<< 1938 World War II Timeline 1940 >>



1 January - Europe: Identity card laws go into effect in Germany; all Jews are required to wear badges identifying themselves as such. Jews are banned from working side by side with non-Jewish Germans.

10 January - Europe: Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of Britain, and Lord Halifax, British Foreign Secretary, arrive in Rome to meet with Benito Mussolini.

17 January - Europe: Germany signs non-aggression treaties with Denmark, Latvia, and Estonia. Norway, Sweden, and Finland refuse similar treaty offers, insisting on strict neutrality.

20 January - China: The League of Nations issues a call for its members to aid China against Japanese aggression.

21 January - Europe: Adolf Hitler dismisses Hjalmar Schacht from the presidency of the Reichsbank, the German national bank. Schacht was one of the few men allowed to raise his voice to or argue with Hitler.

23 January - Europe: National Service is introduced in Britain.

25 January - Spain: General Francisco Franco's troops capture the city of Barcelona.

30 January - Europe: In a speech to the Reichstag, Hitler states that the outcome of a world war will be the destruction of the Jewish race.

4 February - Europe: A coup topples Yugoslavia's pro-Axis government.

10 February - Europe: Pope Pius XI dies. China: Japanese forces occupy Hainan Island.

21 February - Europe: In Germany, all Jews are ordered to surrender gold and silver, with the exception of wedding bands.

27 February - Spain: The government of Francisco Franco in Spain is recognized by Britain and France.

2 March - Europe: Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli elected to the papacy, becoming Pius XII.

12 March - Europe: Neville Chamberlain makes a pledge to support Polish sovereignty.

14 March - Czechoslovakia: Former prime minister Josef Tiso declares Slovakia to be an independent state. He immediately allies his new government with the Axis powers.

15 March - Czechoslovakia: Responding to the wave of anti-Semitic violence and civil unrest sweeping the nation, the Czech government requests protection from Germany. German troops move to occupy the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. Hungary annexes the Czech province of Ruthenia.

16 March - Czechoslovakia: Adolf Hitler declares that Czechoslovakia no longer exists.

17 March - Czechoslovakia: The British government denounces Hitler for violating the terms of the Munich Pact.

20 March - United States: The United States withdraws her ambassador to Germany in protest of Hitler's actions in Czechoslovakia.

21 March - Europe: Nazi activists seize the Lithuanian town of Memel.

23 March - Europe: Germany strikes an economic agreement with Romania, providing Hitler with access to Romania's petroleum supplies. Germany officially incorporates Memel into the Reich.

28 March - Spain: Franco's forces seize Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War.

31 March - Poland: France and Britain sign a treaty with Poland, promising to defend that country's western borders against aggression. No mention is made of Poland's border with the Soviet Union.

3 April - Poland: Hitler sends a directive to his senior military commanders, demanding that Operation White, the invasion of Poland, must be ready for action by 1 September 1939.

7 April - Europe: Italy invades Albania. Spain signs the anti-Comintern pact, joining Germany, Italy, and Japan.

11 April - Europe: Hungary withdraws from the League of Nations.

13 April - Europe: In response to Italy's aggression in the Balkans, Britain and France pledge to protect Greece and Romania.

15 April - United States: Franklin D. Roosevelt appeals to Hitler and Mussolini to cease their campaigns of aggression.

17 April - Europe: A Soviet proposal for an anti-Germany alliance is rejected by both Britain and France.

19 April - Europe: Britain announces that she will protect the independence of the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark, should they be threatened by Hitler.

20 April - Europe: The largest display of military might in the history of Germany is put together to celebrate Hitler's 50th birthday.

27 April - Europe: In Britain, Parliament enacts the Conscription Law, bringing compulsory service back to the island nation. Germany pulls out of the 1935 Anglo-German naval accord.

28 April - Europe: In a globally-broadcast speech, Hitler mocks Roosevelt's requests for peace and nullifies the non-aggression pact between Germany and Poland.

8 May - Spain: Spain withdraws from the League of Nations.

12 May - Europe: Turkey signs a mutual assistance treaty with Britain. China: Japanese troops are driven back after doing battle with forces from Outer Mongolia when 700 Mongol cavalry cross into Manchurian territory.

15 May - Europe: The Ravensbrueck concentration camp is set up.

18 May - China: Japanese infantry and aircraft retake the territory they lost on the 12th.

20 May - Europe: The new Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, and the German ambassador to Russia begin plans for a non-aggression pact between their two countries.

22 May - Europe: Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel, committing themselves to a full military alliance.

23 May - Poland: In accordance with Hitler's plans for the invasion of Poland, Joseph Goebbels puts his propaganda machine into full force against the Poles.

27 May - United States: Secretary of State Cordell Hull recommends the revision of the Neutrality Act to allow the sale of arms to belligerent states.

28 May - China: Forces from Japan and the Soviet Union engage in heavy fighting in Mongolia.

18 June - China: A Soviet counteroffensive against the Japanese fails.

1 July - Poland: The French government warns Hitler that France fully intends to honor her promises to Poland.

9 July - Europe: Winston Churchill advocates a military alliance between Britain and the USSR.

26 July - United States: The United States nullifies a 1911 trade agreement with Japan.

2 August - United States: Albert Einstein writes to Franklin D. Roosevelt to inform him of the potential use of atomic weapons.

3 August - Europe: Hitler is informed that Britain wishes to continue the policy of appeasement; specifically promised are increased trade, talks about Germany's need of over-seas colonies and territory in southern Europe, and British non-intervention in matters of the Reich. The one condition: Germany has to cease her military expansionism.

6 August - Europe: Fearing that Germany will launch into war with Poland, Mussolini confers with his Foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, about ways to evade the terms of the Pact of Steel, under which Italy would be required to aid Germany in war. Mussolini believes his nation to be three years from war-readiness.

10 August - Poland: The Polish government warns Germany that any further encroachment on the city of Danzig would be considered an act of war. In Berlin, a member of the SS is ordered by Reinhard Heydrich, a high government official, to fake a Polish attack on a German radio station at Gleiwitz, near the Polish border.

11 August - Europe: The British government learns that the German military will be at full readiness by 15 August. German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop informs Italian Foreign Minister Ciano that Germany now wants full war.

12 August - Europe: Britain and France send a joint diplomatic mission to seek an alliance with Stalin.

15 August - Europe: The German State Secretary, Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker, declares to the British ambassador in Berlin that no further talks are possible between Germany and Poland. Orders for mobilization are sent to the German railway system, and the German navy reports that 23 ships are ready for immediate action. Britain and France renew their pledges to defend Poland from German aggression.

16 August - Europe: Captain Karl Dönitz, the commander of the U-Boat branch of the German navy, arrives at the main submarine base at Kiel and begins preparations for war.

18 August - Europe: Dönitz dispatches 35 of his submarines: 18 to the Atlantic and 17 to the Baltic Sea.

19 August - Europe: Germany and the Soviet Union sign an economic treaty. Work begins on a non-aggression pact between the two nations. The German navy receives mobilizations orders, with an additional 21 submarines moving into position.

20 August - Europe: German U-boats take up positions along shipping lanes in the Atlantic. Asia: In Mongolia, the Battle of Khalkhin Gol between the Soviets and the Japanese ends in a cease-fire; with Japan neutralized in the east, Stalin is free to shift those forces back to the western front.

22 August - Poland: Neville Chamberlain cables Hitler, informing him that a German-Soviet pact will not dissuade Britain from fulfilling her obligations to aid Poland.

23 August - Europe: Germany and Soviet Russia sign a 10 year non-aggression treaty. A secret portion of the pact divided Poland between the two parties. Hitler is delighted; he is now free to pursue his conquests in France without fear of a second front. All radios are collected from Jews within the Reich. Belgium mobilizes her army to defend her neutrality. Hitler sets the date for the invasion of Poland at 4:30 AM, 26 August.

24 August - Europe: The British military begins a general mobilization, beginning with the Navy. Parliament passes the Emergency Powers Act.

25 August - Europe: The Italian ambassador to Germany informs Hitler that Italy will not support Hitler without German arms. On this news, the assault scheduled for the next morning is postponed. Poland: Britain signs a treaty of mutual assistence with Poland.

26 August - Europe: France's ambassador in Berlin meets with Hitler; when the ambassador mentions the fate of women and children in the coming war, Hitler shows signs of hesitation, but is persuaded by his Foreign Minister. Poland increases the speed of her military mobilization. Hitler pledges to respect the neutrality of Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and Luxembourg.

27 August - Europe: German aircraft manufacturer Heinkel tests the He 178. It is the first jet-powered aircraft in history.

28 August - Europe: Rationing begins in Germany. Holland begins a general mobilization of her military.

29 August - Europe: Switzerland mobilizes the whole of her border forces.

30 August - Poland: The Polish military begins to prepare for war.

31 August - Europe: The British government begins evacuating civillians from London out of fear of poison gas attacks. The Supreme Soviet ratifies the non-aggression treaty with Germany. Poland: Hitler sets the date for the invasion of Poland at 4:45AM the next morning. The German radio station at Gleiwitz broadcasts that it is under attack, as per Hitler's earlier plans (See 10 August), providing a pretense for war.

The War in Europe Begins



1 September - Poland: At 4:45AM, 53 German divisions begin the assault on Poland, demonstrating for the first time the effectiveness of the Blitzkrieg. The Luftwaffe destroys the Polish airforce on the ground. Germany annexes the city of Danzig. Europe: The German government issues the Euthanasia Decree, stating that all people with incurable diseases are to be killed in order to free up supplies. The evacuation of children from London begins.

2 September - Europe: The French ambassador to Germany, Robert Coulondre, telegraphs president Daladier, "Stay firm, Hitler will knuckle under." British RAF bomber groups begin deploying to France. Poland: Warsaw is bombed for the first time by the Luftwaffe. In southern Poland, German Army Group South crosses the Warta river and begins a drive on Krakow.

3 September - Europe: The SS Athenia, a passenger liner, is torpedoed by a U-boat off the Irish coast, killing 118. France and Great Britain send ultimatums to Hitler: begin an immediate withdrawl, or face world war. Later that day, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, and France declare war on Germany. Winston Churchill is named First Lord of the Admiralty. British aircraft distribute 6 million leaflets over the German Ruhr valley; they read, "Your rulers have condemned you to the massacres, miseries and privations of a war they cannot ever hope to win."

4 September - Europe: Hermann Goering makes a speech, with Hitler's permission, requesting a settlement with Poland. 29 British bombers attack the German naval yards at Wilhelmshaven; the only serious damage is done by a bomber that crashes into the bow of a ship. Poland: The German invaders have pushed 50 miles into Polish territory.

5 September - United States: The United States announces her neutrality in this new European war. Poland: The German invaders reach the Vistula River, very near Warsaw.

6 September - Poland: The German High Command requests that the Polish government evacuate non-combatants from Warsaw prior to the assault on that city. The Polish command replies that the city will be defended, no one will be evacuated. Krakow falls to the Germans. World: South Africa declares war on Germany. Iraq severs diplomatic relations with Hitler's government.

7 September - Europe: France begins an assault on Germany, crossing the border near Saarlouis, Saarbrücken, and Zweibrücken. Because of the focus on the Polish front, the attacking Frenchmen face little resistence. This is not intended to be a serious threat to Hitler; only 9 of France's 85 frontier divisions are participating.

8 September - Poland: German units reach the outskirts of Warsaw.

9 September - Europe: All Jewish males are shipped from the Ruhr town of Gelsenkirchen to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin; the women and children are left to their own devices. Poland: The German army reaches Warsaw proper and is repulsed upon its initial assault. 10 Polish divisions begin a counterattack at the Bzura river.

10 September - Canada: Canada declares war on Germany. Europe: The British Expeditionary Force begins deployment to France.

12 September - Europe: The invading French forces are now 5 miles inside Germany. Even though his army is meeting no serious resistence, General Maurice Gamelin orders the advance halted and preparations begun for a full retreat at the first sign of real opposition.

16 September - Poland: German forces complete the encirclement of Warsaw. Despite this, the city promises to fight on and refuses offers of surrender.

17 September - Poland: The Red Army invades Poland from the east. Despite Stalin's obviously hostile actions, neither France nor England declare war or even break off diplomatic relations with him. The British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous is torpedoed by U-29.

18 September - Poland: In the face of the advancing German and Soviet forces, the Polish government and military command escape to France.

22 September - Poland: The Soviet Red Army captures the Polish city of Lwow.

24 September - Poland: The Luftwaffe begins attacking Warsaw with incendiary weapons. Special German arson squads (Brennkommados) set fire to synagogues throughout Poland; Jews are blamed for the attacks.

27 September - Europe: The Reichsicherkeit Hauptabteilung (RSHA), the Central Office for Reich Security, begins operation; this group is in charge of the implementation of die Endlösung der Judenfrage, the final solution of the Jewish question. Poland: Warsaw surrenders after suffering 36 hours of constant attack from air and artillery; 150,000 Polish soldiers are captured.

28 September - Poland: The Polish army surrenders. In the 28 days of the war, 750,000 Polish POWs have been taken by German and Soviet forces. Lithuania takes the Vilna region from Poland. The Germans and Soviets sign a treaty of friendship to regulate their now-mutual borders in Poland. A Polish government-in-exile begins formation in France.

29 September - Poland: Poland is officially divided between Germany and the Soviet Union, as had been previously agreed. German "medical teams" begin enforcing the Euthanasia Decree in Poland. Europe: The Soviet Union forces Estonia to sign a mutual assistance pact.

30 September - Europe: The commander of the invading French forces in Germany issues orders to retreat under cover of night.

4 October - Europe: The French have completed their withdrawl, with exception of a light screening force remaining in German territory.

5 October - Europe: Soviet forces seize air and naval bases in Latvia.

6 October - Poland: The final resistence in Poland is put down by the Germans. Europe: Adolf Hitler calls for a peace conference, declaring that Germany has no issue with France and has never acted in hostility to British interests.

9 October - Europe: Hitler decrees that he will resume the offensive if France and England do not seek to end the war. Finland begins mobilizing her armed forces to respond to Soviet threats. United States: American popular sentiment swings toward repealment of the Neutrality Act after the US merchant vessel City of Flint is sunk by a German battleship.

10 October - Europe: France rejects Hitler's offer of peace talks. Winson Churchill argues to the British Cabinet in favor of mining the costal waters of Norway in order to interfere with German iron ore shipments. In Germany, the first plans for the invasion of Norway are proposed. The Red Army seizes bases in Lithuania.

12 October - Europe: England follows France and rejects the peace conference.

14 October - Europe: U-47 penetrates the British naval base at Scapa Flow and sinks the Royal Oak, killing 833.

17 October - Europe: A German counterattack drives the few remaining French units back into France.

18 October - United States: Franklin D. Roosevelt declares that all US waters are closed to submarines of parties in the new European conflict.

19 October - Poland: The German sector of Poland is officially incorporated into the Reich.

27 October - United States: The US Senate passes a new Neutrality Act.

28 October - Europe: Heinrich Himmler issues an order for men of the SS and police to father as many offspring as possible in order to make up for Germans killed in the war.

4 November - United States: The Neutrality Act is altered to allow the sale of weapons to combatants on a strictly "Cash and Carry" basis. The language has been constructed such that England and France are the only nations that can benefit from this policy.

7 November - Europe: Hitler issues a postponement of the attack on France and the west. He will repeat this postponement 15 seperate times, until 10 May 1940. Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands and the Belgian King Leopold issue a plea to Britain and France for those two nations to negotiate with Germany.

8 November - Europe: An assassination attempt on Hitler fails when he abruptly leaves the hall where he was speaking. Not long after, a bomb explodes, killing 8 and injuring 60. The British allege that the assassination attempt was a public relations stunt by Hitler. Two British agents are arrested in Venlo, near the Dutch-German; from them, the Nazis capture a list of British spies on the Continent.

12 November - Europe: Britain and France reject the request for peace negotiations issued by the Netherlands and Belgium.

16 November - Czechoslovakia: In Prague, a student uprising is quickly and violently supressed.

21 November - Europe: The British Royal Navy begins a blockade of German ports.

28 November - Finland: The Soviet Union pulls out of the non-aggression treaty she had signed with Finland.

29 November - Finland: Stalin's government severs diplomatic relations with Finland.

30 November - Finland: The Red Army invades Finland with 45 divisions, 1500 tanks, and 1000 aircraft, sparking the Finnish Winter War.

2 December - Finland: Finland sends an appeal to the League of Nations to assist in mediating a settlement with the Soviets.

5 December - Finland: The Red Army reaches the main Finnish defenses, the Mannerheim Line.

11 December - Finland: The League of Nations agrees to a joint intervention in the Finnish conflict.

12 December - Europe: The German government issues a decree making two years of forced labor mandatory for all male Polish Jews between 14 and 60. Finland: Finnish forces launch a counterattack against the Soviet Eighth Army.

14 December - Finland: The government of the USSR denounces the League of Nations for its meddling in the Finnish campaign; the Soviets are promptly expelled from the League. Britain and France maintain diplomatic relations with Stalin.

15 December - Finland: The Finnish counterattack against the Soviet Eighth Army comes to an end. It has been a resounding success; the Soviet 163rd and 75th divisions have been completely wiped out, and a large amount of military hardware has been captured by the Finns.

17 December - South America: The Battle of the River Plate occurs. After an encounter with the British cruisers HMS Exeter, Achilles, and Ajax off the Argentinian, the German pocket battleship Graf Spee is scuttled near Montevideo, Uruguay.

23 December - Europe: The first detachment of Canadian infantry arrive in Britain.

27 December - Europe: Troops from the Indian army arrive to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force operating in France.

28 December - Europe: The British government begins rationing meat to its citizens. Finland: The Finns destroy the Soviet 122nd division totally.

31 December - Finland: The Finns win two battles, one at Suomusalmi and the other north of Lake Lagoda, repulsing the Soviet advance.

Thanks to Pseudo_Intellectual for correcting an incredibly Euro-centric remark, and to avalyn for catching typos.

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