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World War 2 1939-1945

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World War II lasted from 1939-1945. The war began in Europe, when Germany attacked Poland with the formal surrender of Japan aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri. The rival powers were the victorious Allies.The losing side consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan, as well as smaller nations. World War II killed more people, destroyed more property, disrupted more lives, and probably had more far-reaching consequences than any other war in history. The war brought about the downfall of Western Europe as the center of world power and led to the rise of the Soviet Union.

Also during the 1930s, the Depression brought hardships to every country in the world. Leaders complained in Germany, Italy, and Japan that their nations did not have fair access to raw materials, markets, and capital investment areas, all of which were necessary for their economic health. They argued that their nations were the victims of economic warfare--with its protective tariffs, managed currencies, and cutthroat competition--and that they had been left behind in the race for economic self-sufficiency and a favorable balance of trade. They made it plain that they would fight, if necessary for a better economic status. The German economy was especially vulnerable since it was built out of foreign capital. Germany took most loans from America and was very dependent on foreign trade. When those loans suddenly came due and when the demand for German exports fell, German businesses quickly came to a halt. As production levels declined, workers were laid off, causing massive unemployment. Along with this banks failed throughout the country, savings accounts were instantly wiped out. The Germans were cast into poverty and deep misery by events beyond their control. They wanted a solution to their problems.

When the Great Depression struck, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini tried to distract the Italians from the economic crisis by starting a foreign war. In 1935, he sent his army into Ethiopia in North Africa. The Ethiopians fought bravely but their old-fashioned rifles were no match for the modern Italian tanks and airplanes. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia asked the League of Nations for help. The league took little action. Nations such as Britain and France were distracted by their own economic problems. Japan was hit hard by the Great Depression. The economic crisis cut deep into Japanese trade and ruined many businesses. In the early 1930s, military leaders took power in Japan and wanted Japan to expand into Asia. Japan continued its expansion over Asia. In 1937, it was in war against China and soon occupied northern and central China. In 1939, German armies attacked Poland. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany and World War II officially begun.

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