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WWII Timeline

  • Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany

    Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany
    In Germany, Adolf Hitler had followed a path to power similar to Mussolini. He proved to be such a powerful public speaker and organizer that he quickly became the party's leader. He promised to bring Germany out of chaos. Hitler set forth the beliefs of Nazism that became the plan of action for the Nazi Party.
  • Mein Kampf

    Mein Kampf
    Mein Kampf (My Struggle) 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. Nazism had strong beliefs rooted in racial purification and the national expansion of Germany.
  • Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy

    Benito Mussolini's fascist government in Italy
    By 1921, Mussolini had established the Fascist Party. Fascism stressed nationalism and placed the interests of the state above those of individuals. To strengthen the nation, Fascists argued, power must rest with a single strong leader and a small group of devoted party members.
  • Joseph Stalin's totalitarian government in the Soviet Union

    Joseph Stalin's totalitarian government in the Soviet Union
    in Russia, hopes for democracy gave way to civil war, resulting in the establishment of a communist state, officially called the Soviet Union, in 1922. After V. I. Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin, whose last name means "Man Of Steel" took control
  • Japanese invasion of Manchuria

    Japanese invasion of Manchuria
    Leaders in Japan shared a common belief with Hitler that they needed more living space for a growing population. 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.
  • Storm Troopers

    Storm Troopers
    The Great Depression helped the Nazis come to power. Many men who were out of work joined Hitler's private army, the storm troopers (or Brown Shirts). By mid 1932, the Nazis had become the strongest political party in Germany.
  • Third Reich

    Third Reich
    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.
  • Hitler's military build-up in Germany

    Hitler's military build-up in Germany
    In 1933, Hitler pulled Germany out of the League. In 1935, he began a military buildup in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. 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.
  • Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia

    Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia
    By the fall of 1935, tens of thousands of Italian soldiers stood ready to advance on Ethiopia. By May 1936, Ethiopia had fallen. In desperation, Haile Selassie, the ousted Ethiopian emperor, appealed to the League for assistance. Nothing was done.
  • Francisco Franco

    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. After a loss of almost 500,000 lives, Franco's victory in 1939 established him as Spain's fascist dictator.
  • Hitler invades the Rhineland

    Hitler invades the Rhineland
    After his illegal military buildup Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland. The Rhineland is 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.
  • Hitler's Anschluss

    Hitler's Anschluss
    On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria unopposed. A day later, Germany announced that its Anschluss, or "union" with Austria was complete. The United States and the rest of the world did nothing.
  • Munich Agreement

    Munich Agreement
    Hitler invited French premier Edouard Daladier and British prime ministers Neville Chamberlain to meet with him in Munich. When they arrived, the fuhrer declared that the annexation of the Sudetenland would be his "last territorial demand". They chose to believe him and in their eagerness to avoid war they signed the Munich agreement, which turned the Sudetenland over to Germany without a single shot being fired.
  • Phony War

    Phony War
    For the next several months after the fall of Poland, French and British troops on the Maginot Line, a system of fortifications built along France's eastern border, sat staring into Germany, waiting for something to happen. On the Siegfried Line a few miles away German troops stared back. The blitzkrieg had given way to what Germans called the sitzkrieg, and what some newspapers referred to as the phony war.
  • Rome-Berlin Axis

    Rome-Berlin Axis
    The Soviet Union sent equipment and advisers, Hitler and Mussolini backed Franco's forces with troops, weapons, tanks, and fighter planes. The war forged a close relationship between the German and Italian dictators, who signed a formal alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.
  • Nonaggression pact

    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.
  • Blitzkrieg

    On September 1, 1939 the German air force controlled the skies of Poland while tanks controlled the ground. This invasion was the first test of Germany's newest military strategy, the blitzkrieg, or lightning war. The blitzkrieg tactics worked perfectly, with the major fighting over in 3 weeks.
  • Britain and France declare war on Germany

    Britain and France declare war on Germany
    On September 3, two days following the terror in Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Major fighting was over in 3 weeks, long before France, Britain, and their allies could mount a defense. By the end of the month, Poland had ceased to exist - and World War II had begun.
  • The Battle of Britain

    The Battle of Britain
    In the summer of 1940, the Germans began to assemble an invasion fleet along the French coast. The Luftwaffe began making bombing runs over Britain. Night after night, German planes pounded British targets. The RAF was able to repel the airborne attacks thanks to new radar technology.
  • Hitler's invasion of the Netherlands

    Hitler's invasion of the Netherlands
    Hitler turned against the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, which were overrun by the end of May. This marked the end of the phony war.
  • Hitler's invasion of Denmark and Norway

    Hitler's invasion of Denmark and Norway
    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.
  • Marshal Philippe Petain

    Marshal Philippe Petain
    On June 22, 1940, at Compiegne, 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 Petain, would be set up at Vichy, in southern France.
  • Germany and Italy's invasion of France

    Germany and Italy's invasion of France
    France's Maginot Line proved to be ineffective; the German army threatened to bypass the line during its invasion of Belgium. 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. Hitler handed French officers his terms of surrender, with Germans occupying the northern part of France, and a Nazi-controlled puppet government, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain, would be set up at Vichy, in south France.
  • Lend-Lease Act

    Lend-Lease Act
    President Roosevelt suggested a new policy that allowed him to lend or lease arms and other supplies to "any country whose defense was vital to the United States". Isolationists argued bitterly against the plan, but most Americans favored it, and Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941.
  • Pearl Harbor attack

    Pearl Harbor attack
    On the morning of December 7th, 1941 a Japanese dive-bomber followed by more than 180 Japanese warplanes launched from six aircraft carriers. For an hour and a half, the Japanese planes were barely disturbed by U.S. antiaircraft guns and blasted target after target. These losses constituted greater damage than the U.S. Navy had suffered in all of World War I.
  • Internment

    Due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an order requiring the removal of people of Japanese ancestry from California and parts of Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. The army rounded up some 110,000 Japanese Americans and shipped them to ten hastily constructed prison camps.
  • Battle of the Atlantic

    Battle of the Atlantic
    After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler ordered submarine raids agsinst 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. Hitler knew that if he cut that lifeline, Britain would be starved into submission.
  • Battle of Stalingrad

    Battle of Stalingrad
    The German army confidently approached Stalingrad in August 1942. By the end of September the Nazis controlled nine-tenths of the city. Then winter rolled in and the soviets surrounded the city with tanks, cutting off German supplies and forcing their surrender.
  • Operation Torch

    Operation Torch
    Operation Torch was an Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa. It provided the second front the Soviet Union had been requesting since the German invasion.
  • Manhattan Project

    Manhattan Project
    Roosevelt created an advisory committee on uranium to study the new discovery. An intensive program was set up 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.
  • Office of Price Administration

    Office of Price Administration
    As war production increased fewer consumer products were available for purchase. Roosevelt responded to this threat by creating the Office of Price Administration. 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.
  • U.S. convoy system

    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.
  • War Productions Board

    War Productions Board
    The WPB decided which companies would convert from peacetime to wartime production and allocated raw materials to key industries. The WPB also organized nationwide 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.
  • Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

    Women's Auxiliary Army Corps
    WAACs had an official status and salary but few of the benefits granted to male soldiers. In July 1943, after thousands of women had enlisted, the U.S. army dropped the "auxiliary" status, and granted WACs full U.S Army benefits. WACs worked as nurses, ambulance drivers, radio operators, electricians, and pilots - nearly every duty not involving direct combat.
  • Unconditional Surrender

    Unconditional Surrender
    Roosevelt, Churchill, and their commanders met in Casablanca to agree and only accept the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. That is, enemy nations would have to accept whatever terms of peace the Allies dictated.
  • Korematsu v. United States

    Korematsu v. United States
    Faced with expulsion, terrified families were forced to sell their homes, businesses, and all their belongings for less than their true value. 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".
  • Bloody Anzio

    Bloody Anzio
    Hitler was determined to stop the Allies in Italy rather than fight on German soil. 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 and left about 25,000 Allied and 30,000 Axis casualties.
  • D-Day

    Shortly after midnight, three divisions parachuted down behind German lines. They were followed in the early morning hours by thousands upon thousands of seaborne soldiers - the largest land-sea-air operation in army history. By September 1944, the Allies had freed France, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
  • The Battle of the Bulge

    The Battle of the Bulge
    On December 16, under cover of dense fog, eight German tank divisions broke through weak American defenses along an 80-mile front. Hitler hoped that a victory would split American and British forces and break up Allied supply lines. Tanks drove 60 miles into Allied territory, creating a bulge in the lines that gave this desperate last-ditch offensive its name.
  • Harry S. Truman

    Harry S. Truman
    President Roosevelt did not live to see V-E Day. On April 12, 1945, while posing for a portrait in Warm Springs, Georgia, the president had a stroke and died. That night, Vice President Harry S. Truman became the nation's 33rd president.
  • Death of Hitler

    Death of Hitler
    On April 29 Hitler married Eva Braun, his longtime mistress. He wrote out his last address to the German people in which he blames the Jews for starting the war and his generals for losing it. The next day he shot himself while his new wife swallowed poison.
  • V-E Day

    V-E Day
    A week after Hitler's death, 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.