Previously: The Great War and the Invasion of Manchuria
The second part of the history of Terra deals with the second extended war in the 20th Century.
The “World War” began as a war in Europe, which quickly spread around the world. It was, at first, called “The Russian War” by everybody except the Russians, who called it “The War of Restoration” if they called it something at all. It was this global conflict that cemented the League of Nation’s Role as a “world government”.
The Russian War
The communist Russian government had modernized and industrialized the country at breakneck speed after the Great War. Even so, Russia was a country in crisis – the communist ideology had not resulted in prosperity and equality, and indeed the country was run by a caste of party functionary who ruled over a much larger caste of workers and farmers. As the proletariat began to be dissatisfied with the situation, the Russian government’s rhetoric became increasingly nationalistic.
Russia had first attempted to have its western territories – the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Poland – restored to it at the Paris Peace Conference. However, it had lacked the diplomatic finesse and the economic and military power to secure such a clause in the treaty. In the 1940s, the Russian government silently began to shift much of its new industrial base over to production of armaments. European and American military analysts and politicians who saw the signs of trouble were ignored and ridiculed by pacifists who feared few things more than renewed war in Europe.
In October 1951, a communist revolt occurred in the Ukraine. The communist party of the Ukraine led the rebellion, but it quickly gained popularity. The government surrendered after only a week of fighting, and the Communist Republic of the Ukraine was declared. Units of the Russian army entered the Ukraine on the same day. Most European powers sent notes of protest to Russia, and the Russians were cited in front of the assembly of the League of Nations. There, the Russian ambassador pointed out that the Russians had entered Ukrainian territory on invitation from the new government. The League Charter did not allow any intervention in this case, and the European nations had to grudgingly accept the situation. The pacifists rejoiced as international affairs seemed to settle into the new status quo.
This changed in May 1952. Russian tank columns entered Romania, Poland and the Baltic States in a coordinated assault, while Russian bombers devastated the German Baltic Fleet anchored at Danzig in a surprise raid. The Russian General Secretary announced the “re-integration” of the Ukraine, of the Baltic States and of Poland and declared his intention to de-militarize continental Europe and to turn Romania, parts of Austria-Hungary and the eastern section of Germany into a buffer zone. The European powers desperately scrambled to mobilize as Red Army tank columns rolled across Central Europe.
Realizing the need to act quickly, the Europeans asked the League of Nations to coordinate the military defense against the Russian juggernaut. In the face of clear and present danger, each agreed to commit whatever resources were required to the war effort. The United States and several other countries followed suit; nobody wanted a communist dictatorship in Europe.
Other countries took advantage of the situation in attempts to settle long-standing conflicts or desires. A Turkish nationalist government attacked Greece and several countries in the Mid East in an attempt to restore their own empire. Japan launched a hasty invasion of China and of several European colonies in East Asia. Within mere weeks, the Russian war had expanded to engulf most of the globe.
The European Theater of War
The war in Europe was long and costly, and radically different from the Great War. It was a mobile war of armored units and air battles. Russia had occupied large parts of Germany, but the mountains of southern Europe proved an obstacle for their armored columns. In the west, the communists used the Rhine as a natural barrier, but launched raids into France. The League waged a war of containment, and in this it was successful – the Russians didn’t advance too deeply into French territory.
Meanwhile, the League members switched to war production. Men and materials began to pour in. These landed on the French Atlantic coast, and the League began to slowly push back the front lines.
While the Great War had been a war of attrition, famine and disease, the Russian War held new horrors for the citizens of the affected countries. Long range bombers carried huge amounts of bombs that were dropped on cities – carpet bombing was one tactic used to decimate the enemy’s industrial capacity as well as to break his will to fight. Fire bombing was used against several population centers. Missile artillery was used, first by Russia, then by other nations. Jet engines were perfected by a German-British team of scientists. Radar was invented. Then a joint League team managed to construct ballistic missiles that could reach deep into Russian territory.
None of the new technologies were crucial in determining the outcome of the war. In the end, it was the League that managed to out pace the Communists in manufacturing capability and logistics, especially with supplies from the USA being mostly out of reach of Russian attacks.
Russian units fell back, and by summer 1954, League units crossed on to Soviet soil. The winter that year was very harsh, allowing the Red Army to dig in. Attrition ran high in League units. New volunteer units from the recently liberated nations, such as Germany, swelled the ranks of League forces, however, making it possible to prevent any break out of the Russians. The League was able to maintain the initiative.
League forces reached Moscow as soon as the weather improved in early 1955, only to find that the Communists had evacuated the city – and turned it into a booby trap. When minefields and snipers had taken their toll, Russian bombers dropped napalm bombs on their own capital city. The event cost thousands of League soldiers their lives, and became known as the “Hellfire of Moscow”. The scorched earth tactics dragged out the war for several months, but proved futile. Russia capitulated in August 1955 after the General Secretary had been shot by his own chief of staff.
The Middle East
The initial Turkish victories in the Mid East were short lived, as Russia entered the region in an attempt to seize the oil resources in the area. The Turkish lacked the leadership, the technology, and the manpower to fight an extended war against the two greater powers, and so the Turkish leadership allied with Russia after promises of territorial gains after the war. However, the communist ideology and the Turkish dreams of an Empire were incompatible, and Turkey longed to bring the region under its sole control, and thus betrayed Russia to the League of Nations. Initial Russian victories were overturned by the League commander overseeing the Mid East campaign, a brilliant man who used risky tactics against the numerically superior Russians. His gambles paid off, however, and Russia’s inability to gain control of the Mid East – and its inability to at least deny the use of the oil to the League – played a great part in the victory in Europe.
The Pacific War
In East Asia, Japan managed to overpower colonial forces stationed in China, but found that the Chinese had used the years to raise an effective militia, armed and trained by the Europeans. The attack of 1939 had taught the Chinese that losing to the Japanese was not an option, and the Japanese had to practically fight for every meter of land. They were more successful in “liberating” the Dutch East Indies and in occupying many of the small Pacific islands. Here, they engaged in long naval battles as they and the Americans hopped from island to island. Aircraft carriers played a crucial part in the war.
Even when the US contained their expansion in the Pacific, Japan continued to push for the conquest of China. As the situation become more desperate, and the Chinese will to fight was unbroken, the Japanese resorted to Chemical and Biological warfare. Millions of people died, but the Chinese will to resist the invaders was unbroken.
As the war in Europe turned in their favor, the League of Nations was able to divert personnel and materials to East Asia. The East Indies were liberated in Spring 1955. League of Nations expeditionary forces landed in China in March. Long range bombers were transferred from Europe to East Asia, and began raids against Japan. Incendiary bombs devastated many Japanese cities, and the US navy began to blockade the nation.
Japanese troops on the Chinese mainland were defeated in late summer of 1955, but the required high number of soldiers for an invasion of Japan made such an invasion unfeasible in the same year. The Japanese, knowing well there was no way to win the war, dug in. Air raids continued, later mostly unopposed as Japan’s air force had been destroyed by late 1955.
The Invasion of Japan
During the following months, the question of whether an invasion of Japan was really necessary was led both behind closed doors within the League of Nations leadership, and in the public. Everybody knew that such an invasion would cost the lives of many soldiers as well as Japanese civilians. Public opinion began to turn against an invasion; after all, China and the colonies had been taken back, and Japan had been defeated. However, the League of Nations leadership saw two problems. Not only was Japan considered likely to try again to fulfill its dreams of conquest; it was also felt that the League of Nations had to settle the issue decisively to send a clear signal to all other nations.
Eventually, the General Secretary approved the invasion and tasked the military leadership with its execution. As the preparations began, the General Secretary used Japan’s atrocities in China both during the past years, but also during the Manchurian invasion of 1939 to raise public support for continued military action. The propaganda effort worked out, and when the invasion began in April 1956, the public and member nations’ governments were firmly behind the League of Nation’s decision.
The invasion itself went very much as the military leaders of the League had anticipated. The League attacked at several locations at once in the largest amphibious assault the world had ever seen. Resistance from the Japanese soldiers and civilians was fierce. The Japanese Emperor capitulated in July 1956, but it took the League military four more months until it had pacified the island nation. Almost a million League soldiers had died in the assault, and over eight million Japanese had died, but peace had, at last, been restored.