Below is a comprehensive World War 2 timeline, featuring the key events that led to the war, along with detailed information and the dates in which they occurred.
For a discussion on the events that preceded World War Two and led to its eruption, please click here.
|1938||German Anschluss with Austria||Hitler went ahead with his plans to unify all German-speaking people. He annexed Austria then demanded the liberation of German people in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany to attempt a settlement before war broke out.|
|30 Sept 1938||Treaty of Munich||Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier of France and Mussolini of Italy met in Munich and agreed that Hitler should have the Sudetanland of Czechoslovakia. The Czechs were not represented at the meeting and realising that no country would come to their aid were forced to surrender the Sudetenland to Germany. Hitler assured those at the meeting that this was the extent of his ambitions for expansion. Chamberlain returned to England with a piece of paper signed by Hitler, proclaiming ‘peace in our time.’|
|March 1939||Hitler invades Czechoslovakia||Despite the assurances given by Hitler in the Treaty of Munich (Sept 1938), he marched into Czechoslovakia and occupied the country.|
|March /April 1939||Britain rearms and reassures Poland||Britain had begun re-arming and a highly secret radar early warning system was installed along the east coast. Conscription was introduced and assurances were given to Poland, who was being threatened by the Fuhrer.|
|late Aug 1939||Russia and Germany sign pact||Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact which included secret clauses for the division of Poland.|
|1 Sept 1939||Hitler invades Poland||Adolf Hitler invaded Poland.|
|3 Sept 1939||Britain and France declare war on||Britain and France declared war on Germany. Neville Chamberlain broadcast the announcement that the country was at war.|
|Sept 1939-May 1940||‘Phoney War’||The months following Britain’s declaration of war are referred to as the ‘phoney war’ because Britain saw no military action.|
|April/May 1940||Hitler invades Denmark and Norway||Hitler invaded and occupied Denmark and Norway to safeguard supply routes of Swedish ore and also to establish a Norwegian base from which to break the British naval blockade on Germany.|
|10 May 1940||Blitzkrieg||Hitler launched his blitzkrieg (lightning war) against Holland and Belgium. Rotterdam was bombed almost to extinction. Both countries were occupied.|
|13 May 1940||Chamberlain resigns||Neville Chamberlain resigned after pressure from Labour members for a more active prosecution of the war and Winston Churchill became the new head of the wartime coalition government. Chamberlain gave Churchill his unreserved support. Ernest Bevin was made minister of labour and recruited workers for the factories and stepped up coal production. Lord Beaverbrook, minister of Aircraft Production increased production of fighter aircraft.|
|26 May 1940||Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo)||The British commander-in-chief, General Gort, had been forced to retreat to the coast at Dunkirk. The troops waited, under merciless fire, to be taken off the beaches. A call went out to all owners of sea-worthy vessels to travel to Dunkirk to take the troops off the beaches of Dunkirk. More than 338,000 men were rescued, among them some 140,000 French who would form the nucleus of the Free French army under a little known general, Charles de Gaulle.|
|11 June 1940||Italy enter war on side of Axis powers||Italy entered the war on the side of the Axispowers. Italy’s motive for entering the war was the hope of rich pickings from the spoils of war.|
|22 June 1940||France signs armistice with Germany||The French, Marshall Petain, signed anarmistice with Germany taking France, which had been devastated, out of the war and into German occupation.|
|10 July – 31 October 1940||Battle of Britain||The Battle of Britain comprised four phases:
1. During July Hitler sent his Luftwaffe bombers to attack British ports. His aim was also to assess the speed and quality of response by the RAF.
2. During August the attacks on shipping continued but bombing raids were concentrated on RAF airfields.
3. The Blitz – From September 7th the city of London was heavily bombed. Hitler hoped to destroy the morale of the British people.
4. Night Bombing – With the failure of daylight bombing raids Hitler began a series of nightly bombing raids on London and other important industrial cities.
The RAF defended the skies and by October 31 the raids had ceased.
|22 Sept 1940||Tripartite Pact||This pact of mutual alliance was signed by Germany, Italy and Japan.|
|December 1940||British rout Italians in N. Africa||Italian forces in North Africa were routed by the British led by General Wavell.|
|early 1941||Italy and Germany attack Yugoslavia||German and Italian troops attacked Yugoslavia, Greece and the island of Crete. German field Marshall Erwin Rommel led the axis powers back to North Africa.|
|22 June 1941||Hitler attacks Russia – Operation Barbarossa||Hitler sent 3 million soldiers and 3,500 tanks into Russia. The Russians were taken by surprise as they had signed a treaty with Germany in 1939. Stalin immediately signed a mutual assistance treaty with Britain and launched an Eastern front battle that would claim 20 million casualties. The USA, which had been supplying arms to Britain under a ‘Lend-Lease’ agreement, offered similar aid to USSR.|
|7 Dec 1941||Pearl Harbor||The Japanese, who were already waging war against the Chinese, attacked the US pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, as a preliminary to taking British, French and Dutch colonies in South East Asia.|
|8 Dec 1941||Britain and US declare war on Japan||Britain and the United States declared war on Japan.|
|Feb 1942||Japanese take Singapore||The Japanese captured Singapore from the British, taking some 60,000 prisoners.|
|June 1942||Battle of Midway||The USA defeated the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway. Following this victory, the US navy was able to push the Japanese back.|
|Aug 1942||Allies in N. Africa||General Alexander was given a hand-written directive from Churchill ordering that his main directive was to be the destruction of the German-Italian army commanded by Field-Marshall Rommell together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya. As soon as sufficient material had been built up, Alexander handed the campaign over to General Montgomery.|
|23 Oct 1942||Battle of El Alamein||Montgomery attacked the German-Italian army in North Africa with a massive bombardment followed by an armoured attack. He then proceeded to chase the routed enemy some 1500 miles across the desert.|
|Nov 1942||Battle of Stalingrad||The Russians won their first victory against Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad.|
|Nov 1942||Allies push into N. Africa||British and American forces under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower landed in the NW of Africa and assumed control of French Morocco and Algeria. They gradually closed in on the Germans.|
|May 12 1943||Axis surrender N Africa||The British and American forces managed to defeat the Axis forces in North Africa|
|July 1943||Allies invade Sicily||British and US forces invaded Sicily.|
|Aug 1943||Allies take Sicily||The allied troops had won the island of Sicily.|
|3 Sept 1943||Italy surrenders||Mussolini had been thrown out of office and the new government of Italy surrendered to the British and the USA. They then agreed to join the allies. The Germans took control of the Italian army, freed Mussolini from imprisonment and set him up as head of a puppet government in Northern Italy. This blocked any further allied advance through Italy.|
|Nov 1943||Allies meet at Tehran||Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met to co-ordinate plans for a simultaneous squeeze on Germany. They also discussed post war settlements. Churchill mistrusted Stalin; Roosevelt anxious to show that the West would not stand against Russia, went along with Stalin’s wishes for a second front in France and no diversions further east. Churchill was over-ruled and the fate of post-war Eastern Europe was thus decided.|
|Jan 1944||Leningrad relieved||The siege of Leningrad was lifted by the Soviet army.|
|June 1944||Rome liberated||Although Italy had surrendered in September, it was only now that the allies were able to liberate Rome from the Germans.|
|6 June 1944||D-Day||The allies launched an attack on Germany’s forces in Normandy, Western France. Thousands of transports carried an invasion army under the supreme command of general Eisenhower to the Normandy beaches. The Germans who had been fed false information about a landing near Calais, rushed troops to the area but were unable to prevent the allies from forming a solid bridgehead. For the allies it was essential to first capture a port.|
|July 1944||Japanese evicted from Burma||British forces under General Slim, with help from guerrilla-fighting Chindits led by Orde Wingate, evicted the Japanese from Burma.|
|25 Aug 1944||Paris liberated||The French capital of Paris was liberated from the Germans.|
|8 Sept 1944||V2 Flying Bombs||The first V2 flying bombs killed three people in London.|
|Dec 1944||Battle of the Bulge||Germany launched its final defensive through the Ardennes region of Belgium. However, they were beaten back by the allies.|
|March 1945||Allies cross the Rhine||The Allies crossed the Rhine while Soviet forces were approaching Berlin from the East.|
|April 1945||Death of Roosevelt||President Roosevelt died. He was succeeded by President Truman.|
|April 1945||Russians reach Berlin||The Russians reached Berlin shortly before the US forces.|
|28 April 1945||Mussolini captured and executed||Italian partisans captured Mussolini and executed him.|
|30 April 1945||Hitler commits suicide||The German leader, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bombproof shelter together with his mistress, Eva Braun, who he had, at the last minute, made his wife.|
|2 May 1945||German forces surrender||German forces in Italy surrendered to the Allies.|
|4 May 1945||German forces surrender||German forces in north west Germany, Holland and Denmark surrendered to Montgomery on Luneburg Heath. Admiral Donitz, whom Hitler had nominated as his successor, tried to reach agreement to surrender to the Western allies but to continue to fight the Russians. His request was refused.|
|7 May 1945||Donitz offers unconditional surrender||Hitler’s successor, Admiral Donitz, offerred an unconditional surrender to the allies.|
|8 May 1945||V.E. day||Victory in Europe was celebrated.|
|5 July 1945||Churchill loses election||Winston Churchill lost the election to Clement Atlee’s Labour Party. The Labour party promised sweeping social reforms including nationalisation of the coal and railway industries and the creation of a welfare state. The Labour party gained 393 seats to the Conservatives 213. It was generally accepted that the landslide victory for Labour was due to the men and women of the armed services who did not want to resume civilian life under the conditions that they had before they entered service.|
|6 Aug 1945||Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima||The Japanese generals refused to surrender. The US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.|
|8 Aug 1945||Russia declares war on Japan||Russia declared war on Japan and invaded Japanese-ruled Manchuria.|
|9 Aug 1945||Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki||The US dropped an atomic bomb on the port of Nagasaki as the Japanese had not surrendered following Hiroshima.|
|14 Aug 1945||Japanese surrender||The Japanese unconditionally surrendered to the allies ending the second world war.|
|2 Sept 1945||MacArthur accepts Japan’s surrender||US General, Douglas MacArthur, accepted Japan’s surrender thus formally ending the second world war.|
This article is part of our larger educational resource on World War Two. For a comprehensive list of World War 2 facts, including the primary actors in the war, causes, a comprehensive timeline, and bibliography, click here.
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