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How Important Were Alliances In The Second World War

GCSE and A level History - were alliances the crucial factor in victory and defeat in WW2?

Date : 11/01/2016


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Uploaded by : Paul
Uploaded on : 11/01/2016
Subject : History

How important were alliances in the Second World War


When Germany invades Poland at the beginning of September 1939 Britain and France declare war on Germany. Germany conquers Poland in a month. A period of stalemate known as the ‘Phoney War’ follows.

In the spring of 1940 Germany pounces. In quick succession she conquers Denmark and Norway before attacking in the West. The British army is evacuated at Dunkirk in May and Italy joins the war on Germany’s side. France signs an armistice with Germany in June. Britain is now alone.

In June 1941 Hitler launces an attack on the USSR (Russia) Britain will now fight alongside Russia until 1945.

In December 1941 Japan attacks the American fleet at Pearl Harbour. Hitler in support of his alliances with Japan declares war on the USA. The USA will now fight with Britain and the USSR.

In September 1943 Italy surrenders to the Allies, within a fortnight she has declared war on Germany but the nation is divided as well as fought over as Italians fight on both sides and neither.

1944 sees the Allied invasion of France in June (D-Day) and the collapse of the eastern front where the Germans are in full retreat.

1945 sees the invasion of Germany from both east and west, the defeat and surrender of Germany by the beginning of May.

Stalin had promised to launch an attack on Japan within three months of the defeat of German. This he does and with the American use of the atomic bomb japan surrenders.

Assessment - so how important were alliances? Well fairly vital actually, the best that Britain could do in 1940 and until June 1941 was survive alone, Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941 brought much needed relief from the bombing of Britain. Britain promised all possible aid to the USSR and supplied her via the artic convoys to Northern Russia and through the Middle East. The comparison here to WW1 is a strong one as initially the Russian were thrown back to the gates of Moscow and the edge of defeat by the German armies. The entry of the USA is crucial, Germany must lose faced with the economic might of the USA, USSR and Britain combined. Hitler’s decision to declare war on the USA after Pearl Harbour was a very poor one. President Roosevelt was already giving all help to Britain short of war but he would have faced opposition from within U.S. political circles had he declared war himself. In effect Hitler gets him out of a difficult situation. The wartime alliance was a changing one, Churchill and Stalin were political opposites and while they respected each other there was no love lost between them. Initially the close relationship is that between Roosevelt and Churchill but as the war progresses Britain sees its role diminish and a closer relationship establish itself between Roosevelt and Stalin. The un ion of the three powers is not a natural one, the Americans favoured self-determination and looked poorly on Britain’s dominance of its empire and imperial past, Stalin sees Churchill as representative of the evils of capitalism and all the Russian communists hate, equally the USA is capitalism personified. For all three this has the aspect of a marriage of convenience, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ holds true here. The wartime alliance survived the war itself but not by much and Stalin particularly is looking to the post-war balance of power particularly by late 1944 to ensure that as much of eastern Europe as possible remains under Soviet control either directly or indirectly. Roosevelt and the Americans want democracy and free and fair elections following the end of the war. Roosevelt’ s death and Churchill’s defeat in the British general election of 1945 put two new players in against Stalin in President Truman and Attlie. So who were the real winners? – The USA is the undoubted new superpower, the USSR though weakened by war has gained, Britain is bankrupted and forced to retreat from empire.

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