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(1939) Hard times worldwide caused the rise of dictators. Adolph Hitler, dictator in Germany, was a threat to Europeans. Benito Mussolini was a threat in Italy. Europeans felt they had to fight for their freedom.


World War II began on September 1, 1939, when German aircraft, tanks, and motorized troops attacked Poland. By early 1942 all major countries of the world were involved in the war.


The war opened the Atomic Age, and brought changes in warfare. Trucks would speed the infantry men to the battle front after aerial bombing. Bombers and guided missiles were used. Airplanes, warships, and ground forces worked together with split second timing during attacks. Paratroops dropped from airplanes or landed in gliders.


The war was fought in almost every part of the world. The chief battle grounds were in Asia, Europe, North Africa, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea.


Italy surrendered on September 3, 1943, Germany on May 7, 1945, and Japan on September 2, 1945. General Douglas MacArthur accepted the unconditional surrender on the deck of the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, and took over in Tokyo. A somewhat uneasy peace returned to a war-weary world.


The United States was trying to stay out of the conflict, but there were three problems that affected the United States: the Germans were torpedoing Allied shipping, Germany had promised Mexico some American territory, and the U.S. had loaned Britain and France a lot of money. The United States did not enter the war until December 1941, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. At Wake Island the Japanese took many prisoners, including a Boonville man, Charles Huber, who was with a construction force. He remained a prisoner until the war ended. The U.S. wanted to stop German and Japanese aggression against other countries.


2,012 men from Cooper County served in World War II. All those serving from Cooper County are listed on a memorial plaque at the Cooper County courthouse. The 54 men killed in action during this war have a star by their names.

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Thomas Hart Benton Peril of War series painting Embarkation

State Historical Society of Missouri Art Collection

(1941) The United Stated Entered World War II after the

Japanese bombing of the American fleet in Pearl Harbor.

(Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

“Missourians fought on nearly every front of the war with around 450,000 Missouri residents serving in the military. Soldiers from Missouri were stationed in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor came under attack. Missouri soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Each campaign of the war involved Missourians overseas and those who served at home. Shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Thomas Hart Benton worked on The Year of Peril, a series of powerful war paintings financed by medical supplier Abbott Laboratories for the war department. Among the series, Benton honored the soldiers of WWII with this image of a Black soldier who trained in Kansas City. The image foreshadows the desegregation of the armed forces instituted by President Harry Truman after WWII.”

Later wars page World War II.jpg

(1945) The formal end of WWII took place onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

(Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

“WWII raged on from 1939-1945, causing massive devastation in its wake. It would be the deadliest war taking the lives of 60-80 million people, including the 6 million European Jews who were murdered in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. The end of the car came when the U.S. Army Air Force detonated two nuclear bombs over Japan. The dropping of the atomic bombs, along with a Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria in northeastern China put an end to the war. The first unofficial news of surrender came from local radio stations on August 14. Missourians honked car horns, shouted from windows and filled the streets to celebrate the end of the war. In St. Louis, office workers threw paperwork into the air like confetti, while others banged washboards and danced in the streets. The official word came later that day when President Truman confirmed the news. Japanese officers offered unconditional surrender to General Douglas MacArthur and other U.S. and Allied officers on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.”

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