Axis powers

The Axis powers,[nb 1] originally called the Rome–Berlin Axis,[1] was a military coalition that fought in World War II against the Allies. The Axis powers agreed on their opposition to the Allies, but did not completely coordinate their activity.

The Axis powers
Die Achsenmächte  (German)
Le Potenze dell'Asse  (Italian)
樞軸國  (Japanese)
Sūjikukoku
1936–1945
  •   Axis powers (and their colonies or puppets)
  •   Allies (and their colonies)
  •   Allies entering after the attack on Pearl Harbor
  •   Neutral powers


StatusMilitary alliance
Historical eraWorld War II
25 November 1936
22 May 1939
27 September 1940
 Defeated
2 September 1945
  1. Germany, Italy, and Japan are typically described as being the "major" (or similar) countries amongst the Axis powers. See e.g., Global strategy, Momah p.71, or Encyclopedia of World War II, Tucker & Roberts p.102.
  2. After the Italian surrender in September 1943, the Italian Social Republic, a German puppet state, was formed in northern Italy and existed until the surrender on 29 April 1945.
  3. Acceded to the Tripartite Pact, generally considered Axis powers (see e.g., Facts about the American Wars, Bowman, p.432, which includes them in a list of "Axis powers", or The Library of Congress World War II companion, Wagner, Osborne, & Reyburn p.39 which lists them as "The Axis")
  4. Following Operation Panzerfaust, a German puppet under Ferenc Szálasi from 15 October 1944 onwards, see Germany and the Axis Powers, DiNardo, p.189)
  5. Puppet states installed by the Axis Powers, see, e.g., Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Lemkin p. 11
  6. Official position of wartime government was that they were a co-belligerent of the Axis against the USSR and United Kingdom during the Continuation War, but generally considered to be a member of the Axis (see e.g., Bowman, p.432, Wagner, Osborne, & Reyburn p.39, or Dinardo p.95).
  7. Declared war on the United Kingdom and United States in alliance with Japan on 25 January 1942, generally considered to be a member of the Axis (see, e.g., Bowman p. 432).
Flags of Germany, Japan, and Italy draping the facade of the Embassy of Japan on the Tiergartenstraße in Berlin (September 1940)
Germany's Führer Adolf Hitler (right) beside Italy's Duce Benito Mussolini (left)
Japan's Prime Minister Hideki Tojo (center) with fellow government representatives of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. To the left of Tojo, from left to right: Ba Maw from Burma, Zhang Jinghui, Wang Jingwei from China. To the right of Tojo, from left to right, Wan Waithayakon from Thailand, José P. Laurel from the Philippines, and Subhas Chandra Bose from India
The signing of the Tripartite Pact by Germany, Japan, and Italy on 27 September 1940 in Berlin. Seated from left to right are the Japanese ambassador to Germany Saburō Kurusu, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Galeazzo Ciano, and Adolf Hitler.

The Axis grew out of the diplomatic efforts of Nazi Germany, the Kingdom of Italy, and the Empire of Japan to secure their own specific expansionist interests in the mid-1930s. The first step was the protocol signed by Germany and Italy in October 1936. Benito Mussolini declared on 1 November 1936 that all other European countries would from then on rotate on the Rome–Berlin axis, thus creating the term "Axis".[2][3] The almost simultaneous second step was the signing in November 1936 of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist treaty between Germany and Japan. Italy joined the Pact in 1937 and Hungary and Spain joined in 1939. The "Rome–Berlin Axis" became a military alliance in 1939 under the so-called "Pact of Steel", with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany, Italy and Japan. As such the Anti-Comintern Pact, the Tripartite Pact, and the Pact of Steel were the agreements that formed the main bases of the Axis.[4]

Particularly within Europe, the term "the Axis" is still often used primarily to refer to the alliance between Italy and Germany, though outside Europe it is normally understood as including Japan.[5]

At its zenith in 1942 during World War II, the Axis presided over territories that occupied large parts of Europe, North Africa, and East Asia. In contrast to the Allies,[6] there were no three-way summit meetings and cooperation and coordination was minimal, and on occasion the interests of the major Axis powers were at variance with each other.[7] The war ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers and the dissolution of their alliance. As in the case of the Allies, membership of the Axis was fluid, with some nations switching sides or changing their degree of military involvement over the course of the war.