World War II

World War II began in 1939 and lasted until 1945. Dividing the world between the Axis Powers—Germany, Italy and Japan—and the Allies, led by the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, it was fought over numerous theaters in Western and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Africa and the Middle East, and the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. The war ended in Europe with the surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945 and in Asia when Japan surrendered on 15 August of the same year. More than fifty million people died during World War II as the consequence of genocidal acts such as the Holocaust, the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the war's many military confrontations—the bloodiest taking place on the Pacific and European fronts.

The new technologies of war—atomic weaponry, jet aircraft, radar—contributed to World War II's effects on both military and civilian populations. Film technologies and film cultures likewise played significant roles. Although films were made during World War I, for both the Axis and Allied nations World War II was the first truly cinematic war: lightweight 16mm equipment was developed that gave unprecedented access to images of combat; world leaders Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler all had personal projectionists who screened newsreels and documentaries as well as fiction films. And for both civilian and military populations on both sides of the conflict, film educated and entertained, communicated the progress of the war, and mobilized national feeling, as both Allied and Axis nations embraced cinema as a war industry.

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