The Day World War II Ended

Sep 11, 2015 By Anita R
Anita R's picture

Location: USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay

Date: September 2, 1945

Scene: Japan formally surrenders to the Allies marking an end to World War II

World War II lasted 6 years to the date from when it started in 1939. It was the bloodiest war the world had ever seen and involved virtually every country of the world. An estimated 50 to 70 million people (nearly 3% of the world population then) were killed and several hundred million injured all over the world.

How The World Aligned

World War II was a battle between the Axis Powers consisting mainly of Germany, Italy, and Japan and the Allies that included the U.S, Britain, France, Soviet Union, and China, and other nations.

The war had begun because of an unprovoked attack on Poland by Germany on Sep 1, 1939. Germany had lost a lot of its land and had been banned from having armed forces after its loss in World War I. There was discontent in the country and one man took advantage of the situation to become its leader - Adolf Hitler. In response to the attack on Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. 

In the early years of the conflict, the Axis powers successfully advanced throughout Europe. However, the tide began turning for the Allies after the British forces halted Germany's advance through Western Europe in late 1940. The US was reluctantly drawn into the war after an attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

By 1942 though, the Axis countries were unable to fight on multiple fronts and began to lose their momentum. The Battle of Stalingrad and the D-Day attacks by the Allies on the beaches of Normandy brought significant victories for the Allies in 1944.

On April 27, 1945, Mussolini -- the Italian dictator, was caught and killed while attempting to flee. Three days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide, while hiding in a bunker after the bloody battle of Berlin. With the death of the two most powerful leaders, the Axis forces in Europe quickly began to surrender and by early May Germany agreed to a ceasefire. 

The Atomic Option

However, the war was not over yet. Japan - the last holdout of the Axis powers, had not yet surrendered. When Japan had got involved in the war, they had been winning most of their battles. 

The 1940's also saw the dawn of the nuclear arms race. Several nations had been working to create the bomb. America was the first to do so in July 1945 in the deserts of New Mexico. In an effort to end the war, America decided to drop two bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (on Aug 6th) and Nagasaki (on Aug 9th). The devastating events were too much for Japan and the country finally surrendered on Aug 15, 1945. 

The surrender documents were officially signed by Japan on Sep 2, 1945. It brought to end a six-year war that had caused death and destruction around the world.

Critical Thinking: Certainly World War II was a tragedy for the world. But certainly, it spawned innovation and research in many areas - more so than at any other times in history. What do you think the world would be like today if World War II had not happened?