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World War 2: Historical Timeline, Facts, and WW2 Resources

World War II was a global military conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945 which involved most of the world’s nations, including all of the great powers, organized into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilized. Marked by significant action against civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, the deadliest conflict in human history resulted in fifty million to over seventy million fatalities. To get more information about WW1, visit the WW1 timeline of events.

Historical Timeline of Key Facts of WW2

September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland.

September 3, 1939: Britain and France declare war on Germany.

September 17, 1939: Russia invades Poland

September 27, 1939: Warsaw surrenders

October 6, 1939: The last remaining polish forces surrender

November 30, 1939: Russia invades Finland

January 17: The first German Enigma messages are decoded by British intelligence

March 12, 1940: Russia-Finland war ends. It convinces Hitler that the Russian military is ineffective.

April 8, 1940: Germany invades Denmark and Norway.

April 14, 1940: British forces land in Narvik, Norway, but leave in 10 days

May 10, 1940: Germany invades France, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg. Winston Churchill becomes Britain’s prime minister.

May 20, 1940: German forces reach the English channel.

May 27, 1940: Evacuation of British and French forces to Britain at Dunkirk begins.

June 4, 1940: The evacuation at Dunkirk ends. 338,000 troops were rescued. Churchill declares that Britain will never surrender.

June 9, 1940: Norway surrenders

June 10, 1940: Italy declares war on the collapsing France and Britain.

June 14, 1940: German troops march into Paris

June 18, 1940: Russia invades Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

June 22, 1940: France surrenders

June 27, 1940: Russia annexes the eastern regions of Romania.

July 1, 1940: Germany invades the British Channel Islands.

July 10, 1940: The ‘Battle of Britain’ air campaign begins.

July 18, 1940: Churchill declares this is Britain’s finest hour.

August 8, 1940: The Luftwaffe begins to bomb British early warning radars

August 15, 1940: The Luftwaffe loses 76 aircraft in one day

August 25, 1940: British night bombers bomb Berlin

September 3, 1940: Hitler changes the Luftwaffe’s objective from destroying the Royal Air Force to bombing London.

September 13, 1940: Italy invades British-held Egypt from Libya, the North African campaign begins.

September 15, 1940: The largest Luftwaffe daytime bombardment, it loses 56 aircraft

September 27, 1940: Japan joins the ‘axis.’

October 7, 1940: German troops enter their Ally Romania, Germany’s only source of oil, which Russia threatens

October 12, 1940: Hitler cancels the invasion of Britain.

October 23, 1940: Spain rejects Hitler’s offer to join the war and remains neutral.

October 28, 1940: Italy invaded Greece from Albania but stopped twice.

November 11, 1940: British carrier aircraft sank the Italian fleet in Taranto’s harbor. Yamamoto in Japan is impressed by their success.

November 20, 1940: Hungary and Romania, both military dictatorships, join the axis.

December 9, 1940: British forces in Egypt counterattack the Italians and advance along the Libyan coast

February 12, 1941: Hitler sends Rommel and the ‘Afrika Korps’ to help the Italians in North Africa

March 1, 1941: Bulgaria joins the axis. The axis-Russian border now stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Black sea.

March 3, 1941: Rommel attacks the British forces in North Africa.

March 5, 1941: British troops arrive at Greece to support it.

April 6, 1941: Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece

April 13, 1941: After military clashes, Japan and Russia sign a non-aggression pact.

April 17, 1941: Yugoslavia surrenders. British forces evacuate the Greek mainland to Crete.

April 27, 1941: German troops occupy Athens

May 9, 1941: U-boat U-110 is captured with Enigma settings tables

May 20, 1941: German paratroopers and airborne troops invade Crete by air

May 31, 1941: British forces in Crete surrender.

June 8, 1941: British forces aided by Israeli volunteers invade French-controlled Syria and Lebanon

June 22, 1941: Germany invades Russia. Hitler ordered “maximum cruelty” against civilians, which resulted in fanatic Russian resistance.

July 3, 1941: Stalin ordered the ‘scorched earth strategy.

July 16, 1941: German army group ‘center’ takes Smolensk, just 220 miles from Moscow.

July 21, 1941: The Luftwaffe bombs Moscow

July 24, 1941: Japan invades French Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia)

July 29, 1941: Hitler ordered to stop the army group center’s advance to Moscow and to transfer its two tank armies to army groups ‘north’ and ‘south.’ This is perhaps Hitler’s greatest mistake.

July 31, 1941: Hermann Goering orders the S.S. to prepare “the final solution,” the plan to murder the millions of European jews.

September 6, 1941: Hitler ordered to restore the advance to Moscow to take it “in the limited time before winter.”

September 15, 1941: The long German siege of Leningrad begins.

September 18, 1941: The Germans in the south occupy Kyiv and reach Crimea.

October 2, 1941: The final German attack towards Moscow begins (operation Typhoon).

October 15, 1941: Rains stop German advance to Moscow due to deep mud, which stops both tanks and infantry.

October 16, 1941: Russian government leaves Moscow, the Germans occupy Odessa.

October 17, 1941: General Tojo becomes Japan’s prime minister

October 21, 1941: Churchill orders top priority to any request by the Enigma decoders.

October 26, 1941: The Germans occupy Kharkov

November 15, 1941: With the mud was frozen by the dropping temperatures, German advance to Moscow resumes.

November 30, 1941: The foremost German forces reach 27km from Moscow but can advance no further due to strong Russian resistance.

December 6, 1941: At temperatures of -29F, a major Russian counterattack near Moscow begins.

December 7, 1941: The Japanese navy attacks Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, and the US joins the war.

December 11, 1941: Germany and Italy declare war on the US.

December 19, 1941: Hitler orders “fanatic resistance” and appoints himself military commander-in-chief.

January 2, 1942: Japanese forces occupy Manila

January 10, 1942: Japanese forces invade Indonesia

January 11, 1942: Japanese forces occupy Malaysia

January 12, 1942: Japanese forces invade Burma

January 13, 1942: German U-boats begin to sink ships along the US east coast.

January 21, 1942: Rommel begins another offensive in north Africa

January 25, 1942: Japanese forces invade the Solomon islands

January 26, 1942: US troops begin to arrive in Britain

February 15, 1942: Singapore surrenders to the Japanese

March 20, 1942: ‘industrial-scale murder of Jews by poison gas begins in Nazi death camps.

April 18, 1942: Doolittle’s raid – US bombers bomb Tokyo.

May 7, 1942: Battle of the Coral Sea.

May 6, 1942: The last American troops in the Philippines surrender

May 8, 1942: The German spring offensive in southern Russia begins.

June 4, 1942: The Battle of Midway.

July 3, 1942: Japanese forces land in Guadalcanal

July 28, 1942: Stalin forbids further Russian retreats at any cost.

August 7, 1942: US forces land in Guadalcanal

August 13, 1942: Montgomery becomes commander of the British 8th army in north Africa

August 19, 1942: Allied landing in Dieppe fails.

August 23, 1942: The German 6th army reach Stalingrad, the battle of Stalingrad begins.

September 6, 1942: The German advance in Stalingrad is stopped.

September 23, 1942: The battle of El Alamein in North Africa begins.

November 8, 1942: Allied forces land in western North Africa, at Rommel’s back

November 19, 1942: The Russian flanking counterattack around Stalingrad begins

December 19, 1942: The Germans fail to break the encirclement of their army in Stalingrad

February 2, 1943: The last German forces in Stalingrad surrender

May 13, 1943: The long north Africa campaign ends. The allies control North Africa

May 22, 1943: 41 German u-boats sunk in 3 weeks. Doenitz retreats all u-boats from the North Atlantic

July 5, 1943: The battle of Kursk begins

July 10, 1943: The allies invade Sicily

July 25, 1943: Mussolini is replaced and arrested.

August 10, 1943: The Germans know the Enigma was decoded but believe the new models and procedures are safe again.

September 3, 1943: The allies invade Italy’s mainland

September 8, 1943: Italy surrenders. The German forces in northern and central Italy occupy it

September 25, 1943: The Russians liberate Smolensk

November 6, 1943: The Russians liberate Kiev

November 19, 1943: The marines land in Tarawa

January 16, 1944: Eisenhower becomes supreme commander of western allies forces

January 22, 1944: Allies land in Anzio, Italy

April 10, 1944: The Russians liberate Odessa

June 5, 1944: The German navy’s Enigma messages are decoded almost in real-time.

June 6, 1944: D-Day. American, British, Canadian forces invade France at the beaches of Normandy.

June 12, 1944: 1st German V-1 cruise missile attack on Britain

June 15, 1944: The marines land in Saipan

June 19, 1944: Battle of the Philippine sea

June 22, 1944: The Russians advance to Belarus

July 20, 1944: Hitler survives an assassination attempt by senior German officers with light wounds.

July 21, 1944: Hitler appoints General Guderian as the chief of the army. The marines land in Guam

July 24, 1944: The marines land in Tinian

July 28, 1944: The Russians reach the old German-Russian border in central Poland

July 30, 1944: Patton breaks out of the beachhead deep into France

August 1, 1944: Warsaw revolts against the Germans

August 15, 1944: The allies land in southern France

August 23, 1944: Romania surrenders to the Russians. Its oil fields were Germany’s only source of natural oil

August 25, 1944: Paris is liberated.

September 6, 1944: Finland and Bulgaria surrenders to the Russians

September 8, 1944: 1st German V-2 ballistic missile attack on Britain

September 17, 1944: Operation ‘Market Garden’ in Holland

October 5, 1944: British forces land in Greece

October 10, 1944: The Germans evacuate Riga, Latvia

October 14, 1944: Athens is liberated

October 20, 1944: The marines land in Leyte

November 14, 1944: B-29 bombers begin to bomb Tokyo from bases in the Mariana islands

December 16, 1944: The German attack in the Ardennes begin

January 9, 1945: The marines land in Luzon, Philippines

January 23, 1945: The Russians reach Germany itself at the Oder river

January 27, 1945: The Russians liberate the Auschwitz death camp

January 28, 1945: The Ardennes campaign ends

February 13, 1945: The Russians occupy Budapest, Hungary. Dresden bombed.

February 19, 1945: The marines land in Iwo Jima

March 4, 1945: Manila is liberated

March 6, 1945: The allies occupy Cologne, Germany

March 7, 1945: US forces cross the Rhine on the Remagen bridge

March 16, 1945: The Battle of Iwo Jima ends

March 27, 1945: V-2 missile attacks end

April 1, 1945: German forces encircled in the Ruhr by the Americans

April 6, 1945: The marines landed in Okinawa. Japan orders all its forces to use kamikaze suicide tactic

April 7, 1945: The super battleship Yamato is sunk on its way to a kamikaze fight in Okinawa

April 10, 1945: The allies occupy Hanover

April 11, 1945: The allies liberate the Buchenwald death camp

April 12, 1945: President Roosevelt dies.

April 13, 1945: The Russians enter Vienna

April 16, 1945: The Russians begin finally to advance to Berlin

April 25, 1945: American and Russian forces meet

April 26, 1945: German defense in northern Italy finally collapses

April 29, 1945: Mussolini was executed by the Italian resistance. The allies liberate the Dachau death camp

April 30, 1945: Adolph Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin. He appoints Admiral Doenitz as his successor.

May 8, 1945: Germany surrenders. The war in Europe ends

May 28, 1945: 450 B-29 bombers bomb Yokohama

June 2, 1945: 660 B-29 bombers bomb Japanese cities

June 21, 1945: Battle of Okinawa ends

July 16, 1945: the US tests the atomic bomb in New Mexico. It works

August 6, 1945: Hiroshima is destroyed by an atomic bomb

August 8, 1945: Russia declares war on Japan

August 9, 1945: Nagasaki is destroyed by an atomic bomb

August 14, 1945: Japan surrenders. World war 2 finally ended.

What were aircraft carriers sunk in the Battle of Midway?
The Battle of Midway was the first American victory over the Japanese. It had implications for the course of the entire Pacific War. The American edge in cryptography also contributed to the victory.

Midway is an island in the Pacific, not far from Hawaii. The Japanese believed that if they could control Midway, they could deter American attacks within Japanese cities. Midway was a crucial spot for the Navy. It was a submarine refueling station, and it later extended the American’s radius of operation by 1900 km. An active airstrip functioned there, as well.

An aircraft carrier is a ship that can serve as a floating airbase for naval aircraft. This is important because it provides refueling, landing, and take-off possibilities for the air force, otherwise limited to land strips. In addition, this allows the naval force to project its power hundreds and thousands of miles from mainland air bases.

The first aircraft carrier battle of the Pacific war took place on the Coral Sea on May 7 and 8, 1942. The outcome of this battle and the further attack known as the Doolittle Raid, named after Colonel James Doolittle, in which the American Navy bombed strategic targets in Japanese major cities, including Tokyo, made the point clear to the Japanese; they were vulnerable to the Americans and needed to take hold of strong points in the Pacific to eliminate the American threat.

Yamamoto, the Japanese Admiral, had gained intelligence that suggested that only the USS Enterprise and the USS Hornet remained of the US Naval aircraft carrier fleet. They believed that the USS Lexington had been sunk, and the USS Yorktown had been incapacitated during the Battle of the Coral Sea, which was only one month previous to the Battle of Midway. In fact, this information was misleading, for although the USS Yorktown had been damaged, it had also been repaired, putting it back into service within 72 hours from its entry to the repair dock.

The Japanese plan was to capture Midway’s island and destroy the American fleet that would be sent to defend it. They hoped to do this by keeping the bulk of their forces far behind the invading force. They would later bring them forward to do battle with the American reinforcements. They anticipated that they would greatly outnumber the American relieving fleet.

Two main things went wrong for the Japanese. One was that the Americans had more ships and carriers than they had thought since they could recommission the USS Yorktown. The second was that the Americans had cracked the main Japanese naval code, so they knew of the Japanese plan and had prepared an ambush of their own.

To confirm the breaking of the Japanese naval code, the Americans sent an open decoy message saying that the desalination plant on the island of Midway had broken down. They then intercepted Japanese instructions to their own ships to load extra desalination equipment. This confirmed to the US that the Japanese were planning to attack Midway.

The ambush was complete, much to the total shock of the Japanese. It was a long battle, and the American fleet launched many waves of fighter planes. Ultimately, the Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga, Akagi, Soryu, and Hiryu were all damaged beyond repair by American aircraft carriers and from artillery fire from the island of Midway. Of the American aircraft carriers, only the USS Yorktown was sunk.

The Japanese navy was never able to replace the skilled pilots and valuable carriers. Thus, although the war in the Pacific was to continue for many years, the Japanese had lost their initial qualitative and quantitative edge over the Americans, which was a significant outcome of the Battle of Midway.

How Did The Battle of Iwo Jima End?
Iwo Jima, also known as Sulfur Island, is an eight square mile island located approximately 750 miles south of Japan. The Battle of Iwo Jima took place toward World War II, from February 19 to March 26, 1945. It resulted in some of the heaviest fights of the Pacific War. Two air bases operated on Iwo Jima, allowing the Japanese to attack American bombers on their routes to Japan. The radar system on the island also enabled the Japanese to alert their countrymen in Japan when they detected American planes flying from the Mariana Islands. The island also provided the Japanese navy with support and supplies. In addition to these reasons for the invasion of Iwo Jima, the United States wanted the island to implement an air and sea blockade. Other incentives for the American occupation of the island were the need to carry out air raids on Japan more easily and to have their own airbases. These bases would provide strips for emergency landing for the B-29s that bombed Japan and later dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the months before the battle, Japanese forces prepared the island by building tunnels and bunkers throughout the island. These underground burrows were so fortified that American bombing from aircraft and naval vessels for 74 days before the actual invasion had little effect. The only result of this bombing was the creation of uneven terrain. Ironically, the Japanese used this terrain to their advantage as hidden positions behind which they could station. Unaware of the Japanese preparations, the Americans thought that the battle on Iwo Jima would take approximately a week. After they conquered the island, the Americans would use it as a base for the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland.

At 2:00 on February 19, 1945, U.S. battleships and bombers subjected the island to heavy bombardment. Around seven hours later, the first wave of Marines landed on the shore of the island. To their surprise, the island was quiet. They assumed that the bombing had killed all of the Japanese fighters. In actuality, the Japanese were holding their fire until the beach would be packed with Marines and their equipment. When the first Marines came closer to where the Japanese bunkers were situated, suddenly those Marines and those who had landed after them were hit by devastating machine gunfire. The result was many casualties.

However, by the evening of the first day, Iwo Jima was cut in half by the Marines’ charge. By February 23, Mount Suribachi was taken by the U.S. forces. This conquest was documented by the famous photograph, “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.” The picture has since been reproduced on U.S. postage stamps and used as the model for the war memorial sculpture near Arlington National Cemetery.

Even after the raising of the flag, the fighting continued. The extensive tunnels meant that it would be reoccupied even after American forces cleaned out a bunker with grenades. Eventually, the landing area was secured, and more men and supplies arrived on the island. The numerically superior American forces slowly took control of the island. The Japanese fought fiercely and to the death, causing many American casualties. The fear that a similar scenario would occur if the U.S. attempted to invade Japan to halt World War II was one of the prime considerations that led to the decision to drop the atom bomb.

By March 25, out of 70,000 American fighters, 6,822 had been killed and 19,217 wounded. The vast majority of the approximately 18,500 Japanese fighters were dead, either through falling in battle or by suicide. Only 216 Japanese were captured alive. The vicious fighting was over, and Iwo Jima was in American hands.

Why Did the Appeasement Policy Fail to Prevent War in 1939
In international relations, appeasement refers to a strategy of making diplomatic, economic, or military concessions to a hostile nation to avoid direct military conflict. The concept of appeasement has gained a negative connotation, largely due to the appeasement policies of Great Britain and other powers during the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany in the years leading up to World War II. The outbreak of the world’s most devastating war, the success of Nazi Germany in preparing for and waging war, and the unprecedented atrocities committed by the Nazis until their final defeat have been blamed directly or indirectly on that very policy of appeasement.

Following World War I, the allied powers initially adopted in the Versailles Treaty a series of punitive measures against Germany, which was regarded as the aggressor in the war. However, it has been widely observed that a policy of appeasing Germany resulted from a growing sense of guilt that the treaty’s terms were saddling the German people with an economic burden beyond what they could bear. In addition, a new global economic liberalism was gaining currency, which, combined with a general post-war abhorrence of military confrontation, led the allied powers to scale back reparations and disarmament requirements gradually.

During the 1930s, a consensus began to build among Britain, France, and other allies that the way to avoid repeating the horrors of global war was to end reparations altogether, to allow Germany to rearm, and to meet German demands for “frontier adjustments” where they were considered justified in preserving the country’s power of self-determination. While intended to avoid another war, one of the first results of appeasement in this climate of magnanimity and toleration was the empowerment of the militant, vocally expansionist, and increasingly popular Nazi party to take power in Germany, with Adolf Hitler as its leader and with hardly any significant foreign protest or intervention.

When Hitler brought his band of Nazis to the helm of the German government, Britain and France did little to steer away from their course of appeasement. On the contrary, they hoped that a continued policy of accommodation would encourage the dictator to back down from his increasingly belligerent rhetoric and that appealing to Hitler’s reason would dull his appetite for global domination.

The results proved the opposite. Soon after taking power in 1933, Hitler began to violate many of the military restrictions imposed on Germany at the Versailles peace conference. In 1935, he formally withdrew Germany from the League of Nations and drafted soldiers into his overhauled military. One year later, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, in direct contravention to the terms established at Versailles, his first major step in rebuilding the Reich. Many believe that had Britain and France taking a hard line against Hitler at this still relatively early stage, the Fuhrer could have been discouraged from further aggression.

What had been a general attitude of accommodation among the Western nations became official policy in Britain when Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister in 1937 and began to pursue appeasement of Germany in earnest. As a result, Britain, and France remained silent when Hitler’s armies invaded and annexed Austria in March 1938.

However, the Munich Agreement, signed in September of that year, is widely regarded as the dubious masterpiece of the Appeasement Policy. The leaders of Britain, France, and Italy agreed that the ethnically German areas of Czechoslovakia would be returned to Germany because Germany would neither make any further territorial claims nor act upon them. Notably absent at the conference was the Czech government, which vigorously protested the loss of its land. To the Czechs, this was an act of outright betrayal by Britain and France, with whom they had made alliances. However, the latter two hailed the agreement as a triumph of peace through negotiation. Eleven months later, Hitler’s tanks, artillery, and airplanes raged through Poland and the skies above it. Germany was well on its way to waging the “total war” that soon engulfed Europe and much of the world. At that point, nobody could afford to harbor any illusions regarding the colossal failure of appeasement.