The Anguish of War
Eighty Anniversary of the World War II
From the previous issue
In summer of 1939 the Polish government committed a grave mistake when it refused the USSR proposal to allow Soviet forces to pass through its territory with the aim of preventing the German aggression in the event of its invasion of Poland. Earlier on the USSR had also got a refusal for similar proposals to Czechoslovakia and Romania.
In such a situation, having found out that it had been left alone before the obvious danger of aggression, in 1939 the USSR had no alternative but to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany- known as the "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact". Those who are now trying to "rewrite" history and claim that it was this pact that pushed Hitler to war, for some reason "forget" about the Munich Agreement of 1938. In fact, this pact enabled the Soviet Union to hold back Hitler's attack for almost two years and to strengthen the defense capability of Soviet forces. Furthermore, the treaty facilitated the conclusion of neutrality pact with Japan which had a subsequent importance for the USSR in the battles against German fascism.
The beginning of the war
On 1st September, 1939, after a provocation carried out by German "secret services" military operations began against Poland. Two days later, England and France declared war against Germany. They were immediately supported by Canada, New Zealand and Australia, India and the Union of South Africa. The capture of Poland turned into a world war. But Poland did not receive a real help that it needed so much.
Two German armies consisting of 62 divisions occupied a big part of Poland in just two weeks. The government of that country fled to Romania. Heroism of the Polish soldiers was not enough to defend the country. 0n 17 th September the USSR deployed its forces in Western Ukraine and took back Western Belorussia which had belonged to the Russian Empire before the First World War.
That is how 80 years ago, on 1st September,1939 the first stage of the Second World War began. Until May 1940, England and France had not changed their policies, hoping that Germany would continue its offensive only to the East. But things did not turn out that way.
The most important events of The Second World War
In April 1940 Denmark fell in the path of the German army and Norway followed suit immediately. The German army carried out the attack on France through its neighboring countries - The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The French fortifications of "Maginot line" of defense could not withstand it and already on 20th May Germans reached the English Channel. The armies of Holland and Belgium capitulated. The French fleet was defeated. French, British and Belgian forces which had been blockaded by the Germans in the region of the French port of Dunkirk were evacuated to England. The French government fled from Paris and signed an act of surrender. Next in line was the United Kingdom. The Germans formed a blockade of the island and went on to bombard English cities with bombs dropped from airplanes. The steadfast defense of the island in 1940 (Battle for England) briefly restrained the aggression. During this time war began to unwind in the Balkans. On 1stApril, 1940 the fascists seized Bulgaria while on 6th April they took Greece and Yugoslavia. As a result, the whole of Western and Central Europe now fell under Hitler's rule. From Europe, the war spread on to other parts of the world. Italian-German troops launched an offensive in North Africa, and in the fall of 1941 it was planned to begin the conquest of the Middle East and India with a farther joining of German and Japanese troops. And in the worked-out directive No. 32 the German militarism assumed that, having solved the British problem and having defeated the USSR, it would have eliminated the influence of the Anglo-Saxons on the American continent.
Germany began preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union.
This attack began on 22nd June, 1941, and with it, the second phase of the war began. For the destruction of the Soviet Union, Germany and its allies deployed an invasion army of unprecedented magnitude in history. It consisted of 182 divisions and 20 brigades (about 5 million people, 4.4 thousand tanks, 4.4 thousand airplanes, more than 47 thousand guns and mortars, 246 ships). Germany was supported by Romania, Finland and Hungary while Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain, Portugal and Turkey rendered assistance.
The Soviet Union was not fully prepared to repulse this invasion. And so, summer and autumn of 1941 were most critical for the country. The Soviet Army suffered huge losses in the first months of the battles. The fascist troops were able to advance from 850 to 1200 kilometers into Soviet territory. The city of Leningrad was blockaded, the Germans were able to get closer to the capital - Moscow, large parts of Donbass and the Crimea were seized and the Baltic Sea region was occupied.
But the war against the Soviet Union did not go as Hitler and his generals had wished. The plan of a "lightning" capture of Moscow and Leningrad failed. The defeat of Germans in the battle of Moscow destroyed the myth of the invincibility of their army. Such "blitzkrieg" of Hitler as in Western Europe did not work in Russia.
It was at this time when all military forces in the world began to unite against fascism. Churchill and Roosevelt officially announced that they would support the Soviet Union, and on 12th July, the USSR and Britain concluded an agreement. On 2nd August the United States pledged to provide economic and military assistance to the Soviet Army. On 14th August England and the USA promulgated the Atlantic Charter (The Atlantic Charter) which the USSR joined.
In September, Soviet and British troops occupied Iran in order to prevent the creation of fascist bases in the East. In December 1941, the military situation in the Pacific deteriorated. The Japanese attacked the American naval base of Pearl Harbor. The Americans declared war against Italy, Japan and Germany.
In the Pacific, in Southeast Asia and in North Africa, at first, not everything was in favor of the Allies. Japan seized part of China, French Indochina, Malaya, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Forces of the army and navy of Great Britain, Holland and the United States suffered great losses in the Java operations.
...To be continued
The writer is the Counsellor, Embassy of the Russian Federation, Bangladesh and
Director of the Russian Center for
Science & Culture in Dhaka