World War II

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Humanity's best and worst were displayed for all the world to see.

"I ask you: Do you want total war? If necessary, do you want a war more total and radical than anything that we can even imagine today?"

Joseph Goebbels, 1943 [1]

The roots of humanity's greatest conflict go back centuries, but the immediate causes of the war lay in the resolution of the First World War and the Great Depression.

Rise of Nazi Germany

November 1918: All Quiet on the Western Front and everyone breathes a sigh of relief that The Great War has ended. The sigh of relief is justified: more than ten million soldiers were killed over the course of the four-year war (more soldiers died than quite a few countries had people), in addition to more-than-seven million civilian deaths and uncounted numbers of civilian and military wounded. These catastrophic death tolls resulted from military technology outstripping military thinking, and the application of 19th-century tactics to 20th-century weapons resulted in trench warfare and battles on the Western front which were long, indecisive, and horrendously inefficient. The Eastern front was rather different.

The collapse of the German and Habsburg empires after the war led to the creation of many 'new' states and the re-drawing of borders all over central-southern Europe. The Habsburgs' dual-monarchy of Austria-Hungary was divided into Germanic Austria, Magyar Hungary, Czecho-Slovakia (a union of the Czech and Slovak peoples, with large minorities of Germans and Hungarians), Yugoslavia (a pan-Slavic union under Serbia), and Poland. Italy and Romania also received Austrian Trent and Hungarian Transylvania, respectively. Germany itself became a democracy (with numerous inner conflicts due to the spread of communism throughout Europe after the Russian Revolution and military coups) and lost land to Denmark, a large chunk to Poland, and Alsace and Lorraine went back to France. ('Again', after a fashion. Nominally 'German' and 'French' people had been fighting over this region since before the modern nations of Germany or France existed.) And Germany also lost all her overseas colonies, which had been economically useless but nonetheless a great source of national pride before the war.

The monetary cost of the war is literally incalculable - Russia dodged its bill entirely, for instance, by becoming a whole new country - but the average cost to European human capital was about 6%, domestic assets about 11% and national wealth some 10-20%. Furthermore, the conclusion of the war and the creation of so many new, weak states along national lines resulted in a Europe that spent most of its time grappling with great political unrest instead of addressing the fundamental structural economic problems which underpinned much of said unrest. Almost overnight Europe went from a handful of currencies with fixed exchange rates to over a dozen currencies with variable exchange rates. Where there had been a handful of tariff barriers and taxation systems before, there were dozens. Germany, whose economic power would have together with France and Britain been required to 'save' Europe from itself, was deliberately weakened and saddled with near-crippling war-reparations debts. London had managed the world's pre-war banking; now, the situation was too complex and London too weak for it to exert any real control over it, and New York refused to step up to the plate and take charge of the situation. Furthermore, the four-year war disrupted the natural trade cycles of Europe and resulted in economies that had to be re-geared to peace-time conditions post-1918. Which resulted in mass unemployment and gave impetus to Socialist and Fascist movements through much of Europe. The danger seemed to have passed by about 1923, with things taking a shaky turn for the better... but then came the Great Depression, which saw world industrial production down by a fifth and trade by half. With this came unemployment rates of some 5-30% for many countries, these figures often concealing vast regional and temporal variations. The political implications of all this for social unrest were only intensified given the poor or non-existent state of social welfare throughout the industrial world.

The creation of the 'new' states and the redrawing of national borders left German minorities dotted all over central-eastern Europe. What was more, in some areas bordering Germany and Austria they were actually majorities, such as in now-Italian Trent (in the modern province of Alto-Süd Tirol) where the Italians had rigged the League of Nations census in their favour in order to obtain a natural border with the Alps. All this would be important later. In the meantime, Austria, Hungary, and Germany had their armed forces heavily regulated, were required to pay heavy reparations to the Allies and were forbidden from a political union with each other.

It is debated to what extent these reparations were exceptionally harsh and what their role was in the later economic collapse. The reparations, while initially high, were greatly reduced in the intervening decades, and much leeway was given to the Germans in how and when to pay them. This is in addition to the fact that, in practice, the reparation payments were for the most part all but ignored, with the Germans often simply refusing to pay.

Nevertheless, many Germans considered the treaty an unforgivable national humiliation and continued to believe that Germany could have won the war, or at least could have avoided making such concessions. A myth of betrayal grew up around Versailles, centered on the incompetence and gutlessness of the German leadership, the betrayal of the German Socialists in abandoning all claims of international workers solidarity to support the government's unwanted war, the Liberals and Democrats for screwing up the economy in the post-war period, and Satan and the Jews because... well, just because. Anything and anyone to justify the "real" cause of their defeat and avoid the conclusion that apparently, against all logic, Germany had been bested, something that did not sit well with the Nationalist and Social Darwinist theories popular at the time.

The League of Nations was also set up, a kind of proto-United Nations, where all states could gather and discuss their problems, solve them diplomatically, and enforce international treaties. However, the United States did not join (ironic, since the League was conceived by then-President Woodrow Wilson) as it did not like the idea of foreign scrutiny of its informal empire in Latin America, instead turning inward to run its own affairs and avoid "foreign entanglements". The non-involvement of the US was crucial, as the United States accounted for a fifth of world GDP at the time; this was a touch more than Britain, France and all their dependencies combined. Furthermore, the new state of the Soviet Union was refused entry because they were a poor and backwards country of Dirty Communists to be despised by all civilised peoples. As a result, the League's success and implementation was limited. Despite this, the Allies were satisfied with their work and went home, each confidently declaring that there would be no more war.

They were wrong. Unemployment and under-employment combined with inflation and transportation problems to leave millions of post-war workers short of their daily bread. Consequently Europe was swept by revolutionary fervor inspired by the example of the Soviet Union as communist parties tried to seize power in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere. The confusion and loss of control that came with suddenly giving the vote to millions of now-hungry people who had never been involved in politics before - in the name of democracy and freedom, of course - looked to have backfired spectacularly. For a period of time, it looked as if the World Revolution, so long foretold, might actually be at hand. To the Marxists' disappointment, many working professionals and skilled workers turned to fascism, a movement which combined mass-politics with dictatorship and nationalism with socialist attitudes to the community and welfare. Fascism was touted as a revolutionary new movement, a 'Third Way' between the evils of fully-fledged International Communism and the chaos of the beleaguered (and apparently economically ruinous) liberal-democracies.

Political elites proved willing to compromise with these new movements or institute their own dictatorial regimes to stave off the advances of 'The Red Hydra'. This political environment allowed the Partito Nazionale Fascista to come to power in Italy in the early twenties, setting a precedent for the rest of Europe. It was over a decade later that one of history's (least) favourite and most exclusive parties, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (The Nazi Party or NSDAP, for short), came to power by similar means. Under the leadership of the charismatic demagogue (and frontrunner for the title of "Most Evil Painter Ever") Adolf Hitler, the Weimar Republic was reformed out of existence, and Germany set up violating every remaining provision of the Versailles Treaty, rearming its military and (after five years of testing the international waters) joining with Austria to create a unified German state in 1938.

Second Sino-Japanese War

One year earlier, a border clash had broken out between the disorganized and factious Republic of China and the Japanese Empire, after a Japanese soldier went missing during exercises near the 'Marco Polo Bridge' (near Beijing). Ironically, after nearly half a century of political and economic expansion at the expense of China, Japan was in the spring of 1937 minded to follow Britain's example in China and gradually disengage (politically and militarily) from the region, viewing the Soviet Union as a far greater threat for reasons both ideological and practical, with some overly-optimistic elements of the military hoping to expand into Siberia. (Urban) Chinese public opinion, on the other hand, would not stand for anything less than firm opposition to Japan, opposing any further political compromises and railing at real and perceived insults to Chinese national pride. So when the Marco Polo Bridge incident turned into yet another border skirmish, the conflict quickly escalated to a scale that the leadership of neither side wanted. Generalissimo Jiang and his entourage would have much preferred to avoid a full-scale war to focus on eliminating Communists, independent-minded Warlords and banditry; The Imperial Cabinet was happy with trading with China and preparing for the seemingly-inevitable war against the Soviets.

As it was Generalissimo Jiang quickly committed his best forces to destroying the Japanese concession in Shanghai, part of his strategy for defending the lower Yangtze delta - the economic heartland of the territory under the control of his Nationalist Party, which dominated the government of the Republic by virtue of the strength his armed forces. This led to a curious spectacle wherein the Japanese government continued to insist that this latest 'China Incident' was not a war, even as they committed half a million men, supported by tanks and aeroplanes and warships, to fight a highly-visible battle which dragged on for three-months. The street-to-street, house-to-house fighting at Shanghai is yet another of the many origin stories for what later became known as the 'Molotov cocktail'. Jiang's men resort to using them against armoured cars and tanks because they don't have enough anti-tank weapons, and the ones they do have usually aren't where they're needed. The Empire's usual spiel about pan-asian co-operation, with Japan as the leader of Asia, rang rather hollow as the battle resulted in some 300 000 military dead and the advancing Japanese army broke discipline for a spot of unpleasantness in the comparatively-lightly defended (now former-)National Capital at Nanjing. The few foreigners remaining in the city tell of events which newspapers in the Occident eye-catchingly call 'the Rape of Nanjing' or 'the Nanjing Massacre'.

In any case, the rapid advance into coastal and riverine China is ground to a halt after just a few months - the Imperial Army's supply chains are stretched to their limits, and they quickly find that to spread themselves any thinner is to invite another series of counter-attacks. This kind of rapid advance is what the Japanese army has been trained and equipped for, and they have executed it brilliantly. This leaves Japan in control of all the most economically and strategically important regions of China... fighting a war of huge expense against the world's most populous nation for no good reason, with no end to the conflict in sight. Well, not for several years, at the least. Furthermore, the Soviets are looking more threatening than ever. What happened was the Imperial Cabinet was persuaded that the Nationalists would either be crushed or brought to the negotiating table in just another year or two of rapid advances, and the Republic's leadership realised that public hostility to Japan left no room for them negotiate anything short of a white peace with the Empire. What followed was years of the messiest partisan fighting ever. This was on top of the standard fare of open warfare which raged on and off between the IJA and Jiang's loyal Nationalist Revolutionary Army forces.

The reaction to the China Incident abroad was one of muted sympathy. People felt sorry for China and had begun to think rather badly of Japan, but non-ethnic Chinese didn't care enough to actually pressure their governments to do anything about the War. People related more to the people and events in Europe, which they were more interested in generally. From the Japanese seizure of the France-sized northern province of Manchuria in 1931 to the full-scale invasion and occupation of 1937, the whole mess served to highlight the true uselessness of the League of Nations. Its reaction to the very obvious problems at hand was effectively to sit in a corner with its eyes shut and its fingers in its ears saying 'La la la I can't hear you!'. When they had tried to reprimand Japan for its actions back in '31, Japan simply left the League. This last straw, when taken with incidents like the Italian annexation of Ethiopia, only encouraged the 'Axis' (formed by the Tripartite Pact between Germany, Italy and Japan) powers to take action against what increasingly seemed like tired and weak old democracies which hadn't the stomach to fight. Hitler in particular was convinced that Britain and France were in no way interested in another war with Germany and would likely only fight to defend themselves. This misjudgement was just asking for trouble, as was the belief that having an Empire was an automatic guarantor of prosperity. There was some vague spiel about markets for the fruits of industry, and military might ensuring the prosperity of the nation. Never mind the ginormous costs of war.

Getting back to Europe, the Allies did nothing for a long while. This was the result of feelings of guilt and apathy. Guilt about the treatment of Germany at Versailles, and apathy because what was happening in Germany was in a sense none of their business. But remember all those ethnic German majorities bordering the new Germany? Hitler wanted them back, and that meant taking the territory back. At first it happened with Austria, which the Allies didn't mind so much, despite it being a violation of the Versailles Treaty. They felt they couldn't go to war to stop Germans being attached to other Germans, and after all it was what (Most? We really don't know.) Austrians wanted.

However, this was followed by claims on the Sudetenland and the border areas of Czecho-Slovakia, which both held German majorities. This was a bit more difficult, as Czechoslovakia was overwhelmingly Czech and Slovak, and they were unwilling to simply give up their border areas (which not-coincidentally held all its fortifications and military bases.) War was narrowly avoided with the signing of the Munich Agreement, signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain. (Czechoslovakia notably being absent from negotiations.) Czechoslovakia would be forced to give up the Sudetenland. Less well known, Czechoslovakia was also forced to give a slice of territory to Hungary and a scrap to Poland. But Europe and her dependencies breathed a sigh of relief - war had been avoided. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (in)famously announced, "I believe it is peace for our time." Hitler promised this was his last territorial demand.

He lied. Not only was this followed up by an invasion and annexation of what was left, but Hitler then started making claims on Poland. Finally alarmed, Britain and France declared their support for Poland, and that any threat on Poland's independence would mean war.

Well, we all know what happened next.

Beginning of the War

World War II officially begins on Sept. 1, 1939, with the Nazi invasion of Poland. Britain and France declare war on Germany, but they don't actually do anything to help. Poland tries to fight, but is simultaneously invaded by the Soviet Union from the east, and collapses in a couple of weeks. Next comes a weird eight-month pause variously nicknamed the Phony War, the Sitzkrieg (Sitting War), or the Bore War (a pun on the Boer War), in which the British and French sit quietly and do nothing while Germany does much the same, with a brief spurts of vigor allowing them to conquer Denmark and Norway. When the Germans finally do attack in the West on May 10, 1940, they catch the Allies completely by surprise, punching through the middle of the French line in the Ardennes Forest with tanks (which the French didn't think was possible, and it was admittedly difficult), wheeling around all the way to the English Channel, and cutting off the Allied forces in the north, which includes almost all of the British Expeditionary Force. Hitler orders his panzers to stop short of totally destroying the BEF, believing he can cut a deal with Britian, allowing the BEF to evacuate and avoid capture (the "miracle of Dunkirk"), but the triumphant German army then turns south and attacks the now badly-outnumbered French, who surrender. The whole campaign takes about six weeks. As France collapses, Benito Mussolini decides to imitate his buddy Hitler and attack France too, and the Italian army does badly, despite greatly outnumbering the French. It's a sign of things to come for Germany's worse-than-useless ally. After the dust settles, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France have all fallen to the Axis Powers.

The defeat of the Allies in France can be better understood if one remembers that Britain, Belgium and particularly France, really, really, really didn't want to fight another war. They had just lost nearly an entire generation of young men on the battlefields of the First World War, and neither their soldiers nor their civilian population were at all eager to fight a second. This meant that not only did the Allies do little more than wait to be attacked as Hitler conquered Poland, Denmark, and Norway, but when they were finally attacked themselves and suffered initial defeats (helped by their own strategic blundering) the French, unenthusiastic in the first place, were so stung by defeatism and fatalism that it decisively affected their ability and willingness to wage an effective defense.

Britain now stands alone against the might of Nazi Germany (and Italy too, not that they count for much). Their army is shattered and in no condition to resist an invasion, but they have the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the English Channel to protect them. The Germans lack adequate preparations for an invasion and have no way of decisively countering the Royal Navy, establishing supply-lines for invasion forces, or even establishing aerial superiority for any meaningful length of time; they conclude that they need to knock the Royal Air Force out of the skies before an invasion of Britain can begin. However, the Battle of Britain between the RAF and the German Luftwaffe results in undeniable British victory. In what will become a repeated pattern, Nazi leadership meddles in the operation, forcing changes in tactics and targets at the first signs of resistance in order to keep the "victories" coming. Bombing priorities are switched between RAF airfields and British urban centers at the crucial moment so that both suffer, but neither one is dealt a decisive blow. The Germans also fail to knock out the crucial radar installations that give the RAF the ability to detect the incoming waves of planes before they arrive, giving their pilots crucial time to get airborne and intercept. Luftwaffe Commanders had boasted they expected a victory in as little as two weeks, but after three months of fighting fails to win air superiority, the Germans back down in the face of mounting losses. Operation Sea Lion, the German invasion plan (which was never taken all that seriously to begin with), is cancelled. Still, the Germans remain the masters of Fortress Europe. The British have no hope of defeating them unless help arrives... and whatever help they get has to cross the Atlantic Ocean, where German submarines prowl beneath the waves.

Around this time, Russia is busy somehow losing (by most people's definition) a war to Finland... despite having done quite well in a border clash with Japan just a year previously at a place called Khalkhin Gol, which has lead to an informal non-aggression pact with Japan in the Far East (to be formalised next year, expiring in 1946). Despite greatly outnumbering the Finns in almost every conceivable way, the Soviets perform horribly. After six months, the Russians have taken only a few miles of land beyond the border. Part of this is due to Stalin's purges of the 1930s, which left the Red Army in no position to challenge the state, but in an even worse position to wage war. The Finns had neither the population nor the economy to prosecute the war, so they eventually surrendered and gave up some territory that was mostly worthless, but only after they had inflicted incredibly disproportionate losses on their much larger opponent. On a brighter note, the campaign finally gives a name to one of the war's most eponymous improvised weapons. When the Russians started dropping cluster and incendiary bombs on Finnish towns, Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov claimed they were actually dropping food - 'Bread Baskets' - for the starving Finnish proletariat.. The Finns subsequently dub their improvised petrol bombs, of the type used by desperate infantrymen trying to take out tanks in China and Spain, "Molotov cocktails". 'Cocktails', because they're a drink to go down with the 'bread'.

Mussolini feels left out of all this conquest, so the Italians promptly invade the Balkans and Greece—only to get in over their heads, losing battles, and forcing Germany to divert precious resources to bailing them out. The Wehrmacht then proves their success in France was no fluke by blitzing through Greece and capturing most of the Mediterranean. Only the plucky island of Malta manages to hold on despite near-starvation, an act that gets the entire island awarded the George Cross. Mussolini is humiliated, and Hitler is provided with a whole raft of snide remarks for future cocktail party conversations. (It's worth noting that Italy suffered nearly as much as France in World War I, so the allies weren't the only ones suffering from fatalism and defeatism.) The battle shifts to North Africa, where the British and the Germans (not all that much helped by the increasingly poorly led and supplied Italians) wage vital battles for control over the Suez Canal and access to the priceless oil supplies of the Middle East.

On February 14, 1941, the newly promoted Major General Erwin Rommel (formerly commander of the 7th Panzer Division, notable for its stunning maneuvers in the Battle of France, which earned it the nickname "The Ghost Division".) arrives in Tripoli to begin supervising the offloading of his new command. Leading what is dubbed the "Deutsches Afrikakorps", Rommel finds himself both undermanned and under-equipped. But does that stop him? Nope. He orders his troops to begin moving as quickly as possible, plowing through British positions in Egypt. Only a desperate counterattack drives Rommel back, showcasing how the war in Africa will be fought for the next year. Nevertheless, the African Front will come to be known as the most humane and romanticized combat zone of the war, where Rommel becomes a well-respected commander (earning praise from Winston Churchill himself). However, the war in Africa is only seen as a sideshow for the true campaign, where the bulk of German troops and equipment will be used (depriving Rommel of much-needed reinforcement for his offensives).

Germany vs. the Soviet Union

After failing to bring Britain down, Hitler looks east to his old enemy—the Soviet Union. Until then, the Soviets weren't officially Hitler's enemy. In 1939, the Germans and Soviets had entered into the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which they agreed not to fight each other, secretly agreed to divide up Poland between them, and Germany licensed the Soviets to build their copy of a BMW motorcycle. This alliance of convenience was useful to both sides, but neither expected it to last, and Hitler's life dream had always been to destroy the "Jewish Communists" in the Soviet Union. Josef Stalin agreed to the pact to buy time to rebuild his army, which was totally disorganized after the political purges of the 1930's and the disaster of an attempted invasion of Finland. Finally on June 22, 1941, exactly one year after the fall of France, Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa. It is the greatest offensive in the history of warfare ever, in which nearly four million men storm across the border into Russia: three German Army Groups of about a million men each, supplemented with Italians, Croats, Romanians and Hungarians and other fascist allies. The battle line stretched from the Arctic Ocean down to the Black Sea.

It's pretty obvious that to effectively wage war on the vast lands of USSR, one would need to avoid open hostility from the non-conscripted populace, ideally gaining their support. The "special" governing practices of Stalin and the Communist Party (which among other things included confiscating land, grain, mass arrests, exiling and executions) made that quite possible. So German propaganda prepared a number of leaflets with slogans like "beat up jew politruk" and "we're not fighting your nation, we're fighting your Communist leader scum". Initially, that kind of propaganda was met with some understanding, which factored into the early German success. However, Hitler's ultimate goal was of expanding Greater Germany into the east, not liberating oppressed peoples. In fact, he viewed the Russians as vermin, that were spoiling the farmland and 'Lebensraum' (living space) he was planning on colonizing. Of course, these "subhumans" had to be replaced with proper Aryan settlers, so whenever the local villagers come out cheering, happy to be liberated from Stalin, the Germans just blasted them anyway.

When the Russian people learned of this reality, which didn't take too long, they stopped paying attention to propaganda and politics and started fighting like a cornered beast. Who would've known?

But even an army of four million isn't enough to conquer Russia, although it seems for a while that it might be. The Germans, inadvertently assisted by Soviet command, who hadn't any real practice in commanding and filtered reports, so only good ones came, initially plunge deep into the USSR, advancing up to fifty kilometers a day. The Soviets reel back in panic and confusion, suffering thousands of casualties. However, Soviet forces continue to fight fiercely, even after they've been bypassed and cut off. The Germans suffer serious difficulties with supplies as they advanced farther and farther east, and the lengthening of the front as the Soviets withdraw into the interior serves to dissipate their forces. Large units of Soviet partisans rise up behind German lines and wage a guerrilla war, and communist partisans also mobilize in Yugoslavia and Greece, forcing the Germans to relocate some units to the Balkans. Stalin is also able to transfer fresh troops from the Soviet Far East after determining that the Japanese in Manchuria have no intention of attacking him in the rear. The Russians move entire manufacturing plants the other way, putting them deep behind the Ural mountains and in western Siberia, where they'll be out of reach of the German bombers.

By September, the Germans are in control of much of Western Russia, from Novgorod to Kiev. Hitler is initially satisfied with the results and plans only limited mop-up operations the following year. However, his generals convince him that Moscow is an easy target and he approves of Operation Typhoon. Winter comes to aid the Soviet defenses: bad weather, hailstorms and snow, culminating in a mind-numbing cold that the German Army is unable to cope with, particularly since Hitler lacked the foresight to outfit his troops with winter uniforms and machinery wasn't suited to cold weather and failed to even start. These devastating natural conditions reinforce the sheer determination of the Red Army, and the Germans are halted literally within sight of Moscow. Finally, the Soviets launch a surprise counterattack that forces the Germans back. Stalin and the Soviets have avoided defeat, but the Germans remain in possession of the western part of the USSR. In addition, this defeat begins Hitler's distrust of his generals and from this point on, he begins taking more control over military operations.

Japan vs. China vs. USA

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the third Axis power, Imperial Japan, is going nowhere fast. On paper, the Empire and its puppets control a third of China, half her population and almost all her industry. In reality occupied China teems with bandits and guerrillas, and one only has to travel twenty miles from a railroad or river to find territory beyond Imperial control. On paper, the Republic's troops outnumber those of the Empire and her allies by three-to-one; in reality, only half these troops answer to the central government led by the Guomindang, the Chinese Nationalists under Generalissimo Jiang Jieshi we mentioned earlier. The superiority of Japanese equipment, training, unit organisation and command structure - not to mention air-power, which is being used to level Chinese towns and cities more or less with impunity (typically by fire-bombing them) - has counted for nothing in the face of the vast size of China and her massive population. For instance, the Chinese have virtually no anti-tank weapons; but the Japanese have virtually no tanks in working order they can bring to where they are needed except in the on-and-off meat-grinder battles which rage through the hills of southern and central China. The attrition rate for the Guomindang's core armies over the past four years has been at least half. In a relatively unmolested, mountainous province of north-central China, a young Communist official is slowly offing his rivals to become the leader of the socialist commune there, the largest in the country. His name is Mao Zedong.

After the fall of France, Japan takes the opportunity to effectively seize the French colony of Indochina—including modern-day Vietnam—ostensibly at the "invitation" of the collaborationist Vichy government. President Franklin D. Roosevelt has been looking for an excuse to act against them for a while now, so the United States restricts steel and oil exports to Japan in a full embargo in an attempt to bring them to the negotiating table. Since the US is Japan's #1 supplier of both essential commodities, the Japanese government is forced between a rock and a hard place; they cannot be seen as backing down to the USA, but they don't have the strength to take them on and win. With Holland fallen to the Germans and England preoccupied elsewhere the Imperial Navy again proposes, for the umpteenth time, their plan to strike south to seize the oil supplies and rich natural resources of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and British Malaya. This time, however, the Cabinet is willing to listen; the fleet's oil supplies will be depleted within a matter of months and it's not like the Navy and its attached ground forces - the Special Naval Landing Forces - have been making a huge contribution to the China theatre anyway. Taking on the Dutch means taking on Britain, which almost invariably means war with the United States. Given the awkward strategic position of the Philippines, they will have to be taken too if the plan is to 'succeed'.

Rational officers like Admiral Yamamato, who understand the US's real strength - c.30% of World GDP to Japan's c.3%, and nearly 51% of the entire world's industrial capacity, albeit much of it still idled by the Great Depression - object to this Honor Before Reason line of suicidal thinking, but are duty-bound to follow the government's orders. Yamamato decides that, if this course must be taken, Japan's best chance of victory lies in making a preemptive strike at the US Pacific Fleet, then based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; hopefully, the USA will simply drop its sanctions and negotiate a peace treaty instead of going to the enormous expense and inconvenience of replacing much of its fleet and taking the offensive to Japan.

After six months of planning and training, a taskforce based around six Japanese aircraft carriers moves out under complete secrecy and on December 7, 1941, catch the Americans completely off guard, wrecking much of the American fleet. Unfortunately (for them), the US fleet's aircraft carriers are at sea and Yamamoto's subordinate Admiral Nagumo is correspondingly cautious, choosing to withdraw rather than launch a third wave of bombers against the base facilities themselves (thereby leaving the fleet vulnerable to a carrier-based counter-attack). Thus Pearl Harbor's drydocks, machine shops, naval headquarters, storehouses and fuel reserves - without which the remnants of the fleet could have been left stranded - are left intact.[2] All things considered the attack hasn't done a great deal of (permanent) damage, as many of the ships can be - and are - repaired and returned to service with a year or so; only three ships are completely out of commission, and a lot of material is salvaged from them.[3]

The Cabinet has, however, completely misread the motivations of their enemy. Again. Not only does the US enter the war on the side of the Allies, but it begins a massive re-armament program to rebuild its fleet and take the war to Japan. Hitler promptly commits one of the greatest strategic blunders of all time by declaring war on the United States in support of his ally. Thus as 1941 comes to a close the Germans, who six months before had only faced the British Empire and its Commonwealth, are now at war with the three most powerful non-Axis nations on Earth. Econometrics - the discipline of assigning concrete figures to economic factors - tells us that at this point the defeat of the Axis is inevitable, their poor decision-making having doomed them.

However, it isn't immediately apparent that the Japanese are bound to lose, since they promptly sweep the Americans and British nearly out of the Pacific. The Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, Guam and Wake Island all fall to the Japanese. Six months of uninterrupted victories leave Japan the master of the western Pacific. In return the US loads 24 land-based medium bombers on a carrier to launch a symbolic strike of their own on Japan itself, the Doolittle Raid. Although the results of the bombing itself were negligible, the Japanese people were spooked that the Americans could hit them at the height of their power. This prompts the China Expeditionary force to go on an offensive in hills of south-central China with the aim of capturing or destroying all the airbases within range of Japan, to pre-empt this kind of thing happening again. The operation is a success insofar as the airbases are all destroyed, but as usual the Japanese overstretch their supply lines and are forced to withdraw again. For their part, the Imperial Navy decides to seek a decisive battle in which they hope to destroy the US Pacific Fleet, in the hope that this will buy them a year or two of breathing space (or even, the more optimistic among the Imperial Cabinet hope, a negotiated peace).

Soviet Union retaliation against Germany

Meanwhile, Soviet command has already decided that army should launch an offensive in the Ukraine, expecting a renewal of the German assault on Moscow. However, the Germans have already persuaded Hitler to launch an offensive in the Ukraine as well, having convinced him that the bulk of Russian defenses will be concentrated around Moscow. Consequently, the two forces trip over one another; the Soviet one is encircled and almost totally wiped out, having delayed the German offensive for about two days at the most and leaving the entire front significantly weaker as a result. Advancing towards the southern reaches of the Volga River and into the Caucasus with its rich oil reserves, the panzers are on the move again. Hitler takes a lot of territory, but the Soviet armies in the sector fight a retreat all the way to an industrial city called Stalingrad on the banks of the Volga (its original name is Tsaritsyn and its current name is Volgograd, but it had been renamed Stalingrad because Stalin was the commander of Red troops there during the Russian Civil War). Hitler becomes increasingly convinced that taking the city directly by brute force will win the war - in all fairness, the city is a major transport hub through which the products of Soviet industry and Allied lend-lease material make their way to Moscow - and so the Germans and Soviets fight a bloody, titanic battle in the streets and in buildings of the city. As the Spring grinds on, it becomes clear that Germany doesn't quite have the strength to take both Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil, and may end up with neither as a consequence of trying for both.

In November 1942, the Soviets launch another massive offensive in an attempt to push the German Armies from Moscow. It fails, miserably, and Operation Mars is subsequently swept under the historical carpet along with the Ukrainian offensive of the previous summer, never to be mentioned in Soviet or Russian school textbooks. However, a secondary encirclement offensive meets with success. Striking behind the elite German units in the area around Stalingrad itself, the mechanised units of Operation Uranus break through the virtually-anti-tank-weapon-less Romanian forces guarding the flanks of the Sixth Army - trapping the bulk of it in Stalingrad just as the Russian Winter falls in earnest. Despite repeated requests, Hitler refuses to allow the troops to withdraw. He instead demands they fight to the last man and martyr themselves rather than shame him and his visions of Aryan superiority by retreating and promote commanding officer, Friedrich Paulus, to Field Marshal (with a remainder that no German Field Marshal ever surrendered). Futile efforts to resupply the trapped army by air or punch through the Soviet lines predictably fail and the starving remnants of the Sixth Army surrender on February 2, 1943. It's the largest and costliest defeat the Germans have suffered to that point, the rest of Hitler's troops in southern Russia hastily retreat. From there, the Soviets take the initiative, and the war there becomes a long, slow battle of attrition as the USSR gradually grinds the German army into dust. At the same time, the battles between the Axis and the Allies in North Africa, while much smaller in scale than the titanic conflict in the East, end with more decisive Allied victories. At Kharkov, the Germans win a victory that finally halts the Soviet advance, but the tide in Europe has turned.

The Pacific Conflict

The tide of battle has turned in the Pacific as well at the end of Japan's six month window of strategic advantage as Admiral Yamamoto warned would happen. In the mid-Pacific, a Japanese attempt to destroy the American fleet and capture the island of Midway leads to disaster. American code-breakers have managed to crack Japan's primary naval encryption and know the fleet's every move. Even better, American dive bombers just happen to catch the Imperial Japanese Navy at a moment when all its planes are being reloaded for an another attack—meaning the hangars of each ship are covered with fuel, munitions and aircraft. The US Navy sinks three Japanese carriers in the span of five minutes, and a fourth a few hours later, at the loss of only one of its own. The IJN is broken as an offensive threat and the balance of power in the Pacific permanently shifts to the United States—though it would be months before this became apparent.

In the southern Pacific, the Japanese offensive is slowed when an Allied flotilla intercepts the Japanese landing force intended for Southern New Guinea, forcing them to turn back. An overland advance southwards through the mountains is halted by a scratch force of Australian militiamen and regulars and the Americans retake the airbase-island Guadalcanal. Much of the momentum of the southern offensive was lost due to the unanticipated effect of partisan and guerrilla resistance, particularly in the Philippines, while the Guadalcanal campaign turns into a six-month meat grinder of horrific foot-slogging battles and fierce nighttime naval engagements that consumes ships, airplanes and men that Japan can ill afford to lose and lacks the resources to replace. US and Australian forces will eventually go on to liberate the rest of New Guinea together and then part company, the Australians driving west into Indonesia while the US turns north towards the Philippines.

The Imperial Army's advances into Burma cut off the 'Burma Road', China's sole remaining transport link to the Allied world, which forces the Americans to fly everything from bazookas to bandages over 'the Hump' of the Himalayas. As Nationalist-aligned warlord troops and the Sepoys of the British Indian Army bring the offensive to a halt in the Himalayan foothills, Gandhi and the Indian National Congress declare the Quit India movement which advocates Britain's immediate withdrawal from India. Gandhi and the Congress are imprisoned for the duration of the war, and acts of open rebellion and sabotage are quite brutally suppressed. However, Jinna and the Indian Muslim League declare their loyalty to the British Raj - their proposal of an independent or autonomous Indian Muslim state being taken more seriously as a consequence. US forces hop from strategically-important island to island, avoiding fighting non-essential battles and winning each one. But this comes at what the Americans consider frightful costs in the face of garrisons of China-veteran marines who fight almost literally to the last man rather than surrender. The War in the East as a whole is a particularly vicious one, the mutual (racial) hatred and animosity on all sides meaning that quarter is rarely asked or given.

Adolf Hitler's Final Solution

In 1943, the German forces on the Eastern Front are relentlessly pushed back. The last German offensive at Kursk leads to the biggest tank battle in history and a crushing defeat for Hitler (strategically; the Soviet casualties were... extreme, to say the least, but with more and more and more men and machines coming to the front, Stalin had no reason to worry that much about things like losing three hundred thousand men and six thousand tanks). Stalin sees the success of the operation as a vindication of his growing trust in his Generals and their Staffs, stepping back to let them organise military operations themselves. Hitler sees the outcome as proof of his own Generals' incompetence - though the offensive was his idea - and moves to micromanage the entire German war effort in ever-greater detail. With morale skyrocketing because they just defeated the Germans in the summer, the Soviets spend the rest of the year inexorably pushing the Germans further and further back, bleeding them dry and wearing down their ability to resist.

In southern Europe the Allies follow up on their victory in North Africa by landing in Italy after feeding the Germans false information that the invasion will happen on the Balkan coast. The Germans swallow this, diverting a significant force from Italy to Yugoslavia. After the Allied invasion, the Italian government does a Heel Face Turn, abandoning Germany, deposing Mussolini and signing a peace treaty with the Western Allies. However, German forces quickly occupy the remainder of the Italian boot and the Allied forces in Italy take two years to conquer the peninsula. Mussolini is liberated from house arrest by a German commando raid and installed as the figurehead of a German puppet government in northern Italy. At the very end of the war, on 28 April 1945, he and his mistress are caught by partisans while attempting to flee to Switzerland. They are summarily shot and their bodies are hung upside down in the local town square.

While the war turns against him in Europe, Hitler and his cronies begin planning a thorough program of genocide, one that we know today as 'The Holocaust'. This is an organised response to the problems created by Germany's dominion over various new subject peoples come Operation Barbarossa. Ghettos and Work-camps were only part of the solution; while many Red Army prisoners and able-bodied undesirables could be worked to death in the mines, minefields and factories, there was really no reason to suffer the existence of (male) homosexuals - female homosexuals might yet be cured by corrective sexual activity, it was hoped - gypsies and jews, who by their very natures could never be anything but a blight upon any superior people. To this end a steady stream of un-usable un-desirables was stealthily moved out of the ghettos and concentration camps and sent to dedicated death-camps to be... well, processed for their belongings and used for what materials could be extracted from their corpses. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, over a million Jews from all over Europe are gassed. At Treblinka, dedicated to the extermination of Polish Jews, over eight hundred thousand are gassed. Estimates vary, but around six million Jews or people of Jewish descent (Nazi race laws meant even people with a single Jewish grandparent could be counted as Jewish, though whether one was brought up on this depended on your connections) are gassed, shot, starved or worked to death before the Reich surrenders. This figure is about half of the prewar Jewish population in Germany and the areas conquered by Hitler. Over 90% of the Jews of Poland are murdered.

It is not known precisely how many Roma (Gypsies) were killed in the Holocaust. While exact figures or percentages cannot be ascertained, historians estimate that the Germans and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma. Of slightly less than one million Roma believed to have been living in Europe before the war, the Germans and their Axis partners killed up to 220,000.

Between 1933 and 1945 the police arrested an estimated 100,000 men as homosexuals. Most of the 50,000 men sentenced by the courts spent time in regular prisons, and between 5,000 and 15,000 were interned in concentration camps.

The Nazis interned some homosexuals in concentration camps immediately after the seizure of power in January 1933. Those interned came from all areas of German society, and often had only the cause of their imprisonment in common. Some homosexuals were interned under other categories by mistake, and the Nazis purposefully miscategorized some political prisoners as homosexuals. Prisoners marked by pink triangles to signify homosexuality were treated harshly in the camps. According to many survivor accounts, homosexuals were among the most abused groups in the camps. Because some Nazis believed homosexuality was a sickness that could be cured - a moderate and progressive view for the time, mind; take for instance the treatment and eventual fate of the father of Computer Science, Alan Turing - they sought, accordingly, to 'cure' homosexuals of their 'disease' through indoctrination, humiliation and labour. With emphasis on the latter two; guards ridiculed and beat homosexual prisoners upon arrival, often separating them from other inmates. There are no reliable figures for the number of homosexuals in the camps, let alone those who died in them.

Trough 5 millions of Soviet POWs were taken, only less than 2 millions were liberated come the end of the war: German treatment of Russians in captivity was diabolical. The Red Army's attitude to repatriated POWs, wasn't good either: ex-prisoners were sent into filtration camps, that was effectively high-secure prisons. After that most was sent back into the Red Army, with officers stripped of rank and sent into penal regiments for the crime of having surrendered. Penal regiments got the hard, dangerous, dirty jobs and the death rate for men condemned to them was far heavier. Policy of reconscripting men, brutalised by German imprisonment, arming them and sending them straight into a battle that more and more was being fought on German soil, was not good for German civilians unfortunate enough to be in the way of angry men with a desire for revenge. Contrary to public belief, many regular Red Army units did not rape and loot their way into Germany and behaved decently, it was released and re-armed POWs who ran amok in this infamous fashion.

Operation Ichigo and the fall of Nazi Germany

Meanwhile the Imperial Army has mobilized just shy of half a million men for a final offensive against the forces of the Nationalist Party - Operation Ichigo. High Command's reasoning is that if the IJA can defeat Jiang Jieshi's 'core armies' in the field, they can go on the offensive and capture the Nationalists' last stronghold in the Sichuan basin. If they can capture this, the last agricultural area outside nominal Japanese control, the Nationalists will be forced to either surrender or starve and the Chinese warlords nominally allied with the Nationalists will (hopefully) join the Japanese rather than be wiped out one by one. If this happens, then China will effectively be secured for Japan and up to a million veterans of the seven-year China Incident will be freed up for duties elsewhere. This is the plan is presented to the ruling clique at home; but the real plan is far more realistic, which speaks volumes about the psychosis at the heart of the Imperial Cabinet. High Command hopes to eliminate certain Nationalist pockets, improving the logistics situation by linking up all their forces and capturing or rendering unsafe - or simply unsupplyable - the American airbases in Nationalist territory in the process. Many of said airbases are fairly close to the front lines and the planes operating from them are threatening Japanese troops and supply lines all over China, forcing valuable fighters into escort duty for strategic fire-bombing missions. The suddenness and intensity of the offensive catches the Nationalists off-guard, but even as the battles rage another offensive on the other side of the world catches the world's attention.

In Europe, Germany's situation goes from bad to worse when the Western Allies—principally the Americans, British and Canadians—land in northern France (Normandy) on the 6th of June, 1944; Hitler is now fighting a two-front war against larger and arguably better-equipped armies with better air support. Two weeks after the Allies land in France, the Soviets launch their biggest attack of the war: Operation Bagration, which finally completes one of oldest Soviet strategic goals - annihilates Army Group Centre. The Red Army leaps forward some two hundred miles, clearing almost all of the USSR of Germans and advancing to the gates of Warsaw. Stalin has broken the back of the Wehrmacht. Western Allies initially disbelieved that Soviets were able to do so, which lead to huge "POWs march", where 57 thousands German POWs walked on Moscow streets. In the meantime, while the Soviets are busy wiping out enormous concentrations of German troops, the Western Allies break out of their beachhead in Normandy after two months of savage combat. Increasingly-frequent Allied bombing raids like the one described in Slaughterhouse-Five do enormous damage to the German war effort and citizenry. The bombing grows steadily more intense through the end of the war, leaving almost every major city in Hitler's Reich in ruins. With the Luftwaffe's bombing capabilities rendered as good as ineffective, having lost their airfields sufficiently close to the Channel, Hitler turns to using the newly-developed Vergeltungswaffen (retaliation weapons), the V-1 'Buzz Bomb' and later the V-2 ballistic missile to try and exact some revenge on the British, who by and large consider this nuisance not worth getting worked up about.

At this point, several German officers decide they've had enough, and try to save Germany from total destruction under Hitler's rule. There had been resistance to the Nazis and Hitler ever since they came to power in 1933. However, the spectacular victories in Poland and France quelled these notions for a bit, until the Eastern Front became a massive retreat. On July 20, 1944, Colonel-Count Claus von Stauffenberg plants a bomb in Hitler's Wolf's Lair Headquarters. As part of the plan, other German officers prepare to initiate Operation Valkyrie, a contingency operation in the event of a breakdown in command and control (which they carefully reworded to allow for the arrest of SS and Nazi officials). However, Stauffenberg is interrupted and only packs half the planned amount of explosives into the bomb, which also detonates on the other side of a table leg, creating just enough of a shield for Hitler to survive with minor wounds. While they had intended to launch Valkyrie even if Hitler survived, the plotters in Berlin nonetheless wait several hours for confirmation that he had been killed. By the end of the day, the plot is in shambles and Stauffenberg is summarily executed. More than 5000 people were also executed in connection to the plot by the end of the war, including the famed Erwin Rommel, whose direct connection with the plot (like many others who died) was dubious.

Back at the front, the Allied invasion goes well and by August, Paris is liberated. However, the invasion goes a little too well. Allied forces race forward to confront the rapidly retreating Germans, well ahead of their supply lines (which become dangerously long due to a lack of deep water ports). In addition, the Germans are able to pull back a sizable amount of their forces. This gives the Allied High Command the idea that the Wehrmacht is a spent force which poses little threat. Unable to supply both of his top generals, British field marshal Bernard Montgomery and American general George S. Patton, Dwight Eisenhower is forced to choose which one to give priority of supplies to. Montgomery proposes a daring plan called "Operation Market Garden", which envisions a massive paratrooper deployment in Holland to seize a number of vital bridges. If it succeeds, they will be able to cross the Rhine and seize the Ruhr, the industrial heart of Germany. He claims that this will end the fighting by Christmas. Pressured by civilian leaders to bring a quick end to the war, Eisenhower is forced to agree. Unfortunately, the British are so confident in the plan that they rush to enact it as quickly as possible without ironing out all the details. A combination of bad weather, bad intelligence, bad logistics, and bad equipment causes the operation to fail, particularly the intelligence part. The Dutch Underground managed to pass on several key reports that two SS Panzer Divisions were resting in the area, but the British general staff ignored them. The presence of leadership such as Gerd von Rundstedt and Walter Model allows the Germans to stabilize the frontline just along their border, helped by just how much the Allied supply problems have worsened due to the failure of Market Garden. To add insult to injury, Market Garden delays Allied efforts to make the port of Antwerp usable, which would likely have solved the logistics problems.

Meanwhile, Operation Ichigo has stalled. Many of the Allied airfields in China have been captured or abandoned because of their proximity to the front lines - some actually on the front lines when the Japanese are halted for good. Although Japanese armour and air support has proved troublesome again, American training and Lend-Lease weaponry have proved invaluable - anti-tank weapons like the Bazooka were a great improvement over the Molotov cocktails and grenades that were all that was available before, and with the U.S. Army Air Corps around, the Japanese have lost air superiority over China. In other words, it's a completely different war from seven years ago, one that has swung very much in China's favour. A group of rogue IJA officers persuade their men to attempt one last, desperate attack through the mountains and into the Sichuan basin itself. They fail and the Nationalist counter-attack routs their entire army, forcing them to abandon all the gains made in Ichigo and retreat back to the riverine and coastal areas. The Japanese offensive in British India-Burma has also lead to a disastrous reversal, and after their victory at Imphal the Anglo-Indian army starts to advance slowly but steadily through Burma and into Japanese-allied Thailand.

In the Pacific the Americans capture the island of Saipan after a terrible land and sea battle. The Japanese plan is desperate and mostly involves shore-based aircraft as the Americans outnumber them three to one in carriers, a sure sign that they're about to be crushed under the weight of US industrial production. The sea battle, officially known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea is quickly dubbed the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot when US pilots equipped with a new generation of carrier-borne fighters shoot down nearly 500 aircraft with virtually no losses of their own, effectively exterminating the last of Japan's trained naval aviators. The US Navy in turn loses approximately 100 aircraft (most due to fuel starvation) in their own counter-strike but manage to sink one Japanese carrier and seriously damage three others. Adding injury to further injury, two further Japanese carriers go down at the hands of US submarines, though by this point the loss of their carriers matters little since the Japanese no longer have the pilots to man them. The land battle is the usual horrific slog against deeply entrenched and fanatical Imperial defenders, though Saipan is different in that it is the first island taken to contain a significant population of Japanese civilians, most of whom commit suicide, horrifying all observers.

Saipan (and nearby Tinian, captured soon after) are close enough to allow US bombers to strike the Japanese Home Islands. This is initially of limited effectiveness,as strong winds over Japan make precision bombing impossible. Once someone suggests using fire-bombs (sound familiar?) to set the cities ablaze, the bombing becomes much more effective and the war has finally come full circle as the very nation that started out decrying Japanese "terror bombing" in China is now deliberately targeting civilians themselves. Like many contemporary Chinese buildings, most Japanese buildings of the time used a lot of flammable materials ----wood, bamboo, rattan, rice paper—in their construction. The fire-bombing campaign is super effective, razing entire towns practically overnight and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. What's left of the Imperial Navy sallies forth for one last battle against the Americans and despite one portion of the fleet coming very near to its objective, is promptly annihilated in history's largest naval engagement, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. American soldiers make landfall in the Philippines in late 1944 and after several brutal months of combat, they wrest control of most of their former colony from the Japanese. By now, it is apparent even to the Japanese themselves that Japan's defeat is inevitable.

End of the War in Europe

In Europe, despite Allied control of the air, the loss of their most experienced forces, and destruction of their factories, the Germans have one advantage left: they are no longer trying to defend all of Western Europe and the Allied supply problems are at critical levels. Hitler takes a leaf out of his Eastern Ally's book and gathers what offensive strength he has left to hurl it at the Western Allies in a surprise attack. In December 1944, his legions attack through the Ardennes - the same route by which they snuck into France four and a half years before - in a desperate and ill-advised attempt to cut a wedge between the American and British forces. However, there is a huge difference between the Ardennes of 1939—when forests were picketed by only a few detached cavalry vedettes—and 1944, when the lines are manned by three full (but green) US Army Divisions, backed by Allied tactical airpower and the world's best artillery.

The "Battle of the Bulge" results in German gains for a few days under the cover of bad weather, then an inevitable defeat as Hitler's tanks run out of fuel and are left behind as his troops are pushed back by Allied counter-attacks, especially when the streak of cloudy days runs out and the Allies' air forces can resume operations. This defeat essentially breaks the back of Germany's power to resist in the West. Germany is now a country void of teen- and middle-aged males, who have virtually all been drafted into citizen militias to defend the Fatherland to the last. Meanwhile, the Soviets clear Poland of German forces and push all the way to the Oder river, 56 miles from Berlin, and taking the time to advance through the Balkans, Hungary, and Romania before advancing into Germany proper - so that they will be negotiating the post-war world order from a position of strength. In April 1945, Soviet and American troops meet at a German village called Torgau. The job of taking Berlin is left to the Soviets, who is ten times closer at the moment, who do so in the latter part of April and at 1 May Red Flag vaves above the Reichstag in an operation, that even Allied generals was forced to remark as highly successful. Hitler kills himself in his underground bunker on April 30, 1945. On May 8, the Germans officially surrender and the war in Europe is over.

The Bomb

But to everyone's increasing exasperation, Japan fights on. The Americans continue to island-hop closer to their Home Islands, capturing the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa to aid the strategic bombing campaign and planned invasion. The fighting is savage and horrific, bloody and slow, which includes the terrifying kamikaze suicide attacks which amaze the Allies at just how far Japan will go to strike any kind of blow. The sinking of food-importing Japan's almost-entire merchant fleet and the impact of air-raids on agriculture - it's hard to plough a rice paddy when it's full of shrapnel - is compounded by domestic crop failures, which see his majesty's subjects try to survive on 1200 calories a day. It's not all bad, though, as the government publishes a helpful series of articles on how to stave off hunger by padding out one's diet with sawdust, insects and mice. By early 1945 Allied air and naval forces roam Japanese shores and skies virtually at will, shooting up or sinking just about everything that dares to move in daylight. But the Japanese still refuse to give up.

Even as the Empire crumbles, the government pulls every available boat, plane and tank in the Empire back to the Home Islands (though virtually nothing makes it through the blockade) and conscripts as much of the able-bodied population as can be spared into citizen militias in anticipation of the Allied invasion. What petrol remains is issued to the newly-formed kamikaze speedboat and human-piloted torpedo flotillas; the airforce has long since claimed the last of the aviation fuel for its kamikaze squadrons. On paper, the Volunteer Fighting Corps is more than capable of fending off the invasion on its own; in reality, there are few weapons and even less ammunition to go around, so the teenaged and elderly recruits are taught how to fight with knives, spears and petrol-free molotov cocktails. Others are simply handed a grenade, being told to make their deaths meaningful.

Planned for October, there is no attempt to disguise the planned invasion's timing or purpose - not that the Imperial Cabinet has a great track record in accurately anticipating anyone else's actions thus far. Christened Operation Downfall, it is expected to more than double the total number of Allied military casualties. Japanese civilian casualties are expected to surpass Chinese levels, quite a feat considering Japan has only one tenth of China's total population. The Guomindang is on the verge of launching its own offensive, the first of the war, to re-take as much of China as possible before the Soviets get there - Jiang Jieshi fears that the Soviets will turn all the land, weapons and equipment they liberate from the Japanese straight over to the Chinese Communists.[4] Given the terrible inter-unit co-ordination that Jiang's forces have displayed so far, their offensive actions being limited to counter-attacks, the Japanese doubt that the Nationalist Party forces will get very far despite their own (total) lack of air cover and (chronic) supply problems.

A new weapon, a bomb of immense explosive force, has been developed to support the landings. After witnessing the destructive power of the prototype, some dare to hope that the threat of its use may be enough to force Japanese surrender. In the American state of New Mexico, a multinational team of scientists headed by Robert Oppenheimer have test-detonated the first nuclear bomb. The Allies ask Japan to surrender unconditionally; unsurprisingly, they refuse. A nuclear bomb is dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and 70,000-80,000 people die almost instantly, at least as many again will succumb to radiation over the months and years that follow; another dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9 has much the same effect. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union honours its promises to the Allies and declares war on Japan in violation of their Non-Aggression Pact of 1941, the mechanised columns of the Red Army making short work of Japan's North China Army. The Allies bargain for the half of Korea south of the 38th parallel north as they tell the Emperor Showa that there are more such atom bombs to come, as if the imminent threat of invasion weren't enough. Facing a looming unstoppable invasion from the sea on two fronts, an unassailable naval blockade that no "Divine Wind" would ever remove and total nuclear destruction from the air, the Emperor himself calls it quits and sues for peace on August 14, effectively commanding his subjects to accept his decision in his first-ever radio broadcast to the whole Empire. A formal surrender is signed on September 2.

The Aftermath

World War II is over. The Americans and Soviets try to get the Chinese Nationalists and Communists to form a government together; unsurprisingly they fail, and after a further three years of civil war the Communists proclaim the Peoples' Republic of China in 1949, while the Nationalists retreat to Taiwan. As the tide of the war turns against the Nationalists, Churchill makes his 'Iron Curtain' speech and the Americans begin to see Communism as a real threat. After years of dithering, America speedily moves to invest in rebuilding the economies and militaries of Germany and Japan, changing the earlier program of peaceful 'nation-building' to create strong Allies.

The horrors of the Holocaust lead to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish nation in what had been British Palestine (thereby leading to the Arab-Israeli Conflict). Despite talks of unifying Germany, Austria and Korea under neutral democratic governments, both countries and Europe as a whole become increasingly divided between the Soviet-dominated, dictatorial Communist East and the American-backed, eventually fairly democratic West. It is only in 1989 that the Communist '2nd world' crumbles from within and the regimes of eastern Europe go down in a series of revolutions. Germany is officially reunited the next year, largely bringing a close one of the most visible legacies of World War II.

The war killed about 62 to 78 million people, 3-4% of the world's population at that time. The USSR 'won' the numbers of total and total military casualties at about 26.6 million people in all. Next was China, who won out in the numbers of civilian dead for a total at least in the mid-teens of millions. Poland lost a seventh of its population and the Soviet Republic of Belarus - which bore the brunt of both German and Soviet offensives and history's highest-intensity guerrilla warfare - lost a full quarter of its people, proportionally more than even the Jews. Yugoslavia lost some 1 million of its 15-million population. Hungary and Greece were similarly mauled, losing up to 6% and 10% of their populations respectively. The Commonwealth and France, however, actually had less military deaths than in World War I. This isn't particularly surprising, since the Soviets bore the brunt of the German onslaught, but civilian casualties were much higher, due to the aerial bombings, massacres of civilians (as reprisals) and the occasional spot of genocide.

Anyone looking to relive the war in real-time can check the Twitter feed of Alwyn Collinson who has been tweeting the war from all angles since around September 1st(Where 2011=1939) and plans to continue for the duration of the war (an astounding six years of daily tweeting). He is taking volunteers for help translating to different languages and sharing the workload if you email him or contact him on Facebook.


Popular tropes for this time period
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Ralph Bagnold among others. Several of these bear a surprising resemblance to Indiana Jones.
    • The Nazis had some of their own, too: The Ahnenerbe.
  • All of Them: An Urban Legend states that on D-Day dawn a German soldier looked out at the English Channel and phoned his superiors:

Soldier: Allied ships in the Channel!
Command: How many?
Soldier: All of them.

    • However this is based on a real-life occurrence. A local German commander with the rank of Major and the name of Werner Pluskat did sight the invasion force and was so dismayed that he relayed to his superiors that the allies had ten thousand ships coming right at him. At first they thought Pluskat had lost his mind because there was no way his claim could possibly be true, until he assured them that the exact number wasn't important but there was clearly a massive fleet out there. His exaggeration wasn't exceptionally far off either, as the Allies did have several thousand ships involved in Operation Overlord.
    • It's worth noting that one of the reasons the invasion was planned for Normandy instead of Calais was the English Channel off Calais wasn't wide enough to hold all of the ships.
      • Another reason was that British intelligence believed (correctly) that the Nazi High Command was inclined to expect the attack at Calais, where the Channel is narrowest. As it is usually easiest to deceive the enemy with the appearance of what they expect, considerable efforts were made to create the illusion that the attack would occur at Calais. The deceit worked so well that Hitler and the Nazi High Command continued to believe that the Normandy landings were diversionary for long enough that they were irrevocably entrenched by the time forces began to be repositioned to try to stop them.
  • America Wins the War: To this day, many Westerners do not appreciate the extent to which the war in Europe was mainly fought and mostly decided on the Eastern Front.[5]
  • Anyone Can Die: And they do.
    • Worth noting while World War I had civilian casualties, that generally was not the point and all sides tried to avoid it if possible. The Axis were far less picky on this front, and this forced the Allies to be less picky too, so the concept of this trope meant the survival rate of anyone in the crossfire was quite low.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Maybe bombing Pearl Harbor wasn't such a good idea.
  • Babies Ever After: Most countries experienced heightened birth rates after the war, America so much so that the generation born in the decade immediately following has been known as "Baby Boomers" throughout their lives.
  • Badass: Lots of them on all sides.
    • Quite notable were the defenders of Westerplatte, in the first days of the war. Despite being completely unprepared (due to the government's indecisiveness on whether to prepare for war or not...), they held their position against overwhelming German forces, who considered them Worthy Opponents to the point of allowing the Poles a surrender with full military honors once they ran out of ammo and food; the outpost commander was even allowed to keep his sabre.
  • Badass Army: Every army that didn't get curb stomped in a few months was this. And heck, maybe even those who got stomped (the Finnish and Polish armies). And some elements of the Italian military.
    • Except that the Finnish army didn't get stomped. They valiantly protected their sovereignty in both the Winter War of 1939-40 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944 with far fewer losses than what the Soviet Union suffered.
      • Even better, they scored themselves a position in the Grey Zone of the Cold War, meaning they were not obligated to suppress ideas like the other countries on either side of the Cold War had to do, and didn't receive any of the usual propaganda that both Eastern and Western Europe received.
    • The Polish Army didn't just fall apart, either. A good part of those who managed to flee the invasion soon joined other Allied armies. There were quite a lot of Poles fighting in the Battle of Britain, including the legendary No. 303 Squadron.
      • Those who fled east and got captured by the Soviets or otherwise ended up on their territory, joined the Polish Army which the Soviets started putting together after Hitler turned on them.
      • The ones who stayed in German-occupied Poland and managed to avoid capture by the Nazis went underground and organized themselves into two separate movements: the Home Army (AK) and the People's Army (AL). There were also some smaller, far-right resistance groups who fought both the Nazis and the Soviets.
  • Badass Bookworm: Admiral Spruance of the US Navy, who may have been America's best Admiral.
    • Archibald Wavell, an eccentric nerd-like general, under whose command the British in North Africa reduced the Italians to near-nothingness before the Germans arrived to reinforce them (thus making Italy into The Load).
      • True story about Wavell: He once asked his adjutant "Have you seen my Browning?" The poor man spent several hours looking for a pistol before he realized Wavell was actually looking for his copy of "The Collected Works..."
    • Generalleutnant Hans Speidel, Rommel's Chief of Staff in Normandy. Dr. in History and Economy. Also one of the few known conspirators in the July 1944 plot to actually survive.
  • Badass Grandpa: Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, who was pushing seventy late in the war and still knew that the landings at Normandy were not a diversion.
  • Best Served Cold: Adolf Eichmann, the micro-manager of the Holocaust, was kidnapped by the Mossad fifteen years after the end of the war and hauled to Israel to be tried and hanged.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Hitler and most of his Dragons.
    • Completely justified, as they correctly assumed that if Soviets captured them they wouldn't be dealt with by just killing them quickly.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The stereotypical American GI.
  • Beyond the Impossible: If the title of "Bloodiest conflict in human history" wasn't enough.
    • The Soviet Army also counted, given how they were early on. The government had squandered most of their efforts on munitions and personal luxuries, and the army had little food or drink to go on.
  • Big Badass Bird of Prey: Hawker Aircraft made some of the best planes for the RAF, including the steadfast Hurricane and the absolutely terrifying Typhoon, which was the basis for the Tempest, which probably the best Allied propeller fighter, save possibly for the later Mustang models and the last Spitfires, being lightning fast, armed with several cannons and were very durable.
    • The German aircraft were no slouches, with the Fw 190 necessitating an entirely new model of Spitfire to counter it.
    • Soviet Air Force made up for their lack of loud dogfighting successes with ridiculously well-performing dive bombers like Pe-2 and Tu-2. They also had a few ground attack planes called Il-2 that quickly became a scourge of German armies everywhere.
  • Big Badass Wolf: German submarine flotillas were called wolf-packs.
    • Hitler had some fondness for wolf-related names, especially for his military headquarters, not to mention his own name.
  • Big Bulky Bomb: By the middle of the war, the Allies were dropping Blockbuster Bombs on target cities, so named because they could destroy an entire city block. The British also deployed the "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam", single high-explosive bombs that weighed in at 12,000 and 22,000 pounds respectively... they were essentially the oversized and unguided predecessors of modern bunker-busters. By the end, the U.S. had developed—and deployed -- the first nuclear weapons.
  • The Big Guy: On a grand scale, the Soviet Union was this for the Allies, fighting over 80% of the German army.
  • Black and White Morality: One of the few historical wars to still routinely get this treatment in fiction. The Axis were bad, the Allies were good. The reality was a lot closer to Black and Grey Morality; most of the Axis forces were most certainly bad by any sane measure, but the Allies (especially Stalin were no saints.
    • It is kind of rare among wars, though, that in the aftermath no one argues the need to fight it. Even the losers seemed to agree they lost, fair and square.
  • Blitz Evacuees
  • Blood Knight: General Patton.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Hans and Sophie Scholl, two idealistic students who circled letters of protest against the Nazi government and got guillotined for it.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: A remarkable number of these. The sudden leaps in military science and the expansion of the various armed forces far beyond the regular services brought a lot of these into the limelight in several nations. These were people with some tactical, or technological idea for winning the war and they could have an almost tribalistic fanaticism about their particular specialties. Some could genuinely qualify as a Mad Scientist.
    • Winston Churchill encouraged these and appointed a number to high positions, and arguably, he was the greatest Bunny Ears Lawyer of them all. As some of these projects turned out to be very useful, and might not have been encouraged if he was not in charge, he deserves some credit for that to balance recent criticism of his strategic eccentricities.
    • The codebreakers of Bletchley Park definitely fit this trope. A highly eccentric bunch (mathematicians, the odd chess player, and a man who wore a gasmask to his interview among other folks), these were highly competent yet slightly crazy folks who were charged with breaking the Enigma cipher, the supposedly unbreakable code used by the Germans. By and large, they succeeded.
  • Catch Phrase: The letter V standing for "victory" in English (and assorted similarly rousing messages in other languages) was the Allied call sign. La Résistance would draw it in graffiti, Winston Churchill would be photographed showing the V sign with his fingers and so on.
    • The Morse Code for V is dot dot dot dash, hence British radio news broadcasts opened with the opening bar of Beethoven's Fifth.[6]
    • There is a photo of some Chinese people after the Japanese surrendered. It gets kind of humourous when you notice they're doing the V backward, which is an obscene gesture in Britain.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: The Trope Maker in the American consciousness. The actual truth behind the trope is mixed. It is true that the French generals were quite badly outwitted by the Germans in 1940. It is also true that the French installed an appeaser as Prime Minister (Petain) as soon as Paris was occupied and then signed an armistice with the Germans. Signing an armistice took the powerful French Navy and France's empire out of the war. However, the French Army actually fought very hard and took a lot of casualties in 1940, they were just badly led and lacked of modern means of communication. The troops manning the perimeter at Dunkirk while the British Expeditionary Force withdrew so it could continue the war and protect its home nation were mostly French, and the Free French Forces led by General Charles De Gaulle kept fighting throughout the whole war. The French Resistance's bravery and daring are rightly the stuff of legend too.
  • The Chessmaster: Stalin is one of the most skillful and probably the most gruesomely cold-blooded, but there were others.
    • His Chessmastery improved as the war went on and the Red Army started winning battles, but at war's start he came within a hair's breadth of being Out-Gambitted; his complete failure to recognize Hitler's plan to invade as early as in the summer of 1941 was one of the greatest factors in the string of defeats suffered by the Soviets in that year, and by some sources nearly caused Stalin to have a Villainous Breakdown.
    • His dealings with Churchill and Roosevelt definitely put him in Chessmaster territory.
  • Child Soldiers: As in every war, there was lots of them on every side.
    • Polish Boy Scouts. They were Badass and the Warsaw revolt was their Crowning Moment of Awesome. The Hitler Youth were on the other side.
    • The Chinese Nationalists used child soldiers as couriers and scouts too, and many Chinese warlord armies had teenagers and children serve as infantrymen as well.
    • Basically all the partisan groups used child soldiers.
    • The Japanese had trained high school students (both male and female) to attack any force invading the Home Islands with little more than spears, knives and grenades.
    • Many Soviet soldiers were under 18 — when you get invaded, your entire population tends to take it personally and sign up even when underage, and the officers tended to be a bit more loose with their definition of 18. The Red Army adopted orphans and took them on the march to Berlin. They found (as others have found since) that making warriors out of children seriously stuffs up their heads.
      • This was happening all over the world, although some countries did do background checks.
  • Cloak and Dagger: Many of the more interesting Real Life spy stories happened during this period and obviously many of the fictional ones too.
    • This is in stark contrast to the Cold War, in which almost bugger-all happened internally.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: A sonuvabitch named General George Patton.
  • The Coconut Effect: For want of a better term, this is in effect all over the place. The Polish cavalry did not really charge the German tanks with lances; they operated as mounted infantry and did not fight on horseback in most cases, and were never actually recorded as having fought a panzer unit. Similarly, the Italian army is relentlessly mocked as being ineffective and filled with cowards. While they truthfully did suffer a series of disastrous defeats, in most cases it wasn't because of cowardice, but rather strategic and logistical mistakes and/or a lack of sound training. The British actually noted that the Italians they fought in Ethiopia put up a harder fight than just about any other force they fought in the war. Also, most of the army Rommel commanded was actually made of Italians, though he wasn't exactly enthusiastic about their performance. This is mainly because he recognized they were severely under-supported and overtaxed, his main problem was with their superiors.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Jack Churchill.
  • Cool Car: The Willys Jeep and the Volkswagen Kübelwagen.
  • Cool Horse: The Cavalry actually had something of a minor comeback in this era because you could buy or steal fodder from peasants, whereas fuel for tanks and other vehicles depended on supply routes. Furthermore, horses can sometimes go where tanks can't. However, they were used as scouts and mounted infantry and were not likely to make a charge unless they caught someone off guard. And even the most chauvinistic of horsemen didn't really think a saber or lance could penetrate a tank's armor.
    • While you are correct that charging tanks on horseback was suicidal, there were several famous cavalry actions on the Eastern Front, including the recapture of the cities of Taganrog and Rostov by Cossacks under Kirichenko, and charges by Red Cavalry under Dovator, one at Smolensk in August 1941, and another — through the snow! — during the battle for Moscow.
      • All of which involved flanking the enemy and charging from behind. The Cossacks, being the ultimate Combat Pragmatists, always preferred to shoot their enemies in the back, if possible.
    • Finland had laughably few men and motorized vehicles compared to Soviet Russia, but with those men and farm horses they did rather well in the Winter War. After the war, Russia didn't want to hear about their own captured horses but did accept Finnish horses for an indemnity payment.
    • It's worth noting that horses were still a vital part of many armies in the form of draft animals hauling supplies and artillery.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Two Badass Navies, the United States Navy versus the Imperial Japanese Navy in what seems to an Armchair Admiral the most awesome technological Valhalla the ocean has ever seen. The IJN was just as brave as the Japanese Army but far more sophisticated. It was a rigorous adherent to The Spartan Way, and even though it was infected by extremist nationalism too, they seem to have had more in common with their enemies than the respective armies did. The USN had a tradition almost as strong as the Royal Navy and was stubborn at the beginning when material was short and experience and training were lacking. In the end, it was a vast armada with many a Cool Ship and Cool Plane. The USN even fielded its own counterpart to the Imperial Special Naval Landing Forces.
    • The US Navy actually had two traditions where they trumped all others, including the Royal Navy: Fire Control and Damage Control.
  • Cute as a Bouncing Betty
    • The trope namer (Bouncing Betty) was a nickname for a landmine.
    • Katyusha is a type of rocket launcher that saw service during the war. The soldiers that operated it didn't know what it was officially called. But there was a K (which was the first letter of the factory where they were made), so they nicknamed it Katyusha after a song popular during the war. (Katyusha is a nickname for the girl name Ekaterina).
  • Cycle of Revenge: Partisan warfare in Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, especially in what is now Western Ukraine, which was a part of Poland, annexed by the USSR and had the Polish Home Army, Ukrainian Nationalists and Soviet Partisans fighting each other AND the Wehrmacht.
  • Death From Above: The war saw the first widespread and effective use of Close-Air-Support in the German invasion of France, and the other powers were quick to catch on. Also quite important to the War in the Pacific, where the actions of ship-based aircraft decided the length of the war. Also the first war to see the widespread use of Strategic Bombing, or 'Terror Bombing' to the Germans. Given the inaccuracy of targeting systems, razing entire urban areas was really the only way to be sure of destroying small strategic targets. Often involved shaking things up a bit with regular bombing and then finishing often with incendiary bombs to create fire-storms, which is where this overlaps with Kill It with Fire. Also applied to the Netherlands (Rotterdam), the UK (London, Coventry, Liverpool &c), China (Chongqing, the world's most heavily bombed city) and Japan (Tokyo, Osaka & co.)
  • Determinator: Numerous on Eastern front, where soldiers of both armies often were ready to fight to the last.
    • There is famous writings on walls of the Brest Fortress: "We'll die but we'll not leave the fortress". "I'm dying but I won't surrender. Farewell, Motherland. 20.VII.41." - after month under assault and being surrounded.
    • Isolated Japanese soldiers continued to "fight" the war until as late as 1974.
  • Distant Finale - the reunification of Germany. The war fully ended when the independent German state signed a peace treaty with the independent Polish state. In 1992.
    • The proper finale is still in the future, as Japan and Russia have yet to finalize treaty terms due to continuing disputes over what Japan calls the Hoppo Ryodo and Russia knows as the Southern Kurile Islands.
  • Don't Split Us Up: Having learned the hard way from WWI, the European powers fielded mixed brigades composed of recruits from large mixes of villages and towns. The last war had had the bizarre effect of leaving many villages totally depopulated whilst leaving others virtually untouched. This time, the deaths were more evenly distributed. In the USA, the example of the Sullivan Brothers is held up as a justification for this practice.
    • History lesson: the Sullivans were a family of five brothers who joined the Navy and insisted on being posted together. They were. The ship they were on was destroyed. In one fell swoop, the poor Sullivan parents lost every single one of their sons.
  • Eagle Squadron: Many. The Trope Namer was an American unit of volunteers flying with the RAF when the USA was neutral. The Nazis used several—the last troops defending Hitler's Chancellery and bunker were volunteer French Waffen SS.
    • Known for Soviets is the French Normandie-Niemen fighter squadron, that fought along with Soviet troops and in the end were permitted to keep planes they flew after their return to France.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: Also the last time in Real Life this has been done so far, thanks to the development of nuclear weapons.
  • The Empire: The Axis in general, with Japan even being called that.
    • Germany, too, if you translate from German.[7]
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: In general, this war is recognized as the first one in which major nations fielded unconventional units on a large scale. Let's break it down by country:
    • Germany: Rudimentary commando tactics were utilized to take down a massive fortress on the Polish border, they would later field the Brandenburgers, and the SS generally served as their Elite Mooks.
    • Britain: Both the Special Air Service and Royal Marine Commandos originated in this war, and were the first "special forces" units as we understand them. They'd later field the Special Boat Service for purposes of beach recon, riverine infiltration, and generally being badass. It's definitely worth noting that they pulled off some absolutely insane shit, just read a few entries from this list.
    • America: Their first commando unit was a new and improved Army Rangers regiment, who proceeded to kick ass and take names in Italy. Regular grunts could volunteer to be trained by the British and earn a Green Beret. Marine Raiders and Navy UDTs aren't around anymore, but their tactics and training laid the groundwork for Force Recon and the SEALs.
    • USSR: Guards regiments - promoted from normal stats for exceptional behavior in combat, both in terms of effectiveness and morale. Were better supplied, had more combat experience than usual, and thus fought much more effectively the rest.
  • Enemy Mine: A lot of this. The alliance between the Soviets and the Western Allies wasn't very natural.
    • Finland and Nazi Germany as well. Both of them hated the Soviets, so they teamed up against them. Finland was the only democratic, non-racist and non-fascist Axis country.
  • Evil Army: The Wehrmacht, the Japanese army, The Red Army, and especially the Waffen SS were considered this.
    • In the IJA's case, the nations of Southeast Asia (except Taiwan) viewed them this way. Even Okinawa, a long-time part of the Japanese Empire, felt this way.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Mengele. Also, Nazi eugenic ideals in general.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: The Russian front between Stalinist tyranny and Nazi Generalplan Ost.
  • Face Heel Turn: Vichy France.
  • False-Flag Operation: SS members dressing up in Polish army uniforms and staging an attack on their own radio station at Gleiwitz, on Aug. 31, 1939. They murdered a prisoner and left his corpse behind dressed in a Polish uniform to make it extra-convincing. This sad episode was the German pretext for invading Poland the next day and starting the whole war.
  • Fighting for Survival/Dying Like Animals: Whichever one a given person or group chooses and whether or not they have much choice about it in the first place.
  • Final Solution: Trope Maker, Trope Namer, Trope Codifier. Germans referred to die Endlösung der Judenfrage, "the Final Solution to the Jewish Question."
  • For Want of a Nail: There were several tank divisions in Normandy that could have stopped the D-Day landings, but the only person with the authority to send them out was Hitler, and the night before D-Day, he announced that he did not wish for his rest to be disturbed for any reason and then slept in. By the time he woke up, the Allies had their beachhead.
    • Much ink has been spilled wondering whether Britain might have been forced to surrender in 1940 if the Germans had continued advancing and captured Dunkirk, thus capturing the entire BEF. Instead, the Germans paused to consolidate their forces and the BEF escaped by sea.
  • A Friend in Need: Raoul Wallenberg. Oskar Schindler. Chiune Sugihara.
  • Friendly Enemy: The British Eighth Army and the Afrika Korps in North Africa which respected each other and treated each others wounded impartially. This did not stop them from enthusiastically killing one another.
  • Friend or Foe: Type D, and usually attributed to the Americans. There was a joke that if German/Italian planes went over, the British ducked; if British planes went over, the Germans/Italians ducked; and if American planes went over, everyone ducked.
  • Gallows Humor: It's a war so of course there was gallows humor
    • How do you tell an Optimist German from a Pessimist German? The Optimist studies English, while the Pessimist studies Russian.
    • If you see a white or silver plane, it's American. If you see a black or green plane it's British. If you see no planes at all it's the mighty Luftwaffe!
  • Gambit Pileup: While it is remembered in a straightforward way by many people, the dozens of factions trying to survive qualify it for this.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Marlene Dietrich stands out. Her "Lili Marlene" has been called the theme song of the entire war.
    • It was not "her" song in the first place, it was Lale Andersen's, who sang it on the German radio set in Belgrade. The song proved to be extremely popular among both Germans and Western Allies.
    • Vera Lynn was extremely popular among the British forces, she was called "The Forces' Sweetheart."
  • The Good Captain
  • Government in Exile: Many of the countries Hitler conquered formed these. France's decision to NOT do this, but instead formally surrender, did not go over well.
    • Charles De Gaulle formed his own Free French government in exile in London, which was considered illegal by the Vichy government, of course. He later moved it to Algiers until Paris was freed in August 1944.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Churchill, when told of the loss of Singapore:

"I put the telephone down. I was thankful to be alone. In all the war I never received a more direct shock."

    • Admiral Kimmel's office had a picture window with a lovely view of Pearl Harbor. As he stood and watched his fleet being annihilated, a spent Japanese machine gun round punched through the window, bounced off his chest, and fell to the ground, leaving a black smudge on his uniform. He was heard to say to no one in particular, "It would have been more merciful if it had killed me."
      • The first thing Kimmel did at the attack's conclusion was to remove two stars from his four-star uniform. In the American military system, only ranks up to two star general/admiral officer are considered permanent; three- and four-star ranks are awarded by assignment and are removed when that officer's tour is complete. The act of removing his stars was symbolic of Kimmel's realization that there was no possible way he would retain his command in the investigation to follow.
    • During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Halsey's Task Force 34 was drawn north by a diversionary Japanese fleet, leaving the invasion force without most of its defenses. Nimitz, from Pearl Harbor, was seeing messages of the battle at Leyte Gulf and seeing no sign of Halsey sent the following message: "Where is Task Force 34? The world wonders." The second part was not part of the original message but was padding that was supposed to be discarded after decoding (and itself was from The Charge of the Light Brigade), though some think the decoder deliberately left it in. Reportedly Halsey broke into tears at the message and its implications about him.
  • Heroic Neutral: For a given value of both 'heroic' and 'neutral', until the Japanese Cabinet ordered an attack on the US Fleet.
    • Sums up the attitude of most US citizens, at any rate. The US government was just itching for a war with the Axis. The Japanese saw that and the Germans did as well - especially given the undeclared naval war between US naval forces in the Atlantic and the U-boats, not to mention Lend-Lease.
  • Home Guard: Seen on all sides during the war, from the British Home Guard to the American Civil Air Patrol to the German Volkssturm and the Japanese 'Volunteer' Defence Corps.
  • Honor Before Reason: ...We Shall Never Surrender!
    • The Japanese variety was perhaps closer to Honor Without Reason. This contributed to their loss of air superiority. Not only did many pilots refuse to bail out of their fighters or to retreat, but the Navy saw recovering downed pilots as their least important problem. Meanwhile, the Americans put considerable effort into saving theirs. The result was that the Japanese lost more and more experienced pilots and found their method of replacing them was wildly inadequate, while the number of experienced American pilots grew and they could send some of their best home to train new pilots.
      • This was compounded by the fact that the Kamikaze system forced many would-be pilots to die far before their time. Dying in a Kamikaze divebomb was considered to be an honor, but it led to the deaths of almost all young aspiring pilots the Japanese had, pilots who would have been great replacements for the veterans they were losing daily.
      • The brutalization of their conscripts and the peer pressure of the honor system contributed to the mistreatment of POWs and civilians. By mistreatment, we mean all sorts of unpleasant things that one does not mention in most companies, polite or otherwise.
    • Germany and Italy also suffer from this, having decided to declare war on America alongside Japan.
      • Also, Hitler's refusal to let his armies retreat... led to disasters like Stalingrad and the entrapment of an entire Army Group of 200,000 troops in the Courland Pocket in the Baltics. Also, not evacuating civilians or allowing evacuations when the Soviet Army would kill/rape/deport them anyway in revenge.
  • The Horde: In Weimar Germany, before the war, much of the politics centered around what was a power struggle between rival gangs of street thugs, some being Dirty Communists and some being Those Wacky Nazis.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Early in the war, the U-boats enjoyed an uncontested advantage against merchant shipping, a period referred to as "The Happy Days" by the Germans. The Allies reversed the situation with the introduction of radar, long-range aerial surveillance, and improvements in the convoy and sonar systems that rendered most U-boats deadly obsolete. The Germans Can't Catch Up.
  • Idiot Ball: Franklin Roosevelt did all he could to support the British and later the Soviets against Hitler, going so far as to issue shoot-to-kill orders against German U-boats stalking Atlantic convoys, but there simply wasn't very much support in America for an active intervention in the war. Even after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and FDR got a declaration of war the next day, there was little pressure for a formal declaration against Germany and Roosevelt didn't even ask for one. Then, three days later, Hitler declared war on the United States. Whoops.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Towards the end of the war, a few groups of Japanese soldiers sometimes roasted and cannibalized their captives. Other Asians were referred to as "black pigs" and American soldiers were "white pigs".
  • Impossibly Cool Weapons : Many a Cool Ship, Cool Plane, Cool Tank, and Cool Gun. World War II buffs constantly argue over which was the coolest and consider this to be Serious Business.
  • Ironic Echo: Enforced. Hitler signed the peace with France in the same rail carriage where the Germans had signed the 1918 armistice.
  • I Shall Return: Trope Maker, from Gen. MacArthur after he left the Philippines to avoid capture by the Japanese.
  • It Got Worse: People called WWI "The war to end all wars". They were very wrong.
  • It's Personal: The reason both the United States and the Soviet Union entered the war: being attacked by the Axis directly. Until that point, they attempted to remain neutral.
  • It's Raining Men: This happened many times during the war, from the use of glider-borne troops to capture Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium in May 1940 to Operation Varsity, Montgomery's use of a parachute drop in crossing the Rhine in March 1945. Generally, paratroops were shown to be effective in small-scale, targeted operations (Eben-Emael as noted above, the seizure of Pegasus Bridge on D-Day). They were less effective in large-scale drops like the D-day drops and Operation Market Garden, (dramatized in the films The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far), when getting the troops on the ground in an organized manner and then expecting them to fend off attacks with armor proved difficult to impossible.

After the demise of the best Airborne plan, a most terrifying effect occurs on the battlefield. This effect is known as the rule of the LGOPs (Little Groups of Paratroopers). This is, in its purest form, small groups of pissed-off 19 year old American paratroopers. They are well trained. They are armed to the teeth and lack serious adult supervision. They collectively remember the Commander's intent as "March to the sound of the guns and kill anyone who is not dressed like you" - or something like that. Happily they go about the day's work...

  • Iwo Jima Pose: The Trope Maker.
  • Just Following Orders: The oft-repeated testimony at the Nuremberg trials is the Trope Namer.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: When Allied troops marched into a concentration camp, it was sometimes known for them to conduct a mass Vigilante Execution of the guards. Apparently, no one went out of their way to prosecute it too strenuously, for obvious reasons.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: This was the last war in which the warrior caste had a strong and fairly traditional influence.
  • Knight Templar: Several, on both sides. Hitler was probably the craziest one.
  • La Résistance: The Trope Namer was active during this war in France, of course, but every occupied country had a resistance movement to one degree or another. Some countries actually had more than one movement - e.g. a communist one plus a monarchist one (it wasn't unusual for them to end up fighting each other as well). China had so many turncoats-turned-resistance fighters-turned-bandits that the historical community generally wrings its hands and splits it up into local and regional warlords, nationalist guerrillas, communist guerrillas, and Chinese Communist Party guerrillas, with some room for overlap.
    • There was a big partisan movement in USSR by soldiers that was surrounded, escaped, but didn't manage to rejoin the army and civilians. Partisans, where able, were supported, with para dropped supplies and even soldiers and officers. Best known aspect is railroad war, when partisans mined and disabled tracks in different fashions, sending trains downhill and destroying bridges.
      • They played a huge role in Operation Bagration: Germans were led to believe that the attack would be through Ukraine. Immediately before the attack, all roads were disabled and troops in Belarus were left without help.
    • Poland's is very famous for its attempted uprising.
      • Make that two uprisings: one in 1943 by the Jews in the Ghetto, the other by the Home Army in 1944.
      • Many people like to forget (or don't even know in the first place) that the Home Army was also the largest, most successful organized resistance force in occupied Europe, creating an entire Underground State, complete with its own universities, postal service, courts and, well, army. And if Stalin didn't want pretty much every smarter-than-average Pole that was not under his direct control (the PKWN puppet government established in the USSR), the uprising would succeed and the original, pre-war government could return from exile. C'est la vie.
    • Yugoslavia and Greece had particularly strong movements.
      • The Yugoslavians were arguably the most successful of the various resistance movements: they managed to kick the Nazis out without their country being liberated by the forces of any other country - a fact which contributed to Yugoslavia's relative independence from the Eastern Bloc in the Cold War era.
  • Last Stand: Many of them.
  • The Laws and Customs of War: Incredibly mixed. As a general rule, Nazi Germany treated the Western Allies as Worthy Opponents and the Soviets as subhuman scum. Kept one moment with an almost courtly adherence to the Good Old Ways, but at other times, stomped on Beyond the Impossible.
    • Japanese treatment of Chinese POWs was mixed. Generally, they would be bayoneted upon capture or conscripted into the armies of Japanese puppet warlords. Japanese soldiers were a law unto themselves as far as civilians were concerned, and the IJA holds the dubious honor of being the force with the most sexual assaults to its name. Their treatment of Allied POWs varied a great deal. See the treatment of POWs in the "Bataan Death March" - some got nice comfy rides in vehicles and food and chances to freshen up, while others got stabbed to death, shat their pants, and were forced to walk while diseased and hungry in the hot sun with no food or water. Sometimes, the Japanese would be very nice and provide food and refreshments or talk to the US soldiers - some were in the same graduation ceremonies in universities in the case of officers - and sometimes the very same people would beat other POWs to death the next day.
    • In March 1941, Hitler issued what has come to be known as the ‘Commissar Order,’ which clearly spelled out the future nature of the war in Russia. The coming conflict was to be "one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be waged with unprecedented, unmerciful, and unrelenting hardness." It also instructed Hitler’s subordinates to execute commissars and exonerated his soldiers of any future excess. "Any German soldier who breaks international law will be pardoned," the Führer stated. At a subsequent gathering to explain the application of this order to senior army officers, General Edwin Reinecke, the officer responsible for the treatment of POWs, told his audience, "The war between Germany and Russia is not a war between two states or two armies but between two ideologies — namely, the National Socialist and the Bolshevist ideology. The Red Army soldier must be looked upon not as a soldier in the sense of the word applying to our Western opponents, but as an ideological enemy. He must be regarded as the archenemy of National Socialism and must be treated accordingly."
      • A High Command Wehrmacht officer (NOT a member of the SS) gave an order along the lines of "Women in uniform are to be shot." Given the Soviet Army was full of women in the front lines, guess what happened....
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Too many countries to name, but America, Britain, and the Soviets all had their standout moments.
  • Light Is Not Good: The swastika and the Rising Sun are symbols of the sun. The Rising Sun has a lot to do with Japanese mythology, which states that the Japanese people are the perfect, first-created race and the Emperor is part-divine as he is descended, however distantly, from the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu.
    • The swastika, for its part, was based on a symbol of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
  • The Load: Italy. Every significant military accomplishment of theirs came before the war when they managed the 'huge' feats of conquering Ethiopia and Albania. During actual hostilities, their record was horrible, with Germany having to bail them out after they got in over their head. Upon entering the war against France, 32 Italian divisions were held at bay by five French divisions. They almost immediately lost their colonies in Somalia and Ethiopia to the British, and the attempt to invade British Egypt from Libya almost led to the total loss of Libya, with only the arrival of Rommel's Afrika Corps prolonging the war there for another two years. Their invasion of Greece likewise stalled, and, again, the Germans had to be called in to finish the job. Then, after defeat in Africa and the conquest of Sicily by the Allies, they switched sides (where they weren't much more effectual), requiring the Germans to occupy and defend Italy all by themselves.
    • Hence Hetalia.
    • Some say that Hitler having to bail them out of Greece caused a crucial delay in his invasion of the Soviet Union. We all know the might of General Winter. Invading Yugoslavia also delayed him, something that was likely not needed as the Yugoslav government post-coup would still follow through with their treaty obligations. The major reason why the Germans invaded that country was because Hitler felt the Yugoslavs had personally insulted him with the coup-d'état. They even called the bombing of Belgrade "Operation Punishment".
    • Italy wasn't ready for the war for a series of reasons, the most evident of which is that the Italian industry, while capable of producing some fine equipment and in full expansion, was just too small to adequately support its armed forces in such a vast war (in fact, Mussolini knew this and had Italy enter the war when France was all but conquered and Britain seemed about to sue for peace. Then Britain chose to fight, and Mussolini started to realize he was holding the Idiot Ball). Then there were the problems of the armed forces. The air force, while equipped with capable attack aircraft (best known of which is the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero, Sparviero being Italian for Sparrowhawk), had bombs too little to do the job (nicknamed cowshit drops by the Italian Navy for their ineffectiveness) was still equipped with very maneuverable but too slow biplane fighters, and the new monoplane fighters, while on par and sometimes superior to the ones of other powers, were too little and too late. The navy was powerful and arguably the best of the Italian armed forces, but lacked carriers and torpedo boats due rivalry with the air force and Mussolini thinking that the Italian peninsula was an unsinkable carrier by itself, was insufficiently supported by the air force (that usually arrived on the battlefield too late and had the unfortunate tendency to mistake the Italian ships for the British ones. That's also how the Italian navy learned of the ineffectiveness of the air force bombs), suffered from an extremely restrictive operative doctrine that included the fleet being directed from Rome until a few minutes before the battle (meaning the Royal Navy always knew where the Italians were by tracking the radio signals), and the fact they weren't fighting the French Navy (that the Italian Navy was tailored to counter and defeat with a combination of speed advantage in the lesser ships and four battleships that outgunned everything in the world save for the Yamato and the most massive American battleships) but the Royal Navy, that the Italian sailors admired and feared and whose ships and aggressive operative doctrine seemed tailored to take advantage of the Italian ships sacrificing protection for speed and their restrictive operative doctrine. Finally, the army suffered severe morale problems (a reflection of the Italian people's lack of enthusiasm for the war), a shortage of modern or efficient equipment, and most high officers and generals getting their ranks from politics rather than actual ability impairing the ability and, most important, the will to fight of most units in spite of the soldiers combat capability (Rommel, whose troops included both Germans and Italians, admitted that the Italian soldiers were superior to the German ones, but the officers were a disaster). As partisans the now motivated Italians fared much better, even taking control of enclaves and defending them against overwhelming force for short periods and, on April 25, 1945, launching a general insurrection that prevented the Germans from regrouping and hold off the Allies at the Po river.
  • Local Angle: Every nation's newspapers tended to focus on their own war efforts, though some did this more than others. The biggest campaigns and battles usually made the headlines everywhere, though.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The first occurred when the Soviets used the BM series, better known as Katyushas. One truck being able to launch as many explosives in seconds as a big artillery battery in minutes, had a huge psychological effect on both friend and foe.
    • Soon followed by Germans' Nebelwefers and US Calliopes.
  • Mad Scientist: Josef Mengele and the scientists of the Japanese Unit 731.
    • Mengele was more the "Mad" part of the trope, as even other Nazi scientists considered him a deluded crank and none of his experiments produced anything worthwhile. The Unit 731 scientists were more the latter end of the trope, because while they did make horrific things, they were by and large legitimately competent.
  • Magnetic Hero: Churchill, indirectly. Not the most charismatic man in person - he once ran through several secretaries in the space of a month when he was being particularly insufferable - but his effect on the people of the British Empire was electrifying. Contrast Hitler, a very charismatic man of more down-to-earth roots.
  • Media Research Failure: Aryan was originally a linguistic category, now called Indo-European due to the Unfortunate Implications of Aryan. Hitler never assumed all Aryans were blue-eyed blonds; in fact, Persia was renamed Iran, from Aryan, in 1935. The Japanese were (of course) considered Aryans as well, and Tibet was the homeland of the Aryan race. So there's Media Research Failure all around.
  • Memetic Mutation: Tons of books, movies, TV shows and odd references.
    • From the time period itself was Kilroy was here, a graffito that may have originated among American servicemen - like many Memes, it's hard to pin down a source. The first appearances were in 1936-1938. The "Kilroy" had several phrases (sort of like some of the memes on the Internet today) which were used with the graffito "Kilroy was here", and "Wot, no X?":
      • Wot, no [bacon, sugar, bread, tea, or other rationed product]?
      • Wot, no engines? (on the side of a British glider)
      • Wot, no Fuehrer? (On a train in Austria, after the war)
  • Music to Invade Poland To: Hirohito, to show solidarity with Germany, started a tradition, which continues to this day, of singing "Ode to Joy" on New Years. Never mind that Beethoven himself would've despised what the Axis Powers were doing. But, well, see Prophecy Twist.
  • Music for Courage: The glory days of military orchestras and Glamorous Wartime Singers.
  • Neutral No Longer: Both the United States and the Soviet Union initially refused to take part in the conflict. They both got involved when they were attacked by the Axis.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It was 1941, and all of America was asleep. Then Yamamoto bombed Pearl Harbor, and all of America woke up.
    • In December 1941, Hitler was simultaneously facing the United Kingdom, its Commonwealth and the Soviet Union, which together comprised a rather significant portion of the Earth's surface and population. This wasn't enough for him, however, so he decided to antagonize the one major power left on Earth that was not (actively) trying to crush him beyond hope of recognition by declaring war on the United States. Which left the share of world population and GDP actively working against him and his allies at over two-thirds each, roughly, to his less than a fifth on both counts. Herr Derr indeed.
    • Invading the Soviet Union—thus splitting Germany between two fronts against major powers—counts as this. Drawing America in the European conflict too was just the cherry on top of the stupidity sundae.
      • Especially noting, that Hitler said that fighting on two fronts would ruin Germany.
  • Nightmare Fuel: If overall War Is Hell isn't enough, there's always Dr. Mengele, the people he worked with and the people he didn't work with - Japan's Kwantung Army Group, who did similar things and some even worse.
  • No Swastikas: The entire rationale behind the taboos on the swastika and the Rising Sun, in fact.
    • The former concerns the Nazi variant, the non-Nazi variant is generally allowed still but avoided where possible. As for the rising sun, the Japanese flag still depicts it in part, but the pre-WW2 flag is no longer allowed.
  • Not So Different: Defendants at the Nuremberg trials were specifically prohibited from accusing the Allies of atrocities.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Japan and China. Some contemporary racialist classification theories explain at length the docile and effeminate nature of Asians and Orientals, which accounts for their innate obedience to authority and willingness to cooperate rather than compete and advance technologically. By all accounts, they ought to have been fairly harmless, really...
  • Nuke'Em: Trope Maker and thankfully, the only Real Life examples so far.
  • Oh Crap: The Normandy Invasion used DD Tanks, a very early amphibious model which had a skirt that extended up higher than the turret, providing buoyancy. Most actually sank before reaching shore, but the first one of the ones to actually reach Juno beach looked out and later shared their view:

I was the first tank coming ashore and the Germans started opening up with machine guns. But when we came to a halt on the beach, it was only then that they realized we were a tank when we pulled down our canvas skirt, the flotation gear. Then they saw that we were Shermans. It was quite amazing. I still remember very vividly some of the machine gunners standing up in their posts looking at us with their mouths wide open. To see tanks coming out of the water shook them rigid.

  • Order Versus Chaos: Nazi ideology is based upon a fabricated myth about Aryans, with strong emotional attachments to the state with the aid of romantic and religious symbolism and imagery. The Stalinist Soviets claimed an ideology based upon 'rationalism' and a society based upon people-centric utilitarianism with emphasis on international workers' solidarity and the promised land of a past-scarcity, post-capitalist world.
    • Japanese ideology of the time is based upon the religion-ideology of State Shinto, though it had no need to fabricate a myth; they just held up the old myths about the creation of the world, the Japanese people, and the part-kami lineage of the Emperor as true. Japan was far more effective than any other state at implementing a totalitarian government; the only thing that held it back was the Emperor's unwillingness to step forward and command his people directly. The one time he did so, they obeyed with stunning quiescence.
  • One-Way Trip: Operation Ten-Go by the Japanese. The participants had absolutely no illusions about the fate that awaited them. but they believed they were going to die in a heroic stand and thus possibly help to save Japan, rather than be annihilated in a Curb Stomp Battle without accomplishing anything."
    • The High Command and the Emperor believed that they would make a difference (largely, it was just the Emperor, who asked what the Navy was doing to help defend Okinawa. Called out and feeling pressured, they decided to make a gesture. That gesture was Ten-Go). One sailor noted, "What country demonstrated to the world what aircraft can do to battleships?" Tolstoy was also apparently in vogue on the Yamato's last days. Oddly enough, the Yamato and Musashi, the two most powerful battleships of the war, were the only two sunk in open water by carrier-launched planes.
  • Operation Blank: Say "D-day" and most people think the Normandy landings - but "D-day" is standard shorthand for "whenever the big push is". The operational name for the Normandy Landings was Operation Overlord.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Nazis set up their own "German Church", which was Protestant Christianity with a nationalist, racist flavor.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are famous for perversions of this into Jingoistic Ultra-Nationalism. All other countries encouraged it as sort of a collective "fight or flight mechanism". Winston Churchill was notable among the Allies for his ability to stir up this kind of thing, especially with a Rousing Speech or two.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who didn't enter the war because he was satisfied with his power (except for raising a division of volunteers for the Russian front, a token force he later withdrew as soon as he could find a political excuse for doing so). He also was relatively low on the atrocity scale compared to Hitler and Stalin and didn't persecute Jews, because there was no particular reason to and he had Jewish relations. Franco avoided overly extravagant evil because he was practical and Genre Savvy, not because he was virtuous. There is a reason why he outlived fellow Fascist dictators Hitler and Mussolini by 30 years.
  • Precision F-Strike: Averted in the Battle of the Bulge. Rumors abounded that General Anthony McAuliffe's famed reply to German demands for the surrender of Bastogne was not "Nuts!" but, according to The Other Wiki, "a four-letter expletive that was changed for propaganda purposes for domestic consumption." However, one of his aides claimed in 2004 that McAuliffe was the ONLY clean-mouthed general he ever knew, and that "Nuts" was completely in character for him.
    • Played straight, however, by the adjutant who hand-delivered the message. When the Germans demanded to know what was meant by "Nuts!", the Major replied that it meant "Go to Hell."
  • Prophecy Twist: Hakkoo ichiu, or "eight cords, one roof", attributed to Emperor Jimmu. The Japanese didn't conquer the world, but between the Axis countries, there were enough war crimes to actually require creating an international body to stop this. Note that while hakkoo ichiu can mean "universal brotherhood" (and indeed this is a common revisionist idea about Japanese imperialism), it translated as "We're equal to caucasoids, but we act as the leader of mongoloids."
  • Proud Warrior Race: Of course. Those Wacky Nazis were obsessed with being this. They cared little for the Real Life Germany and only wanted to make Germany into an idealized, pure Utopia.
    • Japan was this as well. The whole country was ruled by a militaristic frenzy, and even generals were in danger of being "fragged" if they weren't warlike enough. Italy wanted to do this but was too lazy to quite cut it and instead became mocked for years after, even though they did put up a better showing than is generally made out.
    • The British Empire contained a lot of examples of a Proud Warrior Race, some fairly traditional with a rather condescending Noble Savage reputation. Several were from The Raj, like Nepali,Sikhs and Pushtans. Aside from that, Australians might qualify very well. The pre-Israel "Yishuv" was also part of The British Empire at the time and no one can tell a Highlander that he is not part of a Proud Warrior Race.
      • And the most legendary fighters in the war, so effective that German soldiers feared meeting them in battle more than any other foe on the Western Front: the Canadians. Seriously.
    • Given what they were fighting with, the Poles gave a pretty good account of themselves.
    • The United States had a few themselves.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party:
    • During the Battle of Stalingrad due to supply shortages.
    • During the worst of the Siege of Leningrad, as food shortages led to widespread death by starvation, this happened quite a bit.
  • The Quisling: Trope Namer Vidkun Quisling, who betrayed his country to the Nazis and got stood up in front of a firing squad after the war. Other Quislings of World War II include President Wang Jingwei, Marshal Petain from France, and Andrei Vlasov from the Soviet Union.
    • A third of what was on paper the Army of the Republic of China remained loyal to what was in theory the government, i.e. half the Guomindang Divisions remained loyal to Jiang Jieshi. Most of the others weren't killed, though there was a high turnover rate. China had so many turncoats-turned-resistance fighters-turned-bandits that the historical community generally despairs of cataloging them all, wringing its hands and splitting them up into local and regional warlords, nationalist guerrillas, communist guerrillas, and Chinese Communist Party guerrillas, with some room for overlap. Ironically, the Nationalist Party's willingness to deal with Quisling Warlords after the war ended did a lot to alienate Chinese nationalists, though few people had problems with turncoat soldiers. A job was a job, after all.
    • The United States had a few, but it was mostly subverted. On the "played straight" side, a few of the business class sided with fascism, as did the German-American Bund (with shades of The Mole). On the subverted side...
      • Japanese-Americans did not betray the United States, though white Americans assumed they would. (It seems most of them left Imperial Japan for a reason, hmmm?)
      • Goebbels, trying to create an entire race of Quislings, declared the Sioux to be Aryan. It backfired horribly; National Socialist activity was quickly outlawed on many reservations and they declared war on Germany before the United States declared war on Japan. (The Iroquois had never retracted their last declaration of war.)
    • An example with a particularly nasty end was General Andrey Vlasov. A very promising General in the Red Army, he was captured by the Germans during the 1941-1942 Winter Counter-Offensives. He promptly volunteered to help raise and command an anti-Soviet Army out of Russian prisoners of war. At the end of the war he was (re)captured by the Soviets, who were extremely public about his fate.
  • Rape, Pillage and Burn:
    • 'Kill All, Burn All, Seize All' - General Okamura's eloquently put policy on the pacification of north-central China. Rape wasn't officially on the agenda, but it managed to accumulate a certain priority of its own in practice. Mass rape wasn't part of the programme for the pacification of the lower Yangtze Delta, for instance, but something that happened off the books albeit on a large and somewhat organized scale.
    • The aptly named "Nanjing Massacre" began with a simple order from Prince Asaka: "Kill all captives". His forces ended up branching into wanton destruction, looting, and sexual assault. Thus the moniker 'the Rape of Nanking'.
    • The German army did this quite often during their invasion. Russian families would be busted out of their own homes, doomed to a slow death. Many monuments were also destroyed, including Tolstoy's house, and of course, the "rape" part of the trope was not figurative.
    • When the men of the Red Army finally entered Germany in 1945, after four years of death and destruction in the Soviet Union at the hands of the Germans, they were very angry. Despite direct orders from Stalin not to treat all Germans as fascists, there were many instances of bloody revenge. Not that they had been all that well-disciplined when marching through eastern and southern Europe, either. Or would be when 'liberating' Japanese-occupied areas, for that matter. This did a lot to breed anti-Russian resentment throughout Communist central-eastern Europe and China.
    • There are many instances of rape being dealt with quietly and confidentially and being covered up, even on the Allied side. The potential for political damage inherent in such crimes could be immense, as the reaction to such offenses in subsequent - less well-censored - conflicts has shown. Nothing causes people to openly question a War of Liberation so much as a good spot of Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Most Allied leaders. The Axis leaders, however...
    • Showa, i.e. Hirohito, seems a reasonable guy when one considers his decision to surrender once it became obvious that America would just Nuke'Em until they capitulated. However, even if he had not been the driving force behind the China Incident and the War in the Pacific, he certainly didn't do anything to stop or limit them. It's speculated that Tojo Hideki took a lot of the fall for Hirohito's own ideas.
      • Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto also qualifies considering he was a leading dissenter about the wisdom of fighting the United States.
    • We can also assume Stalin was not the "most allied leaders", but during the war, he was said to have a much more reasonable attitude.
    • The Prussian and Bavarian officer corps were pretty damn reasonable. Unfortunately for them, they swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler and were bound by that, though it broke in places - like ordering retreats even when Hitler ordered otherwise and a few assassination attempts. But in general, that oath of loyalty locked them into the path of destruction.
    • General Homma of the Japanese military was pretty reasonable. In fact, he was so reasonable, that he was recalled for being too reasonable to POWs in the Philippines and was dishonored by the general staff. He was also so reasonable, that the Allies tried him for war crimes and executed him, mostly for the "crime" of humiliating Douglas MacArthur.
    • The Japanese general who commanded the Philippines garrison during the US reconquest ordered his forces to retreat from Manila to keep the city from being destroyed. A subordinate stationed in the city refused to obey those orders and fought in the city, resulting in the devastation of the city. The Allies executed him too.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Admirals Halsey and Spruance were the US Navy's Those Two Guys in the Pacific. Halsey was a red oni and Spruance was blue.
    • Roosevelt (blue) and Churchill (red). Amusingly, Stalin's personality was blue even though he was definitely a red in every other way.
    • Eisenhower was a Blue Oni to Red Onis Patton and Montgomery, whose personal rivalry both men allowed to get in the way of the real fight.
  • Recycled in Space: Boy was it ever. By now the generic Space Opera picture of space tactics is a rip-off of World War Two naval tactics.
  • The Remnant: Surprisingly rare. The Axis armies were completely broken after the war, and only a handful of die-hards continued a very limited level of insurgency. Some Axis troops in Yugoslavia did continue fighting for a couple of weeks after Germany surrendered, though.
    • A few bands of Japanese soldiers continued to fight years after the war ended. Hiroo Onoda and Teruo Nakamura only surrendered in 1974! Onoda only surrendered when his ex-commander personally arrived to relieve him of duty.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside An Enigma: Winston Churchill became the first to utter this phrase in a statement made after Soviet Russia's invasion of Poland.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Essentially the American attitude towards the war with Japan and even more so the attitude of the Red Army when they turned the tide of the war. Since much of the Soviet Union had been ruined by Germany's invasion, the avenging hordes of Red Army soldiers were not merciful to German civilians.
    • Most ethnic Germans were driven out of Eastern Europe after the war. Many died in the process, often because food and supplies were scarce and the Germans were last in the line to receive them. Even in Western Europe German POWs were often neglected.
    • American policy on German and Japanese reconstruction was a mess, but the gist of it was that their economies should be left to flounder at best, and deliberately de-industrialized at worst. When the Cold War got going, though, the reconstruction money started pouring in soon enough.
    • Also Germany's attitude. Germany's treatment after World War One was the whole reason Hitler came to power and something he constantly cited.
    • Resistance fighters were usually not merciful to captured Axis soldiers, and often killed SS and Gestapo prisoners outright.
      • And there was repayment in kind. But, since the actual Resistance fighters were not usually identifiable, the practical form of revenge was usually annihilating the nearest village for rural attacks, and murdering the handiest several dozen passersby for attacks in a town.
  • Rousing Speech: Lots, and Churchill gave some awesome ones.

"...we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

    • Let's be honest. "Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?"
    • On 3 July, during an official appeal to the people, Stalin gave an impressive speech and said a phrase that became the slogan for the entire war: "Our way is right, enemy will be defeated, victory will be ours".
      • Levitan was a radio announcer who gave plenty of them, and Nazis hated him for that; Hitler even declared him a personal enemy. Germans tried hard to kill him, and there were even reports of Germans shooting active loudspeakers to silence him.
    • Charles De Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June 1940.

"This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it."

  • Schizo-Tech: This is a war in which they had electronic sensors, rockets and jet planes. This was also a war in which a large part of the Red Army and Wehrmacht was hauled by horses and several neutral merchant vessels still used sails. It's one of the more fascinating things about this war. Materials shortages later in the war lead to wooden jetfighters.
    • Fun fact: In 1939, the British Army's UK-based regular units were completely motorized. Some units policing the Empire overseas went into action on horseback in late 1940. The Scots Greys kept their horses until 1941. Even the technologically advanced Wehrmacht used horses for rear-echelon transportation for the entire war.
    • The US Army had cavalry units in the Pacific War.
  • Secret Weapon: The nuclear bomb. Even many of the people involved in the project weren't clear on what they were doing.
  • Sex Slave: "Comfort women", who were allegedly enslaved by the thousands by the Japanese. The authenticity of these claims is muddied by the first source of these claims being North Korea and Korean historians' inability to find period evidence.
    • And while sex with 'sub-humans' was frowned upon in the racialist climates of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, most of the abuses that went on in the concentration camps have gone unspoken and undocumented. This gives us hilariously horrifying testimonies to the effect of 'They were only human when we raped them'.
  • Shark Pool: The fate of the USS Indianapolis.
  • Snow Means Death: The Eastern Front and the Winter War.
    • Of particular note: The White Death.
    • Inmates in concentration camps were forced to be outside in the winter for hours at a time. Predictably, many died.
  • The Spock: Spruance. He was so cold-blooded that he could probably sink Japanese ships by breathing ice on them.
  • Stop Drowning and Stand Up: There is an amusing story recounted in Stephen Ambrose's D-Day by Corporal George Ryan as he got off his landing craft at Omaha Beach.

Shells were bursting around the LCT. "We gotta get off this thing," someone in Ryan's crew shouted, and they all jumped into the water. Ryan held back. ""I wasn't so much afraid of them bullets or the shells as I was of the cold Channel water. I cannot swim."
Ryan threw off all his equipment, inflated his Mae West (Not the actress, his life preserver), and began to tiptoe in off the ramp when "some German opened up on the side of the LCT with his machine gun, blblblblang. That convinced me. Into the water I dove. I pushed with all my might and started going. I'm swimming and I'm swimming. Somebody taps me on the shoulder and I look up. I was in a foot of water, swimming. You talk about a will to live. If they hadn't stopped me I would have swam two miles inland."

  • Stuff Blowing Up: Lots of it, culminating in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler
  • The Spartan Way: The German and Japanese military forces in general. Any commando school worth its salt. And so on.
  • Supervillain Lair: While not all can be considered supervillains, a few of the major leaders had some pretty cool lairs from where they conducted the war. Roosevelt, of course, had the White House and the Japanese were in the process of finishing their massive underground Matsushiro Imperial Headquarters when they surrendered. Stalin simply went into the Metro (subway), which then changed to its second purpose: the world's biggest bomb shelter. Churchill had the Cabinet War Rooms, while Hitler had nearly a dozen at his disposal. The most prominent Führerhauptquartiere included the Berghof (Hitler's private Bavarian residence), the Wolf's Lair (his Eastern Front headquarters, where the July 20 plot happened) and his Führerbunker in Berlin (where he killed himself). As for Mussolini...just take a look at this seriously-not-Photoshopped picture under #5.
  • Taking You with Me: Japanese High Command's contingency plans for when the Home Islands were finally invaded. Thankfully for everyone involved, this never happened.
    • Also Hitler's plans to take the German nation with him. The surviving forces surrendered a few days after his suicide.
    • Many pilots would turn their damaged planes into makeshift manned bombs when they realized they could not eject or escape their doom, hoping to take down just one more enemy before their demise. This gave rise to the Kamikaze Special Attack Squadron. Take a wild guess what they specialized in.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Trope Codifier.
  • Token Evil Teammate: This being a war, nobody was really morally ideal, but the Allies were decidedly less evil than the Axis... well, except for the Soviet Union, a mass-murdering totalitarian dictatorship who was only in because Hitler tried to conquer them.
  • Token Good Teammate: Finland was this to the Axis. A democratic, non-fascist, non-racist country that was only fighting to retake its territory from the Soviets. Of course, the fact that they did this alongside Hitler was a bit of a moral gray spot; they were merely caught between two monsters.
    • Just to specify how strange Finland was among the other Axis powers: The Finns had many Jews in their army who fought alongside Nazi volunteers. The only thing that united them, really, was the goal of defending Finland from invasion.
      • When Himmler asked if they need help in solving Jewish question they answered: "We have no Jewish question".
    • Don't forget the battlefield synagogue of Finnish/Jewish soldiers right next to the German section of their shared military camp.
      • Jewish Finnish soldiers often did not accept German decorations.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The attack on Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, the nature of politics in Japan made this inevitable once the Army had failed to deliver in their attack on China and the Cabinet refused to negotiate a peace settlement with the Guomindang. Then, Hitler and his decision to declare war on the United States immediately thereafter. Less egregiously, there was Hitler's decision to launch a war of conquest against the massive Soviet Union. The leadership of the Axis was just a tad barmy.
  • Trope Codifier: How many pop culture icons of The Forties, The Fifties, and The Sixties have their genesis here?
  • Truce Zone: Any given neutral country. If strategically important, these tended to become a City of Spies.
  • Underground Railroad: Yet another service provided by La Résistance: Helping Allied pilots escape capture and return to either friendly or neutral countries.
    • Also, people in various occupied countries who helped to hide Jews from the Nazis, or in some cases, such as the Danish Resistance, helped thousands escape to neutral countries such as Sweden.
  • Unobtanium: Oil, rubber, and metals of all kinds. In fact, there were way too many types of materials that counted as Unobtanium at this time.
    • Especially oil though. Oil was why the Japanese decided to attack the United States. Oil was one reason why Hitler attacked Russia. The lack thereof hastened the end of the war in Europe, as the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe literally ran out of fuel.
    • And, of course, uranium and plutonium.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hitler was prone to these. He had a particularly nasty one in the bunker after being informed that his general in charge of the defense of Berlin had refused to attack because the assault was hopeless, the result being Hitler screeching that the war was lost and that he would kill himself in Berlin. (This was dramatized in the movie Downfall and later became a famous Internet meme).
  • Violence Is the Only Option: The Dutch pinned their hopes on staying neutral again like last time, when they had a bit of an economic depression, but at least didn't get the land turned into Mordor like their neighbors, the Belgians. It didn't work out this time, and without Allied backup they lasted 4 days. Then again, the Belgians lasted 10, so it might not have mattered much.
    • First, the Netherlands only surrendered because Germany threatened to bomb Rotterdam since the German army couldn't break the Grebbeline. And yes, the bombing did continue, but that was because the airplanes were already in the air. Second, the Dutch army managed to destroy a lot of the German Luftwaffe (specifically the landing material), much of which they never recovered.
  • Warrior Poet: Churchill.
  • Wartime Cartoon
  • Wartime Wedding: The creepiest one of all time, between Hitler and Eva Braun in the bunker.
  • War Is Glorious: What Nazis, Fascists and Japanese Nationalists taught as a religion. Also, to some degree, what most countries' propaganda implied.
  • The War to End All Wars: Kind of. There hasn't been a conflict even remotely on its scale since, but there's been plenty of smaller-scale wars.
    • The invention of the Atomic Bomb all but ensured this. If there is going to be a war of this scale, it will only last a few hours, or as long as it will take for the world's nuclear stockpile to go off.
  • We Have Reserves: Was used widely in the Soviet Union in the early years of war and the Japanese used it as well (with lesser success).
    • Altogether the Nationalist Party, various Communist Parties and local and regional Warlords of China mobilized 14 million men over the course of the China Incident. At the end of 1945, there were 5 million troops in China, half of them Warlord troops. Granted, there was a lot of shoddy bookkeeping and desertion, but the nationalists alone lost some 1.5 million troops.
    • The US Marines in the Pacific campaign seemed to act like ants given the casualty rates in the first waves in some cases.
      • Justified for the Marines: it is important to keep on pushing after the initial landing. This is one reason why Army casualties at Normandy were so high, they just sat there once they established a beachhead.
    • Even the US Army Air Forces fit here, given their preferred strategy of sending formations of hundreds or thousands of bombers in broad daylight with orders to take no evasive action when under fire.[8] The Army Air Forces suffered even more casualties than the Marines until the P-51 Mustangs began escorting the bombers.
      • Justified in that the Bomber Command specifically designated American bombers for daylight operations (while British bombers would be for night operations). So the only way to be effective in daylight operations is the "send lots of bombers and hope for the best" way.
  • Wham! Line: After the Germans had broken through the French lines at Sedan in 1940 and had made their right wheel towards the English Channel, Winston Churchill flew to Paris to confer with the French. After assessing the situation, Churchill asked the French commander, General Gamelin, "Where is the strategic reserve?". Gamelin answered "There is none." Churchill described it as one of the most shocking moments of his life. Also, for Churchill at least, news the Surrender of the British Army at Singapore.
  • With This Herring: The Japanese citizen-militias drafted in anticipation of Operation Downfall. The Army didn't have enough weapons and ammunition to equip its regular divisions, so most were trained in the use of knives, spears, and grenades.
  • What Could Have Been: Operation Downfall, the Allied invasion of Japan. Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the entire fire-bombing campaign - actually, Japan's losses throughout the entire war - would have had nothing on the casualties that would have resulted from Operation Downfall being executed. There was also a pretty good chance the Soviets would have taken Hokkaido, which would have had all sorts of implications in the post-war.
  • What Have I Become?: In the postwar era, UNESCO's statement "The Race Question". Data discrediting race had been in anthropological literature for quite some time, but it never left until it became quite embarrassing.
  • The White Prince: Emperor Hirohito, who asked the Japanese nation to "endure the unendurable" while never missing a meal in his long, comfortable life.
    • Arguably starts out as a type two, but becomes a type three in later years.
  • The Wise Prince: King George VI.
  • Worthy Opponent: Many Allied generals and leaders considered German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, leader of the Afrikakorps (and co-trope namer of Magnificent Bastard), this. He outright refused many of Hitler's more evil orders several times, kept conditions for POWs humane (in fact, under his command, the Afrikakorps never committed any war crimes), was a pretty damned good general and was actually forced to commit suicide during what was alleged to be a Heel Face Turn (the attempt to kill Hitler in the 20 July 1944 plot). He's the only German officer to have a museum in his name and has a display at the National Holocaust Museum in his honor.
    • For it to have been a Heel Face Turn, Rommel would first have had to have been a Heel.
  • Young Future Famous People: Even more true than of World War I. Basically, almost any politician or other important figure from The Fifties up until at least The Eighties will have been involved in the war somehow.
    • What do J. D. Salinger, Charles Durning, John Ford, James Doohan, and Sir Alec Guinness have in common? They were all storming the beaches or transporting troops there during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.
      • It took Durning 50 years to open up about his experiences of that day to his family.
      • Doohan landed on Juno Beach on D-Day as a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Soon after, while walking across a minefield, he and his unit were attacked by enemy fire, as the Germans shot at them with machine guns. He was hit by four bullets to the leg, the middle finger of his right hand was shot off, and a bullet struck his chest. His life was saved when it hit a silver cigarette case that had been given to him by his brother.
  • You Will Be Spared: This trope most likely lay at the heart of the cynical German-Japanese military alliance from at least the Nazis' perspective (but possibly the Japanese as well). A paranoid, virulently racist, white supremacist country decides to team up against other enemies with a nation they probably deem subhuman when it gets down to it. This article from Our Dumb Century puts it best.
    • The article is somewhat Did Not Do the Research, as Nazi=white supremacist is a long sought-after and misleading understanding. Lots of high-ranking Nazis express interest and respect for the Orient, their racism ranges specifically for Jewish, Roma, Slav and all the rest that you already know. In general, East Asians got better off than the rest in Germany, which was supporting Nationalist China with weapons and advisers, and only drew their support after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, Chiang Kai Shek 's second son was in German military as an exchange student and actually took part in the invasion of Poland, and only came back after the Nazi-Japanese Alliance was made.


Works set in this time period include:


Comic Books

  • Captain America punched Hitler in his very first issue. Most Golden Age superheroes, since they were published during the war, fought Nazis at some point.
  • This was lampshaded in Watchmen. In an Easter Egg during the course of the novel we learn that The Comedian saw action in his masked identity against the Japanese in the South Pacific in 1942.
  • The Desert Peach is a well-researched comic you've probably never heard of based in Africa, about the Desert Fox's fictional gay younger brother.
  • Snoopy from Peanuts showed up a few times; Charles Schulz (himself having been in the military in this time) had these show up around 6 June during the later years.
  • A time-travel story in Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew had the team's speedster Fastback forcibly sent back in time to Earth-C's D-Day, where he winds up briefly helping the Allies fight the Ratzis alongside Golden Age DC funny-animal hero, the Terrific Whatzit (who turns out to be Fastback's uncle).
  • Biggles appeared in a number of comics set in WW 2


A complete list can be found here. A number of the works below cover multiple categories and are grouped according to their main setting. Quite a few of these film titles were shoehorned into the above paragraphs.

In an era where the only major forms of mass entertainment were radio, theatre and cinema (British television went off for the duration), it is not surprising that a very large number of movies were made during the war. Most of them were patriotic flag-wavers of some form or another, but some of these films (including said flag-wavers) have stood the test of time, such as Casablanca, In Which We Serve and Went The Day Well?.

The Pacific Front

Most of the works here focus on the American and Japanese part in the Far East, although Commonwealth forces also played a major role (primarily the ANZAC forces, for obvious reasons). Only recently have films dealing with the China Incident started to appear, unsurprisingly given the delicate politics of the matter.

Think partisan warfare, big naval battles (most famously Midway), jungles, starving civilians, and the inconsistent (mis)treatment of non-combatants.

The Eastern Front

The bloodiest theatre of the war (the number of deaths there alone- over 25 million- would make the Eastern Front the worst war in history in its own right). Has been covered in film quite a bit (the Soviet film industry apparently made scores of them), but most of the examples aren't that well known outside of Eastern Europe. In most of the former USSR focus is not one WWII in general, but on "The Great Patriotic War" of 1941-45 - Soviet-German war.

It is common to see Germans in comedic works threatened with being sent to the Eastern Front - a posting there was nothing but trouble, and became a near-certain-death-sentence from '43 onwards. Saw the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad, for a start. Also many real-life cases of the Macross Missile Massacre, as the "Katyusha" multiple rocket launcher was designed for this purpose.

The Finnish Front

A special case of the above, covering the struggles of the Winter War of 1939-40 and the Continuation war of 1941-44. Has been depicted several times on film, but these films are little known outside Finland. Christopher Lee volunteered to fight here, but never actually saw any combat on it.

  • Kukushka/The Cuckoo, a Russian film.
  • Tuntematon Sotilas/The Unknown Soldier, based on a novel by war veteran Väinö Linna. Two versions exist, one from 1955 and another made 30 years later.
  • Talvisota, a Finnish film set in the Winter War

The Western Front

The fighting around northern and western Europe, where the Americans play a large role. The British, Canadians and Free French (as well as a considerable number of other nationalities) were involved, but they tend to be forgotten in US films. The early part of the war, from the invasion of Poland to the fall of France, is rarely depicted.

Expecting fighting in the woods, French villages and some very grateful Frenchwomen.

North Africa and Italy

Initially, just between the Commonwealth, Italy, and other independent nations. Later, the Germans (led by Erwin Rommel) and the Americans also take part.

An area of desert tank warfare, it also saw the creation of the SAS and the work of the Long Range Desert Group.

Famous for the presence of two very quirky but effective generals, George S. Patton and Bernard "Monty" Montgomery.

Southern Europe

Greece and Yugoslavia.

The Air War

In which the two sides of the war try to bomb each other into submission. A fair chunk of these are British and a number are based on true stories.

The Blitz, which followed the Battle of Britain, was a German attempt to bomb the UK into surrendering, which didn't really work. The Battle of Britain had been a close run thing, as the British had spent much of the 1930s not investing in their fighter force as they had believed "the bomber will always get through". It took Winston Churchill to persuade them otherwise- the Spitfire and the Hurricane arriving just in time.

The Blitz largely occurred in 1940-1941 and 1944-1945, the latter mostly using V1 and V2 missiles. There were more minor attacks on the United Kingdom during 1941-1944, but Hitler was focusing on the USSR.

While the actions of the Allied bombing missions in Germany have been subject to quite a bit of historical debate (although the bombing of civilians was actually legal at that time and there were legitimate industrial targets in German cities, it did not have the planned effect of destroying German industry or morale- it made them more resolved), it should be noted that these bombing raids were very dangerous for British airmen. They flew at night, unlike the USAAF (US Army Air Force) who did the day missions. Of every 100 airmen, 55 on average would end up dead. The issue of not awarding separate medals for the British Bomber Command crews (who got the Air Crew Europe star that everyone else who flew over Europe did) is raised from time to time.

This is not to say that the USAAF had it any better. Flying by day meant they had a monstrously high casualty rate, particularly before P-51s were available for long range escort. There was a policy of "25 and out". Once an airman had done 25 missions, his war was over. The ball turret gunner, despite not having a parachute close to hand and being exposed to ground fire, wasn't actually that dangerous, relatively speaking. Just unpleasant, as they ended up doing somersaults in a tiny, cold, plexiglass and metal ball looking at a really long drop. The 25 got upped to 30 and then 35. The average crew got shot down around the 20th mission.

The Air War in the Pacific has received comparatively less attention, even though the scope and nature of the Pacific theater meant that air power played an even larger role there than it did in Europe. The strategic bombing campaign against Japan in particular has not received much attention, perhaps because it's difficult to portray massive fire raids against civilians in a heroic light. Even those who participated rarely considered it to be anything more than a necessary evil.

Though less common there are several movies about the Air War in the Pacific:

  • Air Force - one of the earliest examples
  • God Is My Copilot - about the Flying Tigers
  • The Flying Leathernecks
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Submarines / The Battle of the Atlantic

In which the German U-boats try to starve Britain into submission and stop equipment from getting to the Allies. The subs (on both sides) are hot, cramped and nasty. In fact, calling them submarines is slightly inaccurate, considering that most of their time was spent on the surface.

This campaign started pretty much on day one of the war, making it the longest battle in human history. A German U-boat mistook a passenger liner running without lights for an armed merchant ship... You get the idea.

Three-quarters of those who went out in the U-boats did not return.

  • Das Boot—a German movie.
  • U-571—an American movie that caused outrage in Britain due to showing the first captured Enigma machine to be recovered by an American submarine crew.
  • Enigma
  • We Dive at Dawn—a British movie made in 1942, set on a British submarine.
  • Lifeboat—an Alfred Hitchcock movie made in 1943, involving the survivors of a sunk merchant ship.
  • The Enemy Below—an American destroyer escort and a German U-boat duel on the high seas. Inspired the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror."

The Americans carried out their own sub warfare against Japan, which did succeed in starving the Japanese.

The early years of the war in the Atlantic also saw some combat between surface ships, in particular the raids of the German battleships Admiral Graf Spee and the (in)famous Bismarck.

  • The Battle of the River Plate
  • Sink the Bismarck!
  • The Sea Chase

La Résistance/Special Forces

Most people tend to focus on the French Resistance, but the Greeks and Poles did a very good job too. The Yugoslav partisans were actually so good at their job, they effectively liberated their country themselves before the Red Army could get there.

POW Movies

The Germans generally kept the Geneva Conventions with regards to US, UK and French prisoners, although by the end of the war, they were seriously considering throwing the Conventions out of the window, with the Allied bombing raids as the excuse. Geneva had never so much as been in the building when it came to the Slavic peoples - captured Red Army personnel ended up in the death camps.

You did not want to fall into the hands of the Japanese.

The Holocaust

The Home Front - UK

The Home Front - USA


Things that don't really fit elsewhere:

  • Saboteur (essentially The Thirty-Nine Steps set in America)
  • The Brylcreem Boys (combatants from both sides in a POW camp in neutral Ireland)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, at least at the very beginning
  • The Others a ghost movie set on the Channel Island, Jersey during the German occupation.
  • The Tin Drum takes place before, during, and just after the war.
  • A Matter of Life and Death, a supernatural love story about a pilot who bailed out of a plane without a parachute and lived, much to heaven's chagrin. Set mainly in a military convalescent hospital, and in the afterlife.
  • Seventeen Moments of Spring, famous soviet series about spy in Gestapo.
  • Shield and Sword, another series about soviet spy.


  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Film of the Book turns a single sentence mentioning the Pevensie kids being sent to live in the country "because of the air raids" into a dangerous scene that takes place right in the middle of the London Blitz.
    • Something of a reality to that- there was a second evacuation of vulnerable Londoners during the Blitz as many had returned after the initial feared raids hadn't materialised.
  • The Len Deighton novel City of Gold, set in North Africa. Also Bomber. Also SS-GB which is about what it would be if England was occupied.
  • Jack Higgins has written quite a few.
  • Catch-22, set in Italy.
  • The Guernsey / Armishire books in the Chalet School series are set during the Second World War, and the effects of the war on the school are a major part of the plots of The Chalet School in Exile, The Chalet School Goes To It and The Highland Twins at the Chalet School.
  • Robert Ludlum has a few too.
  • Dean Koontz' Lightning at least, that's Stefan's time period of origin and where various pivotal events take place. Other events range from 1955 to 1988.
  • Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks, featuring an fictional invasion of England.
  • Poul Anderson's alternate history Operation Chaos. In fact, one of the first things the narrator says is, better too much information than too little, and if you already know who won World War II, let me say it anyhow. Turns out you don't even know who fought World War II or where. (The timelines diverged early in the twentieth century.)
  • Jane Yolen's fairytale adaption Briar Rose is one of these. Definitely falls under True Art Is Angsty, even if it doesn't COMPLETELY manage a Downer Ending.
    • Also by Jane Yolen, "The Devil's Arithmetic" – The Holocaust, the Grandfather Paradox, and sadly, a bucketload of teachable moments.
  • Also, Number the Stars takes place in Denmark, World War II.
  • Snow Treasure by Marie Mcswigan is based on a true story about a bunch of Norwegian kids that snuck their country's gold past Nazis in the winter of 1939-1940 and adults who got it to America.
  • Anne Frank's diary, coincidentally.
  • The English Patient, set mostly in Italy and North Africa, with a bit of Britain, India, and Canada.
  • Cryptonomicon.
  • The Barrett Tillman novel Dauntless set during Midway. One character killed during the story is the father of Bud Callaway, President in his earlier novel The Sixth Battle.
  • Atonement, or about two-thirds of the story - set in Dunkirk and the English homefront.
  • The Book Thief is about Liesel Meminger growing up in a foster home in WWII Nazi Germany. And with a foster family that ends up hiding a Jew in their basement, too.
  • The Caine Mutiny. Set on the Pacific front, but hardly features any combat.
  • The Winds of War / War and Remembrance is practically a grand tour of World War II.
  • Douglas Reeman has written at least twenty novels of the Royal Navy in WWII, including several set on the Pacific front (both The Pride and the Anguish and Strike from the Sea focus on the fall of Singapore).
  • Night by Elie Wiesel, an autobiography about his time in the concentration camps and on the way there.
  • The novels by Sven Hassel on the 27th Penal Panzer Regiment.
  • Settling Accounts (Harry Turtledove Alternate History pitting the USA against the Confederate States of America; CSA president Jake Featherston is pretty much Hitler in all but name. What minority is he wiping out in the death camps? Confederate Negroes).
  • Also by Harry Turtledove, the Darkness series, which is WWII set in a fantasy environment, with each side replaced with a Fantasy Counterpart Culture and magic wands and dragons instead of guns and bombers.
  • a third Harry Turtledove book set is the Worldwar series, about an alien invasion in May, 1942, following to the end of that war, plus further series looking at the 1960s and the 1990s
  • The Wing Commander novelizations are explicitly intended as sci-fi remakes of certain key points in WW 2.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha mainly took place during the Great Depression, though it was the start of the war that changed many things for the main character Sayuri.
  • A Thread of Grace takes place in the year and a half between Italy's surrender and V-E day.
  • Silent Ship, Silent Sea: A coming-of-age story aboard a damaged destroyer at Guadelcanal.
  • Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall is Spike Milligan's account of serving in the Royal Artillery in North Africa during the war.
  • Shanghai Girls starts out in China in 1937, around the time Japanese soldiers invade.
  • The Blindness of the Hearts (Die Mittagsfrau) takes place in Germany and starts out in the World War I era, and then things get worse for the characters when the war begins: at least one character dies in the camps, and the main character is forced to deny her Jewish heritage and carry falsified Aryan papers.
  • Biggles appears in a number of books set in WW 2
  • The Animorphs book "Elfangor's Secret" has the heroes chasing a time-traveling Controller. By the time they get to World War II, things have been changed enough that Hitler is now a lowly jeep driver, though the war still happens, including the D-Day invasion happening on the same day.
  • Robert Westall set several of his books and short stories during World War II, most famously The Machine Gunners but also, Blitzcat, The Blitz, and Blackham's Wimpey from the anthology Break of Dark.

Live Action TV


Tabletop Games

  • Europe Engulfed
    • Pacific Engulfed
  • World at War
  • Axis & Allies
  • Flames of War - only covering the European and African parts of the war though.
  • Weird War is like Deadlands, only during WWII. Werewolves of the SS included.
  • In the 1960s through the 1980s, Avalon Hill and SPI thrived on tabletop games about WWII: Third Reich, Afrika Korps, Patton's War, Midway, Battle of the Bulge, and a zillion others


  • Imagine This- a musical set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.
  • Mister Roberts takes place in the Pacific but far from combat. V-E Day happens during the course of the play's action.
  • South Pacific is likewise set far from the action in a backwater Pacific island.
  • The Long And The Short And The Tall is a play about a section of Britsh infantrymen trapped behind enemy lines in Burma.

Video Games

Western Animation


  1. The guy was a Complete Monster, but his words here sum up the general feel of the war.
  2. Destroying the fleet itself took priority, as the aim of the attack was 'Shock and Awe'; sinking the fleet's ships was rightly considered more impressive than wrecking their repair and resupply facilities. The task force was not, in fact, actually trained for the latter objective. In any case nearly a third of the fleet's aircraft were destroyed in the first two waves, and the remainder were ill-equipped to take out said ground facilities. Take torpedo-bombers, for instance: great for sinking ships, but they can do pretty much nothing against a concrete (bullet-proof) oil-silo.
  3. Also, with their battleships out of action for months, the US Navy is forced to put all its faith into the new untested aircraft carriers and submarines. Though born of necessity at the time, this doctrine rules naval strategy to this day.
  4. Stalin doesn't for the most part, as he wouldn't mind Jiang winning the civil war. He does, however, turn all the captured Japanese equipment and weapons over to the north Chinese Communist Parties.
  5. Though this is balanced out by how notoriously unhelpful they were in the Pacific Front; they didn't even let the Allies use their Pacific ports to bomb Japan.
  6. The Roman numeral for "5" also looks like "V", thus making its presence in Beethoven's "Fifth" very appropriate
  7. "Reich" as in "The Third Reich" translates to "empire"
  8. Not as stupid as it may sound. They did the math and figured that dodging had no significant effect on the likelihood of being hit by an artillery shell launched from 20,000 feet below, and dodging in a bomber was probably not going to be effective anyway.