Study Guide

World War I Timeline

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Jan 30, 1933

Hitler Becomes Chancellor

Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

Oct 3, 1935

Mussolini Invades Ethiopia

Italy, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, invades Ethiopia.

May 1, 1937

Neutrality Act

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.

Jul 7, 1937

Japan Defeats China

The Japanese defeat Chinese forces in a clash near Peking, taking control of North China.

Sep 14, 1937

Roosevelt Limits Ships to Asia

President Franklin D. Roosevelt forbids U.S. ships from carrying arms to China or Japan.

Oct 5, 1937

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.

Dec 12, 1937

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.

Jan 21, 1938

March of Time

Time, Inc. releases an anti-Nazi propaganda newsreel entitled March of Time in Nazi Germany.

Feb 20, 1938

Hitler Supports Japan

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler announces support for Japan.

Feb 1, 1938

U.S. Against Japan

In the United States, popular support for American action against Japan far exceeds support for action against Nazi Germany.

Mar 13, 1938


German Chancellor Adolf Hitler declares Austria part of the Third Reich.

Mar 26, 1938

Hermann Goering Warns Jews

Hermann Goering, marshal of the Third Reich and Hitler's second in charge, warns all Jews to leave Austria.

Apr 6, 1938

U.S. Recognizes Austria

The United States grants recognition to the new Austrian government.

May 14, 1938

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.

May 17, 1938

Naval Expansion Act

The U.S. Congress passes the Naval Expansion Act giving President Franklin D. Roosevelt one billion dollars to enlarge the navy.

Sep 12, 1938

Hitler Aims for Sudetenland

Adolf Hitler is poised to invade and conquer the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.

Sep 29, 1938

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.

Sep 29, 1938

Hitler Promises Peace

Adolf Hitler, in return for the Sudetenland, promises to leave the rest of Czechoslovakia alone.

Nov 10, 1938


During the German Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), 7,500 Jewish businesses are looted, 191 synagogues are set afire, nearly 100 Jews are killed, and tens of thousands are sent to concentration camps.

Jan 2, 1939

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.

Mar 15, 1939

Hitler Annexes Czechoslovakia

Adolf Hitler reneges on the promise made in September of 1938 and takes all of Czechoslovakia.

Apr 1, 1939

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.

May 1, 1939

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.

Jun 6, 1939

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.

Aug 23, 1939

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.

Sep 1, 1939

Germany Invades Poland

German troops invade Poland on the ground while Hitler's air force bombs Polish cities from the sky.

Sep 3, 1939

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."

Nov 3, 1939

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.

Dec 19, 2019

For Whom the Bell Tolls Published

American author Ernest Hemingway publishes For Whom the Bell Tolls, a novel about a young American in Spain who joins an antifascist guerrilla force in the Spanish Civil War.

Apr 1, 1940

Hitler Seizes Low Countries

Adolf Hitler takes neutral Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg.

Apr 1, 1940

Germany Pummels France

German fighter planes and ground troops pummel France.

Apr 1, 1940

Hitler Defeats France

Britain forces retreat from France and Adolf Hitler's armies defeat French forces.

May 1, 1940

Allied Support Grows

The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies is founded.

May 1, 1940

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.

May 16, 1940

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.

Jun 10, 1940

Italy Attacks France

Benito Mussolini's Italian forces attack France from the south.

Jun 22, 1940

France Surrenders

France, crushed, surrenders to Germany and signs an armistice. Great Britain now stands alone against the Axis powers.

Jul 26, 1940

U.S. Withholds Gas from Japan

The United States orders gasoline withheld from Japan sparking protest from the Japanese government.

Aug 1, 1940

Congress Enacts Draft

Congress appropriates $16 billion for defense needs, and enacts the first peacetime draft in American history.

Sep 1, 1940

America First Committee Formed

The America First Committee is formed.

Sep 3, 1940

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.

Sep 25, 1940

U.S. Extends Japanese Embargo

The United States extends the Japanese embargo to include iron and steel.

Sep 27, 1940

Japan Joins Axis

Responding to the embargoes imposed by the United States, Japan joins the German-Italian coalition.

Oct 29, 1940

Draftees to Camps

The first draft numbers are drawn, sending thousands of draftees to drill camps all over the country.

Nov 1, 1940

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.

Dec 1, 1940

U.S. Cracks Japanese Code

United States Naval Intelligence cryptographers crack Japan's secret communications code and learn that Japan intends to conquer China.

Dec 29, 1940

Arsenal of Democracy

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a fireside chat to the American people announcing, "We must be the great arsenal of democracy."

Jan 6, 1941

Lend-Lease Program

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.

Mar 30, 1941

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."

May 15, 1941

Robin Moor

In the South Atlantic, the American merchant ship Robin Moor is sunk by a German torpedo. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responds to the German attack by declaring a national emergency.

Jun 16, 1941

Axis Consulates Closed

President Franklin D. Roosevelt demands Germany and Italy close their American consulates located in the United States.

Jun 22, 1941

Germany Invades Soviet Union

Germany invades the Soviet Union violating the Nonaggression Pact. U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson estimates that it will take Hitler less than three months to conquer the Soviet Union.

Jun 24, 1941

U.S. Aids Soviets

The United States extends lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union.

Jul 7, 1941

U.S. Defends Iceland

President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces that the United States will take over defense of Iceland for the duration of the war.

Aug 9, 1941

Roosevelt and Churchill Draft Atlantic Charter

On a British battleship, President Franklin D. Roosevelt meets with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill. The two leaders write up the Atlantic Charter.

Aug 17, 1941

Roosevelt Warns Japanese

President Franklin D. Roosevelt warns the Japanese government to cease all aggression toward neighboring countries or else face United States forces.

Sep 4, 1941


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.

Oct 17, 1941

U.S.S. Kearny

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.

Nov 1, 1941

Merchant Ships Armed

In response to the destruction of the battleship Reuben James, the U.S. Congress authorizes American merchant ships to carry arms.

Nov 1, 1941

Lend-Lease to Soviets

The United States extends "lend-lease" to the Soviet Union.

Nov 3, 1941

Japanese Decide to Attack

The Japanese government decides to attack Pearl Harbor if negotiations with the United States fail.

Nov 29, 1941

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.

Dec 1, 1941

Japan Ignores U.S. Requests

Japan dismisses American demands to withdraw forces from China.

Dec 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor

Japanese fighter planes attack the American base at Pearl Harbor, destroying U.S. aircraft and naval vessels, and killing 2,355 U.S. servicemen and 68 civilians.

Dec 11, 1941

U.S. 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.

Jan 6, 1942

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.

Oct 23, 1942

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.

Nov 8, 1942

U.S. Troops Land In Africa

Under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. troops land in Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca in North Africa.

Jan 1, 1943

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.

Jan 31, 1943

Russians Trap Germany

The Russian Red Army traps and captures German armies that had invaded the Soviet Union.

Sep 8, 1943

Italy Surrenders

The Italian government officially surrenders to the Allied powers. Still, German forces occupy much of Italy.

Sep 28, 1943

Allies Capture Naples

The Allies capture German holdings in Naples.

Dec 1, 1943

Cairo Declaration

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.

Jun 1, 1944

Allies Assemble

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.

Jun 4, 1944

Rome Falls

Rome falls to Allied forces.

Jun 6, 1944


D-Day: The first of nearly 3 million Allied soldiers arrive in Normandy, on the northern shores of France.

Jul 24, 1944

Normandy and Brittany

Allied troops take large portions of Normandy and Brittany, initiating a German retreat.

Aug 25, 1944

Paris Liberated

U.S. forces, aided by a Free French division, liberate Paris from Nazi control.

Feb 11, 1945

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.

Apr 12, 1945

FDR Dies

President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Apr 28, 1945

Mussolini Dies

Italian insurgents capture Mussolini, murder him, and mutilate his body.

May 1, 1945

Hitler Commits Suicide

Adolf Hitler commits suicide in Berlin.

May 2, 1945

Germany Surrenders

The German army signs an unconditional surrender.

May 5, 1945

The Pacific Theatre

The American air force in Europe heads for the war in the Pacific.

May 1, 1945

Demobilization Begins

Demobilization of the American army begins.

Atomic Bomb Tested

An atomic bomb is successfully detonated in the New Mexico desert.

Jul 26, 1945

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.

Aug 6, 1945


The United States drops an atomic bomb—the first to be used in warfare—on Hiroshima, killing 75,000 people instantly, and injuring more than 100,000.

Aug 8, 1945

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.

Aug 9, 1945


A second atomic bomb is dropped in Nagasaki.

Aug 10, 1945

Tokyo Petitions for Peace

Tokyo asks for peace on the condition that Emperor Hirohito will retain his throne. The Allies accept.

Sep 2, 1945

World War II Ends

A formal surrender ceremony is conducted in Tokyo Bay on the U.S. battleship Missouri. World War II officially ends.

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