World War II will forever be in the minds and hearts of many people because it exposed how the atrocities of war can alter the course of civilization and redefined the political, technological, and social development of the world after it had occurred. Lessons that can be learned after World War II have been very vital to form stronger alliances with nations and people became aware of the ghastly occurrences during the Holocaust and the unexpected repercussions that resulted from the atomic bombs released in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, gargantuan challenges had sprouted because countries realized the unprecedented annihilation that any war can wield towards the people. What has transpired beyond the events between World War II are ingredients that made up what society has become in our present. In essence, World War II had paved the way for a future society that could learn from all the mistakes made and use it to settle all differences to make a global war a thing of the past.
An article by the Current Events, a Weekly Reader declared that “World War II (1939-45) was the most destructive, most widespread, and most violent war in human history… At war’s end, hundreds of cities lay in rubble and more than 38 million people lay dead”. The number of superlatives mentioned, coupled with the immense number of people who died in World War II makes it one of the most unforgettable events in the 20th century. On the other hand, the Encyclopædia Britannica informed that it also shaped the world’s geopolitical history as it extended the “Soviet Union’s power to nations of eastern Europe, enabled a communist movement eventually to achieve power in China, and marked the decisive shift of power in the world away from the states of western Europe and toward the United States and the Soviet Union”.
Another important part of World War II was the rise of the atomic bomb. Historian Charles Mee recounted that the use of the atomic bomb was “wanton murder”, while Commonweal declared: “The name Hiroshima, the name Nagasaki are named for American guilt and shame” (qtd. from Loebs). The annihilation of these Japanese cities had been great but the possibility of a Nuclear War scared people all the more. After World War II, the United States and the former U.S.S.R. became two of the world’s superpowers. With each having entirely different ideological missions (capitalist democracy versus communism), U.S. and U.S.S.R. greatly influenced their own network of alliances and each maintained a deadly arsenal of nuclear weapons.
This silent collision of interests divided Europe, with massive military forces of the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies on one side and massive forces of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. Germany itself was split, with three-quarters of the country—and three-quarters of the capital city of Berlin—occupied by the United States, Britain, and France. The remainder, surrounding West Berlin, was occupied by the Soviet Union. Crises in Berlin in 1947-1948 led to armed confrontations but not war. In 1961, the Cold War became more imminent as East Germany built the Berlin Wall separating East from West Berlin. It symbolized the division of Europe by what Winston Churchill had called the “iron curtain” (Gaddis 79).
Thankfully, the Cold War was officially over in the 1980s when the Berlin Wall was destroyed and the United States and Russia initiated to end the Cold War and agreed to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. In 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (or START) concluded and surpassed the limits negotiated in earlier SALT talks. By June 1992 US President Bush and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin had agreed to even sharper cuts. Ultimately, the events during World War II should remain as important lessons where world leaders can learn a thing or two about going into wars and realizing the terrible repercussions. As the world enters the Information Age, the threat of another global war is far-fetched but we must always remain vigilant about this possibility and we should stand together to stop it from happening ever again.
Gaddis, John Lewis. We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
“Remembering the past: the world pauses to remember history’s most destructive war. (the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II)”. Current Events, a Weekly Reader publication. 94.26 (1995). Web.
“World War II.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2008. Web.