World War II was one of the most devastating events that shook the world. The war sent nations into shock, and the amount of destruction and loss of life it caused before it ended is overwhelming.
World War II created a place for itself not just in history books, but also in the minds of people who were affected by it, one way or another. If you are a history buff who likes to share the knowledge of the world’s most important events with your kids, you’re at the right place.
World War II Facts For Kids
Are you ready for some gripping facts about World War II? Read on.
- World War II was a battle between two groups of countries- the Allies and the Axis.
- The war was also known as WW2 or the Second World War.
- At least 1.9 billion people served as soldiers in WW2.
- Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, to attain more land and power, thus starting World War II. When Hitler refused to cease the invasion, Britain and France declared war on Germany, paving way for a war on a global scale.
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- The Allied Powers consisted of Britain, France, China, Russia, and the US.
- The Axis Powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan.
- The leaders of the Allied powers were: Great Britain prime minister Winston Churchill, US president Franklin D Roosevelt, the Soviet Union chairman Joseph Stalin and China chairman and military leader Chiang Kai-shek.
- Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt were known as the ‘the big three’ of this War.
- The leaders of the Axis powers were: Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy), and Hideki Tojo (Japan).
- By 1941, Germany had invaded France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia, the USSR, and Greece.
- The territories under the grip of World War II were: Europe, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the regions along the Mediterranean, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.
- The war involved nearly all countries of the world for as long as it lasted, making it the history’s most massive and influential global battles ever fought.
- Before the World War II began, Germany was ruled by Adolf Hitler. He formed the Nazi party and wanted Germany to rule all of Europe.
- The Nazi party excluded specific groups of society – the Jews, Gypsies, and people with any mental or physical disability. In an attempt to get all “pure Germans,” such groups were also persecuted in other countries invaded by the Germans. Millions of Germans were imprisoned and killed by the Nazi party because they didn’t fit into the image of Hitler’s “perfect” Germans.
- The first holocaust happened in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, in the year 1942. An estimated 1.1 million Jews were killed here during the war.
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- In one of the biggest holocausts in the world, around six million Jews were murdered during World War II.
- The US stayed out of the war until Japan attacked it on 7 December 1941, at their Naval Base in Pearl Harbor. The next day, the US declared war on Japan.
- Some countries including Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden remained passive in the War.
- The first ever battle to be fought in the air is known as the Battle of Britain, between the German and British airplanes.
- Only two types of airplanes were used in the Battle of Britain- bombers (for dropping bombs on cities) and fighters (for attacking enemy airplanes).
- The Allies used 3.4 million tons of bombs. 27,700 tons of bombs were dropped on an average every month.
- The number of US soldiers in the war was 16,112,566.
- Hitler’s plan to invade Britain in the summer of 1940 was called ‘Operation Sea Lion.’ After conquering France, Hitler planned to defeat his greatest rival, the Great Britain. The Great Britain was protected from the Germans by the English Channel and their undefeatable British navy.
An invasion of Britain would then be only possible if the Germans defeated Britain’s air power through bombing. This air-bombing operation was called “Early Day” and was carried out by the chief of Luftwaffe (The German Air Force), Göring. But the victory of the RAF (The Royal Air Force of Britain) ended this possibility for Hitler and paved the way for his eventual defeat.
- The Siege of Leningrad (8 September 1941- 27 January 1944) is also known as the 900-day siege. Germany along with its Finnish allies invaded Leningrad (a major industrial center of the Soviet Union) in June 1941. Leningrad’s entire population was able-bodied and got mobilized to build fortifications around the city. Leningrad’s defenses stabilized soon, but from November it was almost encircled with its supplies cut off.
This blockade created by the Germans led to the death of 650,000 Leningraders, mostly from starvation and shooting from German artillery. Spare food and medical supplies came in with great difficulty. However, by 1943, the Soviet army ruptured the German blockade and allowed supplies to reach Leningrad. In January 1944, the Soviets drove the Germans out from their city, ending the siege.
- The Soviet government awarded the ‘Order of Lenin’ (the highest civilian award of the USSR) with the title “Hero City of the Soviet Union” as a tribute to all the people who had endured the most grueling sieges in history.
- In 1943, a significant defeat for the Germans was their forced waving of the white flag (a symbol of surrender) at Stalingrad.
- The Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945.
- After the nuclear bomb attacks on Japan’s major cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan also surrendered to the Allied forces in August 1945, marking an end to WWII.
- After the war, Italy paid around $360 million as war damages to Yugoslavia, Greece, Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Albania.
- Around 64 million people died in World War II; it is more than the entire population of the UK.
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World War II Timeline
Here’s a pictorial representation of the WW2 timeline, that helps kids remember the most important World War II facts.
The end of the World War II may have ended the conflict between nations but it did not bring back the millions of innocent lives lost during the war.
The war massacred not just people, but also the financial and social security of nations across continents.
Be mindful while sharing sensitive details about the world war with the kids. The idea is not to paint a gruesome picture of the past or possible future but to instill the idea that violence is wrong and how adversely it can affect everyone in this world.
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Do you know of any more interesting WW2 facts for kids? Do share them with our readers in the comments box below.
2. A Summary Of World War Two; BBC Bitesize Guides
3. Inside World War II; National Geographic