How World War II Began Essay

This essay has a total of 2246 words and 10 pages.


How World War II Began





How World War II Began
At daybreak on the first day of September 1939, the people of Poland awakened to vital
news. A force of tanks, guns, and countless soldiers from nearby Germany had torn across
the countryside and were making a total invasion of the Pole's homelands. Germany's
actions on that fateful morning ignited a conflict that would spread like a wildfire,
engulfing the entire globe in a great world war. This scenario is many people's idea of
how World War II started. In reality, the whole story is far more detailed and complex.
The origins of war can be traced as far back as the end of the first World War in 1919,
when the Treaty of Versailles placed responsibility for that terrible war all on Germany.
Years later, in the Far East, Japanese ambition for territory led the nation to invade
Manchuria and other parts of nearby China, causing hostilities to flare in the Pacific
Rim. Great Britain, the United States, and many other nations of the world would all be
drawn into battle in the years to come, and each nation had it's own reason for this huge
rage of war.

Although Germany was the major player in World War II, the thoughts of war had already
been started in the Far East years before conflict in Europe began. On September 18, 1931,
the powerful Japanese military forces began an invasion of the region known as Manchuria,
an area belonging to mainland China. This action broke non-aggression treaties that had
been signed earlier. Japanese generals without the consent of the Japanese government also
carried it out. After all of this, no one was ever punished for the actions. Soon after
the assault on China, the Japanese government decided it had no choice but to take over
Manchuria. By the next year the region had been completely cut off from China (Ienaga
60-64). Because of the Japanese offensive in China, the League of Nations held a vote in
October to force Japan out of the captured territory. The vote was passed, 13 to 1, but
Japan remained in control of Manchuria. A second vote, taken in February 1933, a formal
disapproval of the Japanese occupation, was passed 42 to 1. Instead of expelling Japan
from the area of Manchuria, it caused the nation to formally withdraw its membership in
the League of Nations the next month (Ienaga 66).

Now uncontrolled by the suggestions of the League of Nations, Japan continued it's
intrusion onto Chinese soil. By 1937 Japan had moved military forces into Beijing,
Shanghai, and Nanjing, as well as other regions of China. By 1940, Japanese abduction of
territory had spread to Southeast Asia and even parts of Australia (Sutel et al). Also in
1940, the Triparte Pact was signed, allying Japan, Germany, and Italy into a powerful
force that stretched halfway around the planet. The association with Hitler and Germany
unified the war in the Pacific and the war in Europe. Japan was now fully involved in what
came to be known as World War II. As warfare was stirring rapidly in

the Pacific Rim, a chain of events was unfolding that would produce catastrophic results.
The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 held Germany fully accountable for the tragedy of World
War I. The nation was stripped of large areas of land, it's weapons, as well as its
dignity. The reparations that were to be paid to the allied nations virtually destroyed
the economy of Germany. The resentment of the treaty burned in the hearts and minds of
Germans for years after. In 1933, a man by the name of Adolf Hitler was elected
Chancellor of Germany after working his way up the ladder of government. By speaking
against the Treaty of Versailles and making promises of a better life to the German
people, Hitler gained the support of his fellow countrymen, and he easily won the
election. Almost immediately after Hitler took office he began securing his position in
power. Hitler took steps to eliminate all opposition, including political parties and
anyone else who spoke out against him. The death of President Hindenburg in 1934 secured
his high standing, and he became dictator of Germany. Hitler held the titles of Head of
State, Commander in Chief of German military forces, Chancellor, and Chief of the Nazi
Party (Elliott 57). There was no question of his authority. With his empire established,
Hitler took steps to rearm Germany, leading the nation down the road to war. In violation
of the Treaty of Versailles and a naval treaty signed with Great Britain, Hitler rebuilt
the nation's army and naval forces. By 1935 the ranks of the army had expanded to over
500,000 and production of arms and ammunition had continued (73). Also, military units
reoccupied the Rhineland, a region in western Germany next to France. This region had been
demilitarized after World War I, and the Treaty of Versailles forbade occupation of the
area. In spite of the violations of treaty after treaty, little was done by the world
powers to control the renewed German militarism.

With his plans well organized, Hitler set his plans for conquest into motion. Beginning in
1938, Hitler used threats and political maneuvering to overthrow the government of nearby
Austria. His next target was Czechoslovakia. In March of 1939, the nation was overtaken
after Hitler threatened a bombing of Prague if his army met resistance on its invasion of
the country (80). With the conquest of Europe well underway and his reich expanding
rapidly, Hitler's power and influence was growing greater each day. He now planned to add
Poland to his list of accomplishments and extend the German empire. The threat of Russia
backing the Poles to defend against an attack was neutralized when Germany and Russia
signed a nonaggression pact saying that the two nations would not go to war. Great Britain
sternly warned Germany that an attack on Poland would be considered an act of war. Hitler
fearlessly ignored the warnings, and his operation swung into action. In the early morning
hours of September 1, 1939, German forces mobilized and flew head on into Poland. The
Polish were devastated in the assault, as they stood no chance against the mighty Panzer
tanks that rolled through the country with frightening speed. Two days after the attack,
Britain and France joined in a declaration of war against Germany. Their belated

reactions, could not save the army of Poland. In a battle that raged for nearly a month,
the Polish army was eventually cornered in the capital city of Warsaw. After a brutal
siege of the city, the men of Poland had no choice but to surrender to the overwhelming
German force. The point of no return had been crossed, and Europe had fallen into the arms
of war for the second time in the century. Great Britain still remembered the horrors of
World War I, and when Germany began to renew its sense of militarism, Britain was hesitant
to start another war. Instead of using force, the British leaders, including Prime
Minister Neville Chamberlain, sought a diplomatic solution to conflicts. When Germany's
motives were to capture the area known as Sudentland, in Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain held
several meetings with Hitler and other nations, desperately trying to prevent an armed
conflict with Germany. Chamberlain believed that by granting Hitler's demands, he could
avoid a war with Germany (Elliot 73-74). He was greatly mistaken. Even after all the
negotiation and bargaining, Hitler's forces eventually overtook the entire nation of
Czechoslovakia by force.

When it became clear that Hitler next planned an invasion of Poland, Great Britain had no
choice but to issue a threat of war if Germany went through with the operation. The threat
was disregarded, and the attack on Poland was carried out as planned. On September 3,
1939, two days after the Polish invasion began, Chamberlain gave a speech in which he
stated that, "This country is at war with Germany..."(Wernick 8). The joint declaration of
war on Germany with France became official the same day. In spite of efforts to avoid
combat, the fears of the British people had come true on that day.

The United States of America, like Great Britain, had hoped to avoid bringing the horrors
of war to its people. For many years after the development of tensions in Europe and the
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