France and England enter World War 2 following Germany's invasion of Poland. But with the exception of its navy England is rather uncertain how to prepare. After a failed operation in Norway lead by Churchill, Chamberlain is, ironically, replaced as Prime Minister by Churchill.
Following the defeat and retreat at Dunkirk, Britain desperately works to rearm and prepare their defenses. But Germany was not well prepared to press their offensive and invade. After losing the Battle of Britain Germany begins bombing British cities. The British launch an offensive in North Africa hoping to distract the Germans attention from the British Isles.
Following the conquest of France Hitler, almost casually by blitzkrieg standards, turn his eyes toward Russia. But Stalin is equally lackadaisical in preparing defenses against Germany. The German invasion rapidly reaches the gates of Moscow where it is stopped cold by the onset of winter then crushed by the Russian counterattack.
Following Japan's conquest of eastern Asia the Allies finally respond with sanctions. They prove so threatening to Japan that it prepares to conquer Southeast Asia to secure the resources it needs. But first the threat from the British and American Pacific fleets must be eliminated.
Although those in the know figured it was just a matter of time, the United States only reluctantly participated in World War 2. But it was not a foregone conclusion that the United States would side against both Germany and Japan. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor precipitated a quick decision. But in Germany's case a long series of mutual provocations, some intended, some not, gradually turned the United States against Germany.
In 1940 Mussolini deploys a massive army to invade British held Egypt, to capture the Suez Canal and most of all to establish an Italian empire to rival Germany's. So begins a multi-year campaign over a meaningless stretch of desert involving forces from a dozen nations and characterized by persistent attackers, stubborn defenders and ultimately controlled by supply line challenges.
Germany is dealt a crushing defeat when the Russians' stubborn defense of Stalingrad delays the German offensive giving the Russians time to mass their forces for a counter attack that surrounds then destroys the German Sixth Army and its supporting forces.
For three years German u-boats ravage transatlantic convoys. Despite the critical need for the supplies and materiel British leadership give scant attention to the matter for two years. Finally in 1943 the allies begin introducing new tactics and weapons while Germany continues to focus on the numbers game.
Bent on fulfilling Hilter's policy of colonizing Russia, German forces invade subjecting inhabitants of occupied lands to servitude or death. Russians respond with a mass evacuation and scorched earth policy, reestablishing their industrial capacity far to the east. After German forces fail to break Lenigrade or to capture Kursk and the surrounding Russian forces Russia goes on the offensive with its military production at full capacity.
While the British continue to rely on night bombing the American forces attempt to use more dangerous but more precise daylight bombing to interdict German military production and crush the national will.
After driving the Germans from North Africa the Allies turn their sites on Italy. But the Italian campaign turned out to be tougher the anyone expected. American reluctance to divert resources from the planned Normandy invasion, geographic challenges and German reinforcements hinders the Allied campaign which continued until the eve of the Normandy invasion.
Allied forces were totally unprepared for the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942. The Japanese quickly overran the country. The Allies counter-attacked using troops unfamiliar with jungle warfare which were unsuccessful against the Japanese guerrilla forces. But the Allies persisted and gradually adapted to the jungle environment. As additional forces arrived the Allies succeeded in destroying the Japanese forces.
The war effort required total commitment from British citizens stretching their bodies and spirits to the breaking point and occasionally beyond it. As a result of grim news early in the war, German bombing of British cities and disagreements on critical policies Churchill faced a no confidence vote. But extraordinary measures gradually put the kingdom on an effective war footing.
Germany is jubilant after the surrender of France. Then the unsuccessful expansion of the war to include Russia and England gradually turns German morale from joy to fatalism. Even der Führer falls victim to the insidious fatalism caused first by the crushing defeat at Stalingrad then the bunker bombing that nearly killed him. All the while the tightening Nazi grip and Allied assaults adds to the gloom of fear.
The Dutch are shocked when the Germans bomb Rotterdam and invade their neutral country. But Germany follows with insidious conciliatory gestures that ease tensions. Germany gradually exploits the populace with conscriptions, forced labor and deportation of Jewish citizens. Finally anticipating liberation as the Allies move westward, Dutch suffering intensifies. As the German propagandists had claimed, liberation brought devastation, not from warfare but from a brutal German embargo and intensified deportations.
As the Allies debate how to prosecute the the invasion of Germany, Hitler settles the question with a massive counter attack in the Ardenne. Failure of the attack leaves German defenses of the Western Front in shambles. Meanwhile, Russian forces are also closing in but Stalin orders a pause so the SS can crush the Polish resistance.
The history of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, showing events leading to the "Final Solution". Footage and Interviews with SS officers and Jewish survivors from various countries describe how the extermination camps operated and what existence was like there.
The closing weeks of the European war bring retribution for Germany in the form of carpet bombing cities like Dresden, the collapse of the Whermacht, atrocities by Soviet forces, and finally the fall of Berlin and suicide of Hitler.
After the victories in 1941-2, Japanese fortunes reverse as America succeeds in destroying their aircraft fleet and Pacific island bases. At home, shortages of goods and manpower lead to desperation for the population.
The island hopping strategy of Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur leads from one costly, battle after another. The Japanese fight fanatically as the war gets ever closer to home, but Americans finally use their newest weapon, the A-bomb.
As wretched survivours suffer deprivations amongst the ruins, half of Germany and eastern Europe trade one socialist tyranny for another as the Soviets take power. Japan is occupied by the U. S., but the colonial empires disintegrate.