Great War I
|This article or section is in the process of an expansion or major restructuring. You are welcome to assist in its construction by editing it as well. If this article or section |
If you are the editor who added this template and you are actively editing, please be sure to replace this template with
|Great War I|
|Commanders and leaders|
Conrad Tillman Jr.
|Casualties and losses|
Military deaths by country:|
Military deaths by country:|
Military deaths by country:|
Great War I, also called World War I, was a global conflict that lasted from 1942 to 1946. Described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, making it one of the largest wars in history. It was also one of the deadliest conflicts, with TBD million military deaths and around TBD million civilian deaths directly caused by the war. The vast majority of the world's countries were involved in the conflict and a state of total war emerged.
On 24 February 1942, Hungarian nationalist György Kunyik, hired by opposition politicians trying to end the current Romanian dictatorship, attempted to assassinate King Carol II of Romania, leading to the March Crisis. In response, Romania invaded Hungary, which resulted in subsequent declarations of war on Romania by Russia. Germany became involved in the ensuing conflict it entered the war on behalf of Romania against Russia, which led to France declaring war on Germany, bringing much of Europe's main powers into conflict. In the Pacific, Sierra invaded the German territory of the Caroline Islands, and entered into a state of conflict with Germany and its allies, Japan and the United Kingdom. By 1943, the great powers of the world were divided into two main coalitions: the Triple Alliance, consisting of Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom–and the Entente Impériale, consisting of France, Russia, China, and Sierra. A third coalition of Landonist states under the direction of the United Commonwealth, emerged and conflict erupted in the Americas.
The fighting in Europe took place in three major theatres, the Western Front in France, Germany, England, and Belgium; the Eastern Front throughout Eastern Europe, on Russia's borders with Germany and Romania; and the Balkan Front in southeastern Europe. In East Asia China and Japan were already at war, and the fighting became part of the broader conflict. Naval and land battles took place throughout the Pacific islands and parts of Southeast Asia. Fighting also occurred throughout North America. In the West, the war was characterised by an initial German offensive in 1942 that devolved into trench warfare for four years with little change or movement, and a French invasion of the United Kingdom that was unsuccessful in taking London. The war in the East was more dynamic, with German and allied forces advancing into Russia after its initial invasion of Romania. The Balkans saw the German occupation of much of Hungary and Yugoslavia.
The Great War ended in a military stalemate but the costs and devastation that resulted from the war significantly changed the fundamental political and social order of the world. The war and its immediate aftermath resulted in various revolutions, uprisings, and regime changes. A severe economic recession led to the reorganization of the global financial system, and the economies of many European countries. The decolonization of Africa, Asia, and South America also began, in the wake of the weakened European powers.
- 1 Names
- 2 Background
- 3 Prelude
- 4 Early stages: 1942
- 4.1 Western Front
- 4.2 Eastern Front
- 4.3 Balkan Front
- 4.4 The Far East
- 4.5 The Pacific War
- 4.6 Africa
- 4.7 North America
- 5 Middle stages: 1943–1944
- 6 Final offensives: 1945–1946
- 7 Aftermath
- 8 Formal end of the war
- 9 War crimes
- 10 Impact and legacy
- 11 See also
The term "great war" was first used in May 1942 by German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that "there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared 'European War' ... will become the first great world war in the full sense of the word," citing a wire service report in The Indianapolis Star on 20 May 1942.
For the 19th century and the start of the 20th century, the European powers tried to maintain a tenuous balance between themselves without letting their disputes turn into open war. The biggest challenges to this system was the emergence of a unified Germany after the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the collapse of Austria-Hungary, and the decline of the Ottoman Empire, with the latter two giving rise to disputes between the newly independent states of the Balkans. Anglo-French enmity and France's challenge to British colonial ambitions during the Scramble for Africa caused Great Britain to enter a military alliance with Germany in 1904. The naval arms race between France and Britain also increased tensions between the two countries, and France still had claims to the province of Alsace-Lorraine that was lost to Germany in 1871. The rising tensions led to the brief Franco-German War in 1923, which ended in a German victory and solidified anti-German resentment in France. The war also led the French Third Republic to collapse and led to the monarchical restoration of the House of Orléans, and the new French monarchs were even more intensely anti-British and anti-German.
In response to British assistance to Germany during the war, France signed an alliance with Russia in 1925 and improved its ties with European minor powers such as Belgium, Portugal, and, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1927, the new republic of Turkey. In the late 1920s and into the 1930s, the tensions between France, Britain, Germany, and Russia escalated, with proxy wars occurring in the Belgian and Spanish Civil Wars. In Belgium, a German-funded rebellion by the Flemish independence movement was crushed by the French-backed central government, while in Spain the British-backed Landonist Republicans defeated the Falangists, who were supported by France. The United Kingdom, Germany, and also Japan renewed their alliance in 1931, which became known formally as the Triple Alliance, and also had individual alliances with other states. France, Russia, Sierra, and Belgium formally created an Entente Impériale in 1933 which expanded to include other countries as well. This set a network of new alliances in Europe that went beyond German chancellor Otto von Bismarck's attempts to keep a balance of power. France and Russia developed war plans in the event of an outbreak of war with Germany and Britain, which included a Russian invasion of eastern Germany and a French invasion of England to knock both countries out of the war quickly.
France's economy and industry increased massively since 1871. Philip VIII, who became King in 1923, and chief of staff Admiral Pierre Alexis Ronarc'h wanted to rearm the French Marine Royale to compete with the British Royal Navy for world supremacy. In doing so, they were influenced by US naval strategist Alfred Mahan, who argued possession of a blue-water navy was vital for global power projection; Ronarc'h translated his books into French and Jean III made them required reading. This policy was continued by his successor Jean III after King Philip's death in 1926. This resulted in the Anglo-French naval arms race but the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 gave the Royal Navy a technological advantage over its French rival, which responded with the battleship Courbet.
The arms race continued into the 1930s, with the French Marine Royale being the second largest navy in the world after Britain. French naval strategists did not intend to match the British Royal Navy, but be able to hold it off long enough so that a land invasion of the United Kingdom could be launched. Admiral of the Fleet François Darlan, the commander-in-chief of the French Navy at the outbreak of war, had concentrated France's strongest surface ships in the French Northern Fleet to engage the Royal Navy's Channel Fleet while transports carried the French ground forces to their planned landing site in East Anglia.
Conflicts in the Balkans
Spread of Landonism in Europe
Assassination attempt on King Carol II
On 24 February 1942, a Hungarian nationalist, György Kunyik, hired by opposition politicians trying to end the current Romanian dictatorship, attempted to assassinate King Carol II of Romania in Bucharest. Kunyik failed to kill him and Carol II survived the attempt, but the monarch was outraged by the attack. King Carol and his cabinet blamed the attack on the government of Hungary, which the Hungarian prime minister Miklós Horthy repeatedly denied. Still, the Romanian king also saw Hungary as a threat to Romania due to the Hungarian population in the western parts of the country, and decided to use the incident as a reason to secure Romania's western border. He refused all attempts by the Hungarian government to prove its innocence or to offer compensation for the incident. Hungary, led by a nationalist government which had entered a military alliance with Russia in 1935, sought protection and mediation from its ally.
Despite the Russian attempts at diplomacy, King Carol ignored these efforts and declared war on Hungary on 16 March 1942. The Romanian Army had already prepared and crossed the frontier into Hungary the next day.
Romania sought to pacify the "rogue Hungarian government", which Carol II believed had designs on Hungarian-inhabited lands in Romanian Transylvania, and also to liberate the Slovaks in northern Hungary. As negotiations between Russian, Hungarian, and Romanian diplomats continued, the Romanian forces entered Hungary on March 17, with the Romanian First Army and Second Army in the north convening on Debrecen, while the Third Army and Fourth Army attacked from the south towards Szeged. The Romanian Land Forces were under the overall command of General Nicolae Macici. The Hungarians mobilised and had more than 150,000 troops at arms within a week of Romania's declaration of war. The Hungarian Army, under Colonel General József Heszlényi, prepared a defence of the cities near the Romanian border. The first clash between the two armies occurred near the town of Hosszúpályi in northeastern Hungary, in which better-organised Hungarian troops fought off a Romanian advance force before retreating.
The assassination attempt on Carol II and the subsequent outbreak of hostilities began a month of diplomatic maneuvering between Russia, Germany, and other European powers. Upon learning of the Hungarian-Romanian war outbreak, on March 18, Russian foreign minister Count Vladimir Kokovtsov delivered an ultimatum to the Romanian government. It called on Romania to withdraw back to its borders and cease all hostilities against Hungary. Russia threatened to intervene militarily if Romania did not agree to the ultimatum. The Romanian foreign minister Grigore Filipescu opposed the course of events and was forced to resign by Carol II after protesting, replaced by Prince Michel Sturdza, a member of the Romanian nobility more in line with King Carol's vision. Sturdza refused the Russian ultimatum and called on Germany to support Romania in its war against Hungary. Konstantin von Neurath, the German minister of foreign affairs, confirmed Germany's support for Romania on March 19 but did not indicate it would go beyond diplomacy.
Russia, in support of Hungary, declared a partial mobilisation of the Russian Army on March 21 against Romania. Kaiser Wilhelm III asked the Russian government to suspend its war mobilization, which was refused by Alexander Kolchak, the supreme leader of Russia. In response Germany began its own mobilization on March 24 and also sent a letter to France demanding that it not support Russia. Germany declared war on Russia on the same day. The French did not make a formal response at first, which encouraged Germany to move the bulk of its army to the east. According to previous war plans made between Russia and France, Russia would launch an invasion of eastern Germany and the German puppet state of Poland, so the Russian mobilisation was directed there. France started mobilising its own reserves on March 28, by which point Germany had started deploying towards its eastern border. A significant portion of the German Army was also sent west and on March 31 an ultimatum was made to Belgium to allow Germany military access. Belgium refused, as an ally of France, and Germany occupied Luxembourg and entered Belgium on April 1. Kaiser Wilhelm declared war on France and Belgium on the same day, followed by the United Kingdom on April 2.
Early stages: 1942
Northern France and Belgium
The Western Front was where the two most powerful military forces in Europe, the German and French armies, met and fought. The initial German offensive through Belgium and into France was unsuccessful at reaching Paris, and the front would remain static from late 1942 until 1945. At the opening of the war, Germany placed 60% of its army in the east to fend off a Russian offensive and 40% in the west against France. General Franz Halder, the Chief of the German General Staff, planned to capture Paris and encircle the French Army near the Swiss and German borders. Holding off Russia in the east, Germany would invade and quickly knock France out of the war as they had in the 1923 Franco-German War. The French commander-in-chief, General Alphonse Georges, planned to hold off the German attack long enough for France to invade England, which would remove Germany's main ally from the war and allow the Entente to isolate Germany and its continental allies.
The German advance was initially successful, by the end of April the German Army had occupied Belgium and the French forces in the north were in full retreat and France had taken more than 250,000 casualties in the first month of fighting. The Belgian Army also retreated along with the French and the Belgians establisheda government-in-exile in Paris. However, the advance of the German Second Army towards Paris created a gap between the German forces that the French were able to exploit, launching an attack on their flank, forcing the the German advance north of the French capital to halt in late April 1942. The French advance into Alsace-Lorraine was repulsed with a high price to French troops in casualties, but the border region also remained static. By the end of 1942, the Germans controlled most of France's industrialized areas and coal fields and had dealt the French Army casualties. The battle lines from the Belgian border, through northern France, to the Alsace-Lorraine region and the Swiss border would remain static for the next two years with little movement. But they had not taken Paris and had not managed to prevent the French launching an invasion of of the United Kingdom.
Invasion of England
France planned to quickly invade England and force it to sue for peace, thereby isolating Germany and its allies in Central Europe. For that purpose the French Royal Navy would engage the British Royal Navy in battle to distract it in the Channel, while hundreds of transports carried some 300,000 troops from their bases to the planned landing site at East Anglia. Choosing this region also allowed them to avoid most of the fortifications in England, which were further to the south, and allow a faster advance towards London. The French Northern Fleet departed on met the Channel Fleet and the two fought an engagement from April 9 to April 20. The Battle of the Channel was indecisive, with the French fleet slightly taking heavier losses after losing four battleships compared to three for Britain, but was successful in distracting the British navy long enough for the invasion force to be transported. The French Northern Fleet would remain in port for much of the war as additional warships arrived in British waters from other parts of the world in the following weeks, beyond the ability of the French to challenge.
The French ground forces landed in several areas between Great Yarmouth in the north and Aldeburgh in the south. The landings were initially unopposed and by April 25, over 310,000 troops had landed on the coast. Marshal of France Philippe Pétain took command of the invasion force. The successful landing of a French force was unexpected and caused a panic in the British Government over the course of the following weeks. By May 1, the East Anglian coast was largely secured by the French, and the British were mobilizing the Territorial Force in response. Much of the British Army was spread throughout the Empire, leaving defenses at home under-strength. The French advanced through Suffolk and entered Essex before encountering heavier resistance. The Battle of Chelmsford occurred when mobilised British divisions met the French Seventh Army, the lead French force, and would last until the end of May. Chelmsford fell, but it held out long enough for the British to organise transport additional units to the front line. Conscription was introduced by an emergency act of Parliament, as the regular army and territorial units were not enough to stop the French offensive.
The Battle of London began in June and lasted until October 1942, with more than 300,000 total casualties between the two sides. London ultimately held and the French were gradually beaten back. The British mobilisation increased by the fall of 1942 and the French armies became in danger of becoming encircled. After the failure to take the British capital, Pétain gave the order to withdraw. By January 1943, the French force had been reduced to 110,000 troops and held on to several towns along the East Anglian coastline. A stalemate would occur as the British launched an attempt to force the remaining army to surrender, but these attempts did not succeed and devolved into trench warfare. The East Anglian pocket would remain largely the same, with the troops taking losses due to the Royal Navy cutting them off from supplies from France, until the end of the war. The invasion was a strategic defeat for France, having failed to force Britain to capitulate and tied down a large number of troops, though it caused panic among the British public.
Hostilities in the east began when Russia invaded Poland and Romania on April 3, 1942. In the northern part of the front, Russia wanted to regain Poland, which had gained independence after the 1923 Russian Revolution, and to support its ally France with a massive offensive against Germany. In the south, Russia relieved the pressure on its ally Hungary by invading parts of northern Romania. The German objective was to fight off the Russian offensive and launch a counterattack.
The Russian offensive started out well, as the Polish Army was not able to hold out against the Russian advance and was quickly forced to retreat. Warsaw was captured by Russian troops on April 19 after several days of fighting, with tens of thousands of casualties on both sides. Most of Poland fell by the end of April, with the Polish Army in full retreat towards Germany. The Russian First Army and Second Army entered Germany from northern Poland on April 17 and advanced towards Königsberg, forcing German units to retreat towards the city. The Russian Ninth Army entered from the south and also converged towards the same location. The German Seventh and Eighth Armies were prepared to defend eastern Prussia from the Russian advance, which were joined by tens of thousands of Polish troops that had retreated after their defeat by the Russians in Poland. The first engagement at Gumbinnen ended in a Russian victory. The main engagement would be fought near Tannenberg, where two German armies faced three Russian armies. The Russian general Andrey Vlasov's attempt to encircle the German forces with his three armies failed as the Germans launched a preemptive attack on the First and Second armies. After the initial attack succeeded and cut off several Russian divisions from each other, the arrival of the Ninth Army from the rear and its unexpectedly fierce attack caused the German lines to break. On April 27, the German commander Erich von Manstein decided to execute a fighting retreat instead of allow the collapse of their defenses or becoming encircled.
The German and Russian forces both took considerable losses, over 50,000 on each side, but the bulk of their forces remained intact. At the subsequent battle of Königsberg, the city was besieged from June 3 until the arrival of German reinforcements, which included the German Sixth and Seventh armies. They broke the siege and forced Vlasov's remaining armies to withdraw from the city on June 25. The follow up attack on them near what had been the German-Polish border was a decisive victory for the Germans, leading to the Russian army completely leaving eastern Germany back into Russian-occupied Poland. This led to a break in the fighting, with the Germans pausing and not immediately advancing into Poland due to pressures on other fronts. Since the Russian advance into Romania was happening at the same time, and Germany deployed additional troops to the Balkans, which led to the successful occupation of Hungary and most of Yugoslavia. The Russians initially took most of northern Romania, but with German reinforcements after the fall of Hungary the Romanian Army established a defensive line at the Carpathian Mountains. In August-September 1942, the first Russian attempt by the Russian Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies to break through the Carpathian Mountains ended in a disastrous failure, with over 180,000 losses.
In October 1942, the Germans began preparing an offensive into Russian Poland by building up forces in East Prussia, which included units transferred back from the Balkans and from the Western Front, which was at a stalemate with France. Five German armies were in position by the end of November and the offensive began on 1 December 1942. The operation began with a great success, and by the end of the year the Russian armies in Poland were in a retreat.
The first hostilities of the conflict were between Romania and Hungary, which escalated in late March. Despite some initial Romanian setbacks, the logistical situation was improved and Romania began to field larger forces and better organised supply lines in April. The Hungarian strategy was a defensive one, especially after Germany and Austria entered the war in early April. Debrecen was besieged by Romanian troops on April 11, and Szeged was besieged on April 17 despite the disruption caused by Yugoslavia's offensive into southern Romania. The Hungarian Army had swelled to over 300,000 men upon mobilisation by the middle of May, while the Romanian army numbered around 650,000 at the same time. The first Romanian objective was to advance to the Tisza river and take all of the Hungarian lands between there and Romania.
After several days of battle, Debrecen fell to numerically superior Romanian troops on April 20. The Hungarians held back most of their forces at the time, with the fully mobilised army being prepared for a counteroffensive as the Romanians advanced inland on the northern part of the front around Debrecen. The first units of the Romanian Second Army reached the Tisza river near Tiszafüred on April 28. There, at the river crossing, the Hungarian First Army and elements of the Second Army retreating from Debrecen counterattacked the Romanian force, dealing them a massive blow. The Romanian Second Army had advanced too far ahead and was cut off from reinforcements in the Romanian First Army, and soon their positions were overrun. The collapse of the Second Army had cost around 40,000 troops and threatened to open a gap in the front. The Hungarians advanced towards Debrecen and came within 25 km of the city by May 7. Combined with the Yugoslav attack from the south, King Carol II and his government began panicking and urged the Germans to assist them faster.
However, the Hungarian counteroffensive was limited as the German and Austrian entry into the war saw the German Ninth Army and multiple Austrian divisions enter Hungary from the north and west. The Hungarians were forced to retreat by the German forces entering from Czechia but they managed to stop the Austrian advance near the Hungarian border, dealing the Austrians about 15,000 casualties. Still, by June 1942 the Romanians began to push back the Hungarians to the Tisza river while the Germans advanced on Budapest, and Yugoslavia's efforts were lessened by the Austro-German offensive into northern Yugoslavia. Budapest was taken by the Germans after several days of fighting on May 22, and the Romanians took the bridgeheads along the Tisza River around late June. They began crossing and were able to link up with the German Ninth Army on June 14 at Budapest, having pacified the remaining Hungarian units in the countryside. The government fled to Szeged and the Yugoslav border, but the rest of Hungary was occupied by August 1942.
The Russian army's entry into northern Romania in mid-April and Bulgaria's declaration of war on Romania and invasion of Dobruja did not stop the Romanians from occupying the rest of Hungary with the fall of Belgrade and northern Yugoslavia in July-August 1942, forcing Hungary to capitulate.
Invasion of Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia had signed a "Treaty of Eternal Friendship" with Hungary in 1940 and was ideologically aligned with Russia. Accordingly, following Romania's declaration of war on Hungary on March 16, it began a debate among the Yugoslav cabinet whether or not to get involved. King Peter II ultimately decided to support Hungary as per their treaty, especially after Russia started mobilising on March 21. The Royal Yugoslav Army deployed the 1st Army Group towards the Romanian border to protect the capital Belgrade. On March 24, the 1st Army Group attacked southwestern Romania and the offensive initially caused a panic in the Romanian government – Carol II and his advisors did not expect Yugoslavia to enter the war, and that quickly. The Romanian Fourth and Third Army rerouted troops from Hungary back to Romania to stop the offensive, while additional troops were raised in Romania. That slowed down the Romanian offensive in southern Hungary. Once Germany entered the war and a general war broke out, the German and Austrian general staff entered into talks with the Romanian army command to deploy troops to help in the Balkans.
The Yugoslav offensive into Romania was initially successful, but by late April they slowed down by increasing Romanian resistance. The Yugoslav forces redoubled their attack in coordination with the Hungarian counteroffensive against the Romanians, but this too had a limited effect. An Austro-German army entered northern Yugoslavia and attacked the 2nd Army Group positions, with the goal of reaching Zagreb. In border clashes, most of the 2nd Army Group was defeated and reinforcements were brought to defend Zagreb on May 5. The city held out until falling on May 29, and the Austrian Army brought several more divisions into Yugoslavia. The Austrian 1st Army with German divisions advanced from Zagreb through the north of the country into the Banat towards Belgrade, while the 2nd Army moved along the Dalmatia coast to occupy central Croatia and Bosnia. After the fall of Zagreb, on June 10 the Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed by the Austrian occupation forces and Vladko Maček, the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, became its first Prime Minister, beginning the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The remaining Royal Yugoslav Army units were perpared to defend Belgrade from the Austro-German advance, and the capital was besieged on June 3.
Bulgaria's entry into the war on June 21, 1942, led to a Bulgarian force of over 250,000 troops entering southern Yugoslavia to assist the Yugoslavs at Russia's request. The Bulgarian First Army was sent north and took part in the defense of Belgrade with the Royal Yugoslav Army, launching a counteroffensive that threatened to break the Austrians' connection to the rest of their forces outside the city and encircle them in Belgrade. However, the arrival of reinforcements eventually stopped the Bulgaria advance by June 27. King Peter II and his government, which had fled Belgrade in early June, moved their temporary capital to Skopje, which was now defended by some 100,000 Yugoslav troops and about 200,000 Bulgarians. The battle ended on July 1 with the retreat of the remaining Yugoslav-Bulgarian forces further south. Sarajevo fell to the Austrian Third Army on July 16, with much of Croatia and Bosnia under Austrian occupation. Those territories became part of the Independent State of Croatia, which was recognised by Germany, Austria, and their allies.
Due to the more pressing situation on the Eastern and Western fronts, the campaign in Yugoslavia was halted shortly after Hungary's capitulation. The southern half of Yugoslavia with King Peter's court in Skopje remained under Yugoslav control, under the protection of large Bulgarian armies. Bulgaria's timely entry into the war was credited with saving Yugoslavia from total collapse.
Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey
Greece was closely allied to Romania and Germany, but did not participate in the war initially as the Greek government of Ioannis Metaxas saw no reason to invade Yugoslavia. Bulgaria initially remained neutral, but maintained close relations with Russia. Bulgaria's entry into the war on June 21 and followed by Turkey's entry with its declaration of war on Germany, the United Kingdom, and their allies on July 1 under French pressure changed the situation in the Balkans. Suddenly, the German, Austrian, and Romanian forces in Yugoslavia were stopped with assistance from the massive Bulgarian Army (which mobilised a quarter of its population, over one million troops) and Romania was threatened from the south. Britain and Germany pressured Greece to enter the war and attack Bulgaria and Yugoslavia from the south, and allow German and British troops to be based on its territory. The Metaxas dictatorship agreed to these demands on July 9, feeling threatened by Turkey and the mobilisation of the Turkish Army, and requested immediate assistance from Germany. At the same time the Hellenic Army moved its forces towards the border, particularly into Thrace along the Bulgarian and Turkish frontier.
Turkey began operations against Greece on July 17, with the Turkish First Army crossed the Greek border and invaded Thrace. The Greeks reinforced their forces in Thrace with all of their reserves, and managed to defeat the Turks at the Battle of Alexandroupoli, a major port near the Turkish border. The defeat caused the Turks more than 30,000 casualties and bought Greece time as Turkey mobilised its armed forces to make up for the losses. On August 2, the first British Army units arrived in Greece, where eventually more than 70,000 British troops would be based. The Royal Navy also began patrolling the Aegean Sea to bombard Turkish ports and keep the Turkish Navy from attacking the British supply lines in the eastern Mediterranean. It was not until September 1942 that Turkey began a new offensive into Thrace, this time with over 150,000 troops that overwhelm the Greek defenses in East Thrace. After the Second Battle of Alexandroupoli the Greeks were forced to retreat and the Turkish advance reached Macedonia. At this time, more than 25,000 British troops joined the Greek defenders, and the Battle of Kavala led to a Greco-British victory over the Turkish forces after a two-month siege. By December 1942 the Greco-Turkish front was again quiet as the Turkish Army prepared for a new offensive.
The Far East
In East Asia, Japan and China were already at war since 1938, and in 1941 China had signed the the Quadripartite Pact with France, Russia, and Sierra, guaranteeing military support from those countries against Japan. The Empire of Japan had signed the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902, later becoming part of the Triple Alliance with Germany and the United Kingdom. Following the outbreak of the Great War in Europe in March and April 1942, Japan began to enact plans to invade French Indochina as well as the Sierran East Indies and other Sierran Pacific holdings such as Guam.
India, which had recently become independent in 1932–33, invaded and annexed the remaining European territories on the subcontinent – French, British, and Portuguese – in July 1942.
China and French Indochina
The Japanese Sixth Army, based out of Guangzhou in the southern China occupied territories, along with the Imperial Japanese Navy began to coordinate an invasion of Indochina as they did not control the Sino-French border. France had been supplying China with oil and weapons through Indochina since 1941, sending them from the port of Haiphong through the capital Hanoi and into southern China's Yunnan province. The Japanese General Staff had an interest in cutting off the supply line. The Japanese plan called for landing troops near Haiphong and capturing the capital, at which point French resistance would fall and Japan would occupy all of Indochina. On April 15, preparations for the landing were underway and troops were assembled in southern Chinese ports. Lieutenant General Aketo Nakamura's 5th Division landed along the coast successfully near Haiphong, at Dong Tac, on April 24 without any resistance. Soon more than 5,000 troops converged on the port city, which was defended by the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment of the French Foreign Legion. After a skirmish in a surprise attack, the Regiment was taken prisoner, with about 82 French deaths and 117 Japanese losses. The Japanese secured Haiphong as the IJN landed Special Naval Landing Force troops to occupy the city while the 5th Division proceeded to Hanoi. From there the Japanese quickly took the capital, and Governor General of Indochina Georges Catroux surrendered the French administration of the colony.
The war between China and Japan was largely at a stalemate by 1942, and with the exception of minor battles the Japanese made no further attempts to capture large swaths of Chinese territory, instead the IJA General Staff hoped that the Qing government would collapse internally from the losses. Manchuria and the areas of north China around Beijing and Tianjin were occupied, as was Shanghai and portions of the Yangtze River valley in central China, along with Guangzhou and portions of Guangdong in the south. However, the Chinese people were largely united behind the dynasty in the face of the Japanese enemy and no major rebellions broke out in Qing territory. The outbreak of the war in the Pacific and the Japanese attacks on the Kingdom of Sierra's Pacific territories led the country's prime minister Poncio Salinas to ask the Guangxu Emperor and his government for a Chinese offensive to assist Sierra. Although the Emperor was receptive to the idea, his military commanders advised against it. By October 1942, it was planned to push the Japanese in central China into the sea and retake Shanghai while also retaking Guangzhou and the Guangdong province in the south in a large offensive. By the end of 1942, the offensives met some initial success but slowed down as the Japanese brought in reinforcements from other parts of their empire.
The Pacific War
Around the same time the Japanese invasion of the Kingdom of Sierra's substantial Pacific holdings was carried out, including Tondo. The IJN First Fleet sought to eliminate the Sierran Royal Navy's Asiatic Squadron, which was stationed in Manila Bay and was the main Sierran naval force in the region. On the morning of April 5, 1942, the First Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, along with pilots from the Tainan Air Group operating aboard two aircraft carriers (Hiryu and Soryu) launched a surprise attack on the Sierran squadron at Manila. In the resulting attack, the surprise was successful and the Japanese destroyed most of the Sierran naval forces at port, including the HRMS Culloden. Three battleships, two cruisers, and a number of smaller vessels were a total loss, along with over 3,000 sailors who happened to be aboard the ships. The surprise attack crippled the Sierran navy in the region and gave the IJN superiority ahead of the Japanese landings in northern Tondo.
In Tondo, the Japanese naval infantry captured Batan Island and several other smaller islands north of Luzon by April 8. The main attack on Luzon came on April 11, with three divisions starting their landing at multiple points in Lingayen Gulf, over 60,000 men. The area was only protected by two poorly trained Tondolese divisions, which could not repel the landing or keep them pinned to the beach. Another 15,000 men landed at Lamon Bay in southern Luzon on April 13. By the 17th, the main forces had completed their arrival and began their push towards the capital Manila from their landing sites. General Douglas MacArthur, the Sierran commander in Tondo, withdrew his troops to hold out in the Bataan Peninsula as he recognized the Sierran Royal Army garrison and its Tondolese auxiliaries could not hold Luzon against the much larger Japanese forces. The initial Japanese attack on the front line at Bataan failed.
The Japanese renewed their attack on Bataan on May 1, with an attempted amphibious landing of several infantry battalions behind enemy lines and a general attack along the front line on May 4. However, the amphibious attack was fought off by an ad hoc force of Sierran Royal Air Force troops, naval personnel, and Tondolese conscripts. The pocket was gradually forced back to the high cliffs with high casualties on both sides and annihilated by May 12. The penetration in the Sierran line was stopped and broken up into several pockets, before General Masaharu Homma gave an order to regroup and withdraw. With the annihilation of several Japanese battalions, the Japanese force stopped temporarily to reorganize its formation. This gave the Sierran and Tondolese defenders time to prepare their defenses. Because of the worsening position of Sierran forces in the Asia Pacific region, Prime Minister Poncio Salinas contacted MacArthur and ordered him and his command staff to relocate to China.
Beginning on May 18, a new wave of Japanese assaults overwhelmed the battered Sierran defenders. The main Sierran division and several regiments collapsed under the Japanese attack, and their positions were overrun. A general order to retreat to Corregidor Island was given to the remaining personnel. General MacAurther, Prime Minister Manuel L. Quezon, and several Tondolese officials had escaped to the island with some 10,000 surviving troops, and the Japanese landed a force there. After some fighting the defender gradually were forced back and the Sierran officers agreed to surrender the remaining forces on May 24, 1942. The Japanese would occupy Tondo for the remainder of the war.
The Japanese Combined Fleet arrived at Guam on April 10, and seized control of the island from the small Sierran garrison with little resistance. A Sierran cruiser squadron deploying from Hawaii seized control of the German Caroline Islands on April 26, and following that the Japanese Combined Fleet arrived and forced the smaller Sierran force to flee rather than be destroyed by the far larger Japanese fleet. Because of escalating tensions with the United Commonwealth in North America, it was not until July 1942 that the Sierran government began putting together a new Eastern Fleet at Hawaii for the purpose of retaking its lost Pacific territories.
Prior to the war, a series of treaties and agreements were signed between the major powers in which their respective colonies would be neutral in the event of a European war and that any internal conflicts within said colonies was to be an internal affair and that only the colonial powers would intervene and no other nation. Despite this, the French government and armed forces had been planning defenses of their remaining colonies such as French Algeria in the event of a way fearing an invasion of Algeria from British West Africa. Offensive operations were also plotted out with forces in the Middle East being planned to launch attacks into British-held Egypt to seize the Suez Canal and strategically weaken the Royal Navy.
Specialized units were made to launch raids into nearby German and British colonies in Central and Northwestern Africa. Cooperation between France and Turkey was viewed as a necessity and so negotiations between French and Turkish military officials were conducted before the war in order to organize a proper defense and offensive operations in Africa in the event of war.
In 1940, tensions between Sierra and the Union of American States flared when a Landonist Hawaiian revolutionary Kaholo Palakiko attempted to assassinate King Lewis II on November 27, during a Sierra Day parade. Hawaii was an organized territory of Sierra at the time and there was a significant movement of Hawaiian nationalists who advocated separatism and independence from the Kingdom. The movement included the All-Hawaiian People's Congress (AHPC), which was a far-left political organization that was labeled as a terrorist organization by the Sierran government. The Sierran government had been suspicious of Continental influence and support of the AHPC, which would be in circumvention of the 1933 Shenandoah Conference Agreement. The agreement had established a detente between the two states whereby the two agreed not to interfere with each other's internal affairs or the political statuses of their neighbors in North America. The assassination attempt prompted the Sierran government to convict and execute Palakiko, to impose restrictions on Hawaiian home rule, and to make Hawaiian independence advocacy a punishable act of sedition. The moves were protested by the Union of American States, which urged Sierra to rescind its decisions. Despite diplomatic pressure, Sierra refused, which soured relations with Chicago.
In late 1941, Landonist insurgencies broke out in the British West Indies, including the Colony of Jamaica, prompting the United Kingdom to intervene. Although the Union of American States did not officially support the insurgencies at first, it provided tacit logistical support for Jamaican and Grenadian revolutionaries. A similar revolt broke out in North Mexico, whose government was friendly to Sierra and had received support since the end of the Mexican Revolution which saw the Mexican nation divided into three states, with South Mexico being backed by the Union of American States, and the Republic of the Yucatán, which was a Sierran protectorate. Alarmed by the string of Landonist revolutions in the North American continent, Sierra accused the Union of American States on reneging its promises in the Shenandoah Conference and Sierran military officials began preparing plans for a possible invasion against the Union of American States as Operation Downed Sequoia.
In the Union of American States, the government had anticipated a Sierran invasion in the years following the Shenandoah Conference. Although the Union of American States had been successful in supporting Landonist revolutions in Quebec, the Northeast Union (now known as the Congregationalist States), and the Maritime Republic in the years prior to the Conference, it remained vulnerable and exposed in its western region, where it neighbored the pro-Sierran states of Brazoria, Tournesol, and Superior. Securing a buffer zone between the Union of American States and Sierra, and isolating Sierra in the North American continent was deemed a strategic necessity which would tip the geopolitical dynamism of the region completely in the favor of the Union of American States. In addition, the Union of American States' navy was much weaker than the more developed Sierran Royal Navy. Although Sierra's navy was mainly Pacific-based, Sierran had completed construction of the Nicaragua Canal back in 1919, which made the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean much more accessible. As a result, Sierra established naval stations in Cancún, where the fleet there had been deployed on several occasions to initiate blockades during the Mexican Revolution and other conflicts in Central America. The Union of American States believed it was imperative for it to attack and seize control over the Nicaragua Canal to cut Sierra's Atlantic fleet off from swift reinforcements in the Pacific.
By April 1942, the Landonist insurgency in North Mexico had evolved into a full-scale, protracted civil war. Sierra began sending military officers from the Sierran Royal Army to advise and train the North Mexican military to deal with the guerrilla warfare tactics of the insurgents, most of whom were hiding in the Sierra Madre Oriental. The Sierran government also provided indirect military and economic aid to the country through its foreign direct investment shell companies and private entities to circumvent the prohibition against military aid under the Shenandoah Conference Agreement. The Union of American States, in turn, sent a diplomatic team to South Mexico to discuss the possibilities of reunifying Mexico under a Landonist regime, with the expectation that North Mexico would fall to the insurgency. In the meetings, the Union of American States revealed its military plans to invade and occupy Brazoria, while South Mexico would invade North Mexico.
When Sierra entered the Great War on behalf of its allies in the Entente Impériale, its war with Japan in the Pacific was viewed as an opportunity for the Union of American States to carry out its plan to invade Brazoria and force the collapse of the North Mexican government. On April 11, nearly a week after Japan's attack in Manila Bay and Sierra's subsequent mobilization for war in the Pacific, the Union of American States invaded Brazoria, quickly advancing towards Houston and Dallas. They also invaded the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, an exclave of Superior which had long been contested and sought after by the Union's revanchist agenda.
At around the same time, the Union of American States deployed its ships to bombard and attack Sierra's naval base in Cancún, while South Mexico commenced its own invasion of North Mexico and Yucatán. Preparations were made way to attack the Nicaragua Canal as well in order to delay Sierran retaliation. On April 30, the Unionist Army landed on Bluefields, Nicaragua, and attacked the Nicaragua Canal, devastating the Sierran military outpost there.
Now confronted with war on two fronts, Sierra was faced with a dilemma between defending its colonies in the Pacific and its allies in the home front. The Sierran military officers devised a war plan that would devote a defensive war of attrition in the Pacific to halt further Japanese encroachment in Sierra's sphere of influence (and prevent the capture of the Hawaiian Islands), while Sierra would launch an aggressive, two-pronged fronts in the North American Theater, one through the friendly nation of Superior and the other in the Unionist-occupied Brazoria. Sierran war generals wanted to liberate Brazoria and prevent Unionist advancement into Superior, and to quickly invade the Union of American States' capital, Chicago, to force the Unionist government to sue for peace. The war in North Mexico was another issue Sierra needed to address and there were fears that Landonist forces would sweep over the neutral countries of Central America or harbor its insurgents there.
In early May, Sierran infantry and ground troops began marching towards New Mexico to aid the Brazorian forces who were outnumbered by the advancing Unionist forces who captured the Panhandle and encircled the Brazorian capital in Austin. Meanwhile in the Great Lakes region, the Unionist forces, along with its allies from Quebec, the Congregationalist States, and the Maritimes, made headway into the Canadian rump state and Superior. In the Battle of Milwaukee, the Landonist forces successfully overtook the Superian defense there and forced the Superian forces west to Madison. Michigan was encircled by Landonist forces, isolating the Superian troops to the Roscommon State Forest, while the Unionist Navy confronted the Superian Navy in Lake Michigan.
Middle stages: 1943–1944
At the start of 1943 in Europe, though the German offensive into France failed to capture Paris, the French invasion of England failed and the Russians had been forced out of eastern Germany. In the Balkans, Hungary had capitulated and the Romanians held the Carpathian line against the Russian assault, with help from Germany and Austria. Greece held out against the Turkish offensives, while over half of Yugoslavia was under Austro-German occupation, with only Bulgaria holding out among the Entente's allies in southeastern Europe. Both France and Germany planned large offensives in 1943. The Western Front devolved into trench warfare, but the mass-deployment of aircraft began by both sides, which had not occurred last year. Planes had previously not been used on such a large scale, but had seen action in smaller conflicts like the Spanish and Belgian civil wars.
The elaborate defenses and fortifications built throughout the front line in northern France and parts of Belgium made the front in the West static, but it tied down large number of troops. France struck first with a spring offensive to liberate Vimy Ridge and Douai plain, near Arras. The French attacked on January 11 and advanced several kilometers. German reinforcements counter-attacked and pushed the French back towards their starting points because French reserves had been held back and the success of the attack had come as a surprise. By February 16 most of the French gains had been reversed. The next major operation was the Entente's summer offensive, beginning on July 31, 1943 at Champagne. The offensive was organised at multiple points along the front and was carried out with the help of aerial photography. At first the French assault made good progress in spite of the wire entanglements and machine gun posts. Rather than retreating, the Germans adopted a new defence-in-depth scheme that consisted of a series of defensive zones and positions. On August 9, another French attack began at Loos to supplement the larger Champagne attack. Both of the assaults ultimately failed by September 26 while causing massive casualties. Portugal entered the war in February 1943, to assist France, and provided Portuguese troops for the Western Front.
Aerial photography was used for planning offensives by both sides, and German air raids increased into northern France as the German Air Force received more advanced aircraft in larger numbers. Initially the majority of aircraft on each side were biplanes, but monoplanes had shown their usefulness early on and development of them accelerated in the major powers – Germany, France, the UK, and Russia. Ground vehicles were increasingly deployed, with armored cars seeing action during the French offensives of 1943.
There were no more offensives after the summer of 1943 for the rest of the year and the strategic situation was largely unchanged at the start of 1944. In January the German leadership was changed as Halder was replaced as German Chief of the General Staff by Kurt Zeitzler, who decided in early 1944 that since no breakthrough on the Western front was possible while the war in the east was ongoing, Germany would instead bleed out the French army by causing as many casualties as possible. Zeitzler planned to attack a position from which the French could not retreat, for reasons of strategy and national pride and thus trap the French. The town of Verdun was chosen for this because it was an important stronghold, surrounded by a ring of forts, that lay near the German lines and because it guarded the direct route to Paris.
The Battle of Verdun began on 20 February 1944 and initially saw a German advance, with the fall of several French forts including Fort Douaumont. However, when the Germans shifted their focus on a large hill nearby that blocked the route to French artillery emplacements, the ensuing battle saw some of the most intense fighting of the war. The Germans ultimately took the hill by May 30. The summer of 1944 saw the French go on the offensive under the command of Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, gradually advancing against German positions and rotating 42 divisions through the battle. By November 1944 they had pushed back the Germans by more than 2 kilometers away from Fort Douaumont. The Battle of Verdun—also known as the 'Mincing Machine of Verdun' or 'Meuse Mill'—became a symbol of French determination and self-sacrifice. French plans to relieve the pressure at Verdun led to an offensive along the River Somme in July 1943 where a large part of the force included allied Portuguese and Belgian troops. The combined forces advanced under a rolling barrage by artillery, and gradually advanced against the German positions. They suffered a large number of casualties, and by August the French command decided to use small unit tactics and masses of light and medium tankettes. At the Somme, the total death toll was more than one million men.
By 1943 the Germans decided to shift their focus to the Eastern Front. To eliminate at the Russian threat the Triple Alliance began the Gorlice-Tarnów offensive, which saw three German armies along with Austrian, Polish, and Czech troops advance into southern Poland. The offensive occurred at the southern end of the German front, near the Romanian border and the Carpathians. It was to relieve the pressure on the Romanian Army, which had sustained heavy losses in holding back the Russian attacks through the Carpathian mountain passes into Romania. The operation led to the Germans attacking the Russian flank, and led the Russian front line to almost completely collapse. Frequent bombing raids by the German air force, which had air superiority in the east, destroyed much of the Russian army's supply lines. In March 1943, the Russian commander-in-chief Andrey Vlasov ordered a strategic retreat along most of the front line, abandoning much of Poland. Warsaw was retaken by German forces in early April 1943. The new front line would remain largely the same until the offensives of 1945, with the former Polish-Russian border being the general outline of the front.
The main reasons for the Russian defeat in 1943 was not so much tactical errors as as the deficiency in technical equipment, particularly in artillery and ammunition as well as the corruption and incompetence of the Russian officers. Only by 1945 did the buildup of Russian war industries increase production of war material and improve the supply situation.
The Triple Alliance did not begin an offensive to conquer the remaining part of Yugoslavia and advance on Bulgaria until late 1943, when the end of the battles in the west and east allowed more German and Austrian forces to be sent to the region. Meanwhile, fighting between Romania and Bulgaria over Dobruja led to a stalemate, as Romania maintained enough forces to keep the Bulgarians at bay, which could not bring their whole army to bear as they committed large numbers of troops in Yugoslavia. On October 8, German, Romanian, and Czech divisions began an offensive against southern Yugoslavia with the goal of taking the remaining unoccupied parts of the country. The Royal Yugoslav Army had been reduced to about 100,000 men, backed by 250,000 Bulgarian troops. The exhausted and under-equipped Yugoslavs did not last as long, while the Bulgarians had similar supply problems. The German-Romanian force gradually advanced against the Entente positions, and on November 23 they reached Skopje. Several days prior, King Peter II of Yugoslavia had fled to Sofia, where he established a government-in-exile, while the Bulgarians and surviving Yugoslavs retreated back to Bulgaria as the front collapsed by December 1, 1943. A new line of defense had been established at the Bulgarian border, but the Germans made no attempt to attack Bulgaria throughout 1944, with priorities shifting to other fronts.
On May 10, 1943, Italy declared war on Austria for control of Trieste, northern Dalmatia, and South Tyrol. The Austrians were forced to divert the majority of their troops from other fronts, including the Russian and Yugoslav fronts, and mustered some 300,000 men on the Italian frontier. Germany sent several divisions to assist its ally in August 1943. The Italians would make minor gains but the front remained unchanged for the rest of 1943 and 1944, as continous battles along the Alps and the Isonzo River mostly ended in Italian defeats with a high cost in casualties. Additional German reinforcements were brought to aid the Austrians after the conclusion of the Yugoslav campaign in January 1944.
War in Asia
In the Pacific, by 1943 the Japanese had taken control over French Polynesia along with the Sierran territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Tondo, Bénieîle (Vanuatu), the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati), and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Midway Island. The Sierran government had no plans to launch an attack against the Japanese-held islands, being preoccupied with the North American front, but reinforced their garrison at Hawaii for worry of any potential Japanese invasion attempt. Japanese leaders never had any plans to invade Hawaii.
In China, the Japanese rushed reinforcements from the home islands, Korea, and other parts of the empire to the Yangtze river valley and the southern Chinese coast to prevent losing their territories there. The Chinese offensives in both places were stopped by early March 1943, for a cost of over 200,000 Chinese troops killed, and some 98,000 Japanese. The Chinese would not attempt any more major offensives for the rest of 1943 and 1944, and only minor engagements would occur between the two sides over the course of the next two years.
In Brazoria, the Brazorian Army with the help of the Sierran Royal Army 6th and 19th Divisions were successful in liberating the Dallas–Fort Worth Area and the Houston metropolitan area in March 1943. As the Unionist military retreated, towns and cities were intentionally burned down to halt the advance of Brazorian and Sierran troops. Successfully pushing back Landonist intrusion in Brazorian land, an Entente counterattack invasion in the Union of American States. The military campaign in the Acadiana region initially with several failures and losses, but by May 1943, the Entente forces were victorious in the Battle of Lake Charles, the first major Entente victory in Unionist territory. Meanwhile, a frontline developed over the Unionist-occupied Tournesol where the Entente forces launched air raids in Topéque.
While the Unionist Armies had initially made great gains in their advance through Superior in the first months of the invasion, there progress and speed halted. The Unionist armies faced greater local resistance than expected, especially in Michigan where they expected to be greeted as Liberators by the working class citizens due to communications between the Unionist government and labor union leaders within the country. Historians have theorized this was due to the nature of interests, the Farmer Labor government was vested in improving the conditions of the working man but worked to weaken the power of the undemocratic, and corrupt committees of the Unions. This disconnect created a false sense of security in the Unionist forces during this time. Many local resistance groups organized against the occupying Unionist forces, the most famous being the North Star Fighters led by lansing native Travis King. These resistance groups prevented the advance of the Unionist armies, with raids and uprisings being committed against the Unionist soldiers. This ultimately resulted in one of the most infamous war crimes committed by the Unionist forces The Sack of Detroit, this ultimately resulted in over 100,000 civilian casualities, and many more who disappeared. The Unionist forces attempting to push the Superian forces out of Michigan attacked the forces at Houghton lake, the battle of houghton lake was regarded as one of the most bloody battles in North American history. It was a massive failure for the Unionist army resulting in some 400,000 Unionist deaths, and 130,000 Superian deaths. However it managed to secure momentum for Superior scattering Unionist forces, allowing them to push back the occupation recapturing Flint and Grand Rapids by summer's end.
In Wisconsin, they were slowed down by the coming winter which was particulary harsh. The Superian forces being well equipped for the winter, led counter attacks and raids cutting off the supply route of the Unionist forces. They importantly recaptured the city of Kenosha isolating the Unionist armies from Supplies. Within Lake Michigan, the Superian Navy after initial setbacks managed to scour major victories blocking off Unionist occupied ports, and Chicago cutting off their supply chain. At the Battle of Eau Claire, the Superian forces managed to achieve a decisive victory halting the momentum of the Unionist forces. This allowed to begin a renewed offensive, and managed to capture La Bay and New Hamburg by year's end.
Final offensives: 1945–1946
By the end of 1944, French planners had come to the conclusion that France's only chance at winning the war was taking on Germany before Russia collapsed in the face of German advances, otherwise Germany would turn its full might against France. Thus began the spring and summer offensive of 1945, known in French as Bataille Royale (Battle Royale), due to its approval by King Henry VI. Marshal of France Philippe Pétain oversaw the operation and its preparations, amassing four French armies and additional divisions of Portuguese, Belgians, and other allied troops. They faced three German armies in the planned sectors of attack. Efforts were taken to conceal the scope of the preparations and movements of troops. On February 3, 1945, after a massive, accurate but brief artillery barrage against the German lines, with the key factor of this effective bombardment being its brevity and accuracy. This was in contrast to the usual, protracted barrages at the time that gave the defenders time to bring up reserves and evacuate forward trenches while damaging the battlefield so badly that it was hard for attackers to advance. Stormtrooper units of the French also aided the rapid advance by surprise attacks on German trenches, and sappers had burrowed explosives close to them.
There were four French offensives along the front: one around St Mihiel, to cut off and encircle the German forces there; another sector was between Argonne Forest and Amiens; another was between Laon and Cambrai; and another between Vilmy and Passchendaele. The intent was to break the main thrust of the German line in northern France toward Paris, and that after the front collapsed the Germans would seek an armistice. Although French units broke through initially and succeeded in encircling German divisions around St Mihiel, the French advance stalled and did not meet most its objectives, especially after the German high command brought in divisons from the east and Dutch Army forces. The German front was not in danger of collapse. Related fighting largely ended in June 1945. France made large territorial gains, but the French Army was left severely depleted, exhausted and in exposed positions. French manpower was exhausted, and France could no longer replace all of its losses.
In light of this, the German high command planned to end the war on with its own offensive against France, but first decided to end the war in the east to free up over one million troops. Divisions were temporarily sent from the west to east. Against Russia, massive offensives were launched in August 1945 in the northern sector towards Riga along the Mazā Jugla river, and in the southern sector against the Russian-occupied parts of Romania and southern Ukraine. The Russian army had been resupplied and reorganised since its defeats in 1943, but not prepared for the scale of the German attack. Riga was taken on September 8, 1945, though the Russian 12th Army successfully evacuated from its positions largely intact. In the south was an even greater German success, with the collapse of the Romanian front and the entry of Triple Alliance troops into southern Ukraine and central Belarus on October 3. Encouraged by these advances, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian pro-independence rebellions also broke out in the Baltics, with German organising provisional governments in Latvia and Lithuania in late 1945. Russia entered into what would become drawn-out negotiations in November to work out the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which it would sign on 18 January 1946 – among other things, granting the three Baltic republics independence.
In the Balkans, an offensive began against Bulgaria and the remaining Yugoslav forces there on September 26, 1945. The Bulgarian Army held the line initially, repulsing a Romanian offensive from Dobruja, but the start of a soldiers' mutiny over conditions in wartime Bulgaria led to an uprising. Due to the confusion, the Bulgarian front began to collapse. Tsar Boris III succumbed to internal pressure abdicated in favour of the six-year old Simeon on October 11. Bulgaria's new Regency Council, headed by Prince Kyril, entered peace negotiations with Germany and its allies, and became the first Entente country to drop out of the war on October 28 (in this it was joined by the Hungarian and Yugoslav exiled governments in Sofia). In early October 1945, a joint Greco-British offensive began in Thrace, which was joined by German and Romanian troops after the surrender of Bulgaria, marched on Istanbul and dealt the Turkish Army multiple defeats. Turkey sued for peace on December 16, 1945.
In December 1945 Germany began sending troops from the east and the Balkans back to the Western Front, for what would become the Hundred Days Offensive, and the positioning of forces would occur in early 1946. Beginning with the Battle of Lille, which started on March 1, 1946, the Germans along with Dutch, Austrian, and Czech units pushed back the French, undoing France's gains during the Spring Offensive. The retreating French Army took up positions at defensive fortifications built north of Paris called the d'Espèrey Line, but these were broken through by the Germans without an effective French response. Beyond that there were no available reserves to stop the German advance, the fall of Paris appeared to be imminent. Many French units were isolated by advancing German forces. The threat of an occupation of Paris and the threat of revolt by some French soldiers led to King Henry VI agreeing to the Armistice of May 25, 1946, effectively ending the war in Europe.
In Asia, the Japanese Army wanted force the Qing dynasty to collapse and launched Operation Ichi-Go in March 1945, with the aim of breaking the Chinese Army. Over 500,000 men took part in the operation. Although the Japanese succeeded in taking several strategically important cities and railways, at the end of Ichi-Go in February 1946 they were no closer to defeating China. Some minor battles would occur, with the Chinese retaking parts of Guangdong province in the south, but the Japanese would continue occupying large parts of China up until the end of the war. After the signing of the Armistice of May 25, 1946, in Europe, the Chinese Imperial Court made similar offers to the Japanese, seeking to end the war. The liberal civilian government in Tokyo agreed and leaned on the military to accept the offer, as the war seemed to be going nowhere in the eyes of the public and the government, especially after the failure of Ichi-Go to bring about total victory. On June 5, 1946, a ceasefire came into effect in China at the agreement of Japanese and Chinese commanders, and full negotiations began between the Chinese and Japanese from then.
In North America, the Entente Impériale forces led an offensive in Illinois towards the Unionist capital in Chicago. Sierran and Brazorian troops had pushed through Unionist defensive lines in Atlanta and Nashville, towards the industrial heart of the Union. Superior entered Illinois from the west of the Mississippi River and the Superian–Unionist border by Illinois. Faced with the threat of foreign occupation of the national capital, the Unionist government prepared plans to move their base of operations to the more insular city of Louisville in Kentuckiana, where the historic capital was shielded by the Appalachians to the east and the Ohio River to the south. The Unionist Northwestern Front would remain behind in Illinois to defend the anticipated siege against Chicago.
In the aftermath of the war, the situation mostly returned to the state it was at before the war (status quo ante bellum). Countries took massive losses in lives and devastating to their land, particularly France with over 2 million deaths and the occupation of northern France, but also other countries including the one with the single highest losses, Germany (over 3 million deaths), and similar effects on Russia. Smaller countries like Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Hungary were also badly damaged. The United Kingdom suffered over 800,000 losses, with most of the destruction being done in East Anglia, which largely remained under French occupation until the end of the war and was damaged by trench warfare.
The main border changes in Europe were the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the Balkans with the emergence of independent Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro; the annexations of Luxembourg and Belgium by Germany and the Netherlands, respectively; the Romanian annexation of Timočka Krajina from former Yugoslavia; and the Czech annexation of Slovakia from Hungary.
Formal end of the war
The formal state of war would remain until the signing of the Treaty of Verdun in January 1947, with its signatories including the major participants of the war among both the Triple Alliance and the Entente Impériale.