The roots of the second world war was tied deeply in the results of the first world war. The treaty of Versailles was unjust to say the least. In 1933 Adolf Hitler was given the chancellorship and began the slow road to war. First thing he did was declare the treaty of Versailles dead and secretly begin to build up his air force and navy. In 1936 at the London Naval Conference the Germans successfully managed to legalize its naval program. Britain was more concerned with the rising Naval strength of Japan.
The Germans sped up their naval program, abandoning all pretense at hiding its battleship program. Its Bismarck and 'H' class programs were sped up and its battlecruiser programs were also accelerated. This led Britain to accelerate its own battleship construction programs. With the King George V class ships finished with the new and very impressive BL 16" Mk II guns the Royal Navy began construction of several new Battleships of the Lion and Vanguard classes. Japan seemed to pay no head and continued on with its Yamato class ships.
Hitler began a process of seizing territory, at first the territory he seized was rightfully a part of Germany but later he annexed Austria and seized a portion of Czechoslovakia. This was shortly followed up by the annexation of the entire country in which Britain and France declared that they would stand by Poland should Hitler attempt to seize Danzig. This warning fell on deaf ears as Hitler made a pact with Stalin to divide Poland should it come to war.
The war did not begin as the previous one had. France and Britain braced for a possible offensive in the west and let Poland become partitioned by Germany and the Soviet Union. Neither France nor Britain lifted a finger while Warsaw was being bombed mercilessly. When Germany invaded Denmark there was also little done to stave off the German offensive. It wasn't until Norway that the British went into full swing. Germany had to launch its invasion by sea and that brought the massive Royal Navy into action. At first it seemed as if the Royal Navy would miss the boat but eventually they cornered the GrossDeutchsland and sunk her. To further exacerbate the issue the Warspite cornered 10 German destroyers and sunk them with little difficulty. The Norwegians even managed to sink the German heavy cruiser Blucher with a 40 year old battery in Oslofjord in what became known as the battle of Drobak sound. This wasn't without loss to the commonwealth however. The battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gniesenau managed to intercept the carrier Glorious and sink her dealing a serious blow to the British fleet air arm. All in all, even though the British and French lost Norway it could be called a Victory for the Royal Navy because they had managed to sink a very large portion of the German fleet while the Royal Navy could afford its losses.
The Germans predictably invaded the Low Countries in May of 1940 the British and French were equally predictable in swinging into Belgium in an attempt to counter this invasion with the hinge of the invasion centering on Sedan. The German plan was going perfectly and the main offensive began through the Ardennes region and straight into Sedan where the weakest and poorest equipped French divisions lay. A breakthrough was quickly achieved and German mechanized forces began to pour into the French country side. It was a matter of weeks before the advancing British and French forces were surrounded. An attempt to breakout at Arras was poorly coordinated and easily repulsed sealing the fate of the trapped forces. If it wasn't for the Miracle of Dunkirk all of these forces would have been forced to surrender to the Germans, instead a large portion of them escaped.
The remainder of the battle for France was plagued by incompetent leadership and poor government. While initially there was fierce resistance to the renewed German offensive, the Germans eventually achieved another breakout and stormed across France. France sued for peace at the behest of Marshal Petain and the Germans demands were harsh but none the less accepted and the country of Vichy France was born out of the death knell of the Third Republic.
Following the fall of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk there is a short respite allowing the RAF to recover its losses from the campaign. In July the Luftwaffe began bombing convoys in the English Channel in order to coax out the RAF but the Royal Air Force did not take the bait. After two weeks of this failure the Luftwaffe began to attack targets that Fighter Command would defend, its airfields and radar sites.
This continued on for a month until one night a German bomber got lost and dropped its bombs accidentally on London doing little damage. Churchill reacted by ordering Bomber command to counter attack. This caused Hitler to change the focus of the bombing attacks on Britain from the airfields to London itself. Fighter command did nothing to prevent the bombings on London while it built up its strength again. This led Hitler to believe that Fighter command was finished and he set the date for the invasion of Britain to September 7th 1940.
The Kriegsmarine was prepared to escort the invasion convoy with two battleships including the Frederick Der Gross and the Tirpitz, two of Germany's finest battleships as well as the battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gniesenau. In support were two heavy cruisers, a pocket battleship, five light cruisers and eighteen destroyers. Fully half the strength of the German surface fleet. Admiral Donitz was less inclined to support the invasion attempt believing that the Royal Navy would attempt an interception with their full available strength regardless of the condition of the Royal Air Force. He dedicated only four U-boats to the invasion. The German army would be sending nine divisions including two panzer divisions and in addition to these forces two Paratrooper divisions.
The Royal Navy itself had eight battleships available along with two battle cruisers and three aircraft carriers. There was also ten heavy cruisers over four dozen light cruisers of various quality and two-hundred plus destroyers, which would be the real threat to the invasion convoy. On land the British and Commonwealth armies were much worse off. By the time of the invasion there was only ten fully equipped divisions and six partially equipped divisdions in Britain, two of which were Canadian. They could not cover the entire coastline so they chose to cover the most likely avenue of attack, the south east coast from Dover to Portsmouth.
Churchill ordered all available units to their invasion stations on September 3rd.
German paratroopers made the first strike and landed behind British and Canadian lines on the night of the morning of the 7th. They secured a few small airfields but Matilda tanks and Bren gun carriers carrying reinforcements soon made a bloody fight of the whole attempt. Two airfields were held by the Germans and forces were diverted from the beach defenses to deal with these incursions.
At 5am the first German ships appeared off the coast and began bombarding British fortifications and ports. The first invasion craft landed with heavy air support and they met with fierce resistance, particularly from the Canadian beaches. After 3 hours of fighting the German forces were pushing inland at a very slow pace, though no ports had been secured yet. These were exacting a heavy toll on the Germans.
The sun rose in the sky at 8am and the Royal Air Force was next to arrive with the first destroyers and some light cruisers to match. A titanic air battle ensued with both sides committing bombers to attacking ships. The first destroyer penetrated the German defenses and began to attack German civilian shipping that was being utilized to transport troops, equipment and material. One ship that was sunk erarly was a tanker carrying fuel for the panzer divisions that were now making landfall. This cut the available fuel supplies in half. German warships now began to turn their attention away from the beaches and to the Royal Navy ships.
At around 9am the Royal Navy's main strength arrived in two groups, one from the east through the Pas de Calais and another from the west. The heavy guns placed on the Pas de Calais proved ineffective at stopping the British and were eliminated quickly by massed naval gun fire. Royal Navy aircraft quickly joined the fray. British capital ships concentrated on the German warships while the destroyers concentrated on the invasion shipping.
The battle lasted four hours. The Luftwaffe eventually lost control of the air losing almost three-hundred aircraft to the RAF's one-hundred aircraft lost. The German Navy was trapped. Both east and west accesses to the English Channel were blocked by Royal Navy warships and the French Ports could be easily bombed by RAF bombers with full fighter protection. They couldn't make it to those ports anyway, not with Bomber Command harassing them constantly. All German warships were sunk with heavy loss of life. The invasion convoy was quickly destroyed their after by the little ships of the Royal Navy. With all of their supplies at the bottom of the English Channel and their positions being bombarded from the sea the German units still on the beaches or fighting inside British port cities surrendered by that evening. German Panzers ran out of fuel quickly after that and the invasion forces crumbled. British mop up operations was extremely long however. The paratroopers were difficult to root out and it took 3 months to capture them all.
The German Navy was in shambles. Half of its strength was at the bottom of the English Channel and combined with the losses suffered during the Norway campaign it effectively neutered the Kriegsmarine as a fighting force. The Luftwaffe had lost control over Britain and the English Channel in a single day and could only mount night bombing raids. Hitler continued to target British cities in an effort to break the moral of the British people, but even this failed.
Commonwealth ground units had held their own against the German Army and Won, though with the help of the other two branches of the military and this was not lost on them. Such cooperation in the future would be key to the success of the commando raids and the planned eventual re-entry into France, though the Commonwealth would need a much more sizable ground force to accomplish this and conscription would be a continuous topic of debate.
The Royal Navy had achieved a major victory over the Germans. Germany had moved in such a way that Britain could bring its major advantage into play. So much so that any future invasion was as much as a full year away and by that point the Royal Navy would have recovered its losses and the Kriegsmarine would not. British losses were heavy however. fifty six destroyers had been sunk along with fourteen light cruisers, two heavy cruisers and the battleship Resolution. All of the surviving ships had received some sort of damage and many would be laid up for months to come. The Royal Navy had at least temporarily ceased to be an effective fighting force itself, at least in the Atlantic theater.
Hitler was quoted saying after hearing the news about the battle for Britain: "This frees us up for our true purpose. Now it shall be the Russians turn next."
Following Italy's laughable entrance to the war during the battle for France in which they managed to conquer no territory in southern France the large Italian force Marched on British Somalia and Egypt. The Italians marched no farther the Sidi Berani in Egypt despite seriously outnumbering the British Garrison. The British gathered a Commonwealth and Empire force in East Africa and over ran the area in a matter of weeks reinstalling Haile Selassie on the thrown of Ethiopia. In Egypt the much smaller British Garrison with their outdated equipment and weapons out fought the Italian force and forced them back into Libya, but before the British army could finish the job the cream of the North African Army was taken to reinforce Greece.
The Greek expedition coincided with the invasion of both Yugoslavia and Greece by Germany and its new allies Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. The forces, along with the beleaguered Italians overran the Balkan countries and pushed the British out and into Crete. Crete met with equal disaster when a paratrooper force ceased a key airfield and began flying in reinforcements onto Crete forcing another embarrassing evacuation, but during this evacuation the Royal Navy attained another brilliant victory at sea, this time over the Italians at the Battle for Cape Mattapan. They sunk two of the ten Italian Battleships and three of their newer heavy cruisers. The Italian fleet would rarely sortie again from its ports.
Meanwhile in Africa Rommel began a multi-year seesaw battle across the African Desert culminating in the battle of El Alamein. At this battle he defied Hitler’s demands to stand and fight and retreated clear across the desert to Tripoli and into Tunis. The war in the Desert was about to finish.
With the attack on the Soviet Union the British once again found themselves with an ally, but this time the alliance was reluctant and one of convenience rather than mutual defence. The Russians fell back losing millions of troops in futile stands against the Germans. The recent purges had taken the heart out the Red army and left it leaderless. The reforms to the Red army were not yet complete when war with Germany came. Only Zhukov seemed to be able to stem the German onslaught, first at Leningrad and then again at Moscow. The advent of Winter, in which the Germans were caught completely unprepared for, further saved the Soviet Union, at least temporarily.
Japan joined the Second World War with most of its army tied up in the Sino-Japanese war. It began with a strike on Pearl Harbour against the American Pacific Fleet based at Hawaii. This strike permanently sunk the old battleships Arizona and Oklahoma and damaged 6 others along with many other ships of varying size. However they missed the American Carrier forces as they were at Sea at the time meaning they had missed the cream of the USN. Further offensives were struck against the American Asiatic Fleet which erupted in a battleship duel between the new Yamato and two older South Dakota class battleships. The Yamato was able to achieve a significant victory over the US Asiatic fleet with little damage to itself. As a further lesson in air power vs sea power the British force Z was caught without fighter cover and one of its battleships the Prince of Wales and the old battlecruiser Repulse were seriously damaged. To preserve the fighting strength of force Z the ships were left to their fate and were sunk in subsequent air attacks. Mort then simple AA cruisers were obviously needed and a stop gap measure was devised. The ships main guns would fire air burst shells like flack shells and break up enemy squadrons before they got close to the fleet. In the meantime the Japanese continued to strike across the Pacific invading the Philippines and Hong Kong where the British Carrier Eagle and the old Canadian Battleship Passchendaele were sunk by gunfire. Borneo was next along with Malaya, but the British and Australians had invested greatly in the defenses of the Island of Singapore and no Victory was achieved there before reinforcements from Australia arrived.
The result of these attacks was the formation of the US alliance between China, the Philippines and the Americans. This alliance was aimed at the defeat of Japan but would survive this as a defence against the Commonwealth, the Commintern and the future European Alliance.
In support of his Asian allies Hitler declares war against the US alliance. This baffling decision set Germany on a serious back foot. The US Alliance’s first action was in North Africa to gain some experience fighting the Germans. They invaded Vichy French North Africa and helped deal the death knell of the Africa Corpse in Tunis, but not before suffering a serious setback at Kasserine Pass.
In the Pacific the Attempt to Invade the little Island of Midway was thwarted in a titanic Air/Sea Battle in which the US alliance Sunk four of the Japanese Carriers for a single loss of one of their own. This proved the value of carriers as an offensive weapon and further justified the US Alliance's change of naval strategy following the end of the Anglo-American war of 1928.
The spring of 1942 began the way the summer of 1941 for the Soviet Union with the loss of a great deal of territory. This was done as an exchange of territory for time. They made their stand at Stalingrad. Hitler could not help himself and he threw the entire 6th army into capturing the city. The Russians held out well into the winter when the once more ill prepared 6th army was caught with little winter supplies and then surrounded by superior forces of the Red army. Permission to break out was denied by Hitler himself and he sent an attack to break through to them. This failed and the German forces were pushed back as far as Kharkov. The 6th army starved and Hitler was dealt another serious blow. His rein would not survive another year.
The Royal Navy faced two sieges during 1942. The first was Malta which actually tentatively began in 1940 but picked up pace in 1942 when Rommel demanded that the island be captured to secure his overseas supplies. Singapore became a symbol of British doggedness in the East as the Japanese attempted to starve the Island into submission, however with only partial occupation of the island of Sumatra the Malacca Strait remained open to the British. In addition several key points on Sumatra were occupied and reinforced to give the RAF more airfields closer to the entrance of the Straits.
At Malta supply convoys were difficult to get through thanks largely to the Luftwaffe. Land based aircraft from Sicily and Sardinia harassed British shipping and sank many ships including the old light carrier Argus and Submarines sink another British Carrier the Ark Royal. Commonwealth anti air tactics change during late 1942 when battleships fire there main guns at long distance in defence of the convoys. The airburst shells detonate amongst the enemy squadrons sending small steel balls ripping through aircraft. Entire squadrons are downed and coordinated air attack efforts are foiled. Radar assisted in these attacks and air attacks were force to either attack in small groups that have little chance of penetrating the AA defences or squadrons are forced to come in low where the guns fuses have a harder time detonating. This second tactic puts the enemy squadrons at a disadvantage because Germany lacked a suitable low level torpedo bomber and all of its Stuka's would be forced into a sharp climb in order to gain the necessary altitude to drop there bombs.
In the Malacca Straits the British had far more air support, but around the same time that Germany encountered the airburst shell tactic the Japanese also encountered it, but Japan had plenty of Torpedo bombers so low level attacks were just fine with them. While RAF fighter cover was sparse what little they could send was enough. They could catch entire squadrons at sea level and dive on them from high altitudes. Japan did not have the air resources to effectively counter the British attempts to supply Singapore and their access to the Malacca Straits was blocked by the guns at Singapore itself.
The joint invasion of Sicily or operation Husky went off without a hitch. The first Joint effort between Commonwealth forces and the ever expanding US Alliance forces was a resounding success. The island was captured but cooperation between the two forces was limited and highly competitive. Commonwealth forces met with the bulk of the resistance to the advance on Massina and captured very little of the island. This made them resentful towards the Americans. When the time came to assault the mainland the Commonwealth went up the western side of the 'boot' and the US went up the Eastern side. They met at Monte Casino following the clearing of Ortona. The battle for Monte Casino was tough fought but eventually a Commonwealth force captured the summit and allowed the US alliance to advance through the valley. That’s when it happened.
It is unsure as to who fired the first shot but fighting broke out between the Commonwealth and US Alliance over the capture of Rome. The fighting spread throughout the region but was stopped by both sides in an attempt to salvage the situation. In Britain US soldiers suddenly found themselves on the streets as host families threw them out. The US 8th air force suddenly found itself without airfields, while aircraft aloft were allowed to land none were allowed to take off. The Americans put the final nail in the coffin by negotiating with Vichy France to join the US Alliance. US forces were deported from Britain and the US alliance withdrew from the war in Europe. This elated Hitler. He expected the British to negotiate for Peace any time now. He was dead wrong.
With Japan's resources spread thin the disillusion of the US alliance-Commonwealth pact gave Japan an opportunity. Japan quickly negotiated a cessation of hostilities with the Commonwealth in return of all captured territories in which Britain and her Commonwealth were fighting. This, of course, excluded Hong Kong but did have Malaysia, Burma and New Guinea included in the agreement. In addition several small pacific islands were not returned. This allowed Japan to focus more attention on the growing US Alliance which now included most of South and Central America.
The US engaged in island hopping rather than taking each fortress one by one. This culminated in the battle of the Philippines Sea where Japanese naval aviation met its end along with several Carriers and Battleships. This was quickly followed up by the battle for Leyte Gulf where Japan lost three of its four Yamato class battleships and a number of older battleships to continued air attacks and ambushes by the US navy.
With complete domination over the English Channel the Commonwealth found itself with the ability to land were ever it pleased. They chose Normandy for their landing site and even with the departure of US alliance involvement the British and Canadians, backed up by an Indian division, landed on Jujy 16th 1944. While everything proceeded according to plan on the Canadian and British beaches the Indians, untrained for the operation, suffered heavy casualties, but none the less succeeded in taking its first day objectives. Royal Navy support was heavy with a staggering 10 battleships and two battlecruisers supporting the invasion.
Following the landings of Overlord the German Army felt it had to act and act fast. They assassinated Hitler. The resulting power vacuum was filled by Erwin Rommel, a skilled general and one renowned for defying Hitler’s insane orders. The Nazi Party was quickly rounded up and imprisoned, to be used as bargaining chips at the peace tables.
Meanwhile the sudden change in German Government did not stop the Commonwealth offensive. They broke out of the beach head within a month and surged across France capturing an area from Brest on the Atlantic to Paris and Brussels. The Commonwealth offensive ground to a halt in December that year. The Germans were quick to act. Rather than counter attack they opened peace negotiations with Britain. At first Britain demanded a return to the status quo, but the truth was that a new offensive was months or even a year away and a German counter attack may result in another seesaw battle like that experienced in North Africa. The Royal Navy could not help that far inland and Commonwealth land based manpower was extremely finite. Eventually Britain signed a peace agreement which divided France into four countries and Belgium into two countries. This left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Commonwealth public but Germany did acknowledge that they had lost the war though only marginally.
With the Commonwealth landings in the west taking place Stalin engaged in his own operation in support of the British effort. Operation Bagration began in August of 1944. The Soviet offensive was focused at forcing Germany from Belarussia. At first it seemed as if German resistance would be focused around Fortress cities but with Hitler out of the way the Wehrmacht was free to act in its best interest. They withdrew to more defensible lines forcing the Soviets to fight on their terms. The struggling Luftwaffe was committed only when the German armour was committed providing them with a modicum of air cover. This allowed the Tigers and Panthers to dominate the enemy tanks at extreme range and on their terms rather than be used in futile counter attacks. German forces froze the Soviet advance at the old Polish border near Bialystok. They evacuated Army Group North from the Baltic States and repositioned them in support of Army Group Center. Army Group South’s sole goal was to protect the Balkans from falling into Soviet hands and they did this in the Carpatian Mountains and along the Black Sea. With the war in the west over Germany was now focused at holding Soviet Russia where it was and allow it to advance no further. It took another three years of this Stalemate to bring the Russians to the negotiation tables. The Nazi Party was used as incentive for the USSR to accept peace. They were handed over as part of the peace agreements, publicly trialed and publicly executed.
With the entirety of the US army now focused against Japan the sole goal of Japan was to end the war on terms that she could accept. Following Okinawa, the US alliance landed in Kyushu near Kagoshima. Like at Iwo Jima the defending Japanese forces waited for the US troops to fill the beaches before opening fire. This produced massive casualties. The American forces pushed onward none-the-less and captured Kagoshima within a month. The back of the Japanese defences was broken and there were few reserves to feed into the meat grinder so US armour broke through and captured most of the island with little resistance. Mass suicides of the civilian population occured and the US troops were powerless to stop it.
With Germany firmly in control of Europe and the Holocaust laid bare before the world it began the arduous task of rebuilding the continent. Its first goal was to liberate the concentration camp prisoners and get them back to health. Those responsible were already being punished in the USSR so little retribution could be found. The next task was to set up governments in the occupied territories and then rename the Axis to the European Alliance and later in the century into the European Union.
The Commonwealth found itself with an enormous debt, one which it could never pay off in this century. However with the US alliance cutting off diplomatic relations following the debacle in Italy there was little opportunity to pay off the debt and it was unlikely that the US Alliance would go to war so soon after the Second World War, so rather than pay off its debt to the USA it defaulted on the debt. This of course did not please the US Alliance but there was little recourse. It was also viewed that an economically strong Commonwealth would be an excellent counter to the European Alliance and the Commintern so the debt was eventually forgiven as a matter of strategic practicality.
The US alliance found itself in possession of a fairly large empire, including some ex-British holdings. In addition to that following the surrender of Japan, Indonesia declared its independence and joined the US Alliance further expanding its sphere of influence. The Chinese civil war had picked up right where it had left off and several holdings in the south of China were now in the hands of the Nationalists. Indochina was now in the hands of the US alliance as well and there was a great deal of civil unrest in the region which would explode into war later in the century.
The Americans put forth a new World Wide Agency known as the United Nations. All four Alliances and there member states joined but during the cold war and World War III to follow it would prove to be as powerless as the League of Nations before it.
While bombing Japanese military and civilian targets mercilessly the US focused on what it assumed would be the final invasion of the war. They targeted Tokyo. They landed 25 divisions along a broad front on the eastern side of the panisula near Tokyo. They once again met heavy resistance and took the beaches with heavy casualties. There was a small harbour located in the inasion area that was utilized to land troops and equipment as fast as they could be unloaded rather than dump the entirety of the supplies on the beach where kamikaze pilots could strike. The push inland was slow, as was expected in that situation. The Japanese lose more port facilities along the coast as the US forces pushed south. They never did entirely secure the panisula from the Japanese. The push inland was again slow, but not as slow as expected. It took only a month to reach the outskirts of Tokyo and the city was largely demolished by air attacks. A Stalingrad style battle insued, but there were no more reserves in Japan. An attack by the Soviet Union in support of the belugered Communist Chinese cut off all hopes of reinforcement from the main land. In three months the US forces captured all of Tokyo and was knocking on Yokahama's door when the Japanese finally saw the writing on the wall. With a promise that the Japanese Emperor would not be prosecuted for war crimes, the Japanese surrendered.