World War II 1939–1945 key date and history you need to know
The World War II started on September 1,1939 –1945 when Germany attacked Poland without a formal declaration of war. It was the world’s deadliest conflict, estimated to have killed 40 to 60 million people, more than half of whom were civilians.
In support of their mutual defense treaty obligations with Poland, France and Great Britain issued ultimatums to Hitler for the immediate withdrawal of German forces from Poland. When the deadlines expired, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 2, 1939. Germany had Italy and Japan on its side, and were known as the Axis powers.
The Germans and the Soviets agreed that Poland should be divided between them, with the western third of the country going to Germany and the eastern two-thirds being taken over by the U.S.S.R.
Nazis invade Poland –
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces invade Poland from the west on September 1, 1939, prompting Britain and France to declare war on Berlin two days later.
Soviet forces attack Poland from the east on September 17, under a secret pact with Germany, and the city of Warsaw surrenders 10 days later.
Battle of Britain –
On August 13, 1940, the Battle of Britain begins with German bombers carrying out massive attacks on cities such as Coventry and London, the raids continuing for nine months.
Faced with British resistance, Hitler abandons his planned invasion of Britain and declares, later in August, a blockade of the British Isles with his submarine fleet.
Northern France occupied –
After occupying Denmark and Norway, Hitler launches a major offensive against Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and France in May 1940.
France’s wartime leader Philippe Petain on June 17 announces its capitulation; on June 22 he signs the armistice that allows Nazi forces to occupy the north of the country.
On June 18 French General Charles de Gaulle calls from London for resistance.
Petain sets up a government headquartered in the central spa town of Vichy that collaborates with the occupying German forces.
Soviet Union attacked –
On June 22, 1941, Berlin turns east and launches an attack against the Soviet Union.
The German army is halted at the gates of Moscow in December by a Soviet counteroffensive. However its siege of Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, will last nearly 900 days until January 1944.
– Pearl Harbor –
On December 7, 1941, Japan — allied with Germany — attacks the US military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying most of the US Pacific fleet.
The Americans, led by Franklin D. Roosevelt, enter World War II the next day.
– Extermination –
On January 20, 1942, Hitler ramps up at a Berlin conference his “Final Solution” plan to exterminate Jews, in particular by mass killings in concentration camps.
Some six million Jews are slain, as well as many political prisoners, including resistance fighters, homosexuals and gypsies.
The worst maritime disaster of World War II?
The torpedoing of the Wilhelm Gustloff on January 30, 1945 by the Russian submarine S-13. The ship’s final voyage was an evacuation of civilians and wounded German soldiers and sailors from Gotenhafen (now Gdynia, Poland), to Kiel in Germany.
The 25,484-ton German luxury cruise liner was built to carry 1,465 passengers and a crew of 400. The ship, now converted to a 500-bed hospital ship, set sail from the Bay of Danzig, overcrowded with 4,658 persons including 918 naval officers and men, 373 German Women Naval Auxiliaries, 162 wounded soldiers of whom 73 were stretcher cases, and 173 crew, all fleeing from the advancing Red Army.
The exact number of drowned will never be known, as many more refugees were picked up from small boats as the Wilhelm Gustloff headed for the open sea and were never counted. Many of the 964 people rescued from the sea, died later, and it is likely that well over 8,500 people perished.
– North Africa defeat –
In October 1942 British troops defeat the German Afrika Korps in Egypt, handing the Nazi army its first major setback.
In November thousands of British and American forces land in North Africa, leading to the surrender in 1943 of German-allied troops in the region.
– Battle of Stalingrad –
On February 2, 1943, the five-month Battle of Stalingrad ends with Soviet victory over the Nazis.
It is the first Nazi surrender in Europe since the war began, and costs the German army half a million men.
When was the atom bomb dropped on Japan?
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb (nicknamed Little Boy) exploded in Hiroshima, Japan, just seconds after leaving the B-29 bomber Enola Gay. It carried with it the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT. Levelling over 60 per cent of the city, 70,000 residents died instantaneously in a searing flash of heat.
On August 9, 1945, the second atomic bomb (nicknamed Fat Man) exploded in Nagasaki, Japan, after being dropped from the B-29 bomber Bockscar. This bomb contained the equivalent of 21,000 tons of TNT. Over 20,000 people died instantly.
In the successive weeks, thousands more died from the after effects of the radiation exposure of the blast.
– D-Day in France –
In November 1943 the Allies agree to attack Germany via occupied France.
D-Day is on June 6, 1944, when more than 156,000 mainly American, British and Canadian troops land on the Normandy beaches. They overwhelm the Germans and liberate Paris on August 25.
– Germany surrenders –
The Soviet army arrives in Berlin in April 1945 and captures the city by early May.
Hitler commits suicide on April 30. On May 8 Germany surrenders unconditionally, ending the war in Europe.
– Japan capitulates –
On August 6 and 9 US aircraft drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively.
When did World War II end?
In Europe, it ended on May 7, 1945 when General Alfred Jodl, chief of the operations staff in the German high command, signed the document of unconditional German surrender at General Dwight D Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims, France.
The Allies had agreed to mark May 9, 1945 as VE (Victory in Europe) Day, but Western journalists broke the news of Germany’s surrender prematurely, precipitating the earlier celebration. The Soviet Union kept to the agreed date, and Russia and other countries still commemorate the end of the Second World War, known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia and other parts of the erstwhile Soviet Union, as Victory Day on May 9.
In Asia, it ended on August 15, 1945 marked as Victory over Japan or V J Day, since Japan was the last Axis power to surrender, V J Day marked the end of World War II. The formal Japanese signing of the surrender terms took place on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.
On September 2, 1945, Japan officially surrenders. World War II is over.The 40,000,000–50,000,000 deaths incurred in World War II make it the bloodiest conflict, as well as the largest war, in history.