World History: Journey Across Time

Chapter 21: World War II and the Cold War

Chapter Overviews

World War I left devastated the economies of many nations. Worldwide inflation and the crash of the U.S. stock market led to the Great Depression in the 1930s. Countries around the world struggled for balance. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, hoping to restore the nation's economy and help its citizens. Fascist leaders seized control of Italy, and Adolf Hitler rose to power as dictator of Germany. Joseph Stalin seized control of Soviet farms and industry. In 1935, Germany began building up its military forces. Germany and Japan began invading other territories and gaining power. On December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes carried out a surprise attack on a U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. The United States declared war on Japan and soon after, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

World War II featured the Allies—United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China—at war with the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. War raged on in the Soviet Union, Europe, and Africa. Germany began the practice of genocide, killing Jews and other innocent people. The Allies defeated the Germans at Normandy. Japan, however, would not give up. After the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities, the Japanese surrendered and the war was over.

After the World War II victory in 1945, the Soviet Union and United States disagreed about the post-war world. The United States wanted democracy, but the Soviets wanted communism. This began the Cold War. Nuclear weapons played a large role in the Cold War. On the social front, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a new civil rights movement. The movement focused on racial segregation. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson helped push through legislation that aided both civil and voting rights. Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the Equal Pay Act expanded women's rights.

After World War II, the British split India into Hindu and Muslim sections: Pakistan and India. Civil wars plagued both countries until the Congress Party began to rule India. Leaders increased crop growth and expanded farmlands. Post-war Asia shared similar problems. Many Southeast Asian countries experienced a spread of nationalism and gained freedom. Some countries reached this more easily than others. After Vietnam was declared independent, fighting broke out. The Geneva Accords divided Vietnam, with the United States supporting South Vietnam. Many Americans opposed this war, and finally in 1973, Richard Nixon ordered U.S. forces to withdraw from Vietnam. Several African countries earned their freedom in the 1960s, but the South African system of apartheid that began in 1940 did not fall for nearly 50 years.

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