The instability created in Europe after World War I left it open to an even more distressing conflict a mere two decades later. Adolph Hitler's National Socialist party -- the Nazi party -- rose to power after World War I left Germany politically and economically unbalanced. After signing treaties with Japan and Italy, Hitler worked to further his goal to dominate the world. Great Britain and France, seeing Hitler moving to their doorsteps, declared war on Germany after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.

World War II Background

Over the next six years, the war was fought on two fronts -- the European and Pacific theaters. The result of this war ended up destroying more land and property and taking more lives across the globe than any other war in history. Historians estimate between 45 and 60 million people died because of the war, including 6 million Jews murdered in the concentration camps run by the Nazis. Hitler was bent on their destruction as part of his "Final Solution," and plans for world domination. Today, his "Final Solution" is known as "The Holocaust."

Because the war was fought in many locations, including the Pacific Ocean -- the largest ocean in the world -- one of the main problems of fighting this war on two fronts was transporting troops, vehicles, weaponry and supplies. After America entered the war with the bombing of Hawaii's Pearl Harbor in the Pacific, many of the wives at home took up the jobs their husbands left to keep troops supplied in vehicles and other necessary goods. Even non-military vehicles were conscripted into service for troop transportation.

World War II Vehicles

Ships carried troops from the U.S. to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Great Britain. Two of the most famous passenger ships, the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth were converted into troopships during World War II to transport men to the fighting fronts. The invasion of France consisted of two methods of transportation of troops, supplies and weapons; in the air and on the land via the sea. Amphibious landings moved troops, armored cars, tanks and supplies to the Normandy shore under cover of fog in the early morning of June 6, 1944, while an airborne assault consisting of more than 24,000 Canadian, American and British troops, was designed to distract the Germans from the sea-based landings.

Vehicles included U.S. Army jeeps, armored cars, tanks, half-tracks and cargo and paratrooper planes. Some amphibious vehicles or amphibious trucks carried troops across waterways, but also had wheels beneath them for continuing onto land. The DUKW or "Duck" as the troops called them were significant vehicles in WWII because they operated on both sea and land.

The halftrack was part truck, part tank with its front truck-type wheels meant for steering and its back half consisting of continuous tracks like those of a tank. Halftracks were used because of their cross-country capabilities, but with the steering ease of a truck. Halftracks didn't require the specializing training necessary for operating a tank. The continuous tracks spread the weight of the vehicle across more ground, making it maneuverable on rough terrain. These vehicles carried both men and artillery, each mounted with two to three machine guns. Other armored vehicles include armored tanks, cavalry tanks, armored cars, trucks, and light tanks, armored command vehicles, jeeps, artillery tractors and unmanned demolition vehicles.

Military forces also employed light scout cars, light reconnaissance cars, and light and heavy artillery tanks to fight the war. Railroads transported troops to and from the front lines along with war prisoners in seized areas of Europe. Cargo planes and ships moved needed supplies to fighting fronts. Each country that fought in the war brought its own methods of fighting and transportation. Vehicles used in the war required special armored plating to protect the troops and defray bullets. Both sides used armored personnel carriers to transport troops on the ground, self-propelled artillery, a variety of tanks and even tank destroyers.

Air transport included such well-known planes as the Boeing C-108 Flying Fortress, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, C-54 Skymaster and the Douglas DC-3. The U.S. also used the C-87 Liberator Express, C-43 Commando and the Curtiss-Wright C-76 Caravan.

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