The date of the end of World War 2 was September 1945 with Japan’s surrender. But the events that led to it began in late 1942.
The Battle of Midway
The turning point in the Pacific came on June 1942. The Japanese attacked the island of Midway which is northeast of Hawaii. Initially the Japanese held the edge against the Americans when 35 of 41 US planes were taken down. But the American attack forced the Japanese to fly low. When they did, American bombers retaliated. By the battle’s end four large Japanese vessels had sunk. Momentum swung over to America.
The Americans launched a counterattack. It would take them all the way to Guadalcanal. The Japanese would be in retreat until the end of World War 2.
In Europe the tide turned in the summer of 1942. The Germans continued to press in Russia specifically towards Stalingrad. In a few weeks, over 40,000 civilians were killed. But the German 6th Army ran short of supplies. Hitler refused to order a withdrawal. The end results were the deaths of over 260,000 German soldiers. The Soviets would counterattack and the 6th Army surrendered in 1943. The Soviets began driving the Germans back out.
The Invasion of Italy
Following the British Army’s triumph in El Alamein, the Germans and Italians retreated to Egypt. Over 200,000 British and US reinforcements came. The Axis troops surrendered. This paved the way for the Allies’ invasion of Italy. This would prove pivotal to the end of World War 2. In July of 1943, the Allies managed to enter Sicily. In the same month Mussolini was overthrown.
The series of Axis defeats allowed the Allies to plan an invasion of Nazi occupied France. It took place on June 1944. With aircraft supporting the ground troops, the Allies stormed in. By August Paris had been freed from the Nazis.
The defeat of France led to the bombing and invasion of Germany itself. By early 1945 the US and British were advancing from the west. The Russians were coming from the east. On April 30, Adolf Hitler killed himself. On May 7 Germany surrendered and that was the end of World War 2 in Europe.
The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
While the war in Europe ended, the Japanese continued to fight. By 1944 onwards, US planes rained bombs in Tokyo every day. But the Japanese fought hard. In the Battle of Iwo Jima, the Americans lost 5,000 men to gain 700 yards.
After taking Okinawa, the US decided against invading Japan itself. On August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. 80,000 died on the spot. 10,000 were evaporated completely. For 4 miles, everything was flattened. The next day another atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki. Thousands of people also died. The Japanese finally surrendered.
By the end of World War 2 over 50 million lost their lives. More importantly it ushered in the Atomic and eventually Nuclear Age. The means to destroy humanity has thus become the war’s most resonating legacy.
Related Reading on WWII