World War II 1939-45
World War II (1939-45)
a war planned by the forces of international imperialist reaction and unleashed by the chief aggressor states—fascist Germany, fascist Italy, and militarist Japan. World War II, just as World War I, was caused by the law of uneven development of the capitalist countries under imperialism and was a result of a sharp intensification of interimperialist contradictions and of the struggle for markets, sources of raw materials, and spheres of influence and capital investment. The war started amid conditions when capitalism was no longer the universal system and when the USSR, the world’s first socialist state, existed and was growing stronger. The splitting of the world into two systems brought about the principal contradiction of the epoch—the contradiction between socialism and capitalism. The interimperialist contradictions had ceased being the sole factor of world politics. They developed parallel with and in interaction with the contradictions between the two systems. The hostile capitalist groupings, while fighting each other, simultaneously strove to destroy the USSR. However, World War II began as a conflict between two coalitions of major capitalist powers. In its origin it was an imperialist war, growing out of the system of contemporary capitalism, and the responsibility of the imperialists of the world. Hitler’s Germany, which headed the bloc of fascist aggressors, bears a special responsibility for the outbreak of the war. For the states of the fascist bloc, the war was of an imperialist nature throughout its duration. For the states that fought against the fascist aggressors and their allies, the nature of the war gradually changed. Under the influence of the national liberation struggle of peoples, the war evolved into a just, antifascist war. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war against the states of the fascist bloc that had treacherously attacked it completed this process.
Preparation and unleashing of the war. The forces that unleashed World War II had been preparing strategic and political positions advantageous to the aggressors long before the war. In the 1930’s two main hotbeds of war formed in the world: Germany in Europe and Japan in the Far East. German imperialism, which had gathered strength, began demanding, under the pretext of abolishing the inequities of the Treaty of Versailles, a repartition of the world in its favor. The establishment of a terrorist fascist dictatorship in Germany in 1933, which carried out the demands of the most reactionary and chauvinistic elements of monopoly capital, transformed the country into the shock force of imperialism, directed first and foremost against the USSR. However, the plans of German fascism were not limited to the enslavement of the peoples of the Soviet Union. The fascist program of attaining world domination envisaged Germany’s transformation into the center of a gigantic colonial empire whose power and influence would extend to all of Europe and to the richest regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; it also provided for the mass extermination of the population of the conquered countries, especially of Eastern European countries. The fascist leadership planned to begin implementing this program in the countries of Central Europe, subsequently extending it to the entire continent. The defeat and occupation of the Soviet Union with the primary aim of destroying the center of the international communist and workers’ movement as well as of broadening the Lebensraum (living space) of German imperialism was fascism’s principal political task as well as the major precondition for the further successful expansion of aggression on a worldwide scale. The imperialists of Italy and Japan also strove for a repartition of the world and the establishment of the New Order. Thus, the plans of the Hitlerites and their allies represented a grave threat not only to the USSR but also to Great Britain, France, and the USA. However, motivated by feelings of class hatred for the Soviet state, the ruling circles of the Western powers, in the guise of nonintervention and neutrality, essentially pursued a policy of abetting the fascist aggressors, calculating on diverting the threat of a fascist invasion from their countries, weakening their imperialist rivals through the forces of the Soviet Union, and then destroying the USSR with the help of these same rivals. They gambled on a mutual exhaustion of the USSR and Hitler Germany in a protracted and destructive war.
In the prewar years, the French ruling clique, while instigating the Hitlerite aggression against the East and waging a struggle against the communist movement within the country, at the same time feared a new German invasion. It sought a close military alliance with Great Britain and strengthened the eastern frontiers by constructing the Maginot Line and deploying armed forces against Germany. The government of Great Britain strove to strengthen the British colonial empire and sent troops and naval forces to its key regions (the Near East, Singapore, and India). While pursuing a policy of abetting the aggressors in Europe, N. Chamberlain’s government hoped until the very beginning of the war and during its first months to reach an agreement with Hitler at the expense of the USSR. In the case of an aggression against France, it hoped that the French armed forces, repulsing the aggression jointly with British expeditionary troops and large units of the British Air Force, would ensure the security of the British Isles. The ruling circles of the USA before the war supported Germany economically, thereby contributing to the revival of the German war potential. When the war broke out, they were compelled to slightly modify their political course, and, as the fascist aggression spread, to begin supporting Great Britain and France.
The Soviet Union, in an atmosphere of growing military danger, pursued a policy aimed at restraining the aggressor and creating a reliable system of ensuring peace. On May 2, 1935, the Franco-Soviet pact for mutual assistance was signed in Paris. On May 16, 1935, the Soviet Union concluded a pact for mutual assistance with Czechoslovakia. The Soviet government fought for the creation of a system of collective security that would be capable of becoming an effective means of averting war and ensuring peace. At the same time, the Soviet government implemented a series of measures aimed at strengthening the country’s defense and developing its economic war potential.
In the 1930’s Hitler’s government unfurled the diplomatic, strategic, and economic preparation for world war. In October 1933, Germany forsook the Geneva Disarmament Conference of 1932-35 and announced its withdrawal from the League of Nations. On Mar. 16, 1935, Hitler violated the military clauses of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and introduced compulsory military service in the country. In March 1936, German troops occupied the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. In November 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, which Italy joined in 1937. The activation of the aggressive forces of imperialism led to a series of international political crises and local wars. As a result of the aggressive wars of Japan against China (begun in 1931) and of Italy against Ethiopia (1935-36) and of the German and Italian intervention in Spain (1936-39), the fascist states strengthened their positions in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Taking advantage of the policy of nonintervention pursued by Great Britain and France, fascist Germany occupied Austria in March 1938 and began preparing an attack on Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia had a well-trained army based on a strong system of frontier fortifications; the pacts with France (1924) and the USSR (1935) provided for military assistance by these powers to Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union repeatedly announced its readiness to fulfill its pledges and to extend military aid to Czechoslovakia, even if France would not. However, the government of E. Benes rejected the USSR’s aid. Through the Munich Pact of 1938 the ruling circles of Great Britain and France, supported by the USA, betrayed Czechoslovakia and consented to Germany’s seizure of the Sudetenland, thus calculating on opening the “road to the East” to fascist Germany. The fascist leader-ship was now free for aggression.
In late 1938 the ruling circles of fascist Germany opened a diplomatic offensive against Poland by creating the so-called Danzig Crisis; the purport of this crisis was to carry out an aggression against Poland under the cover of demands for doing away with the “inequities of Versailles” with respect to the free city of Danzig. In March 1939, Germany occupied all of Czechoslovakia, set up a fascist puppet state called Slovakia, seized the Memel region from Lithuania, and imposed a unilateral “economic” treaty on Rumania. In April 1939, Italy occupied Albania. In response to the widening fascist aggression, the governments of Great Britain and France, with the aim of protecting their economic and political interests in Europe, offered “guarantees of independence” to Poland, Rumania, Greece, and Turkey. France, moreover, pledged military aid to Poland in case of an attack by Germany. In April-May 1939, Germany denounced the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935, broke the non-aggression pact with Poland concluded in 1934, and concluded the so-called Pact of Steel with Italy, according to which the Italian government pledged to help Germany if the latter entered into a war with the Western powers.
In this atmosphere, the British and French governments, under the influence of public opinion, fearing a further strengthening of Germany and with the aim of exerting pressure on it, opened negotiations with the USSR; these negotiations took place in Moscow in the summer of 1939. However, the Western powers did not wish to conclude an agreement on a joint struggle against the aggressor proposed by the USSR. In proposing that the Soviet Union assume a unilateral pledge to help any European neighbor in case of attack, the Western powers wanted to draw the USSR into a single-handed war against Germany. The negotiations, which lasted until the middle of August 1939, failed because Paris and London were sabotaging the constructive Soviet proposals. While heading toward a breakdown of the Moscow negotiations, the British government simultaneously secretly contacted the Hitlerites through the German ambassador in London, H. von Dirksen, to negotiate an agreement on a repartition of the world at the expense of the USSR. The position of the Western powers foreordained the breakdown of the Moscow negotiations and confronted the Soviet Union with two alternatives: either to remain isolated in the face of a direct threat of an attack by fascist Germany or, having exhausted the possibilities of concluding an alliance with Great Britain and France, to sign the nonaggresssion pact proposed by Germany and thereby postpone the threat of war. The situation made the second alternative inevitable. As a result of the Soviet-German pact concluded on Aug. 23, 1939, the world war began, contrary to the calculations of the Western politicians, with a conflict within the capitalist world.
On the eve of World War II, German fascism had created a mighty military potential through the forced development of the war economy. Between 1933 and 1939 armament expenditures increased more than 12 times and reached 37 billion marks. In 1939, Germany had smelted 22.5 million tons of steel, and 17.5 million tons of pig iron, extracted 251.6 million tons of coal, and produced 66 billion kilowatt-hours of electric power. However, Germany relied on imports for a variety of strategic raw materials (iron ore, rubber, manganese ore, copper, oil and oil products, and chromium ore). By September 1939 fascist Germany’s armed forces totaled 4.6 million men and numbered 26,000 guns and infantry mortars, 3,200 tanks, 4,400 combat airplanes, and 115 warships, including 57 submarines.
The German High Command’s strategy was based on the doctrine of total war. Its main component was the concept of blitzkrieg, according to which victory should be won in the shortest possible time, before the enemy could fully deploy its armed forces and develop his economic war potential. The fascist German command’s strategic plan was to attack Poland and rapidly destroy its armed forces while being covered by limited forces in the West. It deployed against Poland 61 divisions and two brigades (including seven panzer and about nine motorized), of which seven infantry divisions and one panzer division were moved up after the beginning of the war; this totaled 1.8 million men, more than 11,000 guns and infantry mortars, 2,800 tanks, and about 2,000 aircraft. Against France it deployed 35 infantry divisions (nine more divisions were moved up after September 3) and 1,500 air-craft.
The Polish command, counting on the military assistance guaranteed by Great Britain and France, intended to conduct a defense in the border zone and to pass to the offensive after the diversion of the German forces from the Polish front by the active operations of the French Army and the British Air Force. By September 1, Poland had had time to mobilize and concentrate only 70 percent of its troops. It deployed 24 infantry divisions, three mountain rifle brigades, one armored and motorized brigade, eight cavalry brigades, and 56 national defense battalions. The Polish armed forces had more than 4,000 guns and infantry mortars, 785 light tanks and tankettes, and about 400 aircraft.
The French plan of waging war against Germany, according to the French policy and the military doctrine of the French command, provided for a defense along the Magi not Line and the entry of troops into Belgium and the Netherlands to continue the defensive front north of the line in order to protect the ports and industrial regions of France and Belgium. After mobilization, the French armed forces numbered 110 divisions (15 of them in the colonies), 2.67 million men, about 2,700 tanks (2,400 in the homeland), more than 26,000 guns and infantry mortars, 2,330 aircraft (1,735 in the homeland), and 176 warships (including 77 submarines).
Great Britain had a strong navy and air force—320 warships of the major classes (including 69 submarines) and about 2,000 aircraft. Its ground troops were composed of nine regular and 17 territorial divisions and had 5,600 guns and infantry mortars and 547 tanks. The British Army totaled 1.27 million men. In the case of a war with Germany, the British command planned to concentrate its main efforts on the sea and to send ten divisions to France. The British and French commands did not intend to render any serious assistance to Poland.
First period (Sept. I, 1939, through June 27, 1941). The first period of the war was characterized by fascist Germany’s military successes. On Sept. 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland. On Sept. 3, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Because of an overwhelming superiority offerees over the Polish Army and having concentrated numerous tanks and aircraft on the main sectors of the front, the Hitlerite command was able to obtain significant operational results early in the war. The incompleted deployment of forces, the absence of aid from its allies, and the weakness of a centralized leadership (and soon after its subsequent collapse) led the Polish Army to disaster.
The courageous resistance of the Polish troops at Mokra and Mtawa and on the Bzura River, the defense of Modlin and Westerplatte, and the heroic 20-day defense of Warsaw (September 8-28) contributed vivid pages to the history of the German-Polish war but could not prevent Poland’s defeat. The Hitlerite troops encircled a number of large Polish army groupings west of the Vistula, transferred military actions to the eastern regions of the country, and completed their occupation in early October.
On September 17, upon an order of the Soviet government, the troops of the Red Army crossed the borders of the disintegrated Polish state and initiated a liberation campaign into Western Byelorussia and Western Ukraine with the aim of protecting the life and property of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian people, who were striving for reunification with the Soviet republics. The westward campaign was also necessary for arresting the spread of the Hitlerite aggression toward the East. The Soviet government, convinced that a German aggression against the USSR was inescapable and imminent, strove to push back the initial line of the future deployment of the potential enemy’s troops. This was in the interests not only of the Soviet Union but of all the peoples threatened by fascist aggression. After the Red Army’s liberation of Western Byelorussian and Western Ukrainian lands, Western Ukraine (Nov. 1, 1939) and Western Byeloruss’-(Nov. 2, 1939) were reunited with the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR, respectively.
In late September and early October 1939, Soviet-Estonian, Soviet-Latvian, and Soviet-Lithuanian pacts of mutual assistance were signed, precluding the seizure of these Baltic countries by fascist Germany and their transformation into a military base of operations against the USSR. In August 1940, after the overthrow of the bourgeois governments in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, these countries, in compliance with the desire of their peoples, were accepted into the USSR.
As a result of the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-40 and in accordance with the treaty of Mar. 12, 1940, the USSR frontier on the Karelian Isthmus and in the vicinity of Leningrad and the Murmansk railroad was pushed somewhat northwest. On June 26, 1940, the Soviet government proposed that Rumania return Bessarabia to the USSR, which Rumania had seized in 1918, and transfer to the USSR the northern part of Bukovina, inhabited by Ukrainians. On June 28 the Rumanian government agreed to the return of Bessarabia and the transfer of northern Bukovina.
After the outbreak of the war and until May 1940, the governments of Great Britain and France continued, in a slightly modified form, their prewar foreign policy, which was based on hopes for a reconciliation with fascist Germany on the grounds of anticommunism and for directing Germany’s aggression against the USSR. Despite the declaration of war, the French armed forces and the British expeditionary troops (which began arriving in France in the middle of September) were idle for nine months. During this period, which has been named “the phony war,” the Hitlerite army was preparing for an offensive against the countries of Western Europe. From the end of September 1939, active military operations began to be conducted only over sea lines of communications. To blockade Great Britain, the Hitlerite command used the forces of the navy, especially submarines and large ships (raiders). German submarines sank 114 British ships from September through December 1939 and 471 ships in 1940, while the Germans lost only nine submarines in 1939. By the summer of 1941 the strikes at Great Britain’s sea lines of communications had resulted in the loss of one-third of the tonnage of the British merchant marine and had created a serious threat to the country’s economy.
In April and May of 1940 the German armed forces occupied Norway and Denmark (Norwegian Operation of 1940) with the aim of strengthening the German positions in the Atlantic and northern Europe, seizing the iron ore deposits, bringing the bases of the German Navy closer to Great Britain, and ensuring a base of operations in the north for an attack on the USSR. On Apr. 9, 1940, amphibious detachments, landing simultaneously, captured the key ports of Norway along the 1,800-km coast, while airborne landing forces occupied the major airfields. The courageous resistance of the Norwegian Army, whose deployment was delayed, and of the patriots stemmed the onslaught of the Hitlerites. The attempts of the Anglo-French troops to drive the Germans out of the areas they had occupied led to a series of engagements at Narvik, Namsos, Molde, and other areas. The British troops recaptured Narvik from the Germans, but they were unable to wrest the strategic initiative from the hands of the Hitlerites. In early June they evacuated Narvik. The German occupation of Norway was facilitated by the actions of the Norwegian fifth column headed by V. Quisling. The country became a Hitlerite base in the north of Europe. But the considerable losses of the fascist German Navy during the Norwegian Operation weakened its capabilities for a further struggle for the Atlantic.
At dawn of May 10, 1940, after careful preparation, the fascist German troops (135 divisions, including ten panzer and six motorized divisions and one brigade, 2,580 tanks, and 3,834 aircraft) invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg and then swept through their territories into France. The Germans struck the main blow with a mass of large mobile units and aircraft through the Ardennes Mountains, bypassing the Maginot Line from the north, through northern France to the coast of the English Channel. The French command, true to its defensive doctrine, had distributed large forces along the Maginot Line and had not created a strategic reserve in depth. After the start of the German offensive, the French command moved the main grouping of troops, including the British expeditionary army, into Belgium, exposing these forces to a blow from the rear. These grave mistakes of the French command, which were exacerbated by poor coordinated action between the Allied armies, enabled the Hitlerite troops, after forcing the Maas River and after battles in central Belgium, to execute a breakthrough in northern France, to split the front of the Anglo-French troops, to gain the rear of the Anglo-French groupings operating in Belgium, and to reach the English Channel. On May 14 the Netherlands capitulated. The Belgian and British armies and part of the French Army were encircled in Flanders. On May 28, Belgium capitulated. The British and part of the French troops encircled in Dunkirk succeeded, after losing their entire combat materiel, in evacuating to Great Britain (Dunkirk operation of 1940).
During the second phase of the 1940 summer campaign, the Hitlerite army, with vastly superior forces, broke through the front hastily created by the French on the Somme and Aisne rivers. The danger hanging over France necessitated rallying the forces of the people. The French Communists called for nationwide resistance and the organization of the defense of Paris. The capitulationists and traitors (P. Reynaud, H. Pétain, P. Laval, and others), who determined the policy of France, and the high command headed by M. Weygand rejected this only path of saving the country because they feared the proletariat’s revolutionary actions and the strengthening of the Communist Party. They decided to surrender Paris without a struggle and to capitulate to Hitler. Without having exhausted all the opportunities of resistance, the French armed forces laid down their arms. The Compiègne Armistice of 1940 (signed on June 22) became a land-mark in the policy of national betrayal pursued by the Pétain government, which expressed the interests of that part of the French bourgeoisie that gravitated toward fascist Germany. The armistice was aimed at strangling the national liberation struggle of the French people. According to its provisions, an occupation regime was established in the northern and central parts of France. The industrial, raw material, and food resources of France were placed under Germany’s control. In the unoccupied southern part of the country the antinational, profascist Vichy government headed by Pétain came to power, becoming a puppet of Hitler. But in late June 1940 the Free French (Fighting French from July 1942) headed by General Charles de Gaulle was established in London to direct the struggle for the liberation of France from the fascist German invaders and their henchmen.
On June 10, 1940, Italy, which was striving to dominate the Mediterranean, declared war on Great Britain and France. The Italian troops seized British Somalia and part of Kenya and the Sudan in August; in the middle of September they invaded Egypt from Libya to force their way to Suez (North African campaign of 1940-43). However, they were soon stopped and were repulsed by the British in December 1940. The efforts of the Italians in December 1940 to develop an offensive from Albania into Greece were decisively repulsed by the Greek Army, which struck several powerful retaliatory blows at the Italian troops (Italian-Greek war of 1940-41). Between January and May 1941 the British troops drove the Italians out of British Somalia, Kenya, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Italian Somalia, and Eritrea. In January 1941, Mussolini was compelled to seek Hitler’s aid. In the spring, German troops were sent to North Africa, forming the so-called Afrika Korps under the command of General E. Rommel. Passing to the offensive on March 31, the Italian and German troops reached the Libyan-Egyptian frontier in the second half of April.
After France’s defeat, the danger threatening Great Britain contributed to the isolation of those favoring the Munich agreements and led to the rallying of the forces of the British people. Churchill’s government, which replaced Chamber-lain’s on May 10, 1940, began organizing an effective defense. The British government attached special importance to support from the USA. Secret negotiations between the air force and naval staffs of the USA and Great Britain were begun in July 1940. They resulted in the signing of an agreement on September 2 regarding the transfer of 50 obsolete American destroyers to Great Britain in exchange for British military bases in the Western Hemisphere (granted to the USA for a period of 99 years). The destroyers were needed for the war on the Atlantic lines of communications.
On July 16, 1940, Hitler issued a directive on the invasion of Great Britain (operation Sea Lion). In August 1940 the Hitlerites started massive bombings of Great Britain in order to disrupt its war economy potential, demoralize the population, prepare for an invasion, and ultimately force a capitulation (Battle of Britain of 1940-41). The Luftwaffe inflicted considerable damage on many British cities, enterprises, and ports but suffered heavy losses in an unsuccessful effort to break the resistance of the British Air Force and gain air supremacy over the English Channel. To sum up the results of the air raids, which continued until May 1941, the Hitlerite leadership was unable to force Great Britain to capitulate, destroy its industry, or undermine the morale of the population. The German command could not provide the necessary amount of landing equipment on time. The forces of the navy were insufficent.
However, the main reason why Hitler gave up the invasion of Great Britain was the decision on the aggression against the Soviet Union, which he had adopted as early as the summer of 1940. Having begun immediate preparation for an attack on the USSR, the Hitlerite leadership was forced to transfer forces from the West to the East and to direct huge resources for the development of the ground forces rather than the navy, which was necessary for a war against Great Britain. The preparation of the war against the USSR, which was begun in the fall, removed the direct threat of a German invasion of Great Britain. The preparations for the attack on the USSR were closely related to the strengthening of the aggressive alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan, which was reflected in the signing of the Berlin Pact of 1940 on September 27.
While preparing an attack on the USSR, fascist Germany carried out an aggression in the Balkans in the spring of 1941 (Balkan campaign of 1941). On March 2 the fascist German troops entered Bulgaria, which had joined the Berlin Pact; on April 6, Italian-German and then Hungarian troops invaded Yugoslavia and Greece and occupied Yugoslavia by April 18 and mainland Greece by April 29. Fascist puppet states— Croatia and Serbia—were established on the territory of Yugoslavia. From May 20 to June 2 the fascist German command carried out the Crete Airborne Landing Operation of 1941, in the course of which the Germans captured Crete and other Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
The military successes of fascist Germany in the first period of the war were to a considerable extent predetermined by the fact that its enemies, while having a larger overall industrial and economic potential, were unable to unite their resources, set up a single system of military leadership, or work out unified effective plans for waging the war. Their war machine lagged behind the new requirements of armed struggle and with difficulty resisted the more modern methods of waging war. In training, combat skill, and technical equipment the fascist German Wehrmacht on the whole surpassed the armed forces of the Western states. The deficient military preparation of the latter was chiefly related to their ruling circles’ reactionary prewar foreign policy, which was based on the desire for an agreement with the aggressor at the expense of the USSR.
By the end of the first period of the war the fascist bloc had become increasingly stronger economically and militarily. A great part of continental Europe with its resources and economy was under Germany’s control. In Poland, Germany seized the major metallurgical and machine-building plants, the coal mines of Upper Silesia, and the chemical and mining industries—a total of 294 large and 35,000 medium and small industrial enterprises. In France, Germany seized the metallurgical and steel-casting industry of Lorraine, the entire automobile and aviation industry, and the iron ore, copper, aluminum, and magnesium reserves, as well as automobiles, products of precision mechanics, machine tools, and the rolling stock. In Norway it seized the mining, metallurgical, and shipbuilding industries and enterprises for the production of ferroalloys and in Yugoslavia, the copper and bauxite deposits. In the Netherlands, in addition to the industrial enterprises, Germany seized gold reserves in the amount of 71.3 million florins. The stocks of materials and capital equipment plundered by fascist Germany in the occupied countries by 1941 totaled £9 billion. By the spring of 1941 more than 3 million foreign workers and prisoners of war were working in German enterprises. Moreover, the Germans captured the entire armament of the occupied countries’ armies; for instance, in France alone they seized about 5,000 tanks and 3,000 aircraft. In 1941 the Hitlerites equipped 38 infantry and three motorized divisions and one panzer division with French motor vehicles. More than 4,000 steam locomotives and 40,000 railroad cars from occupied countries began rolling on the German railroads. The economic resources of the majority of the European states were placed in the service of the war, especially the war being prepared against the USSR.
In the occupied territories, as in Germany itself, the Hitlerites established a terrorist regime, exterminating all malcontents or suspected malcontents. A system of concentration camps was established, in which millions of people were exterminated in an organized manner. The work of the death camps greatly expanded after fascist Germany’s attack on the USSR. More than 4 million people were exterminated in Auschwitz (Poland) alone. The fascist command widely practiced the use of punitive expeditions against civilians and mass executions of civilians by firing squad—for example in Lidice and Oradour-sur-Glane.
The military successes enabled the Hitlerite diplomacy to widen the bounds of the fascist bloc, securing the adherence of Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland (which were headed by reactionary governments closely linked with fascist Germany and dependent on it) and implant its network of agents and strengthen its positions in the Near East and several regions of Africa and Latin America. At the same time, a process of political self-exposure of the Nazi regime was under way, hatred against it was mounting not only among broad strata of the population but also among the ruling classes of the capitalist countries, and the Resistance movement was beginning. Faced with the fascist threat, the ruling circles of the Western powers, particularly of Great Britain, were compelled to revise their former policy of abetting fascist aggression and to gradually replace it with the policy of fighting fascism.
The US government also gradually began reevaluating its foreign policy. It supported Great Britain more and more actively, becoming the latter’s “nonbelligerent ally.” In May 1940, Congress appropriated $3 billion for the army and navy and in the summer, $6.5 billion, including $4 billion for building a “two ocean navy.” Deliveries of armament and equipment to Great Britain were increasing. In accordance with the law adopted by the US Congress on Mar. 11, 1941, on transferring military equipment to belligerent countries on loan or on lease (Lend-Lease), $7 billion were appropriated for Great Britain. In April 1941 the Lend-Lease Act was extended to Yugoslavia and Greece. US troops occupied Greenland and Iceland and established bases there. The North Atlantic was declared a “zone of patrol” of the US Navy, which was simultaneously being used more and more to escort merchant ships sailing to Great Britain.
From the very beginning the struggle of the Red Army exerted a decisive influence on the whole course of World War II and the entire policy and military strategy of the belligerent coalitions and states. Under the impact of the events on the Soviet-German front, the Hitlerite military command was compelled to determine the methods of strategic leadership of the war, the formation and utilization of strategic reserves, and the system of regrouping between theaters of operations. In the course of the war, the Red Army compelled the Hitlerite command to completely abandon the blitzkrieg doctrine. Other methods of waging the war and of military leadership used by German strategy were also collapsing one by one under the blows of the Soviet troops.
As a result of the surprise assault with superior forces, the fascist German troops in the first few weeks succeeded in penetrating deeply into Soviet territory. At the end of the first ten days in July the enemy had captured Latvia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, a large part of the Ukraine, and part of Moldavia. However, advancing into the depths of USSR territory, the fascist German troops encountered the growing resistance of the Red Army and suffered heavier and heavier losses. The Soviet troops fought staunchly and persistently. Under the leadership of the Communist Party and its Central Committee, the reorganization of the country’s economy for war and the mobilization of its domestic forces for the defeat of the enemy was begun. The peoples of the USSR rallied into a single military camp. Large strategic reserves were formed and the system of the country’s leadership was gradually reorganized. The Communist Party started organizing the partisan movement.
The initial period of the war already showed that the military venture of the Hitlerites was doomed to failure. The fascist German armies were stopped at Leningrad and on the Volkhov River. The heroic defense of Kiev, Odessa, and Sevastopol’ pinned down large fascist German forces for a long time in the south. In the fierce Smolensk battle of 1941 (July 10 to September 10), the Red Army halted the German strike grouping, Army Group Center, which was advancing on Moscow, inflicting heavy losses on the force. In October 1941 the enemy, having moved up reserves, resumed the offensive on Moscow. Despite the initial successes, he could not break the stubborn resistance of the Soviet troops, who were inferior to the enemy in number and combat materiel, and break through to Moscow. In intense combat, the Red Army under exceedingly difficult conditions held the capital, decimated the enemy strike groupings, and passed to the counteroffensive in early December 1941. The rout of the Hitlerites in the battle of Moscow of 1941-42 (Sept. 30, 1941 to Apr. 20, 1942) demolished the fascist blitzkrieg plan; this rout became an event of world-historic significance. The battle of Moscow dispelled the myth of the invincibility of the Hitlerite Wehrmacht, forced fascist Germany into a protracted war, contributed to the further consolidation of the anti-Hitlerite coalition, and inspired all the freedom-loving peoples to the struggle against the aggressors. The victory of the Red Army at Moscow signified a decisive turn in military events in favor of the USSR and exerted a great influence on the entire subsequent course of World War II.
After extensive preparation, the Hitlerite leadership resumed offensive actions on the Soviet-German front in late June 1942. After bitter combat near Voronezh and in the Donets Basin, the fascist German troops succeeded in breaking through to the great bend of the Don. However, the Soviet command was able to bring out the main forces of the Southwestern and Southern fronts from under attack and withdraw them beyond the Don, thus thwarting the enemy’s plans of encircling them. The battle of Stalingrad of 1942-1943, the greatest battle of World War II, began in the middle of July 1942. In the course of the heroic defense of Stalingrad from July to November 1942, the Soviet troops pinned down the enemy’s strike grouping, inflicted extremely heavy losses on it, and prepared the conditions for passing to the counteroffensive. The Hitlerite troops were unable to attain decisive gains in the Caucasus.
By November 1942, despite enormous difficulties, the Red Army attained great successes. The fascist German Army was stopped. A well-functioning military economy was created in the USSR, and its war production exceeded that of fascist Germany. The Soviet Union had created the conditions for a radical turn in the course of World War II.
The popular liberation struggle against the aggressors created the objective prerequisites for the formation and consolidation of the anti-Hitlerite coalition. The Soviet government strove to mobilize all the forces of the international arena for the struggle against fascism. On July 12, 1941, the USSR signed an agreement with Great Britain on joint actions in the war against Germany. On July 18 a similar agreement was signed with the government of Czechoslovakia and on July 30, with the Polish government-in-exile. On Aug. 9-12, 1941, negotiations took place on warships at Argentia (Newfoundland) between W. Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, and F. D. Roosevelt, president of the USA. Adopting a wait-and-see position, the USA intended to limit itself to material support (lend-lease) to the countries at war with Germany. Great Britain, while urging the USA to enter the war, proposed a strategy of delaying actions by the navy and air force. The war aims and the principles of the postwar arrangement of the world were formulated in the Atlantic Charter signed by Roosevelt and Churchill (dated Aug. 14, 1941). On September 24 the Soviet Union acceded to the Atlantic Charter, while at the same time expressing a separate opinion on several questions. In late September and early October 1941 a meeting of representatives of the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain was held in Moscow; the meeting concluded with the signing of a protocol on mutual deliveries.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan unleashed a war against the USA with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the American military base in the Pacific Ocean. On Dec. 8, 1941, the USA, Great Britain, and several other states declared war on Japan. The war in the Pacific Ocean and in Asia was caused by long-standing and deep Japanese-American imperialist contradictions, which had become exacerbated during the struggle for domination in China and Southeast Asia. The entry of the USA into the war strengthened the anti-Hitlerite coalition. The military alliance of the states siding against fascism was formulated in Washington, D. C. on Jan. 1, 1942, in the Declaration by United Nations (in Russian, Declaration by Twenty-six States of 1942). The declaration proceeded from the recognition of the necessity for achieving a complete victory over the enemy, for which end the countries at war were charged with the duty of mobilizing all military and economic resources, cooperating with each other, and not concluding a separate peace with the enemy. The formation of the anti-Hitlerite coalition signified, on the one hand, the failure of the fascist German plans to isolate the USSR and, on the other, a consolidation of all the world’s antifascist forces.
To work out a joint plan of action, Churchill and Roosevelt held a conference (under the code name Arcadia) in Washington from Dec. 22, 1941, to Jan. 14, 1942. At the conference they determined on a concerted course of Anglo-American strategy based on the recognition that Germany was the principal enemy in the war and that the Atlantic and European region was the decisive theater of military operations. However, aid to the Red Army, which bore the brunt of the struggle, was planned only in the form of intensive air raids on and the blockade of Germany and the organization of sabotage activities in occupied countries. The preparation of an invasion of the continent was envisaged, but not earlier than 1943, either from the Mediterranean or through a landing in Western Europe.
At the conference in Washington, the Allies established a system of overall leadership for their military efforts, set up a joint Anglo-American staff to coordinate the strategy worked out at conferences of heads of state, and formed a unified Allied Anglo-American-Dutch-Australian command for the southwest part of the Pacific Ocean under the command of the British Field Marshal A. P. Wavell.
Immediately after the conference, the Allies began violating the principle, which they themselves had established, of the priority of the European theater of military operations. Without having worked out concrete plans of waging the war in Europe, they (in the first place, the USA) began transferring increasingly greater naval and air forces and landing equipment to the Pacific Ocean, where the situation was developing unfavorably for the USA.
Meanwhile, the leaders of fascist Germany strove to strengthen the fascist bloc. In November 1941 the Anti-Comintern Pact of fascist powers was renewed for five years. On Dec. 11, 1941, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed an agreement on conducting the war against the USA and Great Britain “to a successful conclusion” and on the refusal to sign a truce with them without mutual accord.
Having destroyed the main forces of the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, the Japanese armed forces then occupied Thailand, Hsiang kang (Hong Kong), Burma, Malaya (with the fortress of Singapore), the Philippines, and the principal islands of Indonesia, thus capturing vast reserves of strategic raw materials in the South Pacific. They defeated the US Asiatic Fleet, part of the British Navy, and Allied air and ground forces and, having secured supremacy at sea, in five months of war deprived the USA and Great Britain of all their naval and air force bases in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. Through a thrust from the Caroline Islands, the Japanese Navy seized part of New Guinea and the adjoining islands, including a large part of the Solomon Islands, creating a threat of invasion to Australia (Pacific campaign of 1941-45). The ruling circles of Japan hoped that Germany would tie down the forces of the USA and Great Britain on other fronts and that both powers, after the capture of their possessions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, would give up the struggle far away from the homeland.
Under these conditions, the USA began adopting special measures toward developing its war economy and mobilizing resources. After transferring part of the navy from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the USA delivered its first retaliatory blows in the first half of 1942. The two-day battle in the Coral Sea on May 7-8 brought success to the US Navy and forced the Japanese to abandon any further offensive in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. In June 1942 the US Navy, near the Midway Islands, defeated large forces of the Japanese Navy, which, after suffering heavy losses, was compelled to restrict its actions and pass to the defensive in the Pacific in the second half of 1942. The patriots of the Japanese-occupied countries—Indonesia, Indochina, Korea, Burma, Malaya, and the Philippines—embarked on a national liberation struggle against the invaders. In China a major offensive of the Japanese troops against the liberated regions was halted in the summer of 1941, mainly by the forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The actions of the Red Army on the Eastern Front increasingly influenced the military situation in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and North Africa. After the attack on the USSR, Germany and Italy were unable to simultaneously conduct offensive operations in other regions. Having transferred the main forces of the Luftwaffe against the Soviet Union, the German command lost the opportunity of actively operating against Great Britain and delivering effective blows on British sea lines of communications, naval bases, and shipyards. This enabled Great Britain to intensify its navy’s buildup and transfer large naval forces from domestic waters to secure lines of communications in the Atlantic.
However, the Germany Navy soon regained the initiative for a short time. After the entry of the USA into the war, a considerable number of German submarines began operating in US waters along the Atlantic coast. In the first half of 1942 the Anglo-American losses of ships in the Atlantic rose again. But improvements in methods of antisubmarine defense enabled the Anglo-American command, beginning in the summer of 1942, to improve the situation on the Atlantic sea lines of communications and to deliver several retaliatory blows at the German submarine fleet, restricting its action to the central Atlantic. From the beginning of World War II to the fall of 1942 the tonnage of merchant ships of Great Britain, the USA, and allied and neutral countries sunk, mainly in the Atlantic, surpassed 14 million tons.
The transfer of the bulk of the fascist German troops to the Soviet-German front contributed to a radical improvement in the situation of the British armed forces in the Mediterranean and North Africa. In the summer of 1941 the British Navy and Air Force secured firm supremacy at sea and in the air in the Mediterranean theater. Using the island of Malta as a base, they sank in August 1941 33 percent and in November more than 70 percent of the freight sent from Italy to North Africa. The British command reactivated the Eighth Army in Egypt, which assumed the offensive against Rommel’s German-Italian troops on November 18. A fierce tank battle developed near Sidi Rezegh and was fought with alternating success. The depletion of forces compelled Rommel on December 7 to begin a retreat along the shore toward positions near El Agheila.
In late November and in December 1941 the German command strengthened its navy in the Mediterranean and transferred part of its submarines and torpedo boats from the Atlantic. Delivering several powerful blows at the British Navy and its base on Malta and sinking three battleships, one aircraft carrier, and other ships, the German-Italian fleet and air force retained supremacy in the Mediterranean, improving their situation in North Africa. On Jan. 21, 1942, the German-Italian troops, unexpectedly for the British, passed to the offensive and advanced 450 km to El Gazala. On May 27 they resumed their offensive with the aim of reaching Suez. Executing a maneuver in depth, they succeeded in outflanking the main forces of the Eighth Army and capturing Tobruk. In late June 1942, Rommel’s troops crossed the Libyan-Egyptian frontier and reached El Alamein, where they were stopped short of their goal owing to the depletion of forces and lack of replacements.
Third period (Nov. 19, 1942, through December 1943). The third period of the war was marked by a radical turning point, when the countries of the anti-Hitlerite coalition wrested the strategic initiative from the hands of the Axis powers, fully developed their military potential, and passed to strategic offensives on all fronts. As before, the decisive events took place on the Soviet-German front. By November 1942, of Germany’s 267 divisions and five brigades, 192 divisions and three brigades (or 71 percent) were operating against the Red Army. Moreover, there were 66 divisions and 13 brigades of Germany’s satellites on the Soviet-German front. On November 19 the Soviet troops launched a counteroffensive near Stalingrad. The troops of the Southwestern, Don, and Stalingrad fronts broke through the enemy’s defense and, introducing large mobile units, by November 23 in the Volga-Don interfluve encircled a grouping of 330,000 men of the German Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army. Through a sustained defense in the area of the Myshkova River, the Soviet troops foiled the fascist German command’s attempt to relieve the encircled troops. The offensive in the middle Don, begun on December 16 by the troops of the Southwestern Front and the left wing of the Voronezh Front, ended in the rout of the Italian Eighth Army. The threat of a thrust by Soviet large tank units at the flank of the German relief grouping forced the latter to begin a hasty retreat. By Feb. 2, 1943, the grouping encircled near Stalingrad was liquidated. This operation completed the battle of Stalingrad, in which, between Nov. 19, 1942, and Feb. 2, 1943, the Soviet troops completely destroyed 32 divisions and three brigades of the Hitlerite army and of Germany’s satellites and decimated 16 divisions. The enemy losses during that time totaled more than 800,000 men, 2,000 tanks and assault guns, more than 10,000 guns and infantry mortars, and up to 3,000 aircraft. The victory of the Red Army shook fascist Germany, inflicted irreparable losses to its armed forces, undermined Germany’s military and political prestige in the eyes of its allies, and strengthened dissatisfaction with the war among them. The battle of Stalingrad marked the beginning of the radical turning point in the course of the entire Second World War.
The victories of the Red Army furthered the expansion of the partisan movement in the USSR and provided powerful incentives for the further development of the Resistance movement in Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and other European countries. The Polish patriots gradually passed from the spontaneous and isolated actions of the beginning of the war to a mass struggle. In early 1942 the Polish Communists called for the formation of a “second front in the rear of the Hitlerite army.” The combat strength of the Polish workers’ party, Gwardia Ludowa, became the first military organization in Poland to wage a planned struggle against the occupiers. The formation of a democratic national front in late 1943 and the organization of its central body, the Krajowa Rada Narodowa, on the night of Dec. 31, 1943, promoted the further development of the national liberation struggle.
In Yugoslavia the formation of the People’s Liberation Army began in November 1942 under Communist leadership. By late 1942 this army had liberated one-fifth of the country’s territory. And although in 1943 the occupiers conducted three major offensives against the Yugoslav patriots, the ranks of the active antifascist fighters were steadily multiplying and becoming stronger. The Hitlerite troops suffered increasing losses under the partisans’ blows; the transportation network in the Balkans was paralyzed by the end of 1943.
In Czechoslovakia the National Revolutionary Committee was set up on the initiative of the Communist Party; this committee became the central political organ of the antifascist struggle. The number of partisan detachments was increasing, and centers of the partisan movement were formed in several regions of Czechoslovakia. Under the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, the antifascist resistance movement was gradually growing into a national uprising.
In France the Resistance movement became much stronger in the summer and fall of 1943 following new defeats of the Wehrmacht on the Soviet-German front. Organizations of the Resistance movement joined the unified antifascist army established on the territory of France, the French Forces of the Interior, which soon numbered 500,000.
The liberation movement that developed in the countries occupied by the fascist bloc kept Hitlerite troops pinned down while their main forces were being decimated by the Red Army. As early as the first half of 1942 conditions were ripe for the opening of a second front in Western Europe. The US and British leaders pledged to open it in 1942, and this was announced in the Anglo-Soviet and Soviet-American communiques issued on June 12, 1942. However, the leaders of the Western powers were delaying the opening of the second front, striving to weaken both fascist Germany and the USSR in order to establish their domination in Europe and the whole world. On June 11, 1942, the British Cabinet rejected the plan for a direct invasion of France across the English Channel under the pretext of difficulties in supplying troops and transferring reinforcements and of shortages of specialized landing equipment. At a meeting held in the second half of June 1942 in Washington of heads of state and representatives of the combined staff of the USA and Great Britain, it was decided to abandon the landing in France in 1942 and 1943 and instead to land an expeditionary force in French North Africa (Operation Torch) and only in the future begin the concentration of large masses of American troops in Great Britain (Operation Bolero). This decision, for which there were no significant grounds, elicited the protest of the Soviet government.
In North Africa the British troops, taking advantage of the weakening of the Italian-German grouping, launched offensive operations. The British Air Force, which in the fall of 1942 had gained air supremacy, in October 1942 sank up to 40 percent of the Italian and German ships sailing to North Africa and disrupted regular replacements and supplies to Rommel’s troops. General B. L. Montgomery’s British Eighth Army launched a determined attack on Oct. 23, 1942. Winning an important victory in the battle at El Alamein, he pursued Rommel’s Afrika Korps for the next three months along the coast, occupied Tripolatinia and Cyrenaica, liberated Tobruk and Bengasi, and reached the positions near El Agheila.
On Nov. 8, 1942, an American-British expeditionary force under the overall command of General D. Eisenhower began landing in French North Africa; 12 divisions, numbering more than 150,000 men, disembarked in the ports of Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca. Airborne landing detachments captured two large airfields in Morocco. After insignificant resistance, Admiral J. Darlan, the commander in chief of the French armed forces of the Vichy regime in North Africa, ordered his troops not to hinder Anglo-American troops.
The fascist German command, intending to retain North Africa, hurriedly transferred the Fifth Panzer Army to Tunisia by air and by sea; this army succeeded in halting the Anglo-American troops and throwing them back from Tunisia. In November 1942 the fascist German troops occupied the entire territory of France and attempted to seize a French military fleet (about 60 warships) in Toulon; however, the French fleet was sunk by the French sailors.
At the Casablanca Conference of 1943 the leaders of the USA and Great Britain, declaring that the final aim of the war was the unconditional surrender of the Axis countries, determined further plans for waging the war, which were based on a policy of delaying the opening of the second front. Roosevelt and Churchill examined and approved the strategic plan for 1943 prepared by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. This plan provided for the capture of Sicily with the aim of exerting pressure on Italy and creating conditions for enlisting Turkey as an active ally as well as for an intensified air offensive on Germany and for the concentration of the largest possible forces for an invasion of the continent “as soon as Germany’s resistance would weaken to the necessary level.”
The implementation of this plan could not have seriously undermined the forces of the fascist bloc in Europe, let alone replace a second front, since active operations of the Anglo-American troops were to take place at a theater of military operations of secondary importance for Germany. On the major questions of the strategy of World War II this conference proved to be fruitless.
The war in North Africa was fought with alternating success until the spring of 1943. On March 18 an Anglo-American army group under the command of the British Field Marshal H. Alexander advanced with superior forces, occupied the city of Tunis after prolonged combat, and on May 13 forced the Italian-German troops to capitulate on the Cape Bon Peninsula. All of North Africa passed into the hands of the Allies.
After the defeat in Africa, the Hitlerite command expected an Allied invasion in France, not being prepared to resist it. However, the Allied command was preparing a landing in Italy. On May 12, Roosevelt and Churchill held a new conference in Washington. It reaffirmed the intention not to open a second front in Western Europe in 1943 and set May 1, 1944, as an approximate date for opening it.
During this time Germany was preparing a decisive summer offensive on the Soviet-German front. The Hitlerite command strove to destroy the main forces of the Red Army, to regain the strategic initiative, and to effect a change in the course of the war. It increased its armed forces to 2 million men by means of “total mobilization,” strained its war production to capacity, and transferred large contingents of troops to the Eastern Front from various regions of Europe. Operation Citadel called for encircling and destroying the Soviet troops at the Kursk salient, then for widening the front of the offensive and capturing the entire Donets Basin.
The Soviet command, gaining information about the enemy’s planned offensive, decided to wear out the fascist German troops in defensive engagements near the Kursk salient, then to rout them at the central and southern sectors of the Soviet-German front; liberate the Left-Bank Ukraine, the Donets Basin, and the eastern regions of Byelorussia; and reach the Dnieper. Considerable numbers of men and resources were concentrated and skillfully deployed for the fulfillment of this task. The Kursk battle of 1943, which began on July 5 and which was one of the greatest battles of World War II, developed at once in favor of the Red Army. With an avalanche of tanks the Hitlerite command was unable to break the skillful and steadfast defense of the Soviet troops. In the defensive battle on the Kursk arc the troops of the Central and Voronezh fronts decimated the enemy. On July 12 the Soviet command moved the troops of the Briansk and Western fronts into a counteroffensive against the German base of operations at Orel. On July 16 the enemy began retreating. The troops of five fronts of the Red Army, developing the counteroffensive, routed the enemy’s strike groupings and opened the way to the Left-bank Ukraine and the Dnieper. In the Kursk battle the Soviet troops destroyed 30 fascist German divisions, including seven panzer divisions. After this staggering defeat, the Wehrmacht leadership definitively lost the strategic initiative; it was compelled to give up an offensive strategy completely and to remain on the defensive until the end of the war. The Red Army, taking advantage of its great success, liberated the Donets Basin and the Left-bank Ukraine, forced the Dnieper in a rapid assault, and began the liberation of Byelorussia. Throughout the summer and fall of 1943 the Soviet troops destroyed 218 fascist German divisions, completing the radical turn in the war. Fascist Germany was threatened with disaster. The losses of Germany’s ground forces alone from the beginning of the war until November 1943 totaled about 5.2 million men.
After ending the struggle in North Africa, the Allies carried out the Sicilian operation of 1943, begun on July 10. Having an absolute superiority of forces on the sea and in the air, they occupied Sicily by the middle of August and crossed to the Italian Peninsula in early September (Italian campaign of 1943—45). In Italy a movement to overthrow the fascist regime and leave the war was growing. As a result of the thrusts of the Anglo-American troops and the growth of the antifascist movement, Mussolini’s regime fell in late July. It was replaced by the the government of P. Badoglio, which signed an armistice with the USA and Great Britain on September 3. The Hitlerites responded by moving additional troops into Italy, disarming the Italian Army, and occupying the country. By November 1943, after the landing of Anglo-American forces in Salerno, the fascist German command withdrew its troops toward the north, to the Rome region, and entrenched itself on the line of the Sangro and Careglano rivers, where the front stabilized.
In the Atlantic, the position of the German Navy weakened by early 1943. The Allies secured superiority in surface ships and naval aviation. The large ships of the German Navy could now operate only against convoys in the Arctic Ocean. In view of the weakening of its surface fleet, the Hitlerite naval command, headed by Admiral K. Dönitz, who replaced the previous commander of the navy, E. Raeder, transferred the brunt of the fighting to the submarine fleet. Putting into operation more than 200 submarines, the Germans struck several heavy blows at the Allies in the Atlantic. But after the maximum success attained in March 1943, the effectiveness of the German submarine attacks rapidly decreased. The growth in the size of the Allied fleet, the use of new technology in detecting submarines, and the increase in naval aviation’s area of action predetermined the increasing losses of the German submarine fleet, which was not being replenished. American and British shipbuilding now ensured an excess of newly built ships for those sunk, the number of which had declined.
In the first half of 1943 the belligerent parties in the Pacific, after the losses suffered in 1942, were building up their forces and were not conducting large-scale operations. Japan more than tripled its 1941 aircraft production, and 60 new ships, including 40 submarines, were under construction. The total size of the Japanese armed forces increased 2.3 times. The Japanese command decided to discontinue further advances in the Pacific Ocean and to consolidate what they had conquered, passing to the defensive along the line of the Aleutian, Marshall, and Gilbert islands, New Guinea, Indonesia, and Burma.
The USA was also intensively developing its military production. Construction of 28 new aircraft carriers was begun, and several new large operational units (two field and two air armies) and numerous special units were formed. Military bases were being built in the South Pacific. The forces of the USA and its allies in the Pacific were consolidated into two operational groups: the central part of the Pacific Ocean under Admiral C. W. Nimitz and the southwestern part of the Pacific under the command of General D. MacArthur. The groups comprised several fleets and field armies, the marines, carrier-borne and land-based aviation, and mobile naval bases—a total of 500,000 men, 253 large warships, including 69 submarines, and more than 2,000 combat air-planes. The naval and air forces of the USA were numerically superior to those of the Japanese. In May 1943 large units of Nimitz’ group occupied the Aleutian Islands, consolidating the American position in the north.
In view of the major summer successes of the Red Army and the landing in Italy, Roosevelt and Churchill held a new conference in Quebec (Aug. 11-24, 1943) in order to once again work out war plans in detail. The leaders of the two powers proclaimed that the chief intention was “to bring about in the shortest possible time the unconditional surrender of the European Axis countries.” To this end an air offensive would be conducted to achieve “a disruption and disorganization on an ever-increasing scale of Germany’s military and economic might.” The beginning of Operation Overlord for the invasion of France was set for May 1, 1944. In the Far East it was decided to widen the offensive with a view to capturing bases of operations that could later be used, after the defeat of the European Axis countries and the transfer offerees from Europe, to strike a blow at Japan and to defeat it “within twelve months after the end of the war with Germany.” The plan of action selected by the Allies did not meet the requirement of speedily ending the war in Europe, since active operations in Western Europe were envisaged only for the summer of 1944.
Implementing the plans for offensive operations in the Pacific Ocean, the Americans continued the battles for the Solomon Islands begun back in June 1943. After capturing the island of New Georgia and a base of operations on the island of Bougainville, they brought the bases in the South Pacific closer to the Japanese bases, including Rabaul, the principal Japanese base. In late November 1943 the Americans occupied the Gilbert Islands, which were then made into a base for preparing a thrust at the Marshall Islands. In sustained combat MacArthur’s group captured most of the islands in the Coral Sea and the eastern part of New Guinea and set up a base here for an offensive on the Bismarck Archipelago. Having removed the threat of a Japanese invasion of Australia, the group ensured US sea lines of communications in this region. As a result of these actions, the strategic intiative in the Pacific Ocean passed into the hands of the Allies, who liquidated the consequences of the defeats of 1941-42 and created conditions for an offensive on Japan.
The national liberation struggle of the peoples of China, Korea, Indochina, Burma, Indonesia, and the Philippines was expanding. The Communist parties of these countries consolidated their partisan forces in the ranks of the national fronts. The People’s Liberation Army and the partisan detachments of China, resuming active operations, liberated an area with about 80 million people.
The rapid development of events in 1943 on all the fronts, especially on the Soviet-German front, made it necessary for the Allies to amplify and coordinate war plans for the next year. This was done at the conference held in Cairo in November 1943 and at the Tehran Conference of 1943.
At the Cairo Conference (November 22-26) the delegations of the USA (headed by F. D. Roosevelt), Great Britain (headed by W. Churchill), and China (headed by Chiang Kai-shek) examined plans for conducting the war in South-east Asia, which provided for limited objectives: setting up bases for the subsequent offensive on Burma and Indochina and improving air supplies to Chiang Kai-shek’s army. Questions dealing with military action in Europe were examined only as secondary ones; the British leadership proposed postponing Operation Overlord.
At the Tehran Conference (Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 1943) of the heads of state of the USSR (delegation headed by J. V. Stalin), the USA (delegation headed by F. D. Roosevelt), and Great Britain (delegation headed by W. Churchill) military questions were of prime importance. The British delegation submitted a plan for an invasion of southeast Europe through the Balkans with the participation of Turkey. The Soviet delegation demonstrated that this plan did not meet the requirements for the speediest defeat of Germany because operations in the Mediterranean area were “operations of secondary importance.” With its firm and consistent position the Soviet delegation compelled the Allies to reaffirm that an invasion of Western Europe was of the first order of significance and that the chief Allied operation was Overlord, which was to be accompanied by an auxiliary landing in southern France and diversionary actions in Italy. The USSR, in turn, pledged to enter the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany.
The communique on the conference of the heads of state of the three powers stated that “we have reached complete agreement as to the scope and timing of operations which will be undertaken from the east, west, and south. The common understanding which we have here reached guarantees that victory will be ours.”
At the Cairo Conference held on Dec. 3-7, 1943, the delegations of the USA and Great Britain, after a series of discussions, recognized the need of using in Europe the landing equipment earmarked for Southeast Asia and approved a program according to which the supreme operations for 1944 were to be Overlord and Anvil (landing in southern France). The parties at the conference agreed that “no actions that could jeopardize the success of these two operations should be undertaken in any part of the world.” This was an important victory for Soviet foreign policy in the struggle for unity of action among the anti-Hitlerite coalition and for the military strategy based on this policy.
Fourth period (Jan.1, 1944, through May 8, 1945). In the fourth period of the war, the Red Army, in the course of a powerful strategic offensive, drove the fascist German troops out of the territory of the USSR, liberated the peoples of eastern and southeastern Europe and, jointly with the armed forces of the Allies, completed the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. At the same time the offensive of the armed forces of the USA and Great Britain in the Pacific Ocean continued and the national liberation war in China intensified.
As in the preceding periods, the main brunt of the struggle fell on the Soviet Union, against which the fascist bloc continued to oppose its main forces. By the beginning of 1944 the German command, out of the 315 divisions and ten brigades it had available, kept 198 divisions and six brigades on the Soviet-German front. In addition, 38 divisions and 18 brigades of satellite states were on the Soviet-German front. For 1944 the Soviet command planned an offensive on a front from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea with the main efforts along the southwestern axis of operations. In January and February the Red Army, after a 900-day heroic defense lifted the Leningrad blockade (Leningrad battle of 1941-44). By the spring, carrying out several large-scale operations, the Soviet troops liberated the Right-bank Ukraine and the Crimea, reached the Carpathians, and entered Rumania. During the 1944 winter campaign alone, the enemy lost 30 divisions and six brigades as a result of thrusts of the Red Army; 172 divisions and seven brigades suffered heavy losses; human losses totaled more than 1 million men. Germany was no longer able to replenish its losses. In June 1944 the Red Army delivered a blow at the Finnish Army, after which Finland requested an armistice which was signed in Moscow on Sept. 19, 1944.
The mighty Red Army offensive in Byelorussia from June 23 through Aug. 29, 1944 (Byelorussian operation of 1944) and in the Western Ukraine from July 13 through Aug. 29, 1944 (L’vov-Sandomierz operation of 1944) ended in the rout of the two largest strategic groupings of the Wehrmacht in the center of the Soviet-German front, a breakthrough of the German front at a depth of up to 600 km, the complete destruction of 26 divisions, and the infliction of heavy losses on 82 fascist German divisions. The Soviet troops reached the borders of East Prussia, entered Poland, and approached the Vistula River. Polish troops also took part in the offensive.
In Chelm, the first Polish city liberated by the Red Army, the Polish Committee of National Liberation was organized on July 21, 1944. The committee became the provisional executive body of the people’s power and was subordinate to the Krajowa Rada Narodowa. In August 1944 the Armia Krajowa began the Warsaw Uprising upon the orders of the Polish government-in-exile in London, which strove to seize power in Poland before the approach of the Red Army and to restore the prewar system. After a heroic struggle lasting 63 days the uprising, which was undertaken amid unfavorable strategic conditions, was defeated.
The international and military situation in the spring and summer of 1944 was such that a further postponement of the opening of the second front would have led to the liberation of all Europe by USSR forces. Such a prospect was viewed with apprehension by the ruling circles of the USA and Great Britain, which aspired to restore the prewar capitalist order in the countries occupied by the Hitlerites and their allies. London and Washington began speeding up the preparation for an invasion of Western Europe across the English Channel in order to capture bases of operations in Normandy and Brittany, ensure the landing of an expeditionary force, and then liberate northwestern France. Subsequently, it was intended to break through the Siegfried Line, which covered the German frontier, force the Rhine, and advance deep into Germany. By early June 1944 the Allied expeditionary force under the command of General Eisenhower had 2.8 million men, 37 divisions, 12 separate brigades, commando groups, about 11,000 combat airplanes, 537 warships, and a great number of transport and amphibious ships.
After the defeats on the Soviet-German front, the fascist German command could maintain in Army Group West (Field Marshal G. von Rundstedt) in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands only 61 weakened and poorly equipped divisions, 500 aircraft, and 182 warships. The Allies thus had an absolute superiority in men and materiel.
The Normandy landing operation of 1944 began on June 6. The second front in Europe was opened when the outcome of the war had already been decided by the victories won by the Soviet Union in a singlehanded war with fascist Germany and its allies. But even after the creation of a second front, the chief military forces of Germany remained on the Soviet-German front, and the decisive significance of the latter in the victory over fascism was not diminished. In the summer of 1944, out of fascist Germany’s 324 divisions and five brigades, 179 German divisions and five brigades were on the Soviet-German front, as well as 49 divisions and 18 brigades of its allies, while there were 61 German divisions in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and 26.5 German divisions in Italy. Nevertheless, the opening of the second front became an important event in the history of World War II, an event that proved the possibility of coordinated offensive operations by members of the antifascist coalition against the common enemy. By the end of June the troops that had landed occupied a bridgehead about 100 km wide and up to 50 km deep. On July 25 the Allies passed to the offensive from this bridgehead, striking the decisive blow with the US First Army from the region of Saint-Lô. After a successful break-through, the Americans occupied Brittany and then, jointly with the British Second Army and the Canadian First Army, defeated the main forces of the German Normandy grouping near Falaise, routing six divisions here. In late August, the Allies, with the active support of detachments of the French Resistance, reached the Seine and occupied all of northwestern France. Under the blows of the Allied troops advancing from Normandy and the American and French forces that had landed on the coast of southern France on August 15, the Hitlerite command began withdrawing its troops from France to the Siegfried Line. Pursuing the Germans, the Anglo-American troops, with the active support of the French partisans, reached this line by the middle of September, but their attempts to break through it in a rapid assault failed.
Between July and November 1944, the Red Army, continuing its powerful offensive, liberated the Baltic Region, routing 29 fascist German divisions (Baltic operation of 1944), and in the south, in the Ja§i-Kishenev operation, completely defeated Army Group Ukraine-South, destroying 18 divisions and liberating Rumania. As a result of the popular armed uprising that broke out on August 23, I. Antonescu’s antipopular regime in Rumania was liquidated. An armistice between Rumania and the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain was signed in Moscow on September 12. The entry of Red Army troops into Bulgaria speeded up an imminent popular uprising in the country, which broke out on September 9. In the course of the uprising, the ruling monarchist-fascist clique was overthrown and a government of the Fatherland Front was formed. The peoples that were liberated with the help of the Red Army received the opportunity of embarking on the path of democratic development and social changes and contributing to the defeat of fascism. Rumania and Bulgaria declared war on fascist Germany. The Soviet troops, jointly with Rumanian and Bulgarian troops, launched an offensive along the Carpathian, Belgrade, and Budapest axes. Moving to help the Slovak National Uprising of 1944, the Soviet troops, jointly with Czechoslovak units, crossed the frontier on Sept. 20, 1944, marking the beginning of the liberation of Czechoslovakia. Simultaneously, the Red Army, jointly with units of the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia and Bulgarian troops, began the liberation of Yugoslavia (Belgrade operation of 1944). In October 1944 the Red Army began the liberation of Hungary. Fascist Germany’s situation deteriorated sharply. Its Eastern Front, especially its southern flank, was crumbling.
On the Western Front the fascist German command opened a counter offensive in the Ardennes in December 1944. It intended, with a thrust at Antwerp, to split the Anglo-American troops and rout them. In the course of the Ardennes fascist operation of 1944-45, the fascist German Army Group B succeeded in breaking through to a depth of 90 km and defeating the US First Army. Transferring large numbers of troops and aircraft from other sectors of the front, the Allied command halted the enemy’s advance. However, the situation on the Western Front remained tense. The offensive that the Red Army opened at the request of the Allies on Jan. 12-14, 1945, along a front from the Baltic to the Carpathians forced the Hitlerite command to abandon any further offensive in the Ardennes. Under the growing pressure of the Anglo-American troops, the German troops retreated to their starting positions.
In Italy the Anglo-American 15th Army Group did not succeed until May 1944 in breaking through the German defense south of Rome and, linking up with the force that had landed earlier at Anzio, occupying the Italian capital. Pursuing the retreating German Army Group C, the Anglo-American 15th Army Group then overcame on a narrow sector the defense on the so-called Gothic Line and in the fall reached the Ravenna-Bergamo line, where it stopped the offensive until spring 1945. Thus by the end of 1944 the Allies had occupied France, Belgium, part of the Netherlands, central Italy, and several regions of western Germany.
By the beginning of 1945 the economic and military resources of fascist Germany were exhausted. From the middle of 1944, there was a rapid decline of its war industry, which had lost its chief sources of raw materials. The increasingly intensive bombings of industrial targets in fascist Germany, which had not yielded the expected effect in 1943, began inflicting considerable damage to the German economy in 1944-45.
However, the fascist ruling elite still had hopes of a possible split in the anti-Hitlerite coalition and strove to prolong the war in every possible way. But these attempts were in vain. At the Yalta (Crimea) Conference of 1945, which was held in the first half of February, the heads of state of the USSR (Stalin), the USA (Roosevelt), and Great Britain (Churchill) coordinated the military plans, which provided for a complete and final defeat of fascist Germany and set forth guiding principles of policy with respect to the organization of the postwar peace and international security. They proclaimed the tasks of destroying German militarism and Nazism and creating guarantees that Germany would never again be able to threaten peace. The Allies proposed disarming and disbanding the German armed forces, destroying once and for all the German General Staff, liquidating German military equipment, punishing the war criminals, forcing Germany to compensate for damages inflicted on Allied countries, and disbanding the Nazi Party and other fascist organizations and institutions. The conference set forth the forms of administration of defeated Germany by the Allied powers. The Soviet government reaffirmed the agreement made at the Tehran Conference to participate in the war against Japan.
By January 1945, Germany had 299 divisions and 31 brigades. The Red Army faced 169 German divisions and 20 German brigades and 16 Hungarian divisions and one Hungarian brigade. The Anglo-American troops faced 107 German divisions.
The goal of the Red Army was to complete the defeat of the fascist Wehrmacht, complete the liberation of the countries of eastern and southeastern Europe, and, jointly with the allies of the anti-Hitlerite coalition, to force Germany to accept unconditional surrender. In January and early February 1945 the Soviet troops, in the course of the Vistula-Oder operation routed the fascist German army grouping between the Vistula and the Oder, liberated a considerable part of Poland, destroyed 35 enemy divisions, and inflicted heavy losses on 25 divisions. During the East Prussian operation of 1945, the Soviet troops defeated the fascist German East Prussian grouping, occupied East Prussia, and liberated part of northern Poland and the Baltic Coast, routing 25 fascist German divisions. On the southern wing of the Soviet-German front, the Soviet troops repulsed a strong counter-offensive of the fascist German troops in Hungary, captured Budapest (Budapest operation of 1944-45), liberated Hungary, and began the liberation of Austria. The offensive operations of the Red Army in February through the first half of April 1945 (Eastern Pomeranian operation of 1945) thwarted the plans of the Hitlerite command and created favorable conditions for the final thrust along the Berlin axis of operations.
Simultaneously, the Allies launched an offensive on the Western Front and in Italy. Since the fascist German command had thrown its main forces against the Red Army, the offensive of the Anglo-American troops, which had an absolute superiority of forces, especially in tanks and aircraft, was conducted with increasing speed and minimum losses. In the first half of March 1945 the German troops were forced to retreat beyond the Rhine. Pursuing them, the American, British, and French troops reached the Rhine and created a base of operations at Remagen and south of Mainz. The Allied command decided to deliver two blows in the general direction of Koblenz, with the aim of encircling the fascist German Army Group B in the Ruhr. On the night of March 23 the Allies forced the Rhine on a wide front, bypassed the Ruhr from the southeast, and in early April encircled 20 German divisions and one brigade. The German Western Front ceased to exist. The Anglo-American troops continued a rapid advance along all axes, which soon became an unhindered advance. In the second half of April and in early May the Allies reached the Elbe, occupied Erfurt and Nuremberg, and entered Czechoslovakia and western Austria. On April 25 the forward elements of the US First Army met the Soviet troops near Torgau. In early May the British troops reached Schwerin, Lübeck, and Hamburg.
In the first half of April the Allies launched an offensive in northern Italy. After a series of engagements with the support of Italian partisans, they occupied Bologna and forced the Po River. In late April the German troops began a rapid retreat under the blows of the Allied troops and the impact of the popular uprising, which had spread to all of northern Italy; on May 2 the German Army Group C capitulated.
The last center of fascist German resistance was Berlin. In early April the Hitlerite command pulled together its main forces along the Berlin axis of operations, creating a large grouping totaling about 1 million men, more than 10,000 guns and infantry mortars, 1,500 tanks and assault guns, and 3,300 combat airplanes.
In order to rout the Berlin grouping in a short time, the Supreme Command of the Soviet armed forces concentrated, as part of the First and Second Byelorussian fronts and the First Ukrainain Front, 2.5 million men, more than 41,000 guns and infantry mortars, more than 6,200 tanks and self-propelled artillery, and 7,500 combat airplanes. In the course of the Berlin operation of 1945—an operation immense in scale and intensity—which began on April 16, the Soviet troops broke the desperate resistance of the Hitlerite troops. On April 28 the Berlin grouping was split into three parts, on April 30 the Reichstag fell, and on May 1 a mass capitulation of the garrison began. On May 2, during the day, the struggle for Berlin ended in a complete victory of the Soviet troops.
The Red Army, advancing in a wide front, completed the liberation of the countries of eastern and southeastern Europe. Having driven out the Hiterites from Rumania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and the eastern regions of Czechoslovakia, the Red Army, jointly with the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, liberated Yugoslavia from the invaders. The Soviet troops also liberated a considerable part of Austria. In fulfilling its mission of liberation, the Soviet Union encountered the fervent sympathy and active support of the European peoples and of all the democratic and antifascist forces of the occupied countries and of Germany’s former allies. The entry of the Soviet troops onto the territories of the states of eastern and southeastern Europe contributed to their social and political transformation, curbed reaction, and favorably affected the strengthening of democratic forces.
The assault and fall of Berlin signified the end of the fascist Reich. In the west, the capitulation soon assumed mass proportions. But on the Eastern Front, the fascist German troops continued fierce resistance wherever they could. The goal of the Donitz government, which was formed after Hitler’s suicide (April 30), was, without discontinuing the struggle with the Red Army, to reach an agreement on a “partial surrender” with the USA and Great Britain, Donitz ordered the strongest fascist troop grouping—Army Group Center and Army Group Austria—to continue military actions in Czechoslovakia and at the same time to withdraw “everything possible” to the west. Field Marshal F. Schorner, who commanded this grouping, was ordered by the commander in chief “to continue the struggle against the Soviet troops as long as possible.”
In order to liquidate Schorner’s grouping and extend aid to the popular uprising in Prague, the Soviet Supreme Command organized an offensive of the First, Second, and Fourth Ukrainian fronts. The rout of Schorner’s troops and the liberation of Prague (May 9) by units of the Red Army, jointly with large Czechoslovak units and with the participation of Polish and Rumanian armies and Czechoslovak partisans, concluded the Prague operation of 1945, the last World War II operation in Europe.
As early as May 3, Admiral von Friedeburg, upon the instruction of Dönitz, made contact with the British commander, Field Marshal Montgomery, and reached an agreement on the surrender of the German troops to the British “in an individual agreement.” On May 4 the act on the surrender of the German troops in the Netherlands, northwestern Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, and Denmark was signed. On May 5 the Anglo-American command accepted the capitulation of the fascist German Army Groups E and G and the Nineteenth Army, which operated in southern and western Austria, Bavaria, and the Tirol. At 2:41 A.M. on May 7, at Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims, General A. Jodl in the name of the German command, signed the terms of unconditional surrender, which was to become effective on May 9 at 00:01 A.M. The Soviet government categorically protested this one-sided act; therefore, the Allies agreed to consider it a preliminary protocol of capitulation. It was decided that the act of unconditional surrender be signed in Berlin with the participation of the USSR, which had borne the main burden of the war.
At midnight of May 8, in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst, which had been occupied by Soviet troops, representatives of the German High Command, headed by W. Keitel, signed the act of the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of fascist Germany; the unconditional surrender was accepted on the instructions of the Soviet government by Marshal of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov jointly with the representatives of the USA, Great Britain, and France.
In the Pacific Ocean, the Allied armed forces, which sur-passed the Japanese armed forces 1.5 times in men, three times in aircraft, and between 1.5 and 3 times in ships of various classes, opened an offensive in early 1944 along the Philippines axis. Nimitz’ group advanced through the Marshall and Mariana islands and MacArthur’s group along the northern coast of New Guinea. The Japanese command, passing to the defensive in the Pacific Ocean, tried to fortify itself with ground forces in central and southern China.
In early February 1944 the Americans invaded the Marshall Islands without meeting serious resistance. The Japanese attempt to reinforce a second line of defense (on the islands of Bonin, Mariana, and New Guinea) failed owing to heavy losses in aviation, which made it necessary to with-draw the Japanese Second Fleet, the main forces of this defense, from the Truk base (Caroline Islands) toward the west, where a base was set up on the Tawitawi Islands (Celebes Sea) near the oil sources of Kalimantan (Borneo). The capture of the Marshall Islands meant a breakthrough in the Japanese defense in the central part of the Pacific and enabled the Americans to set up bases for a thrust at the Mariana Islands, which followed in June 1944 after thorough preparation. Especially heavy combat developed on the island of Saipan, where the Japanese resisted for a month. The attempt of the Japanese fleet to deliver a counter stroke from the Tawitawi base was foiled. The Japanese fleet suffered heavy losses, especially in aircraft carriers, which completely deprived the Japanese command of the chances to improve the situation in the air. The American capture of the Mariana Islands in the middle of August deprived Japan of sea lines of communications with the zone of the South Pacific, New Guinea, and the major strongpoints in the central part of the Pacific Ocean. MacArthur’s group, which had captured the Admiralty Islands in February through April 1944, set up an air force base on these islands and assured control over the Japanese-held Bismarck Archipelago and the approaches to New Guinea. In April and May, after landing forces, the Americans captured most of New Guinea and the islands west of it. This led to unified action by Nimitz’ and MacArthur’s groups and made it possible to begin preparing the invasion of the Philippines, which the Japanese command intended to retain at any cost because the capture of the Philippines would create a direct threat to the home-land.
At the beginning of the Philippine operation (October 1944) MacArthur’s group, which had complete supremacy in naval forces over the Japanese and a more than 2 to 1 superiority in infantry and aircraft, occupied the island of Leyte. The attempt of the main forces of the Japanese Navy to pass to the counteroffensive from Singapore and from bases on the homeland led to a naval battle in the region of the Philippines (October 24-25), which ended in the rout of the Japanese Navy and the American occupation of all the islands of the Philippine Archipelago, except the island of Luzon. All the major Japanese sea lines of communications linking Japan with its chief raw material base in the South Pacific came under US control. The shipment of oil from Indonesia and Malaya almost ceased. Japanese war production, which was based on limited reserves of strategic raw material, could not replace the heavy losses of the navy and air force. The Japanese command, having lost half of its navy and a large part of its air force, began the wide use of airplanes with suicide pilots (kamikaze) in the struggle against the US Navy. From January to August 1945 the Americans occupied the island of Luzon after heavy combat.
In China the Japanese Army passed to the offensive against Chiang Kai-shek’s troops in Honan Province in the spring of 1944 and made important gains. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China sent a proposal on coordinating actions to Chiang Kai-shek’s government. Chiang Kai-shek rejected the proposal, which was in the interests of the entire nation, and demanded that the Communist Party of China give up the administration of the liberated areas and disband four-fifths of the armed forces led by the Communists. No agreement was reached between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang. Despite this refusal, the People’s Liberation Army of China passed to the counteroffensive in Honan Province and from the liberated regions in the rear of the Japanese Army, pinning down large forces of Japanese troops. However, owing to insufficient technical equipment and a shortage of arms, the People’s Liberation Army of China could not stop the Japanese advance toward the south. As a result, the Japanese captured the communications linking the northern regions of China with the southern regions and, through Korea, with the Japanese islands. This enabled the Japanese command to use railroads to haul strategic raw materials from Southeast Asia.
In the course of 1944 the Allied troops succeeded in liberating India and a large part of northern Burma from the Japanese and cut off the main railroad line from Rangoon to the north as well as the highway linking Burma and southern China.
In February and March 1945 the US Fifth Fleet captured the island of Iwo Jima. The air force base set up here made it possible to greatly intensify air raids on Japan. On April 1, after lengthy preparation, the Allies began the assault of Okinawa. Despite overwhelming superiority in men and materiel, the Americans for a long time could not break the resistance of the Japanese Thirty-second Army. To foil the landing of troops, the Japanese command threw against the US Navy kamikaze pilots, who sank 36 and damaged 368 warships, and put into action the Second Fleet (ten ships), which, however, was destroyed by American air power on April 7 south of the island of Kyushu. In June 1945 the Allied troops occupied Okinawa, which made it possible to bring American air power still closer to Japan and to develop a broad air offensive against its economic centers.
Simultaneously, the Allied troops and local partisans liberated Burma, a large part of Indonesia, and many regions of Indochina, which definitively undermined the Japanese position in these regions and in the western part of the Pacific Ocean.
Fifth period (May 9 through Sept. 2, 1945) The fifth period of the war encompassed the last of the fighting in the Far East and the Pacific Ocean and led to the end of World War II.
At the Potsdam Conference, held from June 17 to Aug. 2, 1945, of the heads of state of the USSR (delegation headed by J. V. Stalin), the USA (delegation headed by H. Truman), and Great Britain (delegation headed by W. Churchill; after July 28, by C. Attlee) a decision was adopted on the demilitarization, de-Nazification, and democratic reorganization of Germany and the dissolution of German monopolies. The three powers reaffirmed their intention to fully disarm Germany and liquidate all German industry that could be used for military production. The Soviet delegation reaf-firmed that the USSR would enter the war against Japan. On July 26 the Potsdam Declaration of 1945, which contained demands for the capitulation of Japan, was made public on behalf of the heads of state of Great Britain, the USA, and China. The Japanese government rejected this demand. On August 6 and 9 the USA dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and maiming about one-quarter of a million civilians. This was a barbarous crime that was not called for by the requirements of war and that merely served to intimidate other peoples and states. Japan’s armed forces continued the resistance. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan on Aug. 9, 1945, decided the outcome of the war in favor of the Allies. To conduct combat actions against Japan, the Soviet troops in the Far East were consolidated into three fronts: the Transbaikal and the First and Second Far Eastern fronts, numbering 76 divisions, four tank and mechanized corps, and 29 brigades. Large Mongolian units acted jointly with the Soviet troops. The groupings totaled over 1.5 million men. The Japanese troops, which were concentrated in Manchuria, in Korea, on Sakhalin, and on the Kuril Islands, numbered 49 divisions and 27 brigades, or a total of 1.2 million men. The rapid rout of the Japanese Kwantung Army by the Soviet troops led to the liberation of the northeastern part of China, north Korea, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands (Soviet-Japanese War of 1945). The successful actions of the Red Army stimulated the development of a large-scale national liberation movement in Southeast Asia. The Republic of Indonesia was set up on Aug. 17, 1945, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, on September 2.
On Sept. 2, 1945, the Japanese government signed the act of unconditional surrender. Thus ended the six-year struggle of freedom-loving peoples against fascism.
Results World War II had a tremendous impact on the fate of mankind; 61 states with 80 percent of the world’s population took part in it. Military operations were conducted on the territories of 40 states. A total of 110 million persons were mobilized into the armed forces. The human losses reached 50-55 million persons; of this amount, 27 million were killed on the fronts. Military expenditures and war losses totaled $4 trillion. The material expenditures reached 60-70 percent of the national incomes of the belligerent states. The industry of the USSR, the USA, Great Britian, and Germany alone produced 652,700 aircraft (combat and transport); 286,700 tanks, self-propelled cannons, and armored cars; more than 1 million artillery pieces; more than 4.8 million machine guns (excluding Germany); 53 million rifles, carbines and submachine rifles; and enormous quantities of other armament and equipment. The war was accompanied by enormous destruction, the wiping out of tens of thousands of cities and villages, and indescribable suffering of tens of millions of people.
In the course of the war the forces of imperialist reaction were unable to attain their principal goal of destroying the Soviet Union and suppressing the communist and workers’ movement in the whole world. In this war, which marked a further deepening of the general crisis of capitalism, fascism, which was the shock power of international imperialism, was completely destroyed. The war indisputably demonstrated the insuperable might of socialism and of the Soviet Union, the world’s first socialist state. Lenin’s words were confirmed: “A nation in which the majority of the workers and peasants realize, see, and feel that they are fighting for their own Soviet power, for the rule of the working people, for the cause whose victory will ensure them and their children all the benefits of culture, of all that has been created by human labor—such a nation can never be vanquished” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, p. 315).
The victory won by the anti-Hitlerite coalition with the decisive participation of the Soviet Union contributed to revolutionary transformations in many countries and regions of the world. A radical change occurred in the balance offerees between imperialism and socialism in favor of the latter. The outcome of World War II facilitated and speeded up the victory of people’s democratic and socialist revolutions in a number of countries. European countries with more than 100 million people embarked on the path of socialism. The capitalist system was undermined in Germany itself: the German Democratic Republic, the first socialist state on German soil, was formed after the war. Asian countries with about 1 billion persons dropped out of the capitalist system. Later, Cuba became the first country in the Americas to embark on the path of socialism. Socialism became a world system, a decisive factor in the development of mankind.
The war exerted an influence on the development of the popular national liberation movement, which led to the disintegration of the colonial system of imperialism. As a result of a new upswing in the popular liberation struggle that started after World War II, almost 97 percent of the people (1971 data) living in colonies at the end of World War II freed themselves from colonial oppression. The peoples of the developing countries embarked on a struggle against neocolonialism and for progressive development.
In the capitalist countries the revolutionizing of popular masses accelerated and the influence of the Communist and workers’ parties increased; the world communist and workers’ movement rose to new and higher levels.
The Soviet Union played the decisive role in the victory over fascist Germany. The bulk of the armed forces of the fascist coalition, a total of 607 divisions, were destroyed on the Soviet-German front. The Anglo-American troops destroyed and took prisoner 176 divisions. On the Eastern Front the armed forces of Germany lost about 10 million men (about 77 percent of its total losses in World War II), 62,000 aircraft (62 percent), nearly 56,000 tanks and assault guns (about 75 percent), and approximately 180,000 guns and infantry mortars (about 74 percent). The Soviet-German front was the longest of all the fronts of World War II. Combat actions totaled 1,418 days on the Soviet-German front, 1,068 days on the North African front, 338 days on the Western European front, and 663 days on the Italian front. Active operations on the Soviet-German front amounted to 93 percent of the total time of the armed struggle, while on the North African front they amounted to 28.8 percent, on the Western European front to 86.7 percent, and on the Italian front to 74.2 percent.
From 62 to 70 percent of the Axis powers’ divisions in action (from 190 to 270 divisions) were on the Soviet-German front, while the Anglo-American troops faced in North Africa in 1941-43 from nine to 20 divisions, in Italy in 1943-45 from seven to 26 divisions, and in Western Europe after the opening of the second front from 56 to 75 divisions. In the Far East, where the allied armed forces faced the main forces of the Japanese Navy and Air Force, the bulk of the ground forces was concentrated at the frontiers of the USSR and in China, Korea, and on the Japanese islands. In routing the elite Kwantung Army in Manchuria, the Soviet Union greatly contributed to the victorious completion of the war against Japan.
World War II demonstrated the decisive superiority of the socialist economy over the capitalist economy. The socialist state was able to carry out a profound and comprehensive reorganization of its economy in accordance with the demands of the war, to ensure a rapid growth of war production, and to make wide use of material, financial, and labor resources for the needs of the war, for the restoration of the national economy in occupied regions, and for creating conditions for the postwar development of the country. The Soviet Union successfully solved the highly complicated problem of rearming the armed forces and supplying them with technical equipment, relying solely on its own economic resources. Surpassing fascist Germany in the war years in all areas of armament production, the Soviet Union won an economic victory that predetermined the military victory over fascism and the course of World War II as a whole.
World War II was fought by immense ground forces and numerous and powerful naval and air fleets equipped with a great variety of war materiel that embodied the highest achievements of the military and technological ideas of the 1940’s. Techniques of armed struggle were developed and new forms worked out in the protracted and sustained combat of immense groupings of armed forces of the two coalitions. World War II was the most important stage in the development of the art of warfare and in the building up and organization of the armed forces.
The greatest and most comprehensive experience was acquired by the Soviet armed forces, whose art of warfare was of a progressive character. Waging an intense struggle against a strong enemy, the personnel of the Soviet armed forces displayed high military skill and mass heroism. In the course of the war a galaxy of outstanding Soviet military commanders came to the fore, including Marshals of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevskii, L. A. Govorov, G. K. Zhukov, I. S. Konev, R. la. Malinovskii, K. K. Rokossovskii, and F. I. Tolbukhin.
The armed forces of the USA, Great Britain, and Japan conducted large-scale operations with the participation of different types of armed forces. Considerable experience was gained in planning and commanding such operations. The Normandy landing, in which all types of armed forces participated, was the largest landing operation of World War II. In ground action, the Allied art of warfare was characterized by a striving to create an absolute superiority in materiel, primarily in aviation, and to pass to the offensive only after completely overwhelming the enemy’s defenses. Considerable experience was gained in actions occurring under special conditions (in deserts, mountains, and jungles) as well as the experience of strategic offensive air operations against German and Japanese economic and political centers. On the whole, the bourgeois art of warfare witnessed a considerable development, but to some extent it was one-sided, because the chief forces of fascist Germany were on the Soviet-German front and the armed forces of the USA and Great Britain fought mainly against a weakened enemy.
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