Additional Information on the battles of World War II can be found here.
1. German Invasion of Poland
September 1, 1939: Germany launched the blitzkrieg tested three years earlier during the Spanish Civil War upon Poland. Poland's two million man army was easily defeated, many of whom were on horseback against German tanks. The Soviet Union attacked from the west on September 17 according to the Nazi-Soviet non-Aggression pact signed a month earlier. The British declared war on Germany on September 3.
2. April: Germany Invades Denmark & Norway
Hitler used the excuse that he had to protect Denmark and Norway. In spite of a treaty Hitler had with Denmark, he rolled his tanks across its borders on April 9, 1940. Norway's government was headed by Vidkun Quisling, whose name would later become equated with "traitor."
3. Germany invades Holland and Belgium
Hitler moved 136 divisions against Holland and Belgium on May 10, 1940. The Dutch were helpless against the blitzkrieg, which was once again predicated on the possibility of a British attack. On May 14, the Dutch port city of Rotterdam was bombed into submission with no provocation. Queen Wilhelmina escaped to England where a government-in-exile was established. The Dutch suffered 100,00 casualties before surrendering. Hitler placed the Dutch under the rule of Artur von Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian who had helped in the Nazi coup there. The same fate awaited Belgium. A fortress at Eben Emael fell within 36 hours of the blitz on Belgium. King Leopold refused to escape, and many saw this as a form of collaboration with the Germans. he was forced to step down from his throne after the war in 1951.
4. Evacuation from Dunkirk Begins
Once Belgium fell, the British forces were trapped. The only
means of escape back to England was the port of Dunkirk on the French coast.
The British called upon its civil population to donate any small ships that were available to move men and equipment from the European mainland. From May 26 to June 4, 1940, Operation Dynamo was put into action; 887 ships of all sizes, sometimes dangerously, crossed the English Channel to rescue 338,226 men by bringing them to England. Allied forces were battered, but they were in tact enough to fight another day.
5. Paris falls. France surrenders.
The first air raids on Paris began on June 3, 1940.
2000 tanks then moved toward the capital with lightning speed. Refugees streamed from Paris. The government left on June 11.
The World War I hero Marshal Henri Petain took control and surrendered to the Germans. The French signed an armistice at Compeigne on June 22 in the same railway car that Germany signed its humiliating armistice to end World War I.
Learn more about the Fall of France
6. July: Battle of Britain begins.
From September, 1940 to June 1941, the German air force, or Luftwaffe, dropped bombs on London and the other major cities of Great Britain. Over 30,000 Londoners died, but Germany lost over 1,700 aircraft. Many historical sites of London were damaged or destroyed. The plan was called Operation Sea Lion and directed by Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering. German aircraft were eventually detected by early forms of RADAR. When Hitler launched his attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, the plan to bomb Britain into submission was abandoned.
7. April: Yugoslavia & Greece occupied by Germany.
Hitler attacked Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941 on the excuse of
protecting Germans there. Italy moved against Albania.
Even after Yugoslavia was divided up among the victorious Axis powers, the Yugoslav resistance was fierce.
The British tried to help the Greek defenders against German attackers. The Australian and New Zealand force was pushed back until 43,000 of them had to be evacuated to Crete and Egypt.
8. Battle For Tobruk begins.
The British went on the offensive in North Africa in December of 1940. they were successful in removing the Italians from Egypt, and their next victory was at Tobruk in Lybia. 30,000 Italians gave in to a mainly Australian force in late January, 1942. These Allied victories led Hitler to appoint Field Marshal Erwin Rommel as commander of Axis forces in North Africa. He was about to earn his moniker "The Desert Fox."
9. Operation Barbarossa
The Germans positioned three army groups along the eastern frontier: north pointed towards Leningrad, the central group towards Moscow, and the South toward Stalingrad. The Germans would be troubled by the cold Russian weather and supply lines that stretched too long.
Learn more about Operation Barbarossa
10. Japan invades French Indochina
11. May-Dec: Germans stopped outside Moscow
In October of 1941, the Germans reached the outskirts of the Soviet capital, Moscow. Hitler used mostly infantry to attack the city, but these forces were worn down by the severe winter for which they were ill-prepared. German losses were massive by the time a Soviet offensive pushed the Germans back.
12. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor Japan declares War on U.S. & Britain.
On December 7, 1941, while negotiations were taking place between Japanese and American diplomats, the Japanese air force and navy attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. 2,350 Americans were killed and the The US Pacific Fleet in Battleship Row was severely crippled. 29 Japanese aircraft were downed. Roosevelt told a stunned Congress December 7 was "a date which will live in infamy." The United States had entered the war against Japan, but it would now have the opportunity to move against Hitler in Europe by aiding the British.
Learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbor
15. Philippines fall to Japan.
Japanese control of the Philippines would lead to control over all of east Asia. the attack came the day after Pearl Harbor. General Douglas MacArthur only had 90,000 troops, which he pulled back to the Bataan Peninsula, where the US forces experienced starvation conditions in the Bataan Death March. MacArthur was forced to escape, but as he left the island of Corregidor in march 1942, he promised "I shall return."
20. Battle of Midway
Due to effective code breaking after Pearl Harbor, Admiral Chester Nimitz commanded a considerable force, including three aircraft carriers to Midway Island. Japanese fighters were met by a strong air response from the Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise. The Yorktown would be lost, and 5,000 Japanese fighting men were killed, but the Japanese threat to the Eastern Pacific was over.
21. Battle of Stalingrad begins.
Starting in August of 1942, severe house-to-house fighting in the Russian city
of Stalingrad led to a stinging German defeat. Thousands of Russian citizens and
soldiers died each day in an effort to keep the Germans from taking the
The German 6th Army, led by General Von Paulus, was forced to retreat under pressure from Soviet forces led by
Gen.Georgi Zhukov. Paulus finally surrendered after 146,000 soldiers had died. The Germans were on the defensive in the East from then on.
Learn more about the Battle of Stalingrad
22. Oct: British attack El Alamein, Egypt
British General Bernard Montgomery, commanding the 8th Army, faced "the Desert Fox," Erwin Rommel, who wanted to have his "Afrika Korps" reach the Suez Canal. "Monty" used camouflage and trickery (he used dummy tanks) to make Rommel believe the attack was coming from one way and then he would attack from the other. fighting at the Egyptian city of El Alamein was fierce, but the Allies prevailed with stronger fire power and an Axis fuel shortage. Rommel's end was near as American forces landed in North Africa with operation Torch.
23. Nov: Allies Invade Morocco & Algeria Axis occupied all of France
On November 8, 1942, 11 months after Pearl Harbor, over 800 ships, carrying 185,000 men and 20,000 vehicles landed on the Northern coast of Africa in Algeria. This action was code named Operation Torch. The Free French in North Africa welcomed the landings while the Vichy French opposed them. Churchill commented "This is not the beginning of the end . It is the end of the beginning."
Learn more about Operation Torch
25. Battle of the Atlantic
German U-Boats patrolled the Atlantic against the British blockade of Europe and in an effort to stop supplies from America from ever reaching Britain. U-boats operated in groups of 10 called "wolf packs." The German navy under the command of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, carried out total unrestricted submarine warfare to cut off Britain's imports and military supplies. The Allies developed a convoy system where merchant ships were guarded by destroyer escorts. The British developed a system for detecting U-boats that resembled radar. this development gave thr Allies the edge in the Battle for the Atlantic.
Learn More about The Battle of the Atlantic at The Canadian Naval Museum
27. Allies land at Anzio, Italy
Allied forces landed in the Italian peninsula in September of 1942 and fought their way up the boot as winter approached. The US placed forces at Anzio just south of Rome in January of 1944 with 36,000 troops. Field Marshall Albert Kesselring rained terror down on the Allied forces who were exposed on the beaches. They remained trapped until May 23, 1944 when air support allowed them to break out of the Anzio pocket. The next goal was to place the Italian capital of Rome in Allied hands.
29. D-Day: Allies land in Normandy, France
Months of preparation led up to the largest military assault in history, the Allied landings at Normandy in Northern France on June 6, 1944. Led by Dwight D. Eisenhower, over 200,000 British, American, and Canadian forces landed at beaches named Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and Omaha. The worst fighting was on Omaha beach, where Americans were killed as they stepped off their landing crafts. Eventually, the Allies established a beachhead and pushed inland. With landings behind German lines in the form of paratrooper support, the push to Paris was underway. The French capital fell two months later.
Learn more about D-Day
30. Warsaw rebellion crushed
Learn more about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
32. Dec: Battle of the Bulge begins in Belgium
Learn more about the Battle of the Bulge
33. US lands on Iwo Jima
Learn more about the Battle of Iwo Jima
34. April: Battle for Okinawa begins
Learn more about the Battle of Okinawa
36. A-Bomb on Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Learn More about the Atomic Bomb
Almost every battle is listed on World War II links on the Internet
Nihon Kaigun maintains a very complete site on the Japanese Imperial Navy
Pages and images by George Cassutto © 1994-2007
Reproduction prohibited without permission.
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