World War II For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) met with English Prime Minister Winston Churchill to decide how the forces of the Allies should take action against the Axis powers — Germany, Italy, and Japan — during World War II. By working together, the Allied forces were able to win World War II through coordinated actions and combined military forces.

Allied forces strategy during World War II

The most pressing threat, the Allieds decided in the beginning, was Hitler’s Germany. The German army seemed to be on the brink of defeating the Soviet army, its one-time ally. If the Russians fell, Germany could turn its full attention to Britain.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin wanted the Allies to launch an invasion of German-held Europe as soon as possible, because Russia was being mauled by the Germans. But Churchill wanted to nibble at the edges of the German empire while bombing Germany from the air, and FDR went along with the Brits.

FDR, Churchill, and Stalin managed to put their sharp differences aside and generally cooperate. That proved to be a key ingredient in the Allies’ ultimate success. The trio met several times during the war to plot strategy and negotiate about what the world would be like after the war.

The most important of the meetings of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin actually came toward the end of the war at Yalta, a former palace on the Black Sea in the Soviet Union.

FDR came to Yalta hoping to establish the groundwork for a practical and powerful United Nations, to be formed after the war, and also to convince the Russians to enter the war against Japan and help speed up the end of the war.

Stalin eventually agreed, but at a price. In return, the Soviet dictator got the other two to agree to give the Soviets control over broad areas of Europe and a promise that each of the major nations on the UN Security Council would have veto power over council decisions.

Allied forces make pivotal moves against German strategy

One of the most immediate problems was dealing with the menace posed by German submarines, or U-boats, in the Atlantic. Traveling in packs, the subs sank three million tons of Allied shipping in the first half of 1942 alone. But the Allies worked out a system of convoys and developed better anti-sub tactics. Most importantly, they built far more cargo ships than the Germans could possibly sink.

In the summer of 1942, Allied planes began bombing targets inside Germany. Eventually, the bombing would take a terrible toll. In 1943, 60,000 people were killed in the city of Hamburg, and the city of Dresden was all but destroyed.

In the fall of 1942, Allied armies, under a relatively obscure American commander named Dwight D. Eisenhower, launched an attack in North Africa against Hitler’s best general, Erwin Rommel. The green American troops were whipped soundly at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in February 1943. But with bitter experience under their belts, U.S. forces combined with troops from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand to drive the Axis armies out of Egypt by mid-May.

From Africa, the Allies invaded Sicily, and then advanced into the Italian mainland. Mussolini was overthrown and eventually executed by his own people. But the German army poured troops into the country and it took until the end of 1944 for Italy to be completely controlled.

On the Eastern Front, meanwhile, the Russian army gradually had turned the tables on the invading Germans and begun pushing them back, despite staggering civilian and military losses. And in England, the Allies, under the leadership of Eisenhower, were preparing the greatest invasion force the world had ever seen, D-Day.

About This Article

This article can be found in the category: