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World War II was a global conflict taking place from 1939 to 1945 and involving all of the world's major powers. It began when Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, and the United Kingdom and France declared war to defend Poland. However, after the invasion of Poland, for several months, no battle were fought. In Spring 1940, Nazi Germany launched a "Blitzkrieg offensive" and overran most of Europe. In June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded its previous ally, the Soviet Union, and advanced all the way up to Moscow. In Asia, the Empire of Japan had launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor against the United States, then quickly conquered most of Southeast Asia. In 1942, both Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan suffered defeats at Stalingrad and Midway, respectively. By 1943, the tides were turning and Nazi Germany was pushed out of North Africa. From 1944 to 1945, Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches and forced Nazi Germany to fight on two front. They surrendered in May 1945. In August 1945, the United States, unable to make Japan surrender, dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945.
The war began on September 2, 1939, when Nazi Germany launched a full-scale invasion of Poland after several border skirmishes. Poland was conquered in a month, and Germany transported its troops to the Western Front for an invasion of France.
1940 saw the invasion of France in early spring. Although the Allies had numerical superiority, the German Blitzkrieg tactics worked so well that France fell in weeks. By the end of 1940 most of Europe, except neutral Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, and unconquered Great Britain, was in the hands of either Hitler or his allies.
In June 1941, Germany launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union. While initially the Soviet Union suffered massive defeats, by November their offensive had ground to a halt before the Russian winter. Meanwhile, in the Pacific, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor without warning and destroyed most ships docked there. Simultaneously, they attacked French Indochina, British Burma and Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and the American Philippines.
In Spring 1942, Japan lost two major battles. The first battle, the Battle of the Coral Sea, resulted in heavier American losses but the Japanese invasion of New Guinea was thwarted. The second battle, the Battle of Midway, saw Japan lose her four largest aircraft carriers, as well as many other ships. This essentially removed the offensive heart of the Japanese Navy, and put her on the defense. Later that year, after months of occupation, a German army at Stalingrad was surrounded and forced to surrender. This is notable as the first major defeat of the Wehrmacht. In Africa, Italy, Germany's ally, had attacked French Algeria and British Egypt, but was coming under fire. Hitler sent his troops under Erwin Rommel, who brought most of North Africa under German control.
In 1943, the Eastern Front had begun to shift west, as the Soviets gained momentum. In Africa, American troops landed at Tunisia and pushed out the Germans. In Asia, Japan lost Guadalcanal to the United States.
In 1944, the war turned decisively to the Allies favor. On the Eastern Front, the Soviet Union was nearing German territory. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed 144,000 troops on the beaches of Normandy. They quickly liberated most of France. In the Pacific, most of Southeast Asia under Japanese control had been recaptured and the bombing of Japanese cities began.
By 1945, Germany was essentially defeated. It became official in May 1945. In August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan and obtained their surrender on September 2, 1945. Six years after it had begun, it was finally over.