Between September 1, 1939 and August 15, 1945, the planet was devastated by World War Two. In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a pact of non-aggression, agreeing to split Poland between them. In September of that same year, Hitler and Stalin invaded the country. Great Britain and France, who had guaranteed Poland military aid in the event it was attacked, declared war on Germany. Russia chose not to get involved. Mussolini, bound to Hitler by the Pact of Steel he’d signed in 1939, brought Italy into the war in 1940. In the first two years, the Rome-Berlin Axis enjoyed a string of victories. But the war eventually changed course.

Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union, breaking his pact with Stalin, but the invasion proved to be a failure. In the Pacific, Japan, allied with Italy and Germany, bombed the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. The US then entered the war. In July 1943, British and American troops landed in Sicily, while Stalin’s Red Army began its slow, relentless march on Berlin. That same month Mussolini was stripped of his powers and arrested by the king of Italy, who entrusted Marshal Pietro Badoglio with forming a new government. In September 1943 Italy surrendered and plunged into chaos. The following June, British and American troops landed in Normandy. On April 25, 1945, Italy was liberated by the Allied forces. Three days later, Mussolini was killed on the shores of Lake Como. Two days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin. By then, Berlin was in the hands of Soviet troops, and on May 7, Germany surrendered. Japan, however, refused to accept defeat.

In August of 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and a few days later, another on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered unconditionally. The Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States had won the war. A new political map of the world had already been redrawn at a February 1945 conference in Yalta, in the Crimea. The destruction in Germany, Italy and Japan, had been catastrophic.European power was greatly diminished in the aftermath of the war, and the world was split in two. The Communist bloc was led by the Soviet Union, while the West was allied with the US.
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