CHC2D Grade 10 Academic History – World War 2

Thanks, Tony!

Chapter 4: The Second World War


  • the League of Nations watched with growing concern as Hitler extended his power across Europe
  • in March 1939, Hitler dismissed the Munich agreement, and invaded all of Czechoslovakia
  • the new UK P.M., Neville Chamberlain, warned Hitler that UK was prepared to go to war to prevent Hitler from gaining any more territory in Europe
  • Hitler had joined forces with the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to form the Axis alliance (Germany, Italy and later Japan)
  • Germany also signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviets—the two countries agreed not to take military action against one another for 10 years
    • both sides needed to buy time—Hitler needed to neutralize the powers of Western Europe; the Soviet leader, Josef Stalin needed time to rebuild the Soviet army
  • assured that the Soviets no longer posed a threat to his ambitions, Hitler launched a swift and devastating blitzkrieg (lightning war) on Poland on September 1 1939
    • German tanks rolled into the country as air forces launched aerial bombardment
    • Germans seized control of the country
    • Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3 1939


Canada Declares War

  • Canada had control over its foreign policy—the government had to decide the responsibility Canada had in stopping Hitler and the spread of fascism in Europe
  • English Canadians wanted Canada to stand by Britain; French Canadians supported a declaration of war but opposed mandatory combat service
    • once again, war in Europe has threatened the national unity here at home
  • from a military perspective, Canada wasn’t ready for war—in 1939, there were only 8000 men in the forces; had very few naval ships or military aircraft
  • the pressure to fight in Europe intensified when German submarines torpedoed a British passenger ship on September 3, 1939, killing a young Canadian girl
  • after calling a special sitting of Parliament and holding a vote in the House of Commons, King declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939—the first time Canada declared war on its own


Germany Occupies Europe

  • between September 1939-May 1940, it was known as the “phony war”—there was very little combat as both sides built up their armies and arsenals
  • in Spring of 1940, Germany launched a series of blitzkrieg attacks and quickly occupied Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg
  • France was next (invaded in 1940)—with an army of 6M, France had one of the most powerful military forces in the world
    • the allies expected French forces to be embroiled in a long and fierce campaign against the Germans
    • however, they were unable to stop the rapidly advancing Germans—just 10 days after being invaded, Nazis pushed their way to Paris, and occupied the capital

Trapped at Dunkirk

  • as Germans spread across the country, thousands of British troops raced across the English Channel to help defend France
  • in May 1940, the German army descended upon the Channel coast at Dunkirk trapping British and French soldiers on all 3 sides
  • for the British, the only escape was by sea—for 5 days, warships, fishing boats, ferries, row boats etc. evacuated 300 000 British soldiers from Dunkirk to England
  • 1M French soldiers were forced to surrender—within 6 weeks, France had fallen to the Germans
    • UK now stood alone against the Axis powers


Years of Crisis

  • in May 1940, the western half of Europe was in Hitler`s hands
    • only the English Channel and the powerful UK navy separated Britain from the new German empire
  • Hitler was convinced that Britain had no choice but to seek peace—but UK`s new P.M. Winston Churchill had always opposed the policy of appeasement
    • Churchill wasn`t willing to discuss any peace agreement, enraging Hitler to create plans for UK invasion


The Battle of Britain

  • Hitler planned to bomb Britain into submission and pave the way for a direct invasion
  • the German air force (Luftwaffe) bombarded Britain`s airfields, radar installations, factories, and ports
  • in September of 1940, bombings of London and other major cities occurred in what the British called `the Blitz`
  • 80 Canadian pilots joined hundreds of pilots from Britain`s Royal Air Force to repel the attacks and gain control of the skies over Britain and the English Channel
    • in early days, 16 Canadian pilots were killed in air; however, the success rate improved and the Allied pilots shot down 3000 German aircrafts and losing only 900 of their own
  • the Battle of Britain was Germany`s first defeat—major victory for Britain—prevented Germany from launching a naval invasion against the island nation and had boosted the sagging morale of the British people
  • Hitler needed to destroy RAF and Royal Navy before Germany could invade UK
  • Bombed UK because they needed to invade for the oil; when they lost battle they turned to invade Russia
  • the fighting raged in on the skies of Britain until May 1941, but by October 1940 Hitler knew the Battle of Britain was lost
    • Hitler postponed plans for an invasion and refocused on the Soviet Union


The Battle of the Atlantic

  • 1942-1944
  • the battle was a naval operation designed to prevent Canadian and American troops, munitions and supplies from reaching Britain
  • the ships crossed the Atlantic in convoys of 50-60 ; a naval destroyer and 3-4 small fast corvettes escorted each convoy
    • the corvettes kept watch for German U-boats
  • more than 12 000 merchant mariners (a sailor working on a civilian ship) worked on the convoys; it was a dangerous job as 10% lost their lives (5 times higher than death rate of Royal Canadian Navy)
  • even in Canadian coastal waters, sailors were at risk—German submarines in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence sank ships
  • Canada lost 2210 lives and 24 warships in this battle


War on the Eastern Front

  • in September 1940, Germany and Italy extended their alliance to include Japan (Axis Pact)
    • the 3 countries had a secret pact to protect one another in case of invasion by the Soviets
  • in June 1941, Hitler broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union—Hitler wanted to destroy communism and seize control of natural resources (especially oil; Britain had oil from territories in Africa and Middle East)
  • Hitler was confident of a quick victory as Germans overwhelmed the ill-equipped and disorganized Soviet army
  • within 3 months, the Germans had conquered Ukraine and occupied Leningrad (St. Petersburg)—they were 20 kilometres from the capital Moscow
  • on December 5 1941, Germans had to stop because of the bitter cold
  • on December 6, 1941, the Soviets launched a counterattacks
    • by Spring of 1942, both sides won and lost battles
  • for the next 2 years, the Soviets and Germans fought some of the fiercest and deadliest battles; slowly the Soviets forced German troops to retreat


Rehearsal for Invasion and “The Dieppe Raid”

  • by 1942, the Allies were making plans to retake Europe
  • they decided to test Germany’s defences along the French coast and gather intelligence to see how Germany might respond to a full scale invasion
  • the Allies launched a series of quick raids on the English Channel
  • 6100 Allied (including 5000 Canadians) participated in the raid of Dieppe
    • on August 19, 1942, the allies landed on the beaches of the French town of Dieppe
    • the raid was doomed from the start—a chance encounter with a German convoy on the English Channel alerted the Germans to the impending raid
    • as a result, the landing was delayed until daylight—they lost the element of surprise and cover of darkness
    • as Allied troops scrambled ashore, artillery fire rained down on them from German troops perched on the cliffs above Dieppe
    • tanks that were supposed to support the troops sank down in the deep water and on the rocky beach; a steep sea wall created a difficult barrier for the soldiers that made it across the beach, leaving them exposed to machine gun fire
    • many soldiers tried to get back to their ships, but were caught in the cross fire
    • of the 5000 Canadians, 913 died, while 1950 were taken as prisoners of war
    • first major battle for Canadians on the Western Front was a disaster
    • the Allied commanders learned valuable lessons from this disaster:
      • they decided to push back a full scale invasion to regain control of Europe (from 1943 to 1944) giving them more time to strengthen forces
      • change their military strategy by deciding to launch a massive aerial stroke to weaken German defences before the actual invasion
      • the invasion would take place in less secure areas along the French coast rather than at heavily defended ports like Dieppe


Of Europe

  • despite Dieppe disaster, the fortunes of war were changing in the Allies favour
  • in the Soviet Union, the invading Germany army had been defeated in the Battle of Stalingrad—German forces no longer gaining ground (this set the stage for the Allies to begin the fight to take Europe back)


The Italian Campaign and “The Battle of Ortona”

  • in July 1943, Canadian, British, and American forces launched an assault on the Italian island of Sicily
  • tired of war, the Italians offered little resistance to the Allied invaders
  • by September of 1943, the Allies had pushed on the Italian mainland—the battle for the mainland would be a greater challenge for the Allies though—they encountered fierce resistance from Germans sent in to reinforce Italy
  • the Canadian participated in the Battle of Ortona
    • the ancient town along the Adriatic coast was a natural fortress—it had narrow, twisting streets which made it impossible for soldiers to use tanks
    • soldiers were forced to move on foot, carefully navigating around the debris left behind after German troops blew up buildings to make the streets impassable
    • the Canadians had to take the town house by house, using a technique called “mouseholing”
      • soldiers blasted a hole on the outside of a house at the end of a street
      • the threw in grenades to clear the room
      • they then charged inside the house and cleared it with machine-gun fire
      • next they moved to the attic where they blasted a hole in the wall of the adjoining house, thus repeating the “mouseholing” process all over again
    • for a week, the Canadians fought a fierce battle—finally two days after Christmas (Dec. 27, 1943), the Allied succeeded in driving the Germans out of Ortona
    • the Canadian loss was 2300 dead
    • the “mouseholing” technique used by Canadians became the model for urban warfare for the duration of the war
  • in Italy, the fighting continued until June 1944, when the Allies finally gained control of Rome—90 000 Canadians participated in the Italian campaign; 5400 lost their lives



  • by Spring of 1944, after almost 5 years of combat, the Allies were ready to launch their long-awaited invasion of Europe
  • the Atlantic wall-traps for tanks and ships built along coastal Europe
  • operation fortitude—creation of fake soldiers and tanks
  • mulberry harbours—UK created bridge stretching from UK to France
  • D-day was codenamed “Operation Overlord”, involving more than 1M British, American, and Canadian troops streaming across the English Channel to storm the beaches of France
  • the Allies wanted to convince the Germans their intended target was Pas de Calais (50 kilometres from the English coast); however, the real invasion was to take place in Normandy (in the south)
    • to disguise the location, the Allies launched preliminary bombing campaigns up and down the French coast
    • the Allies built fake planes, landing craft, and tanks around Pas de Calais to mislead the German intelligence
  • shortly after midnight on June 6, 1944, the D-Day invasion begins
    • first paratroopers dropped in behind enemy lines to capture and secure strategic roads and bridges
    • then 2000 bombers began pounding German defences in preparation for thousands of Allied troops to storm the beaches of Normandy
    • sailing in the cover of darkness, Allied troops prepared to break through the walls of “Fortress Europe”
    • the Americans were to land at beaches Omaha and Utah; the British at Gold and Sword; over 15000 Canadians landed at Juno Beach where they faced heavy machine-gun fire as they navigated their way around landmines scattered along the beach
    • the casualties were high—335 Canadian dead; 700 wounded
    • by the end of the day, the Canadians secured Juno Beach (the only Allied force to achieve its goal on the first day)—it was obvious the lessons of Dieppe were learned well
    • by the end of the first week, over 300 000 Allied soldiers had landed safely on the beaches of Normandy
    • the battles of WWII were now at three fronts: east (Soviet), west (France), south (Africa), causing the Germans to retreat
      • however it would still be a year before the Allies claim victory


Victory in Europe

  • following D-Day, Allied forces pushed the Germans east to the capital city of Berlin
  • as they crossed the continent, the Allis liberated countries of Nazi occupation
  • in April1945, Soviets were first to reach Berlin
  • as Soviets occupied city, Hitler learned of the fate of his ally Benito Mussolini—he was captured and executed by his own people
  • to escape similar fate, Hitler committed suicide in us underground bunker in Berlin on April 30, 1945
    • a week later, on May 7 1945, Germany surrendered
  • May 8 1945, the allies celebrate VE Day—across the country, Canadians took to the streets to express their joy for the war ending


Liberating of Netherlands and Belgium

  • after the Normandy invasion, 175 000 Canadian troops led the liberation of the Netherlands and 7600 Canadians lost their lives
  • Canada earned the gratitude of the Dutch people—today the Dutch still show their gratitude to returning Canadian veterans


War on the Pacific

  • although US had provided supplies and munitions to Britain during the war, the US remained neutral
  • however, on December 7 1941, a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour (Hawaii) led the USA to declare war on Japan
    • Germany and Italy then declared war on the USA


The Battle for Hong King

  • in the fall of 1941, Japanese invaded China where they defeated the poorly equipped Chinese army
  • the British feared their Pacific colony of Hong Kong to be next, Churchill requested Canada to send troops to help with defence in September 1941
  • many British leaders believed defending the tiny colony was an impossible task; others suggested sending in reinforcements provided moral support
  • In November 1941, King agreed to the UK P.M.’s request—2000 men from Quebec and Winnipeg arrived in Hong Kong
  • on December 7, 1941, just hours after the Pearl Harbour attack, over 50 000 Japanese troops invaded Hong Kong—with only 15 000 troops, the Allies were badly outnumbered
  • without an air force or navy, the Allies had little chance of fighting back the Japanese invaders; however, they still defended the colony as best they could for 17 days, before surrendering on Christmas Day in 1941
  • upon surrendering, the Japanese occupied Hong King
    • it was cultural tradition of Japanese soldiers to fight to the end—they never surrendered (considered dishonourable)
      • therefore, when their enemies surrendered, they treated them poorly (torture and killings)
    • when the Japanese occupied the conquered territories, they held their captives in contempt—they treated both civilians and soldiers with extreme cruelty—in Hong King they set fire to buildings and looted homes
    • some soldiers raped and murdered women
    • Allied soldiers were tortured and killed as well as civilians
    • the atrocities committed the day of the surrender was known as the day of “Black Christmas”
    • 1685 Canadians were imprisoned on POW camps—they barely stayed alive on starvation diets (many were tortured)
    • some were forced into labour
    • 300 Canadians died in the battle, while 267 more died from the treatment in POW camps


The Birth of the Atomic Age

  • in 1939, Jewish0German scientist Albert Einstein warned the USA that Germany was developing a bomb capable of mass destruction
  • President Roosevelt formed the Manhattan Project—a group of American, Canadian, and other allied scientists in a top-secret race to produce the world’s first atomic bomb
    • Canadian involvement: a lab in Montreal; provided uranium and uranium refinery locations
  • in July of 1945, the atomic age was born when the Americans successfully tested the first weapon of mass destruction in the New Mexico desert
  • in 1945, the Americans successfully pushed the Japanese out of many Pacific islands
  • conquering Japan through direct invasion would cost the lives of many Allied soldiers; president Harry Truman of the USA chose to end the war using the atomic bomb
  • the following month, on August 6 1945, the USA dropped the first of two atomic bombs on Japan
    • Hiroshima: a city of 340 000 people and an important military and industrial centre
    • 75 000 killed instantly; thousands more died from burns and radiation poisoning
  • Japan still refused to surrender, so USA dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki 3 days later
    • 40 000 people died instantly
  • on August 15 1945, Joan surrendered unconditionally—war in the Pacific was over  (the effects of the atomic bomb lasted for another decade as many died during that decade due to radiation poisoning still)


A New World Order

  • with the fall of Japan, WWII was over—62M people died and most of the casualties were of innocent civilians
  • the use of the atomic bomb marked a significant change in the world—it signalled to the Soviets that the USA was a power to contend with, starting battle of world supremacy between the USA and Soviet in the Cold War


Wartime Agreements

  • in December 1939, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada signed the British Commonwealth Air Training Program to train the Commonwealth’s air force pilots in the open spaces and safety of Canada
    • 107 training schools were opened; 131 000 pilots were trained in Canada
    • the training program was a major factor in the superiority of the Allied air force during the war
  • in 1940, the USA and Canada signed the Ogdensburg Agreement—it created the Permanent Joint Board on Defence to coordinate the defence of both countries (it still exists today)
    • created because fear that if Britain fell, Nazis would make North America the next target
  • in 1941, the Lend-Lease Act allowed the USA to manufacture war materials and sell, exchange, lease or lend them to any country it chose—this mean UK could obtain military supplies from the USA and delay payment
    • however, if Britain bought supplies from USA, it would buy less from Canada—in response, the Hyde Park Agreement ensured the US bought more war supplies from Canada and allowed Britain to buy Canadian supplies
  • in 1942, the Americans were concerned about a possible Japanese attack on Alaska—if an invasion took place, they needed access to the remote northwestern corner of the continent
    • the US  and Canada greed that the Alaska Highway stretching 2500 km of Canadian wilderness from Dawson Creek, BC to Fairbanks Alaska


Wartime Economy

  • WWII pulled Canada out of the Depression as production in all sectors expanded dramatically
  • exports soared
  • to avoid the greed and price fixing of WWI, King planned to maintain strict government control over the wartime economy
    • C.D. Howe, King’s most prominent Cabinet ministers, was in charge of building the wartime economy
    • Howe expanded existing industries and created new ones
    • the auto industry switched from producing cars to making jeeps and army trucks
    • manufacturers of railway cars made tanks instead
    • the government created 28 Crown corporations (a company owned by the government) to produce everything from rubber to airplanes


War Efforts

  • to help raise the billions of dollars needed to finance the war, the government issued Victory Bonds—they were a loan to the government
    • Canadians who bought them received a written guarantee that the government would repay the money with interest
    • Canada raised $8.8B during the war
  • to ensure resources were available for wartime production, Howe established the Wartime Prices and Trade Board (WPTB) to control prices and prevent inflation and to distribute resources
  • every man, woman and child was issued a ration card to buy gas sugar, meat, tea and other essentials; the cards limited the amount of goods people could buy and ensured everyone got a fair and equal share
  • people needed special permits to buy cars, appliances, rubber tires and other products; producing goods for the war was the number 1 priority
    • few Canadians complained—after the 10 years of Depression, most people were used to doing with very little


Woman’s Wartime Role

  • by 1941, the booming wartime economy was facing a shortage of workers—in response, the government launched a campaign to recruit women into the paid work force
  • Canadian women were signed up to serve their country on the home front by working in factories as welders, machinists, bus drivers, and munitions workers
    • at first only young unmarried women were targeted; eventually all women were targeted
    • eventually, government subsidised daycare to encourage women to work
  • in rural areas, women ran the farms in the absence of men; those who didn’t join the paid workforce volunteered knitting scares and socks for soldiers and serving coffee and sandwiches at army canteens
  • for a time, the women’s new roles allowed them to improve their social and economic status—they made more money than they did in traditional jobs, but still less money than the men they replied
  • when war was over, most gave up their jobs and returned to their old lives—they planted seeds of the women’s rights movement that would emerge decades ahead
  • had non-combat jobs in military (especially in navy; also women flew from where planes were built to the UK)


Elsie MacGill: Queen of the Hurricanes

  • Elsie’s mom was a news reporter who became first female judge in BC
  • Elsie was the first woman to receive an electrical engineering degree which she received in 1927
  • eventually, she earned a Masters in Aeronautical engineering from the U. of Michigan
  • before using Aero. degree, she contracted polio; despite all odds, she taught herself how to walk again
  • in 1938, she became the first female aircraft designer
  • during the war, MacGIll designed a new airplane for training pilots—it gave pilots greater stability during takeoff/landing and greater visibility
    • she was responsible for overseeing the production of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes, which were used in the Battle of Britain
    • located in Thunder Bay
    • at the peak of production, she supervised over 45000 people
    • broke gender barrier
  • in 1943, she married William Soulsby and kept her last name—a bold move during those times
  • MacGill moved to Toronto where she opened her own business as an aeronautical engineering consultant


Internment of Japanese Canadians

  • the attack on Pearl Harbour and the battle for Hong Kong (BIGGEST) fuelled long standing racism against Canadians of Asian heritage in BC; government claimed its actions were for safety
  • at the time, there were no human rights to protect people from discrimination or unfair persecution
  • the Canadian government ordered all male Canadians of Japanese heritage between the ages of 18 and 45 to relocate to work camps in interior of province
  • in February 1942, King used the War Measures Act to order all people of Japanese descent living near the BC coast to move to camps in the interior
  • authorities immediately began rounding up people of Japanese descent
    • at first, they were held in horse stables in Vacouver’s Hastings Park, where they were photographed, fingerprinted and assigned ID numbers
    • they waited to board trains to transport them to internment camps—each person could only take 1 suitcase
    • the government sold the rest of their possessions including their homes and properties without their consent and without compensation—the profits were used to pay for the internment camps (basically theft)
  • more than 21 000 people of Japanese descent were relocated into the interior; after the war, they weren’t allowed to return to the Pacific coast (because government didn’t want citizens to know they sold their stuff)
  • the government considered deporting all people of Japanese heritage—the government never followed through, but 4000 left on their own
  • today, the treatment of Canadians of Japanese heritage during WWII is seen as one of the worst human rights violations in Canadian history
    • for years, the Japanese community asked the government to acknowledge that it had violated their rights
    • in 1988, the government finally issued a formal apology, and paid $21 000 to every evacuee still living (occurred so many years later, because government waited for people to die)
    • the government gave millions of dollars to support the Japanese Canadian community and allocated $24M to establish a Canadian Race Relations Foundation


The Conscription Question

  • during WWI, the issue of conscription threatened to tear Canada apart—King didn’t want to revisit the crisis
    • when WWII began, he promised his government wouldn’t impose mandatory enlistment for military service overseas
  • in 1940 howe4ver, as gears grew the war might reach Canadian shores, King introduced the National Resources Mobilization Act
    • it required all men to register for military service—but it doesn’t have to be a combat role (satisfied French—many wanted to defend Canada, but they drew the line at fighting for Britain)
  • in 1941, Germany’s success in Europe and the expansion of the war into the Pacific renewed pressure for conscription
  • in April 1942, King held a plebiscite (a vote on an issue of major importance, in which all eligible voters are encouraged to participate)to ask Canadians to release him from his earlier pledge of no forced combat role
    • Canadians were once again divided—majority of English voted for conscription; majority of French voted against it
  • King imposed conscription in 1944, by then the Allies were close to winning the war—but the battle to liberate Europe had take its toll as casualties were mounting
  • some members of King’s Cabinet threatened to resign if he failed to act on conscription—in November 1944m Kind issued an Order-in-Council (a law passed by cabinet) to send 16 000 troops overseas
  • many English were reassured by King’s decision, and some claimed King waited too long; in Quebec, there were protests against the decision
    • however, the French weren’t as forceful as they had been in WWI as many understood King had listened to them and put of conscription as long as possible


The Impact of the War

  • Canada emerged from WWII a new nation—10% of Canada fought for liberty and freedom around the world
  • the war modernized the Canadian economy (industrial production increased due to war effort)
  • after two decades of doing without many things, the Canadians were ready for a spending spree which would launch a postwar economic boom
  • the wartime experienced focused Canada’s attention on human rights—the Holocaust and how Canada refused to let them in
    • after war, Canada became a peaceful haven as it opened its doors to refugees and immigrants from the devastated countries of Europe
  • Canada assumed a new place in the world—it emerged as a middle power (limited military power, but some international political influence) with an increasingly important role to play in global affairs