Question 1- Causes of World War II
The Second World War was more attributable to other influences andambitions other than the perceived product of the peace settlement in1919. The 1919 settlement made Germany an aggrieved party for theWorld War II. In the war, the aggrieved Germany sought rebuttal forthe unjust terms of the 1919 agreement. However, the Second World Warwas not the inevitable product of the peace settlement. Even ifGermany was not seeking rebuttal, other nations would still go to wardue to their expansionist ambitions and other factors. One of thereasons why the Second World War would still happened was because ofthe foreign policies adopted by many countries, such as expansionistambitions. For instance, Russia wanted a buffer zone hence its claimover Poland. The grand old imperialism practiced by France andEngland was also bound to trigger hard feelings between countries.Although the peace settlement of 1919 contributed to the origin ofthe Second World War, it is however, not the major cause. Otherinfluences and ambitions by various countries had a far bigger roleto play in causing the war.
The spread of Communism in Eastern Europe after the First World Warwas creating Anxiety in the whole of Europe1.The Soviet Union had already imposed its communist ideology onEastern European countries including Georgia, Hungary, and Armenia.It was only a matter of time before the communist forces would arrivein Germany and impose their ideology on them. When Germans rememberedhow Freikorps had crushed Bavarian Soviet Republic forces in Munichin 1919, they knew that it would take a strong leader to fight offthe encroachment of communism. It therefore came as a relief toGermans when a strong leader, Adolf Hitler, took over power. It gavethem the assurance that they were now capable of fighting offcommunism.
Fascism was also gaining ground fast in Europe. The likes of Hitlerof Germany and Mussolini of Italy were becoming popular by the day2.The ideology of Fascism holds that the government should controlevery aspect of citizen life including the media, sports, andpolitical ideology. Meanwhile, the UK, France and the USA were notcomfortable with how this ideology was gaining ground rather quickly.The USA was especially irked since it stood for democracy yet fascismwas a contravention of everything that these countries stood for. Itwas only matter of time before the three powers stepped in to stopthe spread of the cancer that was fascism.
Between the two world wars, the foreign policy in Europe was harsh onGermany. Courtesy of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was required tomake reparations to France in the form of money and coal for the restof its existence because apparently, Germany had to pay for startingthe First World War in the first place. Most of the Germany leadersduring the interwar period thought how difficult it would be if theyhad to rise the next generation of Germans while still payingreparations to France.
In 1933, Germany decided to leave the League of Nations claiming thatthe institution was biased against the Germans. The League of Nationswas against all of Germany’s ambitions including the militarizationof former territories, abolition of the reparations to France, andthe expansionist ambitions of Germany. Germany felt that the Leagueof Nations only existed to serve the interests of the USA, Britainand France. Germany’s exit from the body only served to severe heralready volatile relationship with the other members of the League ofNations. Prior to adopting the expansionist policy, Germany hadsigned a non-aggression treaty with the USSR. Somehow, Germany baskedunder the notion that Russia would support her in case she came underattack from the allied Forces for dishonoring the terms of the Treatyof Versailles. The pact between Russia and Germany influenced theGermans to be reckless in their quest to retain her formerterritories.
When Adolf Hitler Took over power in 1933, he was strongly supportedby members of the Nazi party because of his ambitious plan forGermany, after the humiliating defeat in the First World War3.One of Hitler’s policies was to unite all Germans irrespective ofwhere they lived. This meant that Hitler would try to acquire allterritories occupied by Germans even if they were a minority in thatland. The ambitions saw the start of Hitler’s long journey ofacquiring territories that formerly belonged to Germany before losingin WWI. Hitler believed that if he united all the Germans living inCzechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria, he would form a powerful countrythat will never be defeated. Therefore, he sought to expand more landinto Russia, as UK and France failed to stop Germany. Instead, theypreferred the deterrence policy. Hitler, being a risk taker, was wellaware of the fact that France and Britain were not willing to go intoanother war after suffering the brunt of the First World War. ManyGermans, who supported the domination of Germany over Europe and wereagainst the Versailles Treaty, put all their weight behind Hitler.However, when Hitler invaded Poland, it marked the pinnacle ofprovocation on France and Britain. The latter had no option but todeclare war on Hitler and marked the official start of the SecondWorld War.
Question 2: The Fall of France
After the declaration of war by France and Britain on Germany inSeptember 1939, what followed was phony war no much real fighting4.For over a period of nine months, there was tension between thewarring factions but then no country launched a serious offensive onanother. Many people thought that the war would end after thetensions were cleared because it did not seem like any of the powerswas willing to go through the detriments of war once again. As aresult, the involved countries did not do enough to prepare for acounter attack in the event that the enemy launched an offensive.
In 1940, Germany launched her first offensive on France and otherneighboring countries including Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. Inan offensive codenamed Case Yellow, German forces launched an armoredoffensive through the Ardennes Forest that was behind the StrongFrench frontier at the Maginot line5.The Germans were met by ill-equipped French forces at the otherfrontiers in the interior of the country. Since the French did notanticipate the Germans to bypass their strong frontiers that rapidly,they did not place many soldiers behind the Maginot line. When theGermans arrived, these second rate division of soldiers was no matchfor them. They were easily overrun within a few days. Meanwhile, theFrench could not offer reinforcements to the forces in Ardennesbecause the rest of its military was busy engaging German Forces atthe Northern front.
France also fell because the Germany war machine also overran theneighboring forces, which they were depending on. For instance, theDutch had to surrender after a week, when the Germans bombedRotterdam. At the Northern front, the Belgians were helping theFrench to fend off the Germans but their help was not of muchimpact5. The moment that France’s neighbors caved in,they gave away the entry routes to the Germans. When the alliedforces tried to launch a counter offensive on the Germans, throughairstrikes, either they were overtaken by the pace at which eventswere unfolding, or they lost terribly. In addition, the allied forceswere engrossed in the Northern front where there was minimal fightingbut the entry point posed a greater threat to France. Once theGermans were already in France, advancing towards the Capital ofFrance was a lot easier.
German superiority in the air was also a contributing factor to thefall of France. The Germans had invested in some of the best militaryaircrafts of that time. On the other hand, the allied forces reliedon their Navy and ground forces to wade off the Germans6.Their strategy seemed to fail as the German forces kept advancingtowards the city of Paris. The speed of German’s air attacks andthe brutality of their forces was a psychological blow to the alliedforces and the militaries of the countries surrounding France. Whenthe Germans crossed the Meuse River, they proved unstoppable to theFrench forces.
The attack has an element of surprise in it because the French didnot expect the Germans to attack form that front. The Ardennes was aheavily forested area hence not appealing for launching an offensivein a foreign country. The front was also a border shared betweenFrance, Holland, and Germany. Since Holland was neutral in the war,the French figured that it was very unlikely for the Germans tolaunch an offensive on that front. The French’s perception of theunlikelihood of an attack at that front explains why they placedsecond-ratedivisions at Ardennes.
The success in the French attack made Hitler think that his militaryinvincible. He changed his strategy to involve surprise attacks fromunexpected quarters. Next on the list was to attack Russia. Althoughhis generals advised him, that such a move would end up in adisaster, Hitler was adamant to proceed with haste in his plan toattack Russia.
Adolf Hitler also changed his strategy by opting to assemble hisforces on neutral countries before launching attacks on alliedforces. After his success in invading France from the Netherlandsborder, he made a similar strategy in his quest to invade England. Hemade the decision to assemble his troops in Holland before launchingan offensive on Britain.
Question 5: the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific
The USA had stakes in the control of Asia and the Pacific. After thedefeat of the Spanish during the Spanish- American war, the USA tookcontrol of Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Part of thereason for acquiring these territories was to open up trade routeswith the overlying markets in the Asian continent. For instance,Hawaii was a strategic pint in the USA’s exploitation of resourcesin Asia in that it provided a coaling station for its ship on voyageto Asia or from Asia back to the USA7.The annexation of these territories was also a clear indication ofthe USA’s imperialist agenda and the desire to be a dominant forcein the Asia-pacific region. She figured that if she controlled theaffairs of the region, she would be able to extract as many resourcesas she possibly could.
The Japanese were not amused by the USA growing dominance over theAsia- Pacific region. Japan being an imperialist nation too, covetedthe territories along the Pacific that belonged to the USA. ThePhilippines was a strategic point for both the USA and Japan hencethe reason both countries wanted to own it8.The Japanese were worried at the growing dominance of the USA in theregion and that it was only a matter of time before the USA laidclaim on Japanese territory. They had to act fast if they wished toprotect their country from USA imperialism. To add salt to theinjury, the USA had blockaded consumer goods from Hawaii to Japan.The country depended on Hawaii for commodities such as sugar andenergy and now that the USA had blocked their access, Japan was in acrisis.
Events leading to the Second World War saw Japan adopt anexpansionist policy. The Japanese decided to launch an attack onManchuria in 1931 in order to take control of more Chineseterritories. At that time, the Chinese were weak militarily and theycould not ward off the Japanese. The Japanese emperor was the bullyas far as Far East politics were concerned. The emperor of Japan hadjoined the likes of Germany and Italy who were determined toestablish far-reaching empires by conquering as many lands as it waspossible.
The USA was not content with Japan’s offensive in Manchuria. Sheasked her European allies to request the League of Nations to preventJapan from taking over China. Before the Manchuria issue, the USA’spolicies had always been in agreement with those of Britain andFrance. However, in this particular scenario, the two European powersrefused to back up the USA in her quest to have the League of Nationsintervene in the Manchuria crisis9.The allied powers claimed that the League of Nations had too much todo in Europe without having to immerse itself in the affairs of theFar East. The USA had no option but to adopt the policy ofnon-recognition on Japan. The policy had been adopted in the late19th Century in line with the USA doctrine of liberalismmorality. The same principle had led to the non-recognition of theUSSR after 1918.
The main reason that the USA did not want the Japanese to invade moreof East Asia was because the USA had imperialist ambitions of herown. The USA was afraid that if Japan took control of Asia, then thatwould limit her ability to exploit the resources of that region.China was open to trade with anybody and the USA was among the keybeneficiaries of the Chinese market.
The USA also had interests in other regions in the Far East includingThailand and Indonesia. All these lands were important for theeconomic wellbeing of the USA. Any threats to these lands were adirect threat to the economy of the USA, something that the USA wasnot willing to let happen under its watch. The USA then used thepretext of the liberal morality to procure the doctrine ofnon-recognition of Japan for her role in Manchuria.
The Japanese’s attack on Pearl Harbor marked the epitome of thebattle for supremacy between the USA and Japan. The USA had no otherchoice but to declare war on japan and join the Second World Warofficially. The Japanese made the attack under the impression that itwas geographically impossible for the USA to launch air strikes inJapan owing to the humongous distance between them10.
However, the USA used bases in China to mount an offensive on Japan.It did not take long before the Japanese realized how insufficienttheir resistance to the USA airstrikes was. The Japanese could notinvade the USA because they lacked the resources to take the fight tothe USA’s doorstep all they were left to do was to wade off USAairstrikes. The hallmark of the USA offensive on Japan was thedropping of two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Japansurrendered and the war came to an end.
Based on Japan’s role in provoking the USA to start a war in Asia,she is primarily responsible for the conflict. Without Japan’sexpansionist policy, there would be WWII conflict in Asia. Thebombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces shifted the focus of theWorld War 2 to Asia and Pacific regions. The presence of the USA inChina and Japan was all due to Japan’s aggression towards theformer.
1Taylor, Alan John Percivale. The origins of the second world war. Penguin UK, 2001.
2Suleiman, Susan Rubin. "Crises of memory and the Second World War." (2006).
3Brajkovic Henry. The Foreign Policy of Franklin D. Roosevelt To The Entry Into World War II. Yale University. 2014. Retrieved from <http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1978/3/78.03.05.x.html>
4 Sheffield Gary. The fall of France. BBC News. 2011. Retrieved from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/fall_france_01.shtml>
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6White, Gavin. "The Fall of France." Studies in Church History 20 (1983): 431-441.
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9Young, Louise. Japan`s total empire: Manchuria and the culture of wartime imperialism. Vol. 8. Univ of California Press, 1998.
10Wohlstetter, Roberta. Pearl Harbor: warning and decision. Stanford University Press, 1962.