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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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World War II

by Robert D. Billinger Jr. and Jo Ann Williford, 2006
Additional research provided by John L. Bell, Tom Belton, Michael Hill, Joshua Howard, Roy Parker Jr., William S. Powell, and Beverly Tetterton.

World War II was fought on three continents, with North Carolinians serving in every major theater. Hostilities began in earnest on 1 Sept. 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, prompting Great Britain and France to declare war in defense of Poland. America joined the Allies (Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) against the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) in December 1941, after the Japanese bombing of the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii.

More than 362,500 North Carolinians (including 69,000 African Americans and 7,000 women) served in the armed forces during the war. Casualties included 6,458 battle deaths and more than 3,000 deaths from other causes. World War II in Europe ended when Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945. The war in the Pacific lasted several months longer, officially concluding on 2 September, when the Japanese signed a treaty of surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

Keep reading >> Part 2: North Carolina Contributions in Battle and on the Home Front Keep reading


Mary Best, ed., North Carolina's Shining Hour: Images and Voices from World War II (2005).

Robert D. Billinger Jr., "Behind the Wire: German Prisoners of War at Camp Sutton, 1944-46," NCHR 61 (October 1984).

Spencer Bidwell King Jr., Selective Service in North Carolina in World War II (1949).

Arnold Krammer, Nazi Prisoners of War in America (1979).

Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, North Carolina's Role in World War II (1964).

David A. Stallman, A History of Camp Davis (1990).

J. Gordon Vaeth, Blimps and U-Boats: U.S. Navy Airships in the Battle of the Atlantic (1992).

Additional Resources:

North Carolina's WWII Experience, UNC-TV:;

Timeline of World War II, 1931-1941. ANCHOR.

Timeline of World War II, 1941-1945. ANCHOR.

The Great Depression and World War II, ANCHOR.

World War II and After, History of Medicine. Encyclopaedia Britannica (online).

Video Credit:

NC's WWII EXPERIENCE:  Boomtown North Carolina: Fort Bragg, UNC-TV. Uploaded by exploreUNCTV on Nov 15, 2010. Available from (accessed August 29, 2012).