Leopold III of Belgium reigned as King of the Belgians from 1934 until 1951. Prior to the war Leopold had made extensive preparations against such an invasion of his country. After Belgium's surrender Leopold stayed to face the invaders, while his entire government had fled to Great Britain but, although he rejected cooperation with the German occupiers he also refused to actively resist many of their policies. He was held under house-arrest in Belgium for much of the war. Because the refusal to follow the orders of his government violated the Constitution, he was declared "unable to rule" and the issue sparked a post-war political crisis.
Pierre Ryckmans was Governor-General of Belgium's principal African colony, the Belgian Congo, for the duration of the war. Along with the Minister of the Colonies, Albert de Vleeschauwer, Ryckmans brought the Congo into the war on the Allied side, amid worries that the colony might follow the lead of Leopold III in Belgium and attempt to remain neutral. During Ryckmans' period in office, Congolese troops were sent to support British forces in East Africa and the Congo made a substantial economic contribution to the Allied war effort.
Getúlio Vargas was the dictator of the 2nd Brazilian dictatorship, which last from 1930 until 1945, and despite Brazil's quasi-fascist period of Estado Novo (1937-45) and the strong economic ties with Nazi Germany, Vargas and the military sided with the Allies after the sinking of five Brazilian merchant ships by German U-Boats, declared war against the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in August, 1942. Vargas gave economic and military support to the Allies.
Arthur Fadden replaced Menzies as Prime Minister but was forced from office when his government collapsed on 7 October 1941. He had previously served as acting Prime Minister for long periods while Menzies was out of the country.
John Curtin was Prime Minister from 7 October 1941 until his death on 5 July 1945. In January 1942, facing Japanese attacks, he wrote in a historic New Year message that Australia looked to the US for its security, rather than the UK. Curtin also formed a close working relationship with General MacArthur and directed the Australian military to follow MacArthur's orders as if they were his own. Curtin had several disagreements over defense policy with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Frank Forde was appointed Prime Minister after Curtin's death, but lost the position on 12 July to a leadership challenge. He had served as acting Prime Minister during periods when Curtin was out of the country or unwell during 1944 and 1945.
Ben Chifley replaced Forde and served as Prime Minister until 1949.
Guy Simonds was an army officer who commanded the II Canadian Corps. He served as acting commander of the First Canadian Army, leading the Allied forces to victory in the Battle of the Scheldt. After the war he was appointed Chief of the General Staff. He was the youngest officer in the Canadian army to be promoted to the rank of General.
Michael Joseph Savage was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 6 December 1935 until his death on 27 March 1940. His government joined Britain in declaring war against Germany in 1939.
Peter Fraser became Prime Minister (27 March 1940 until 13 December 1949) after the death of Michael Savage. He led the country during the Second World War when he mobilised New Zealand supplies and volunteers to support Britain while boosting the economy and maintaining home front morale. He formed a war cabinet which included several erstwhile political opponents.
Bernard Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg (Lieutenant General), a veteran of the First World War where he won the Victoria Cross and three Distinguished Service Orders, he led the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Battle of Crete, the North African Campaign and the Italian Campaign.
Claude Auchinleck nicknamed "The Auk" was appointed Commander-in-Chief, India in January 1941 after commanding the Allied forces during the fall of Norway. He had previously in 1938, when a Major-General, chaired a committee the recommendations of which formed the basis of the 1939 Chatfield Report on the modernisation, re-equipment and expansion of the British Indian Army (which by the end of the war had grown to 2,250,000 men from 183,000 in 1939). In 1941 he replaced Archibald Wavell as Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command but returned as C-in-C India in 1943 when Wavell became Viceroy.
Clement Attlee was the Labour Party leader during the war, and was generally responsible for domestic politics throughout the war as a member of Churchill's War Cabinet. He served as Deputy Prime Minister under Churchill. After the end of the war in Europe, he was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following his party's victory in the 1945 general elections and served from 1945 to 1951. He attended the second half of the Potsdam Conference and announced the Defeat of Japan.
Dudley Pound was First Sea Lord and as such the professional head of the Royal Navy from June 1939 to September 1943, shortly before his death. He chaired the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which was responsible to Winston Churchill for the British military's conduct of the war, until March 1942.
Viscount Gort relinquished the role of Chief of the Imperial General Staff on the outbreak of war to command the British Expeditionary Force in France from 1939 to 1940. He later served in a variety of less prominent posts, including Governor of Gibraltar and of Malta.
Sir Humphrey Walwyn was governor of Newfoundland and chairman of the Commission of Government from 1936 to 1946. A former Royal Navy Admiral, during World War II he was active in encouraging Newfoundlanders to join the war effort.
Soong Mei-ling was First Lady of the Republic of China and the wife of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. During the Second Sino-Japanese War she rallied her people against the Japanese invasion. Educated in the United States and speaking in eloquent English, she played an instrumental role in the formation of the Sino-American co-operation and conducted a speaking tour in the United States to gain international support.
He Yingqin was the Chief of the General Staff of the National Military Council. He was also the Commander of the Fourth Military Region and led in the victorious Battle of West Hunan in 1945. He became the representative of both the Chinese Government and the Southeast Asia Allied Forces at the September 9th ceremony in Nanjing to accept the statement of surrender from Japan in 1945.
Chen Cheng was a General of the National Revolutionary Army and political figure in the National Military Council. He was one of Chiang's most trusted allies. He led in the Battle of Wuhan and he went on to command during the Battle of Changsha, Battle of Yichang and Battle of West Hubei in the latter years. In 1943, he was appointed the commander of the Chinese Expeditionary Force in Burma campaign. After the war, he became the Chief of the General Staff.
Li Zongren was a former Guangxi warlord who fought in alliance with Chiang Kai-shek in the war against Japan. He was the commander of the Battle of Xuzhou and famously won the Battle of Tai'erzhuang, the first major Chinese victory in the war, and commanded one of the largest and relatively better equipped regional armies that comprised the bulk of the Chinese armed forces during the war.
Yan Xishan was a former Shanxi warlord who fought in alliance with Chiang Kai-shek. During the early stage of the Japanese invasion, he invited Communist military forces to enter Shanxi to fight with the Japanese and defended Taiyuan in 1937. He was a member of the National Military Council and the Commander of the Second Military Region.
Xue Yue was a General of the National Revolutionary Army and the Commander of the Ninth Military Region. He was known for defending Changsha from Japanese offensives for three times in 1939, 1941 and 1942.
Albert François Lebrun was the last President of the Third Republic. In 1940, he was forced to accept the German terms of surrender of France and was replaced by Philippe Pétain as head the French state (see Vichy France). In 1944, Lebrun acknowledged de Gaulle's leadership of the restored French, provisional, government. In 1945, since he had not resigned from his presidential office, and that Pétain was not president, Lebrun thought he could be able to return to power after the liberation.
Édouard Daladier was Prime Minister from 1938 to 1940. He led his country during the opening stages of the war. Daladier resigned on 9 May 1940, the day before the German invasion of France, because of his failure to aid Finland's defence in the Winter War.
Paul Reynaud succeeded Daladier as Prime Minister in 1940 and led France during the Battle of France. After Germany had occupied large parts of France, Reynaud was advised by his newly appointed Minister of State Philippe Pétain to come to separate peace with Germany. Reynaud refused to do so, and resigned.
Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the Free French and as such head of the French government-in-exile following the Fall of France. A vehement opponent of collaboration, he eventually took nominal command of the French resistance and headed the French Army of Liberation from its foundation to the war's end.
Henri Giraud was de Gaulle's rival and the Western Allies' favourite. He escaped from Germany where he was a prisoner of war and co-founded the Free French movement with de Gaulle, though soon found himself relegated to second in command of the Free French Forces after the Casablanca Conference of 1943. He was the chief of staff of the French Army of Liberation from 1943 to July 1944.
Jean de Lattre de Tassigny was the commander of the First French Army which invaded southern France with 260,000 men. His army numbered more than 320,000 men when he entered in Germany with the integration of the FFI.
Georges Catroux was the main French military leader in Syria and Lebanon before entering De Gaulle's government.
André Lemonnier was a French Admiral who served as the French Navy chief of staff in 1943 and led the French Navy's participation in Operation Dragoon (34 warships including one battleship and eight cruisers).
Ioannis Metaxas was the dictator and from 1936 until his death in 1941. Despite his quasi-fascist tendencies and strong economic ties with Nazi Germany, he pursued a policy of pro-British neutrality. On 28 October 1940 he rejected an Italian ultimatum, and ordered the Greek Army to repel the Italian invasion of the country.
Alexandros Papagos was a Greek General who led the Greek Army in the Greco-Italian War and the Battle of Greece. As head of the Army from 1935, he played an active role in the attempts at its reorganization and modernization. When war was declared he was named Commander-in-Chief and led Greek forces against Italy along the Albanian border and later against the invading German army. When the Greek government fled to Crete, Papagos remained behind and with other generals. During the years of occupation he established a resistance organization, but he was arrested by the occupation authorities and sent to concentration camps in Germany. In 1945, after the Allied Victory, he was liberated, repatriated and rejoined the Army.
Ahmad Qavam was the Prime Minister of Iran from 9 August 1942 from 15 February 1943. He resolved the Soviet inspired rebellion of the occupied Azerbaijan province. He ordered the Iranian delegation to the UN to negotiate issues pending before the Security Council directly with the Soviet delegation. He then flew to Moscow to discuss the issues personally with Stalin.
Guillaume Konsbruck was a captain who fled Luxembourg following invasion and served as aide-de-camp to Grand Duchess Charlotte during her exile. He was promoted to major and returned to Luxembourg in 1944 and helped establish a new army for the country.
United Mexican States (1942-1945)
Manuel Ávila Camacho was Brigade General and President of Mexico from 1940 till 1946. Ávila declared war against the Axis powers in 1942 after two of Mexico's ships were destroyed by German submarines. Ávila Camacho cooperated in the war effort, providing the United States with 15,000 soldiers and 300,000 workers under the Bracero Program.
Antonio Cárdenas Rodríguez was Colonel and Commander of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana (FAEM)) since January 1, 1945. He and 300 elements from the FAEM arrived on May 1 in Manila, in Luzon, principal island of Philippines, and established in Clark Field under the 5th Air Force of the USAAF, commanded by General Douglas MacArthur. He represented Mexico at the signing of the Japanese surrender document on the USS Missouri on September 1.
Radamés Gaxiola Andrade was Captain and Commander of the 201st Squadron (Escuadrón 201) of the FAEM, under the 58th Group of the 5th Air Force of the USAAF. He commanded Mexican air operations on Luzon and recognition flies on Formosa from June 7 to August 26, 1945. In total, the FAEM performed 59 combat missions.
Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy was Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1940 until 1945. After the Fall of France and Dirk Jan de Geer's resignation, Gerbrandy was appointed the office of Prime Minister by Queen Wilhelmina in London. After the liberation, he returned to form a new cabinet but ended up resigning.
Haakon VII of Norway was King of Norway and the formal head of state from 1905 to his death in 1957. Following the German invasion of Norway in 1940, Haakon refused to meet the demands of the attackers, and went into exile in London, where he stayed for the rest of the war.
Johan Nygaardsvold was Prime Minister during the war. His government agreed with the King not to meet the German demands, and went into exile in London. Nygaardsvold resigned shortly after the war.
Carl Gustav Fleischer was the commander of the Norwegian 6th Division during the Norwegian Campaign. He led the allied recapture of Narvik on May 28, 1940, later heading into exile in the United Kingdom, where he was named commander of the Norwegian Army in exile. He was the first commander to win a major victory against the Germans.
Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski was a Polish physician, general and politician who served as Polish Minister of Internal Affairs from 1936 to 1939 and was the last Prime Minister of Poland before World War II. After the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, he fled to Romania and was interned there. After the German occupation of Romania in 1940, he went to Turkey and thence to Palestine. In 1947, he went to London, where he died in 1962.
Henryk Sucharski was a major in the Polish Army. At the outbreak of World War II, he was the commander of the Westerplatte position. Troops under his command defended Westerplatte for seven days against overwhelming odds. Sucharski survived the war and was posthumously promoted to the rank of General. Despite his efforts to improve the defences, he later tried to persuade his fellow officers to surrender and suffered a nervous breakdown which required his deputy to assume command.
Joseph Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during World War II. From 1941 onwards, he was also Chairman of the Committee of the People's Comissars (Premier) of the Soviet Union. It was during Stalin's reign that the USSR emerged as a superpower that rivaled the United States. As the supreme commander of the Red Army, Stalin led the Red Army to liberate the Soviet Union from Nazi occupation. After the war Stalin put communist leaders in power in Eastern Europe, setting up the Eastern Bloc and leading to the Cold War.
Georgy Zhukov was a Soviet Field Marshal who led the Red Army to liberate the Soviet Union from Nazi occupation. He also led the Soviets to overrun much of Eastern Europe and to conquer and capture Germany's capital, Berlin. After the war Zhukov was the supreme Military Commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany.
Vyacheslav Molotov was Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union from 1939–1949. He was responsible for the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact which governed Soviet-German relations until June 1941 when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. Molotov conducted urgent negotiations with Britain and, later, the United States for wartime alliances. He secured Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill's agreement to create a "second front" in Europe.
Mikhail Kalinin was during the whole war period the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the nominal Head of State of the Soviet Union. Although he was the Head of State, he remained mostly in the background, while Stalin was the undisputed war leader with supreme authority over the Soviet Union. A Communist Party elder, Kalinin was a key member of Stalin's inner circle of power until his death. He signed the order authorizing the Katyn massacre.
Henry L. Stimson was Secretary of War from 1940 until 1945. He was an early proponent for war against Germany. As secretary of war Stimson was in charge of much of the organizational and logistical aspects of America's war effort. He oversaw the raising and training 13 million soldiers and airmen, supervised the spending of a third of the nation's GDP on the Army and the Air Forces, helped formulate military strategy, and took personal control of building and using the atomic bomb.
Cordell Hull was Secretary of State from 1933 until 1944. Hull was responsible for foreign relations before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He sent the Hull note to Japan prior to the attack, which was part of the United States attempt to open Chinese markets to U.S. goods against Japanese interests there. After the war he was the key architect for establishing the United Nations and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Jacob L. Devers was the commander of the 6th Army Group in Europe. He oversaw the invasion of southern France in 1944. With his American and French forces, Devers cleared Alsace, reduced the Colmar Pocket, crossed the Rhine River and accepted the surrender of German forces in Austria. Initially the CG of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, in the late summer of 1942 he "swapped jobs" with Gen. Eisenhower, becoming Commanding General European Theater of Operations, freeing up Ike to command the Operation Torch invasion of North Africa in November 1942. In early 1943 he returned to command the MTO for the Sicily, Italy and Southern France Campaigns.
John C. H. Lee was the commanding general of all supply and service forces in the ETO, beginning in May 1942. His logistics command was responsible for the Operation Bolero buildup of over 3 million men and women, and 37,000,000 tons of materiel in the UK, and delivering a total of 41,000,000 tons to support the fighting forces in the entire Theater. He was Deputy Theater Commander for Supply and Administration to Gen. Eisenhower, and he led the largest single unit in World War II. The Communications Zone, or COM-Z as it was known after D-Day numbered some 435,000 soldiers at its peak.
Left to right: Major General Geiger, Corps Commander; Colonel Silverthorn, Corps Chief of Staff and Brigadier General del Valle, Corps Artillery Commander, examine a plaster relief map of Guam on board the USS Appalachian.
Rexford Tugwell, Tugwell served as the last appointed American Governor of Puerto Rico, from 1941 to 1946. He worked with the legislature to create the Puerto Rico Planning, Urbanization, and Zoning Board in 1942. Tugwell supported Puerto Rican self-government through amendment to the Organic Act in 1948. He publicly supported Luis Muñoz Marín’s Popular Democratic Party, the PPD, which wanted a Commonwealth status. As he prepared to retire from the Governorship, Tugwell was instrumental in getting the first Puerto Rican appointed to the job, Jesús T. Piñero, then serving as Resident Commissioner in Washington, D.C. Tugwell also served as Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico.
Pedro del Valle, was a highly decorated Marine Lieutenant General who played a key role in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Battle of Guam and became the Commanding General of the First Marine Division. Del Valle played an instrumental role in the defeat of the Japanese forces in Okinawa and was in charge of the reorganization of Okinawa.
Sergio Osmeña was the second Filipino president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. As Vice President, he ascended to the presidency after Quezon's death in 1944. He returned to the Philippines the same year with General Douglas MacArthur and the liberation forces.
Basilio J. Valdes was the commanding general of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Valdes was given the rank of Major General of the Commonwealth Army. After the Japanese Invasion, he was evacuated to Washington D.C. and he was returned to the Philippines the same year with General Douglas MacArthur and the liberation forces.
Vicente Lim commanded the Philippine Commonwealth Army during the early days of the war. Lim was given the rank of Brigadier General and became the top ranking Filipino under General MacArthur. He was placed in command of the 41st Infantry Division, Philippine Commonwealth Army, USAFFE tasked with the defense of Bataan. After the fall of the Philippines, he led resistance against Japanese occupation.
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Peter II was the last King of Yugoslavia reigning from 1934 till 1945. An opponent of Nazi Germany, he participated in a British-supported coup d'état opposing the Prince Regent, Prince Paul. Peter was forced to leave the country following the Axis invasion. In 1944, he signed the Treaty of Vis which was an agreement to share power with Josip Broz Tito. But, after the war, Peter was deposed in a referendum held by the Communist government.
Draža Mihailović was the leader of Chetniks, the monarchic resistance movement, supported by the exiled royal government until August 1944, when the government switched support to Josip Broz Tito's Partisans. Mihailović was decorated with the highest war medals by France and the United States (Legion of Merit). After being initially engaged in fighting the occupying Axis forces and their internal allies, his forces ended up engaged also in fighting the Partisans and collaborating with the Axis. After the war, he was executed by the newly formed Communist government of Tito in 1945 for high treason, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2015, he was rehabilitated by the High Court of Serbia.
Josip Broz Tito was a leader of Yugoslav Partisans resistance movement, which was the largest in Europe. Communist by political orientation, Tito was nevertheless able to gather nationwide support for anti-fascist cause, and to persuade Allied governments that only his forces were mounting credible resistance to Axis powers in Yugoslavia. By the end of war, occupied Yugoslavia had drawn attention of no less than 20 German divisions alone, prompting several major operations in the 1942–1944 period, which were futile. Finally, with help from advancing Soviet forces, the Partisans liberated Yugoslavia, reaching at the final days of operations a respectable size of 800,000 soldiers.