive in Hungary and Austria. It managed to withstand the Nazi offensive on the Drava.
Bulgaria's participation in WW2 ended when its soldiers met their British comrades-in-arms in Klagenfurt in May 1945. More than 10,000 Bulgarian troops died in the battles against the Nazis; with about 30,000 being wounded.
Following Japans declaration of war, Burma played a significant part in World War Two for the British Army. Here, Orde Wingate and the Chindits were a formidable foe and it was in Burma where the Japanese Army suffered serious military setbacks that led to them dropping the whole idea of invading India and retreating back east.
Initially, the Japanese had advanced to Burma as her army had murdered, raped and tortured both civilians and military alike, between 1942 and 1943. Against overwhelming odds, the British had surrendered at Singapore and the Americans, led by Douglas MacArthur, had left the Philippines, for Australia. As the Japanese advanced west, they came to Burma. Here their supply lines were stretched to the limit and only a minority of the Japanese Army was stationed there – the majority still remaining in the Pacific region. It was at this point they ran into the unconventional and highly effective Wingate and the Chindits, which stopped them in their tracks.
Leading from the Japanese invasion which led to the expulsion of British, Indian and American/Chinese forces in 1942, there were failed attempts (apart from the Chindits) by the Allies to mount offensives into Burma, from late 1942 to early 1944. The 1944 Japanese invasion of India which ultimately failed following the battles of Imphal and Kohima; and, finally, the successful Allied offensive which reoccupied Burma from late-1944 to mid-1945.
King Sisowath Monivong ruled Cambodia until his death in 1941. Japanese forces numbering abt. 8000, had already occupied the country in August 1941 including the various component states of French Indochina, while leaving the Vichy French in administrative control. In those difficult circumstances, the French governor-general, Jean Decoux, placed Monivong’s grandson, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, on the Cambodian throne. Decoux was guided by the expectation that Sihanouk, then only 18 years old, could be easily manipulated.
The effect of the Japanese occupation was less profound in Cambodia than it was elsewhere in Southeast Asia. However, this had the effect of cutting off one of the routes of supply to Nationalist China. Ultimately one of the final acts was the overthrow of the French administration by the Japanese in March 1945, when the war was nearing its end. This provided Cambodians with some opportunities for greater political autonomy.
Whilst Canada is a vast land mass its population only amounted to around 11.267 million people. It joined the war from the start on 10th September 1939 as it realised, like Britain, this was no petty political squabble but necessary to save the world from sinister fascist evil and later Japanese arrogance and murderous intent.
As a member of the British Commonwealth, Canada declared war on Germany within days of the invasion of Poland. The Canadian military operated independently from British command, and they played a very important role in Allied campaigns in western Europe and elsewhere.
The RCAF contributed heavily in men and machines in bringing the air war to Germany, by defending the cities in the Battle of Britain, giving air cover in the Battle of the Atlantic, and fighting in the Italian campaign and D-Day landings, as well as the subsequent campaigns in north-west Europe.
In 1944 the RCAF numbered 200,000 pilots, flight and ground crew. The Canadian Navy comprised 95,000 men and 700 ships, of various sizes and the army numbered about 500,000 men.
In Italy, an army corps was fielded at the beginning of January 1944, and forces in Normandy built up from a single division in June 1944 to a full corps in July 1944. The Canadian landing was made at Juno beach.
In March 1945, both I and II Canadian Corps came under command of First Canadian Army in the Netherlands after the former was repatriated from Italy in February.
Following the Pearl Harbour attack, in December 1941, Canadian forces also participated in the defence of British territories against Japanese forces, especially Hong Kong where an under-strength brigade was deployed and ultimately killed or captured.
As the war in Europe came to a close, from late 1944, many Royal Canadian Navy ships and personnel were transferred from convoy duty in the Atlantic to join the British Pacific Fleet.
About 8-900,000 Canadians served in uniform during WWII and the losses sadly totalled about 43,600, military and merchant navy, with 54,000 wounded.
The island of Ceylon, or Sri Lanka as it was later called, was used as an important naval base for allied operations. On 5th April 1942 125 aircraft from Japanese carriers, again with no warning, bombed the island, causing extensive military and civilian damage. Winston Churchill called it "the most dangerous moment" of World War II, as the Japanese fleets intention was to have a surprise attack on the British fleet. As it so transpired they did not achieve a repeat of the attack on Pearl Harbour as the British ships had been moved to Addu Atoll, 600 miles’ south-west of Ceylon. Nevertheless, the British Eastern Fleet lost an aircraft carrier, two cruisers and two destroyers and some smaller ancillary ships, while the RAF saw its squadrons massacred, as they were primarily still on the ground. The Japanese lost only 20 aircraft while the British fleet retreated to East Africa until 1944.
Following the loss of two British battleships at Singapore and agitation of the Trotskyist-inspired Lanka Sama Samaja Party, some soldiers of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery on Horsburgh Island in the Cocos Islands mutinied on the night of 8th May 1942, with the intention of handing the islands over to the Japanese. The mutiny was suppressed within the hour and three of the mutineers were later executed. These were the only British Commonwealth soldiers to be executed for mutiny during the Second World War. It is reported Bombardier Gratien Fernando, the leader of the mutiny, was defiant to the end, confident of his place in history as a freedom fighter.
No Sri Lankan combat regiment was ever deployed by the British in a combat situation after the Cocos Islands Mutiny, although Supply & Transport Corps troops were used in rear areas in the Middle East. The defences of Ceylon were reinforced by the 7th Australian Division and elements of the 1st (African) Division because of the island's strategic importance, supplying almost all the British Empire's resources of rubber. Rationing was instituted so that Ceylonese were comparatively better fed and supplied than their Indian neighbours; which was a deliberate move to prevent their dissatisfaction.
Some traitorous Sri Lankans in Malaya and Singapore enlisted in the Lanka Regiment of the Indian National Army to fight on the side of the barbarous Japanese. The original intention was to land them in Sri Lanka to start a guerrilla war, but they never actually saw action as the Japanese didn’t actually trust them or their abilities.
Chile with its influential German minority did not join with most of the other Latin American nations after Pearl Harbour (December 1941) and break relations or declare war on Axis countries. The government consisted of both pro-Allied and pro-Axis elements
Initially, Chile chose to remain neutral in the war, despite having close trading links with Germany. Later in the war, however, Chile distanced itself from the Axis powers, and the Chilean government took steps to dismiss pro-German military officers.
The Popular Front under Radical Party candidate Juan Antonio Ríos was elected president in 1942. He oversaw a moderate government. Ríos led his country into a pro-Allies position and a Nazi spy ring was finally exposed in 1943.
Relations with Axis countries were broken in 1943, and on 6th July 1945, Chile declared war on Japan, really just a few weeks before they surrendered, so their action was without meaning or effect.
Already engaged in war with Japan, since their localised invasion in 1931, as well as enduring a civil conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China when the war began, the Chinese Nationalist Government's full attention was within her borders in resisting the Japanese during the continuation of the war. However, Chiang Kai-shek still managed to send troops to Britain's aid in Burma, in early 1942. China's participation in the war was also pivotal in a sense that more than 1 million Japanese military personnel were committed to China in order to try and finalise its conquest. Japanese casualties in China are estimated at 1.1 million.
Many of China's urban centres and industrial resources were occupied by Japan for a significant portion of the war. China suffered a large death toll from the war, both military and civilian when fighting intensified after the notorious “Rape of Nanking” on 13th December 1937. This was one of the most single serious atrocities against Chinese civilians by the Japanese force and was committed after the fall of the Chinese capital Nanking (now Nanjing). Possibly 300,000 innocent Chinese civilians living in Nanking were raped and executed by the bloodthirsty Japanese occupation force within one month. The eastern provinces of China (e.g., Manchuria, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang) was also conquered by the Japanese Imperial Army in the opening years of the war.
Despite inferior weapons and equipment, it is often forgotten that China engaged huge numbers of Japanese troops on the mainland thus allowing other Allied nations to eradicate them from the wider Pacific area.
China lost anything between 15-25 million military and civilian people, which represents over 90% of the deaths in the Asian theatre of the war.
After the war, China became one of the main victorious countries and gained one of the permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
When normality returned, sadly the Communists and Nationalists went back to fighting each other, the Communists ultimately driving the Nationalists off the mainland to the island of Taiwan.
At the start of the war Colombia was a neutral country but important for raw material supplies, for example, the United States wanted all of the platinum produced in Colombia. They secured all of the supply, thus denying both Germany and Japan of this important raw material.
In addition, both Colombia and the Dominican Republic used Lend-Lease to modernize their military forces in exchange for their participation in the defence of the Panama Canal and the Caribbean Sea lanes.
Although their army consisted of about 16,000 troops Colombia did not send an army overseas, but its navy was active in countering U-boat operations in the Caribbean. Colombia’s strategic location near the Panama Canal and its access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans made them an important asset to American safety and operations.
After the attack on Pearl Harbour, Colombia broke diplomatic relations with the Axis powers. Then, on 21st July 1942, the U-505 German submarine destroyed the 9 m neutral 153-ton Colombian schooner the Urious (and also the 110-ton SS Roamar), then tried to hide their actions, which caused Colombia to declare a "status of belligerency" against Germany.
The German ambassador left the country and measures of control were implemented, including the confinement of German citizens in designated areas. War was finally declared against Germany on 26th November 1943.
Costa Rica had quite a significant number of German citizens running important businesses. Under pressure from the Americans, they were rounded up and placed in internment camps for the duration of the war.
The leftist administration of President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia was hostile to Nazism and declared war on Japan the day after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and on Germany and Italy shortly afterwards. Although it did not play any military part in the war it allowed the United States to establish an airfield on Cocos Island.
Cuba declared war on the Axis powers in December 1941, when it joined the Allies on the 8th December 1941, against Germany and Italy and in addition it declared war on Japan on the 11th.
One event that did not confer any honour on the Cubans and subsequently America/Canada was the MS St. Louis affair. She was a German ocean liner carrying over 900 Jewish refugees from Germany to Cuba. Upon arriving in Havana, the Cuban government refused to allow the refugees to land because they did not have proper recently revised permits and visas. After sailing north, the United States and Canadian governments also refused to accept the refugees and ship was forced to return to Europe where many of passengers were subsequently arrested and executed in concentration camps.
The United States naval station at Guantanamo Bay served as an important base for protecting Allied shipping in the Caribbean, and on 15th May 1943, a Cuban warship sank a German submarine in waters near Havana. Cuba began to plan a conscription programme in order to contribute troops, but this had not happened by the end of the war.
Cyprus was a British Crown colony throughout the war. It was out of range of Germany’s Luftwaffe and the Italian fleet was very unsuccessful in their attempts, being decimated by the Royal Navy.
Overall during the War, 30,000-35,000 Cypriots served with the British. The Island was primarily important as a supply and training base as well as a naval station for the Royal Navy and RAF.
Britain granted independence after the War, but the Island became divided into North (Turkey) and South (Greece).
On 30th September 1938, to their chagrin, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, French Premier Edouard Daladier, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact, concerning Czechoslovakia, which virtually handed part of the country over to Germany in the, so called, name of peace. The British Prime Minister was much criticised concerning this act of apparent weakness, but in Britain’s case, this was a smart move to buy time to significantly re-arm before the horror in Europe to come.
The actual agreement was to cede into Hitler’s hands just the Sudetenland, which was that part of Czechoslovakia where 3 million ethnic Germans lived. By doing so this action also handed over to the Nazi war machine 66 percent of Czechoslovakia’s coal, 70 percent of its iron and steel, and 70 percent of its electrical power.
Having been ordered to offer no resistance to Nazi occupation many of the Czech soldiers escaped to Britain and the British reformed approximately 3,300 remaining Czechs into the 1st Czechoslovak Mixed Brigade Group in July 1940. This brigade consisted of two infantry battalions, one artillery battalion, as well as smaller specialist units (communication, engineers etc.). The British also organised the 200th Czechoslovak Light AA Regiment, with some 1,500 men. The RAF made excellent use of many Czech pilots who fought bravely throughout the war years, using Hurricanes and Spitfires.
A Nazi-dependent puppet regime led by Józef Tiso was ultimately inserted in Slovakia. Part of southern Slovakia was annexed by Hungary. The Slovak National Uprising, commenced on 29th August 1944, under the command of Ján Golianwas and was put down by German forces at the end of October, however, partisans continue fighting in the hills till the end of the war.
In April 1945, the Red Army defeated the Germans and ousted Tiso's government, annexing part of eastern Slovakia to the USSR.
Early in the morning of the 9th April 1940, Nazi-Germany broke the nonaggression pact and invaded the small neighbouring country of Denmark as part of Operation Weserübung. Nazi-Germany invaded Denmark with the intention of getting access to Norway where they planned to place submarine bases.
Denmark's government remained functioning in Copenhagen until 1943 and joined the Anti-Comintern Pact.
In the Summer of 1943, the resistance, by now receiving weapons from England, launched a wave of sabotage against railroads and factories.
After 1943 the occupation of Denmark was administered by the German Foreign Ministry.
On the 5th May 1945, German forces in Denmark surrendered to the British. Denmark celebrates the Resistance as heroes.
Despite being effectively liberated by the British, on the 8th May 1945, the small island of Bornholm was stupidly bombed and invaded by the Soviet Union while the German forces in the rest of Denmark had given up on the 4th May 1945. The Soviet troops could not be forced to leave for about a year.
One of the Caribbean Countries to join the Allies later in the war. Following Pearl Harbour the Dominican Republic declared war on Japan on 8th December 1941 and war on Germany on 11th December 1941. The Dominican Republic was one of the very few countries willing to accept mass Jewish immigration during World War II, it offered to accept up to 100,000 Jewish refugees at the Évian Conference. In the event, only about 1000 Jews settled in the Dominican Republic in 1943, with each family receiving a generous gift of land, cattle and a 1% loan.
The country did not make an actual military contribution to the War, but Dominican sugar and other agricultural products supported the Allied war effort.
Another of the South American nations to join the Allies very late in the war (joined against Germany on 2nd February 1945 and let USA use Baltra Island for a naval base).
From mid-1942 American General George Marshall asked several Latin American governments to round up so-called "alien enemies," particularly targeting Japanese and Axis citizens who might "compromise" American security. They were shipped to an internment camp in Texas and later exchanged for American POWs.
During WW2, the Ecuadorian–Peruvian War broke out in 1941. The much larger and better equipped Peruvian force of 13,000 men quickly overwhelmed the minor 1,800 Ecuadorian forces, driving them back from Zarumillam and invading the Ecuadorian province of El Oro. Later the Rio Protocol was signed on 29th January 1942 and Peruvian troops withdrew from the invaded El Oro province.
Ecuador declared war on Japan also on 2nd February 1945 and had already begun to receive military aid from the United States in 1942. This aid consisted, at first, of light weapons, mortars, light tanks, and armoured scout cars. They did not take part in any action against the Axis powers but continued their territorial dispute with Peru.
The USA was an important customer and Ecuador benefited greatly from higher raw material prices.
Egypt at the time was under the rule of the British Empire, and because of its strategic access to the Suez Canal was seen by both the Axis and the Allies as vitally important. The King of Egypt placed his small Navy at the disposal of the British.
Initially, Egypt was targeted by Italy, but after a heavy defeat by the British forces under the command of General Wavell, the Germans were compelled to enter the fray with a division under the command of the capable General Erwin Rommel.
Rommel's successes in the deserts of Libya and west Egypt and the fact that they reached about 100 miles from Cairo gave the Allied forces cause for concern. However, under the brilliant General Montgomery, they were beaten back and neutralised.
The revolutionary officers that eventually came to power in 1952 (led by Colonel Abdel Nasser) at the time, had plotted to support the Germans in their push for Cairo, in a naïve attempt to see a German victory as an opportunity to liberate Egypt from the British colonial occupation. Of course, all they would have done is to swap a reasonably benign occupation for a vicious Nazi Government.
From 1931 to 1944, El Salvador was ruled by Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, an admirer of Hitler and Mussolini. Nonetheless, the dictator cynically declared war on both Japan (8th December 1941) and Germany (12th December 1941) shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour, purely for economic reasons.
El Salvador's economy depended heavily on the United States and Martinez was willing to sacrifice his beliefs for monetary gain. Martinez removed Germans from the government and interned Japanese, German, and Italian nationals. During the war, overall, more than 25,000 to 30,000 European Jews became citizens of El Salvador, using bogus certificates, thanks to the help of George Mandel-Mantello, a Romanian Jewish refugee who in the early 1940s sought help from a Salvadoran acquaintance in Switzerland.
The Second World War made Salvadoreans very wary of their leader and a general national strike in 1944 forced Martinez to resign and flee to Guatemala, where he was later assassinated.
The El Salvador Consul General in Geneva, Col. Jose Castellanos, appointed Mantello to the made-up position of the first secretary, securing him a diplomat's passport.
The outrageous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union left Estonia under the illegal control of the Soviets. After the war broke out between Germany and Poland, Polish submarine ORP Orzeł (Eagle) escaped to Tallinn which led to what became known as the Orzeł incident. The Soviet Union, who at the time was illegally sharing Poland, with the Nazis, accused Estonia of harbouring the submarine and not disarming it. The Soviet Union threatened Estonia with war if they did not agree with the mutual assistance pact, which required allowing the Soviet Union to build military bases into Estonia. Estonia convinced that winning a war against the Soviet Union was impossible agreed on the 28th September 1939.
Consequently, the Soviets conducted a coup with the support of the Red Army in June 1940, and a, so-called, election was held with overwhelming Soviet political influence and interference. The new government took command and the Estonian Socialist Republic (ESR) was proclaimed on the 2nd July 1940. The ESR was formally "accepted" into the Soviet Union on 6th August and the official name of the country became the "Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic".
Estonia was occupied under German Operation Barbarossa in 1941 after war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union. Many Estonians took the opportunity of Anti-Soviet resistance by fighting on the side of Nazi Germany and unforgivably also participated in the Holocaust.
Having fought back the Nazis, Estonia was re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944 and the Estonian Socialist Republic again became part of the USSR until the eventual break-up in 1991.
Ethiopia had been invaded by Italy on 5th May 1936 after the Abyssinia crisis in an attempt to show off its military capability.
The Emperor fled to the United Kingdom and attempted to gain support to eject the Italians. The Allied liberation campaign of Ethiopia began in the winter of 1940.
The Italians repeatedly dropped poison gas on the Ethiopians who, at this stage, had no anti-aircraft defence or gas masks. The nation was liberated during 1941 by British forces, led by Colonel Orde Wingate after who’s success, on the 5th May 1941, Emperor Haile Selassie was returned to the throne after his enforced exile.
Fiji was a British colony during World War II. The small Fiji Defence Force regiment was attached to New Zealand and Australian army units during WW2 and saw action in the Solomon Islands against Japanese troops.
Under threat from the Japanese forces, the islands themselves were equipped with barracks, training fields, and an airfield for the Allies and was later used as a forward base for United States forces.
With British mediation, the various Fijian tribes and non-Fijian ethnic groups (including Indians) successfully established a constitution, and later, in 1970, the Republic of Fiji was declared.
Finland suffered various fortunes throughout the Second World war and illegally was given to the Soviet forces as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and when it refused to allow Russia to build bases on its territory, was attacked by Soviet forces in the Winter War or Talvisota, (30th November 1939 – 13th March 1940). After this initial war, Finland sought security and support from Sweden and Britain but was thwarted by Soviet threats and German actions.
In desperation, Finland pursued better relations and protection with Nazi Germany to counter the continued Soviet pressure. This produced a strange cooperation between the countries, which led to a Soviet pre-emptive air attack on Finland after the start of Operation Barbarossa, which resulted in the Continuation War (25th June 1941 – 4th September 1944), where Finland was a co-belligerent of the Nazi Germany.
Reluctantly, Britain declared war on Finland on 6th December 1941, but the United States never did, in the event, neither countries became militarily involved. To secure the military support needed to stop the Soviet offensive coordinating with D-day, the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement was signed on 26th June 1944, in which Finland and Nazi Germany became active allies.
An armistice was signed after the Soviet offensive was stopped and the Wehrmacht was retreating from the Baltic States. The treaty required Finland to expel all German troops, which led to the Lapland War (15th September 1944 – 25th April 1945).
Peace with the Soviet Union and Britain was concluded in the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947.
France was one of the original guarantors of Polish security, and as such joined with Britain at the start of the war as one of the leaders of the Allies. In 1940, France quickly capitulated to Nazi Germany, leading to the foundation of Vichy France where the country was divided into two parts, one controlled by the Germans and other by Nazi sympathetic Vichy French.
Britain was placed in a severe position as their expeditionary force, the BEF, was left stranded in France facing a huge Nazi invasion force alone, with little in the way of heavy artillery, armour or aircraft, most of which were either still in Britain or scattered throughout France. The situation was only saved by the miracle of Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk where 338,226 soldiers were rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 British boats but unfortunately, 68,000 men were lost, either killed, injured or captured.
Now the subsequent situation presented a serious problem to the British as the untouched powerful French fleet was scattered in various places, including Vichy French ports. A large number of French Naval vessels were in British ports and willingly joined Britain as Free French. However, although Hitler had given assurances the French vessels would stay neutral, his promises were known to be little more than a pack of lies. The British invited the French to join them and help overthrow the Nazis and liberate France.
However, Admiral Marcel Gensoul arrogantly refused the various options. The Admiralty had drafted four options for the French admiral: (1) to put to sea and join forces with the Royal Navy; (2) to sail with reduced crews to British ports, where the vessels would be impounded and their complements repatriated; (3) to sail with reduced crews to the base at Dakar, where the ships would be immobilized; or (4) to scuttle his ships within six hours. The Admiralty had instructed British Admiral Somerville that should Gensoul refuse all of the offers, the French ships were to be put out of action in their present berths, using “all means at your disposal.” The results of the French Admirals refusal are well documented. Sadly, although part of the fleet joined the Allies and fought gallantly, a large part was reluctantly destroyed by British warships and many hundreds of French sailors died needlessly just to satisfy the stubbornness of a French Admiral.
The Free French Forces of the French National Committee became a London-based exile group and were formed to maintain the Free French commitment to the Allies and to eventually benefit from the liberation of their country previously occupied by Germany. They played a significant and honourable role in the battles of the Western Front. France was led in exile by the arrogant and selfish Charles de Gaulle and liberated by the combined forces of the Allies in 1944 and the French Fourth Republic became a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations and founding member of NATO after the war.
French Guiana was controlled by Vichy France until 22nd March 1943 despite widespread support for Charles de Gaulle.
French Guiana was used as a penal colony and place of exile during the French Revolution, and under Napoleon III permanent penal camps were built with Devils Island, (one of the Île’s du Salut), off the coast, becoming notorious. The penal colonies were evacuated after World War II and formally closed in 1951.
By the late 1920/1930s, Germany was bankrupt and a shambles. There was widespread poverty and industrial capacity was very limited. Militarily it was weak and national morale was sadly lacking. Much of this situation was brought about by their defeat in the Great War but much of their financial position was due to the absolutely outrageous reparations demanded by France.
In order to regain their standing in the world desperate action was needed and the primary Axis Power in the European Theatre and driving force became the Nazi Party. They were led by the megalomaniac Austrian Adolph Hitler. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was the dictatorial leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazi Party, who took control of the nation’s Government and commanded all German forces leading up to and throughout World War II. A mentally deranged fanatic nationalist, militarist, racist, and anti-Semite, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and using terror and murder, quickly transformed Germany into a totalitarian fascist state.
His efforts to build a territorially larger and pure Aryan only Fatherland for the German people culminated in a world war and Holocaust where millions were executed. Hitler retained absolute power in Germany until his suicide just before Germany's surrender in 1945.
In September 1938, the leaders of France and Great Britain met Adolf Hitler to discuss his outrageous demands, ultimately granting him control over the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. In return, Hitler promised to leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone and to abandon all further ambitions of territorial expansion.
When Hitler, unsurprisingly broke his pledge, and took the rest of Czechoslovakia and then invaded Poland in 1939, France and Great Britain declared war. Hitler's forces further invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg, and defeated France within the first year of the war. Ultimately, however, after a long and bloody war and with the addition of Russia and America, Nazi Germany fell to Allied forces, surrendering on 2nd May 1945, one day after Adolf Hitler's suicide announcement. The death of Hitler on 30th April and the total surrender of the German forces on the 4th/8th May 1945 resulted in the end of the war in Europe, but within a short period the Cold War, with Russia would begin.
The first turning point for the Allies was Greece resisting the initial invasion attempts of 70,000 Italian troops on 28th October 1940 and pushing Mussolini's forces back into Albania. To avoid a complete Axis disaster Hitler was reluctantly forced to send backup German forces and consequently postpone the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) by six weeks.
Despite being an overwhelming force, the Germans on 6th April 1941 also met fierce resistance on the island of Crete as 22,000 paratroopers were met by Cretans, British, New Zealand and Australians operating covertly from the mountains and the Nazis suffered almost 7,000 casualties. These heavy losses eliminated the option of a massive airborne invasion of the Soviet Union and pushed the time into the grip of the Russian winter. It also forestalled further expansion in the Mediterranean saving Malta, Gibraltar, Cyprus, and the Suez Canal from attempted airborne invasion.
Jorge Ubico took over as president in 1931 and was a dictator and fascist sympathizer who began by confiscating much of the private, agricultural land in Guatemala once he took power. Many of the elite landowners in Guatemala at the time happened to be of German descent, and the confiscation of their land met with America’s approval.
Guatemala initially stayed out of World War II, with President Jorge Ubico declaring the country's neutrality on the 4th September 1941. This pronouncement was reinforced on the 9th September 1941 with a strong prohibition on Nazi propaganda in Guatemala, which affected the largest German immigrant population in South America. Later, Guatemala joined the Allied camp and on 9th December 1941, it declared war on Japan, and three days later, it declared war on Germany and Italy.
Haiti remained neutral in World War II until the bombing of Pearl Harbour, declaring war on Japan the day after the attack, and on Germany and Italy shortly afterwards. Haiti gave food supplies to Allied forces, but however, played no role in the war except for supplying the United States with raw materials and serving as a base for a United States Coast Guard and sending 6 Tuskegee airmen in February 1943.
They allowed about three hundred Austrian, Polish, Romanian and Czech Jews to seek sanctuary from the Nazis. The President of Haiti, Élie Lescot, introduced a number of unpopular emergency measures during the war, which critics claimed was designed to increase his power. Lescot was deposed the year after the war ended.
The Republic of Honduras
Honduras was initially neutral in the war but signed the Declaration by United Nations on the 1st January 1942 having joined the Allied Nations on 8th December 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbour. It also declared war on Japan on the same day and on Germany and Italy on 13th December 1941.
Not long after the United States entered World War II, they signed a lend-lease agreement with Honduras who contributed food and raw materials to the Allied war effort but did not send troops. However, the United States operated a small naval base at Trujillo on the Caribbean Sea.
Hong Kong was under the jurisdiction of the British but came under the control of the Japanese after the gruelling Battle of Hong Kong drew to a close on Christmas Day of 1941 when the Japanese troops landed in Hong Kong and a vicious slaughter ensued.
The first wave of Japanese troops landed in Hong Kong with artillery fire for cover with murderous orders from their commander: “Take no prisoners.” Upon overrunning a volunteer anti-aircraft battery, the Japanese invaders roped together the captured soldiers and proceeded to bayonet them all to death. Even those who offered no resistance, such as the Royal Medical Corps, were led up a hill and killed. The city was finally liberated by the Royal Navy on 30th August 1945.
From the early days Hungary profited from the break-up of Czechoslovakia and obtained a part of Rumania, and she participated in the invasion and subsequent partition of Yugoslavia (1941). On 20th November 1940, Hungary joined the Tripartite Pact and the following June Hungarian forces joined with the Germans in invading Russia and were forced to begin enacting some anti- Jewish laws.
The right-wing radical Laszlo Bardossy was elected to succeed Teleki. Bardossy was convinced that, under the circumstances, Germany would win the war and sought to maintain Hungary's independence by appeasing Hitler. Hitler, as normal, tricked Horthy into committing Hungarian troops to join his invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and in December 1941 Hungary formally entered the war against Britain and the United States.
In January 1943, the Battle of Voronezh against the USSR resulted in the decimation of the Hungarian second army.
Hitler gave them an ultimatum either cooperate fully with the German regime or suffer German occupation. Miklas Horthy chose to collaborate, which meant the suppression of all left-wing political parties and to increase the persecution of Hungary’s Jews, including massive deportations to Auschwitz, something Miklos Kallay, to his credit, had fought to prevent. (More than 550,000 Hungarian Jews—out of a total of 750,000—would die, by gassing, during the war.) On the 19th March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary. Following the invasion, the deportation of the Jews to the death camps in Poland began in earnest.
Soviet troops finally liberated the bulk of Hungary from German rule by 4th April 1945.
On 10th May 1940, Iceland was annexed by the British under Operation Fork to deny `it and its ports to Nazi Germany. It acted as a neutral country although providing seaports for Atlantic convoys and aircraft refuelling. In 1944 control was returned to the Icelandic Government and country declared independent of Denmark.
A country with an enormous population, of which over two and a half million Indian citizens fought during the war.
On 12th September 1939, the Upper House of the Central Legislature of India sent a message of admiration and support to Poland. On the same day, the Aga Khan placed his services at the disposal of the Government of India.
The Fifth Indian Division fought in the Sudan against the Italians before being moved to defend Libya against German aggression. The Division was then moved to Iraq to protect the important oilfields. After this, the division, together with the British Chindits, was moved to the Burma front, together with eight other Indian Divisions, and then to initially carry out covert operations in occupied Malaya. These operations had the desired effect of dissuading the Japanese from attempting to invade India. It was finally moved to Java to disarm the occupying Japanese garrison.
The Fourth Indian Division fought in North Africa, Syria, Palestine and Cyprus before being sent into Italy. Together with the 8th and 10th Divisions, it participated in the taking of Monte Casino, after which it was moved to Greece.
Over 36,000 Indian members of the armed forces were killed or went missing in action, and 64,354 were wounded during the war. The brave Indian personnel received 4,000 awards for gallantry, and 31 Victoria Crosses.
India also provided the Allies with assault and training bases and provided huge quantities of food and other materials to British and Commonwealth forces, and to people on the British home front.
However, in an attempt to force independence from Great Britain a few thousand dissident Indians fought on the side of the Japanese in the Indian National Army and a smaller number went to join the Nazis in Europe. This was an ill-fated attempt to force independence, which was granted, by Britain, diplomatically, despite the illogical rantings of Gandhi in 1947.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Until 1938 the British government used the islands as a penal colony for Indian and African political prisoners, held in the notorious Cellular Jail in Port Blair.
On 23rd March 1942, Japanese forces invaded the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In December 1943 the Japanese-sponsored Free India Movement (Provisional Government of Free India) was formed. The Andaman Islands were renamed Shaheed Islands, and the Nicobars were renamed Sawaraj Islands.
Within the islands a Japanese garrison of approximately 600 men, together with the police force, now under Japanese control, was responsible for maintaining order.
The islands were not re-occupied by the British until 6th October 1945.
Due to severe starvation, a group of 250-700 islanders had been sent, by the Japanese, to one of the islands to grow food. A rescue mission sent to the island after the end of the occupation found just twelve survivors and the skeletal remains of over a hundred on the beach. In all, approximately 2,000 people in the Andaman’s are thought to have either died or been executed as a result of the occupation, and at least 500 were severely tortured by the Japanese.
In the early days of the war, the Allies demanded that Iran remove influential German nationals from Iran fearing they might be Nazi spies or intentionally harm the supply of British owned oil but, Reza Shah refused stating that they had nothing to do with the Nazis.
The Iranians disliked the British for their significant research and control of their oil and their sphere of influence on the country, coupled with the fact that the Iranians, were receiving modern military equipment from Germany.
German demand for oil rose on the world market and the Allies were concerned that Germany would look to neutral Iran for supply. Iran’s attitude raised questions about their neutrality and the allies gave Reza Shah a final warning to remove the German workers. He refused once again and in August 1941, the British, Indian and Soviet troops invaded Iran (Operation Countenance) and in September 1941, forced Reza Shah Pahlavi to abdicate his throne. He was replaced by his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was willing to fight the Axis Powers and support the Allies. Within months Iran entered the war on the side of the Allies and became known as "The Bridge of Victory".
Iran's geographical position was also of great importance by providing a sea supply route to the Soviet Union via the port of Bandar Abbas and a specially constructed railway route from Bandar Shapur in the south of the country which then ran north to the Soviet border at Bandar Shah. The supply routes were known collectively as the Persian Corridor. Soviet political operatives known "agitprops" infiltrated Iran and helped establish the Comintern affiliate Tudeh Party in early in 1942.
By January of 1942, Britain and the Soviet Union agreed in advance to end their occupation six months after the end of the war, but Stalin was as trustworthy as the Nazis.
The Soviet Union provoked revolts among Azeris and Kurds in Iran and soon formed the People's Republic of Azerbaijan (December 1945) and the Kurdish People's Republic not long after, both being run by Soviet-controlled leaders.
Contrary to the agreement, Soviet troops remained in Iran following the January 1946 expiration of the wartime treaty providing for the presence of Soviet, American, and British troops in Iran during the war.
Iran however, like most countries, claimed they did not know of the Nazi war crimes and extermination of the Jews until after the war.
Iraq was important to Britain by virtue of its position on a route to India and also the strategic oil supplies that it provided. After the removal of the Ottoman Turks at the end of the First World War, these assets were protected by a significant Royal Air Force base at Habbaniya and the maintenance of governments sympathetic to the allies.
Due to the United Kingdom's isolation, early in the war, Iraq backed away from its Anglo-Iraqi Alliance with the country. When the British High Command requested to send reinforcements to Iraq, the country's Prime Minister, Nuri-es Said, allowed a small British force to land. It was insufficient and consequently, he was forced to resign following a pro-German coup under Rashid Ali in April 1941. Further British requests to reinforce Iraq were denied by the new leadership.
The new regime secretly began negotiations with the Axis Powers. The Germans quickly responded and sent military aid using the Luftwaffe to Baghdad via Syria.
Allied Indian troops consequently invaded in force in mid-April 1941 and reached Baghdad and RAF Habbaniyah in May. The pro-axis Iraqi army attacked Habbaniyah but quickly capitulated and Rashid Ali fled the country. Britain forced Iraq to declare war on the Axis in 1942 and British forces remained to protect the vital oil supplies for the duration of the war.
British and Indian operations in Iraq should be viewed in conjunction with events in neighbouring Syria and Persia (Iran).
The island of Ireland was divided politically between Éire (as the Irish Republic was officially called at the time) and Northern Ireland.
When war broke out, Éire was neutral but still remained a member of the British Commonwealth, the only such member to do so. Although this caused some bitterness in Britain towards Éire (mainly caused by the barbarous and dishonourable atrocities of the IRA), Éire could be described as a friendly or sympathetic neutral. Irish citizens were encouraged to fill manpower shortages in Britain and join the British armed forces, which many true patriots did. Éire exported essential food to Britain and allowed a limited amount of over-flying by British warplanes (the Catalina lying-boat that located the Bismarck was based inland at Lough Erne in County Fermanagh and would have used Irish airspace en route to the Atlantic) and "hot-pursuit" into its territorial waters of German U-boats by Royal Naval warships.
If Éire had declared war on Germany, Britain would have gained much-needed access to sea and air bases that would undoubtedly help to protect its shipping. On the other hand, due to home pressure, it is doubtful whether either Britain or Éire would have had the necessary resources to protect both Irish and British cities from air attack in the early years of the war until our air strength improved.
Antipathy towards Britain from some Irish people would also have had an effect upon Éire's commitment to the war. Even as a neutral, Éire suffered various severe shortages and travel restrictions. Certain strategic materials, such as coal, were limited and a state of emergency was declared. (Coal mining in Eire was never a large industry and those few that existed were managed by Mianrai Teo.)
Dublin was bombed by the Luftwaffe in January to May 1941, mostly by accident the Nazis claimed but some suggest it was a warning to persuade Éire to remain neutral.
When Belfast, in Northern Ireland, was heavily bombed (Belfast blitz), 13 fire appliances from Éire assisted in the rescue work. There were strong claims that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) aided and assisted the Luftwaffe with information and directional flares, although the Nazis, not unexpectedly, didn’t support this claim.
Germany drafted plans for a diversionary invasion of Ireland (Operation Green) and investigated cooperation with the IRA (Operation Artur). There have been claims of joint military planning between the UK and Éire for the event of a German invasion of Ireland. Belligerent personnel, both Allied and Axis, were interned by the government of Éire.
In 1945, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Éire, Eamon de Valera, paid a visit to the German Minister in Dublin to express sympathy over the death of the Führer, Adolph Hitler, an action which drew widespread condemnation and revulsion from both Britain and the mainstay of Éire.
As a part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland participated fully as a loyal co-defender of Great Britain. The particular contributions were manpower, food, heavy industry and geographical position. Despite urgings from the Stormont government, conscription was never implemented but the Northern Irish men fought fiercely against the Nazis. Belfast provided both superbly built civil and naval ship production and repairs and important ports for anti-submarine patrols in the Atlantic and Arctic sea.
They suffered severely in the Belfast Blitz on the 7/8th April 1941, not helped by the traitorous total murder of over 1230 innocent Irishmen, women and children by the IRA in directing and marking for the Nazi bombers. However, some of the blame should lay with the lack of anti-aircraft defences for the city, the position of each was made known to the attacking aircraft.
Despite being a willing ally of Britain during the Great War, Italy, since 1933, now had a fascist leader and Government. They had completed two conquests (Ethiopia and Albania) prior to its entry into World War II. Although signing the Pact of Steel with Nazi Germany, Italy did not join in the war until June 1940, cynically planning to get a share of Allied territory following the defeat of France. Italy's war effort went poorly, resulting in defeats in Greece, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea area. Italy mainland was invaded by the Allies in 1943 and Mussolini's government collapsed. Italy was split between an Allied-occupied south and the remnants of the Fascist government in the north, the Italian Social Republic (allied with Germany, also known as the Salò Republic).
On 13th Oct 1943, the government of Italy declared war on its former Axis partner Germany and joined the battle on the side of the Allies.
The death of Benito Mussolini, the deposed Italian fascist dictator, occurred on 28th April 1945, in the final days of World War II, when he was summarily executed by Italian partisans in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra in northern Italy. The bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were taken to Milan and left in a suburban square, the Piazzale Loreto, for a large angry crowd to insult and physically abuse. They were then hung upside down from a metal girder above a service station on the square, for the public to view.
Italy would become a member of NATO after the war, but lost the Istria peninsula to Yugoslavia.
Japan became a major part of the Axis Powers with its thirst for stripping countries of their raw materials. Some people consider that World War II actually began with the invasion of Manchuria, China which began on 18th September 1931. The second Sino-Japanese war commenced on 7th July 1937 with the full-scale invasion of China.
The macabre and inhumane actions of Japan have been well documented although little in the way of punishment for their brutal actions or lack of reparations has been forthcoming, unlike Nazi Germany.
The war ended with the capitulation of Japan following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To the disgust of many of the allied countries, with predominantly American financial assistance, Japan has white-washed the immense catalogue of atrocities, re-built industry and is now among the leading countries for production in the current world.
The involvement of the British Colony of Kenya in the Second World War began with the declaration of war on Nazi Germany by the British Empire in September 1939. Though some fighting with Italian troops occurred in Kenya itself from June 1940 to February 1941, it remained an important economic asset for the Allies and also contributed tens of thousands of soldiers to fight in the British Army.
Kenyan soldiers served in the successful East African Campaign against the Italians, as well as the invasion of Vichy-held Madagascar and the Burma Campaign against the Japanese, alongside other troops from West Africa. Kenyans also served in the Royal Navy and some individuals also flew in the Royal Air Force.
Korea was under Japanese rule as part of Japan's 50-year imperialist expansion (22nd August 1910 ~ 15th August 1945). Formally, Japanese rule ended on 2nd September 1945 following the Japanese defeat in World War II in 1945.
During World War II more than 100,000 Koreans were mandatorily drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army.
Korean Liberation Army(KLA) on 17th September 1940 declared war against the Empire of Japan on 10th December 1941. Although promised arms, aircraft and equipment by America they did not rid themselves of the Japanese until their final surrender.
Laos was part of French Indo-China but all of that changed with the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of France by Germany and the subsequent attack on French Indochina by the Kingdom of Thailand. The Royal Thai Army overran most of Laos in quick order and though the subsequent treaty, brokered by Japan, saw Vichy French authority imposed.
After the fall of Nazi Germany, Vichy France collapsed as well and Free France took back their Far East possessions.
The French and the British, with a policy of maintaining their Far East empires, backed the pro-French forces of Crown Prince Savang Vatthana while the United States, who were frightened of the power of colonial empires, supported the Vietminh who opposed the French as well as the Japanese. The results of this would take a while to show but the ill-considered American policy would ultimately prove detrimental to the whole area and most costly of all to the United States itself in the long term.
The occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany was completed on 10th July 1941 by Germany's armed forces. Latvia became a part of Nazi Germany's Reichskommissariat Ostland — the Province General of Latvia.
Immediately after the establishment of German authority, the elimination of the Jewish and Roma population began, with major mass killings taking place at Rumbula and elsewhere. The Kaiserwald concentration camp was built in 1943 at Mežaparks on the edge of Riga which took most of the inmates from the Jewish ghetto. In the camp, the inmates were used as slave labour, on very reduced rations, by major German companies. During the years of Nazi occupation, special extermination campaigns killed 90,000 people in Latvia, approximately 70,000 of whom were Jews and 2,000 Gypsies. Before the Soviet forces returned, all Jews under 18 or over 30 were shot, with the remainder moved to the Stutthof concentration camp.
The Nazis held out until 8th May 1945, when Colonel-General Carl Hilpert, the army group's last commander, surrendered to Russian Marshal Leonid Govorov.
Following the capitulation of France, the Vichy government assumed power in 1940. General Henri-Fernand Dentz was appointed the high commissioner of the puppet government of Lebanon. This appointment led to the resignation of Emile Iddi on 4th April 1941. Five days later, Dentz appointed Alfred Naqqash as head of state. The Vichy government's control ended a few months later when its forces were defeated by the advance of British, Australian and Free French troops into Lebanon and Syria. An armistice was signed in Acre on 14th July 1941.
De Gaulle declared Lebanon independent on 22nd November 1943. Lebanon actually contributed little to the allies as they were a poor country. However, men from the Troupes Spéciales du Levant, fought with the British and a few thousand troops fought with the Free French.
Lebanon became a member of the League of Arab States (Arab League) on 22nd March 1945.
Despite its assistance to the Allies, Liberia was reluctant to end its official neutrality and declare war on Germany. This did not occur until 27th January 1944.
Liberia granted Allied forces access to its territory early in the war. It was used as a transit point for troops and resources bound for North Africa, particularly war supplies flown from Parnamirim (near Natal) in Brazil.
Perhaps more importantly, it served as one of the Allies' few sources of rubber during the war, as many of the plantations of Southeast Asia had been taken over by the Japanese. The importance of this resource led to significant improvement of Liberia's transport infrastructure, including roads, ports and a modernisation of its economy.
Shortly following the end of the Great War, Liechtenstein negotiated a customs and monetary agreement with their neighbours in Switzerland. In 1919 the close ties between the two nations were strengthened when Liechtenstein entrusted Switzerland with its external relations. At the outbreak of the Second World war, Prince Franz Josef II, who had ascended the throne only a few months before, promised to keep the principality out of the war and relied upon its close ties to Switzerland for its protection.
Attempts to sway the government did occur. After an attempted coup in March 1939, the National Socialist "German National Movement in Liechtenstein" was active but barely significant. The organization, as well as any Nazi sympathies, virtually disappeared following the eruption of war in Europe.
Liechtenstein did cynically accept several hundred Jewish refugees but it was interesting to note these were the wealthiest ones or those who could pay the highest fees.
There were many theories existing concerning the Papacy, Pope Pius XII, and Nazi Germany. One such theory suggests that in the case of a planned German invasion of the Vatican the Nazis would establish a “puppet-papacy” in neutral Liechtenstein.
Lithuania had at first been hostile toward Nazi Germany over Memmelland, in March 1939, which was seized by Hitler before the primary war broke out and integrated into East Prussia. Later Lithuania was annexed into the Soviet Union along with Latvia and Estonia without any military resistance.
This forced the Lithuanians to side with the Germans when Hitler eventually invaded the Soviet Union. The Nazis initially took over and, immediately out of approximately 210,000 Lithuanian Jews, an estimated 195,000 were murdered by extermination forces before the end of World War II, the vast majority between June and December 1941. This resulted in more than 95% of Lithuania's Jewish population being massacred over the three-years of German occupation
Despite this inhumane act Lithuania largely contributed to the Nazi cause, by shamefully participating in the Holocaust itself and supplying troops but after finally seeing that the Nazi's would treat them as "Untermenschen" or "lower people" they switched sides again as Russia started to push back the Germans at the Battle of Memel on 28th January 1945.
When Germany invaded France by way of the Low Countries, Luxembourg, despite its neutrality, fought for a day but was quickly invaded on 10th May 1940, occupied, and annexed in 1942 by Germany.
The Jewish community, in particular, suffered under the Nazi regime. Out of the 3,700 Jews residing in the Grand Duchy before the war, 1,200 perished during the Holocaust. The Government and Grand Duchy fled to London and Canada together with the remaining troops who stayed in London and fought with the allies, until the country was liberated by American troops on 10th September 1944.
Malaya was a major prize for any aggressor as they supplied over a third of the world's rubber and over a half of tin.
They were gradually occupied by the Japanese between 8th December 1941 and the Allied surrender at Singapore on 16th February 1942. Japanese spies, which included a traitorous pair British intelligence officer, Captain Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan and Lord Sempill also provided intelligence and assistance. Heenan's intelligence enabled the Japanese to destroy much of the Allied air forces on the ground.
The Malayan Communist Party (MCP), became the backbone of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), which was the most effective resistance force in the occupied Asian countries. The first Japanese garrison in Malaya to lay down their arms was in Penang on 2nd September 1945 aboard battleship HMS Nelson.
The Legislative Council of Malta reaffirmed the people's loyalty to Britain on the 5th September 1939.
Malta played a vital part in the Mediterranean campaign during the War. Malta’s strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea was key to the island’s importance. Royal Navy ships and RAF aircraft used the island as a base to attack Axis convoys trying to supply their forces in North Africa. The Navy’s ‘Force K’ was based at Malta, comprising 2 destroyers and 2 light cruisers, under the command of Capt. William G. Agnew, who used their anti-aircraft armament to great effect when in port.
Malta was also well defended by anti-aircraft guns and to avoid these Italian bombers flew high, resulting in the fact that their bombing raids were rarely accurate. Malta was also protected by the Royal Navy based in the Grand Harbour and initially by just 3 elderly Gloucester Gladiator bi-planes (Faith, Hope and Charity) and later by Hurricane fighters, flown in from aircraft carriers. Such a combined force was sufficient to ensure that the Italians paid a healthy respect to Malta.
To protect themselves from the incessant raids, the people of Malta built whatever shelters they could. Natural shelters were used such as caves and consequently, the sandstone cliffs were extensively excavated.
Between June 1940 and December 1942 Malta was one of the most bombed places on earth. It became the besieged and battered arena for one of the most decisive struggles of World War II, with some historians calling this battle The Mediterranean Stalingrad. The George Cross was awarded to the island of Malta in a letter dated 15th April 1942 from King George VI to the island's Governor William Dobbie: "To honour her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history".
The fortitude of the population under sustained enemy air raids and a naval blockade which almost saw them starved into submission won widespread admiration in Britain and other allied nations. The George Cross is woven into the Flag of Malta and can be seen wherever the flag is flown, for example at the United Nations and more recently at the European Parliament.
Chinese Manzhouguo was a puppet state created in 1932 by Japan out of the three historic provinces of Manchuria (north-eastern China). After the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), Japan gained control of the Russian-built South Manchurian Railway, and its army established a presence in the region; expansion there was seen as necessary for Japan’s status as an emerging world power.
In 1931 the Japanese army created an excuse to attack Chinese troops there, and in 1932 Manchukuo was proclaimed an “independent” state. The last Qing emperor was brought out of retirement and made Manchukuo’s ruler, but the state was actually rigidly controlled by the Japanese, who used it as their base for expansion into Asia. However, an underground guerrilla movement composed of Manchurian soldiers, armed civilians, and Chinese communists opposed the occupying Japanese, many of whom had come over to settle in the new colony. After Japan’s defeat in 1945, the settlers were repatriated back to their own country.
The state contributed little to the war but remained a loyal ally to Japan until 1945. On 9th August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and Manchukuo was subsequently invaded and abolished. Roughly half the state was returned to China whilst the Korean peninsula was partitioned to form North Korea and South Korea.
Mexico declared war on Germany on 1st June 1942, due to political pressure from the US government following the events at Pearl Harbour and the sinking of two Mexican oil ships the SS Potrero del Llano which was sailing from Tampico to New York with 6,132 tons of petroleum when she was sunk by U-564 on the 14 of May 1942.
SS Faja de Oro was sailing in ballast from Pennsylvania back to Tampico when she was sighted and sunk by U-106 on the 21st May.1942 in the Gulf of Mexico
Towards the end of the war, the Mexican Air Force's Escuadron Aereo de Pelea 201 (201st Fighter Squadron) served with the US Fifth Air Force in the South West Pacific Area. It is unfortunate that Mexico’s significant contributions are often ignored and the bravery of upwards of 400,000 men overlooked. There are numerous stories of heroism and interviews of combat survivors to be found on the web.
While Prince Louis II's sympathies were strongly pro-French, he tried to keep Monaco neutral during World War II, and in doing so supported the Vichy France government of his old army colleague, Philippe Pétain. Nonetheless, his tiny principality was tormented by domestic conflict partly as a result of Louis' indecisiveness and also because the majority of the population was of Italian descent and consequently they supported the fascist regime of Italy's Benito Mussolini.
Following the fall of France, the Germans left Monaco neutral rather than jeopardise the German banking setup. However, in November 1942, the Italian army invaded and occupied Monaco, setting up a fascist government administration. Shortly thereafter, following Mussolini's collapse in Italy, the German army occupied on the 8th October 1943 and began the deportation of the Jewish population. Among them was René Blum, founder of the Opera, who died in a Nazi concentration camp. Under Prince Louis' secret orders, the Monaco police, often at great risk to themselves, warned people in advance that the Gestapo was about to arrest them.
During the war, Mongolia was ruled by the communist government of Horloogiyn Choybalsan and was closely linked to the Soviet Union. The Mongolian Army frequently fought alongside the Red Army, and Mongolia provided supplies and raw materials to the Soviet military. Fighting broke out between Mongolia and Japan when Mongolia was directly involved in the battles of Khalkhin Gol that lasted from May to September 1939
A joint Soviet-Mongolian counter-offensive, led by Soviet general Georgy Zhukov, heavily defeated the Japanese, and a pact was signed in which Japan recognised Mongolia's "territorial integrity". Japan did not attempt to invade Mongolia again but kept a considerable number of troops stationed along the Mongolian border. As the Soviet Union withdrew troops from the east to focus on the German Operation Barbarossa, Mongolian forces became more strategically important. Towards the end of the war, on 10th August 1945, over twenty-four hours after the first Mongolian troops in the company of their Soviet allies had crossed the border into Japanese-occupied China, the Little Khural, the Mongolian parliament, issued a formal declaration of war against Japan.
Morocco was considered a protectorate of France during World War II. When France was defeated, Morocco came under the control of the Vichy regime, and therefore was nominally on the side of the Axis powers, although an active resistance movement was in operation. In July 1940, British torpedo boats attacked the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart at Casablanca. In Sep 1940, Vichy French bombers based in Morocco and neighbouring Algeria attacked British targets in Gibraltar in retaliation for a British naval action against the Vichy French at Dakar, French West Africa.
In November 1942, it was invaded by the Americans when US forces attacked Casablanca and the surroundings as a part of Operation Torch The naval battle was significant in which about 180 Americans and 500 Vichy French were killed, but the fighting on land was limited. From that point, Moroccan volunteers (the Goumiere) fought on the side of the Allies.
Nepal declared war on Germany on 4th September 1939 and provided the much-feared and very capable Gurkha soldiers to Britain, who used them to great effect. Once Japan entered the conflict, in December 1941, sixteen battalions of the Royal Nepalese Army fought on the Burmese front. Nepalese troops fought with distinction in the British 14th Army under Lieutenant General William Slim and formed part of the Chindits of Orde Wingate, helping force the eventual Japanese retreat, from their original planned attack on India.
Finally, following the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. Most Nepalese troops were withdrawn to Kathmandu in October 1945 and a significant number of Gurkha’s were welcomed and moved permanently to Britain as part of the British Army.
Like the Belgians, the Dutch declared neutrality in 1939. On 10th May 1940, after the capitulation of Norway, the Netherlands was invaded after fierce resistance against the Nazis, when Rotterdam and Middelburg were heavily bombed.
Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government relocated to London, to establish a government-in-exile (along with, eventually, 2,000 Dutch), while Princess Juliana went to Ottawa, Canada. In the air, experienced Dutch pilots formed the No. 320, No. 321, and No. 322 Squadrons flying RAF aircraft. The Dutch joined the Allies and contributed their surviving naval and armed forces to the defence of East Asia, in particular, the Netherlands East Indies.
From a total of 140,000 Dutch Jews, only 30,000 would survive the German occupation, murder and the war. Until their liberation in 1945, the Dutch fought alongside the Allies around the globe, including the various battles in the Pacific.
In the final year of the war, in Europe, only part of Holland was initially liberated due to the failure of Operation Market Garden. This resulted in the Germans banning the movement of goods and food due, in part, to a Dutch rail strike and the freezing of the canals due to the severe winter. The starving Dutch were greatly helped by unarmed British and American bombers dropping thousands of tonnes of food and hundreds of Canadian and British trucks making supervised deliveries through the lines. Many Dutch people died from starvation, but more survived due to this act of unselfishness.
Netherlands East Indies
The rich oil resources of the Dutch East Indies were arguably a prime objective of the Japanese military in its attack on the Allies from the 7th December 1941. The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army were part of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ADBACOM), until the Allied forces in the Netherlands East Indies were defeated by Japan, in March 1942. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, senior Dutch government officials went into exile taking political prisoners, family, and personal staff to Australia from where they continued to fight the Japanese.
During the intervening years, the Indonesians were tricked, by the Japanese, to believe that their assistance would result in freedom after the war but they soon realised that their treatment, under the Japanese, was infinitely worse and they were treated as little more than expendable slaves.
The Dutch East Indies was occupied by the Japanese for the remainder of the war and liberation resulted in the Indonesian uprising for independence against the Dutch.
During World War II, Newfoundland was a separate Dominion of the UK and not a part of Canada. It joined the war on 4th September 1939, declaring war on Germany. Newfoundland formed a small militia force shortly thereafter. This unit would become the Newfoundland Regiment in 1943, growing to 1,668-strong by the war's end.
As the USA, did not enter the war until they were bombed at Pearl Harbour, many Americans enlisted in the forces of Britain and Canada. 2,889 Newfoundland men enlisted in the British Royal Navy, 2,343 men in the British Royal Artillery (all of whom were assigned to either the 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment or the 59th (Newfoundland) Heavy Regiment), 712 men in the British Royal Air Force (some of whom served as night fighter pilots in the No. 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron), 1,160 men in Canadian forces, and more than 500 women in the female branches of the Canadian military. Regrettably, about 1,000 military personnel from Newfoundland were killed during the war.
Fearing that a German invasion of Newfoundland could be used as a prelude to an attack on Canada, in 1940 Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and Newfoundland Governor Sir Humphrey T. Walwyn discussed the strengthening of defence positions along the Newfoundland coast. They decided to integrate their two armed forces and both governments agreed to the formation of a joint coastal defence battery. As part of the one-sided Anglo-American Lend-Lease agreement, the United States was granted 99 year leases for military air and naval bases on Newfoundland territory at Argentia, Stephenville and St. John's, in return for 50 tatty, old American destroyers which needed complete rebuilding and updating, in British shipyards, before they could be used as badly needed convoy escorts.
Newfoundlanders were encouraged to enlist in the forces of the United Kingdom and Canada. The Royal Navy enlisted some 3500 of those whom Churchill called, "the best small boat sailors in the world." The Royal Artillery raised two regiments, the 57th (later 166th) Newfoundland Field Regiment which saw action in North Africa and Italy and 59th Newfoundland Heavy Artillery which began service as coastal artillery unit in England and later participated in the campaigns in Normandy and north-western Europe. Another 700 Newfoundlanders served in the Royal Air Force, most notably with the 125th Newfoundland Squadron. In all, some 15,000 Newfoundlanders saw active service and thousands more were engaged in the hazardous work of the Merchant Navy. Some 900 Newfoundlanders (including at least 257 merchant mariners) lost their lives in the conflict and over 100 Newfoundland civilians were killed when the SS Caribou was sunk by a German U-boat U69 on 13th October 1942.
Newfoundland was the only location in North America to be subject to direct attack by German forces in World War II when German U-boats attacked four allied ore carriers at the loading pier on Bell Island. The carriers S.S. Saganaga and the S.S. Lord Strathcona were sunk by U-513 on 5th September 1942, while the S.S. Rosecastle and P.L.M 27 were sunk by U-518 on 2nd November 1942 with the loss of 69 lives.
They were one of the original countries to declare war on Germany (on 3rd September 1939), New Zealand provided personnel for service in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and in the Royal Navy and was prepared to have New Zealander troops serving under British command. Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilots, many trained in the Empire Air Training Scheme, were sent to Europe. But unlike the other Dominions, New Zealand did not insist on its aircrews serving with RNZAF squadrons, which had the effect of speeding up the rate at which they entered service. The famed Long-Range Desert Group was formed in North Africa in 1940 with New Zealand and Rhodesian as well as British volunteers but included no Australians for the same reason.
The New Zealand government placed the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy at the Admiralty's disposal and also made available to the RAF 30 brand new Wellington medium bombers waiting in the United Kingdom for shipping to New Zealand. The New Zealand Army contributed the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) and participated in various operations in the Pacific against the Japanese.
While New Zealand's home islands were never attacked, their bravery resulted in the casualty rate suffered by the military being the worst per capita of all Commonwealth nations.
During the war, Nicaragua was ruled by Anastasio Somoza García, who had assumed the presidency after a rigged military coup in 1937. Somoza was an ally of the United States, and Nicaragua declared war on Japan immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbour. No soldiers were sent to either theatre of the war, but Somoza García did seize the occasion to illegally confiscate properties held by German Nicaraguan residents, amassing a personal fortune of some $60 million by the end of the war.
Three days later, on 8th December 1941, Nicaragua declared war on Germany and on 19th December, it declared war on Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary.
During the Second World War, some 372,000 men and women from many Commonwealth African countries served loyally in the Allied forces. They took part in wide-ranging campaigns in the Middle East, North Africa and East Africa, Italy and the Far East.
Nigerians made up some 45,000 of the total force of 90,000 West African soldiers deployed to south-east Asia after 1943, as part of the British army’s 81st and 82nd (West Africa) Divisions.
However, while the role of Indians and Gurkhas in the campaign to drive the Japanese out of Burma is well-known, allied commander General William Slim absurdly did not mention the African soldiers in his speech thanking the 14th army for their contribution.
The white leaders of the West African soldiers were held in contempt by some of the black Africans accusing them of being cowardly and gutless. This is far from true but is an indication of the poor relations between white and black soldiers.
Seventy years later, many Nigerian soldiers remain, not surprisingly, bitter that their significant contribution was never fully recognised.
Norway remained neutral from the beginning of the war until it was invaded and occupied by Germany on 9th April 1940 as part of Operation Weserübung. The Norwegian government left the capital and after 2 months went to Britain and continued to control the fight from exile. The country was then controlled by various right-wing groups including the notorious Vidkun Quisling, whose name became synonymous with traitor.
Other collaborators were Statspolitiet (STAPO), a police force that operated independently of the regular police. Statspolitiet was closely related to the Quisling regime and also took orders directly from the German Sicherheitspolizei.
After the occupation, the Germans began producing a critical component of nuclear fission in Norway, most notably deuterium oxide, also known as heavy water, a by-product of their hydroelectric production. On 2nd February 1944, Germany's development of an atomic bomb was slowed by Norwegian and British commandos who successfully sabotaged the Norsk Heavy Water Plant and sank a ferry loaded with the deuterium oxide and other machinery needed for bomb development.
Starving citizens used parks which were divided among inhabitants, who grew potatoes, cabbage, and other hardy vegetables. People kept pigs, rabbits, chicken and other poultry in their houses and out-buildings. Fishing and hunting became more widespread.
Over time, an organized armed resistance movement, known as Milorg and numbering some 40,000 armed men at the end of the war, was formed under a largely unified command, something which greatly facilitated the transfer of power in May 1945.
In 1944 Finnmark was invaded by the Soviet Union, British and Swedish, while the German forces in the rest of Norway gave up on 8th May 1945.
After the war, Norway became a member of NATO.
During World War II almost 30,000 troops from Nyasaland served in the British armed forces.
The King’s African Rifles was composed of units from various African countries including Nyasaland (now Malawi). The KAR fought in Somalia and Abyssinia against the Italians, in Madagascar against the Vichy French, and in Burma against the Japanese.
The Sultan of Oman declared war on Germany on 10th September 1939. Omanese forces fought under British command in the Middle East theatre.
Oman played a vital role in defending the trade routes by defending Britain’s assets from attack in the Arabian Sea from potential attacks by German and Japanese submarines.
Throughout the duration of the Second World War, the Royal Air Force provided anti-submarine coverage in the Sea of Oman and the northern Arabian Sea. No. 244 Squadron, equipped with the Bristol Blenheim V, provided detachments until moving to RAF Masirah in 1944.
U-533 was a Nazi German U-Boat (Type IXC/40) that operated during World War II between April 15, 1943, and October 16, 1943. It had a crew of 53, under the command of Helmut Hennig. It was sunk by a Royal Air Force Blenheim bomber of Group 244 while it was operating in the Gulf of Oman.
Elected in 1940, Arnulfo Arias was the President of Panama during two of the first years of the European war. He was an overt fascist and regarded as pro-Axis by the Allies for his hostility to the United States and his eagerness to limit American influence over his territory. However, on 7th October 1941, the Americans were granted their wish when a bloodless coup removed Arias from power.
After some squabbling over leases, Panama was under continued American control throughout the war and provided the U.S Navy with the ability to rapidly move troops from the Pacific to the Atlantic. In 1939, the total strength of the American garrison came to approximately 13,500 men. Over the next few years, the defences in Panama were gradually improved, and the American population in the Canal Zone grew. At the height of the war, 65,000 American soldiers were stationed in Panama, plus tens of thousands of civilian employees and other military personnel.
By the end of World War 2 Japanese plans to bomb the canal were cancelled.
President Enrique Adolfo Jiménez, who took office in June 1945, authorized a draft treaty over the opposition of the foreign minister and exacerbated latent resentment.
When the National Assembly met in 1947 to consider ratification, a mob of 10,000 Panamanians armed with stones, machetes, and guns expressed opposition. Under these circumstances, the deputies voted unanimously to reject the treaty. By 1948 the United States had evacuated all occupied bases and sites outside the Canal Zone.
The era of the New Liberals, as Estigarribia's supporters were called, came to a sudden end in September 1940, when the president died in an aircraft crash. Hoping to control the government through a more malleable military man, the Old Liberal cabinet named War Minister Higinio Morínigo president.
Higinio Morínigo was sympathetic to the Axis powers early in the war and the country's large German community were Nazi sympathizers. Paraguay gave serious thought to joining the war on Germany's side, however, Franklin Roosevelt managed to avoid this happening by bribing them with aid and military hardware in 1942.
Much to the displeasure of the United States and Britain, Morínigo refused to act against German economic and diplomatic interests until the end of the war, having been successfully converted to the Axis cause.
Despite this, the disreputable Paraguay did not declare war on Germany until 2nd February 1945 when it was clear the Allies were going to win
Nazi war criminals such as Josef Mengele, who was a sadistic German doctor and administrator, guilty of conducting inhumane medical experiments at the Auschwitz death camp during World War II, hid here and it was even rumoured that Hitler did not commit suicide but escaped into Paraguay.
In 1939, Manuel Prado y Ugarteche (1939-45), a Lima banker from a prominent family and son of a former president, won the presidency. Following a long-standing border dispute with Ecuador, war broke out on 5th July 1941 between the two mismatched nations.
During World War II, Peru supported the Allied cause to a very limited extent. It broke off relations with the Axis powers in January 1942 and Peru remained neutral until 1942 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.
Because of its ability to produce aviation fuel and close proximity to the Panama Canal, the oil refinery and port city of Talara, in north-west Peru, became a major US airbase. However, Peru cynically did not declare war against Germany and Japan until February 1945 in order to be accepted as a charter member of the United Nations.
In 1941, the Philippines was a semi-independent commonwealth of the United States. The Philippine Army was commanded by the U.S. General Douglas MacArthur and the Philippines was one of the first countries invaded by Japan.
8th December 1941: Japanese bomb the Philippines, destroying many American aircraft at Clark Field
22nd December 1941: About 43,000 Japanese troops begin the main invasion of Luzon; American and Filipino troops begin to amass on Bataan.
Filipino forces and the American Army maintained a stubborn resistance and eventually MacArthur withdrew his headquarters to Australia, where he made his famous statement "I came out of Bataan and I shall return". On the 9th April 1942 Gen. Edward King surrenders Bataan and the death march of approximately 76,000 (12,000 Americans and 64,000 Filipinos) begins. Over 5,200 Americans died along the way. Many prisoners were bayoneted, shot, beheaded or just left to die on the side of the road. Allied forces in the Philippines officially surrendered at Corregidor, on 8th May 1942.
Allied forces under MacArthur made their return during October 1944, beginning with the landings at Leyte. The United States granted full independence to the Philippines on July 4th1946.
In August of 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty. Just seven days later, despite serious warnings from Britain and France, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.
On 1st September 1939, German aircraft bombed the Polish town of Wielun, killing nearly 1,200 people. Just five minutes later, the old German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on a transit depot at WesterPlatte in the Free City of Danzig. Within a few days, Britain and France declared war on Germany and began mobilizing their armies while at the same time preparing shelters for their civilians from the arrogant Nazis. On 17th September 1939, the treacherous Soviet Union also invaded Poland from the east. Totally outnumbered Polish forces surrendered after a fierce battle with the Germans and Russians on 6th October and lost some 65,000 troops and many thousands of civilians against overwhelming odds. By the beginning of 1940, Germany was finalizing plans for the invasions of Finland, Denmark and Norway.
Poland was the first allied power to fall. However, many Polish troops and servicemen escaped and were welcomed into the forces of the British with experienced Polish pilots serving with distinction in the Battle of Britain.
The Polish resistance force was also established and along with the Greek and Yugoslavian resistance movements is noted for its daring and bravery. Also, a clandestine army of Poles had been formed on the Soviet territory. Jewish Poles were considered to be a threat to the Nazi " master race", and millions of them were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. The Russians also carried out wholesale slaughter, selecting experienced Polish military leaders along with innocent civilians.
Over a half million fighting men and women, and six million civilians, representing more than 18% of the population, lost their lives, by virtue of both the Russians and Nazis. Approximately 90% of Polish war losses were victims of prisons, death camps, raids, executions, starvation, excessive work and ill-treatment.
Despite Britain going to war to protect the Poles they were “given” to the Russians post-war by the other allies, which was a disgraceful event.
For the duration of World War II, Portugal was ruled by António de Oliveira Salazar, a man with many personal similarities to the General Franco fascist regime in neighbouring Spain. As with Spain, Portugal remained pseudo neutral through the war, although strongly suspected of having Axis sympathies, and secretly supplied tungsten to Germany.
Salazar issued the unilateral declaration of Portuguese neutrality for the European conflict, to the National Assembly. This, however, could have had two detrimental effects, firstly, because the fragile Portuguese regime represented more of a burden than a help. In addition, in the event of the entry of Portugal into the war alongside the British could tempt the fascist Spaniards to join with Hitler.
In June 1943, Britain invoked the long-standing Anglo-Portuguese Alliance requesting the use of the Azores to establish a naval base during the war. As the Axis Powers were currently in decline, Portugal allowed the British to establish a naval base in the Azores islands. The Allies also promised all possible aid in the event of a German assault on Portugal and in addition, the United States and Great Britain guaranteed the integrity of Portugal's territorial possessions. In 1944, Portugal declared a total embargo of tungsten to Germany.
Following the surrender of Hong Kong in December 1941, the Japanese decided not to attempt to formally occupy Macao. The reason may have been that the Japanese wished to respect Portuguese neutrality, but, in their case, that was unlikely. In the event, the arrogant Japanese troops went in and out of Macao at will with little protest from Portuguese authorities. However, in spite of this intolerable situation, the Allied flags (USA, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France) were allowed to be displayed in Macao at their respective embassies.
Although like Portugal, it remained a neutral territory, the Portuguese authorities lacked the will or military ability to prevent Japanese activities in and around Macau. In 1943, the insolent Japanese insisted the government of Macau accepted Japanese “advisors”. The limited Portuguese military forces at Macau were also disarmed, although the territory was never occupied.
Despite their neutral stance pre-war subversive activities in Portuguese Timor were rife and many high-ranking Portuguese officers stationed there were pro-Fascist. In early 1942, Portuguese authorities maintained their neutrality, despite warnings from the Australian and Dutch East Indies governments that Japan was poised to invade. To protect their own positions in neighbouring Dutch Timor, Australian and Dutch forces landed and occupied the territory of Portuguese Timor. There was no armed opposition from Portuguese forces or the civilian population to this benign occupation.
Within a matter of weeks, smarting Japanese forces landed but were unable to subdue substantial resistance, in the form of a guerrilla campaign launched by Allied commandos and continued by the local population. However, it is estimated that 40-70,000 Timorese civilians were killed by the vicious murderous Japanese forces during 1942-45.
Rhodesia – North and South
Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1933 – 1953 became convinced that war was inevitable after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany in March 1939.
Rhodesian Air Training Group (RATG) was undoubtedly Southern Rhodesia’s greatest single contribution to the Allied victory.” It provided three squadrons which became 44, 237 and 266 Squadrons, Royal Air Force, bearing the name of Rhodesia with numbers totalling 8,235 Allied pilots, navigators, gunners, ground crew and others—about 5% of the total force.
The Northern Rhodesia Regiment (NRR) was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment who fought in World War II in Somaliland, Madagascar, the Middle East and Burma. After the war the country became Zambia.
In 1937, Romania was under the control of a fascist government very similar to that of Nazi Germany, including inhumane anti-Jewish laws. Romania’s king, Carol II, dissolved the government a year later because of a failing economy and installed Romania’s Orthodox Patriarch as prime minister.
Romania’s first involvement in the war was by providing transit rights for members of the fleeing Polish government, its treasury, and many Polish troops in 1939. During 1940, when threatened with Soviet invasion, Romania ceded territory to the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Bulgaria, and due to an internal political upheaval, Romania joined the Axis forces.
King Carol abdicated on 6th September 1940, leaving the country in the control of fascist Prime Minister Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. As a member of the Axis, the Romanian war effort was almost entirely restricted to the Eastern Front and in particular took part in the capture of Odessa. With the entry of Soviet troops into Romania near the end of the war, the government was replaced by a pro-Soviet one and joined the Allies as a co-belligerent for the remainder of the war.
Romania became a key member of the Warsaw Pact after the war.
In World War II, San Marino remained neutral, however, it was the accidental target of a British bombing raid in 1944 and to add insult to injury was briefly occupied by both the Germans and the Allies later that year.
San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world. It is surrounded by the country of Italy. Its capital is also called San Marino with a total population in the region of 30,000.
One of the smallest independent states in Europe (only Vatican City and Monaco are smaller), San Marino is also the world’s second smallest republic after Nauru. A landlocked country roughly rectangular in shape, San Marino is located on the eastern slope of the Apennine mountain system in central Italy. The landscape is dominated by the huge, central limestone mass of Mount Titano at 2,424 feet (739 meters). The Mediterranean climate is mild and temperate and it has an area of 24 square miles (61 square kilometres).
Ever since the times of Garibaldi, San Marino has maintained strong ties with the Italian state. San Marino joined Italy in declaring war on Great Britain in 1940. Following the Italian surrender, San Marino immediately re-declared its neutrality. On 2nd September 1944, San Marino declared war on Germany, which occupied the nation during its retreat northward. Following the war, San Marino provided a safe haven for nearly 100,000 refugees from Italy.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Saudi Arabia was on good terms with the Axis powers, even concluding an arms agreement with Nazi Germany on the eve of the war. However, although large quantities of crude oil were suspected of being underground it was not confirmed until March 1938, when the first well started production.
However, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic contacts with Germany on 11th September 1939, and with Japan in October 1941. Abdul al Aziz maintained formal neutrality during most of the war, gradually leaning toward the Allied side by selling them huge amounts of crude oil, as the British and Americans had the tankers and naval power to protect them.
Despite claiming neutrality, the Americans were allowed to build an air force base near Dhahran.
Saudi Arabia's contribution to the war effort was mainly in the form of oil resources and rather belatedly declared war on Germany on 28th February 1945 and Japan on 1st April 1945, but did not contribute any military support.
Although officially neutral the Saudis did provide the Allies with large supplies of oil. King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, despite resenting the British and French colonial presences elsewhere in the Middle East was a personal friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a result, they received “lend-lease” assistance and chose to remain on “favourable” terms with the Allies.
Singapore was a crown colony under British rule and was in a strategic location for shipping routes connecting Asia to Europe. The fall of Singapore to the Japanese Army on February 15th, 1942 is considered one of the greatest defeats in the history of the British Army, who attempted to prosecute the attack according to the rules of combat. The way in this was done by the Japanese was a combination of speed and savagery that only ended with the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945.
The Japanese carried out the attack using barbarous and inhumane methods. They bayonetted to death all of the helpless patients, doctors and nurses in Alexandra Military Hospital, all of the wounded and even covered Indian/Australian injured troops with petrol and burned them to death. Approximately 7,500 allied soldiers died and the Japanese murdered at least 50,000 local natives and were under orders to take no prisoners only to kill them.
However, 100,000 men who were eventually taken prisoner 9,000 of these men died building the infamous Burma-Thailand (death) railway. The people of Singapore fared worse. Many were of Chinese origin and were slaughtered, in their thousands, by the Japanese. The city was renamed Syonan and kept under Japanese occupation until the end of the war on 12th September 1945.
For this only, 131 Japanese responsible were brought to trial in Singapore, which included offences also committed elsewhere in Asia. This is and was wholly unacceptable.
At the start of World War II, the Union of South Africa was split two ways. While it was closely allied with Great Britain, its head of state being the King, the South African Prime Minister on 1st September 1939 was J.B.M. Hertzog – the leader of the pro-Afrikaner and anti-British National Party. The National Party had joined in a unity government with the pro-British South African Party of Jan Smuts in 1934 and created the United Party.
Hertzog's problem was that South Africa was constitutionally obligated to support Great Britain against Nazi Germany. The Polish-British Common Defence Pact obligated Britain, and in turn, its dominions, to help protect Poland if attacked by the Nazis. When Adolf Hitler's forces attacked Poland on 1st September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany two days later. The South African parliament debated this hotly, pitting those loyal to Britain, led by Jan Smuts, against those who theoretically wanted to claim neutrality but in reality, were pro-Nazi, led by Hertzog.
Hertzog was replaced by Smuts and John Vorster and other members of the pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag strongly objected to South Africa's participation in World War II and actively carried out sabotage against Smuts' government. Smuts took severe action against the Ossewabrandwag movement and jailed its leaders, including Vorster, for the duration of the war.
As a member of the British Commonwealth, the Union of South Africa declared war on Germany shortly after the United Kingdom, on 6th September 1939. Several South African divisions fought under allied command in the European war. There was a significant pro-Nazi sentiment among much of the Afrikaner population, but this was suppressed by the country's leader Jan Smuts. It did, however, spawn a significant number of pro-Nazi/Afrikaner spies and saboteurs, despite Britain’s considerable support of the Dutch against Germany.
South Africa and its military forces contributed in many theatres of war. South Africa's contribution consisted mainly of supplying troops, airmen and material for the North African campaign (the Desert War) and the Italian Campaign as well as foodstuff to Allied ships that docked at its crucial ports adjoining the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean that converge at the tip of Southern Africa. Numerous volunteers also flew superbly for the Royal Air Force.
On 31st May 1961, the country became The Republic of South Africa following a referendum.
Many felt that Russia was neither ally nor enemy during the period of the Second World War. From beginning to end Stalin seemed to have his own agenda which was to snatch increasing numbers of Europe countries to bring under Russian domination. He and Hitler used the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to their advantage, which allied them until the even more treacherous Hitler reneged and declared war on Russia.
Soviet participation in World War II began with a short border war with Japan in Mongolia in 1939, after which there was no further conflict. During the next eleven months, the Soviets occupied and annexed the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).
Following Finland's refusal of Soviet demands for military bases and a territorial swap, the Soviet Union attacked them on 30th November 1939, in the Winter War. The Soviet Union also annexed Bessarabia (a Romanian province), leading Romania to ally themselves with Germany. Germany launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, under Operation Barbarossa. This was to the other allies’ benefit as it opened a second front which tied up an enormous number of Nazi troops and their equipment.
The Soviet Red Army mounted a successful counter-offensive during the winter, and gained the initiative with a series of major victories in 1943, culminating in the ultimate advance of Soviet forces into Eastern Europe and Germany itself in 1945, concluding with the Battle of Berlin. The Soviet Union suffered greater losses, both among civilians and military forces than any of the other participants in the war, due to Stalin’s complete lack of concern about his brave soldiers and civilian’s people’s welfare.
Neither Churchill nor Roosevelt trusted the motives of Stalin and there were even unconfirmed reports that British and American troops, in the final stages, reduced the pressure on the Germans to stop Russia overrunning Germany completely and claiming it for themselves. The Russian motives were confirmed when Germany became strictly divided into East and West.
Following the end of the war in Europe and the American nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Russia declared war on Japan on 8th August 1945. This occurred only a few weeks before Japan surrendered and was a cynical attempt to snatch scientists and materials from Japans advanced nuclear programme.
The Soviet Union technically became one of the main victors of the war and gained one of the permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.
None of the value of the millions of pounds/dollars given to them by UK and America for arms, aircraft, tanks, raw materials and food was ever re-paid, not a penny. Only a few ships from Britain were returned in a totally worn-out, disgusting condition (where the decks and companionways had been used as open lavatories). On 30th May 1944, the Royal Navy transferred the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign to the Soviet Navy, which renamed her Arkhangelsk. She then escorted Arctic convoys into Kola until the end of the war. The Soviets finally returned the ship in January 1949, in the same filthy condition as others, with her guns rusted solid and only fit for immediate cleaning and scrap.
After the war, the Soviet sphere of influence was widened to cover most of Eastern Europe, formalized in the Warsaw Pact, to counter the western Allies and NATO. The Soviet Union came to be considered one of the two superpowers of the Cold War which existed between the USA/Britain and Russia/overrun countries between 1948 and 1991.
Following the Spanish Civil War of 1936 and 1939 portrayed as a struggle between democracy and fascism, the fascist side, led by General Franco was the ultimate victor. They were greatly assisted by the German Nazi party who supplied arms and equipment and carried out murderous bombing raids on Spanish civilians.
In 1939, Spain, which was suffering the aftermath of the recently-finished Spanish Civil War, did not have the resources to join the war on its own and Franco and Hitler did not achieve an agreement about the terms of the Spanish participation. Spain, however, did send volunteers to fight alongside Germans against the Soviet Union in the form of the División Azul. Ridiculously, however, Spain was considered a non-belligerent country. As the Allies emerged as possible victors, the regime became more neutral, finally declaring its neutrality on July 1943. Under Franco, Spain was a repressive place to live, unless you were a fascist. He had an obsessive hatred of Masons with concentration camps and automatic 10-year prison sentences for anyone who was a member. Jews were allowed transit to Portugal although only in strictly limited numbers.
The Sudan Defence Force (SDF) was a British Army unit formed back in 1925, to maintain the borders of the Sudan under the British administration. During the Second World War, two British infantry battalions had been increased to three. It also served beyond the Sudan in the East African Campaign and in the Western Desert Campaign.
The entry of Italy into the war potentially made the Sudan vulnerable to attack from both Eritrea and Abyssinia. The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East (General Wavell) decided to attack Eritrea and Abyssinia, which, if successful, also had the effect of removing the potential threat to the sea routes to the Far East.
The build-up of forces commenced in September 1940 with the arrival of the 5th Indian Infantry Division from India. This allowed the advance into Eritrea to commence in January 1941. Both Indian formations advanced rapidly until they met fierce resistance at the Keren pass. Eventually, through a determined series of attacks and sound tactics, the Indian formations forced the Italians to withdraw, and Eritrea was secured.
Part of the force moved off to Egypt and the 5th Indian Infantry Division remained to drive southwards to meet up with the South Africans in May 1941. A coordinated attack on the Toselli Pass by the Indians and South Africans forced the Italian Army to surrender on 19th May 1941.
By the end of the war, the SDF was an experienced military force comprising of about 70 Sudanese officers, nearly all of them Muslim northerners. Gradually more Sudanese officers were appointed to replace British officers in the years that preceded their independence on16th August 1955.
On the 10th May 1940, British troops landed to protect the mineral mines and refineries, however, on 23rd November 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the British withdrew and the United States occupied Surinam to protect the bauxite mines and oil refineries needed to support the Allies' war effort.
At the request from the government in London, Surinam declares itself willing to accept Jewish refugees from the Netherlands. Around 200 Dutch Jews arrived in Surinam via Portugal and Jamaica.
Sweden maintained neutrality throughout the war, though some Swedish volunteers participated in the Winter War and the Continuation War against Russia. Sweden also supplied many materials for Germany, in particular, high-quality iron ore which enabled Germany to build up its army and also special high-quality ball bearings which were crucial for aero engines. The British also made high-speed MTB runs to load these special bearings. It should be noted that the Allies put a lot of effort into the Norwegian theatre simply to try and force Sweden into joining the war.
Towards the end of the war Sweden supplied flour and foodstuff to the liberated concentration camps together with experienced medical aid.
Switzerland intended to be a neutral power during the war, but German threats and military mobilizations towards its borders prompted the Swiss military to prepare for war. Though a Nazi invasion of Switzerland, codenamed Operation Tannenbaum was planned for 1940, the event never ultimately occurred as Hitler decided such a conflict would be a waste of resources at a time when he preferred to concentrate on the far more serious attempt to invade Britain. Unlike weaker western European nations which had easily been subject to Nazi invasion, Switzerland had a strong military and a mountainous geographic terrain that would have likely made an invasion protracted and difficult.
Guns were placed all over mountaintops surrounding defensible paths that lead into the country, and most bridges had already been rigged with explosives should the Nazis start to invade. Although the Swiss government was anti-Nazi, Swiss troops did nothing to intervene in the atrocities perpetrated on their doorstep. Switzerland is thus usually regarded as the only Western European country that was able to maintain some semblance of uncontested neutrality during the entire conflict. It must be said; they did become embroiled in post-war controversies regarding the appropriation and secreting of assets belonging to the murdered Holocaust victims. In addition, Nazi Officials used Swiss banks to keep their stolen money safe. Even now vast amounts of money and gold looted by the Nazis are said to be tucked away safely by the Swiss banking system. During the war, Switzerland refused entry to Jews fleeing the holocaust even though happily accepting their money, which disappeared into obscurity.
Syria was under French control throughout the war. Following the French surrender in 1940, this was the Nazi-sympathetic 'Vichy' government. Churchill had fears about the use of Syria to threaten Britain's supplies of oil from Iraqi. These concerns appeared to be substantiated when Luftwaffe supply flights to the new pro-German Iraqi regime (under Rashid Ali) which refuelled in Damascus.
On 11th June 1941, British, Australian and Free French forces invaded Syria and after a fierce battle, the Vichy forces surrendered on 11th July 1941. British occupation lasted until 1946.
The province of Iskanderoun was given to Turkey to keep them neutral in the war.
Initially, the territory was part of the German colony of German East Africa but was lost to Britain in 1916 when it became a member of the British League of Nations mandate.
The previous German colonists had shamelessly exploited and plundered the territory of everything they could and at the same time, had launched massacres and murders against a large-scale section of the population.
As a sovereign state of Britain Tanganyika fared a little better but still provided 23,000 forced labour in July 1944 together with cattle and diamonds.
The Tuvan People's Republic, 1921–44, was a partially recognized independent state in the territory of the former Tuvan protectorate of Imperial Russia also known as Uryankhaisky Krai.
Although formally a sovereign, independent nation from 1921 to 1944, it was considered a satellite state of the Soviet Union before formally joined the Soviet Union.
Tannu Tuva was under effective Soviet control for the duration of the war. It entered the conflict on 25th June 1941, three days after the Soviet Union European entry itself. Tannu Tuva was integrated directly into the Soviet Union on 11th October 1944, just before the war concluded.
In World War II the state contributed infantry, armoured, and cavalry troops, thousands of horses, skis, overcoats, and leather goods, to fight against Germany. Under Soviet command, a number of units distinguished themselves and were rewarded with Tuvan medals.
Thailand became an ally of Japan during the war and was ruled by Field Marshal Plaek Pibunsongkhram, a military dictator with nationalist leanings. Thailand remained neutral at the start of the war in Europe, but soon took the opportunity of France's defeat to settle historical claims to parts of French Indochina. The conflict between Thailand and the Vichy regime is known as the Franco-Thai War of 23rd November 1940 to 9th May 1941 where the Vichy French military forces were decisively defeated in every battle or action they fought during the greater land campaign of the conflict.
In 1941, the Japanese invaded the country; Pibunsongkhram, while initially reluctant, felt that Japan's superior military power gave him no choice but to order an armistice allowing the Japanese free access. The Premier became enthusiastic about co-operation with Japan when they performed well in Malaya and on 21st December 1941, a formal alliance was concluded.
At noon on 25th January 1942, Thailand declared war on the United States and Great Britain. Some Thais supported the Japanese alliance, arguing that it was in the national interest, or that it made better sense to ally oneself with a victorious power. However, others formed the Free Thai Movement to resist. Eventually, when the war turned against the Japanese, Pibunsongkhram was forced to resign, and a Free Thai-controlled government was formed. On 16th August 1945, Thailand retracted its declarations of war against the allies.
Queen Salote of Tonga put all the country's resources at the disposal of Britain and was a loyal supporter of the Allied cause throughout the war. The Tonga Defence Service (TDS) came into existence at the beginning of World War II in 1939.
During World War II German evacuees from Tonga were interred in New Zealand.
In 1943 New Zealand helped train two Tongan contingents of about 2000 troops, who saw action in the Solomon Islands. In addition, New Zealand and US troops were stationed on Tongatapu, which became an important staging point for shipping.
There was considerable support for the Axis in the Arab world, especially mandates like Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, and Syria. Trans-Jordon, however, was a British ally during the War and the Trans Jordanian forces were under British command during the war.
Trans-Jordon became the best trained Arab army during World War II, albeit very small and lightly armed it consisted of 1,600 men. It was part of Iraq force and made an important contribution in the Anglo-Iraqi War and in the Syria-Lebanon campaign (1941), two rare Allied victories in the early years of World War II.
During WW2, Tunisia remained as a Vichy French Protectorate, a non-belligerent nation after the Franco-German armistice of 1940. However, Western Allies (consisting of British Imperial Forces, including Polish and Greek contingents, with American and French corps) invaded French North Africa in Nov 1942. The Vichy French forces failed to effectively defend the colonial holdings, forcing German and Italian troops to step in within hours to back them up.
Allied forces crossed into Tunisia by mid-Nov, but the two sides soon settled into a stalemate. In Feb 1943, Axis forces defeated the inexperienced Americans at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, but ultimately German and Italian forces could not hold their ground against the rest of the well-supplied Western Allies.
The Axis forces were driven back with Tunisia becoming the final toehold from which their evacuation departed for the island of Sicily, further north. The Allies now consisted primarily of British, American and the Free French Army and over 230,000 German and Italian troops were taken prisoners of war, including most of the experienced Afrika Korps, which was a severe blow to Germany.
The Allied conquest of Tunisia was completed by mid-May 1943 at which point Tunisia was serving as a major staging point for the subsequent invasion of Sicily.
Just before the Nazis invaded Russia, on 18th June 1941 Turkey signed a Friendship Treaty with Germany. A joint statement following the signing indicated a desire for further economic cooperation. The Germans, in particular, were interested in Turkish chromium ore. The Turks promised to cooperate with the Germans to close the straits to Soviet shipping. In the end, however, the ban extended to both Allied and Axis shipping enabling Turkey to remained neutral. Turkey did not participate in any military operations.
Turkey wishing to build a modern scientific structure played a role in saving thousands of European Jews from the Nazis. The Turks allowed the passage of thousands of Jewish refugees to Palestine at a time that both the Germans and British attempted to prevent this, but for very different reasons.
It was not until 23rd February 1945 that Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan in order to secure a seat in the United Nations.
The United Kingdom was one of the original protagonists of the Second World War. The last thing they wanted was yet another bloody, crippling war, but during the 1930s it became more obvious that the rise of the Fascist party in Germany was leading to this eventuality. Germany was a wreck and had been stripped and impoverished by, as many thought, the excessive reparations demanded by France, following the end of the Great War. Britain had perhaps, left it rather late to prepare for yet another war but we had a strong and experienced army and a very strong and capable navy. In addition, Britain had the advantage of the English Channel which presented a defensible barrier.
Britain entering the war on 3rd September 1939 to honour its guarantees to Poland. After the early premature Fall of France, the United Kingdom and its dominions was the only free nation left in Europe until the Nazi invasion of Greece. It fought alone until 1941 when the Soviet Union, whose dishonourable alliance with Nazi Germany, was broken and they were invaded. The United Kingdom was heavily engaged in all theatres of the war in Western European, Atlantic, Mediterranean, African and after 1942, South East Asian and was considered one of the Big Three during Allied conferences in the second half of the war. The United Kingdom maintained close ties with the nations of the British Commonwealth and often incorporated their very experienced forces into British military operations all over the world. Following Pearl Harbour Britain closely supported America in its fight against the Japanese and carried out many operations with them in Europe.
These islands are self-governing British dependencies, off the French coast and were the only British territory occupied by Germany. Although legally, the Channel Islands are not technically a part of the United Kingdom, it's convenient to consider them separately here.
They were occupied by German forces after the fall of France and after British forces had been withdrawn. They played little active part in the war. Very strong Nazi defences and German underground military hospitals were set up, but the islands were not bombed or shelled, except by occasional British hit-and-run commando raids on Nazi facilities. German forces were left isolated and surrendered at the end of the war.
Almost all Jewish people managed to flee the islands before the German occupation, but those who remained and were captured were sadly deported to Auschwitz. British police continued in their pre-war manner and did not act for the Nazis but rather protected the Islanders, against the draconian German military laws, where they could.
The United States of America
The United States of America took a neutral stance early in the war, due primarily to Irish Nationalist pressure who held great influence in their government. However, it steadily grew ties with the Allies and began selling increasing levels of weapons and food to them. The United States joined the Allies in December 1941 after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii when the war on Japan was declared by Congress on 8th December 1941. Germany and Italy declared war on the United States shortly afterwards.
The United States subscribed to the Allied plan to make the defeat of Germany the priority, where it operated in coordination with the United Kingdom in most major operations. However, it also maintained a strong effort against Japan, being the primary Allied power in the Pacific Theatre. As America, did not suffer bombing of its industrial assets or population, the USA played an important role in providing valuable industrial production to support the Allied war effort.
After the war, the United States would retain military commitments to European security at the start of the Cold War with Russia, while providing economic investment to rebuild nations suffering devastation during the war. Politically, America would become one of the leaders of the western Allies in forming NATO, and host the United Nations in which it gained one of the permanent seats on the Security Council.
Uruguay was neutral for most of World War II, although later joined the Allies. It declared its neutrality on 4th September 1939, although the President of Uruguay, Alfredo Baldomir, had little time for the Axis powers. Uruguay's neutrality included a 300-mile exclusion zone extending from its coast, established as part of the Declaration of Panama. Neither side of the conflict acknowledged the exclusion zones established by the declaration, and in December, British warships and the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee fought a battle not far off the Uruguay coast. This prompted a joint protest from several Latin American nations to both sides. (The Admiral Graf Spee itself took refuge in the River Plate at the Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, claiming sanctuary and time to effect repairs in a neutral port, but was later ordered out, where it was scuttled and destroyed). Later, in early 1942, President Baldomir broke off diplomatic relations with the Axis Powers. On 15th February 1945, near the end of the war, Uruguay dropped its policy of neutrality and joined the Allies.
For the duration of World War II, Vietnam was a Vichy French-administered possession of Japan. On the 22nd September 1940, Jean Decoux, the French governor-general, concluded an agreement with the Japanese that permitted them to station 30,000 Japanese troops in the Indochina area and the use of all major Vietnamese airports by the Japanese military.
After the Vichy French had been disarmed, in March 1945, Bao Dai, the last French-appointed emperor of Vietnam, was allowed to proclaim the independence of his country and to set up a Vietnamese national government at Hue; despite this, however, the real military power remained with the Japanese military commanders.
With the rise of The Communist Party during the war years Vietnam became a divided country with the Communists in the North and non-Communists in the South. Thereafter, the Vietnam war started caused by disputes between France and the Vietminh.
At the beginning of World War II in 1939, Venezuela was one of the world's leading oil exporters, to the Americas and subsequently one of the main beneficiaries of the American Lend-Lease programs. It should be remembered this was an industry which was dominated by American-owned and British petroleum firms.
In 1939 the SS Koenigstein and the SS Caribia carried 300 Jews, fleeing from Nazi persecution, who were the first to settle in Venezuela. However, the Venezuelan government stated that it would not accept any more refugees unless they came through the proper channels. Later, President Contreras gave the refugees permission to remain in the country permanently.
The government of Venezuela provided vast supplies of oil to the Allies. It maintained a relative neutrality, although secretly supported the allies, until the last few years of war, when it finally declared war on Nazi Germany and the rest of the Axis countries.
After France surrendered and was invaded by Nazi forces, the country was split into two parts, an "occupied sector" and a "sovereign sector" that became known as Vichy France. The Vichy regime had a pseudo-fascist government under the leadership of Marshal Philippe Pétain
Vichy France is considered to have been an Axis-friendly country, though it remained officially neutral during the conflict. Prime Minister, Pierre Laval, repeatedly sought France's entry into the war on the Axis side but was vetoed by Petain.
Vichy France wilfully collaborated with Nazi Germany by organising raids to capture Jews and other “undesirables” which was organized by the French police not only in the northern zone - occupied by the German Wehrmacht - but also in the southern “free zone” which was occupied by the Germans only after the Allies invaded North Africa in November 1942.
Aided by French Resistance groups, all of France was ultimately liberated by the Allies, including Free French forces led by Charles de Gaulle, who had set up an anti-Vichy government in exile, and the Vichy regime toppled. Laval was executed for high treason after the war. Petain was imprisoned for life, dying in 1951.
The Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, which occupied the northern portion of modern Yemen, followed an isolationist foreign policy under King Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din. It remained neutral for the duration of the war. Yemen's boundaries were fixed by treaty with Saudi Arabia and Great Britain. The southern portion of modern Yemen, known as the Aden Protectorate, was under British control and continued to be difficult in the post-war period.
The order for the invasion was put forward in "Führer Directive No. 25", which Adolf Hitler issued on 27th March 1941, following the Yugoslav coup d'état.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was originally an allied power. However, in 1941 German troops invaded the kingdom and forced the existing British garrisons to withdraw to Greece.
The invasion was led by the German 2nd Army with elements of the 12th Army, First Panzer Group, and an independent panzer corps combined with overwhelming Luftwaffe support. The 19 German divisions included five panzer divisions, two motorised infantry divisions and two mountain divisions. The German force also included three well-equipped independent motorised infantry regiments and was supported by over 750 aircraft. The Italian 2nd Army and 9th Army committed a total of 22 divisions and 666 aircraft to the operation. The Hungarian 3rd Army also participated in the invasion, with support available from over 500 aircraft.
The country then established a puppet regime under the Nazis. Yugoslavia then developed two very effective resistance groups, the Nationalist Yugoslavians and the Communists (headed by future president Tito). Yugoslavia was liberated in 1944 by a joint force of Communist resistance and the Red Army, Tito then established himself as Prime Minister and continued to fight Nazi Germany.
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© 2017 Peter Geekie