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How Did World War II End?

August 11, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

The war lasted six years and a day. These key moments marked the beginning of Allied victory over the Axis powers.

World War II ended six years and one day after Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, sparked the 20th century’s second global conflict. By the time it concluded on the deck of an American warship on September 2, 1945, World War II had claimed the lives of an estimated 60-80 million people, approximately 3 percent of the world’s population. The vast majority of those who died in history’s deadliest war were civilians, including 6 million Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Germany employed its “blitzkrieg” (“lightning war”) strategy to sweep across the Netherlands, Belgium and France in the war’s opening months and force more than 300,000 British and other Allied troops to evacuate continental Europe from Dunkirk. In June 1941, German dictator Adolf Hitler broke his nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union and launched Operation Barbarossa, which brought Nazi troops to the gates of Moscow.

By the time the United States entered World War II following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, German forces occupied much of Europe from the Black Sea to the English Channel. The Allies, however, turned the tide of the conflict, and the following major events brought World War II to an end.

WATCH: ‘Hiroshima: 75 Years Later‘ on HISTORY Vault

1. Germany Repelled on Two Fronts

The Lasting Impact of War (TV-PG; 2:01)

WATCH: The Lasting Impact of War

After storming across Europe in the first three years of the war, overextended Axis forces were put on the defensive after the Soviet Red Army rebuffed them in the brutal Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 to February 1943. The fierce battle for the city named after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin resulted in nearly two million casualties, including the deaths of tens of thousands of Stalingrad residents.

As Soviet troops began to advance on the Eastern Front, the Western Allies invaded Sicily and southern Italy, causing the fall of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s government in July 1943. The Allies then opened a Western Front with the amphibious D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. After gaining a foothold in northern France, Allied troops liberated Paris on August 25 followed by Brussels …read more


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