Deciphering World War II: Causes, Key Events, and Consequences
There may be few topics in history with diverse interpretations and profoundly insightful viewpoints, like World War II. It is perceived as the war that turned the world around, shaped the politics of this day, and ultimately defined a course of development of humanity in different ways. Moreover, this topic needs to generate more diversity of opinions, like the D-Day topic. With each country presenting its ideas and historians continuing to shape modern opinions, it is imperative to analyze the World War II topic again. In this pursuit, this study analyzes World War II political causes, war front aspects, and social challenges in the aftermath, extensively interrogating various historical perspectives on D-Day.
Unraveling the Political Catalysts of the Global Conflict
To understand various opinions that shaped perspectives on World War II, it is imperative to consider the political causes that triggered this 5-year armed conflict. Historians reckon that World War II was a series of multifaceted events influenced by numerous factors and consequently having multiple causes. Nonetheless, they agree to a series of events by considering what they call ‘proximate causes’. Moreover, there is an agreement among historians that political factors which led to World War II were the Treaty of Versailles, the failure of Appeasement, the League of Nations’ failure, and Hitler’s actions.
The Versailles Treaty: A Peace Pact or Prelude to War?
Regarding the Treaty of Versailles, historians look for the causes of World War II in World War I through remedies sought to prevent another war. Under the Treaty of Versailles, four political leaders from England (Lloyd George), Italy (Orlando), France (Clemenceau), and the US (Woodrow) met in 1919 to discuss ways of making Germany pay for the damage it had done in World War I. Historians point out a disagreement between the approaches since France wanted revenge, while the US proposed a 14 point-plan. Since Lloyd knew that the British public shared France’s sentiments and agreed with Woodrow, so he reached a middle-ground compromise between two extremes.
Consequently, the treaty’s terms included clauses on war guilt, reparations, disarmament of Germany, and non-union with Austria (Anschluss), among other requirements. Historians named it an unbalanced treaty with postulations that only forced crippling peace. It greatly influenced Germany’s economy and is seen by historians as closely related to Hitler’s rise to power. Historians opine that global depression, despite being non-political, shaped political events in Europe by creating unfavorable economic conditions, which also became political. It is against this background that Hitler ascended to power in 1933. Historians opine that Hitler’s rise to power was the most likely cause of the war. However, many add that the rise did not happen in a vacuum. The treaty made Germans breathe anger and betrayal, and Hitler’s appeal to them was about his promise of restoring the honor of Germans stripped by the treaty.
Moreover, Hitler knew that citizens viewed the lopsided deal in the treaty as shameful and punitive. The reparations to rebuild Belgium and parts of France destroyed in the war and the restriction of its army to only a defensive skeleton army gave Hitler a campaigning ticket. Hitler promised to rip the Treaty of Versailles and explained the German predicament resulting from Jewish, Bolsheviks, and corrupt politicians’ betrayal. He insisted that Germany never lost the war and convinced citizens not only to vote for him but convinced them that pursuing military glory was the country’s way to honor him. Upon his rise to power, Hitler started to pursue his long-term objectives of conquering Europe, which historians call akin to eating an artichoke leaf by leaf. They note that Hitler’s ambitions beyond Germany can be traced in his writings in prison when he asserted the ‘Lebensraum’ call for expanding Germany’s living space. Upon his ascension to power, his politics, supported by the Weimar Republic’s right wings, established a totalitarian regime, started a rearmament program, and pursued Hitler’s dream since the 1920s.
Historian Ted Townley writes that Hitler’s wish to control space and race could only be achieved through war. This would allow him to expel Jews and conquer Europe until he established an economic system to support Nazis in the war. Consequently, he created an economy to support his military aims and politics. Townley also notes that some reasons for war-related to Hitler’s political actions included his revision of the Versailles treaty. His moves were politically calculated, as indicated by his signing of the ‘Non-Aggression Pact” with Poland. In his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, historian William Shirer opines that this was Hitler’s part of advancing his conquest by securing the eastern border to undermine the alliance of France in Eastern Europe known as the Little Entente. It succeeded by countering the 1925 Franco-Polish Alliance. Thus, Hitler led to the war by advancing dangerous political issues while portraying his intentions as ultimately peaceful.
However, although some of Hitler’s actions, such as unifying Germany with Austria, were the hallmark of contravening the Versailles treaty and served as an indication of his long-term plan, some historians view his first attempts as an indication of a lack of a long-term strategy. Though they accept that Hitler had some Nazi support in Austria that murdered Chancellor Engelbert, his retreat after being warned by Mussolini is evidence of what they term “improvisation”. Therefore, by their contention that Hitler was not ready to enforce his ambitions for expansion, they indicated that his immediate political activities were building a Nazi state, which ultimately fuelled the war.
Furthermore, historical evidence indicates that politics regarding the European response were also key causes of war, as indicated by Britain’s self-interest politics. Upon Britain, France and Italy’s knowledge of Germany’s huge army, they met and signed the Stresa Front agreement. However, Britain disregarded this and signed the Anglo-German Naval agreement, which not only condoned Germany’s rearmament. It was a betrayal to its partners and a silent victory for Hitler. Thus, Hitler manipulated international occurrences such as Italy’s withdrawal from the League of Nations following its invasion of Abyssinia. He proceeded to attack Austria, Rhineland, and Czechoslovakia. This occurred within a political period when dictators had arisen in Italy and Japan. Politically, allies came to exist between Hitler and other dictators, especially France’s Mussolini, through the Spanish civil war. This popular alliance, known as the Rome-Berlin Axis, was followed by the Comintern Pact with Japan in November 1936. Thus, political reasons for dictatorial alliances were the likely causes of the war.
In addition, the politics of the controversial Nazi-Soviet Pact as a retort to Britain’s threat to attack Germany, where they aimed to attack Poland, is termed by historians as an immediate cause. Since Germans never accepted Polish Corridor being free or the independence of Poland under the supervision of the League of Nations, its attack on Poland resonates with many as the ultimate cause of World War II in Europe. However, it is preserved by many historians about the role of Appeasement in the war. The British policy of compromise is viewed as having encouraged Hitler’s acts. Such views are held by historian A. J. Taylor, who emphasizes the role of European nations in the war. He postulates that Hitler’s actions were not planned but were responses to European actions. These views conclude political reasons for war encompassing Hitler’s actions, reactions, outside political policies, allies, and complacency.
Controversial Perspectives: Was World War II a Jewish Creation?
Controversy over the causes of the war continues to rage, but some historians have added their voices, with some stating that it was Jewish creation. They opine that the Jewish community’s vast influence on business and other areas, followed by a call by Jewish leadership to boycott German goods, led to the war. Jews are quoted by many Generals and Ambassadors as having had an effective system of propaganda that succeeded in dividing the world into two camps of war. Moreover, they opine that anti-Semitism in Germany is understandable by the then-American Ambassador in Berlin, Hugh Wilson. This is because, before the Nazi regime, Jews filled top positions and were closely allied to Russian Bolshevists. They opine that their hatred for Hitler emanated from his push to destroy communism and that Jews represented over 50% of revolutionaries despite their percentage in the Russian population. Thus, post-World War I, European revolutions had strong Jewish elements, whether in central Europe, Hungary, Russia, Bavaria, or Berlin. In addition, the Bolshevist party leadership had Jews in it.
Historian A. J. P. Taylor has demonstrated that Hitler’s only aim was to rectify the effects of the Versailles and end the Communist threat to Germany, but not a primarily larger conquest. They opine that Britain and France went to war with Germany to Hitler’s push, and signs of his quest for peace are evident. For instance, historian of the British army Liddell Hart states that Hitler did not capture British soldiers when he had a chance but instead expressed his admiration, only requesting Britain’s recognition of Germany’s place in the world. David Irvin corroborates this by stating that at no time did Hitler intend to threaten the British Empire. Thus, the role of Jews is brought out, and a history of official and unofficial censorship of some truths appears apparent.
Battlefront Chronicles: The Famed D-Day
Blueprint for Victory: Strategic Preparations and Operations
Certain events during the war remain etched in the minds of various participants. It is worth noting that military history and World War II have many D-days. However, none compares to the popular D-Day campaign synonymous with the Allied forces’ invasion of Normandy. This was not only the battle that changed the direction of World War II; it was a battle to gain a footing in a continent and remains the largest invasion over the sea in all military history. As discussed earlier, the war was not without politics and divided attention, with Britain focusing on Africa, the battle stalemate in Rome persisting, but not without the pressure from the US and the Soviets to end Hitler’s move, who had now advanced to France from Poland. Further, it is imperative to appreciate the massive planning that preceded operations, such as the choice of Normandy, data gathering, and synergy in alliances, among other strategic aspects. Pre-planning took a decisive turn upon the appointment of General Eisenhower to implement the operation that was termed OVERLORD.
Among the prominent plans preceding D-Day was the destruction of the transport system to paralyze the movement of Germans. However, many historians opine that Hitler prepared against an attack in September 1942 by building the popular Atlantic Wall. However, his attack on the Soviet Union weakened his forces through diverted supplies and men. Field Marshal Rommel was in charge of preventing the invasion of Germany. He hoped to succeed as he had defeated the British earlier in Africa. However, disagreement between Rommel and Marshal Rundstedt made Hitler retain control personally. Nonetheless, Germany reinforced its defense levels to lethal levels for attackers.
It is well documented that the activities of D-Day started on 6th June 1944 with allied forces from the US, UK, Canada, and a few from France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Netherlands, and Greece. The attack began in the early morning when paratroopers from American airborne divisions began landing. Due to bad weather that led Hitler to downplay the possibility of an attack that soon, and the lack of pattern in the manner of paratroopers’ landing, his soldiers were through into confusion. They could not stop the landing. Moreover, the operation employed decoys to confuse Germans about the real landing areas of interest.
Consequently, landing troops had gained control over strategic areas in the 80-kilometer stretch by 6:30 AM. These areas were Utah, Omaha, Sword, and Juno. The plan was in progress, having been expeditiously planned. It involved over 160,00 troops, 5000 ships, air support, naval fire support and a transport system for materials and soldiers. The plan involved overlapping operations, such as Operation Neptune, representing the assault phase.
Allied Forces: The Order of Battle and Their Distinct Roles
The battle was implemented by strategically dividing roles and target areas for different troops in an East-to-West approach. British Second Army was deployed in several areas: the 6th airborne division took charge of the left flank and landed to the east of Orne River, the leftmost part was taken care of by the 1st Service Brigade landing at in Queen Red Quistreham sector, a 3rd Infantry at Lion-sur-Mer, and no.41 commando landing to the West of Sword Beach. At Juno Beach, three Canadian forces pushed from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Courseulles-sur-Mer with an offshore reserve division. Gold Beach witnessed over 25,000 troops with special services for recovery, assault, and mine-clearing. The last part of the 2nd Army comprised over 83,000 troops, with a majority of over 61,000 being British.
On the other hand, American forces landed at Omaha and Utah beaches. The first contingent to Omaha was the 1st Infantry Division moving from Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer, while the second was the 5th Ranger Battalion stationed at Point du Hoc. At Utah Beach, over 23,000 men landed around La Madeleine and Pouppeville. In addition, an airborne division at Vierville supported the landings, while a parachute division at Sainte-Mere-Englise protected the right flank. Thus, the US Army had 73,000 troops, of which 15,600 were airborne.
On the part of the German defense, their four-year refined plan involved an interlocking-firing method of protecting areas under heavy fire. They utilized large bankers with concrete hideouts fitted with large caliber weapons and machine guns. They had an extensive integration of hills and cliffs overlooking the beaches in their fighting style. It was evident that Germany had placed its first line of defense in the English Channel, compounded by the extensive Atlantic Wall. However, allied forces attacked the 7th and 15th German army boundary, where their landing sectors faced four German divisions. These divisions included the 716th Infantry Division consisting of mostly unfit soldiers for the Eastern Front war. This was due to their medical issues or being Soviet captives. Their weakness and dubious loyalty were an enhancement to allied attacks. The other division was the 352nd Infantry Division of well-trained soldiers defending Omaha Beach. Due to their fighting experience on the Eastern front and their well-equipped force, the clash had the highest number of casualties. The third division consisted of the 1057th and 1058th regiments of transportable artillery located in the Cotentin peninsula, where American parachutes were dropped. Lastly, four battalions were coastal defenses for the Utah beach, eastern, and northern coasts of the Cotentin peninsula.
The D-Day Operation: A Close Encounter
Sword Beach: The Dawn of the Longest Day
The attack on the beach began around 03:00 with aerial bombardment of Hitler’s artillery sites and coastal defenses. Supported by a later naval bombardment, three groups of Allied forces reached the beach, where they only had light casualties. Despite this achievement, the land troop’s commander Gen. Montgomery had ambitious plans to take Caen. However, this was not achieved despite over 8-kilometer advances since by the end of D-Day, Caen was still under Hitler, and this was only to change on 20th July with Operation Atlantic. Nevertheless, soldiers were undeterred by the far-off likelihood of securing Caen. They moved inland, with the 1st Special Service Brigade going first and then French troops. The two troops had different targets: the French were to secure the Casino and a Block House, while British troops focused on two batteries overlooking the beach. The blockhouse was a challenge, unlike the Casino. However, upon succeeding, both teams moved inland to join the others.
Juno Beach: Canada’s Crucial Confrontation
This clash suffered the second-highest casualties as Canadian troops came under heavy fire, huge fortifications, seawalls, and pillboxes. The casualties were at 50%, but they succeeded in using armor. Within hours they had started advancing inland. The Canadian unit had even reached the final objective line, only to retreat due to a lack of infantry support. However, they only secured the Douvres radar station from Germans, a later arrival of British commandoes. Shortcomings notwithstanding, Canadian troops reported the highest penetration in France and landed over 30,000 troops by the end of D-Day. It is, however, notable that in their advance, they had come under heavy resistance from the 12th SS Hitlerjugend, German 21st, and Panzer divisions.
Gold Beach: The Brits’ Golden Hour
The casualties were significant at over 400 due to village fortification at the beach, bad weather, and delayed Sherman DD tanks. Over 25,000 British soldiers fought against the odds to advance into Bayeux’s outskirts by the close of D-Day. Their objective was high and could only be matched by Canadians at Juno Beach. Another British unit, no.47, landed later and had to proceed inland, then turn west towards Port en Bessin, where they would attack the high chalk cliff-sheltered territory.
Omaha Beach: The American Struggle for Survival
US forces were to face the most fortified beach guarded by German forces with Russian volunteers and teenagers that had just been formed. The allied intelligence needed to know that the 100 km beach stretch was now divided into two and was defended by a double complement of defenders. The beach was fortified and defended with machine guns, mortals, and artillery. Therefore, aerial bombardment and pre-landing had little effect. Additionally, due to navigation difficulties, there was a huge eastward drift. This led to missing the target sectors, followed by heavy casualties to initial assaults such that out of 16 tanks landing on the beach’s shores, only two survived. Many historians recount it as a battle for survival in a leaderless company. At Omaha Beach, the challenge extended to the subsequent landing since few beach obstacles had been cleared in the initial hours. There was a thought to abandon the beachhead until some small infantry units supporting the naval artillery managed to infiltrate coastal defenses. Further landing exploited the progress; however, the casualties for Americans were high at 5000, with 1200 deaths for Germany. Nevertheless, a footing was secured, which helped expand the beachhead on day three.
Utah Beach: A Fortunate Mislanding
Lastly, the events of D-Day could only have achieved a little if the East and the West had worked on the plan: the West, for the most part, was the clash at Utah Beach. The 4th Infantry Division was charged with the action at Utah, but they, fortunately, landed southeast of their intended point of Tare Green and Red sector. Their landing at Victor sector, which faced little resistance, had minimal casualties of the day, and they could press through beach exits. Thus, by afternoon, the troops had marched far into the inland.
Residual Shadows of War: Lingering Social Problems
In addition to the heroic and breathtaking story of D-Day, World War II also had other aspects that continue to attract the attention of humanity. It does not only stand out as an event that changed the course of history; it also resulted in the highest number of deaths in human history and the 21st century in particular. Indeed, World War II stands out as having brought numerous social problems that the world is still grappling with its vast effects across various countries. For instance, an article titled The Unspoken Secretes on Sexual Violence in the War postulates that sexual problems accompany combat because 90% of war victims are usually civilians. World War II was not an exception: the events preceding and following D-Day had a significant social effect on vulnerable children and women. For instance, the medical evidence indicates vast traces of a traumatized society 6-7 decades after the war. This is a social problem written in a people’s history that they had to live with every day.
To further compound social issues, there is widespread evidence of sexual violence in World War II that had a vast social impact. An estimated 1.4 million German women were raped during the war, mostly by the soldiers of the Red Army. This has led to widespread social problems of over 200,000 children borne out of rape, fatherless children, and mixed-race children conceived during brutal acts of violence, among other issues that permeate the core of society. Some facts, such as that over 10% of women committed suicide due to rape by US and French soldiers, have effects that do not fade with war. Furthermore, the abovementioned problems created a more complex issue when coupled with inexcusable atrocities against Jewish women and the Jewish community. Moreover, it is still evident that German society has not outlived traumatizing effects of persecution of its citizens. This has created a massive state of sequential trauma that impacted society’s overall well-being.
In addition to apparent social problems hurting the individual well-being of children and women, the war resulted in many refugees displacing over 40 million people in Europe from their countries. Major European countries, such as Austria, are still grappling with over 700,000 refugees, with most having escaped Poland. A social effect related to the movement of refugees has also created vast constraints in Canada to the extent that it is still struggling to maintain its fabric and accept immigrants. Moreover, historians such as Antony Beever have produced many works on D-Day. Part of these works touches on atrocities that resulted in social problems. He has expressively stated that D-Day was the epicenter of World War II. However, he says that over 3000 civilians died that day due to a lack of evacuation. He connects the acts to war crimes with vast social consequences.
Final Reflections: Unpacking the Profound Impacts of World War II
It is not in contention that World War II sets itself apart as a historical military confrontation with outcomes and lessons that permeate modern systems to the core. It is unique for bringing a shift in world power, shaping foreign policy, and even contributing to economic booms in countries like the US and Canada. However, it also stands out as a historical event that claimed the most lives: civilians and combatants. It is worth noting that it is not only this profile that makes it a subject of interest. Rather it is also numerous social problems that it brought to humanity, which have outlived it’s coming to an end. The study indicates that it brought vast and widespread social challenges to the European community regarding refugees, trauma to children, and orphans, sexual violence, and horrors to children and women survivors.
The challenges notwithstanding, this paper appreciated the history written in a single day and thus took time to explore the events of D-Day. It asserted that the event provided an immense source of diverse historical perspectives on this historical event. Moreover, the accounts are central to understanding the twists of war and have been touted by historians as the epicenter of the century event. Indeed, Hitler, the man at the center of the global conflict, had stated way back in 1942 that the landing of forces in France would spell doom for him. Therefore, by exploring the war and the effect of this man’s actions on its course, the study described various factors that were primary reasons for the conflict. It concluded that the D-Day event did not only mark an event but was also an indication of human sacrifice for the sake of humanity’s future. It denoted resilience on the part of the forces, especially due to bad weather. Moreover, this day stands out as one of the few when world powers stood up for the sake of the weak: British and American fighter bombers flew miles that day, destroying the enemy’s defenses. Canadian forces pushed forward in determination not seen before and gained independence, and Americans fought on the beaches with young soldiers who amazed their superiors with their determination. This study concludes that D-Day is the climax of the war of generations. It is not just an event narrated to appease a nation for its heroic act. It represents man’s defiance even to nature in fighting for the right course.
1. Emmert, James Clinton. Operation Overlord. Baton Rouge, La: Louisiana State University. (2002).
2. Kuwert, Philipp and Harald Jurgen Freteberger. “The Unspoken Secret: Sexual Violence in World War II”. International Psychogeriatrics, no.19 (2007): 782-784.
3. Newman, Edward and Joanne van Selm. Refugees and Forced Displacement International Security, Human Vulnerability, and the State. Tokyo: United Nations University Press. (2003).
4. Rogers, Keely and Jo Thomas. History: Causes, Practices and Effects of Wars for the IB Diploma (Oxford: Pearson Education, 2010).
5. Waddington, Lorna Louise. Hitler’s Crusade Bolshevism and the Myth of the International Jewish Conspiracy. London: Tauris Academic Studies. (2007).
6. Weber, Mark, “The Jewish Role in the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s Soviet Regime: Assessing the Grime Legacy of Soviet Communism”, The Journal for Historical Review, no.14 (1994).
7. Keely Rogers, and Jo Thomas. History: Causes, Practices and Effects Wars for the IB Diploma (Oxford: Pearson Education, 2010), 112.
8. Lorna Louise Waddington. 2007. Hitler’s Crusade Bolshevism and the Myth of the International Jewish Conspiracy. London: Tauris Academic Studies.
9. Mark Weber, “The Jewish Role in the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s Soviet Regime: Assessing the Grime Legacy of Soviet Communism,” The Journal for Historical Review 14, no. 4 (1994), 4-6.
10. James Clinton Emmert. 2002. Operation Overlord. Baton Rouge, La: Louisiana State University.
11. Emmert, James Clinton. 2002. Operation Overlord. Baton Rouge, La: Louisiana State University.
12. PhilippKuwert and Harald Jurgen Freyeberger. 2007. “The Unspoken Secret: Sexual Violence in World War II”. International Psychogeriatrics, no.19, 783.
13. Edward Newman and Joanne van Selm. 2003. Refugees and Forced Displacement International Security, Human Vulnerability, and the State. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
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