The major world wars were not originally called world wars. At the time, what is now called World War I, no one was expecting a second war so there was no need to designate it as the first. For many years, in fact, until the 1940’s, the British referred to World War I as the Great War. American newspapers initially referred to World War I as the “European War”, until America joined the war in 1917.
History.com says the term World War II first appeared in 1919 in an article “much in the way people today predict a hypothetical “World War III. But it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who in 1941 would publicly label the conflict the “Second World War,” and his fellow Americans quickly followed suit.”
The USSR and the US were at crossroads following the world wars for many reasons. From just after the end of World War II until about 1991, this period was known as the Cold War. Neither country wanted to get involved in another physical war. But political ideologies, culture clashes, geopolitical issues, and Russian imperialism led to wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.
The Cold War only came to end after Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the policies of glasnost and perestroika. This gave the Russian people a taste of freedom and various revolutions helped to being an end to the Cold War.
There were eight countries that remained neutral during World War I: Argentina, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Venezuela, Sweden and Switzerland. There were fourteen countries that remained neutral during World War II: Afghanistan, Andorra, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Portugal, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Vatican City, and Yemen.
So, only the following three countries did not participate in either of the world wars: Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Is there any coincidence that all three countries start with an “S”? Probably not, but it might be an easy way to remember the answer to the question.
Many historians believe Germany lost World War I because they had to fight two frontlines, one on the east with Russia, and one on the west with England and France. Another reason cited by historians is that when the German U-boats began sinking supply ships the English people were better prepared to deal with shortages. The English created ration programs and the woman’s army to help with food distribution. However, when the German ports were blockaded, the Germans did not handle the supply shortages as successfully as the English. Eventually, the German people and soldiers were starving, had little clothing or cleaning supplies and were suffering from all sorts of diseases. Their will to keep fighting was broken.
Germany lost World War II because Hitler made poor decisions such as invading Russia and abandoning Field Marshall Rommel in Africa. Also, Germany’s military equipment was complex and hard to manufacture and maintain. Hitler would never retreat, wasn’t prepared for resistance, and was so cruel his enemies would stop at nothing to destroy him.
It is said, “Don’t attack Russia in winters” because both Napoleon and Hitler were defeated when they tried to invade and conquer Russia. The average temperature around Moscow and its surrounding area is typically -10 degrees Celsius. Both Napoleon and Hitler underestimated the severity of the Russian winter and the difficulties of re-supplying their armies over difficult terrain, especially in winter. Hitler also did not hold the Russians in high regard because of his racism.
And, Hitler was such a know-it-all, he didn’t believe in weather forecasts. Of course the weather in Russia during the winter was not the only reason for their defeat. Both Napoleon and Hitler faced fierce resistance from the Russian soldiers and people
Hitler did not surrender even when Germany was being invaded from both fronts clearly because he was insane. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “Obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken. It’s also been reported that Hitler often remarked that the way World War I ended, with surrender, was humiliating and cowardly.
At the end of 1944, Hitler reportedly said to one of his Luftwaffe aides, Nicolaus von Below, “We’ll not capitulate. Never. We can go down but we’ll take a world with us.” What could be more cowardly than the way Hitler died, by taking his own life?
Japan did not aggressively attack the mainland United States of America because they were already fighting on two fronts in China and South East Asia. There were however some small attacks of the mainland by the Japanese. In 1942, Japan launched an attack on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, landing on the islands of Kiska and Attu. They occupied Kiska for almost a year, until mid-1943.
A Japanese submarine also shelled an oil field near Santa Barbara, California and Fort Stevens in Oregon. The Japanese also sent about 9,000 bomb-carrying balloons across the Pacific. Apparently only 1 balloon caused any casualties, five children and their pregnant mother were killed when they discovered the balloon in the woods near their home.
The Nazi’s ultimate goal was to make room for and unite the Germanic people by colonizing Eastern Europe, especially France, and Russia. This goal also included returning the land that was taken away from Germany after the Treaty of Versailles. This belief was called Lebensraum or “living space”.
Once the lands were conquered, the Nazi’s planned one of four outcomes for the people they would displace: slavery, deportation, extermination or forceful breeding with Germans. The latter outcome was, of course, only reserved for the people most closely resembling Aryans. Aryans in Nazi terminology were non-Jewish Caucasians, especially of Nordic ancestry.
I would measure the brutality of the Worlds Wars by the number of deaths. Of course all statistics of military, civilian, and prisoner of war casualties are estimates. For World War I these estimates range from 9 million to over 15 million. For World War II, estimates range from 50 million to over 80 million.
It is almost unbelievable to think that if 80 million people died during the course of World War II that equates to, at that time, almost 3% of the world’s population. One has to wonder why it is important which World War was more brutal. The world obviously didn’t learn from World War I and ended up fighting a second world war.