The Second World War was perhaps the most tragic and costly event in history, resulting in the deaths of over 50 million people – most of whom were civilians. The war is traditionally seen as starting in 1939 when Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, attacked Poland. A reasonable case can be made for it commencing in 1937 with the outbreak of war between Japan and China. An even better case can be made for claiming that it was not a world war until 1941 when Russia (more accurately the USSR) was attacked by Germany and the USA was brought into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By the end of 1941 the so-called Allied powers (the British Empire, Russia and the USA) were fighting against the Axis powers (essentially Germany, Italy and Japan). The war ended in 1945 with the surrender first of Germany and then of Japan (Italy had changed sides in 1943). By 1945, the Allies, with far greater resources in terms of manpower and materials, had a preponderance of strength on land and sea and in the air. Allied victory might seem to have been inevitable. However, in early 1942 the outcome of the war was still very much in the balance. The Axis powers controlled a huge swathe of the world's surface including most of Europe and large parts of Asia. The ‘turn of the tide’ in the Allies' favour in 1942–3 was in part the result of good fortune at critical moments and of the bravery of countless individuals who were ready to risk (and sacrifice) their lives for their countries and their comrades. That said, there were also large numbers of Germans and Japanese who were prepared to give their lives for their cause. Nationalism was a potent brew on both sides, ensuring a long and bloody conflict.