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Primary Sources: World War II

Welcome to the World War II Primary Source Guide

The global conflict known as World War II, spanning from 1939 to 1945, involved the vast majority of nations, with two main military alliances emerging: the Allies and the Axis powers. Over 100 million personnel from 30 countries participated directly, with both sides leveraging their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the war effort. Aircraft played a significant role, facilitating strategic bombing and the deployment of nuclear weapons.

World War II resulted in an unprecedented loss of life, with estimates ranging from 70 to 85 million fatalities, primarily civilians. Genocides, starvation, massacres, and disease further compounded the human tragedy. Following the defeat of the Axis powers, Germany and Japan faced occupation, and war crimes tribunals were held.

Various factors contributed to the outbreak of the war, including territorial disputes, ideological tensions, and the aftermath of previous conflicts. The invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 marked the beginning of hostilities, prompting declarations of war from the United Kingdom and France.

The war unfolded across multiple theaters, including Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa. Key events included the Allied victory in North Africa, the D-Day landings, and the Soviet counteroffensive on the Eastern Front. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor led to the United States entering the war, further shifting the balance of power.

The conflict concluded with the liberation of occupied territories and the defeat of Germany and Japan. The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened Japan's surrender. World War II brought about significant geopolitical and social changes, leading to the establishment of the United Nations and the emergence of the United States and the Soviet Union as superpowers. Decolonization efforts followed, along with initiatives aimed at economic recovery and integration.

The World War II Primary Source Guide provides invaluable firsthand accounts, documents, and artifacts from individuals who experienced the conflict firsthand. Through these primary sources, users gain unique insights into the Second World War personal experiences, struggles, and triumphs during one of the most significant chapters in world history. This guide is a curated collection of resources, but it is not the end of your research, nor does it offer everything. It is merely the beginning of your journey into the events that engulfed the entire world and all who lived during it. 

World War II - Media