World War II Resource Guide

World War II was the largest military conflict in history, and its outcome changed the field of modern international relations forever. Started by the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the war soon escalated to “total war,” with nearly 100 million men and women involved in the fight. This article will direct you to the best resources about the war, including an overview of the war and biographies of important leaders. The European and Pacific theaters are also covered, as well as the Holocaust, the Manhattan Project, and other miscellaneous topics.

WWII Overview

  • A Timeline of WWII (1939-1945): Hosted by Brown University, this site offers a comprehensive timeline of WWII. The timeline contains events such as troop movements and progress on the atomic bomb.
  • Treaty of Versailles: The important territorial and political clauses of the Versailles Treaty are listed here. These clauses focus on the outcome of WWI with regards to Germany and its place in the world community.
  • WWI: Key Events and Aftermath: The failure of WWI to achieve a lasting stability is discussed here. The aftermath of the war led to widespread dissatisfaction in the countries colonized, and ultimately, to WWII.
  • German Secret Rearmament, 1934-35: In violation of the Versailles Treaty, Germany began secretly rearming in the years leading up to WWII. British intelligence followed the rearmament and brought into light the possibility of another Great War.
  • Kellogg-Briand Pact: The Kellogg-Briand Pact was a treaty signed by the Great Powers following WWI. The treaty prohibited the use of war except in matters of national self-defense.
  • Fascism: Fascism is a political ideology named for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime. Fascism describes a political regime defined by militant nationalism, a charismatic leader, and militant anti-communism.
  • Poles:Victims of the Nazi Era: This site has a timeline of the Nazi occupation of Poland from 1939-1945. Poles were considered less than human by Germans and were subjected to horrific subjugation during the war.
  • Overview of WWII: This site contains many articles covering important topics relating to WWII, including the Holocaust and the events of the war in specific countries, such as Italy. The guided readings are helpfully arranged by time period.

Key WWII Leaders

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Overview: FDR served as President of the United States during both the Great Depression and WWII. This page discusses his political history as well as his military strategy during the war. 
  • “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself”: Roosevelt’s famous first inaugural address is available here in text and in audio format. The speech shows Roosevelt’s characteristic affability and genial nature, while still reflecting the somber mood of the Great Depression.
  • Harry S. Truman Biography: This site details the end of Truman’s life, from 1884-1972. Truman was faced with the presidency after FDR died in 1945, putting “the weight of the world on his shoulders.” 
  • Why We Go To War: Winston Churchill: This is a comprehensive biography of Winston Churchill’s life, from before his political career through his leadership in WWI and WWII. A succinct version of the same biography also exists on the site for quicker reading.
  • Joseph Stalin Biography: Joseph Stalin led the U.S.S.R from 1929-1953. His importance in WWII and his leadership after the war are chronicled here.
  • Benito Mussolini Biography: Mussolini’s cult of personality was an important part of his rise to power. Propaganda and other techniques important to his fascist regime are discussed.
  • Hirohito Biography: This site offers an overview of Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s life and political regime. Hirohito’s involvement and leadership in WWII are also discussed in detail.

The European Theater

  • The U.S. Army Air Force and D-Day: This page discusses the Army Air Force’s involvement in D-Day and the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. The different phases of the attack are covered as well as what happened in the aftermath.
  • D-Day Message from General Eisenhower: A general overview of the circumstances leading up to D-Day as well as the attack itself are covered on this site. There is a link to the actual message sent from General Eisenhower to General Marshall on D-Day, and tools for teaching about D-Day using the document.
  • D-Day, Digital Documents: This site contains resources about D-Day from General Eisenhower’s perspective. There are links to numerous documents and photos from the National Archive relating to D-Day.
  • D-Day from America’s Library: America’s Library is a government website with overviews of historical events for children. The page also covers broad themes from the war, such as working women. 
  • A Grateful Nation Remembers: From the U.S. Department of Defense, veterans of D-Day and WWII recall their experiences in the war. A variety of experiences are chronicled, from enlisted men to nurses and civilians.   

Hitler, the Holocaust, and the European Theater

  • Nazi Germany Question and Answer: Basic questions about the origin of Nazi Germany and the circumstances of its citizens are answered here. The Holocaust and anti-Semitism are discussed, as well as more general themes relating to WWII. 
  • Nazi Germany and the Decrees of 1933: Several articles were ratified in 1933 that allowed Hitler to maintain and consolidate power. The articles themselves are on this site, as well as explanations of their impact.
  • Rise of the Nazi Party Timeline: This site contains a timeline of the rise of Nazism and the events of the Holocaust. There are links to more detailed sites about each event on the timeline.
  • Concentration Camps Timeline: Concentration camps were an integral part of Hitler’s extermination of the Jews and other subjugated groups. The timeline of their advent and use is detailed here. 
  • Hitler’s Foreign Policy: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a detailed article regarding Hitler’s foreign policy from 1933-1945. The timeline shows Hitler’s nationalist program to discriminate against those that weren’t considered “ethnic Germans,” and its dire consequences.
  • Biography of Hitler: This PDF discusses Hitler’s early life and rise to power. Mein Kamp and possible roots of his bigotry are also discussed.

Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific

  • “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”: The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941 was shocking to everyone, including President Roosevelt. This site has the President’s speech responding to the attack in both text and audio format.
  • The March Towards War: This site has a detailed response of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, and what happened after, as reported by the radio program “The March of Time”. The audio of the actual broadcast is also on the site.
  • Today in History: December 7: This Library of Congress page discusses the events leading up to the strike on Pearl Harbor. There are also links to other Library of Congress documents relating to the attack.
  • Pacific War Story: The National Museum of the Pacific War page has a Flash presentation covering the Pacific theater of WWII. Important battles are noted, including Midway, Iwo Jima, and Guadalcanal.
  • World War II in the Pacific: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a succinct article about the Pacific theater of the war. Photo archives of battles in the Pacific are also available on the site.

Manhattan Project, Fat Man and Little Boy, Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  • The Manhattan Project: The Department of Education has an interactive history of the Manhattan Project. The site links to pages detailing important events and people related to the project.
  • Building the Bomb: Los Alamos Laboratory describes the various types of bombs attempted and the technology behind Fat Man and Little Boy. The gun gadget, fission, and implosion mechanisms are covered.
  • The Bombing of Hiroshima: Pictures from the bombing of Hiroshima, as well as detail of the military operation, are available here. The disastrous effects of the bomb on the people of Hiroshima are also discussed.
  • Bombing of Nagasaki Animation: The bombing of Nagasaki is dramatized through real images available from the dropping of the bomb. The size and destructive power of the explosion are evident.
  • Fact Sheet About Radiation: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission publishes a fact sheet regarding the side effects of radiation from an atomic explosion. Radiation’s ability to cause cancer in living cells is discussed.

Other Miscellaneous Topics of Interest

  • WWII Poster Collection: The Northwestern University Library has a collection of over 300 posters used by the federal government during WWII. The posters are searchable by date and title, and cover pertinent war issues, such as rationing and buying war bonds.
  • History of the FBI, WWII Period: This FBI site discusses espionage and intelligence tactics used during WWII. The page also discusses human rights violations that occurred during the period, such as the Japanese Internment.
  • Women in the Military in WWII: Women were an important part of WWII, both as factory workers and nurses, and also on the front line. The site discusses women’s role in the military in the different countries involved in the war.
  • The Marshall Plan: This site offers a brief explanation of the circumstances behind the Marshall Plan as well as a link to the Plan itself. There are also links to other National Archives information about the Marshall Plan.
  • The Aftermath of the War: German history after WWII and the effects of the Marshall Plan are discussed on this site. The living and economic situations of East and West Germany are detailed, as well as German reunification.

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