Timeline of Important Events during World War Two
The following presents the timeline of major events that occurred during World War Two from start to finish.
1933 to 1938: The lead up to WW2
The leader of the German Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler, began his ascent to the Chancellorship of Germany around early 1930s. On January 30, 1933, Hitler was sworn in as the Chancellor of Germany. His Nazi Party quickly began dismantling the individual liberties and rights of Jews and other minorities living in German. In effect, Hitler joined the likes of Stalin, Mussolini, and became Europe’s newest dictator.
On November 25, 1936, Adolf Hitler and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini signed the Rome-Berlin Axis Treaty. That same day, Hitler and the Imperial Japanese government signed the Anti-Comintern Pact. The two countries banded together in order to ward off any future attacks from the Soviet Union, either in Eastern Europe or the Pacific region.
On July 7, 1937, Imperial Japan marches into China.
March 12, 1938: German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler orders his troops into Austria and annexes the country. The name of this invasion is called Anschluss.
Start of WW2
September 1, 1939: A German invasion of Poland kicks off. This invasion effectively marks the beginning of WW2. In spite of the Poles’ strong resistance, Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg proved too much for the Poles to handle.
In September 1939 also, the Joseph Stalin took for himself the eastern part of Poland. By September 27, Poland was gone – half of it was in Hitler’s hands while the other half was in Stalin’s.
Hitler’s reign over Poland resulted in the deaths of about six million Poles, majority of them Polish Jews. Stalin also had the blood of Poles on his hand. The Soviet dictator murdered several thousands and sent a large chunk to die in the freezing regions of Siberia.
September 3, 1939: The world wakes up to the news of France and Britain’s declaration of war on Germany.
April- June, 1940: Hitler sets his sights on two Scandinavian countries. He invades Denmark and Norway, expanding his reach across Europe. The Germans are on the march and it looks like nothing is going to stop them. Western European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and large parts of northern France capitulate to Hitler’s army.
The German army relied heavily on the ‘Blitzkrieg’ (lightning war) to inflict damage to those countries.
Around this same period, Britain and her allies marshal strength and courage to save over 338,000 British and Allied soldiers from Dunkirk. The evacuation, which happened in May 1940, remains one of the greatest military escapes in the history of war.
May 30, 1940: Britain looks to Sir Winston Churchill for strength and guidance. Churchill becomes the Prime Minister, replacing a largely ineffective Neville Chamberlain.
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June 10, 1940: Britain scrambles to ready her forces, along with whatever that is left of France, to put up a fierce fight against Germany. Hitler’s closest ally Benito Mussolini of Italy joins the war to shore up support for Hitler.
July 10, 1940: The Battle of Britain breaks out. The German Luftwaffe cross the English Channel at lightning speeds and bring hell upon Britain. Hitler’s goal is to dominate the skies of Britain. The fight rages in the air up until October 1940. Several British ships in the Channel get destroyed. The Luftwaffe also attacks British Royal Air force (RAF) airfields and military factories along the coast. Regardless, Britain puts up a strong fight and is able to quell Germany’s attempt to bring them to their knees. The Brits had the home advantage.
September 22, 1940: Benito, Hitler and Imperial Japan band together and sign the Tripartite Pact that gives birth to the Axis Alliance of WW2.
September 7 1940 to May 16, 1941: Germany’s Blitzkrieg (lightning attack) rains down chaos from the sky on Britain. The attacks during that period are called the Blitz, short for Blitzkrieg. It claimed the lives of close to 60,000 British civilians.
June 22, 1941: Hitler and his nation of Axis Alliance assemble about four million men and launch an attack on Moscow. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is taken absolutely by surprise. Never in Stalin’s wildest imaginations did he expect Hitler to turn on Russia. 10 months prior (August 1939) to the attack, the two leaders had agreed to a non-aggression pact. Turns out that honor among dictators can be a very rare commodity.
Called Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s desire to take Russia stemmed from Russia’s vast natural resources. He also had a bone to pick with the Bolsheviks – the ruling communists in Russia. Hitler regarded those communists as a threat to the growth of Nazi Germany.
Had it not been for his over zealousness and the winter of that year, Hitler would certainly have taken Moscow and Leningrad.
December 7, 1941: Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto’s ambitious plan of attacking the United States is given the thumbs up. Japan’s Air Force attacks the Pearl Harbor Naval base of the United States. The man responsible for the attack was General Hideki Tojo. By midday, about two and the half thousand Americans had lost their lives.
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The day is described by Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) as one that “will live in infamy”. The following day, December 8, 1941, U.S. Congress declares war on Japan. Owing to the Axis pact agreement between Japan and Nazi Germany, Hitler declared war on the U.S. on December 11, 1941.
December 8, 1941: Japan invades Malaya. Shortly after, Japan’s forces entered Singapore. The British forces stationed in those areas could not match the might of the Japanese forces. Britain’s HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse got sunk by the Japanese. By February 15, 1941, all forms of British defenses had evaporated. Japan went on to seize Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the Dutch East Indies.
June 4, 1942: The US faces off against the Japanese navy in the Pacific. The U.S. proves to be a real force to reckon with and Japan is defeated at the Battle of Midway. The U.S. inflicts massive damage to the Japanese Imperial Navy. Japan lost four carriers, 248 aircraft and one cruiser. On the other hand, the U.S. lost around 98 planes, one destroyer and one carrier.
February 1943: Stalin takes back Stalingrad from the Nazis during the Battle for Stalingrad. In a bid to take the city, which was named after Stalin, Hitler lost about 85,000 men.
September 3, 1943: Fascist forces in Italy get overpowered by the Allies. Italy throws in the towel. However, long-time fascist leader Mussolini flees to Northern Italy and sets up a base there. He gets some amount of support from Adolf Hitler.
June 6, 1944: Allied forces fight gallantly during the D-Day and the Normandy invasion. The Allies successfully engage the Germans in France and then pin them back. The Allied forces, tasked with liberating north-west Europe, were under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower.
August 25, 1944: After close to three years under the occupation of Nazi Germany, France capital Paris gets liberated by the Allies. The Allies fought bravely and pushed the Nazis out of France. By September 3, the Allied forces had forced Nazis out of the Belgian city of Brussels.
December 16, 1944: Hitler’s last attempt to swing the war in his favor ends disastrously. The Allies defeat the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. For some, this symbolizes the last nail in the coffin of the Nazis.
February 1945: The Yalta Conference takes place in Tehran, Iran. At the conference, the Big Three – Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin – discuss post-WW2 political and economic arrangements in Europe.
They also discussed how to hold Nazi war criminals accountable for their actions during the war. The three leaders also agreed to partition Germany into sections that will be controlled by Britain, the U.S., the Soviet Union, and France.
February 13-14, 1945: The Allied forces attack Dresden, a communication hub for Hitler’s forces.
It has been estimated that between 25,000 and 140,000 people in Dresden died.
February 19, 1945: The United States Navy sails to Iwo Jima and faces off with the Japanese. After a period of intense fighting, the US comes out on top. The island then falls into the hands of the US.
April 12, 1945: America’s longest-serving president, Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in office. His vice president Harry Truman takes the oath of the presidency and becomes America’s 33rd President.
April 17, 1945: British forces set free locked up people at the Belsen concentration camp.
April 30, 1945: Europe’s scourge of the 20th Century, Adolf Hitler, watches as Allied forces advance in on him. His army is on the back foot; many areas that once had the Nazi Swastika have now been overran by the Allies. Hitler is left with no option than to commit suicide. Several aides and generals in the Nazi Party follow in the footstep of their fuhrer.
May 7, 1945: Nazi Germany gives up the ghost, surrendering to the Allied forces. Many of the soldiers are detained and wait to be prosecuted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
August 6- 9, 1945: In spite of their European Axis allies surrendering, Imperial Japanese forces held out for quite some time. They kept on fighting, until the US leveled the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the world’s first atomic bombs. Hiroshima was hit by the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ on August 6. Then on August 9, the US dropped the atomic bomb called Fat Man on the city of Nagasaki. In Hiroshima, the bomb took the lives of about 78,000 people while close to 100,000 people suffered immense injuries.
September 2, 1945: After the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan realizes that they are pegged to the wall. They immediately lay down their weapons, bringing an end to WWII. US General Douglas MacArthur took receipt of Japan’s surrender.
Frequently Asked Questions about WWII
World War II was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world’s nations. Here are some most frequently asked questions about World War II:
When did World War Two begin and end?
World War Two began on September 1, 1939, with Germany’s invasion of Poland and ended on September 2, 1945, with the official surrender of Japan.
What was the role of the United States in World War Two?
The United States initially adopted a policy of neutrality but entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. played a crucial role in both the European and Pacific Theatres.
What were the significant battles in the European Theatre?
Significant battles included the Battle of Britain (1940), the Battle of Stalingrad (1942–1943), and the Battle of Normandy (D-Day, June 6, 1944).
When did the Holocaust occur, and how many Jews were killed?
The Holocaust occurred during World War Two, between 1941 and 1945. Approximately six million Jews were systematically murdered by the Nazi regime.
What events led to the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan?
The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) followed the Potsdam Declaration’s rejection by Japan and aimed to force Japan’s surrender and end the war.
Which countries were part of the Axis and Allied Powers?
The Axis Powers primarily included Germany, Italy, and Japan. The Allied Powers included the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and France.
When was the United Nations established?
The United Nations was established on October 24, 1945, shortly after the end of World War Two, aimed at fostering international cooperation and preventing future conflicts.
What is the significance of the Battle of Midway?
The Battle of Midway (June 4–7, 1942) was a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theatre, marking a turning point in favor of the Allied Powers against Japan.
Why was the invasion of Normandy significant?
The invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, opening a second front and hastening the defeat of Axis forces in Europe.
What were the economic repercussions of World War Two?
The war led to immense economic destruction in Europe and Asia, but post-war reconstruction, aided by the U.S. Marshall Plan, spurred economic recovery and growth, particularly in Western Europe and Japan.
What role did women play during World War Two?
Women played a crucial role, taking on roles in industry, nursing, and auxiliary military services, and contributing to the war effort in various capacities in both Allied and Axis countries.
How did World War Two affect civilian populations?
Civilian populations experienced unprecedented suffering due to bombings, occupation, displacement, and the loss of life and property, with long-lasting effects on societies around the world.
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