Worldwide conflict from 1939 to 1945

World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.


A Tribute to John T. Flynn, by Adam Young, 31 Jan 2003
Biographical overview followed by quotes from Flynn's writings on FDR, Roosevelt's monument, the New Deal and the Roosevelt myth
"In January, 1938, I talked with one of the President's most intimate advisers. I asked him if the President knew we were in a depression. He said that of course he did. I asked what the President proposed to do. He answered: 'Resume spending.' I then suggested he would find difficulty in getting objects on which the federal government could spend. He said he knew that. What, then, I asked, will the President spend on? He laughed and replied in a single word: 'Battleships.' I asked why. He said: 'You know we are going to have a war.' And when I asked whom we were going to fight he said 'Japan' ..."
Atrocities in the 'Good War': A Tract for Today, by Robert Higgs, 19 Jun 2006
Introduces excerpt from Edgar L. Jones' article "One War is Enough", Atlantic Monthly Feb 1946, as "valuable lessons" for those pondering the atrocities committed in the Iraq War
"Even Americans who detest war ... generally make an exception for World War II ... They believe that the Americans fought for an entirely good and proper cause, that they fought only after having been attacked without provocation, that their enemies were vile monsters. ... Some of the actions he described in that article may come as a shock to many readers today; they're not the sort of actions John Wayne was taking in all those postwar movies about World War II. Yet, over the years, many soldier-memoirists ... and many historians, such as Michael C. C. Adams, John W. Dower, and Gerald F. Linderman, have confirmed them."
Related Topics: Iraq War (2003), War
Bill Kauffman: American Anarchist, by Laurence M. Vance, 4 Dec 2006
Review of Kauffman's Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (2006)
"On the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kauffman defers to Dorothy Day ..., founder of the Catholic Worker Movement: "Mr. Truman was jubilant. ... True man. What a strange name, come to think of it. ... Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, ... We have killed 318,000 Japanese ... they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers, scattered, men, women, and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces ...""
Conscience on the Battlefield, by Leonard Read, 1981
Pamphlet written in 1951, during the Korean War, updated with prologue in 1981; Read recalls the 1918 incident when the troopship he was on was sunk by a German submarine and wonders about his thoughts if he were dying (in 1951) on a Korean battlefield
"In one of the little-publicized chapters of World War II, for example, one million Russian officers and men voluntarily joined the invading Germans, considering them as their liberators. The German dictator, hearing of this, ordered that these officers and men be imprisoned or killed. This action, dictated by Hitler, caused a like-mindedness among the Russian people. Their subsequent action at Stalingrad against the Germans became very much of a voluntary action."
Felix Morley – Washington Post & his Career, by Leonard Liggio
Review of Morley's autobiographical For the Record
"With the onset of war in Europe (September, 1939), Morley intensified his deep contacts with foreign embassies and state department leaders. One event he continued to refer to with regret thirty years after was his intervention at the state department with Adam von Trott zu Solz, a German noble who had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Von Trott represented the anti-Nazi German Resistance Movement which sought a reasonable peace if Hitler could be overthrown by the German military. ... Von Trott was executed in August, 1944 consequent to the unsuccessful attempt to kill Hitler."
Henry Grady Weaver's Classic Vision of Freedom, by John Hood, The Freeman, Aug 1997
Expanded version of Hood's introduction to the 1997 edition of Weaver's The Mainspring of Human Progress; discusses the changing attitudes towards business during the second half of the 20th century
"There was a sense of euphoria after the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, a commonly held belief that the United States had managed to extricate itself from turmoil and disaster to unparalleled strength and influence around the world. ... The lingering economic controversies from the New Deal ... had been left unresolved during a half decade of world war. Indeed, the growth of the federal government during World War II and the unprecedented role it assumed of directing and managing the wartime economy was just being realized and debated."
How Franklin Roosevelt Lied America Into War, by William Henry Chamberlin, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, 1953
Excerpted from chapter 8, "The Bankruptcy of a Policy", of the Harry Elmer Barnes anthology; describes several actions by Roosevelt and his administration which contradicted his campaign pledges "to keep our country out of war"
"There was a strange and as yet unexplained failure to prepare for this attack [on Pearl Harbor] by giving General Short and Admiral Kimmel, commanders on the spot, a clear picture of the imminent danger. As Secretary of War Stimson explained the American policy, it was to maneuver the Japanese into firing the first shot, and it may have been feared that openly precautionary and defensive moves on the part of Kimmel and Short would scare off the impending attack by the Japanese task force which was known to be on its way to some American outpost."
How to Become a Teacher [PDF], by Robert LeFevre, The Voluntaryist, Feb 1983
Autobiographical summary of the events in LeFevre's life that led to the founding of the Freedom School, including LeFevre's relationship with Baldy Harper and the offer for him to lead the School
"I had enlisted in the Army in 1942 filled with noble thoughts of helping to free the world from totalitarianism. ... I had learned, bitterly and reluctantly, that the Army was filled with officers, many of whom hoped and even labored for a continuation of the war. They had never experienced such pay, power and prestige and dreaded the war's termination. ... an astonishingly large percentage were in this category. I had also found that the government of the nation was abundantly supplied with opportunists ... who feared that peace might shrink the power base from which they flaunted their petty authority."
Iraq: The Hidden Horror, by Justin Raimondo, 13 Oct 2006
Discusses the responses to a study by John Hopkins University professors estimating, as of July 2006, 654,965 "excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the [Iraq] war"
"This argument assumes that the conventional wisdom can't be wrong: by Blairite standards, the West's early ignorance about what was happening in Hitler's concentration camps is all we need know about the Holocaust. It means that low-ball estimates of the toll taken by Stalin in the former Soviet Union never required revision. ... When Truman dropped nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was no national outcry: rather, there was a celebration of unassailable American power. Likewise, the bombing of Dresden caused nary a ripple of protest."
UpdJohn Kerry's Tender Sensibilities, by Kevin Carson, 29 Aug 2013
Highlights the hypocrisy of State Secretary Kerry's comments on violation of international norms in Syria vis-à-vis the U.S.'s record in previous wars
"For that matter, US "redlining" of a country for using chemical weapons is also a bit odd. In the same press conference, Kerry spoke of holding Iraq accountable for violating international, historically established norms. But the US itself has quite a history of violating such norms. In WWII, for instance, the U.S. holds pride of place not only for the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, but for being the first and only military power in history to burn hundreds of thousands of civilians alive with atomic weapons in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
Related Topics: Iraq, Vietnam War, War
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 5: War Crimes and Atrocities, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 24 Aug 2005
"President Truman's bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a prime example. Those nuclear explosions yielded approximately 200,000 innocent civilian victims. Their real purpose was to 'send a message' to America's World War II ally, the Soviet Union, informing its leaders that the United States indeed possessed a formidable weapon."
Related Topics: Politics, Vietnam
Not Just Japanese Americans: The Untold Story of U.S. Repression During 'The Good War', by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, The Journal of Historical Review, 1986
Detailed and well-annotated survey of United States government's repression of civil liberties during World War II, both before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor
"All the aforementioned events, entailing enormous gains for State power, occurred, we should stress, at a time when the United States was technically at peace. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor merely accelerated the civil liberties trends already in motion. The only well-known World War II civil liberties outrage is the internment of Japanese-Americans. Actually, the U.S. government amplified its harassment of aliens from all enemy nations at the first news of the Japanese attack. Within seventy-two hours of the attack, the FBI had 3,846 Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants in custody."
Orwell, George (1903-1950), by David Ramsay Steele, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Despite his military service in the doomed Spanish republic, Orwell, like many on the Left, saw the coming world war as a Tweedledum–Tweedledee struggle between rival imperialisms. ... For the first few years of the war, he attributed Germany's military successes to its socialist economy ... He came to see that this idea was mistaken, and he acknowledged his error. During the war, he worked for a time as an organizer of broadcasts to India for the British Broadcasting Corporation, which later provided some of the material he was to use in describing Winston Smith's job at the Ministry of Truth in 1984."
Related Topics: George Orwell, Myanmar, Spain
Peace and Pacifism, by Robert Higgs, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Reviews what prominent classical liberals and libertarians had to say on the subject of peace and war, as well as the history of United States wars from the War of 1812 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the efforts of those who opposed them
"After war broke out in Europe in September 1939, a fierce debate ensued between those who supported and those who opposed U.S. involvement in the war. According to public opinion surveys and other evidence, the great majority of Americans favored well-armed neutrality. The Roosevelt administration, however, ... ardently desired U.S. entry to aid Great Britain, and the president worked relentlessly, if often deviously, to bring about conditions that would justify entry—for example, by carrying out a series of increasingly stringent economic warfare measures against Japan ..."
Percy L. Greaves, Jr., 1906-1984, by J. Marcellus, The Journal of Historical Review, 1984
Memorial note
"Since 1944 Percy Greaves had relentlessly pursued clarification of the facts about the Pearl Harbor attack. At the time of his death he was putting the finishing touches on a volume, The Real Infamy Of Pearl Harbor, which would have been the definitive summation of his decades of research. He was perhaps more qualified than any other man to speak and write with authority on the Washington events contributing to the attack, a point made by historian Harry Elmer Barnes in his introduction to Mr. Greaves's chapter 'The Pearl Harbor Investigations' in Barnes's classic 1953 anthology Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace."
Related Topic: Percy L. Greaves Jr.
Seventy Years Since FDR: A Time To Remember John T. Flynn, by Lawrence Reed, 10 Mar 2003
Review of John T. Flynn's The Roosevelt Myth on the 70th anniversary of the inauguration of FDR, highlighting the defying attitudes of Henry Ford and Sewell Avery, the president of Montgomery Ward
"Joining Ford in support of free competition was Sewell Avery ... During World War II, Avery challenged government efforts to unionize warehouse and retail workers ... Not even America's entry into World War II was without its shameful lies and prevarications from an administration whose one consistency was to place its own preservation above the long-term welfare of the nation. Indeed, for a fresh perspective on FDR's wartime leadership, the interested reader should see a remarkable recent book The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II by the noted historian, Thomas Fleming."
Sophie Scholl: A Life of Courage, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, May 2007
Review of the 2005 German film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Die letzten Tage), also contrasting this film with typical Hollywood depictions of Nazis
"Nineteen forty-three was a watershed year for both the war and the German people's attitude towards it. ... Leaflet 6 declares "330,000 troops" have been sent "to a senseless death" on the eastern front, especially at Stalingrad. (Eventually, 740,000 Axis soldiers will be killed or wounded, and 100,000 will be captured on the eastern front.) The leaflet asserts, "Hitler cannot win the war. He can only prolong it." ... Rather than publicly admit to losing an entire army at Stalingrad, the regime viciously cracks down on dissidents who are accused of "aiding the enemy" by exposing the facts."
The 100th Anniversary of the Great State Crime, by Sheldon Richman, 8 Aug 2014
Reflections on the start of the Great War, 100 years ago, the second act (World War II) and wars in general
"The so-called Second World War, which began after the 21-year intermission from 1918 to 1939, claimed at least 60 million lives, at least 19 million of which were noncombatants. Act Two culminated in President Harry Truman’s two gratuitous atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 69th anniversaries of which are also observed this week. "
Related Topics: War, World War I
The Colonial Venture of Ireland, Part 4, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Aug 2004
Historical account of the partitioned Ireland from 1922 to the 1970's, including Éamon de Valera, the creation of the Republic of Ireland, the conflicts with and eventual split up of the IRA, and civil rights marches and riots in the North
"In September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, thus entering World War II. The South was generally sympathetic to the Allied cause but de Valera maintained official neutrality. (The more radical IRA, however, worked rather ineffectively to sabotage the British war effort.) On the occasion of Hitler's death, Éire was one of the few governments to express official condolences to the German ambassador. World War II further defined the separate identities of the North and South and cemented Ulster's ties to Britain. Neutrality by the South had been a statement of sovereignty ..."
The Economic Costs of Going to War: Transcript: Bill Moyers Talks with Lew Rockwell, by Lew Rockwell, NOW with Bill Moyers, 7 Mar 2003
Topics discussed include: the economy, the federal budget deficit, the national debt, inflation, Republican vs. Democrat presidents, tax cuts, war spending, World War II and the depression, Sadam Hussein and unemployment
"MOYERS: But didn't World War II actually pull the country out of the depression? Didn't the spending on that vast military effort stimulate the economy, give people jobs ...?
ROCKWELL: ... What the war did do was help the unemployment statistics by killing a lot of the unemployed. ... In fact [FDR] drafted 20% of the workforce at one point or another into the military. ... when you started out with a 12% unemployment rate, yes ... there was much less unemployment. But the vast expenditures on non-productive goods, the erection of a command control economy, ... [that] was economically bad."
The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor, by John T. Flynn, Oct 1945
Written shortly after the release of the U.S. Army and Navy reports on the Pearl Harbor attack, Flynn claims it was the result of "three incredible blunders" and that President Roosevelt "personally managed the whole crisis"
"By January 1, 1941, Roosevelt had decided to go to war with Japan ... He felt the moment to provoke the attack had come by November ... He was certain the attack would be against British territory, at Singapore perhaps, and perhaps on the Philippines or Guam ... He did not order Short to change his alert and he did not order Kimmel to take his fleet out of Pearl Harbor, out where it could defend itself, because he wanted to create the appearance of being completely at peace and surprised when the Japs started shooting. Hence he ordered Kimmel and Short not to do anything to cause alarm or suspicion. He was completely sure the Japanese would not strike at Pearl Harbor."
Related Topics: Japan, Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Humanitarian with the Guillotine, by Isabel Paterson, The Freeman, Sep 1955
Reprinted from The God of the Machine, 1943; analyses the negative consequences of "humanitarians" (or professional philanthropists) and politicians act to provide relief to the needy
"The present war, begun with a perjured treaty made by two powerful nations (Russia and Germany), that they might crush their smaller neighbors with impunity, the treaty being broken by a surprise attack on the fellow conspirator, would have been impossible without the internal political power which in both cases was seized on the excuse of doing good to the nation."
The Myth of War Prosperity, Part 1, by Anthony Gregory, Future of Freedom, Dec 2006
Review of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy by Robert Higgs
"Certainly, the mainstream conservative dedication to free enterprise, if it exists at all, is not so robust as to challenge the economic fallacies underlying World War II. On the Left, Right, and Center, the idea that Franklin Roosevelt dragged America out of its economic rut is by now as American as apple pie. But World War II, whatever else can be said of it, was probably the largest government program in American history ..."
Related Topics: Broken Window Fallacy, War
The Secret of Pearl Harbor: FDR's Role Exposed – in 1944, by Justin Raimondo, 25 May 2001
Introduction to a republishing of Flynn's 1945 pamphlet "The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor", coincident with the release of the film Pearl Harbor
"Flynn makes the case that FDR had every reason to expect the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor, that he ignored the advice of his generals, and that he deliberately bottled up the fleet there. He reveals that the Japanese code had been cracked ... But what he didn't know – couldn't know – was that much more than that had been intercepted. As revealed in Robert Stinnett's book, Day of Deceit, a whole series of military messages sent by Japanese commanders betrayed the day and the hour of the attack – and Stinnett shows that FDR had to have known this."
The War System and Its Intellectual Myths, by Murray Rothbard, Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, 1968
Originally titled "Harry Elmer Barnes as Revisionist of the Cold War"
"Two ... examples are the policy of Finland toward Russia in 1940, and of Poland toward Germany and Russia in 1939. The Finns (Poles) insisted up to the moment of outbreak ... that the Russians (Germans) were only 'bluffing,' and that a rigid, inflexible, hard-line, no-negotiation policy would force Russia (Germany) to back down and cease their demands."
The Way of All Cash, Part I, by Bill Bonner, The Daily Reckoning, 26 May 2006
Continuing from "Don't Cry for Evita", begins to relate the story of Argentine President Juan Perón and the Peronist movement
"Argentina stayed out of Word War II and even looked the other way when German submarines occasionally holed up in remote harbors in Patagonia. 'They have chosen to dally with evil,' declared Churchill of the Argentinians, 'but not only with evil but with the losing side.' Two months before the action was over, the Argentines corrected their mistake, declaring war on the nearly defeated Axis powers."
Related Topic: Argentina
Truman, A-Bombs, and the Killing of Innocents, by Sheldon Richman, 9 Aug 2013
Written on the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki, discusses whether the bombing and that of Hiroshima were really necessary and whether they can be considered war crimes
"Sixty-eight years ago today a president of the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a city full of innocent Japanese. It was the second time in three days that Harry Truman had done such a thing: He had bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The fatalities in the two cities totaled 150,000–246,000. ... Why do people today assume an invasion would have been necessary without the bombings? American military leaders did not believe it. Japan had already been defeated; its leaders were suing for peace, though they resisted Truman's unreasonable demand for unconditional surrender"
Related Topics: Ethics, War
Vindication, by Thomas Sowell, 6 Mar 1998
Compares the vilification of Larry Elder and other "black conservatives" to the similar tribulations and eventual vindication of Billy Mitchell, criticizing "race hustlers" for emphasizing 1960's problems rather than dealing with today's issues
"A ... television special ... made me think back to World War II ... As a teenager then, I noticed that there was a Billy Mitchell bomber and a Billy Mitchell airfield, so naturally I wondered who this man was. When I looked him up in the library, I discovered that, when Billy Mitchell was alive, he was court-martialed for saying the very things for which he was now being honored. ... Billy Mitchell did not convince people that he was right, events proved that he was right. He said that planes could sink a battleship but many did not believe him until Japanese bombers sank four American battleships at Pearl Harbor."
Related Topic: Conservatism
Warring as Lying Throughout American History, by James Bovard, Future of Freedom, Feb 2008
Recounts how U.S. Presidents and their administrations since James Polk have lied about wars, from start to finish
"In August 1945, Harry Truman announced to the world that 'the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians.' Hiroshima was actually a major city with more than a third of a million people prior to its incineration. But Truman's lie helped soften the initial impact on the American public of the first use of the atomic bomb."
Wartime Attacks on Civil Liberties, by George Leef, Future of Freedom, Dec 2005
Review of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (2004) by University of Chicago Law School professor Geoffrey R. Stone
"Of all the attacks on liberty during World War II, nothing compares with the massive internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Inflamed by unfounded charges that Japanese-Americans had helped the Pearl Harbor attack succeed and were facilitating Japanese plans for an invasion of the United States, as well as by crude racism, many politicians and citizens began calling for internment. [Attorney General] Biddle was adamantly opposed and tried to persuade Roosevelt that the proposed internment was cruel and needless. No matter. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942."
Why Are We Afraid To Be Free?, by Butler Shaffer, 27 Nov 2001
Examines the question of how to bring about freedom in individuals' lives, discussing how government influences people to be in conflicted states and how one must look within oneself and act accordingly to begin to be "free"
"I recall, as a child during World War II, pictures of American soldiers giving chocolate bars to children whose homes and neighborhoods had just been destroyed by these same soldiers! ... After World War II was over, the allied forces endeavored to synchronize such contrarieties through the 'Nuremberg trials.' In punishing German government officials for their atrocities – while carefully insulating American and British officials for their wrongs to humanity – the state employed psychological 'projection,' a device by which some condemn others for their own felt sense of moral or ethical shortcoming."
Why Intellectuals Still Support Socialism, by Peter G. Klein, Mises Daily, 15 Nov 2006
"World War II ... was a watershed event for the profession. For the first time, professional economists joined the ranks of government planning bureaus en masse ... it is likely the taste of central planning that economists — even nominally free-market economists — got during World War II that forever changed the direction of the discipline."
Related Topic: Economists
Why We Fight, by Justin Raimondo, 1 Feb 2006
Detailed review of the 2005 documentary Why We Fight
"Gore Vidal contributes his perspective ... by pointing out that Eisenhower opposed the decision to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even though 99.9 percent of the military fighting in the Pacific at the time were for it ... Japan had been trying desperately to surrender, but ... the malevolent pygmy Harry Truman ... wouldn't let them. We did it to "show off," says Vidal, but "Eisenhower hated the bombs" ... Why We Fight ... is the title of a famous series of World War II propaganda films directed by Frank Capra that sought to mobilize the country, and there was a consensus back then that the war was not only necessary but also just."


HOWARD ZINN: "Holy Wars", by Howard Zinn, Democracy Now!, 11 Nov 2009
Talk given at Boston University, discussing the American "Holy Wars": the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "World War II" as of 27 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.