The Second World War marked the apex of industrial war and was nothing short of the most costly and destructive conflict ever experienced. It was total in its conduct and global in its scale—a true World War. The scale of the conflict may be explained by virtue of the fact that it was the product of numerous regional conflicts and theaters of operation that increasingly became woven into a contiguous war. In Western Europe the conflict began as a rerun of the Great War. In Eastern Europe it evolved into an ideological war of extermination between the polar opposites of fascism and communism. Parts of Africa and the Middle East became battlegrounds where European colonial ambitions clashed while other parts provided men and material. Maintaining access to resources more generally was indispensable for all belligerents in order to sustain their war efforts, thus attempting to stem the flow of their opponents’ resources was a central facet of most wartime strategies. Farther east, Japanese imperial ambitions clashed with the dynamics of a civil war in China in the attempt to create a new “Asian” international system free of American and European encroachments. In this respect, the war in the Asia-Pacific region that broke out in December 1941 should be separated from the one conducted in China up until that point. Japanese operations in China and on the Mongolian border before 1941 certainly had an impact on, but were different from, the vast new front that opened up in the Pacific following the Japanese attacks on Anglo-American positions from Pearl Harbor to Singapore. It was the events of December 1941 that brought these disparate strands formally together and linked them to events in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. The result was a single war with very few areas formally out of bounds to armed conflict....
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