World War 2 Timeline

An illustrated timeline of key events during World War 2 including pre-war events cited as its causes.

Before the official beginning of WW II, a number of countries began to act in an aggressive and warlike manner. Adolf Hitler opened the first concentration camps as early as 1933 and became the “Fuhrer” or sole dictator of Germany in 1934. Mussolini rose to power in 1935 and became the dictator in Italy. Both Mussolini and Hitler quickly began to increase their reach by seizing other smaller countries. Meanwhile China and Japan were at war in Asia. Japan then signed an agreement with Germany, which added Britain and Franch to their list of enemies. As you review the causes of World War 2, some of the events and comments appear random, but they have a cumulative effect much like one domino systematically causing the others to fall.

Timeline of World War 2  (WW2)

Manchuria Takeover beginsSeptember 18 1931
Japan begin takeover of Manchuria, which is later renamed Manchukuo. manchuria-takeover-begins
Hindenburg Elected President in GermanySeptember 18 1932
Hindenburg is elected President in Germany defeating Nazi Party candidate Adolph Hitler and another candidate.
FDR Elected presidentNovember 08 1932
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) is elected president of the United States. fdr-elected-president
Hitler chancellor of GermanyJanuary 30 1933
Hindenburg appoints Hitler chancellor of Germany. He abolishes democracy and becomes a dictator.
FDR implements the New DealFebruary 06 1933
FDR implements the beginning of the New Deal with the Hundred Days.
Works Progress AdministrationFebruary 06 1933
Workers employed by the WPA, a New Deal program
20th Amendment to the ConstitutionFebruary 06 1933
20th Amendment to the Constitution. Establishes the line of presidential succession in which the Vice-President becomes president if the President can no longer perform the duties of office.
First Fireside ChatMarch 12 1933
FDR makes his first fireside chat speaking to the United States population over the radio.
Dachau concentration camp establishedMarch 22 1933
Dachau, the first concentration camp, is established in Germany. By the 1945 over 1000 concentration camps will be established. dachau
Adolph Hitler seizes powerMarch 25 1933
Adolph Hitler seizes power in Germany. Hindenburg is reduced to a figure head.
Non-Aryans are banned from practicing lawApril 07 1933
In Germany, Jew and non-Aryans are banned from practicing law and working in the civil services. Later they will be banned from a variety of professions including farming, art, literature, journalism, music and theater. Between 1933-1939 over 1400 anti-Jewish laws will be passed in Germany.
Japan leaves the League of NationsApril 07 1933
Japan leaves the League of Nations .Nazi Germany had withdraw earlier in the year.
Germany withdraws from the League of NationsOctober 13 1933
Germany Defies All World powers; Quits League, Arms Talk; Leaders Decide to Launch Parlay Anyway.  Developed in 1919 at the Paris peace conference, US President Woodrow Wilson hoped the League would ensure that the First World War truly was “the war to end all wars”. Hitler ordered the German delegates to leave the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, and he withdrew from the League of Nations. He gave as his excuse the fact that Germany was already disarmed, while other countries were refusing to disarm.
Germany withdraws from the League of Nations
Germany withdraws from the League of Nations
Prohibition EndsDecember 05 1933
21st Amendment to the Constitution ends Prohibition. prohibition-ends
Pro-Nazi Rally in Queens NYApril 07 1934
Several thousand Americans attend a pro-Nazi rally in Queens. New York.
Germany Passes Restrictions of JewsApril 25 1934
Germany passes law restricting college enrollment of Jews. Similar legal discrimination already exists in the United States.
SA (Sturm Abteilung or “Brownshirts”) call for the boycott of Jewish shops in Friedrichstraße, Berlin; April 1, 1933.
Nazi party : only legal political party in GermanyJuly 14 1934
In Germany, legislation is passed making the Nazi party the only legal political party. The Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Diseases is also passed, providing for the serilization of unfit parents and the euthanasia of the defective and useless eaters.
In Germany, 30,000 are now interned.July 31 1934
Hitler assumes presidencyAugust 02 1934
Hitler assumes the presidency of Germany when Hindenburg dies and thus gains full control of the government.
Poland begins to create a Jewish policyJanuary 01 1935
Beginning in 1935 and continuing until 1938, Poland begins to create a Jewish policy modeled after that of Nazi Germany.
First Nuremberg Laws are passedSeptember 05 1935
In Germany, the first Nuremberg Laws are passed revoking citizenship from Jews and prohibiting them from marrying non-Jews.
First Neutrality Acts are PassedSeptember 05 1935
In the United States, the first Neutrality Acts are passed authorizing the president to deny American firms the right to sell or ship munitions to belligerent nations. The Neutrality Acts are later expanded in 1936.
I think the government is trying hard to stay out of another war. Just a couple weeks ago, they passed the first Neutrality Act restricting trade of war materials and weapons. I hope the situation doesn’t get worse. Will more neutrality acts follow?
1936: The US Begins Neutrality
1936: The US Begins Neutrality
Italy invades Ethiopia.October 03 1935
Ethiopia was invaded by fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini, confirming the suspicion that the war had racial motivation and sought to extinguish the last light of African power in the world. As battles raged between Ethiopians and Italians in Africa, so it did between Blacks and Italians in the streets of New York. In South Africa, Black workers began a lengthy march up the continent to assist their African brothers in Ethiopia. italy-invades-ethiopia In World War II, Italy invaded Ethiopia in October 1935, marking the beginning of a brutal five-month conflict. The invasion was part of Italy's plan to expand its African colonial empire, and General Rodolfo Graziani led the Italian forces. Ethiopia, a sovereign nation then, was ill-prepared to defend itself against the Italian troops, equipped with modern weapons and air power. The Ethiopians fought bravely and fiercely but were ultimately no match for the Italians. The Italian forces quickly captured the capital of Addis Ababa and declared victory in May 1936. The war was a significant blow to Ethiopia's sovereignty, forcing the country to accept Italian rule. The Italian occupation of Ethiopia lasted until 1941 when Allied forces liberated the country. The war devastated Ethiopia, with thousands of people killed and the country's infrastructure destroyed. It was a tragedy that Ethiopia was forced to endure and a reminder of the power of imperialism and the importance of defending one's sovereignty.
Spanish Civil War beginsJuly 17 1936
The Spanish Civil War was a conflict that anticipated much of the terrible decade that was to follow. The refusal of the British and French governments to do anything to stop German and Italian military intervention on the Fascist side was a rehearsal for the ignoble capitulation to Hitler’s demands on Czechoslovakia of 1938 at Munich.
Spanish women defending the Republic in the Siege of the Alcázar in Toledo, 1936. Wikimedia Commons/Google Cultural Institute. The Spanish Civil War began ...
Spanish women defending the Republic in the Siege of the Alcázar in Toledo, 1936. Wikimedia Commons/Google Cultural Institute. The Spanish Civil War began ...
Berlin Olympic GamesAugust 01 1936
August 1-16: Berlin Olympic Games. Nazis disguise outward signs of anti-Semitism.
Formation of the Rome-Berlin AxisOctober 25 1936
1936 Rome-Berlin Axis agreement linking Italy and Germany politically and militarily. gt;
FDR is elected for his second term.November 03 1936
fdr-is-elected-for-his-second-term In contrast to the grim economic landscape in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office, his second term begins with a brighter outlook. In his January 20, 1937, inaugural address, Roosevelt commends Americans for their hard work over the past four years, but cautions that they must continue their efforts.
Germany signs military agreement with JapanNovember 25 1936
The Anti-Comintern Pact, an agreement that was signed first between Germany and Japan. It's purpose was to state that in the case of an attack by the Soviet Union against Germany or Japan, the two countries agreed to consult on what measures to take "to safeguard their common interests".
Japan invades China.July 07 1937
The Second Sino-Japanese War war ignited from a conflict between Chinese and Japanese troops for control of Chinese mainland. The Second Sino-Japanese War was the biggest Asian war in the twentieth century and contributed to more than 50 percent of casualties in the Pacific War. This war merged into World War II, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.
FDR Quarantine SpeechOctober 05 1937
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Quarantine Speech calls for international cooperation against aggression. Transcript
Rape of NanjingDecember 13 1937
The Rape of Nanjing (or Nanking). The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was the systematic rape, torture, and murder of more than 300,00 Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing (Nanking), the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
“Rape of Nanking” Memorial in Nanjing
“Rape of Nanking” Memorial in Nanjing
Romanian Jews are stripped of their citizenshipJanuary 21 1938
Romanian Jews deported from Dorohoi waiting to be ferried from Volchinets, Bessarabia into Transnistria across the Dniester River
Anschluss: Austria is annexed by Germany.March 12 1938
The Anschluss was formally proclaimed March 12, 1938, but Hitler’s troops crossed into Austria a day earlier to establish de-facto control of the country after Austrian Nazis staged a coup. A referendum a few weeks later formally ratified the fait accompli, with official results showing more than 99 percent in favor. germany-annexes-austria
Jews eliminated from German EconomyApril 21 1938
Jews eliminated from the economy in Germany. Their assets can be seized.
Jewish refugee ship the St. Louis arrives in BelgiumJune 17 1939
The Jewish refugee ship the St. Louis arrives in Belgium after being denied access to Cuba and the United States. Most of the passengers are eventually murdered by the Nazis.
Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact announced in MoscowAugust 23 1939
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression pact signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939.
Germany invades Poland from the westSeptember 01 1939
The aftermath of the German invasion of PolandSeptember 01 1939
Germany invades Poland which officially signals the start of World War 2.
Britain and France Declare WarSeptember 03 1939
Britain declares war on Germany at 11 am, France declares war on Germany six hours later.
September 9:The Germans reach Warsaw.September 05 1939
The United States declares its neutrality.September 05 1939
British troops arrive in France.September 10 1939
The Soviet Union invades Poland from the eastSeptember 17 1939
FDR calls for repeal of Neutrality ActsSeptember 21 1939
FDR calls for a special session of Congress to repeal the Neutrality Acts. He argues the United States could preserve neutrality and provide Great Britian and France with arms by adopting a cash and carry plan.
Warsaw surrenders.September 27 1939
Soviet Union and Germany divide Poland.September 28 1939
Hitler Peace Offer RejectedOctober 06 1939
Hitler's peace offer, based on a German victory in Poland, is rejected by Britain and France.
Jews Moved to Ghetto in PolandOctober 08 1939
In Poland, the process of moving the Jewish population into ghettos begins.
Atomic Bomb Discussions BeginOctober 11 1939
Albert Einstein and others inform FDR of the possibility of creating an atomic bomb.
First German air raid on the British Isles.October 16 1939
US Congress amends Neutrality ActsNovember 04 1939
The United States Congress amends the Neutrality Acts to favor Britain and France, lifting the embargo and authorizing cash and carry.
Soviet troops invade Finland.November 30 1939
British cryptologists decode EnigmaJanuary 17 1940
British Intelligence decodes the first German Enigma messages. Most of Germany's high-level military messages were encoded using a cipher machine called Enigma. Preceding the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Polish intelligence passed on to British intelligence information to break Enigma. Two Bletchley Park engineers invented Colossus, the first electronic, programmable machine in 1943. Colossus not only decoded messages, but also broke through the overlaying cipher. Now the Allies could decipher German communications before they reached the intended recipients.
German troops invade Denmark and Norway.April 09 1940
British forces land in Norway.April 14 1940
Winston Churchill becomes Prime MinisterMay 10 1940
Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg are invaded by Germany. British troops enter Belgium. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigns; Winston Churchill becomes new Prime Minister.
Holland surrenders to Germany.May 15 1940
Belgium surrenders to Germany.May 28 1940
Norway surrenders to Germany.June 03 1940
Italy declares war on Britain and France.June 10 1940
Germans enter Paris.June 14 1940
German troops march toward the Arc de Triomphe in ParisJune 14 1940
France signs armistice with Germany.June 22 1940
France signs armistice with Italy.June 24 1940
Fair Employement Practice CommitteeJune 25 1940
Fair Employement Practice Committee (FEPC) is set up to reduce discrimination in government employment and in defense industries.
The Battle of Britain beginsAugust 08 1940
First all night air raid on LondonAugust 26 1940
Japan joins the Rome-Berlin AxisSeptember 27 1940
British win battle of BritainSeptember 27 1940
Italy invades Greece.October 28 1940
British troops arrive in GreeceOctober 29 1940
FDR Elected Third TermNovember 05 1940
FDR elected to an unprecedented third term as president
Rationing is introduced in Britain.November 30 1940
Deportations of German GypsiesNovember 30 1940
The deportations of German Gypsies to concentration camps in the east begins.
Office of Production Management FormedDecember 20 1940
In the United States, the Office of Production Management is set up to coordinate defense manufacturing and supply material aid to Great Britain. Defense manufacturing will eventually invigorate the United States economy by employing many previously unemployed workers, including an increasing number of women, coining the phrase Rosie the Riveter.
Riveters at work American Recruitment PosterDecember 20 1940
Arsenal of DemocracyDecember 29 1940
During a Fireside Chat, FDR declares that the U.S. should become an arsenal of democracy against the Axis threat.
Soviet Union renews pact with GermanyJanuary 10 1941
FDR signs Lend-Lease BillMarch 11 1941
Germany invades Greece and YugoslaviaApril 06 1941
Germans occupy BelgradeApril 13 1941
Germans occupy Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Russo-Japanese neutrality pact signed.
Allied troops evacuate GreeceMay 02 1941
Germany attacks the Soviet UnionJune 22 1941
German infantry during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Over 62,000 Jews are murdered in western Russia.June 22 1941
Anglo-Russian treaty signed.July 12 1941
Atlantic CharterAugust 11 1941
Churchill and FDR form Atlantic Charter, establishing the war aims of both nations.
Japanese bomb Pearl HarborDecember 07 1941
Britain declares war on Finland, Hungary, and Rumania. Japanese bomb the United States fleet at Pearl Harbor.
War Declared on JapanDecember 08 1941
Britain and the United States declare war on Japan.FDR announcing Declaration of War against Japan. Japan invades Malaya.
Japan invades PhilippinesDecember 09 1941
Germany and Italy declare war on USDecember 11 1941
US Draft Extended to Age 44December 19 1941
United States institutes extended military conscription for men ages 20-44.
Rationing in US beginsDecember 27 1941
Rationing in the United States begins with auto tires.
The Final SolutionJanuary 20 1942
14 Nazi leaders attend a short meeting to discuss the elimination of the remaining European Jews. The genocidal plan is dubbed The Final Solution
Japanese land in Solomon Islands.January 23 1942
Emergency Price Control ActJanuary 30 1942
In the United States, the Emergency Price Control Act fixes price ceilings and controls rents in areas of defense production.
Japanese-Americans internment campsFebruary 19 1942
By order of FDR, Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast are transferred to internment camps in the interior of the country.
Japan captures BataanApril 10 1942
Japan captures Bataan. By June, Japan also controls the Philippines.
The United States first attacks the Japanese by air.April 18 1942
Battle of Coral Sea.May 04 1942
Battle of Midway IslandJune 04 1942
Germans advancing in RussiaAugust 05 1942
Battle of GuadalcanalAugust 07 1942
Battle of Guadalcanal, heavy losses on both sides, eventual United States victory.
Americans land on Guadalcanal.August 07 1942
Americans arriving at Guadalcanal. Aftermath of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Leningrad Offensive BeginsAugust 28 1942
US and British forces land in French North AfricaNovember 08 1942
Fighting in StalingradNovember 11 1942
Fighting between German and Soviet forces in Stalingrad in the Soviet Union.
Germans enter unoccupied zone of Vichy FranceNovember 11 1942
Rationing in the US beginsDecember 01 1942
War rationing books are issued in America with coupons for gasoline, which joins sugar and coffee. Later, during 1943, meat, fats and oils, butter, cheese and processed foods are also rationed.
FDR and Churchill in CasablancaJanuary 14 1943
FDR and Churchill meet at Casablanca and decide upon a policy of Unconditional Surrender
17 German Generals surrender to the Soviets at StalingradJanuary 31 1943
German surrender in TunisiaMay 13 1943
Fair Employment Practice Committee WinMay 27 1943
Due to the migration of many African-Americans from the rural South to the defense centers of the North and the pressure of labor and civil rights groups, an Executive order strengthens the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) calling for mandatory inclusion of nondiscrimination clauses in war contracts and subcontracts. Between 1940 and 1970, 5 million African-Americans took part in this migration, known as the Second Great Migration.
German forces mount a new offensive in RussiaJuly 05 1943
Allies invade Sicily.July 10 1943
Soviet Army counterattackJuly 12 1943
Soviet Army counterattacks Germans in Russia
Mussolini arrestedJuly 25 1943
Benito Mussolini is dismissed by King Victor Emmanuel in Italy and is arrested. He later attempts to escape to Switzerland with his mistress.
End of Hamburg BombingAugust 02 1943
The end of eight days of intensive bombing of Hamburg, Germany by the Allies.
US makes progress in the Pacific TheatreAugust 17 1943
The United States makes progress in the Pacific Theatre, making landings on the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, New Georgia and the Gilbert Islands.
Allies complete conquest of SicilyAugust 17 1943
Italy forms armistice with AlliesSeptember 03 1943
Italy surrenders.September 08 1943
Italy declares war on Germany.October 13 1943
Teheran ConferenceNovember 28 1943
November 28: Tehran conference between the Big Three: Churchill, FDR and Joseph Stalin, of the Soviet Union.
Allied landings south of Rome in Anzio.January 22 1944
German offensive against Anzio Beachhead.February 03 1944
Japanese invade India.March 22 1944
Soviet Success in CrimeaApril 10 1944
April 10-18: Soviet troops experience success against the Germans in the Crimea.
Allies occupy RomeJune 04 1944
D-Day, Allied invasion of NormandyJune 06 1944
American troops on D-Day.June 06 1944
G. I. Bill of Rights PassedJune 22 1944
The G. I. Bill of Rights was passed to provide for veterans after the war.
Russians start offensive on Central FrontJune 23 1944
Hitler Assassination AttemptJuly 20 1944
Bomb planted by Count von Stafenberg fails to kill Hitler.
American forces land on Marianas IslandsJuly 24 1944
Americans break through west of St. Lo in NormandyJuly 27 1944
Germans in retreat from NormandyAugust 12 1944
Allied forces land in southern FranceAugust 15 1944
Japanese driven out of IndiaAugust 17 1944
Paris liberated by the AlliesAugust 25 1944
Paris liberated by the Allies from the Germans. Rumania declares war on Germany.
Brussels LiberatedSeptember 03 1944
Brussels liberated by Allied forces from German occupation.
Allies sign armistice with RumaniaSeptember 13 1944
Allied forces land in Greece.October 04 1944
Russians enter East Prussia.October 18 1944
Americans land in Philippines.October 19 1944
Allies sign armistice with Bulgaria.October 23 1944
FDR is elected for his fourth termNovember 07 1944
FDR is elected for his fourth term; Harry S Truman replaces Henry Wallace as his vice-president.
Cairo conference between Churchill and FDRNovember 22 1944
November 22-26: Cairo conference between Churchill and FDR
First American night air attack on TokyoNovember 28 1944
November 28-29: First American night air attack on Tokyo.
Hungary declares war on GermanyDecember 30 1944
Americans enter Manila: Yalta ConferenceFebruary 04 1945
Dresden raidFebruary 13 1945
Allied firebombing kills 135,000 Germans, including civilians, and destroys 80% of the city.
Americans land on Iwo JimaFebruary 19 1945
Bridge across Rhine at RemagenMarch 07 1945
Americans find intact bridge across Rhine at Remagen, set up bridgehead on east bank.
Daylight air-raid on BerlinMarch 18 1945
Allies Cross the RhineMarch 23 1945
Americans invade OkinawaApril 01 1945
Germans surrounded in Ruhr valley. In the Pacific theatre, Americans invade Okinawa.
FDR DiesApril 12 1945
FDR dies, Harry S Truman takes over the presidency of the United States.
Americans capture NurembergApril 20 1945
Mussolini KilledApril 28 1945
Mussolini captured by Italian partisans and shot to death.
Dachau OverrunApril 29 1945
Dachau concentration camp is overrun by United States soldiers.
Hitler commits suicideMay 01 1945
Berlin surrenders to Russian forcesMay 02 1945
German Forces surrender Holland, N-W Germany, DenmarkMay 04 1945
German forces in Holland, North-West Germany, and Denmark surrender.
Germany Unconditional SurrenderMay 07 1945
Unconditional surrender of all German forces to Britain, Russia, and the United States.
V-E DayMay 08 1945
German surrender confirmed.
United Nations charter is signedJune 26 1945
Liberation of Philippines completeJuly 05 1945
First Atomic Bomb TestJuly 16 1945
The first atomic bomb is exploded in a test at Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Potsdam Declaration is delivered to JapanJuly 26 1945
Potsdam conference ends.August 02 1945
Atomic bomb is dropped on NagasakiAugust 09 1945
Nagasaki is destroyed by an atomic bomb dropped by the United States.
Japan SurrendersAugust 14 1945
Japan surrenders. World War 2 finally ends. Japan officially surrendered to the Allied Powers on September 2, 1945, ending World War II. The signing of the instrument of surrender took place aboard the USS Missouri, a battleship that was anchored in Tokyo Bay. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Allied Powers, including General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the Pacific. The Japanese representatives who signed the document were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Chief. The surrender came after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945, which resulted in tens of thousands of civilians dying and forced Japan to realize the futility of continuing the war.
Peace Treaty with JapanSeptember 02 1945
World War 2 is officially concluded (World War 2 Ends) with the signing of the peace treaty with Japan. Officially V-J day in the United States (victory over Japan). The U.K. celebrates August 15th as V-J Day.