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1945 - End of World War II

World War II ends in 1945 with Allied victories in Europe and the Pacific. Key events include the Battle of the Bulge, the Yalta Conference, firebombing of cities, Hitler's suicide, VE Day, battles in the Pacific, and atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to Japan's surrender on VJ Day.

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  • ohnoes default style avatar for user singh.shivoham
    Why did the American bomb Japan anyways? It ruined many generations of children.
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user SonOfGum
      The Americans dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because those cities were virtually untouched by American Bomber planes. But that's just a minor reason. The Americans, believe it or not, actually had a good reason to hit Japan with the Atomic weapons.
      You See, the Americans, at the time planning an amphibious assault on The Japanese homeland, were fearing the invasion, as it was estimated to cause at least 1 million casualties. The Japanese were content never to surrender, if invaded, and were at the time rigging the homeland with traps, and training citizens in fighting, sometimes with spears, sometimes with guns. Japan was literally preparing to fight to the last man/woman/child. So, in order to save lives, both American and even Japanese, the Americans dropped the two Atomic Bombs, ending the war.
      (99 votes)
  • hopper cool style avatar for user .
    Why didn't the US nuke Tokyo? I bet Japan would of surrendered quicker.
    (11 votes)
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  • female robot grace style avatar for user TH Bunch
    Why did Hitler commit suicide?
    (9 votes)
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  • hopper jumping style avatar for user Aryan
    What do Germans today think of Hitler?
    (7 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Tim.Gorst66
      Germans do not think of Hitler as a hero. They mostly do not think the war was necessary and blame him. This is a very touchy subject though and there still exists a neo-nazi party. Hitler was a horrible man but these men a sometimes seen as good such as many Chinese like Chairman Mao Zedong. But to be fair Hitler is disliked by most Germans who are now a strong western nation. Through I cannot really make to much of an assumption. I haven't taken a survey.
      (28 votes)
  • piceratops sapling style avatar for user Sammy Pan
    I am fascinated by the fact that the country Switzerland was neither involved in the first WW nor the second WW. Sal didn't even mention the name of Switzerland once throughout this course. What made Switzerland a safe shelter for its people from the wars and disasters happening literally right next to it? Switzerland is a neighbour to German, France, Austria and Italy... All of them are the major roles in the context of the world war, especially German and Italy, where Hitler and Mussolini had very aggressive foreign policies that aimed at purging the whole of Europe. Why didn't they ever think about attacking Switzerland? Is it because the Switzerland is really good at diplomatic relationship, or is it because Switzerland had strong armies? or is it because Switzerland was not a strategic place?
    (9 votes)
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  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Akshans Sharma
    From -, Why did The USA bombarded Hiroshima and Nagasaki ? Why not Kokura , Kyoto and Niigata ?
    (2 votes)
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    • old spice man green style avatar for user Jonathan Ziesmer
      The US wanted to see how much damage the A-bombs could really inflict. In order to get a realistic idea, they needed to target a city that had been exposed to minimal bombing throughout the war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not only avoided bombing runs but were also industrial and transportation centers which made great bombing targets for logistical reasons.
      Hope this helps!
      (13 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Marie Bethell
    If the battles for these small islands were so costly, why did the US fight for them? Couldn't they have just focused on the mainland and avoided much bloodshed?
    (3 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Much of the war on Japan had to be fought from the air. To do that, one needs landing fields close enough. Aerial refueling didn't happen back then. So islands nearer and nearer had to be captured. Secondly, an attacking force needs to protect its rear flank. To attack the mainland while its forces could shoot you in the back is suicidal.
      War is terrible enough. You don't want to add getting shot in the back to it.
      (11 votes)
  • leaf red style avatar for user Ponce Kenner
    At Sal mentions that the USSR invaded Manchuria. Why didn't the Soviet Union, who went to war with the Nazis in 1941, invade the Japanese empire earlier when the US was fighting. Why did they join the Pacific theater so late?
    (4 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Why fight a war on two fronts, when someone else is taking care of it "over there". The Soviet heartland was threatened on its European Edge. Siberia was a long and thick border in its far east. Once things were "finished" in Europe and Japan was losing on the other side, the Soviets grabbed the chance to make a land grab while the enemy over there was down. It was fairly good strategy, don't you think?
      (8 votes)
  • mr pants orange style avatar for user jlin:)
    Is the fire-bombing in Tokyo known as the "Night of the Black Snow"?
    (5 votes)
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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Vihaan Punetha
    Was bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki a good idea for the U.S?
    (4 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Different people have different ideas on this.
      My father-in-law (who died at the age of 93 a few years ago) was in Naval Officer's Training when those cities were bombed. To his dying day he believed that the bombs ended the war and saved him from having to go there.

      My own personal belief is that bombing those cities was mainly a message to the Soviet Union that the US had these weapons and would use them. That they were used on Japanese, who were enemies of both the US and the Soviet Union, was a manifestation of the disregard of BOTH sides for human life.

      Bombing those cities, whether that ended the war OR detered the Soviet Union or anything else, RUINED the reputation of the US around the world, and that was a bad idea.
      (5 votes)

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] 1945 really represents the final throes of World War II. In Europe, you might remember, at the end of 1944, we have the Battle of the Bulge starting, which is an incredibly bloody battle. The U.S. forces, which kind of take the brunt on the Allied side, lose roughly 20,000 troops, but by January, they're able to break through and invade Germany. So as you go into early 1945, the Allies are on their march through Western Germany. Now if you go on the east, the Russians or the Soviets are also marching westward. By January of 1945, they're able to take Warsaw, and from there, they continue to march westward towards Berlin. Now the writing is on the wall at this point. The Allies look like they are going to win, and so they meet at Yalta, the major powers, to discuss what happens to Europe after World War II. What happens to Germany? Is it split up? What influence will the different Allied victors have in the different countries of World War II? So this is happening in Yalta in February of 1945. Let me write that down. That's in February. All the while this is happening, even though the writing is on the wall that the Allies are going to win the war, they weren't taking anything for granted. They wanted to absolutely force a surrender by the Axis powers in Germany in particular. So they continue to firebomb major cities of Germany, and firebombing is an incredibly devastating form of bombing, where you're literally trying to destroy the city, set the city on fire. The most notable of these cities that were firebombed were Hamburg and Dresden. The firebombing of Dresden, movies and books are written about it. The Nazis did also firebomb London, but that didn't have quite the same devastating effect as the Allied firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden, and actually of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, as we will see in a few minutes. But then everything really comes to a head in April of 1945. It's in April that as you can see, as you get into April and May, the Allies are able to essentially occupy major chunks of Germany. They're able to push Axis forces outside of Italy. They have effectively won. Mussolini gets captured and then gets executed. Soviets are able to take Berlin, and maybe most importantly, April 30th, Hitler commits suicide. So, Hitler commits suicide, and he's not the only one. Several other major leaders, Nazi leaders, commit suicide as we go into this period right over here. Essentially the war is won in Europe at this point, and that's made official on May 8th, May 8th, which is a good day to remember, known as VE Day, Victory in Europe, Victory in Europe Day. So the Allies have won in Europe, but everything is not over yet. World War II is still going on in the Pacific. So let's go down to the Pacific Theater. Starting the year in January, the Allies are able to take the Island of Luzon. In particular, they're able to take Manila. Then, as we go into February, they began the invasion of Iwo Jima, which is an incredibly bloody campaign. You have 70,000 marines invade the island verus 22,000 Japanese troops. On top of that you obviously have air, you have the Air Force involved, you have the Navy involved, but I guess what's even more mind-boggling, you have significant Allied deaths. You have 7,000 deaths on the Allied side, but even more amazing, out of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers that were defending Iwo Jima, 19,000 get killed. So 19,000 of 22,000 Japanese soldiers get killed. So you can imagine how bloody this is. And this picture, which is probably one of the most famous military photos ever taken, especially in the United States, this was taken of Marines storming a hill, storming a mountain in Iwo Jima. And just to imagine how bloody these things are. I just gave you some of the numbers. Even this photo, which is a real photograph, even this photo, where it looks like hey look, the Americans have at least taken this mountain or this hill right over here, even out of this photo, three of these Marines die in the next few days as they continue to try to take Iwo Jima or take the entire island. So you can imagine the Japanese were able to mount a ferocious defense of the island. They aren't able to fully take the island until we get into March. So by March, so maybe I'll say February to March you have the invasion of Iwo Jima. Now the whole time that this is happening, you have B-29s firebombing major cities in Japan, and especially Tokyo. So once again, these cities are really being destroyed. This is all-out war. But still the Japanese have not surrendered. So in April, actually April going into June, you have to remember April in Europe, this is when it was pretty much done with. Hitler commits suicide in April. But in April going into June of 1945, you have the Allied invasion of Okinawa, which once again, is an incredibly bloody campaign. You have above and beyond the tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers that get killed at Okinawa, you have tens and tens of thousands of civilians who get killed or commit suicide. So once again, this is all very unpleasant and very bloody. But we continue on, and still the Japanese have not surrendered. Although even in 1944, their navy is all but destroyed, but they're mounting this ferocious defense. In parallel to all of this, the Allies, especially the U.S., has had the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons, and they decide to use them, Truman is now president, in order to accelerate the end of the war. And so in August 6th, they drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, essentially destroying that city. And it's interesting to read accounts of how the Japanese learned about it or what they didn't learn about it, obviously. Obviously no one was expecting bombs that could just obliterate a city, literally, in seconds. Still, there wasn't a surrender from the Japanese, and so, let me write this. This is August 6th, and so on August 9th, you have another atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. At the same time that this is happening, you have the Soviet Union invading Manchuria. You have the Soviet Union invading Manchuria, and so enough was enough. You have the Soviets who are now getting involved in the Pacific, the Americans seem to be able to literally destroy Japanese cities at will, and so on August 14, 1945, you have the Japanese surrender. Japanese surrender, and then this does not become truly official until September 2, 1945, which is called VJ Day, Victory in Japan Day. That marks the real end of World War II. Obviously, World War II ended at the end of April, May, officially early May in Europe, but now in early September it is officially ended in the Pacific as well. And the Allies are victorious.