Timeline of World War II (1939)

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This is a timeline of events that stretched over the period of World War II . For events preceding September 1, 1939, see the timeline of events preceding World War II.



The Allies and Axis powers at the dawn of the German/Soviet invasion of Poland Ww2 allied axis 1939 sep.PNG
The Allies and Axis powers at the dawn of the German/Soviet invasion of Poland
1: The Republic of China and the Empire of Japan are involved in the early stages of the third year of armed conflict between them during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The war is in what will be known as the "Second Period", which starts in October 1938 and ends in December 1941. This conflict will eventually be swept up into World War II when Japan joins the Axis and China joins the Allies.
1: The Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany starts at 4:45 a.m. with the Luftwaffe attacking several targets in Poland. The Luftwaffe launches air attacks against Kraków, Łódź, and Warsaw. Within five minutes of the Luftwaffe attacks, Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine orders the old Battleship Schleswig-Holstein to open fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea, but the attack is repulsed. By 8:00 a.m., troops of the German Army, still without a formal declaration of war issued, launch an attack near the Polish town of Mokra.
1: Norway and Switzerland declare their neutrality.
1: The British government declares general mobilization of the British Armed Forces and starts evacuation plans in preparation of German air attacks.
2: The United Kingdom and France issue a joint ultimatum to Germany, requiring German troops to evacuate Polish territory; President Douglas Hyde of the Republic of Ireland declares the neutrality of his nation; the Swiss government orders a general mobilization of its forces.
2: The National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 is enacted immediately and enforces full conscription on all males between 18 and 41 resident in the UK.
2: The Free City of Danzig is annexed by Germany. Resistors entrenched in the city's Polish Post Office are overwhelmed.
3: At 11:15 a.m. British Standard Time (BST), British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces on BBC Radio that the deadline of the final British ultimatum for the withdrawal of German troops from Poland expired at 11:00am and that "consequently this nation is at war with Germany". The Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand and the Viceroy of India also declare war on Germany within hours of Britain's declaration.
3: At 12:30pm BST the French Government delivers a similar final ultimatum; which expires at 3:00pm BST. [1]
3: Within hours of the British declaration of War, SS Athenia, a British cruise ship en route from Glasgow, Scotland to Montreal, Quebec, Canada is torpedoed by the German submarine U-30 250 miles (400 km) Northwest of Ireland. 112 passengers and crew members are killed. The "Battle of the Atlantic" starts.
3: Bromberg massacre: many ethnic German civilians are killed in the Polish city of Bromberg.
4: At 8:00 a.m. Newfoundland Standard Time (NST), Dominion of Newfoundland declares war on Germany.
4: In the first British offensive action of the war, the Royal Air Force launch a raid on the German fleet in the Heligoland Bight. They target the German pocket-battleship Admiral Scheer anchored off Wilhelmshaven at the western end of the Kiel Canal. Several aircraft are lost in the attack and, although the German vessel is hit three times, all of the bombs fail to explode.
4: Japan announces its neutrality in the European situation. The British Admiralty announces the beginning of a naval blockade on Germany, one of a range of measures by which the British will wage economic warfare on the Axis powers.
4: The United States launches the Neutrality Patrol.
5: South African Prime Minister Barry Hertzog fails to gain support for a declaration of South African neutrality and is deposed by a party caucus for Deputy Prime Minister Jan Smuts.
5: The United States publicly declares neutrality. [2]
6: South Africa, now under Prime Minister Jan Smuts, declares war on Germany.
6: Battle of Barking Creek, a friendly fire incident, results in the first RAF fighter pilot fatality of the war. [3]
6: The German army occupies Kraków in the south of Poland; Polish army is in general retreat.
7: France begins a token offensive, moving into German territory near Saarbrücken.
7: The National Registration Act 1939 is passed in Britain introducing identity cards and allowing the government to control labour.
8: The British Government announces the re-introduction of the convoy system for merchant ships and a full-scale blockade on German shipping.
9: The French Saar Offensive stalls at the heavily mined Warndt Forest having advanced approximately 8 miles (13 km) into lightly defended German territory.
10: After passing both Houses of the Canadian parliament by unanimous consent and receiving Royal Assent by the Governor General of Canada, Lord Tweedsmuir, Canada declares war on Germany on September 10th. [4]
11: Viceroy of India Lord Linlithgow announces to the two houses of the Indian Legislature (the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly) that due to India's participation in the war, the plans for the Federation of India under the Government of India Act 1935 will be indefinitely postponed.
12: General Gamelin orders a halt to the French advance into Germany.
14: Destroyers escorting the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal sank the U-39 with depth charges. All crew members were rescued and taken prisoner. It was the first sinking of a German U-boat in WWII.
15: The Polish Army is ordered to hold out at the Romanian border until the Allies arrive. [5]
16: The German Army complete the encirclement of Warsaw.
16: The French complete their retreat from Germany, ending the Saar Offensive.
17: The Soviet Union invades Poland from the east, occupying the territory east of the Curzon line as well as Białystok and Eastern Galicia.
17: Aircraft carrier HMS Courageous is torpedoed and sunk by U-29 on patrol off the coast of Ireland.
17: The Imperial Japanese Army launches attacks on the Chinese city of Changsha, when their forces in northern Jiangxi attacked westward toward Henan.
18: Polish President Ignacy Mościcki and Commander-in-Chief Edward Rydz-Śmigły leave Poland for Romania, where they are both interned; Russian forces reach Vilnius and Brest-Litovsk. Polish submarine escapes from Tallinn; Estonia's neutrality is questioned by the Soviet Union and Germany.
19: The German and Soviet armies link up near Brest Litovsk.
19: Soviet Union blockades the harbour of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
19: The Japanese Imperial Army attacks the Chinese National Revolutionary Army along the Xinqiang River using poison gas during the Battle of Changsha.
20: German submarine U-27 is sunk with depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Fortune and HMS Forester.
21: Romanian Prime Minister Armand Călinescu is assassinated by the Iron Guard, an ultra-nationalistic group in Romania.
23: The Imperial Japanese Army drive the Chinese National Revolutionary Army out of the Xinqiang River area, and the 6th and 13th Divisions cross the river under artillery cover and advances further south along the Miluo River during the Battle of Changsha.
24: Soviet air force violates Estonian airspace. The Estonians negotiate with Molotov in Moscow. Molotov warns the Estonians that if the Soviet Union doesn’t get military bases in Estonia, it will be forced to use "more radical actions".
25: German home front measures begin with food rationing.
25: Soviet air activity in Estonia. Soviet troops along the Estonian border include 600 tanks, 600 aircraft and 160 000 men.
26: Following a massive artillery bombardment, the Germans launch a major infantry assault on the centre of Warsaw.
26: Russian bombers seen in the Tallinn sky.
27: In the first offensive operations by the German Army in Western Europe, guns on the Siegfried Line open up on villages behind French Maginot line.
28: German–Soviet Frontier Treaty is signed by Molotov and Ribbentrop. The secret protocol specifies the details of partition of Poland originally defined in Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (August 23, 1939) and adds Lithuania to the Soviet Union sphere of interest.
28: The remaining Polish army and militia in the centre of Warsaw capitulate to the Germans.
28: Soviet troops mass by the Latvian border. Latvian air space violated.
28: Estonia signs a 10-year Mutual Assistance Pact with the Soviet Union, which allows the Soviets to have 30 000-men military bases in Estonia. As a gift in return Stalin promises to respect Estonian independence.
29: The Japanese Imperial Army reaches the outskirts of Changsha. However, it is unable to conquer the city because its supply lines are cut off by the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.
30: The German pocket-battleship Admiral Graf Spee sinks its first merchant ship, the British freighter Clement while off the coast of Pernambuco, Brazil.
30: French forces on the French-German border fall back to the Maginot Line in anticipation of a German invasion. [6]


1: Latvian representatives negotiate with Stalin and Molotov. Soviets threaten an occupation by force if they do not get military bases in Latvia.
2: Declaration of Panama is approved by American Republics. Belligerent activities should not take place within waters adjacent to the American continent. A neutrality zone of some 300 miles (480 km) in breadth is to be patrolled by the U.S. Navy.
3: British forces move to the Belgian border, anticipating a German invasion of the West.
3: Lithuanians meet Stalin and Molotov in Moscow. Stalin offers Lithuania the city of Vilnius (in Poland) in return for allowing Soviet military bases in Lithuania. The Lithuanians are reluctant.
5: Latvia signs a 10-year Mutual Assistance Pact with the Soviet Union, which allows the Soviets to have 25,000 men in military bases in Latvia. Stalin promises to respect Latvian independence.
6: Chinese army reportedly defeats the Japanese at the Battle of Changsha.
6: Polish resistance in the Polish September Campaign comes to an end. Hitler speaks before the Reichstag, declaring a desire for a conference with Britain and France to restore peace.
7: Lithuanians again meet the Soviets in Moscow. The Soviets demand military bases.
9: Germany issues orders (Case Yellow) to prepare for the invasion of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
10: The last of Poland's military surrenders to the Germans.
10: The leaders of the German navy suggest to Hitler they need to occupy Norway.
10: British Prime Minister Chamberlain declines Hitler's offer of peace.
10: Lithuania signs a 15-year Mutual Assistance Pact with the Soviet Union, which allows the Soviets to have 20,000 men in military bases in Lithuania. In a secret protocol, Vilnius is made Lithuanian territory.
11: An estimated 158,000 British troops are now in France.
12: Adolf Eichmann starts deporting Jews from Austria and Czechoslovakia into Poland.
12: French Premier Édouard Daladier declines Hitler's offer of peace.
12: Finland's representatives meet Stalin and Molotov in Moscow. Soviet Union demands Finland give up a military base near Helsinki and exchange some Soviet and Finnish territories to protect Leningrad against Great Britain or the eventual future threat of Germany.
14: The British battleship HMS Royal Oak is sunk in Scapa Flow harbour by U-47, under the command of Günther Prien.
14: Finns meet Stalin again. Stalin tells that "an accident" might happen between Finnish and Soviet troops, if the negotiations last too long.
16: First air attack on Great Britain, aimed at ships in the Firth of Forth, Scotland. [7]
18: First Soviet forces enter Estonia. During the Umsiedlung, 12,600 Baltic Germans leave Estonia.
19: Portions of Poland are formally inducted into Germany; the first Jewish ghetto is established at Lublin.
20: The "Phoney War": French troops settle in the Maginot line's dormitories and tunnels; the British build new fortifications along the "gap" between the Maginot line and the Channel.
20: Pope Pius XII's first encyclical condemns racism and dictatorships.
27: Belgium announces that it is neutral in the present conflict.
30: The British government releases a report on concentration camps being built in Europe for Jews and anti-Nazis. [8]
31: As Germany plans for an attack on France, German Lieutenant-General Erich von Manstein proposes that Germany attack through the Ardennes rather than through Belgium – the expected attack route.


1: Parts of Poland, including the Danzig Corridor, are annexed by Germany. Soviet Union annexes the eastern parts of occupied Poland to Ukraine and Belorussia.
3: Finland and Soviet Union again negotiate new borders. Finns mistrust Stalin's aims and refuse to give up territory breaking their defensive line.
4: The U.S. Neutrality Act is passed: the French and British may buy arms, but on a strictly cash basis. American isolationists find the act an "outrage."
4: A German physicist working at Siemens AG sends an anonymous letter to the British Embassy in Oslo offering Britain a report on present and future German weapons technologies.
8: Hitler escapes a bomb blast in a Munich beerhall, where he was speaking on the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. British bombers coincidentally bomb Munich.
13: Negotiations between Finland and Soviet Union break down. Finns suspect that Germans and Russians have agreed to include Finland in the Soviet sphere of influence.
14: The Polish government-in-exile moves to London.
16: The first British civilian casualty occurs when a German bomber kills James Isbister in an air raid on Orkney in Scotland. [9]
17: The IRA is blamed for bombs set off in London.
20: The Luftwaffe and German U-boats start mining the Thames estuary.
23: Polish Jews are ordered to wear Star of David armbands.
24: Japan announces the capture of Nanning in southern China.
26: The Soviets stage the shelling of Mainila, Soviet artillery shells a field near the Finnish border, accusing Finns of killing Soviet troops.
29: The USSR breaks off diplomatic relations with Finland.
30: The Soviet Union attacks Finland in what would become known as the Winter War.


1: Russia continues its war against Finland; Helsinki is bombed. In the first two weeks of the month, the Finns retreat to the Mannerheim line, an outmoded defensive line just inside the southern border with Russia.
2: The Red Army takes Petsamo. [10]
5: The Russian invaders start heavy attacks on the Mannerheim line. The Battles of Kollaa and Suomussalmi begin.
7: Italy again declares its neutrality. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark also proclaim their neutrality in the Russo-Finnish quarrel.
11: The Russians meet with several tactical defeats by the Finnish army.
12: The destroyer HMS Duchess sinks after a collision with the battleship HMS Barham off the coast of Scotland with the loss of 124 men.
13: The Battle of the River Plate off Montevideo, Uruguay. A British naval squadron attacks the Admiral Graf Spee.
14: The Graf Spee retreats, badly damaged, into Montevideo harbor.
14: The USSR is expelled from the League of Nations in response to the Soviet invasion of Finland on November 30. [11]
15: Soviet Army assaults Taipale, Finland during the Battle of Taipale. [12]
17: The Graf Spee is forced by International Law to leave Montevideo harbor; it is scuttled just outside the harbor. Its captain, Hans Langsdorff, is interned.
18: The first Canadian troops arrive in Europe.
18: Germany defeats Britain in the Battle of the Heligoland Bight.
20: Captain Hans Langsdorff commits suicide.
27: The first Indian troops arrive in France.
28: The British Minister of Food W.S. Morrison announced that starting January 8, rationing would be expanded to include butter, bacon, ham and sugar. [13]
29: As the year ends, the Finns continue to have successes in fighting the invaders, along the way capturing many men and vehicles.[ citation needed ]
31: German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels makes a radio address reviewing the official Nazi version of the events of 1939. No predictions were made for 1940 other than saying that the next year "will be a hard year, and we must be ready for it." [14]

See also

Notes and references

  2. "1939 Timeline". WW2DB. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  3. "The Battle of Barking Creek". North Weald Airfield Museum. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
  4. "Canada declares war on Germany". CBC. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
  5. "1939 Timeline". WW2DB. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  6. "1939 Timeline". WW2DB. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  7. "First German air raid on UK". World War II Today. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  8. "Chronology of the Holocaust (1939)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
  9. "World War II Timeline". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
  10. "The Winter War". WW II Database. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  11. "LEAGUE OF NATIONS' EXPULSION OF THE U.S.S.R." League of Nations. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
  12. "1939 Timeline". WW2DB. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  13. Darrah, David (December 29, 1939). "Britain Extends Food Rations to Meat and Sugar". Chicago Daily Tribune . p. 1.
  14. "The New Year 1939/40". Calvin College . Retrieved November 7, 2015.

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