The Second World War brought about major leaps in technology and laid the groundwork that permitted post-war social changes, including the end of European colonialism, the civil rights movement in the United States, and the modern women’s rights movement, as well as the programs for exploring outer space. The primary combatants were the Axis nations (Nazi Germany, Facist Italy, Imperial Japan and their smaller allies) and the Allied nations, led by Britain (and its Commonwealth nations), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States of America. The Allies were the victors. Two superpowers, the USA and USSR, emerged from World War II to begin a Cold War with each other that would define much of the rest of the century.
The most destructive war in all of history, its exact cost in human lives is unknown, but casualties in World War II may have totaled 50 million service personnel and civilians killed. Nations suffering the highest losses, military and civilian, in descending order, are:
USSR: 42,000,000; Germany: 9,000,000; China: 4,000,000; Japan: 3,000,000.
From 'World War II: Facts, information and articles about World War II, 1939-1945', HistoryNet , accessed 22 April 2017, <http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii>
World War II was a great tragedy, claiming 60 million lives and throwing millions more into turmoil. Yet the war also spurred rapid technological development, hastened the end of colonialism, and laid the foundation for institutions like the United Nations and the European Union. Below are 42 maps that explain the conflict — how it started, why the Allies won, and how it has shaped the modern world.
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