Officially, World War II lasted six years. However, its effects are still being felt in our world today. From rebuilding Europe's economy and the creation of the United Nations to the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, the years after WWII saw no shortage of global-shaping events. Calling all history buffs! How much do you know about the aftermath of WWII? You may know your Axis powers from your Allied powers, but what happened in the years after the war ended?
If you know who rebuilt Europe and how the Cold War got its name, then you might have what it takes to answer these questions about the aftermath of WWII. A great philosopher said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Do you remember what you learned about the aftermath of WWII in your high school history class? Or, should you watch The Hunt for Red October to refresh your memory?
Take this quiz to find our how much you know about the aftermath of WWII. Borders were redrawn, people displaced and war criminals held accountable. Even though the fighting may have stopped, the flurry of activity and world-changing events did not. Test your history knowledge while learning fascinating facts about the years following WWII!
Although officially named the European Recovery Program (ERP), this economic aid initiative became known as the Marshall Plan after the U.S. Secretary of State who devised it. In an effort to rebuild war-torn Europe, the United States gave over $13 billion in economic assistance. With inflation, that amounts to over $100 billion in today's dollars.
In 1945, two powers dominated the world: the United State and the Soviet Union. The two had been allies during WWII but found themselves increasingly at odds in the years following the end of the war. The U.S. had economic and military strength while the Soviet Union utilized Marxist ideology to control its citizens.
WWII both caused and accelerated change around the world. In France and Italy, women were recognized for their contributions during the war and got the right to vote. Other social changes included the establishment of the welfare state in Britain.
The Allied powers divided Germany into four zones. Britain occupied the northwest, and France occupied the southwest. The United States took the south while the Soviets controlled the east. As with the country, they also divided the capital, Berlin. Because their occupiers supported such differing ideologies, two Germanies began to take shape.
In the early years of WWII, MacArthur received the Medal of Honor for extreme bravery. Starting in 1945, he presided over the Japanese Unconditional Surrender. He disbanded supporters of the Japanese militarists and implemented a variety of reforms such as democratic constitution.
In the aftermath of WWII, much of Europe was divided up among the Allied powers with the purpose of overseeing reconstruction and the formation of new governments. In no place were the battling ideologies of the U.S. and Soviets more evident than Berlin. The two powers joint-occupied Germany, and to create separation, the Soviet Union erected the wall in 1961. It fell in 1989.
Following the war, special tribunals were held in both Japan and Germany to prosecute individuals responsible for "crimes against humanity." Most famously, senior Nazis stood before Allied judges in Nuremberg.
Following WWII, the Allied powers divided not just Germany but also the capital itself. The U.S., Britain and France occupied West Berlin for a time before giving control back to the Germans. The Soviets controlled East Berlin. Their portion of the city and their portion of the country worked to effectively surround West Berlin. The famous Berlin Wall encompassed West Berlin in a Soviet-effort to contain its Western ideologies.
In his Four Freedoms speech, Roosevelt shared his vision for the world after WWII. He talked about freedom of speech, expression and religion as well as freedom from want and fear.
Although the League of Nations had failed, world leaders new a similar but much stronger organization was necessary to build and nurture international relations. Thus, they established the United Nations. In April 1945, 50 governments met to draft the initial charter. Since the UN began operating in October 1945, it has worked toward its mission to maintain international peace and achieve global cooperation.
Beginning in 1922, Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union until his death in 1953. As dictator, he ruled the country using his interpretation of Marxism and Leninism which became known as Stalinism.
Despite both belonging to the Allied powers during WWII, the U.S. and Soviet Union had opposing ideologies. Tensions grew, and in 1946, the Cold War began. The term "cold" is used to describe the conflict because no large-scale fighting occurred directly between the two sides. However, both sides engaged in proxy wars as well as the nuclear arms race.
Beginning in April 1946 and lasting until November 1948, the International Military Tribune for the Far East indicted, tried and sentenced Japanese leaders for their roles in WWII. These military trials became known as the "Tokyo trials" since they were held in Japan's capital city. Judges from 11 countries, including the United States, handed down sentences that ranged from prison time to death.
During the Nuremberg trials, the Allied court prosecuted prominent Nazi leaders for their roles in WWII and the Holocaust. Former leader of German aerial forces and the secret police, Herman Göring was the highest ranking official tried at Nuremberg. He received a death sentence but committed suicide the night before it was to take place.
In exchange for their cooperation and help during WWII, Indian leaders asked for the country's independence following the war. More than two million Indians served in the Allied forces. On Aug. 15, 1947, India became a free nation.
Even though American General Douglas MacArthur and his staff oversaw and assisted in the creation of Japan's new constitution, the new document was based on British parliamentary rule. In the new constitution, Japan's emperor had only a symbolic rule. Furthermore, it granted women the right to vote. In April 1946, Japan elected its first modern prime minister.
Exactly seven years to the day since the first prisoners arrived to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the museum and memorial opened on the same site. In addition to educating visitors about the Holocaust and remembering its victims, the museum also performs Holocaust research.
In June 1948, President Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act which allowed more than 200,000 European refugees to establish permanent residency in the United States. Truman had several objections to the Act, most notably its discrimination against Jewish displaced persons. In 1950, the Act was amended, and the Displaced Persons Act of 1950 rectifies this exclusion.
In 1949, the Communist Party of China established the People's Republic of China. The Communist Party had been fighting with Nationalist Party of China since 1927. The two sides put the conflict on hold in 1937 to come together in face of the invading Imperial Japanese Army. Although all major military activity had ended by 1950, neither side ever signed an official peace agreement.
Although the United States and the Soviet Union never engaged in direct hostilities, the two powers took opposing sides in the Vietnam War. The USSR, along with China and other communist allies, supported the North Vietnamese army. The United States and its anti-communist allies supported the government of South Vietnam.
Following WWII, the Allied forces took control of Korea from Japan and agreed to split the country into two parts. The United States occupied the southern part of the country while the USSR occupied the northern portion. In June 1950, the Korean War began when the army of Communist North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and marched on Seoul.
Implicated by Ethel's own brother, David Greenglass, the Rosenbergs were executed in New York's Sing Sing Prison on June 19, 1953. Julius had been a Russian agent since 1953 and recruited other Americans including his brother-in-law. Julius and Greenglass gave top-secret information to the Russians. Years after their execution, Greenglass admitted he'd fabricated his sister's involvement in order to save himself.
In the aftermath of WWII, competing ideologies split Europe in two parts. In the west, capitalism reigned with the support of the United States. In the east, communism ruled backed by the USSR. Churchill called the divide the "iron curtain" in reference to the Soviet Union's effort isolate itself from the West.
Relying heavily on knowledge the Soviets gained about the U.S's Manhattan Project, the USSR conducted its first successful nuclear weapons test in Kazakhstan. They named the project "First Lightning."
Led by the United States, Western allies signed a military alliance on April 4, 1949. Nearly 30 North American and European countries signed the treaty promising to come together in the event of necessary armed action against Communism.
Beginning in 1942, the U.S. government began operating internment camps in the American West. Officially known as "relocation centers," the U.S. incarcerated approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans. President Roosevelt ordered the detention in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
After Japan passed its new constitution, the country elected its first modern prime minister: Yoshida Shigeru. The country still had an emperor but with significantly reduced power. Emperor Hirohito said his country would never again "be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government."
In 1945, George Orwell wrote an article in which he predicted the Cold War. He said there would be a stalemate between “two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds.” Presidential adviser Bernard Baruch used the term again several years later in a speech.
In May 1955, Soviet-bloc countries signed the Warsaw Treaty in response to the United States and other western powers signing the Paris agreement. The treaty established a mutual-defense organization. In addition to the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania also signed.
The Soviet Union had promised to defend communist Cuba and began missile shipments to the island in 1962. When President Kennedy learned the missiles had the potential to strike the U.S., he ordered a blockade to prevent the shipments from reaching Cuba. After tense discussions, the Soviets agreed to stop their work on the missile sites in exchange for the U.S.'s promise to never invade Cuba.
In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was evident neither side wanted to engage in nuclear warfare for the fear of mutual destruction. The U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963, which forbade above-ground nuclear weapons testing.
In support of the Afghan communist government, the USSR sent troops to fight the anti-communist Muslim guerrillas as part of the Afghan War. The Soviets occupied the country until February 1989.
After years of building up arms and competing for world influence, Mikhail Gorbachev and his administration began to ease the tensions of the Cold War as they dismantled the totalitarian practices of the Soviet Union. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.
When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991, 15 new countries gained their independence. Among those countries was Russia, which went onto democratically elect an anticommunist leader. The fall of the Soviet Union marked the end of the Cold War.
As part of Eastern Europe's democratization, East Germany's Soviet-backed communist leadership lost power in October 1989. Less than a month later, the government began allowing free travel between East and West Germany.