By Ismail Veli…….
WW2 officially started with the invasion of Poland by Germany on 1st September 1939 and Poland was invaded by the Soviet Union on 17th September.
By October Nazi Germany occupied vast chunks of the West and central parts of Poland while the Soviets occupied a massive chunk of Eastern Poland. Great Britain and France in response declared war on Germany on 3rd September. Neither of the 2 allies ever declared war on the Soviet Union for the invasion of Poland.
By 1941 Germany and its allies effectively controlled Continental Europe. Their brilliant military planning in a new style of warfare Blitzkrieg/Lightning war was a byproduct of the massive losses of trench warfare in WW1. Germany’s military planners had learned their lesson well. Sadly the Western allies were slow in this concept of modern warfare and their defeats in France, Norway, Greece and the Balkans seemed irreversible at the time. Germany seemed unbeatable. The German Soviet ”Non Aggression Pact” of 1939 kept the two countries from war. Great Britain stood alone but in the Battle of Britain in 1940 the RAF with new technology like Radar, its closer proximity to homeland airfields and above all the amazing skill and courage shown by RAF pilots eventually wore down the Luftwaffe’s seemingly unstoppable air superiority.
The failure by Germany to defeat the RAF forced Germany to cancel its seaborne invasion of England code named ”Operation Sealion”. Germany however was in control of Europe and felt that Great Britain was no longer a credible military threat to its stranglehold. Hitler turned his attention towards the East and the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1942 took the world by storm. Within a short few months the Nazi war machine was at the gates of Moscow and the victory of Germany seemed inevitable. The severe winter and massive resourcefulness of the Soviet Union’s army under the command of Georgy Zhukov was to finally stop the inexorable advances of the German Blitzkrieg. Leningrad and Stalingrad stood firm and the German nightmare of WW1 casualty rates was again a possibility.
Another and completely unexpected twist of fate was to finally turn what seemed a mostly European war into a truly global war that for its brutality, loss of life and number of countries involved had no other comparison in history. Japan decided to attack the USA and its naval bases on the islands of Hawaii and Pearl Harbour in particular. Germany feeling confident decided to also declare war on the USA. The blunder by Japan and Germany in their arrogant self confidence was to finally turn the tide against them. The industrial might and infinite capacity to produce armaments that the Axis powers simply could not match was no doubt a twist of fate that finally rid the world of the Axis powers. It’s hard to conceive how the Axis thought they could match such industrial and manpower that the Allies could bring to bear. In fact by 1944 the US alone produced an amazing 96.318 warplanes of which 35.005 were bombers. The US and Soviets alone had an incredible 24.277.000 men under arms by the end of the war. In addition the USA produced an incredible 62.770 landing craft of various types. By today’s standards these statistics are simply mind boggling.
The invasion of Europe by the allies on 6th June 1944 in Normandy, France and the powerful thrusts of the Soviet forces in the East was to finally bring Nazi Germany to its heels. On 6th June known as D Day, (Operation Overlord) involving an incredible 6.939 vessels of many types was the largest amphibious landings ever undertaken in history. It also involved massive air force involvement and parachute landings such as the world had never seen. It also involved the landings of 73.000 US combat troops and 59.000 British on the first day alone. This long anticipated operation by the Allies was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
The end of war left in its wake destruction that is simply unimaginable. WW2 had cost an estimated 15 million military deaths, 25 million wounded and a staggering 45 million civilian deaths. The Soviets alone lost an estimated 20 million and Chinese deaths range from 10 to 20 million. Germany and Japan also suffered immensely with estimated dead and wounded of 8-10 million between them. Even small countries like Greece lost an estimated 200.000 dead and much more wounded. The number of refugees and displaced people may never truly be known. The dropping of the atomic weapons on Japan is another story. The aftermath of this butchery left world leaders in a position of scratching their heads on reconstruction and trying to heal the wounds in order to move forward and lay some kind of a new world order, in order to try and prevent such a disaster from ever happening again.
Move on 73 years from D Day and 74 years from the end of WW2 and humanity is today faced with refugee crises again on a global scale. The nature of warfare may have changed but the primitive instincts of humans to inflict misery is primitive in nature as it ever was. It may be a worn out phrase but humans simply don’t seem to learn from history.
That I’m afraid is a sad indictment of a species that claims to be ”CIVILISED”. If we are, I hate to think what we could inflict on each other if we weren’t.