HS-102 Readings

Nature of World War II

WHAT EFFECT DID GERMANY'S AGGRESSIVE ROLE HAVE UPON THE WAR IN ITS EARLY STAGES?

    The Germans had the advantage in the early phase of the war because they
were initiating action, taking advantage of surprise, and using modern technology.
Blitzkrieg, warfare using tanks and armored vehicles as well as tactical aircraft, was used effectively to conquer most of continental Europe.

WHAT EFFECT DID JAPAN'S AGGRESSIVE ROLE HAVE UPON THE WAR IN ITS EARLY STAGES?

    Again the advantages of taking the initiative and the use of aircraft flying from aircraft carriers gave the Japanese a series of victories in the early phase of the war.

HOW DID THE STATE OF MILITARY TECHNOLOGY AFFECT THE NATURE OF THE WAR?

    Blitzkrieg, aerial bombardment, and the use of aircraft carriers made World War II a war of movement. The fixed defensive positions, which were impregnable in the first war, could be broken by a determined offense controlling the air and the sea. The new technology also made warfare more destructive than ever.

WHAT WAS THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES IN THE PERIOD WHEN U.S. WAS STILL OFFICIALLY NEUTRAL?

    The U.S. gave extensive aid to the British within the constraints imposed by a large peace movement in the United States. President Roosevelt committed U.S. naval units to the war against the German submarine even though the U.S and Germany were officially at peace.
      Japanese aggression was condemned, and restraint was attempted through the imposition of a freeze on trade with Japan.
      United States involvement in the war came earlier than in WWI (2 years after the invasion of Poland) in spite of the widespread feeling among the American people that the United States should remain neutral.

HOW DID THE NAZI INVASION OF THE SOVIET UNION IN JUNE, 1941 CHANGE THE NATURE OF THE WAR?

    The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941 brought Germany up against the great resources in population and land of the Russians, which gave the Russians the endurance to prevent the quick victory Hitler had expected. It was there on the vast expanse of the Russian front that most of the European war was fought, and where the Nazi Wehrmacht was broken. The Battle of Stalingrad, (October, 1943) in which the Germans lost a quarter of a million soldiers, is considered to be the turning point
in the war.

HOW DID THE JAPANESE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR CHANGE THE NATURE OF THE WAR?

    The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caused American public opinion to swing decisively in favor of war. Roosevelt considered Germany to be the greater threat and the European war was the first priority for the United States. Once the United States was fully engaged, the resources and military might of the Allies would, in time, result in the defeat of both Germany and Japan.

WHAT WAS THE POLICY OF THE BIG THREE IN PROSECUTING THE WAR
EFFORT?

    This was a total war, fought with unrestrained ferocity to the very limits of destructive power available, again, as in the first war, involving whole nations as well as
the soldiers on the front lines.

    The unrestrained use of airpower against civilian populations by both the Germans and the Japanese, and the brutally aggressive nature in which they fought the war, led to a response in kind. The Big Three chose to fight total war and to demand unconditional surrender.

WHERE WAS THE MILITARY POWER OF NAZI GERMANY MOST HEAVILY
ENGAGED?

    German armies fought primarily on the great expanse of the Russian plain. There, the heaviest fighting took place and the power of the German Army was eventually broken. The Battle of Stalingrad was a turning point, followed by the gradual defeat and retreat of Germany . Total loss of life greatly exceeded that of WWI, with 26 million
Russians estimated to have died.

WHY WAS WORLD WAR II SUCH A FUNDAMENTAL MORAL AS WELL AS
POLITICAL STRUGGLE?

    This was a war fought for a noble cause, because of the despicable nature of Nazism. The Holocaust, the planned murder of millions of Jewish people, was an unprecedented act of barbarity.

HOW DID THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ATOMIC BOMB AFFECT THE WAR? WHAT FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS ABOUT WARFARE HAVE BEEN RAISED BY THE ATOMIC BOMB AND BY THE HOLOCAUST?

    Scientific progress in understanding the nature of the atom led to the development of the first atom bomb. If war had been thought to be suicidal in World War I, there was now no doubt of it. A single bomb could destroy, in an instant, an entire city. What could ever justify war in such an instance?
    And yet the Holocaust had made this war the most justified war in history. Fortunately, the bomb was not available until the war was almost over, and too late to be used against Germany.