Australia and World War II

Key points

  • World War II started when Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1939. It ended in 1945.
  • The war was fought between the Allied Nations (a group of countries that included Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand) against the Axis powers – spearheaded by Germany, Italy and Japan.
  • Almost one million Australians were involved in World War II.
  • The Australian mainland came under direct military attack for the first time.
  • World War II was the deadliest conflict in history.
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Slouch hat and poppy from World War 2

History: Some significant dates and events

Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement. Australian Prime Minister,
Gordon Menzies
3 September 1939
  • On 3 September 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany after it invaded Poland. France and most British Empire and Commonwealth nations, including Australia, also declared war on Germany.
  • In 1940, Italy joined Germany in the war and invaded France. Later that year Germany established the Auschwitz concentration camp where it is estimated more than one million people – mainly Jews – were killed.  By the end of World War II, it is estimated six million Jewish people were murdered as a result of the Holocaust, a systematic program of state-sponsored genocide.
  • Germany, Italy and Japan signed a tripartite agreement in 1940.
  • At the height of the war the conflict had spread throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, Northern Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Between 1942 and 1943, Japan conducted air raids on Northern Australia, bombing Darwin and Broome, and used submarines to attack Sydney harbour.
  • On 6 June 1944, known as D-Day, the Allied forces landed at Normandy as part of an operation to liberate Europe.
  • Germany surrendered to Allied forces on May 1945, following Germany's leader Adolf Hitler's suicide days earlier on 30 April.
  • During August 1945 the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with estimates of 250,000 people killed.
  • On 15 August 1945 Japan surrendered, bringing to an end a war that killed between 50 and 80 million people, including almost 40,000 Australian military personnel.





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