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World War II Allied & Axis Powers: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

While dozens of nations participated in World War II, only two sides fought one another: the Allied powers and the Axis powers. Learn about the origins of these military alliances and their role in the war in this lesson.

WWII Powers

Sometimes it's better to do something by yourself than to get someone's help. For example, if you want to beat a video game, you don't want someone else to beat the final boss for you. But, imagine if you were trying to achieve something even bigger, like taking over the entire world. Who would you want on your side to help? During World War II (WWII), nearly every country in the world fought on one of two different sides: the Allies and the Axis powers, with the Allies winning by 1945. However, some nations stayed neutral, meaning they didn't fight on either side.

Map of the world during WWII: green nations are Allies, black are Axis, and yellow are neutral.
Map of WWII

Axis Powers

Three nations made up the majority of the Axis forces: Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and fascist Italy. Both Germany and Italy wanted to change the balance of power in Europe and signed an alliance in 1936. Just a few weeks later, Germany and Japan decided they should have an alliance as well to keep the Soviet Union in check. Finally, the three major powers solidified their agreements by entering into the Tripartite Pact in 1940, which officially created the Axis powers.

Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to the Tripartite Pact.
Treaty signing

In addition to these three, other nations came into the Axis, either voluntarily or by force. For example, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania in Eastern Europe both hoped that joining the Axis would protect them from the Soviet Union and be better for their economies. Slovakia had to join, as it was dependent on Germany. Yugoslavia joined when Germany invaded in 1941. Finally, Finland was not part of the Axis, but fought against the Allied power the U.S.S.R., and received aid from Germany.

Allied Powers

At the start of WWII, only Britain and France stood up to Adolf Hitler when he began to take over other European countries, and when Germany invaded France, it seemed like only Great Britain would oppose them. While the Germans had signed a secret agreement with the Soviet Union not to fight each other, the Nazis broke the agreement and invaded the U.S.S.R. in 1941, bringing them to the Allied side. In 1941, Imperial Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which brought the United States into the war as an Allied power. These four nations did the bulk of the fighting, but they had help from other countries as well.

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