Week 4 Discussion: World War II
Read/review the following resources for this activity:
- Textbook: Chapter 5, 6
- Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook)
Initial Post Instructions
For the initial post, select and respond to one of the following options:
- Option 1: Examine one or more major battles, including both the Axis and Allies strategies, the outcome of the battles, and the subsequent effects of the victory/defeat. Include an examination of the technologies that were crucial factors in the battle.
- Option 2: Examine the Nazi ideology in wiping out an entire ethnic group.
- How could any modern and so-called advanced and evolved nation like Germany go along so willingly with the mass murder of at least 11 million civilians?
- How were the Germans able to construct the facilities they built for their “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” so as to commit genocide on an industrial scale?
Follow-Up Post Instructions
Respond to at least two peers or one peer and the instructor. At least one of your responses should be to a peer who chose an option different from yours. Further the dialogue by providing more information and clarification.
- Minimum of 3 posts (1 initial & 2 follow-up)
- Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons and an outside source)
- APA format for in-text citations and list of references
Option 1: The Battle Of Midway
The Battle of Midway was a naval battle between the United States and Japan. Occurring in the Pacific Ocean, almost midway between Japan and the US, the US had a supreme advantage in terms of communication. Prior to the battle, intelligence officers were able to break part of the Japanese code and determine the usage of the codeword AF that described the location of Midway, as well as figuring out the exact date the attack was planned. The US naval forces were able to prepare in advance, and have the Japanese fleet on some of their terms. Japan’s goal was the continued conquest of space in the Pacific. They had taken up space in the islands directly east of Japan, such as Singapore and Malaysia, and following this trend, they wanted to isolate Australia and India from the rest of the war and establish new bases in the Pacific (Battle of Midway, 2020).
On June 4, Japan launched an attack on the US base of Midway, and were met quickly after by the US navy. Torpedo-bombers and dive-bombers were used in the fight, and the battle lasted a quick three days. The US won, with Japanese losses being much heavier. This battle stopped the Japanese momentum throughout the Pacific, one of their first naval losses, and allowed the US to gain ground on Japan (The National WWII Museum, 2017). The Japanese lost many trained pilots that could not be replaced, and plans to further capture islands in the Pacific were completely halted.
The main reason the US had such an advantage was due to the intelligence officers. By decoding messages and understanding plans months beforehand, the US were able to adequately prepare for the worst and minimize losses. The use of the radio was extremely important in this battle. New types of warfare were introduced over the course of WWII as well, with different tactics being used to take control of the sea and sky.
One of the major battles of World War II (WWII) was The Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 – January 1945). Winston Churchill coined the battle, also referred to as The Battle of the Ardennes, “the greatest American battle of the war” (History.com, 2020, p. 1). Fought in the Ardennes region of Belgium, the battle was Germany’s final major offensive against the Western Front in WWI (History.com, 2020). Hitler’s goal was to divide the Allies in their advance toward Germany and push them away from his home territory. In the end, German troops failed to divide the Allied forces (Great Britain, France, and the United States) (History.com, 2020).
The German’s first strategy lie in their chosen location – the thickly wooded, hilly country of the Ardennes, often considered to be difficult terrain and thus an unlikely choice for a large-scale offensive (Britannica, 2020). Under the overall command of Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt, the German strategy was to advance to Antwerp, Belgium, catch the Allies by complete surprise, separate the British army from American troops and supplies, and then overtake the isolated British forces. The Allies, taken by surprise by this German counteroffensive, were left alarmed and confused (Britannica, 2020).
Other strategies employed by the Germans included using captured and/or stolen U.S. Army uniforms, weapons, and jeeps to further confuse the Allied forces. In Operation Greif, as this secret-mission was called, English-speaking German troops infiltrated the Allied troops, posed as G.I.s, cut communication lines, changed road signs, and spread misinformation, successfully increasing confusion and terror among the Allied soldiers (History.com, 2020).
To end this infiltration of German troops, the Allies utilized strategies to stop the imposters. U.S. troops set up checkpoints and grilled suspected Germans with American trivia questions ranging from state capitals to American pop culture and baseball (History.com, 2020). These German imposters were then classified as spies under the rules of the Hague Convention and subjected to immediate court martial, deliberation by American officers, and death by firing squad (History.com, 2020).
Another Allied strategy was their famous defense of the small, pivotal town of Bastogne. Calling in the famed 101st Airborne Division in December allowed the Allies to hold Bastogne through Christmas. Eisenhower then sent General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army with approximately 230,000 troops into the city to victoriously punch through German lines (History.com, 2020).
One of the technologies crucial in the battle utilized by the Germans was the use of a new generation of “King Tiger” tanks, more powerful than anything the Allies could counter (Duiker, 2015). To combat this technology, the Allies destroyed millions of gallons of gas so Germans could not use it and by Christmas the Germans tanks were useless (History.com, 2020).
The German’s failure to divide and conquer the Allies with their Ardennes offensive paved the way for Allied victory. By January 1945, the Allies claimed victory, having pushed the Germans back to their original position. In his 1969 book, The Bitter Woods, John S.D. Eisenhower wrote “…it can be said that the Ardennes campaign epitomized them (WWII battles) all. For it was here that American and German combat soldiers met in the decisive struggle that broke the back of the Nazi war machine” (History.com, 2020, p. 4.) Germany lost 120,000 men and stores of material resources it could not afford to replace (Britannica.com, 2020).
The European Front
After less than a year in office, Hitler began a campaign to revise the Versailles Treaty. He boasted that his was the Third Reich, or empire, that would last for a thousand years, like the centuries-long Holy Roman Empire and the short-lived German Empire of 1871-1918. Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations, renounced the Versailles Treaty, and rearmed Germany. In 1936, he marched troops into the Rhineland, an area that had been demilitarized after World War I. During the next two years, Europe sat back as Hitler annexed Austria and threatened Poland. The Western powers attempted to appease Hitler at the Munich Conference and thought, unrealistically, that he would stop with the annexation of the Sudatenland, the western area of Czechoslovakia that bordered Germany. However, by March 1939, Hitler had taken over the rest of Czechoslovakia. Some months later, Hitler and Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet pact, by which they both agreed not to fight each other if one went to war. This paved the way for Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939. World War II had begun.
Warsaw, Poland, contained the largest Jewish ghetto. Although the term is used differently today, a ghetto was an area of the city in which Jews were segregated from other cultures. While this occurred in times and places such as 16th and 17th century Venice and Rome, Nazi segregation of the Jews made it easier to transport Jews to death camps. The Nazis started setting up what was left of this part of Warsaw right after the Poles surrendered in late September of 1939, indicating that there had been more than a little advanced planning on at least segregating the Jews of Europe, country by country.
Watch the following video on the Warsaw Ghetto with images and recited quotes from ghetto diaries. Consider what emotional and psychological effects some of the restrictions, such as a ban on marriages or the inability to obtain a calendar, would have on those restricted to the ghetto.
A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto (clip) (9:45)
Click on the following link to access the transcript:
- Link (video): A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto (Links to an external site.) (clip) (9:45)
Within nine months of Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis occupied most of Western Europe. By the fall of 1940, Britain stood alone, taking the brunt of the German air raids. The British, under their wartime leader, Winston Churchill, bravely held on. Hitler, unable to defeat England by air, turned eastward and initiated a land invasion against the Soviet Union in June 1941, thereby breaking the mutual non-aggression pact of 1939. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union and Great Britain became allies against Nazi Germany. Then, in December 1941, Japan attacked American airbases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States immediately declared war on Japan and Germany.
At first, the European Axis powers – Germany and Italy – were victorious, but in the fall of 1942, the Allies – Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States – began to turn the tide. In the Pacific, Allied forces won the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. In North Africa, British and American forces, led by General Dwight Eisenhower, soon trapped Rommel’s army, and he surrendered in May 1943. With North Africa under their control, the Allies crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Sicily. Allied victories in Italy led to the overthrow of Mussolini but fighting continued for another year. On the Eastern front, the Soviet army defeated the Germans at the Battle of Stalingrad. On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy. D-Day had begun. As the Allies advanced, Germany reeled from incessant, around-the-clock bombing. A German counterattack, the Battle of the Bulge, resulted in terrible losses on both sides. However, with Germany’s defeat seeming inevitable, the Big Three – Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin – met at Yalta to decide the map of postwar Europe.
In Europe, World War II officially ended on May 9, 1945, or VE Day. The Allies were able to defeat the Axis powers for many reasons.
- The Axis powers had to fight on several fronts, which weakened their position.
- Hitler severely underestimated the strength and the ability of the Soviet Army.
- The entrance of the United States into the war tipped the balance of power towards the Allies.
By the same year, the world had witnessed some of the most brutal examples of human behavior in history. Few were prepared for the shock of the Nazi death camps, however. It became known, gradually, that the Nazis had rounded up Jewish people who lived in Germany and Eastern Europe and transported them to extermination camps. The Nazis called it the Final Solution, but the world called it the Holocaust.
The following map shows areas of occupation with routes of deportation to Auschwitz. It also includes points for other concentration camps, major extermination camps, and major ghettos.
World War II: European Theater
World War II is really a tale of 2 very different wars, all contained in the same overall war. The first 3 years or so the Axis powers were almost unbeatable, and the allies recoiled and retreated time after time. Around the mid-point of the war, the tide turned suddenly, and the Axis fortunes went downhill while the allies went on the offensive.
Click through the following timeline to identify important points in the European Theater:
In the assignment this week, we will look at ways people have dealt with and expressed their experiences or others’ experiences during WWII, specifically about/during the Holocaust. The following video clip shows how an artist translates her mother’s experience by depicting an uncle she never met. What effect does the repeated image have on the viewer?
Finding Kalman – Depicting the Holocaust (10:41)
Click on the following link to access the transcript:
- Link (video): Finding Kalman – Depicting the Holocaust (Links to an external site.) (10:41)
Watch the following video on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Consider how museums help us preserve and retell the stories from the past. How does it go beyond a history text in connecting people to the past?
Sunday Morning, Remembrance (5:56)
If you would like to learn more about the Holocaust, watch a clip from this documentary, which details how some were able to escape the concentration camp at Auschwitz:
- Link (video): Escape from Auschwitz (Links to an external site.) (12:06)
The War in the Pacific
We have already seen that Allied forces began to win significant battles in the Pacific at Midway and at the Coral Sea. Although Germany was defeated, the Allies still had to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific. By May 1942, the Japanese had gained control of the Philippines, killing thousands during the Bataan Death March. However, after victories at Midway and the Coral Sea, the United States, under General Douglas MacArthur, began to recapture islands from the Japanese. These served as stepping-stones to the final objective – Japan. Bombers pounded Japanese cities and industries. At the same time, the British pushed Japanese forces back into the jungles of Burma and Malaya.
In early 1945, bloody battles on Iwo Jima and Okinawa showed that the Japanese would fight to the death, rather than surrender. Some became kamikaze pilots and flew their planes into United States ships. Although military leaders such as MacArthur planned to invade Japan, scientists offered another way to end the war. A secret research project, code-named the Manhattan Project, led to the building of the atomic bomb. On August 6, 1945, President Harry S. Truman gave final approval to drop the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 10, 1945, Japan formally surrendered and ended World War II.
Watch the following video about two artists who depicted the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. Think about how they intended to capture beauty in the chaos and horror of death and destruction. Why might survivors need to convey this aspect of life?
World War II Pacific Theater
Click through the following timeline to identify important points in the Pacific Theater: