World War II (also known as the Second World War) was a global conflict between the Axis and Allies, incorporating all of the world powers at the time. The Allies consisted of the United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union, Poland, China, Belgium and France, and was lead by leaders such as the US's Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the UK's Winston Churchill and, in a fleeting relationship with the other powers, the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin. The Axis Powers was primarily lead by Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy, in which Adolf Hitler, Japanese warlords and Benito Mussolini led each country, respectively. The war lasted from September 1, 1939 to September 2, 1945. In the end over 70 million lives were lost in battle or due to disease, the horror of the Holocaust, or the atomic bombings in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The economic and cultural vacuum that World War I and the Treaty of Versailles left Germany in was desperate, to say the least. The oppressed people of Germany turned to an energetic leader who promised to bring them back to "greatness." He was none other than Adolf Hitler, and he was elected democratically by the German people he won over with his rhetoric. Hitler, leader of the National Socialist Party or Nazi Party, was a soldier in World War I and believed that a variety of people were to blame for Germany's lowly status. He pointed his finger at the Allies and mainly the Jews. Hitler dreamed of an empire and first got the Sudetenland (a horseshoe-shaped territory of primarily German-speaking people brought into being by the Treaty of Versailles) after threatening the Allied Powers to use force if necessary. The Allied countries (not officially in war time at this point and not yet given this moniker) conceded and gave Hitler his area without a fight. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is infamous for saying after this peace conference, "I believe it is peace for our time." These words rang hollow as Hitler then invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, officially starting World War II and sending the Allied Powers into action against this legitimate threat. The Soviets invaded Poland soon after in order to get their own claims of land and extend their power.
The Initial Struggles
Britain, France, and the Commonwealth had declared war on Germany immediately following the invasion of Poland but did not provide much support. Meanwhile, Japan attacked the Chinese city of Changsha, igniting the Pacific theater of war. The Soviet Union invaded Finland in November of 1939, to which it surrendered in March 1940, even if the Allies had provided some meager funds for defense. However, there was a significant lull in armed conflict between the two sides until May 1940. This period has become known as the "Phoney War." Tensions were very high for the politicians and civilians of both factions out of fear that attack could occur at any moment.
On May 10, 1940, Germany launched a full-front invasion of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Using blitzkrieg tactics, the Netherlands and Belgium were taken out by Germany quickly. France surrendered on June 22, 1940. Italy had also invaded the country, expediting its fall, but the resistance to the Nazis was fierce, though the French led a disillusioned defense as they bolstered all border defenses besides that of Belgium. Ironically, France was attacked by Germany through this same border in World War II as well.
United States Involvement
While Europe was in turmoil and Japan was fulfilling its imperialistic desires, the United States cautiously remained neutral. The citizens absolutely refused to become involved in another war in Europe after the devastation and chaos of World War I. President Roosevelt, however, was against the idea of isolationism but followed the desires of the people as long as he could.
The neutrality would not remain. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes launched off of carriers and launched a catastrophic surprise attack against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. Several ships were sunk or damaged, and over 6,000 people lost their lives. In response to the devastation, President Roosevelt and Congress declared war against Japan which inevitably dragged them into the war against Germany. The United States now found themselves entering a war on two fronts. The wishes of the people could not have been fulfilled any longer.
In Video Games
A world-changing event of the mid-twentieth century, World War II would become the inspiration for numerous media in the years to follow, including video games. In the 1990s and 2000s in particular, the war became a very common set-piece for first-person shooters, starting with Wolfenstein 3D and later in series such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. The heavy proliferation of World War II shooters was inspired in part due to the notion that Nazi Germany is very easy to incorporate as the enemy force in a video game, and also because World War II lacked the moral ambiguity of other twentieth century conflicts such as the Vietnam War. However, it was in part because of this heavy proliferation that a common complaint that there were too many World War II games began to rise, and developers began to look for other settings and sources of inspiration. In particular, Call of Duty shifted away from World War II with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Electronic Arts rebooted Medal of Honor with a game set in the present day, as well.