http://www.history.com/topics/ http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii http://www.history.com/topics/the-holocaust The U.S. Home Front During World War II After the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on the American naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. was thrust into World War II (1939-45), and everyday life across the country was dramatically altered. Food, gas and clothing were rationed. Communities conducted scrap metal drives. To help build the armaments necessary to win the war, women found employment as electricians, welders and riveters in defense plants. Japanese Americans had their rights as citizens stripped from them. People in the U.S. grew increasingly dependent on radio reports for news of the fighting overseas. And, while popular entertainment served to demonize the nation's enemies, it also was viewed as an escapist outlet that allowed Americans brief respites from war worries. http://www.history.com/photos/world-war-ii-damage-and-destruction/photo5 WII Damage and destruction yhtoighout Europe Blitz Bombing Damage Near St. Paul's Cathedral in London: The period from fall of 1940 through spring of 1941, when the German forces concetrated their bombing efforts on the city of London, is commonly known as The Blitz. From September 7, 1940 London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights. This image shows the destruction of many of the buildings surrounding St. Paul's Cathedral, which was largely undamaged. (Photo Credit: Corbis) After the April 9, 1942, U.S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese during World War II (1939-45), the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. The marchers made the trek in intense heat and were subjected to harsh treatment by Japanese guards. Thousands perished in what became known as the Bataan Death March. . Bataan Death March: Background The day after Japan bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines began. Within a month, the Japanese had captured Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and the American and Filipino defenders of Luzon (the island on which Manila is located) were forced to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. For the next three months, the combined U.S.-Filipino army held out despite a lack of naval and air support. Finally, on April 9, with his forces crippled by starvation and disease, U.S. General Edward King Jr. (1884-1958), surrendered his approximately 75,000 troops at Bataan. Bataan Death March: April 1942 The surrendered Filipinos and Americans soon were rounded up by the Japanese and forced to march some 65 miles from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula, to San Fernando. The men were divided into groups of approximately 100, and what became known as the Bataan Death March typically took each group around five days to complete. The exact figures are unknown, but it is believed that thousands of troops died because of the brutality of their captors, who starved and beat the marchers, and bayoneted those too weak to walk. Survivors were taken by rail from San Fernando to prisoner-of-war camps, where thousands more died from disease, mistreatment and starvation. Bataan Death March: Aftermath America avenged its defeat in the Philippines with the invasion of the island of Leyte in October 1944. General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who in 1942 had famously promised to return to the Philippines, made good on his word. In February 1945, U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the Bataan Peninsula, and Manila was liberated in early March. After the war, an American military tribunal tried Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu, commander of the Japanese invasion forces in the Philippines. He was held responsible for the death march, a war crime, and was executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946. The instability created in Europe by the First World War (1914-18) set the stage for another international conflict–World War II–which broke out two decades later and would prove even more devastating. Rising to power in an economically and politically unstable Germany, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist (Nazi Party) rearmed the nation and signed strategic treaties with Italy and Japan to further his ambitions of world domination. Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 drove Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany, and World War II had begun. Over the next six years, the conflict would take more lives and destroy more land and property around the globe than any previous war. Among the estimated 45-60 million people killed were 6 million Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps as part of Hitler's diabolical "Final Solution," now known as the Holocaust. Japanese General and Prime Minister Wartime leader of Japan's government, General Tôjô Hideki, with his close-cropped hair, mustache, and round spectacles, became for Allied propagandists one of the most commonly caricatured members of Japan's military dictatorship throughout the Pacific war. Shrewd at bureaucratic infighting and fiercely partisan in presenting the army's perspective while army minister, he was surprisingly indecisive as national leader. Known within the army as "Razor Tôjô" both for his bureaucratic efficiency and for his strict, uncompromising attention to detail, he climbed the command ladders, in close association with the army faction seeking to upgrade and improve Japan's fighting capabilities despite tight budgets and "civilian interference." Tôjô built up a personal power base and used his position as head of the military police of Japan's garrison force in Manchuria to rein in their influence before he became the Kwantung Army's chief of staff in 1937. He played a key role in opening hostilities against China in July. Tôjô had his only combat experience later that year, leading two brigades on operations in Inner Mongolia. Seeing the military occupation of Chinese territory as necessary to force the Nationalist Chinese government to collaborate with Japan, he continued to advocate expansion of the conflict in China when he returned to Tokyo in 1938 as army vice minister, rising to army minister in July 1940. He pushed for alliance with Germany (where he had served in 1920-1922) and Italy, and he supported the formation of a broad political front of national unity. In October 1941 he became prime minister. Although Tôjô supported last-minute diplomatic efforts, he gave final approval to the attacks on the United States, Great Britain, and the Dutch East Indies in December 1941. Japan's early victories greatly strengthened his personal prestige and his assertion that there were times when statesmen had to "have faith in Victory." When the war intensified, Japan's losses mounted, and its fragile industrial foundations threatened to collapse. Tôjô characteristically sought to gather administrative levers into his own hands. Serving as both prime minister and army minister, at various times he also held the portfolios of home affairs (giving him control of the dreaded "thought police"), education, munitions, commerce and industry, and foreign affairs. In February 1944, he even assumed direct command of army operations as chief of the Army General Staff. Yet despite all his posts, Tôjô was never able to establish a dictatorship on a par with those wielded by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. He served constitutionally at the behest of the emperor, without support of a mass party, while crucial power centers, such as the industrial combines (known as zaibatsu), the navy, and the court, remained beyond his control. After the island of Saipan fell to American forces in July 1944, he was forced from power, despite arguments raised by some officials close to the throne that Tôjô should be left in office to the end to accept responsibility for the loss of the war so that a court official could "step in" to deliver peace. 1891-1944 : German World War II Field Marshal. Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel gained immortality in the North African campaign of 1941-1943. Sent with a small German force to help the Axis against the British after the Italians had suffered severe defeat, Rommel--reaching Tripoli in February 1941--was soon master of Cyrenaica and imposing his will on the enemy. For two years the opposing forces alternately advanced or withdrew over the desert, and Rommel's name became legendary--a master of mobile operations who was rapid, courageous, and audacious. Rommel's supreme achievement was his defeat of the British at Gazala in May 1942, followed by the taking of Tobruk and a field marshal's baton. Nemesis came five months later at El Alamein, when the British imperial army under Bernard Montgomery won a convincing victory. Rommel withdrew the survivors of his Panzerarmee to Tunisia. By then the British and Americans had landed in North Africa, the British Eighth Army had reconquered Tripolitania and was on the Tunisian border, and the Germans were hemmed in, isolated and facing overwhelming odds. Rommel left for Europe in March 1943. The African adventure was over. Rommel has been criticized for lacking strategic sense, for excessive absorption in the tactical battle, for neglect of logistics, for periodic imprudence. These criticisms are shallow. Rommel's especial flair was undoubtedly for the battle itself, for the cut and thrust of maneuver, for personal leadership at the point of decision, above all for the speed and energy with which he decided and acted; but in his extensive writings and recorded conversations he showed a military perceptiveness and strategic insight that would have probably enabled him to shine with the brilliance of Erich von Manstein had he held high command on the larger scale of the Eastern Front. As to logistics, Rommel was acutely aware of them at all times--they dominated the African theater where all commodities had to be imported and transported over huge distances. He refused, however, to make excessively pessimistic assumptions or to overensure--or, as he put it, to allow the scope and pace of battle to be dictated by quartermasters. A more cautious approach would have often denied him victory. And although Rommel sometimes underestimated the timing and difficulties of an operation, he was one who believed war seldom forgives hesitation or delay. From his earliest days as a brilliant young leader in World War I, or as a panzer divisional commander crossing the Meuse against fierce opposition and racing across France in 1940, he had proved to himself the virtues of initiative and boldness. On the whole his decisions were justified by victory: and in Africa victory often against odds. Rommel's last military appointment was in command of Army Group B, responsible in 1944 for much of northwest Europe. His energetic preparations reflected his conviction that the expected invasion had to be defeated near the coast, because Allied air power would nullify large-scale armored counteroperations after the landing. He believed, too, that the coming campaign should aim to defeat the invasion for one purpose: so that in the aftermath, peace might be negotiated in the west and a stalemate achieved in the east. Politically this was fantasy and militarily it failed; but for Rommel it was the only rational hope. By then Rommel had lost all faith in Adolf Hitler. Hitler had showed him favor, and Rommel was long grateful for what he saw as Hitler's restoration of German self-respect in the 1930s, but by 1944 he was disenchanted by Hitler's refusal to face strategic facts. After the Allied invasion had succeeded in establishing a front (see D-Day), Rommel--who believed that Germany must now inevitably lose a war on two fronts--tried again personally to confront Hitler with reality. He failed. Rommel, therefore, was now determined to surrender the German forces in the west unilaterally. Before that could happen he was wounded in an air attack on July 17. At home on sick leave, he was visited by emissaries of Hitler on October 14 and offered the choice of trial for high treason or suicide--to be publicized as a heart attack--with guarantees for his family's immunity. He had never participated in the plot to assassinate Hitler, but his "defeatism" was known and his involvement presumed. He chose suicide and was given a state funeral. Rommel has been variously described as a Nazi (because of long personal devotion to Hitler) or as a martyr of the German Resistance (because of the manner of his death). He was neither. He was a straightforward, gifted, patriotic German officer, a charismatic commander and master of maneuver, caught up in the disaster of the Third Reich. GENERAL SIR DAVID FRASER The Reader's Companion to Military History. Edited by Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker. Copyright © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. In the summer and fall of 1940, German and British air forces clashed in the skies over the United Kingdom, locked in the largest sustained bombing campaign to that date. A significant turning point of World War II, the Battle of Britain ended when Germany’s Luftwaffe failed to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force despite months of targeting Britain’s air bases, military posts and, ultimately, its civilian population. Britain’s decisive victory saved the country from a ground invasion and possible occupation by German forces while proving that air power alone could be used to win a major battle. On June 17, 1940, the defeated French signed an armistice and quit World War II. Britain now stood alone against the power of Germany's military forces, which had conquered most of Western Europe in less than two months. But Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his stubborn people and outmaneuvered those politicians who wanted to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. But Britain's success in continuing the war would very much depend on the RAF Fighter Command's ability to thwart the Luftwaffe's efforts to gain air superiority. This then would be the first all-air battle in history. In fact, Britain's situation was more favorable than most of the world recognized at the time. Britain possessed an effective air defense system, first-rate fighter pilots, and a great military leader in Air Marshal Hugh Dowding. On the other hand, the Germans had major problems: they had no navy left after the costly conquest of Norway, their army was unprepared for any form of amphibious operations, and the Luftwaffe had suffered heavy losses in the west (the first two factors made a seaborne attack on the British Isles impossible from the first). Even more serious, the Germans had poor intelligence and little idea of British vulnerabilities. They wasted most of July in waiting for a British surrender and attacked only in August. Although air strikes did substantial damage to radar sites, on August 13–15 the Luftwaffe soon abandoned that avenue and turned to attacks on RAF air bases. A battle of attrition ensued in which both sides suffered heavy losses (an average loss of 21 percent of the RAF's fighter pilots and 16 percent of the Luftwaffe's fighter pilots each month during July, August, and September). For a time the advantage seemed to swing slightly in favor of the Germans, but a combination of bad intelligence and British attacks on Berlin led the Luftwaffe to change its operational approach to massive attacks on London. The first attack on London on September 7 was quite successful; the second, on September 15, failed not only with heavy losses, but also with a collapse of morale among German bomber crews when British fighters appeared in large numbers and shot down many of the Germans. As a result, Hitler permanently postponed a landing on the British Isles and suspended the Battle of Britain. Williamson Murray .