This exhibit explores the history of World War II on three fronts: Europe, the Pacific, and the Home Front. Within this framework, we feature the stories of five Winnetkans who served their country in uniform. The experiences of these veterans and of the thousands of other Winnetkans who served in the US armed forces illustrate how our village fits into the larger context of World War II.
September 1, 1939 — Germany invaded Poland, launching World War II. For the next nine months, Germany seemed unstoppable as Hitler’s forces rolled across Europe. By mid-1940, only Great Britain remained unconquered.
While the war raged on, the United States sat on the sidelines. But many Americans, including President Franklin Roosevelt, saw the importance of helping Great Britain. Without officially entering the war, the United States began supplying Great Britain and its allies with war machines and materiel, thus becoming the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
The war came to America on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day, the United States declared war on Japan. On December 11, the other two Axis powers, Germany and Italy, declared war on the US. Fighting a war on two battlefronts, in Europe and the Pacific, required massive amounts of manpower and materiel. Americans stepped up by serving in the military and by working to produce the weapons and supplies needed to fight the war on what became known as the Home Front.
The war continued for four more years but the Axis forces were ultimately defeated. Germany was the first to fall on May 7, 1945. Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, after suffering the devastation of two atomic bombings. America and its allies had learned from the mistakes of World War I. Rather than seeking to punish the defeated enemies, the Allies helped rebuild Germany and Japan after the war.
World War II was the bloodiest war in human history. Nearly 60 million people were killed, with estimates including 20 million Soviets, 10 million Chinese, 5 million Germans, 2 million Japanese, and 400,000 American soldiers. In addition, 6 million Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. This exhibit honors the sacrifices that soldiers and civilians–our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents–made to protect the freedom we enjoy today.