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

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,963
San Antonio, Tx
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.


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.


I agree, but that does not make the 1939-41 Allies vs Germany conflict not a world 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.
I don’t recall the author’s name, but I read a well-written book, The Last. European War many years ago that posited exactly the same thing. WW2 did not become a global conflict until Pearl Harbor.
 

Lord Fairfax

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Jan 2015
3,502
Space Bat Lair
I don’t recall the author’s name, but I read a well-written book, The Last. European War many years ago that posited exactly the same thing. WW2 did not become a global conflict until Pearl Harbor.
So what was it then?
A localized conflict?

(Localized to the Planet Earth?) ;)
 

royal744

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Jul 2013
10,963
San Antonio, Tx
Probably in century to come WW1 and WW2 will in fact be merged into 1 war with an intermission.
I think this is correct. The one certainly led directly to the other, almost exactly a generation later so there was a “fresh” crop of cannon fodder And an older generation that bought into the comforting nonsense that the Germans were stabbed in the back (dolchstoss) in 1918. The Germans got their “do over”, but this time Germany’s cities were laid waste. In 1918 there was no real occupation like 1945 when the West moved in lock, stock and barrel in order not to repeat the earlier error. Mostly, it worked out well.
 
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Futurist

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May 2014
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I think this is correct. The one certainly led directly to the other, almost exactly a generation later so there was a “fresh” crop of cannon fodder And an older generation that bought into the comforting nonsense that the Germans were stabbed in the back (dolchstoss) in 1918. The Germans got their “do over”, but this time Germany’s cities were laid waste. In 1918 there was no real occupation like 1945 when the West moved in lock, stock and barrel in order not to repeat the earlier error. Mostly, it worked out well.
It really is quite amazing (not in a good way) how Hitler was able to maintain tight discipline and order on the German home front up to the very end in WWII. The Imperial German leadership certainly didn't manage to do this in WWI.
 

Ichon

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Mar 2013
3,763
It really is quite amazing (not in a good way) how Hitler was able to maintain tight discipline and order on the German home front up to the very end in WWII. The Imperial German leadership certainly didn't manage to do this in WWI.
With concentration camps and quite a few executions of opposing political leaders the only game in town was the Nazi party- it wasn't comparable to WW1 on the level of social control Hitler started the war with- ending with even more control until the final month isn't that surprising.
 
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stevev

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Apr 2017
3,734
Las Vegas, NV USA
There is no formal reason why and when the two conflicts were named the way they were. A few news outlets were using the term WWII before Sept 1 1939 in anticipation of the conflict. At the same time the "Great War" or "World War" was anticipated to become WWI. This usage was pretty much established by 1941.

 
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Jun 2017
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Connecticut
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.
Well that was enough to be a World War. At the time it was seen as a continuation of the First(referred to as such in the UK press) which while having major allies in the US and Japan and nominal colonial battles in Africa and Asia(especially at the start) was a considerably more Euro centric war. The other conflicts prior to WWI that would be considered "World Wars"(and Winston Churchill wrote a book on the Spanish Succession war calling it just that before changing his mind) were entirely European(with the exception of the Seven Years War which included the American colonies).

Sino-Japanese war was separate and was the start of the Japanese military actions that led to their attacking the US. The triparte pact and Germany's declaration of war on the US after Pearl Harbor and the US's subsequent operations in Europe merged the two conflicts into WWII. But in 1939,1940 WWII was really just Europe. In terms of using 1941 as the start date the US was joining a conflict that had started in 1939 and had involved all of the great powers except themselves and Japan(Japan was a German ally I meant in practical terms). All the great powers besides the US and Japan just happened to be in Europe. That being said before 1941 and the entry of the USSR and US, Germany had more or less won what conflicted that started in Poland(the Blitz was ending and the war was mostly down to a relatively small front in North Africa prior to Barbarossa) and expanded it into one they lost. So there's a gap there for sure but the UK's continued fighting against Germany and Italy in North Africa(that the US eventually joined and finished) meant that the war wasn't yet over.

Also Russia/USSR traditionally saw itself as non European due to being Orthodox/Roman (as opposed to the descendants of the Germanic tribes) and then an isolated Marxist state. This is why Russia wasn't and in many ways isn't considered the "West" despite clearly not being part of the "East" as in China, Japan etc and having much more in common with Europe post Peter the Great. Naval wise WWII also literally spanned across the globe in 1939/1940 for example the sinking of the Graf Spee took place near the southern tip of the Americas. Suez Canal's importance also stemmed from access to the rest of the British and French Empires.

But truth of the matter is the US and Japan were the only great powers that weren't European and they'd only emerged in the 19th century. Before that all the great powers had been European since the Ottoman Empires fall from that group(whenever one considers that to be). A general European war between the major powers pretty much was a world war. Today while the Asian power is different the US and China are still the only two non Euro great powers and WWIII would require no African, South American or Asian involvement(besides the Chinese).
 

royal744

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Jul 2013
10,963
San Antonio, Tx
Probably in century to come WW1 and WW2 will in fact be merged into 1 war with an intermission.
An intermission just long enough to grow another generation of young men to be slaughtered for no good reason.