Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.
Now that the world is about to be ruled by a madman, it is perhaps appropriate to consider events of the 20th century. Before 1914, many countries made mutual defence agreements that meant that if one country was attacked, allied countries were bound to defend it. The following alliances existed: Russia and Serbia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, France and Russia, Britain and France and Belgium, and finally Japan and Britain. The treaties were a disaster: Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia; Russia defended Serbia; Germany declared war on Russia; France was drawn in against Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Germany attacked France through Belgium, pulling Britain in. Later, Japan, Italy and the United States joined in on the fun.
Imperialism, when a country increases its power and wealth by bringing additional territories under its control, was another factor. Before World War I, Africa and parts of Asia were areas of contention amongst European countries because of the raw materials these areas could provide. This, and the increase in militarism, helped push the world into chaos.
The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. In June 1914 a Serbian-nationalist terrorist succeeded in killing him and his wife while they were in Sarajevo, which was part of Austria-Hungary. This assassination led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. When Russia began to mobilise to defend Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia. Thus began the expansion of the war to include all those with mutual defence alliances. WWI had extremely high casualties: over 15 million dead and 20 million injured.
WWII was largely caused by the anger felt in Germany at the terms of the Treaty of Versailles after WW1, and the inability of the League of Nations to deal with major international issues. Hitler rearmed Nazi Germany - something forbidden by the Treaty - and the world’s powers did nothing. In 1936 Germany re-occupied the Rhineland, and again Europe failed to act. Austria and the Sudetenland too were occupied. Only when it was clear that Czechoslovakia and Poland were next did the major powers of Europe react.
In 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and Britain and France responded by declaring war, but took little action over the following months. In 1940 Germany conquered Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France in rapid succession. Germany launched a further attack on Britain, this time exclusively from the air in 1940. The Battle of Britain was Germany’s first military failure, as the German air force, the Luftwaffe, was never able to overcome Britain’s Royal Air Force.
In 1940 Italy, an ally of Germany, expanded the war even further by invading Greece and North Africa. The Greek campaign was a failure and Germany was forced to come to Italy’s assistance. A year later Germany invaded the Soviet Union. After initial swift progress deep into Russia, the invasion proved to be Germany’s downfall; the country was just too big. Russia’s initial resistance was weak but the nation’s strength and determination, combined with its brutal winters, would eventually be more than the German army could overcome. After the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk, Germany began a full-scale retreat and the Germans were steadily forced out of Soviet territory. The Russians pursued them across Eastern Europe and into Germany itself. In June 1944 British and American forces launched the D-Day invasion via the coast of Normandy. The German army was forced into retreat. Allied forces closed in from both east and west. The Soviets were the first to reach the German capital Berlin. Germany surrendered in May, shortly after the suicide of Adolf Hitler.
In 1941 the war in the Pacific had begun when Japan launched a surprise air attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan had already been at war with China for several years and had seized the Chinese territory of Manchuria. After Pearl Harbor, Japan began a campaign of expansion through the Southeast Asia–Pacific region. The Pearl Harbor attack provoked a declaration of war by the U.S. on Japan but it was months before any U.S. military involvement took place. In 1942 the U.S. and Japan engaged in naval battles, climaxing in the Battle of Midway where Japan suffered a catastrophic defeat. The Allies began heavy bombing campaigns against Japanese cities, including Tokyo, through the summer of 1945 until, in early August, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered.