The Allies and the Axis
The Allies and the Axis
Two sets of countries fought World War II. The alliance of Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan was known as the Axis. Several other countries were members of the Axis or cooperated with it at different times. The countries fighting them were called the Allies. Originally, the major Allies were Great Britain and France, but France surrendered to Germany in June 1940. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, which then allied with Britain. In December 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and attacked British and American possessions in the Pacific. The United States declared war on Japan. A few days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. The United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union were now fighting Germany. The United States and Britain were at war with Japan.
The lineup of countries fighting the war was complicated, as were their relationships with one another. Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States were not allies before they went to war, as Britain and France were. Each went to war against Germany at different times and for different reasons. Each had different goals. And although all three wanted to win the war, each had different ideas about the best way to do this. These ideas were strongly influenced by each country's goals for the war and by their hopes for the kind of world they wanted to see afterward.
Western Allies and the Soviet Union
The most serious differences were between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies (Britain and the United States). These differences arose out of basic mistrust. The Soviet Union was a communist country. (Communism is a political and economic system based on government ownership of factories, banks, and most other businesses.) The British and Americans were always afraid that the Soviets were planning to impose communism wherever their army conquered. The Soviets feared that the Western Allies still wanted to strangle their communist system, which they had in fact tried to do before World War II.
In addition, both sides were always worried that the other would seek to make peace with Germany without their consent. Each thought it had good reasons to fear this. The Soviets had signed a treaty with German leader Adolf Hitler in August 1939 that allowed Germany to fight Britain and France without fear of Soviet intervention. (See Chapter 2.) The Soviets believed that Britain and France had given in to Hitler for years, seeing him as an insurance policy against communism and hoping to encourage him to attack Soviet Russia. (See Chapter 1.)
These disputes were significant, but they should not be exaggerated. Germany always hoped and predicted that suspicions would destroy the Alliance, but that was never a real possibility. Even in the most serious arguments, both sides recognized how important it was to stay together until Germany was defeated. Afterward, the Alliance fell apart quickly. (See Chapter 17.) But as long as the danger of Hitler's Germany existed, the three members of the Grand Alliance stayed together.
The United States and Britain
The closest relationship, and the one with the fewest disputes, developed between the United States and Britain. But even this association was marked by strong differences on some issues.
Cooperation between the British and Americans began very early in the war. In September 1940, the United States gave the British old but much-needed warships in return for the use of naval bases on British islands in the Caribbean. In March 1941, Congress passed the Lend-Lease law, which, in effect, allowed Britain to purchase huge quantities of arms and supplies on credit. Then, even though the United States was still neutral, the American navy played an increasing role in protecting the ships that carried these supplies from America to England. (Early U.S.-British cooperation is described in Chapter 3.)
In November 1940, more than a year before Pearl Harbor, high-ranking military officers from the two countries met secretly to discuss a common military strategy if the United States entered the war. They decided that in case of war with both Japan and Germany, both countries would concentrate on defeating Germany first.
The Atlantic Charter
In August 1941, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister (head of the government) Winston Churchill met aboard a warship off the coast of Newfoundland (now part of Canada) in the North Atlantic, the first in a series of personal meetings that continued until Roosevelt's death almost four years later. Privately, Roosevelt reaf-firmed the Germany first strategy to Churchill.
Publicly, the Newfoundland meeting resulted in a joint British-American declaration called the Atlantic Charter. The Atlantic Charter committed Britain and the United States to oppose territorial changes unless they were the "freely expressed" desire of the people involved. This statement was a promise to restore the borders of the European countries Nazi Germany had taken over. But it also seemed to support independence for the Asian and African colonies of European powers such as Britain, France, and the Netherlands if the native people of those countries wanted it.
The issue of colonies reflected one of the basic disagreements between the United States and Britain. Roosevelt was very hostile to colonies, an attitude shared by most Americans. Some historians have said this attitude comes from the fact that the United States itself was once a group of thirteen British colonies that fought a revolution to win their freedom.
Critics of American policy have often argued that the United States opposed colonies because it could influence and even dominate other countries through its economic power, without having to use its army or run a country directly. They point to U.S. influence in Latin America as an example. Whether or not this is true, Roosevelt's attitude and American public opinion encouraged colonized people to seek independence. At that time, there was a strong independence movement in India, the largest and most important British colony. And of all British political leaders, Churchill was the most strongly opposed to Indian independence.
The Arcadia Conference
Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Churchill and top British military leaders flew to Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings code-named Arcadia, that lasted from December 22, 1941, to January 14, 1942. The fact that the head of the British government, together with his most important military officers, spent that much time away from his country in wartime shows how vital these meetings were.
The Arcadia Conference made several decisions that directed the entire war effort. The Germany first policy became official. The two countries agreed that they would make decisions on how to use all economic and military resources together. This was an extremely unusual arrangement, even for close allies. The two countries also created a Combined Chiefs of Staff made up of the commanders of the army, navy, and air force of each country. Since this committee met in Washington, the British commanders each named a permanent substitute to represent them when they were not present.
This system worked for the rest of the war. The British representatives, who were in constant contact with Britain, met to decide their positions, and the Americans did the same. Then the Combined Chiefs of Staff met—200 times during the war—to agree on all British-American war operations. They often disagreed on details, but they usually worked them out. Roosevelt and Churchill settled the major disagreements.
Roosevelt and Churchill
In addition to their personal meetings, Roosevelt and Churchill constantly exchanged opinions, information, and arguments by coded radio messages. According to Churchill, he sent 950 messages to Roosevelt during the war and got 800 messages in return.
Through these messages and their face-to-face meetings, Roosevelt and Churchill developed a genuine respect and affection for each other. Although some writers have probably exaggerated the importance of this personal relationship, historians generally agree that it played a significant part in making British-American cooperation work so well.
Roosevelt loved sailing, ships, and the navy, and as president he was commander in chief of all U.S. armed forces. But he was not really interested in military strategy and did not pretend to be an expert. Instead, he listened to and trusted his advisers on the purely military aspects of the war. The most important American military leader was General George C. Marshall, the army chief of staff. But the final decision on how America would fight the war, such as defeating Germany first, Roosevelt made himself.
Churchill had been an army officer as a young man and had been in charge of the British navy during World War I. He not only expressed opinions about military matters but also tried hard to convince Roosevelt—and everyone else— about strategy, tactics, and personnel. As one British naval writer put it after the war, there was not a single British admiral from 1939 to 1943 whom Churchill did not try to fire. He did the same with plenty of generals as well. (In fact, Hitler told his own generals that they were lucky that, compared with Churchill, he generally left them alone.)
Military strategy and the second front
The most important disagreement between the British and Americans also involved the Soviet Union. This was the question of the timing and location of a second front in Europe. A front is a combat zone, the area where two opposing armies are in contact. After France surrendered in June 1940, no major Allied army fought the Germans for a year. Then in June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and the two armies fought, with immense losses on both sides, until the end of the war.
After the invasion, the Soviets immediately pressed the British to open a second front in western Europe. They wanted British troops fighting the Germans as close to Germany as possible to take pressure off the Soviet armies. But in 1941, the British did not have the troops, landing ships, tanks, artillery, or planes to mount a successful invasion. When the United States entered the war, the Soviets pushed the Americans as well as the British for a second front.
The United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union all agreed on the Germany first strategy. But to the American military leaders and the Soviets, Germany first meant a major invasion of western Europe—probably in France—as soon as possible. After crossing France, the British and Americans could attack Germany from the west, while the Soviets closed in from the east. They thought this was the fastest—and probably only—way to defeat Germany.
The British, however, resisted an invasion of western Europe. They feared that an invasion before they were fully prepared would end in disaster. They remembered the way the German army had defeated them in France in 1940 (see Chapter 2) and the terrible bloodshed of World War I, when armies attacked built-up defensive positions. The Americans had never been defeated by the Germans and were far more optimistic.
Fighting around the edges
Instead, Churchill and his military chiefs preferred fighting around the edges of German-controlled Europe. One example was the campaign in Egypt and Libya, mostly against the Italians. Another was Churchill's ongoing interest in sending British troops to fight the Germans in Greece. (See Chapter 3 for details on both operations.)
The British-American invasion of North Africa in November 1942 (Operation Torch) was part of this strategy to fight around the edges. (Operation Torch is described in more detail in Chapter 10.) The British convinced the Americans that while it was impossible to invade France in 1942, Torch would be a good way to get American troops fighting the Germans, something Roosevelt, Marshall, and the American people all strongly favored. It took until May 1943 to clear Axis forces out of North Africa. At that point, Churchill and the British argued for an invasion of Sicily (a large Italian island at the toe of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula), which began in July 1943, and then of Italy itself, beginning in September. These operations were designed to knock Italy out of the war, which they did. (See Chapter 10.) But the United States agreed to them only on condition that they would not delay the main second front against Germany. However, it became clear that an invasion of France would not be possible in 1943—partly because of the military personnel and equipment tied up in the Italian campaign.
General Marshall and other American leaders always saw the North African and Italian campaigns as sideshows that did not really advance the war against Germany. Worse, they came to believe these operations actually hurt this goal by diverting scarce resources. At the beginning of 1944, with the invasion of France scheduled for spring, Churchill was still trying to postpone it in favor of other strategies. He wanted to send the Allied armies from Italy into Yugoslavia and toward Vienna, the capital of Austria. But Churchill's plan could take years: the Allied armies were still bogged down in southern Italy.
Roosevelt and his advisers always suspected that Churchill's arguments were aimed at keeping British economic and political influence in Greece, southeastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. Many historians also believe Churchill was afraid that otherwise the Soviets would control these areas after the war.
Western military historians generally agree with the British that an invasion of western Europe in 1942 would have resulted in disaster. Most also believe that the British were right not to invade in 1943 either. Soviet historians, while admitting that an earlier invasion probably would have cost the lives of many more British and American soldiers, point out that, in the meantime, their soldiers were dying instead.
This view reflects the attitude of the Soviet leaders during the war. They always suspected that their allies wanted the Soviet Union to come out of the war in a very weak condition. At the very least, the British seemed to be saying that they would invade western Europe only after the Soviets spent years fighting and severely weakening the German army. Since the Soviets lost far more soldiers and civilians than any other country (an incredible 7 million soldiers and at least 13 million civilians), it is easy to understand the Soviet leaders' resentment. (In comparison, about 250,000 British troops and 60,000 civilians died; the United States lost about 300,000 soldiers and almost no civilians.)
The Free French
Another disagreement between Churchill and Roosevelt involved their attitudes toward General Charles de Gaulle and his Free French movement. De Gaulle had been a little-known French one-star general who had refused to surrender to the Germans in 1940 and had instead retreated to England. (The defeat of France in 1940 is described in Chapter 2.) From there, he had used the British radio to call on the French to keep fighting alongside the British. He had organized the Free French (later called Fighting France) troops, which were part of the Allied armies.
DeGaulle leads the Free French
After much maneuvering over several years, the many different resistance organizations within German-occupied France had accepted de Gaulle as their overall leader and his organization as the rightful government of their country. But the Allies had not. Churchill was the most favorable to de Gaulle, partly because he was grateful that de Gaulle had urged France to continue fighting alongside Britain at a time when it looked as if Britain would lose the war. But Churchill had concluded that because of its superior economic strength, the United States would play the key role in the war. That meant that on issues that were important to the Americans, Churchill would always side with them.
United States supports General Giruad
And the Americans did not support de Gaulle. Part of the reason was Roosevelt's personal dislike of de Gaulle, who, everyone agrees, was a difficult person to get along with. The more help de Gaulle got, the less grateful he seemed. But Roosevelt also felt that de Gaulle was an old-fashioned military man who did not believe in democracy. He did not want the Allies to impose de Gaulle and his movement on the French people.
Instead, the Americans seemed to be searching for some other military man to replace de Gaulle. They came up with General Henri Giraud, who had commanded an army in 1940, been captured by the Germans, and escaped. But there were several problems with Giraud. He was not nearly as skillful a politician as de Gaulle. He was distrusted by the French resistance. And, whatever Roosevelt thought of de Gaulle, Giraud really was antidemocratic.
De Gaulle and Giraud at Casablanca
In January 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill held a series of talks near Casablanca in Morocco. Both de Gaulle and Giraud were invited to attend, and Roosevelt and Churchill forced the generals to accept a compromise by which they shared power. Before long, however, Giraud began to fade out of the picture, and de Gaulle's movement was eventually accepted by the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States as the provisional (temporary) government of France.
The Soviet Union, the Western Allies, and Poland
The second front was one of the major sources of disagreements between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. Another set of disputes concerned Poland, and it went back to the earliest days of the war.
Just before it invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and started World War II, Germany signed a treaty with the Soviet Union, usually called the Nazi-Soviet Pact. (The treaty is described in Chapter 2.) The pact assured Germany that it could fight Britain and France, which had promised to protect Poland, without having to fight the Soviet Union at the same time. Secret parts of the treaty provided that the Soviets would take over the eastern part of Poland.
So, on September 17, while the desperately retreating Polish army tried to escape the Germans and make a stand in the eastern part of their country, the Soviet army entered Poland from the east. The Soviets then annexed (made part of their country) the eastern half of Poland, where one-third of the population lived.
Soviets claim eastern Poland
To many people, it seemed that the Soviets had joined with Germany to grab their neighbor's land. But the Soviets did not see it this way. They pointed out that these areas had been taken by Poland from the new Soviet government in a war in 1920. The Soviets pointed out that in 1919, before the Polish-Soviet war, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Curzon, had tried to define the border between Poland and the Soviet state. The boundary that he drew, known as the Curzon Line, put most of this territory that the Soviets now annexed on the Soviet side of the line.
Less than two years later, in June 1941, the Germans had invaded the Soviet Union and conquered eastern Poland in the process. Poland was now under German control. By the end of 1943, however, the Red Army (the Soviet army) had pushed the Germans far back toward the west. As the Soviet military approached eastern Poland, the Soviet leaders made it clear to the British and Americans that they considered this area part of the Soviet Union and that they would not restore Poland's 1939 borders.
Although the Soviets had not consulted the people who lived there, violating the principles of the Atlantic Charter, the British and Americans realized there was not much they could do. The Red Army would physically control the area, and only a serious threat to break up the alliance against Germany might have changed the Soviet leaders' minds. Dissolving the alliance was too high a price to pay. At the first meeting among Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, held in Teheran, Iran, in November 1943, the two western leaders agreed generally to the Soviet demand regarding Poland's eastern border.
Plans to move Poland west
However, the British and Americans also suggested that to make up for the loss of territory on its east, Poland should be given land on its west, taken from Germany after its defeat. In essence, Poland would be moved westward. The Soviets agreed with this suggestion, partly because it might weaken Germany permanently and partly because it would mean that Poland would never side with Germany against the Soviets.
In 1939, the Polish government had escaped the Germans and was now in London. Britain and the United States considered this government-in-exile the legal representative of the Polish people. The London Poles, as the government-in-exile was often called, absolutely refused to give up the eastern half of Poland to the Soviets.
The Katyn massacre
The territorial dispute was made much worse by a stunning accusation from the Germans. In the spring of 1943, the Germans announced they had discovered a mass grave in the Katyn forest region of eastern Poland. They initially said that the grave contained 1,700 bodies, a number that eventually reached 4,000. The dead were officers of the Polish army, each with a bullet in his head. The Germans blamed the Soviets, who had controlled the area between September 1939 and June 1941.
The Soviets strongly denied the German accusation, claiming the Germans themselves had committed the murders. At first, most people in the west believed the Soviets. This was natural, since some of the terrible massacres committed by the Germans in Poland and Russia were becoming known. An accusation of mass murder, coming from the Nazis, was not to be trusted.
The Polish government-in-exile, however, refused to accept the Soviet explanation. It demanded an investigation by the International Red Cross. The Soviets considered this an insult and maintained that the London Poles were siding with the Nazis against them. The Soviet government soon broke off all relations with the London Poles.
Today it is known that the Soviet secret police murdered the Polish officers in the spring of 1940. The reason may have been to eliminate Poles who might have been leaders in regaining their country's independence. Some historians believe the killings may have been caused by a misunderstanding of orders sent by Soviet leaders.
The future of eastern Europe
The argument over borders became closely connected to the question of what kind of government Poland would have after the war. The Western Allies were afraid the Soviets would impose communist governments in the areas they liberated. These fears increased in July 1944 when the Soviets created a Polish Committee of National Liberation, dominated by Polish communists, which the Soviets soon recognized as the legitimate Polish government instead of the government-in-exile of the London Poles.
At almost the same time, the underground Home Army, which was loyal to the London Poles, led a major uprising against the Germans in Warsaw, the Polish capital. The Red Army, which was very close to Warsaw, did not help the uprising and did not enter the capital until months later, after the Germans had crushed the Home Army. The Soviets said that the Red Army had been unable to advance for military reasons, but most Poles believed that the Soviets had purposely allowed the Germans to destroy the Home Army. In either case, relations between the Soviet Union and the London Poles worsened. (The Warsaw uprising is described in Chapter 12.)
By the last year of the war, it was becoming obvious that the Soviet Union was determined to install a communist government in Poland. Historians have strongly disputed the Soviet motivation for this. Some believe that the Soviets always wanted to install communist governments throughout eastern Europe, either because they believed in spreading communism or because they wanted to control those countries.
Other historians think the Soviets acted defensively, in response to British and American actions elsewhere—such as in Italy. In the summer of 1943, Stalin asked that the Soviet Union be allowed to take part in governing newly liberated territory in southern Italy. In October, the Allies created an Advisory Council for Italy, which included the Soviet Union and France. But this council had no power, and Italy was really governed by the Anglo-American Control Commission. ("Anglo" is a prefix referring to England that is often used to mean "British.")
According to some historians, the Soviets responded to being shut out of governing Italy by deciding to run Poland themselves, without allowing the British and Americans to participate. In this view, the Soviets felt that only communist governments would be friendly to the Soviet Union and would prevent countries such as Romania and Hungary from ever again attacking the Soviet Union. The argument about who was to blame for these actions became very bitter in the years after World War II, when the disputes between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union became a worldwide struggle called the Cold War. (See Chapter 17.)
The Soviet Union and Japan
Another important series of disagreements between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union concerned the war against Japan. Japan and the Soviet Union had signed a treaty in April 1941 in which each country promised that it would remain neutral if the other went to war. When Germany, Japan's ally, invaded the Soviet Union two months later, Japan stood by its agreement and did not join in. Japan was planning to go to war with the Unitef States and Britain and did not want to fight the Soviet Union at the same time.
In December 1941, when Japan attacked the United States, Germany quickly declared war on America in support of Japan, but Japan still did not enter the war against the Soviet Union. Hitler believed that Germany could defeat the Soviets alone and, at least at first, did not want Japan's help. So for most of the war, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union were at war with Germany, but only the United States and Britain were at war with Japan.
In the first years after Germany invaded, the Soviet Union could not have helped very much in the war against Japan, and the Western Allies understood this. Even then, the United States wanted to use air bases in the far eastern Soviet Union to send American bombers against Japan. But the Soviets, afraid this action would cause Japan to attack Soviet territory, would not allow the Americans to use their bases. Both Japan and the Soviet Union were afraid of going to war with each other, even if each country's allies wanted it to.
United States presses Soviets to invade Manchuria
By 1944, however, it became clear that the Allies would soon defeat Germany and that Japan would keep fighting. American military leaders believed that the United States would have to invade Japan and that tens of thousands of American soldiers would be killed. The United States pressed the Soviets to agree to join the war against Japan after Germany surrendered. They wanted the Soviet army to invade Manchuria, in northern China, and engage the large Japanese army stationed there. That way, the Japanese could not use those troops to defend Japan itself. Destroying the Japanese army in China might also make the Japanese leaders see that continuing the war was hopeless. Then an American invasion might not be necessary.
Getting the Soviet Union to declare war on Japan was so important to the United States that the American government was willing to agree to many Soviet demands. The Americans promised that the Soviets could have special economic privileges in Manchuria (a promise they made without asking the Chinese government) and that it could take over some islands belonging to Japan. The United States was also willing to agree to some Soviet demands about the war in Europe. This give-and-take influenced many of the discussions among the Allies about Europe.
Soviets invade Manchuria
The Soviets eventually promised to join the war against Japan as soon as possible after Germany's final defeat, usually saying it would take about three months. Following Germany's surrender, the Soviets shifted some of their most experienced troops, with their best equipment, from Europe to the Far East. On August 8, 1945, exactly three months after Germany's surrender, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and a huge Soviet army invaded Manchuria the next day. Despite a hard fight put up by the Japanese, the Soviets soon broke through the Japanese defenses, taking many prisoners. In less than two weeks, the Soviets drove what was left of the Japanese army back into northern Korea.
A-Bomb changes everything
By then, however, the Americans were no longer sure they wanted the Soviets in the war against Japan. On July 16, 1945, the United States had successfully tested the first atomicbomb in the desert of New Mexico. (The development of the atomic bomb is described in Chapter 15.) American leaders nowbelieved atomic weapons could force Japan to surrender withoutan American invasion and without help from the Soviet Union.If so, then a Soviet invasion of Manchuria would increase Sovietinfluence in China without any benefit for the United States.But it was too late to change the plan for a Soviet invasion, andno one knew for sure if the atomic bomb would defeat Japan.
On August 6, 1945, two days before the Soviet declaration of war, an American plane dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, completely destroying it. On August 9, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On August 15, the emperor of Japan told the Japanese people in a radio broadcast that the war was lost. Although the threat of further atomic bombs was probably the most important reason for his admission of defeat, many historians believe that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria was also a key factor. (The use of the atomic bomb and the defeat of Japan are discussed in Chapter 14.)
The Axis powers
Compared with the complicated relationships among the three major Allied powers, the connection between Germany and Japan, the two most important Axis powers, was much simpler. Basically, Germany and Japan shared some information but never planned any military operations together. Their top military and naval officers never met, never discussed strategy, never timed campaigns to take advantage of what the other was doing. In effect, Germany and Japan were fighting parallel wars. Each was fighting Britain and the United States, and each hoped that the other would succeed. Allied propaganda during the war implied that Germany and Japan had a plan to divide up the world between them. This plan really amounted to vague ideas about the Japanese conquering India and moving west while the German army moved south from the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union with the two armies meeting somewhere around Iran. Neither side actually planned any operations to put this offensive into action. The two armies never got within 3,000 miles of each other.
The third major member of the Axis was Italy. In many ways, German leader Adolf Hitler had originally followed the example of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. When the Nazis took over Germany, Hitler and Mussolini began to work together. For example, Italy sent troops to help General Francisco Franco's rebels in the Spanish Civil War that began in 1936, while Germany sent airmen and planes. Soon, however, it became clear that Germany, with its much greater economic and military power, was the senior partner.
Germany's dominance became even more true once Italy entered World War II in June 1940. Both in the North African desert and in Greece, the Germans had to help save Italian armies from defeat. (See Chapter 3.) The German generals had a very low opinion of the Italian army, which they did not attempt to hide. The alliance with Germany was never popular among the Italian people, who increasingly wanted Italy to get out of the war. By the time the Allies invaded Italy in the summer of 1943 and Mussolini was overthrown (see Chapter 10), Germany was treating Italy more like a conquered country than an ally.
Other members of the Axis
The military alliance signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan in September 1940 was called the Tripartite Pact, which means three-party treaty. In November 1940, Romania and Hungary also signed the pact. Both countries bordered on the Soviet Union, and Germany wanted them to join its planned invasion. Though both countries had antidemocratic governments that were sympathetic to Nazi Germany, this alliance was always complicated.
Romania and Hungary Romania and Hungary were strongly influenced by Germany, but they were still independent countries. And although they were allied with Germany, they were each other's traditional enemies. In August 1940, under German pressure, Romania gave up large sections of its country to Hungary, which satisfied neither side. Both suffered tremendous losses in the Soviet Union, and by the summer of 1943 both were secretly (and separately) trying to contact the Western Allies to make peace. The British and Americans, in effect, told them they would have to deal with the Soviet Union directly.
Afraid that Hungary was secretly planning to get out of the war, the Germans took over the country in March 1944. An extreme pro-Nazi government was put into power, and soon Germany controlled every aspect of Hungarian life. Romania was luckier. As the Red Army crossed into the country in August 1944, the Romanians surrendered, declared war on Germany, and joined the Soviets in attacking Hungary.
Reluctant allies There were three other allies of Germany, although two of them did not really act like allies. Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact and joined in the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, but it refused to declare war on the Soviet Union—though it did declare war on the United States and Britain. Soon after the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria in September 1944, Bulgaria declared war on Germany and sent 150,000 troops to fight its former allies.
Finland fought with Germany against the Soviet Union because it wanted to regain territory it had lost to the Soviets in the winter of 1939-40. It never declared war on Britain or the United States, and Germany had very little influence on how Finland acted. (See the box in Chapter 12 on p. 279.)
On the other hand, Slovakia, which the Germans had recently set up as an independent country, was really a puppet of Germany and did whatever Hitler wanted. It signed the Tripartite Pact in November 1940 and provided troops to invade the Soviet Union.
Cooperation between the British and Americans began very early in the war .
The Atlantic Charter seemed to support independence for the Asian and African colonies of European powers such as Britain, France, and the Netherlands if the native people of those countries wanted it .
Roosevelt and Churchill developed a genuine respect and affection for each other .
To the American military leaders and the Soviets, Germany first meant a major invasion of western Europe— probably in France— as soon as possible .
Churchill and his military chiefs preferred fighting around the edges of German-controlled Europe .
Western Aid to the Soviets
Although there is no question that the Soviet Union suffered far more in the war against Germany than the Western Allies, it is also true that the West provided important aid to the Soviet effort. For many years, convoys of Allied ships sailed across the North Atlantic and through icy Arctic waters to the Soviet port of Murmansk, carrying huge amounts of supplies. German submarines attacked these convoys at every opportunity, causing heavy losses. In one convoy, only eleven out of thirty-six ships reached Murmansk safely. Sometimes the submarine attacks were so heavy the convoys had to be canceled.
Although the Soviet leaders constantly complained about the amount of supplies getting through, the total value of American aid to the Soviet Union was $11 billion, an enormous sum at that time. In November 1943, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin told President Franklin D. Roosevelt that without the American supplies received in the first two years of the German invasion, the Soviet Union would have lost the war.
At the Casablanca Conference, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt publicly announced that the "aims of the war" could be reduced to "a very simple formula: the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan." Roosevelt emphasized that the Allies did not want to destroy the people of the Axis countries or the countries themselves. The Axis powers were controlled by "a philosophy based on the conquest and subjugation of other peoples," however, which Roosevelt did find necessary to destroy.
The demand for unconditional surrender is quite unusual in war. More commonly, countries fight for limited goals, such as control of a particular region. One purpose of Roosevelt's declaration was to reassure the Soviet Union that the Western Allies would not make peace with Germany without including the Soviets. The declaration was also intended to influence American and British public opinion and reassure the people in German-occupied European countries. It promised that the Allies would not make deals with the Nazis. The demand for unconditional surrender also showed that the war was being fought between two ways of life that could not coexist. Some historians think that Roosevelt was influenced by the example of President Abraham Lincoln in dealing with the slave-holding Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Roosevelt's declaration has been strongly criticized ever since, on the grounds that it encouraged Germany and Japan to continue fighting and prolonged the war. The British military writer B. H. Liddell Hart called it the "biggest blunder of the war." Other historians disagree, arguing that Germany and Japan would never have negotiated any terms that the Allies could have accepted.
The Western Allies were afraid the Soviets would impose communist governments in the areas they liberated .
For most of the war, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union were at war with Germany, but only the United States and Britain were at war with Japan .
Secrets and Spying Among Allies
The atomic bomb project illustrates some of the suspicions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The atomic bomb was developed in secret in the United States by scientists working for the U.S. Army. (The project is described in Chapter 15.) Scientists and engineers from many countries were involved, but no Russian (Soviet) scientists were asked to participate.
Although there were some disputes, the United States generally kept the British government informed about the development, construction, and testing of the new weapon. Officially, British prime minister WInston Churchill's agreement was required before the United States could use the bomb, though the decision was really made by Harry S. Truman, who became president after Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in April 1945.
At the same time, the Western Allies kept the existence of the project secret from the Soviets. It was only after they had successfully tested the bomb, in July 1945, that Truman told Soviet leader Joseph Stalin of its existence. Even then, he spoke in very general terms, saying only that the United States had a new, very powerful weapon. He gave no details, and Stalin did not ask for any.
In fact, it is now known that spies kept the Soviet government informed of the progress of the atom bomb project, although it is not clear whether the Soviet leaders appreciated its immense power. In any case, the atom bomb project shows how neither side fully trusted the other: the Americans tried to keep the most vital military secret of the war from one of their most important allies, while the Soviets used every possible method to spy on the United States.
Compared with the complicated relationships among the three major Allied powers, the connection between Germany and Japan, the two most important Axis powers, was much simpler .
Germany treated Italy more like a conquered country than an ally .