The darkest days of the Second World War, when the Allied powers suffered humiliating defeats and significant losses, are being explored in the latest issue of the Memorial’s military history magazine, Wartime.
The Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan seemed unstoppable in 1941 and 1942. The previous year had seen the Wehrmacht crush the French Army and occupy its lands, and also force the British to beat an ignominious retreat from continental Europe. Building on this success, Hitler’s Nazi regime launched Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941, invading the Soviet Union and achieving significant victories while sustaining heavy casualties.
In December, Japan launched a surprise military strike on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which inflicted serious damage on its fleet and led to the United States’ entry into the war. The Japanese followed this attack with the overpowering of the British outpost of Singapore in February 1942. The Allies surrendered and hundreds of thousands of soldiers – including tens of thousands of Australians – became prisoners of war.
“The first years of the Second World War are disastrous for the Allies, and things got increasingly worse when Germany invaded the Soviet Union,” said Dr Karl James, senior historian and guest editor of Issue 77 of Wartime.
“This issue covers the period when the war truly becomes a global conflict when the Axis forces were dominant. The situation was dire, Western liberal democracy was really flickering. We were losing.”
The magazine includes articles by international authors and historians including Britain’s James Holland, who explodes the myths of blitzkrieg, Germany’s “lightning war” strategy. American author Jonathan Parshall also offers new interpretations of the battle of Pearl Harbour, 75 years on.
Australian authors examine the impact that Japan’s entry into the war had on the nation. “In a period of two to three months, the war goes from being a conflict fought far away overseas in North Africa and the Mediterranean, to being fought in our backyard,” Dr James said. “It was, as Prime Minister John Curtin said, Australia’s darkest hour.”
Wartime is the military history magazine of the Australian War Memorial and a must-have for anyone with an interest in history.
Published quarterly, the 73-page magazine is devoted to the Australian experience of war; military history; and the effects of war on society. All features are written by eminent historians and deal fully and frankly with both the distressing and the lighter sides of war.
Each issue delivers many stories of courage and survival of both service personnel and civilians, illustrated throughout by incredible images from the Memorial archives.
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