World War II Timeline


German Invasion of Poland

September 1, 1939 - October 6, 1939

1.5 million German troops invade Poland all along its border. The German Luftwaffw bombed Polish airfields, and German warships and U-boats attacked Polish naval forces in the Baltic Sea. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler claimed the massive invasion was a defensive action. To Hitler , the conquest of Pland would bring "living space" for the German people.

Battle of the Atlantic

September 3, 1939 - May 8, 1945

The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of World War II. It began upon the British declaration of war against Germany and ended with Germany's surrender to the Allies. During those 6 years, thousand of ships were sunk and ten of thousands of men were killed in the Atlantic Ocean. The tide of the Battle of the Atlantic turned irrevocably against the Nazis in May 19, 1943. That was the first month that more U-boats were sunk than Allied Merchant vessels. From May 1943 until the end of the war two years later, German submarine were unable to duplicate their successes of the first three years of the war. Destroyers escorts were an instrumental part of the Allied victory in the Atlantic.

Bombing of Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941

Hundred of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight huge battleships, and more than 300 airplanes.

The Bataan Death March

April 9, 1942

After U.S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula, the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make a horrible 65-mile march to prison camps. The marchers made the trip in intense heat and were subjected to harsh treatment by Japanese guards.

Battle of Coral Sea

May 8, 1942

This four-day World War II skirmish in May 1942 marked the first air-sea battle in history. The Japanese were seeking to control the Coral Sea. Unknown to the Japanese, Allied code breakers had learned enough about enemy communications to discern Japanese plans in time for Allied fleets to assemble in the Coral Sea.

Battle of Midway

June 3, 1942 - June 7, 1942

The Battle of Midway was an important turning point in WWII. The Japanese sent a majority of their nay towards Midway island, which was being used by the U.S. as an airfield. It was fought by aircraft launched from aircraft carriers. Four Japanese fleet carriers were lost along with their crew.

Battle of Guadalcanal

August 7, 1942 - February 9, 1943

The World War II Battle of Guadalcanal was the first major offensive and a decisive victory for the Allies in the Pacific theater. With Japanese troops stationed in this section of the Solomon Islands, U.S. marines launched a surprise attack in August 1942 and took control of an air base under construction. Reinforcements were funneled to the island as a series of land and sea clashes unfolded, and both sides endured heavy losses to their warship contingents. However, the Japanese suffered a far greater toll of casualties, forcing their withdrawal from Guadalcanal by February 1943.

Allied invasion of North Africa

November 8, 1942 - November 10, 1942

It was the first time the British and Americans had jointly worked on an invasion plan toghther. Russia had been pressing the Allies to start a new front against the Germans in the western sector of the war in Europe. The landings started before daybreak on November 8th. There was no preliminary air or naval bombardment as the Allies hoped that the French based at the three landing zones would not resist the landings.

The Invasion of Normandy

June 6, 1944 - July 1, 1944

The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments. In the early morning, amphibious landings on five beaches.

Battle Of The Bulge

December 16, 1944 - January 25, 1945

Three German armies launched the deadliest and most desperate battle of the war in the west in the poorly roaded, rugged, heavily forested Ardennes. The once-quiet region became bedlam as American units were caught flatfooted and fought desperate battles to stem the German advance at St.-Vith, Elsenborn Ridge, Houffalize and, later, Bastogne, which was defended by the 101st Airborne Division. The inexperienced U.S. 106th Division was nearly annihilated.

Battle of Iwo JIma

February 19, 1945 - March 26, 1945

The American invasion of Iwo Jima stemmed from the need for a base near the Japanese coast. Following air and naval bombardment, three U.S. marine divisions landed on the island. Iwo Jim was defended by roughly 23,000 Japanses army and navy troops, who fought from an elaborate network of caves, dugouts, tunnels and underground installations. Despite the difficulty of the conditions, the marines wiped out the defending forces after a month of fighting, and the battle earned a place in American lore with the publication of a photograph showing the U.S. flag being raised in victory.

Battle of Okinawa

April 1, 1945 - June 22, 1945

Last and biggest of the Pacific island battles of World War II, the Okinawa campaign involved the 287,000 troops of the U.S. Tenth Army against 130,000 soldiers of the Japanese Thirty-second Army. At stake were air bases vital to the projected invasion of Japan. By the end of the 82-day campaign, Japan had lost more than 77,000 soldiers and the Allies had suffered more than 65,000 casualties, including 14,000 dead.

Liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald

April 29, 1945

The Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by four soldiers in the Sixth Armored Divison. Just before the Americans arrived, the camp had already been taken over by the Communist prisoners who had killed some of the guards and forced the rest to flee into the nearby woods. The Dachau main camp was liberated by units of the 45th Infantry after brief battle with the camp's remaining guards.

V-E Day

May 8, 1945

The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms: In Prague, Germans surrendered to their Soviet antagonists, after the latter had lost more than 8,000 soldiers, and the Germans considerably more; in Copenhagen and Oslo; at Karlshorst, near Berlin; in northern Latvia; on the Channel Island of Sark—the German surrender was realized in a final cease-fire. More surrender documents were signed in Berlin and in eastern Germany.

Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6, 1945 - August 9, 1945

On August 6, 1945, during World War II, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”