Japan wanted to spread to all the major seas and continents. The Japanese needed to take China first. With this country, most of their supplies would be taken care of. The first place in China to take would be Manchuria. This was a half million square miles of land that was very valuable to the Japanese. It was filled with a lot of minerals included iron, coal, oil, and gold. Also, with Manchuria, the Japanese could possibly take Russia.
In 1931, a small Chinese bomb exploded on the Japanese-controlled South Manchurian Railway. The damage was very small, but the Japanese took it as a revolt. On September 18, 1931, the Japanese army struck and took Mukden along with 10,000 Chinese prisoners. The Chinese consulted the League of Nations, which said it would review their case. But Japan decided to take all of Manchuria. They took it in January of 1932. The Japanese then turned south into deep China, where they met their opposition, the Chinese Nineteenth Route Army. They fought heavily, and in the end, 20,000 Chinese lives were lost. The Japanese only lost 3,000.
The Japanese then killed prisoners, raped woman and killed children. On March 9, 1932, Manchuria was transformed into the State of Manchu by the Japanese. The Chinese reacted by cutting Japanese exports by 94 percent. The Chinese finally set out on an agreement. On May 31, 1932, the Japanese agreed to take the Great Wall to a line from Tienstin to Peiping. Japan also later withdrew from the League of Nations in mid October. The U.S. was very much opposed to Japan's aggression.
The Manchuria Incident was the first incident that led to the chain reactions of World War II.
Hitler believed that Germans were the master race. He also believed that Christianity was a fraud invented by the Jews. Hitler also believed that he would obtain his "Third Reich"(An empire that lasts a thousand years). Many people took Hitler's beliefs as a joke and were not really threatened. But they should've been.
Inside Germany, millions joined the National Socialist Party. They all hated the Versailles Peace Treaty and their economy. Money lost it's value very fast... it was almost worthless.
The government inside Germany was weak, and the nation's economy plummeted. Millions were out of their jobs, and food was very hard to find. The Germans were without aid too. The big powerful nation, The United States, was in a depression; which left many countries(including Germany) in need for aid. Hitler picked the perfect moment and time for his appearance. He would rise when Germany was the weakest.
Hitler was a master of speech. He blamed everything on the Jews, and raised the spirits of many unemployed, poverish families. Other countries didn't believe in Hitler's speeches, but German citizens just sat hypnotized by his words. Hitler ordered the assassination of German enemies, and herded many to concentration camps. With all these promises, the German accepted Hitler as their leader. And with this great leader, the German people respected him almost as their God. The German people started their famous salutes, and screamed out Heil Hitler!
Hitler now set up his famous concentration camps. Millions of Jews were sent to these camps, as well as hated enemies of other countries. Gas chambers, firing squads, ovens, and medical experiments were some of the many ways to dispose of the Jews. Gold from their teeth was taken out of the dead, and bodily ashes fertilized German fields. It was a horrific sight for all of the world. Hitler was going to make this world suffer... it was just a matter of time.
In Russia, under Josef Stalin, they were also sending people to concentration camps in Siberia. The Japanese were reshaping their nation. Italy under Mussolini was also planning to create his new Roman Empire. Russia, Italy, and Japan were all Allies to America in World War I. But time has changed. They were all threats to America now.
Mussolini was one of the first to try out his dream of an empire. Mussolini wanted to revive the once great Roman Empire, and he wanted to rule the Mediterranean. Mussolini had brought great things to Italy. He had wiped out communism, stopped unemployment, and helped the industries. The depression hit, and Italians started to lose faith in Mussolini. Mussolini needed to get foreign assets for his country... and this started with Ethiopia. His plan was to invade the country, stop the slavery and demand payment. It was simple, in his mind.
On December 5, 1934, Italian troops inside the Ethiopian border were attacked by the Ethiopians. One hundred Ethiopian and 30 Italian troops were killed. Mussolini demanded an apology. But Haile Selassie(the Ethiopian leader), refused. Mussolini, outraged, sent reinforcements to Ethiopia. The League of Nations, seeing this as an act of war, ordered other League of Nation countries not to give Italy loans, purchase goods, or sell goods to Italy. The thing the League of Nations left out was the oil part. So, despite all the restrictions, oil was allowed to be sold and distributed to Italy. Despite the League of Nations, the U.S., Germany, Japan, and Brazil declined their request for not supplying Italy. The U.S. was going to be neutral, and therefore, would not try to make any other countries mad. If Mussolini asked for it, he got it.
The British and French countries decided the conquest of Ethiopia was not worth a war. When Mussolini learned this, he launched ten divisions along with some African troops to help him out. This totaled out to be 250,000 Italian troops, plus 150,000 Africans. They troops had all the war materials they needed. When the attacks did come, the Ethiopians(who were armed with spears, swords, and poles) lashed out at the Italians in a near suicidal charge. The Ethiopians decapitated any Italians they captured, and with this, the Italians decided to spray them with mustard gas. Planes also reaked havok on the Ethiopians. Men fighting on horses were bombed from unknown sources in the sky. It was a terrible fight.
The beginning of 1936 marked the end of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie was taken at Lake Ashangi in April, but escaped on May 2nd. Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, was captured on May 5th. On May 9, 1936, King Victor Emmanuel III was announced Emperor of Ethiopia. Ethiopia was now the Italians. The Italians lost 2,813 troops, 1,593 native soldiers and 435 Italian workers. The League of Nations was now the League of Incompetence. Mussolini proved this, and this gave Hitler a good reason to start a war.
In 1936, the Italian and German forces under Mussolini and Hitler, went into Spain to support Fascist General Francisco Franco. Spain was in a civil war, and with this, came one of the bloodiest civil wars in European history. The intervention with Hitler's and Mussolini's armies was also called a dress rehearsal, because it was to see if their armies would work.
Spain had an unstable government. Illiteracy and poverty was experienced by most Spanish citizens. To top it off, in the elections of 1933, the "Left" Communists, Anarchists, and Syndicalists were all running for office. They lost. The country was split into two parts. The right and left. The Right was controlling the government, and sought to change many laws. More tension was starting due to these changes. Fascism then started to rise in power. It was founded by Antonio Primo de Rivera. It was clear that Spain was brewing for a war, and Hitler and Mussolini would help support it.
Mussolini promised Spanish monarchists 20,000 rifles, 20,000 grenades, and 200 machine guns. Fascism continued to increase in popularity. In 1936, new elections were held, the Popular Front held 260 seats in Cortes, and rivals had 213. The Left and Right powers were starting to get touchy. The Spanish army was told that it was up to them to win back their country. The explosion that set it off was on July 13, 1936 when a monarchist leader was killed.
Francisco Franco was one of the nominees to take it over. In 1934, Franco was chief of the General Staff, but was dismissed in 1936 by the Popular Front. When Sanjurjo died, Franco flew to Morocco. He then claimed Commander in Chief of Morocco. Franco then called on the Spanish army to help him take back Spain. The Spanish army was ready. They had 100,000 men ready to fight. On July 17, 1936, Franco's forces organized themselves for attack. They went into Spain and took Toledo on September 27, 1936.
The Toledo incident set off the civil war. It was Fascism against Communism. Hitler and Mussolini loved the idea of the Spanish Civil War. They thought it would be a good time to test Fascism, take out Communism, and test their troops and weapons. It was indeed a dress rehearsal. On July 28, 1936, Franco was having trouble transferring his troops from Morocco to the mainland, and with this, Hitler sent 30 transport planes along with heavy war supplies to Franco. With Hitler's and Mussolini's help, Franco had 30,000 Italian troops, and 12,000 German troops under his command. Russia also sent materials into Spain in November of 1936, but his fight was against Fascism. He pumped troops and supplies into the communist effort. With all this help, and little opposition, Franco was ready.
Franco ordered his armies, loaded with war materials, into Spain, and within a few months, they had taken half of the country. Franco and his troops then surrounded Madrid in early 1937. By May of 1938, Franco had taken two thirds of Spain. On March 28, 1938, Madrid surrendered. The Spanish Civil War was over.
Franco then restored the Spanish Army, abolished labor unions, and arrested between 500,000 to 2,000,000. At the end of the battle, over a million men were killed. It also strengthened the Axis even more.
In 1933, the United States, under President Roosevelt, decided on being a "good neighbor." To prove this, President Roosevelt withdrew forces from Haiti. Cuba, which had been under U.S. military control since 1901. To prove that Roosevelt was a "good neighbor", a treaty was signed by the U.S. stating that it wouldn't intervene with Cuba in May of 1934.
The Americans also had trouble with the Japanese. On December 12, 1937, the gunboat Panay on the Yangtze River in China was destroyed by the Japanese. Two Americans died. The Japanese paid 2 million dollars in damaged, but this still left some tension.
The United States citizens did not forget what happened in the first World War. They had seen countless numbers of Americans killed in the war, and would refuse to see it again. With this attitude, President Roosevelt was in a no-win situation. He couldn't send troops abroad even if he wanted to... If America was going to war, they would have to be forced into it. Also, Americans who had immigrated from Germany, Japan, or Italy were not ready to fight their own nations. American Nazis were also common in the U.S. The avoid war, President Roosevelt also passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934. This act stated that the U.S. would move out of the Philippines in 12 years. This was to avoid a war in the Pacific. Additonal acts were passed in 1935 and 1936 to prevent going to war. These acts stopped the U.S. from selling arms and supplies to the war nations. The acts were put to the test during the Spanish Civil War. During this time, America strengthened it's neutrality laws. It would not supply either side.
After all this debate, the U.S. still wasn't sure about it's neutrality. In 1937, a cash-and-carry act was passed stating that a nation in war had to pay cash to the U.S. for materials before it left the shore. The country also had to carry the war materials in it's own ships at it's own risks. Desperate for neutrality, President Roosevelt then suggested a world conference in January of 1938. The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said he wouldn't do it.
Into Hitler's so called "Third Reich", was to come all the "German blooded" people. Some were in Germany, and others were in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Hitler's first target was Austria.
When Hitler came into power in 1933, he immediately encouraged German Nazis in Austria to attack Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuse. In late July 1934, the Austrian Nazis gave Hitler his wish and assassinated Dollfuss. Mussolini, who befriended Dollfuss, mobilized his Italian army at the Austrian border, but Hitler backed down(His army wasn't strong enough yet). For Mussolini, this was a chance to protect Austria. In January of 1935, Mussolini made a pact with France, with stated that they supported an independent Austria. In 1935 at the Stresa Converence in Italy, Mussolini joined France and Great Britain in an attempt to keep peace throughout all Europe. Hitler even said he would respect the boundaries of Austria.
Hitler was cooking something though. On March 15, 1935, the German Luftwaffe(their air force) was created. He violated the Treaty of Versailles, and started to produce armaments. On March 7, 1936, Hitler ordered his troops into the Rhineland(a demilitarized zone). Hitler feared the French would resist the Germans because his army was very weak, but they didn't. Hermann Goering came into power after he stabbed Colonel General Freiherr Werner von Fritsch in the back(not literally) with some evidence that he was a homosexual. It wasn't true, but it was too late. Hermann Goering was now one of Hitler's main guys. Hitler also wanted to be head of the military. On February 3, 1938, he announced the retirement of the top echelon of the Reichswehr. He then took supreme command. He then set up the new top military authority called the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. The leaders of this army were Colonel General Wilhelm Keitel and Colonel General Alfred Jodl. Hermann Goering was given the title Field Marshal.
Hitler now had control of the military, got rid of the officers that opposed him, and got people to follow him to his death(which many did).
Now Hitler was ready. After Dollfuss was assassinated, Kurt von Schuschnigg was appointed Chancellor. Franz von Papen, a German ambassador in Vienna, went to talk Schuschnigg into seeing Hitler at Berchtesgaden. When Schuschnigg arrived, he was shocked by the angry, and cruelful manner in which he was treated. Hitler denounced Schuschnigg and said that Mussolini wouldn't help him. He stated that if Italy came to Austrias aid, he would push them back to Naples. Hitler then showed Schuschnigg plans of his attack on Austria. Hitler said he would back down if Austrians could practice Nazi tactics, engage in legal activity, the assassins of Dollfus were released, Seyss-Inquart was to be made minister of security, and the Austrian army would allow one hundred German officers into it's army.
Hitler then gave his famous Reichstag address. He put down Great Britain, the League of Nations, and the democracies of the west. This didn't stop Schuschnigg from stabbing Hitler in the back. On March 9, 1938, Schuschnigg decided he would hold a national plebiscite the next Sunday to question Austrian independence. Hitler learned of this, and told Schuschnigg to withdraw the plebiscite or be invaded. Schuschnigg, weeping, told the Austrian army to demobilize and retire, and asked for God's help. To help the situation, Schuschnigg then let Seyss-Inquart the status of Chancellor on March 11, 1938. But it was too late.
German forces were already past the Austrian border, and by 12 p.m. on March 12, 1938, Vienna was taken. With Austria in his hands, Hitler added 6,500,000 people into his growing empire. President Miklas of Austria resigned, and Schuschnigg was imprisoned. Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess then placed a reaf on Otto Planetta's grave, whom killed Dollfuss. Then the arrests came. Jews, Catholics, and other anti-nazis were taken into jail. More than 30,000 people were eventually arrested. Next on Hitler's agenda was Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakian Germans were horribly treated, and they made up more than half of the unemployed in the country. All Hitler needed was a lit fuse. In May of 1938, two German citizens were killed in a frontier incident. Hitler then sent troops to the Czechoslovakian border. Hitler, faced with resistance from strong Czechoslovakian, French, British, and Russian armies backed down. Hitler later informed his Generals on May 30, 1938 to think of a way to take Czechoslovakia by military action by October 1, 1938. The operation would be called Green. Inside Czechoslovakia, Germans continued to be killed, and treated badly. On September 12, 1938, Hitler suggested in a speech that he come to the aid of these Germans. Prime Minister Chamberlain of Great Britain flew to Berchtesgaden three times to get Hitler to calm down, but these didn't work.
Inside the Sudeten territory inside Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain was ordered by Hitler to order the districts inhabited by the Sudeten Germans to Hitler in order to prevent a future war. The Czechoslovak cabinet said no, and it resigned. Hitler was infuriated. Chamberlain flew to Godesberg to talk to Hitler, but Hitler demanded even more this time. Hitler explained that on October 1st, if the demands were not met, then the Germans would march into Czechoslovakia taking what was theirs. Hitler gave Chamberlain a map of his attack route on Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain then flew back to Great Britain and presented the Czechs with the map and told them of the demands. Again the Czechs refused.
Mussolini then decided to get into it and talk it out between the four powers(Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France). On September 26, 1938, Hitler assured Chamberlain that if Sudaten was taken, Germany would back down on all other European conquests. This promise was given in a speech in Berlin. Chamberlain then flew to Germany for his third time... this time in Munich. There, Chamberlain agreed to accept all of Hitler's demands and that on October 1, 1938, Hitler's armies could walk into Czechoslovakia. The Czechs were supposed to drop everything and leave, and then Great Britain and Germany signed a peace agreement. Chamberlain was now under the impression that no more claims would be taken.
The promise was broken. Hitler demanded more. Emil Hacha, the president of Czechoslovakia, was called to Berlin. On March 15, 1939, the president signed a treaty that turned Czechoslovakia into a German occupied country. With Czechoslovakia in his hands, another World War was inevitable. It was just a matter of when he would strike.
Even after the Manchuria Incident, the Japanese still wanted more. Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany on November 25, 1936 in the name of anti-communism. This brought Japan into the Axis. In June of 1937, General Hideki Tojo, chief of staff of the Kwantung Army, told Tokyo that they must strike at China before they became to strong. Chiang Kai-shek, China's leader, was building up the Chinese forces, and Tojo was afraid that soon they would be too strong for the Japanese. The Japanese decided to wait for an incident.
On July 7, 1937, Japan got it's excuse. They claimed that on Marco Polo bridge near Lukouchiao, the Chinese attacked their troops. With this, Japanese troops stormed into North China. They took Nanking in December of 1937, Canton in October of 1938 and Hankow also in October of 1938. By the end of 1938, Chinese resistance stopped.
The Japanese, already famous for their barbaric treatment of prisoners, beheaded, raped, and murdered many prisoners and Chinese civilians. The Japanese found further resistance deeper inside China from guerilla warfare, but they kept pushing on. Hainan was taken in February of 1939 and laid out plans to take the French Indo-China. The Japanese penetration in China then caused many problems with their relationship with the U.S. This would lead to war.
On July 26, 1939, the State Department moved against the Japanese war machine. The United States also informed Japan that in six months, the Japanese-American Commercial Treaty would end. After this treaty ended, Congress would be under no pressure to sell war materials to Japan. Japan would then be without many valuable supplies... They would have to get them somehow.
In November of 1938, President Roosevelt asked Congress to remove the arms embargo so the U.S. could help the countries attacked by the aggressor nations. Congress refused, because most Americans were strictly against another war, and wanted to stay strictly neutral. After Czechoslovakia was taken on March 15, 1939, Great Britain announced that it would maintain Poland's independence. Mussolini invaded Albania on April 7th, 1939, and with this, Great Britain also guaranteed Greece and Romania help if they were attacked as well.
President Roosevelt tried to get Mussolini and Hitler to sign a pact. Roosevelt made a list of 31 nations that shouldn't be attacked for a period of ten years, and asked Hitler and Mussolini to abide by this list. In return, Germany and Italy would get the assurance that they would not attack them.
Hitler laughed at the remark and criticized the democracies stating that they weren't ready for war; they were too weak. War was almost certain.
Germany and Russia shocked the world when a ten year, non-aggression pact was signed between the two nations. Hitler decided to do it to avoid a two-front war. With this pact, Hitler could launch an offensive against Poland. Stalin also signed the pact for a good reason. He feared that one day, France, Great Britain, and Germany would all turn their heads on Russia and attack. With this pact, his fears were calmed.
The March 15, 1939 pact between Poland, Great Britain, and France was not reassuring with Hitler. If he attacked Poland, he would be at war with France, Great Britain, and most likely Russia. With the pact, Hitler could face one way, and not have to worry what was behind him. With the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Hitler was practically "given" Poland. Russia was then free to take Finland, Estonia, Latvia, eastern Poland, Bessarabia, and Lithuania. With the signing, Hitler was free of the fear of war against Russia while Germany was weak. Germany was now free to attack Poland. The signing occurred on August 23 of 1939.