The March of Conquest

The year 1941 was to see the war encircle the globe, and see the creation of the Grand Alliance of Great Britain, Russia and the United States against the Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan.

In the autumn of 1940, while the Battle of Britain was still raging, Mussolini, the Italian dictator, perceived an opportunity for conquest. On September 13, 1940, he invaded Egypt to gain control of the Suez Canal; and a month later carried the war to the Balkan peninsula with an unprovoked attack on Greece. The Italian Armies were held back and their victories forestalled until, in March 1941, the German High Command came to the aid of its Axis partner. Crack German troops marched on the Balkans. Yugoslavia was overrun in a few weeks and the Greeks, although aided by a small Commonwealth force, were soon defeated. The Afrika Korps, under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, was sent to Libya and the Germans drove the British back into Egypt with heavy losses.

Then, on June 22, 1941, Germany invaded Russia. On that day Hitler's armies turned on the Soviet Union with a massive and brutal assault. Altogether, Hitler sent in almost three million troops supported by thousands of tanks and airplanes to destroy his former ally. The German Army scored spectacular victories in an offensive which took them to within sight of Moscow. However, the Russians fought hard, and they were aided by the vastness of their country and the bitter cold and blizzards of winter. Despite the initial successes, the German Army were halted in December 1941.

On the other side of the globe, war clouds were also gathering as Japan, too, embarked on a path of conquest. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese, without warning, attacked the American fleet in Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. The United States declared war on Japan and Germany and the might of the United States was now added to the Allied cause.

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