World War Two and the People
In a war that affected the people of the whole world and resulted in around 50 million deaths, it isn’t easy to delineate the top six people that were of importance. Nonetheless, the leaders of this war, however bad or good, are of great significance. In the realm of history, they were instrumental in altering the map of the globe. The Second World War was fought between the Allied Powers – Britain, France, the USA, Russia and China – and the Axis Powers – Germany, Italy and Japan. The reason for the war was, in several ways, linked to the effects of the First World War and the disputes propagated thereof. It is considered the bloodiest and most devastating war in history, as well as having the distinction of being the largest and longest conflict.
The Axis Powers, headed by Germany, opposed the Allied Powers. Germany, as a country, wanted revenge for all the mistreatment it dealt with after World War I. In its emerging and enigmatic leader, Adolf Hitler, it saw a way to put right the wrongs it had experienced at the hands of the Allies. Germany signed a series of agreements with Italy. The two countries perceived the world as rotating on the Rome-Berlin Axis. Like Germany, Italy had a dictator at its helm in Benito Mussolini, who had influenced Hitler in the past. These were some of the important people of World War II.
As Japan had its own fight with Russia, Japan signed agreements with Germany, pledging support in war. These three countries engaged in acts of hostile expansion between the 1930s and 1940s. This was a precipitating factor for the start of World War II. The rhetoric of these World War II leaders was so explosive, it would have been surprising if it hadn’t led to a war.
Outbreak of World War II
By early 1939, Adolf Hitler, the German dictator, was determined to forge an invasion on Poland and occupy it. Poland had promises of military support and aid by Great Britain and France, should it be attacked by Germany. Hitler was acting according to his own plan, completely disregarding any warnings from the Allies. Secretly, Hilter signed a non-aggression treaty with Russia, hoping to avert Russian support to the Allies. In this pact, the two nations agreed to divide Poland between them. Russia, later, for reasons of its own, joined the Allied Powers. When Hitler invaded Poland, French and British leaders declared this as an act of war and declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. Hitler was a leader, albeit negative, who had single-handedly started the worst war in history.
Many key people and World War Two leaders emerged out of this conflict. In the view of the world, it is generally acknowledged that the top six people of importance in World War II are:
- Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain
- Adolf Hitler, Germany’s dictator
- Benito Mussolini, Italy’s leader
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the USA (at the start of the war)
- Harry Truman, President of the USA (at the end of the war)
- Joseph Stalin, Premier of Russia
These were political leaders who influenced the war at some point or another and changed the course of history.
Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was a British statesman, author and orator. He, as prime minister, steered the people of Great Britain through World War II. As prime minister, from 1940 to 1945, and 1951 to 1955, Churchill led his country to victory when it was in the throes of defeat. Great Britain was the first country to declare war on Hitler, standing alone. Instead of trying to compromise, as Churchill didn’t trust Hitler’s motives, he refused to succumb and chose to fight.
As prime minister of Great Britain, he instilled confidence in France and other Allied Powers and led them in war. A stalwart that people soon looked up to, he directed the war effort in a direct manner. He is known for his courage and ability to raise the morale of troops and generals alike. He could boost the confidence of soldiers in minutes with his inspiring speeches. This was especially helpful to troops in Great Britain’s difficult war effort from 1940 to 1941. This man is certainly considered one of the top six important people of World War II, if not the most important.
Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945)
Adolf Hitler’s claim to fame is that he was the dictator of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Despite being imprisoned, he won the hearts and minds of the Germans, and desired “Lebensraum” for his “Fatherland”. He claimed that Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland had German inhabitants and so these must be under his control. This is why he invaded Poland.
He made a non-aggression pact with Russia hoping that Russia would not join the Allies in the war. Nonetheless, when Russia warned him not to invade Poland, he refused to pay heed. Hitler broke his peace pact with Russia when he invaded it in 1940. Russia was shocked at this breach and began to support the Allied Forces. This gradually did a lot of damage to people and nations until he was compelled to commit suicide in May 1945 – this was before Germany’s surrender.
Hitler was an ambitious and cruel dictator. His regime undertook the systematic extermination of the Jewish community and other minorities who were not of pure Aryan descent. Placing Jews, including women and children, in concentration camps all over Europe, he killed them en masse. More often than not, his soldiers made the use of poisonous gas. He is one of the top six important people of World War II simply because he affected the world so adversely – lessons are to be learned from his extremism.
Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)
Mussolini was a fascist dictator of Italy. From 1923 to 1945, he was the leader of the government of Italy. Wanting to create a Roman Empire as in olden times, he forged a bond with Germany. He was a much-needed supporter of Hitler. As the Allied Powers gained strength in the war, Mussolini was forced to surrender. He was executed by partisans in Italy a short while later.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945)
From 1932 to 1945, Roosevelt was the president of the USA. Roosevelt sympathized with the Allies and even offered a generous loan to the British cause. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the USA didn’t actively participate in World War II. Nonetheless, after this, Roosevelt wasted no time in declaring war on the Axis Powers. Franklin D. Roosevelt tipped the balance of power in World War II, providing troops and a positive hope of defeating Hitler. He remains as one of the top six important people during World War II.
Harry Truman (1884 – 1972)
Harry Truman took over as president of the USA in January 1945. He largely supervised the conclusion of the war in Europe. As the man who actively stopped the enemies in their tracks, Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be unleashed on Japan. They were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Singularly distinctive as important in World War II, he played a key role in the creation of the United Nations.
Joseph Stalin (1879 – 1953)
Joseph Stalin was a dictator, but not in the strictest sense of extreme power. He was the leader of Russia. When Hitler stunned Russia by attacking and invading the territory, Stalin showed stern resistance. He was ruthless and marched on Berlin, supporting the Allies as he advanced on Germany. He is part of the Big Three leaders of World War II, with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a result, he is one of the top six important people of World War II.
Key People of World War II
It is safe to say that the top six important people of the Second World War were as mentioned above. Nonetheless, there were people who played significant roles in warding off the Axis advance. Military figures like Dwight Eisenhower and General Patton were paramount in the war effort on the Allied side. Général Eisenhower led the D-day invasion with his US armed forces in Europe. General Patton, a US commander, was responsible for the liberation of France, especially in the Battle of the Bulge. Although General Charles de Gaulle of France fled to Great Britain when Germany attacked France, he served as a symbol for the French Resistance.
Other important figures in the Second World War, whose contributions cannot be denied, are Josip Tito, a Yugoslavian general on the Allied side who showed stiff resistance to Hitler’s troops. His soldiers caused considerable destruction to German occupiers in parts of the European continent. Worth mentioning is also General Tojo, who ruled the Japanese Imperial Army and was Prime Minister of Japan from 1941 to 1944. Albeit by his negative action of ordering the attack on Pearl Harbor and its US warships, he turned the tide of the war in favor of the Allies. He was tried for war crimes and executed in 1948.