Countdown to Horror

Causes of World War II – 1925 > 1940


            The first Great War took on the moniker World War I, but truly the fighting was restricted to the European continent.  Yes, some battles popped up in the European colonies in Africa and Asia, guerilla warfare emerged across the Arabian Peninsula and Japan pushed for territorial claims in China.  Yes, colonial holdings from across the globe sent their troops to the European theater in support of mother country.  And yes, nations from Latin America to Sub-Saharan Africa to the Far East profited by supplying to Europe the critical resources required to sustain an industrialized war.  But when you look at the actual fighting, the actual impact on civilians, soldiers, economies, governments and infrastructures, the burden was almost exclusively borne by the Western nations.

            World War II was different.  It was a true WORLD war. 

            Sure, in its first few months, it looked a lot like a replay of World War I.  Once again, Germany was heading through Belgium on the way to take out France.  Once again, France and Britain worked together to put the upstart Germans in their place.  Yet quickly, the comparisons stopped and any passive observer could see that this war would end up like no other.  Within six years, major offensives would take the Japanese across the Far East, putting them on the doorsteps of Australia, India and the United States.  German armies took over governments from Norway to North Africa to Iraq, and then pushed deep into the heart of the Soviet Union.  The United States saw their own country attacked (albeit a remote Pacific island state 2000 miles off the coast of California) before sending their troops to three continents to end the Axis menace.  Again Latin America stayed pretty much out of the actual fighting (save for Mexico and Brazil who sent in an air force and a 25,000 man army respectively), but again profiting as needed suppliers to the Allies and welcome home to the millions of refugees fleeing their shattered former lives.

            World War II was also different because it wasn’t too difficult to blame the instigators.  Japan and Germany (and to some extent Italy) brought war to the world.  Most nations in the 1930s hid behind policies of isolationism and pacifism, refusing to involve themselves in the affairs of other nations.  If alliances were what brought the belligerents to conflict in World War I, it would be the fear of alliances that brought the world to its knees in the 1940s.  By the end of the 1930s, militarist Japan and fascist Germany and Italy had embarked on a campaign of empire building, all right in front of the faces of the world’s powers, yet the onlookers did nothing.  Each bold land grab by the aggressors went unchecked, emboldening even further moves. When the nations finally decided to awake from their pacifist slumber, they saw an East Asia and a Europe ruled by Germany and Japan, with all signs pointing to these two nations being far from...