The World Wars: Extended Edition tells the story of three decades of war told through the eyes of various men who were its key players: Roosevelt, Hitler, Patton, Mussolini, Churchill, Tojo, De Gaulle and MacArthur. The series examines the two wars as one contiguous timeline starting in 1914 and concluding in 1945 with these unique individuals coming of age in World War I before ultimately calling the shots in World War II.
The World Wars Part 1. Trial by Fire
An assassination sparks a global conflict in the opener of this series examining World War I and World War II from the perspective of powerful leaders who were involved in the fighting.
The World Wars Part 2. The Price of Glory
The Allies turn Germany away from France; leaders are dissatisfied with the Treaty of Versailles; Germany’s economy collapses with the end of the war; Hitler begins his rise to power.
The World Wars Part 3. The Rising Tide
The Great Depression arrives; Adolf Hitler rebuilds Germany’s military.
The World Wars Part 4. The Storm Explodes
Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler form a pact; Hitler invades Poland
The World Wars Part 5. Never Surrender
The U.S. is attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor.
The World Wars Part 6. Peace at Last
Allied forces invade Normandy in the series finale. Later, Adolf Hitler commits suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head. Soon after, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces, ending Hitler’s dreams of a “1,000-year” Reich.
Now, THE WORLD WARS: EXTENDED EDITION will give fans more dramatic scenes, expert interviews and historical archives that cover key military battles from both WWI and WWII. It also takes a deeper dive into pivotal scenes like the attack on Gallipoli, Kristallnacht, the liberation of Paris and the rescue of Allied troops in Dunkirk. Overall, the extended version takes a more global perspective, examining this 30-year conflict and its impact on America through the eyes of both its allies and enemies.
The World Wars: A Comprehensive Retrospective
The early 20th century was a time of great upheaval and conflict that dramatically shaped the course of human history. World War I and World War II, while technically separate wars, can also be viewed as two phases of one long 30-year war that ravaged Europe and affected the entire world. This protracted conflict was fueled by nationalistic fervor, imperialist ambition, ideological extremism, and rapid technological advancements that led to staggering bloodshed. Examining the key events and figures of these turbulent decades provides insight into how the chaos unfolded and why this period has had such a lasting impact.
The Great War Erupts
In 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria quickly spiraled into a massive conflict between two opposing alliances. The Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary, battled the Allied Powers, led by Britain, France and Russia. New technologies like machine guns, poison gas, tanks and aircraft were used extensively along the Western Front, where Germany faced off against France and Britain in brutal trench warfare. Despite high casualties, these grueling battles often resulted in little territory gained for either side. The introduction of U-boats by Germany to blockade their enemies also intensified naval combat in the Atlantic. On the Eastern Front, Germany and Austria-Hungary fought the sprawling Russian Empire across wide fronts in the east.
America Enters the Fray
The United States initially remained neutral, but eventually joined the Allies in 1917 after continued German aggression like the sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmerman Telegram. Joining Britain and France’s fight, America provided fresh troops and supplies to support the war effort. Still, both sides remained deadlocked for years until the entrance of millions of American soldiers finally tipped the scales. Rallied by President Woodrow Wilson, America brought its full industrial and economic might to bear. This influx of manpower and materiel helped exhaust German resources and morale, leading to their surrender in 1918.
The Treaty of Versailles Sows Future Discord
The armistice ending World War I included harsh terms for Germany via the Treaty of Versailles, including substantial reparations, loss of territory, military restrictions and admission of guilt for causing the war. This humiliation bred deep resentment amongst Germans, especially extreme nationalists like Adolf Hitler. Many felt Germany had not truly lost the war militarily and instead was betrayed from within by weak politicians. This ‘Stab in the Back’ myth became a pretext for revanchism and revenge. The ineffective Treaty failed to reconcile broken populations or create a lasting peace. Its flaws would soon have devastating consequences.
The Interwar Period Brings Unrest and Uncertainty
In the 1920s and 30s, much of the world tried to rebuild after the devastation. But the Roaring Twenties covered growing political and economic problems that left many countries on shaky footing. Democracies struggled to maintain order, while dictatorships like the Soviet Union forcibly implemented sweeping reforms. Germany, limited by post-war sanctions, suffered catastrophic hyperinflation and depression. Meanwhile, extremist groups on both the left and right turned to radical new ideologies like fascism and communism. Veterans felt alienated from society. Amidst this tension, a proud decorated corporal named Adolf Hitler galvanized masses of Germans by tapping into national resentments with his charismatic speeches and promises to restore Germany’s former glory.
Hitler Rises to Power in Germany
In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor and quickly consolidated power as an absolute dictator. He then began openly persecuting Jews and other minorities, inkeeping with his racist social Darwinist views of Aryan supremacy. Hitler also flagrantly violated the Treaty of Versailles by massively rearming Germany and rebuilding its military. In 1938, he annexed Austria in the Anschluss and made claims on the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy of allowing Hitler’s aggression unfortunately only emboldened him further. Then in 1939, Hitler’s invasion of Poland finally sparked British and French declarations of war, igniting World War II.
Early Axis Victories Shock the Allies
The Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan made stunning early gains, conquering large swaths of Europe, Africa and Asia. Blitzkrieg tactics like combined air and land assaults supported by armor and mobile infantry helped Germany overrun much of the continent. They were only stopped from conquering Britain by the narrow escape of troops at Dunkirk and the staunch air defense during the Battle of Britain. Japan decimated the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor to neutralize American intervention, then seized British and Dutch holdings across the Pacific. For a time the Axis seemed unbeatable. But their immense gains overstretched resources and troop strength. Meanwhile, the Allied Powers slowly began mobilizing their superior industrial capacity and manpower.
Turning of the Tide Leads to Victory
1942 proved a pivotal year where the Allies regained their footing and began turning the tide against the Axis. In the Pacific, the U.S. Navy halted Japan’s advance at the Battle of Midway. In North Africa, Britain pushed back German troops from Egypt through campaigns led by General Montgomery and with materials supplied via the Lend-Lease program. Germany’s attack on Russia eventually stalled in the brutal winter around Stalingrad, inflicting heavy losses that would weaken their Eastern Front. The Allied invasion of Italy knocked them out of the war in 1943. Then on D-Day in 1944, British, American and Canadian forces landed at Normandy to liberate France. Paris was freed after an uprising by resistance groups, unleashing euphoric celebrations. As Allied troops continued marching towards Germany, the Soviets closed in from the east. Hitler, hunkered in his bunker, refused to surrender. But after his suicide in 1945, Germany finally capitulated, ending the war in Europe.
Defeat of Japan Brings a Decisive End
In the Pacific, Allied forces under General MacArthur gradually seized back territory held by Japan, culminating in bloody battles like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. These victories brought Allied bombers in range to conduct firebombing raids on major Japanese cities. Japan refused demands to surrender, compelling Truman to order the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Finally unable to continue fighting, Japan formally surrendered on the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. This marked the end of World War II after nearly 6 years of conflict. America emerged as a dominant superpower, the Soviet Union also became a global force, and Europe lay in ruins but was finally freed from the grips of fascism.
Legacy of Fear, Suspicion and Uncertainty
World War II left over 60 million dead and immense devastation worldwide. The horrific genocide committed during the Holocaust also exposed the depths of human depravity. Fear and suspicion now characterized the postwar world, as ideological differences caused the Allied Powers to split and become hostile adversaries in the Cold War between Western democracies and the communist Eastern Bloc. The advent of nuclear weapons also posed an existential threat, raising the stakes of future conflicts. While the world was saved from fascism, the scars of war lingered. Veterans tried to rebuild normal lives while the wider populace longed for a lasting peace after living through such turbulent decades marked by economic despair, political extremism and unbelievable violence. The reverberations of this era continue to echo to this day.
In many ways World War I and World War II can be seen as two phases of one long conflict, given how the unresolved issues from the Great War helped fuel the rise of fascism and the march back towards war. Examining this wider 30-year period provides greater insight into the complex interplay of social, political and economic forces that shaped such a volatile period of history. The nationalistic fervor, imperialist ambition, ideological extremism and rapid technological changes that characterized these decades unleashed destruction on a scale never before seen. But ultimately fascism was defeated, even if a weary world was left to pick up the pieces. The devastation and horrors of this era must never be forgotten, so that such terrible mistakes can be avoided in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
What caused World War I?
World War I was caused by a combination of factors, including complex military alliances, imperialist tensions, and nationalism among European powers. The immediate spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian nationalist, which set off a chain reaction of mobilizations and declarations of war.
What was Hitler’s ideology?
Adolf Hitler subscribed to an extreme racist and nationalistic ideology. He promoted theories of Aryan racial supremacy and wanted to establish a dominant German Reich. His radical views were outlined in works like Mein Kampf.
What were some key Allied victories in World War II?
Important Allied victories include the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Battle of Midway in 1942, the North Africa campaign in 1942-43, the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, and the recapture of Paris in 1944. These helped halt Axis advances and shift momentum in favor of the Allies.
How did the Treaty of Versailles help lead to World War II?
The harsh terms Germany faced in the Treaty of Versailles bred deep resentment and anger amongst its citizens. This created fertile ground for political extremism and calls for revenge, which Hitler capitalized on to gain power and start World War II.
What was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust refers to the genocide committed by Nazi Germany before and during WWII, in which approximately 6 million European Jews as well as other minorities were systematically murdered. It was carried out under Hitler’s virulently anti-Semitic Nazi regime.