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Total War

By , Clarkston, MI

According to the English Oxford Dictionary, “total war is a war which is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the accepted rules of war are disregarded”(1). This definition describes what kind of war World War II was. Between the Nazi’s tactics, the Japanese cruelty to the foreign soldiers, and the United States atomic bombs, they disregarded all of the normal rules of war. All of these reasons and more are what makes World War II a prime example of total war.


During World War II, the Nazi’s did terrible things to their own people and other innocent civilians, that has never been done to such a large group of people before. They took people of their own race and punished them for having different views. This has happened tons of times in the past, but never to the same extent as what the Nazi’s did. Jews and other innocent civilians  were forced into concentration camps, and there they had unspeakable things done to them. They were faced with “starvation, disease, exhaustion, and brutal treatment” (3). People have done this many times in other wars but always on a smaller scale. In fact, there were “about 42,500 camps and ghettos” established by the Nazi’s during the holocaust(4). The Nazi’s put no thought into what was morally or politically correct. Instead, they did what worked best for them, even if it meant disregarding the normal rules of war.


Another example of total war during World War II was the Japanese Kamikaze attacks. During the whole Japanese front of the war they had kamikaze attacks on the United States navy. These were jets, with pilots willing to lose their life, that flew straight into the boats to sink them. This caused lots of damage to the already damaged US Navy and created even more deaths for the United States and Japan. In fact, during just the Battle of Okinawa “5,000 US sailors had been killed and 5,000 more wounded by the Japanese suicide pilots”(5). These deaths were just the United States soldiers dying, not even counting the Japanese who risked their life to win the war. These Japanese pilots were honored to have this job in the war because they believe “dying for Japan and their emperor was very honorable”(6). These tactics had never been used and go against many morals. However, the Japanese did not care, as long as they won the war.


Lastly, the US also contributed to the total war when they made the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. No one had ever come up with the technology until the US invented it with the sole purpose of winning the war. The United States wanted to win the war and ensure peace back into the world, but in order to do that they needed something powerful. That's how they decided to drop them on the Japanese. They knew they could win the war without them but it would take at least two more months of vicious fighting and even more US death. After the Japanese refused to surrender Truman decided it would be best to drop the bombs. As soon as the bombs hit land “70,000 Japanese citizens were vaporized”(7). The US wanted to save American soldiers lives, but instead ended up killing thousands of Japanese citizens. This action went against anything that has ever happened in war. It was a very unfair move to the Japanese. It also has now brought many more dangers to war and to the world. One of these bombs can kill thousands of people with just one ‘boom’.


In conclusion, many different nations helped contribute to making World War II a total war. Everyone ignored the rules of war. It wasn’t just one nation contributing to it, but many. People get caught up in war and become addicted to being the best. The world today still struggles with it. No one can just sit still. They get bored and want people to remember them as the best, or the most powerful. Until people can accept each other and become selfless, there will never be peace, or a fair war.






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