World War II Timeline
How It All Went Down
Hitler Becomes Chancellor
Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
Mussolini Invades Ethiopia
Italy, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, invades Ethiopia.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the 1937 Neutrality Act, which bans travel on belligerent ships, forbids the arming of American merchant ships trading with belligerents, and issues an arms embargo with warring nations.
Japan Defeats China
The Japanese defeat Chinese forces in a clash near Peking, taking control of North China.
Roosevelt Limits Ships to Asia
President Franklin D. Roosevelt forbids U.S. ships from carrying arms to China or Japan.
Roosevelt Quarantines War
In response to Japanese action in China, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a speech in which he calls for peace-loving nations to act together to "quarantine" aggressors to protect the world from the "disease" of war.
Attack on the Panay
Japanese warplanes dive-bomb the American gunboat Panay in the Yangtze River in China. Japan apologizes and pays reparations for the lives lost.
March of Time
Time Inc. releases an anti-Nazi propaganda newsreel entitled March of Time in Nazi Germany.
Hitler Supports Japan
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler announces support for Japan.
U.S. Against Japan
In the United States, popular support for American action against Japan far exceeds support for action against Nazi Germany.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler declares Austria part of the Third Reich.
Hermann Goering Warns Jews
U.S. Recognizes Austria
The United States grants recognition to the new Austrian government.
Mussolini Joins Hitler
In a speech in Rome, Benito Mussolini, fascist leader of Italy, promises to fight the democracies alongside Adolf Hitler's should war break out.
Naval Expansion Act
The U.S. Congress passes the Naval Expansion Act giving President Franklin D. Roosevelt one billion dollars to enlarge the navy.
Hitler Aims for Sudetenland
Adolf Hitler is poised to invade and conquer the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.
Sudetenland and Appeasement
Leaders of France and Great Britain meet with representatives from Germany, including Adolf Hitler, to discuss Germany's demands, ultimately granting Hitler the Sudetenland in the hopes of gaining "peace with honor." The Czechs are not consulted.
Hitler Promises Peace
Adolf Hitler, in return for the Sudetenland, promises to leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone.
During the German Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), 7500 Jewish businesses are looted, 191 synagogues are set afire, nearly 100 Jews are killed, and tens of thousands are sent to concentration camps.
Hitler is Time Man of the Year
Time magazine prints its 1938 Man of the Year edition choosing Adolf Hitler for the title, but does not show the Nazi leader's face on the cover of the publication.
Hitler Annexes Czechoslovakia
Adolf Hitler reneges on the promise made in September of 1938 and takes all of Czechoslovakia.
Roosevelt Writes Hitler and Mussolini
President Franklin D. Roosevelt writes letters to both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, requesting they promise not to attack a list of nations for at least ten years. Hitler would respond on behalf of the Italian leader and himself, assuring Roosevelt that he had nothing to fear.
Senate Blocks Aid to Allies
A group of U.S. Senators block the President's request for permission to offer economic aid to Britain and France in case of war.
St. Louis Refusal
Passenger ship St. Louis, containing 907 Jewish refugees, begins its journey back to Europe after the United States refuses to grant it permission to dock.
Stalin and Hitler Sign Nonaggression Pact
Germany and the Soviet Union agree to a nonaggression pact leaving the Soviets free to strengthen their western frontier, and Hitler free to attack Poland.
Germany Invades Poland
German troops invade Poland on the ground while Hitler's air force bombs Polish cities from the sky.
Britain and France Declare War
Britain and France declare war on Germany honoring their commitment to Poland.President Franklin D. Roosevelt invokes the Neutrality Act but notes, "Even a neutral cannot be asked to close his mind or his conscience."
Congress Lifts Aid Embargo
Congress grants President Franklin D. Roosevelt's request to revise neutrality laws, to repeal an arms embargo so that munitions could be sold to Britain and France, and to prevent American ships from sailing into war zones.
For Whom the Bell Tolls Published
Hitler Seizes Low Countries
Adolf Hitler takes neutral Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg.
Germany Pummels France
German fighter planes and ground troops pummel France.
Hitler Defeats France
Britain forces retreat from France and Adolf Hitler's armies defeat French forces.
Allied Support Grows
The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies is founded.
Fleet Moved to Pearl Harbor
President Franklin D. Roosevelt moves the United States Pacific Fleet base from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
Roosevelt Increases Defense Spending
In a speech to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt requests new defense spending, an enlarged army, and an expanded air fleet. Public opinion favors the new defense program.
Italy Attacks France
Benito Mussolini's Italian forces attack France from the south.
U.S. Withholds Gas from Japan
The United States orders gasoline withheld from Japan sparking protest from the Japanese government.
Congress Enacts Draft
Congress appropriates $16 billion for defense needs, and enacts the first peacetime draft in American history.
America First Committee Formed
The America First Committee is formed.
Roosevelt Aids Britain
President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes a deal to give Great Britain 50 destroyers in exchange for naval bases in Newfoundland, Bermuda, and sites in the Caribbean and the South Atlantic.
U.S. Extends Japanese Embargo
The United States extends the Japanese embargo to include iron and steel.
Japan Joins Axis
Responding to the embargoes imposed by the United States, Japan joins the German-Italian coalition.
Draftees to Camps
The first draft numbers are drawn, sending thousands of draftees to drill camps all over the country.
Roosevelt Reelected for Third Term
In the presidential election, Democrats break with the two-term tradition and renominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for a third term. Republicans nominate Wendell L. Willkie, a public-utilities executive who shared FDR's views on the war in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats Wendell L. Willkie by nearly 5 million popular votes.
U.S. Cracks Japanese Code
United States Naval Intelligence cryptographers crack Japan's secret communications code and learn that Japan intends to conquer China.
Arsenal of Democracy
President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a fireside chat to the American people announcing, "We must be the great arsenal of democracy."
Before the U.S. Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes a "lend-lease" program, which would deliver arms to Great Britain to be paid for following the war's end. Congress approves the bill.
U.S. Seizes Axis Ships
President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the United States Coast Guard to seize German ships that sail into American ports. 65 Axis ships are held in "protective custody."
Axis Consulates Closed
President Franklin D. Roosevelt demands Germany and Italy close their American consulates located in the United States.
Germany Invades Soviet Union
US Aids Soviets
The United States extends lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union.
US Defends Iceland
President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces that the United States will take over defense of Iceland for the duration of the war.
Roosevelt and Churchill Draft Atlantic Charter
Roosevelt Warns Japanese
President Franklin D. Roosevelt warns the Japanese government to cease all aggression toward neighboring countries or else face United States forces.
Provoked by the American destroyer Greer, a German submarine fires on the ship. In response to the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the navy to shoot any Axis battleships they encounter.
German submarines damage the U.S.S. Kearny in a skirmish near Iceland, killing 11.
Reuban James Sunk
The U.S. destroyer Reuben James is sunk near Iceland, killing 115 seamen.
Merchant Ships Armed
In response to the destruction of the battleship Reuben James, the U.S. Congress authorizes American merchant ships to carry arms.
Lend-Lease to Soviets
The United States extends "lend-lease" to the Soviet Union.
Japanese Decide to Attack
The Japanese government decides to attack Pearl Harbor if negotiations with the United States fail.
U.S. Learns Japanese Plan
U.S. Naval cryptographers learn from secret code that Japan plans aggressive action if an agreement with the United States is not met.
Japan Ignores US Requests
Japan dismisses American demands to withdraw forces from China.
US At War
Germany and Italy, Japan's axis partners, declare war on the United States. The United States declares war on Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Largest Budget in History
President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his State of the Union address in which he proposes a massive government spending budget, the largest in American history.
North African Theatre
In the first major Allied offensive, British and U.S. armies attack Germany's Africa Korps on the Mediterranean chasing forces back toward Libya.
US Troops Land In Africa
Under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. troops land in Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca in North Africa.
Chuchill and Roosevelt Plan
Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt meet in Casablanca in North Africa to plan attacks on all fronts, to invade Sicily and Italy, to send forces to the Pacific, and to better aid the Soviet Union.
Russians Trap Germany
The Russian Red Army traps and captures German armies that had invaded the Soviet Union.
RANGEEND_ITALY The Italian government officially surrenders to the Allied powers; still, German forces occupy much of Italy.
Allies Capture Naples
The Allies capture German holdings in Naples.
The Allied powers announce the Cairo Declaration in which all three declare their intention to establish an international organization to maintain the peace and security of the world.
In England, the Allied powers assemble 2.9 million men, 2.5 million tons of supplies, 11,000 airplanes, and hundreds of ships in preparation for D-Day.
Rome falls to Allied forces.
D-Day: The first of nearly 3 million Allied soldiers arrive in Normandy, on the northern shores of France.
Normandy and Brittany
Allied troops take large portions of Normandy and Brittany initiating a German retreat.
U.S. forces, aided by a Free French division, liberate Paris from Nazi control.
Big Three in Yalta
The Allied powers meet in Yalta to negotiate Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. The Yalta Conference would result in the dual administrations in Berlin, the break up of Germany, and the prosecution of war criminals.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia.
Italian insurgents capture Mussolini, murder him, and mutilate his body.
Hitler Commits Suicide
Adolf Hitler commits suicide in Berlin.
The German army signs an unconditional surrender.
The Pacific Theatre
The American air force in Europe heads for the war in the Pacific.
Demobilization of the American army begins.
Atomic Bomb Tested
An atomic bomb is successfully detonated in the New Mexico desert.
Big Three in Potsdam
Allied leaders meet in Potsdam, Germany to send an ultimatum to Japan. Japanese military leaders ruling the government issue no surrender.
Soviet Union Enters Pacific
With still no surrender from Japan, the Soviet Union enters the Pacific war as promised in Yalta, defeating Japanese forces in Manchuria.
A second atomic bomb is dropped in Nagasaki.
Tokyo Petitions for Peace
Tokyo asks for peace on the condition that Emperor Hirohito will retain his throne. The Allies accept.
World War II Ends
A formal surrender ceremony is conducted in Tokyo Bay on the U.S. battleship Missouri. World War II officially ends.