V for Victory

1945 saw the end of the Second World War, it was to be a defining year. Things would never be the same again...

Winston Churchill making V sign

THE CROWNING OF THE BIG THREE

In 1945 World War II came to an end, leaving a clear victory for the Allied forces. It is important to remember that because this conflict occurred on a global scale, the victors would effectively become the dominant forces throughout the world. From the ashes of the War rose the 'Big Three' - Britain, USA and Russia, led by Churchill, Roosevelt & Stalin respectively - each determined to inflict total defeat on their enemies, at any cost. This set the template for the movers and shakers in world affairs throughout the rest of the 20th Century and beyond.

THE COLD WAR BEGINS

This meeting of the "Big Three" at the former palace of Czar Nicholas on the Crimean southern shore of the Black Sea took place in February 1945 and is considered by many to be the beginnings of the Cold War. By now Stalin possessed command of the largest army in Europe, with 12 million soldiers in 300 divisions. The fall out from the War meant that an impoverished Blighty was no longer a world power, and the United States prepared to take on the responsibility of world leadership. Deciding what to do with a fallen Germany was proving to be a bit of an issue as the Soviet Union, America and Britain battled over the future of Berlin and this period saw the erection of the Berlin wall, one of the most enduring symbols of the Cold War conflict.

THE ATOMIC AGE

In the summer of 1945 the way wars are fought changed forever with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was Monday morning on August 6 when 'Little Boy' was dropped on Hiroshima from a B-29 bomber, nicknamed the Enola Gay. The strong wind generated by the bomb destroyed most of the houses and buildings within a 1.5 miles radius, while the radiation generated by the bomb caused long-term problems to those affected and it is believed that more than 140,000 people died by the end of the year. The total number of people who have died due to the bomb is estimated to be 200,000.

FALL OF THE RIGHT

Another important factor to consider when examining the legacy of events in 1945 is that with the final defeat and death of both Hitler and Mussolini, the far right wing system of governing was wiped out from the 'developed' world. As troops made their way into Berlin, the horrors that the Allies discovered in Europe made the world realise the full extent of the atrocities that had been committed under the Nazi and Fascist regimes. In particular the genocide of the Jewish people in camps like Auschwitz helped in part the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, which in turn has been at the centre of many conflicts and controversies throughout the many decades since.

LEGACY OF NUREMBERG

As this tumultuous year draws to a close, the beginning of twelve trials, involving over a hundred defendants and several different courts took place in Nuremberg, ending in 1949. By far the most attention has focused on the first Nuremberg trial of twenty-one major war criminals, including Hermann Goering and Rudolf Hoess. The significance of the Nuremburg trials is that for the first time ever, political leaders were held accountable for their actions. Events in this year set the precedent for the way despots like Nicolae Ceausescu and Saddam Hussein are brought to justice to this day.