The War Begins:
Prelude to a War
Only two decades after the end of World War I, tensions were again mounting across the globe. The Fascist dictator Adolf Hitler had risen to power in Germany and was brazenly taking over parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia—in defiance of the sanctions his country faced after losing WWI. Meanwhile, another Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, had ascended to power in Italy. In the Far East, Japan was in the midst of an aggressive campaign against China.
Attack on Poland
Then, on September 1, 1939, Germany launched a devastating surprise attack on Poland. Stuka (dive-bomber) squadrons assaulted Warsaw and other targets from the air, while Panzer (tank) units invaded from the ground. France and Britain declared war on Germany two days later in defense of Poland. But nothing could stop the German advance, and Poland surrendered just over two weeks after the assault began.