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WWII Timeline

  • Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy

    In October 1922, Mussolini marched on Rome with
    thousands of his followers, whose black uniforms gave them the name “Black Shirts.” When important government officials, the army, and the police sided with the Fascists, the Italian king appointed Mussolini head of the government.
  • Mein Kampf

    In his book Mein Kampf [My Struggle], Hitler set forth the basic beliefs of Nazism that became the plan of action for the Nazi Party. Nazism the German brand of fascism, was based on extreme nationalism. Hitler, who had been born in Austria, dreamed of uniting all German-speaking people in a great
    German empire.
  • Japanese invasion of Manchuria

    Ignoring the protests of more moderate
    Japanese officials, the militarists launched a surprise attack and seized control of the Chinese province of Manchuria in 1931. Within several months, Japanese troops controlled the entire province, a large region about twice the size of Texas, that was rich in natural resources.
  • Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany

    In Germany, Adolf Hitler had followed a path to power similar to Mussolini’s. Hitler also wanted to enforce racial “purification” at home. In his view, Germans especially blue-eyed, blond-haired “Aryans” formed a “master race” that was destined to rule the world. “Inferior races,” such as Jews, Slavs, and all
    nonwhites, were deemed fit only to serve the Aryans.
    A third element of Nazism was national expansion. Hitler believed that for Germany to thrive, it needed more living space.
  • Storm troopers

    Many men who were out of work joined Hitler’s private army, the storm troopers (or Brown Shirts).The German people were desperate and turned to Hitler as their last hope.
    By mid 1932, the Nazis had become the strongest political party in Germany. In January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor (prime minister). Once in power, Hitler quickly dismantled Germany’s democratic Weimar Republic. In its place he established the Third Reich, or Third German Empire.
  • Third Reich

    In its place he established the Third Reich, or Third German Empire. According to Hitler, the Third Reich would be a “Thousand-Year Reich”—it would last for a thousand years.
  • Hitler's military build-up in Germany

    The failure of the League of Nations to take action against Japan did not escape the notice of Europe’s dictators. In
    1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of the League.
  • Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia

    Mussolini began building his new Roman Empire. His first target was Ethiopia, one of Africa’s few remaining independent countries. By the fall of 1935, tens of thousands of Italian soldiers stood ready to advance on Ethiopia. The League of Nations reacted with brave talk of “collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression.”
  • Hitler invades the Rhineland

    A year later, he sent troops into the Rhineland, a German region bordering France and Belgium that was demilitarized as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. The League did nothing to stop Hitler.
  • Francisco Franco

    In 1936, a group of Spanish army officers led by General Francisco Franco, rebelled against the Spanish republic. Revolts broke out all
    over Spain, and the Spanish Civil War began. The war
    aroused passions not only in Spain but throughout the
    world. About 3,000 Americans formed the Abraham
    Lincoln Battalion and traveled to Spain to fight against
    Franco. “We knew, we just knew,” recalled Martha
    Gellhorn, “that Spain was the place to stop fascism.”
  • Joseph Stalin's totalitarian government in the Soviet Union

    Stalin moved to transform the Soviet Union from a backward rural nation into a great industrial power. In 1928, the Soviet dictator outlined the first of several “five-year plans,” to direct the industrialization. All economic activity was placed under state management. By 1937, the Soviet Union had become the world’s second-largest industrial power, surpassed in overall production only by the United States. The human costs of this transformation, however, were enormous.
  • Hitler's Anschluss

    Austria was Hitler’s first target. The Paris Peace Conference following World War I had created the relatively small nation of Austria out of what was left of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The majority of Austria’s 6 million people were Germans who favored unification with Germany. On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria unopposed. A day later, Germany announced that its Anschluss, or “union,” with Austria was complete.
  • Munich Agreement

    On September 30, 1938, they signed the Munich Agreement, which turned the Sudetenland over to Germany without a single shot being fired. Chamberlain returned home and proclaimed: “My friends, there has come back from Germany peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.”
  • Rome-Berlin Axis

    The war forged a close relationship between the German and Italian dictators, who signed a formal alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis. After a loss of almost 500,000 lives, Franco’s victory in 1939 established him as Spain’s fascist dictator. Once again a
    totalitarian government ruled in Europe
  • Nonaggression pact

    As tensions rose over Poland, Stalin surprised everyone by signing a nonaggression pact with Hitler. Once bitter enemies, on August 23, 1939 fascist Germany and communist Russia now committed never to attack each other. Germany and the Soviet Union also signed a second, secret pact, agreeing to
    divide Poland between them. With the danger of a two-front war eliminated, the fate of Poland was sealed.
  • Blitzkrieg

    This invasion was the first test of Germany’s newest military strategy, the blitzkrieg, or lightning war. Blitzkrieg made use of advances in military technology—such as fast tanks and more powerful aircraft—to take the enemy by surprise and then quickly crush all opposition with overwhelming force.
  • Britain and France declare war on Germany

    On September 3, two days following the terror in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. The blitzkrieg tactics worked perfectly. Major fighting was over in three weeks, long before France, Britain, and their allies could mount a defense. In the
    last week of fighting.
  • Phony war

    The blitzkrieg had given way to what the Germans called the sitzkrieg (“sitting war”), and what some newspapers referred to as the phony war. After occupying eastern Poland, Stalin began annexing the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Late in 1939, Stalin sent his Soviet army into Finland. After three months of fighting, the outnumbered Finns surrendered.
  • Hitler's invasion of Denmark and Norway

    Suddenly, on April 9, 1940, Hitler launched a surprise invasion
    of Denmark and Norway in order “to protect [those countries’] freedom and independence.” But in truth, Hitler planned to build bases along the coasts to strike at Great Britain. Next, Hitler turned against the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, which were overrun by the end of May. The phony war had ended.
  • Hitler's invasion of Netherlands

    A few days later, Italy entered the war on the side of
    Germany and invaded France from the south as the
    Germans closed in on Paris from the north. On June 22,
    1940, at Compiègne, as William Shirer and the rest of the
    world watched, Hitler handed French officers his terms of
    surrender. Germans would occupy the northern part of
    France, and a Nazi-controlled puppet government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, would be set up at Vichy,
    in southern France.
  • Germany and Italy invasion of France

    A few day's later, Italy entered the war on the side of Germany and invaded France from the south as the Germans closed in on Paris from the North. On June 22, 1940, at Compiegne, as William Shirer and the rest of the world watched, Hitler handed French officers his terms of surrender.
  • Marshal Philippe Petain

    Germans would occupy the northern part of
    France, and a Nazi-controlled puppet government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, would be set up at Vichy,
    in southern France
  • The Battle of Britain

    In the summer of 1940, the Germans began to assemble an invasion fleet along the French coast. Because its naval power could not compete with that of Britain, Germany also launched an air war at the same time. The Battle of Britain raged on through the summer and fall. Night after night, German planes pounded British targets. At first the Luftwaffe concentrated on airfields and aircraft. Next it targeted cities.
  • Pearl Harbor attack

    Early the next morning, a Japanese dive-bomber swooped low over Pearl Harbor— the largest U.S. naval base in the Pacific. The bomber was followed by more than 180 Japanese warplanes
    launched from six aircraft carriers. As the first Japanese bombs found their targets, a radio operator flashed this
    message: “Air raid on Pearl Harbor. This is not a drill.”
  • Lend-Lease Act

    Roosevelt compared his plan to lending a garden hose to a neighbor whose house was on fire. He asserted that this was the only sensible thing to do to prevent the fire from spreading to your own property. Isolationists argued bitterly against the plan, but most Americans favored it, and Congress passed the Lend Lease Act in March 1941.
  • Manhattan Project

    In 1941, the committee reported that it would take from three
    to five years to build an atomic bomb. Hoping to shorten that time, the OSRD set up an intensive program in 1942 to develop a bomb as quickly as possible. Because much of the early research was performed at Columbia University in Manhattan, the Manhattan Project became the code name for research work that extended
    across the country.
  • Internment

    However, he was eventually forced to order the internment, or confinement, of 1,444 Japanese Americans, 1 percent of Hawaii’s Japanese-American population. On the West Coast, however, panic and prejudice ruled the day. In California, only 1 percent of the people were Japanese, but they constituted a minority large
    enough to stimulate the prejudice of many whites, without being large enough to effectively resist internment.
  • Battle of the Atlantic

    After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler
    ordered submarine raids against ships along America’s east coast. The German aim in the Battle of the Atlantic was to prevent food and war materials from
    reaching Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Britain depended on supplies from the sea. The 3,000-milelong shipping lanes from
    North America were her lifeline. Hitler knew that if he cut that lifeline, Britain would be starved into submission.
  • Battle of Stalingrad

    The Germans had been fighting in the Soviet
    Union since June 1941. In November 1941, the bitter cold had stopped them in their tracks outside the Soviet cities of Moscow and Leningrad. When spring came, the German tanks were ready to roll. In the summer of 1942, the Germans took the offensive in the Southern Soviet Union. Hitler hoped to capture Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus Mountains. He also wanted to wipe out Stalingrad, a major industrial center on the Volga River.
  • Operation Torch

    Stalin pressured Britain and America to open a “second front” in Western Europe. He argued that an invasion across the English Channel would force Hitler to divert troops
    from the Soviet front. Churchill and Roosevelt didn’t think the Allies had enough troops to attempt an invasion on European soil. Instead, they launched Operation Torch, an invasion of Axis-controlled North Africa, commanded by American General Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

    The military’s work force needs were so great that Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall pushed for the formation of a Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). “There are innumerable
    duties now being performed by soldiers that can be done
    better by women,” Despite opposition from some members of Congress who scorned the bill as “the silliest piece of legislation” they had ever seen, the bill establishing the WAAC became law
    on May 15, 1942.
  • War Productions Board

    The War Production Board (WPB) assumed that responsibility.
    The WPB decided which companies would convert from
    peacetime to wartime production and allocated raw materials to key industries. The WPB also organized drives to collect scrap iron, tin cans, paper, rags, and cooking fat for recycling into war goods. Across America, children scoured attics, cellars, garages, vacant lots, and back alleys, looking for useful junk. During one five-month-long paper drive in Chicago.
  • U.S convoy system

    Convoys were groups of ships traveling together for mutual protection, as they had done in the First World War. The convoys were escorted across the Atlantic by destroyers equipped with sonar for detecting submarines underwater. They were also
    accompanied by airplanes that used radar to spot U-boats on the ocean’s surface.
  • Unconditional surrender

    Even before the battle in North Africa was won, Roosevelt, Churchill, and their commanders met in Casablanca this meeting, The two leaders agreed to accept only the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. That is, enemy nations would have to accept whatever terms of peace the Allies dictated. The two leaders also discussed where to strike next.
  • Korematsu v. United States

    In 1944, the Supreme Court decided, in Korematsu v. United States, that the government’s policy of evacuating Japanese
    Americans to camps was justified on the basis of “military necessity.” After the war, however, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) pushed the government to compensate those sent to the camps for their lost property. In 1965, Congress authorized the spending of $38 million for that purpose—less than a tenth of Japanese Americans’ actual losses.
  • Bloody Anzio

    One of the hardest battles the Allies encountered in Europe was fought less than 40 miles from Rome. This battle, “Bloody Anzio,” lasted four months—until the end of May 1944—and left about 25,000 Allied and 30,000 Axis casualties. During the year after Anzio, German armies continued to put up strong resistance. The effort to free Italy did not succeed until 1945, when Germany itself was close to collapse.
  • D-day

    Under Eisenhower’s direction in England, the Allies gathered a force of nearly 3 million British, American, and Canadian troops, together with mountains of military equipment and supplies. Eisenhower planned to attack Normandy in northern France. To keep their plans secret, the Allies set up a huge phantom army with its own headquarters and equipment.
  • The battle of the Bulge

    As the Germans swept westward, they captured 120 American
    GIs near Malmédy. Elite German troops—the SS troopers—herded the prisoners into a large field and mowed them down with machine guns and pistols. The battle raged for a month. When it was over, the Germans had been pushed back, and little seemed to have
    changed. But, in fact, events had taken a decisive turn. The Germans had lost 120,000 troops, 600 tanks and assault guns, and 1,600 planes in the Battle of the Bulge
  • Death of Hitler

    The same day, he wrote out his last address to the German people.
    In it he blamed the Jews for starting the war and his generals for losing it. “I die with a happy heart aware of the immeasurable deeds of our soldiers at the front. I myself and my wife choose to die in order to escape the disgrace of . . . capitulation,” he said. The
    next day Hitler shot himself while his new wife swallowed
  • V-E Day

    A week later, General Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich. On May 8, 1945, the Allies celebrated V-E Day—Victory in Europe Day. The war in Europe was finally over.
  • Harry S. Truman

    That night, Vice President Harry S. Truman
    became the nation’s 33rd president.
  • Office of Price Administration

    Roosevelt responded to this threat by creating the
    Office of Price Administration (OPA). The OPA fought inflation by freezing prices on most goods. Congress also raised income tax rates and extended the tax to millions of people who had never paid it before. The higher taxes reduced consumer demand on scarce goods by leaving workers with less to spend. In addition, the government encouraged Americans to use their extra
    cash to buy war bonds.