World War II was, in the true sense of the word, a world war. The battle storm engulfed two oceans and five continents; in the skies planes flew missions of death. For six brutal years, no corner of the globe was safe. Fighting spread from the streets of Europe to the jungles of Southeast Asia, the deserts of North Africa, and the islands of the Pacific.
The war began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland. The Germans marched on, carving a path of death and destruction through Europe. Italy joined the war on Germany's side, and the fighting soon spread to Greece and North Africa.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States joined the war. Germany, Italy, and Japan formed an alliance called the Axis; the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union led the Allies in opposition to the Axis powers.
By 1942, tens of millions of soldiers were engaged in the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen.
But in that same year, the Allies turned the tide. They stopped Axis advances in North Africa, the Soviet Union, and the Pacific and they defeated Japan in the Battle of Midway.
On June 6, 1944, which became known as D-Day, Allies landed on the beaches of occupied France, and then drove on into Germany, while the Soviet army closed in from the east. Germany finally surrendered on May 7, 1945.
A series of battles in the Pacific brought the Allies to Japan's doorstep. Then, on August 6 and August 9, the United States unleashed a fearsome new weapon: the atomic bomb. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. In a week, the Japanese had surrendered. The war was over.
Adapted from Scholastic's Update magazine.