The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

World War II

Back to overview   |   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Axis Aggression

Imperial Japan

In an ominous prelude to World War II, Japanese forces swept into eastern China in 1937 and laid waste to Shanghai and Nanking. Japan’s leaders proclaimed this the first step in creating a “new order” that would rid Asia and the Pacific of Western colonial and imperial influence. Japan had annexed Korea in 1910 and taken control of Manchuria in 1931. Tojo became war minister in 1940 and prime minister in 1941. He directed the occupation of resource-rich French Indochina (now Vietnam), then set his sights on British Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, the American Philippines, and Australia.


Exhibition Graphics

General Hideki Tojo oversaw the culmination of Japan’s effort to drive colonial powers from eastern Asia and to establish a self-sufficient empire.

General Hideki Tojo oversaw the culmination of Japan’s effort to drive colonial powers from eastern Asia and to establish a self-sufficient empire.

Japanese soldier executes a Chinese prisoner

Japanese soldier executes a Chinese prisoner

Victims of Japanese atrocities in Nanking

Victims of Japanese atrocities in Nanking

A Chinese woman mourns the loss of her family in a Japanese raid.

A Chinese woman mourns the loss of her family in a Japanese raid.

Japanese tanks devastate Shanghi.

Japanese tanks devastate Shanghi.


Related Artifacts

Japanese Soldier’s Individual Flag
Japanese Arisaka Rifle with Bayonet

Nazi Germany

Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party swept to power in 1933. Immediately he began a vengeful and compulsive quest to remake Germany—and the world. He rebuilt Germany’s war machine, mobilizing industry and expanding the military. He seized territory: the Rhineland in 1936, Austria and portions of Czechoslovakia in 1938, and Poland in 1939, sparking World War II. In 1940, he launched air attacks on Great Britain and took France. He invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and even set his sights on the United States.

As the Nazi blitzkrieg, or lightning war, raced across Europe, German forces committed unnumbered atrocities against the men, women, and children in their path, especially Slavs. Most notoriously, the Germans undertook the systematic brutalization and mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others they deemed “undesirable.”


Exhibition Graphics

Adolf Hitler singlemindedly pursued his goals of military conquest and the elimination of Jews.

Adolf Hitler singlemindedly pursued his goals of military conquest and the elimination of Jews.

A Nazi Party rally

A Nazi Party rally

German troops destroy a Russian village.

German troops destroy a Russian village.

Jewish businesses targeted by Nazis

Jewish businesses targeted by Nazis

Mass execution of Jews in the Ukraine

Mass execution of Jews in the Ukraine


Related Artifacts

German “Nazi” Swastika Flag
German Field Marshall von Blomberg's Baton
German MP40 'Maschinenpistole .40' Submachine Gun

Fascist Italy

Mussolini became dictator of Italy in 1925 with dreams of restoring the glory days of the Roman Empire. Beyond a blustering propaganda campaign, his military gains were limited to seizing easy targets: Ethiopia in 1936 and Albania in 1939. In 1940, as the German blitzkrieg spread across Europe, Mussolini allied himself with Hitler and opened a self-described “parallel war” in the Mediterranean. He dispatched ill-prepared Italian forces to North Africa and Greece, hoping that an eventual German victory would enable Italy to claim these territories for itself.


Exhibition Graphics

Benito Mussolini dreamed of building a modern Roman Empire by conquering the Mediterranean.

Benito Mussolini dreamed of building a modern Roman Empire by conquering the Mediterranean.

Italian flag

Italian flag



Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Printable ScriptVisit the MuseumEducationCredits