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The Map Archive’s unrivaled collection of maps of World War II reflects the magnitude of this global war. It lasted from 1939–45 and was fought between two military alliances, the Allies and the Axis powers, which encompassed most of the world’s major nations. It started in September 1949, when the nationalist Nazi dictator of Germany, Adolf Hitler, launched the invasion of Poland, which led to the declaration of war on Germany by the UK and France. At this point, the USSR had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Germany, but the alliance did not last, and on 22 June 1941 Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union, which brought the USSR over to the Allied side. Following a lightning (blitzkrieg) invasion of western Europe and an airborne attack on the UK (the blitz), the conflict settled into a war of attrition on several fronts. The Japanese attack on US navy ships moored in Pearl Harbor in 1941 forced the US into the war on the Allied side. The Japanese swiftly captured much of Southeast Asia, but in the meantime, the Axis powers were encountering setbacks in the USSR and North Africa. In 1944 the long-planned D-Day campaign launched an Allied attack on the beaches of Normandy and western Europe was gradually re-conquered, while the Soviets pushed back the Germans and advanced westward. Meanwhile, the Americans were gradually reconquering Japanese-occupied islands in the Pacific. War in Europe ended on 8 May. The conflict with Japan continued and was brought to an end when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 8 August. The deadliest conflict in history, World War II resulted in 70-85 million fatalities.
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