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World War II (abbreviated WWII), or the Second World War, was a worldwide conflict which lasted from 1939 to 1945. World War II was the amalgamation of two conflicts, one starting in Asia as the Second Sino-Japanese War, later involving the United States with the Attack on Pearl Harbor, and the other beginning in Europe with the Invasion of Poland, followed by an all out attack also by Germany on the Soviet Union in June 1941, opening up the largest theater of war in human history.
This global conflict split a majority of the world's nations into two opposing camps: the Allies and the Axis. Spanning much of the globe, World War II resulted in the deaths of over 60 million people, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.
World War II was the most widespread war ever experienced, mobilizing over 100 million soldiers from 61 nations, with hostilities covering over 20 million km?. Total war erased the distinction between civil and military resources and saw the complete mobilization of a nation's economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the purposes of the war effort; nearly two-thirds of those killed in the war were civilians.
As a result of World War II, the United States and Soviet Union emerged as the world's two leading superpowers, dominating the world's stage for the next 40 years. The dominance of Europe faded due to the rise of Asian, Arabian, and eventually African decolonization/independence movements, which was roughly complete by the 1960s. Paradoxically, while World War II was probably the worst conflict in European history, it has led to a desire for unification in order to avoid future conflicts, which has transformed the difficult process of reconstruction into an unprecedented opportunity for prosperity.