World War II

“A date which will live in infamy”

“Always will our full nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.”
--Franklin D. Roosevelt, address to Congress, December 8, 1941.

World War II cost more money, damaged more property, killed more people, and caused more far-reaching changes than any other war in history. The second World War included the most people to date, with more than 100 million people serving in military units.

The image is taken from The Sunday Post in 1917 from's collection of British newspaper archives.

For Europeans, war began in 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. The war in Europe would end in May 1945 and in the Pacific in August 1945. For the U.S., the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto spoke correctly when he said, "I fear we will awaken a sleeping giant," directed towards an under equipped, elderly and sparse U.S. military, which sprung to bring retribution to the Japanese quest for Pacific domination.

On December 7, 1941, 350 Japanese air crafts attacked 21 ships stationed at Pearl Harbor, a naval base in Hawaii, killing 2,400 people. President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially waged war the same day against Japan despite previous statements promising, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Roosevelt had already made a secret pact with the prime minister of England, Winston Churchill, to first aid Europe in their fight against Germany, which fought in alliance with Japan.

Led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, the Germany army marched to conquer the Soviet Union while one in nine Americans left for military training camps. More than 16 million men and women served for the U.S. military during WWII.

This photo is of the Nazi advancement in Russia in the Aberdeen Journal in 1941 taken from findmypast's collection of British newspaper archives.

Search the World War II enlistment records collection on findmypast, which includes more than 8.7 million records of men and women who enlisted to serve in the United States Army during World War II from 1938 to 1946. The original punch cards enlistees completed were destroyed in 1947. Search the records now

World War II touched the lives of soldiers and families alike blurring the distinction between military combat and civilian resources. Including the Holocaust and the nuclear warfare, WWII resulted in a staggering 60 million fatalities worldwide.

The Holocaust was the mass murder of approximately six million Jews during World War II, led by the Nazi Party, throughout German-occupied territory. The Holocaust killed approximately two-thirds of the 9 million Jews who lived in Europe before the war.

World War II changed the way of life in the United States forever with the introduction of income tax, mass migrations of people, families traveling with new found economic prosperity, and unprecedented corporate profits thanks to war-related production investments.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the designation of military zones within the US from which "any or all persons may be excluded."

This order became the basis for the mass, forced migration and internment of around 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, including both citizens and non-citizens of the United States.

The Japanese-Americans Relocation record set on documents from 1942-1946 where entire families were forced to abandon businesses and homes to remote internment camps called "relocation centers" on the West Coast. Read more at Japanese-Americans WWII relocation files

Arguably one of the greatest atrocities of WWII came from the hands of U.S. forces with the first atomic bomb used in warfare in 1945. President Harry S. Truman gave the approval to drop the first atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan, and the second called “Fat Man” three days later on Nagasaki.

At least 100,000 people died from the atomic bombings, and Japan officially surrendered on September 2, 1945. Germany had surrendered earlier that May following the dictator Hitler’s suicide.

PBS America's World War II in color
National WWII Memorial