World War II was one of the darkest chapters in human history. Who were the Allies that faced the Axis Powers during the war?
The major Allied Powers in World War II were the United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union, and China. France was initially allied with Britain in opposing Nazi Germany, but the country was soon occupied. There were many other Allies, who formed the United Nations in 1945.
For more on the Allies and how they came to enter World War II, read on.
Before the War
The Allies in World War II began largely as a continuation of the Allies of World War I. With the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, it became ever clearer that the country had ambitions of regaining the territory it had lost in the aftermath of the Great War.
The First World War was still fresh in the minds of the Allied Powers. France had been devastated by the war, and though Britain was not invaded, it had suffered a terrible loss of life on the battlefields of Europe.
Appeasing Germany by turning a blind eye to its rearmament was considered necessary to avoid another war on the scale of World War I. Germany was also given the “Sudetenland” in Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement.
Despite these compromises, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, just six months after signing the Munich Agreement. It was clear that appeasement was wasted on Hitler, whose objectives were on a much larger scale.
Britain and France began preparations for war. Poland, which bordered Germany, was the next obvious target for a German invasion. France had been allied with Poland since 1921, and Britain now formed the Anglo-Polish alliance. By swearing to protect Poland with military action, it was hoped that Germany might be deterred.
Outbreak of War
The Soviet Union looked to ally with Britain and France, reforming the Triple Entente of World War I. This would have been disastrous for Germany and so Hitler signed a nonaggression pact with the USSR in August 1939.
Both Germany and the Soviet Union wished to expand into Poland. The agreement secretly divided many independent countries in Eastern Europe between the USSR and Germany.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain and France honored their alliance by declaring war on Germany and World War II in Europe had begun.
The Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17. In Spring 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Norway, and Denmark. The invasions were swift and devastating and Britain was left as the only Allied nation in Europe that had a significant military presence.
Despite their agreement, Hitler chose to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941, a decision that cost Germany dearly. Stalin agreed to an alliance with Britain, with Germany now fighting a war on two fronts.
The United States of America had not been directly involved in the war but provided assistance to countries that were under threat from Germany and the other Axis Powers.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, looking to preemptively destroy America’s Pacific Fleet and prevent the country joining the war in the region.
In response, President Roosevelt declared war on the Axis powers, with China doing the same. On New Year’s Day, 1942, the Allies signed the “Declaration by United Nations”, a treaty that formalized the alliance.
The “Big Four” signatories of the treaty were the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. Four members of the British Commonwealth also signed: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, as well as India.
A number of governments-in-exile signed the treaty, with their countries having been occupied by Germany. These included Belgium, Poland, Greece and the Netherlands.
In all, 26 countries signed the original declaration. France could not sign, as there was still a government in “Vichy France”, under the influence of Nazi Germany. When France was liberated in 1944, the new French government signed the treaty.
Following the ousting of Benito Mussolini and the end of Fascist Italy, the country also became a member of the Allies, though it was locked in a civil war for the remainder of World War II.
The Declaration by United Nations was one of the most significant documents in history. In 1945, it provided the foundation of the United Nations and the signing of the UN Charter by 50 countries on June 26, 1945.