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Video transcript
- [Voiceover] 1945 really represents the final throes of World War II. In Europe, you might remember, at the end of 1944, we have the Battle of the Bulge starting, which is an incredibly bloody battle. The U.S. forces, which kind of take the brunt on the Allied side, lose roughly 20,000 troops, but by January, they're able to break through and invade Germany. So as you go into early 1945, the Allies are on their march through Western Germany. Now if you go on the east, the Russians or the Soviets are also marching westward. By January of 1945, they're able to take Warsaw, and from there, they continue to march westward towards Berlin. Now the writing is on the wall at this point. The Allies look like they are going to win, and so they meet at Yalta, the major powers, to discuss what happens to Europe after World War II. What happens to Germany? Is it split up? What influence will the different Allied victors have in the different countries of World War II? So this is happening in Yalta in February of 1945. Let me write that down. That's in February. All the while this is happening, even though the writing is on the wall that the Allies are going to win the war, they weren't taking anything for granted. They wanted to absolutely force a surrender by the Axis powers in Germany in particular. So they continue to firebomb major cities of Germany, and firebombing is an incredibly devastating form of bombing, where you're literally trying to destroy the city, set the city on fire. The most notable of these cities that were firebombed were Hamburg and Dresden. The firebombing of Dresden, movies and books are written about it. The Nazis did also firebomb London, but that didn't have quite the same devastating effect as the Allied firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden, and actually of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, as we will see in a few minutes. But then everything really comes to a head in April of 1945. It's in April that as you can see, as you get into April and May, the Allies are able to essentially occupy major chunks of Germany. They're able to push Axis forces outside of Italy. They have effectively won. Mussolini gets captured and then gets executed. Soviets are able to take Berlin, and maybe most importantly, April 30th, Hitler commits suicide. So, Hitler commits suicide, and he's not the only one. Several other major leaders, Nazi leaders, commit suicide as we go into this period right over here. Essentially the war is won in Europe at this point, and that's made official on May 8th, May 8th, which is a good day to remember, known as VE Day, Victory in Europe, Victory in Europe Day. So the Allies have won in Europe, but everything is not over yet. World War II is still going on in the Pacific. So let's go down to the Pacific Theater. Starting the year in January, the Allies are able to take the Island of Luzon. In particular, they're able to take Manila. Then, as we go into February, they began the invasion of Iwo Jima, which is an incredibly bloody campaign. You have 70,000 marines invade the island verus 22,000 Japanese troops. On top of that you obviously have air, you have the Air Force involved, you have the Navy involved, but I guess what's even more mind-boggling, you have significant Allied deaths. You have 7,000 deaths on the Allied side, but even more amazing, out of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers that were defending Iwo Jima, 19,000 get killed. So 19,000 of 22,000 Japanese soldiers get killed. So you can imagine how bloody this is. And this picture, which is probably one of the most famous military photos ever taken, especially in the United States, this was taken of Marines storming a hill, storming a mountain in Iwo Jima. And just to imagine how bloody these things are. I just gave you some of the numbers. Even this photo, which is a real photograph, even this photo, where it looks like hey look, the Americans have at least taken this mountain or this hill right over here, even out of this photo, three of these Marines die in the next few days as they continue to try to take Iwo Jima or take the entire island. So you can imagine the Japanese were able to mount a ferocious defense of the island. They aren't able to fully take the island until we get into March. So by March, so maybe I'll say February to March you have the invasion of Iwo Jima. Now the whole time that this is happening, you have B-29s firebombing major cities in Japan, and especially Tokyo. So once again, these cities are really being destroyed. This is all-out war. But still the Japanese have not surrendered. So in April, actually April going into June, you have to remember April in Europe, this is when it was pretty much done with. Hitler commits suicide in April. But in April going into June of 1945, you have the Allied invasion of Okinawa, which once again, is an incredibly bloody campaign. You have above and beyond the tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers that get killed at Okinawa, you have tens and tens of thousands of civilians who get killed or commit suicide. So once again, this is all very unpleasant and very bloody. But we continue on, and still the Japanese have not surrendered. Although even in 1944, their navy is all but destroyed, but they're mounting this ferocious defense. In parallel to all of this, the Allies, especially the U.S., has had the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons, and they decide to use them, Truman is now president, in order to accelerate the end of the war. And so in August 6th, they drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, essentially destroying that city. And it's interesting to read accounts of how the Japanese learned about it or what they didn't learn about it, obviously. Obviously no one was expecting bombs that could just obliterate a city, literally, in seconds. Still, there wasn't a surrender from the Japanese, and so, let me write this. This is August 6th, and so on August 9th, you have another atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. At the same time that this is happening, you have the Soviet Union invading Manchuria. You have the Soviet Union invading Manchuria, and so enough was enough. You have the Soviets who are now getting involved in the Pacific, the Americans seem to be able to literally destroy Japanese cities at will, and so on August 14, 1945, you have the Japanese surrender. Japanese surrender, and then this does not become truly official until September 2, 1945, which is called VJ Day, Victory in Japan Day. That marks the real end of World War II. Obviously, World War II ended at the end of April, May, officially early May in Europe, but now in early September it is officially ended in the Pacific as well. And the Allies are victorious.