Why is the German Invasion of Poland usually marked as the beginning of the Second World War?

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,628
#1
It seems there are two problems with using 1 September 1939 as the start of the Second World War.

The first is that the invasion of Poland did not ignite a global conflict. The war between the Allies and Germany was largely confined to Europe and the Mediterranean and was entirely separate from the Sino-Japanese war. Earlier conflicts like the Seven Years War were more global affairs at the point.

It was the attack on Pearl Harbor that unified those two seperate conflicts into a single, global war. The attack on Pearl Harbor then would seem to be a better start date for the Second World War, though it isn't without it's own problems. Namely that two extremely bloody conflicts had been raging for long before 7 December 1941.

If an earlier date is to be used however due to that fact, why 1 September 1939? The first shots of what would later become the Second World War were exchanged in China, not Europe. Am I missing something? The start date of 1 September 1939 seems a bit arbitrary and Eurocentric.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,384
Republika Srpska
#3
The first is that the invasion of Poland did not ignite a global conflict.
Even before Barbarossa and Pearl Harbor the war had:
1. soldiers fighting from all continents, mostly due to the colonial empires that recruited troops from their colonies.
2. fighting spread to much of the world, of course there was fighting in Europe, but also in Asia, Africa, off the coast of South America, on the seas.

The war between the Allies and Germany was largely confined to Europe and the Mediterranean and was entirely separate from the Sino-Japanese war.
True, but at that point (before 1941) only the war between the Allies and Germany could have been classified as a world war, the Sino-Japanese War could not.

Earlier conflicts like the Seven Years War were more global affairs at the point.
I agree, but that does not make the 1939-41 Allies vs Germany conflict not a world war.

It was the attack on Pearl Harbor that unified those two seperate conflicts into a single, global war.
Indeed, it brought the Far East war into the wider, global conflict. It's worth keeping in mind that Germany and Japan were practically waging two separate wars without much cooperation.
 
Jan 2013
956
Toronto, Canada
#6
If an earlier date is to be used however due to that fact, why 1 September 1939? The first shots of what would later become the Second World War were exchanged in China, not Europe. Am I missing something? The start date of 1 September 1939 seems a bit arbitrary and Eurocentric.
It is Eurocentric, but most of the world was Eurocentric back then. A lot of it still is.
 
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Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,655
#8
Because the root causes originated in the same era for both Germany and Japan where rising industrial powers sought to turn their relative economic and technological gains into territorial and imperial gains to the detriment of neighbouring states and minority peoples due to the assumptions of racial and cultural superiority that both Germany and Japan adopted to explain their relative economic and technological gains compared to their neighbours.

Almost all rising powers have done the same thing throughout history- only at the end of WW1 was this behaviour seen as ultimately destructive with the interlinked economies and dependencies which global trade and the rapid transit/transmission of people and information that was enabled by new technologies.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,268
Dispargum
#9
I would link the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific earlier than Pearl Harbor. The fall of France and the Netherlands and the deployment of much of the Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and British military forces to Europe all encouraged Japan to become more aggressive. Barbarosa also encouraged Japanese aggression by focusing Soviet attention in the west and away from Manchuria/Japan.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,960
SoCal
#10
It seems there are two problems with using 1 September 1939 as the start of the Second World War.

The first is that the invasion of Poland did not ignite a global conflict. The war between the Allies and Germany was largely confined to Europe and the Mediterranean and was entirely separate from the Sino-Japanese war. Earlier conflicts like the Seven Years War were more global affairs at the point.

It was the attack on Pearl Harbor that unified those two seperate conflicts into a single, global war. The attack on Pearl Harbor then would seem to be a better start date for the Second World War, though it isn't without it's own problems. Namely that two extremely bloody conflicts had been raging for long before 7 December 1941.

If an earlier date is to be used however due to that fact, why 1 September 1939? The first shots of what would later become the Second World War were exchanged in China, not Europe. Am I missing something? The start date of 1 September 1939 seems a bit arbitrary and Eurocentric.
I think that the reason for this is that while there wasn't a lot of connection between these two wars in 1939, both of these wars were already in occurrence in 1939 and thus it is considered the start of a conflict that subsequently became global. I suppose that this might be similar to how a famous person's autobiography starts at the point of their birth even if they didn't actually do anything notable until later on.
 
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