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 Detailed Timeline of European History
Inter-War Period (1919-39) << World War II (1939-45) >> Post-War Era (1945-89)

World War II (1939 - 1945)
Devastation of Europe, Change in Global Balance of Power

WWII Timeline:  |  1939  |  1940  |  1941  1942  |  1943  |  1944  |  1945  |

Go to European History Interactive Map

World War II Interactive Map

Effect of World War II on Each Country

Hungary Awarded Romanian Territory by Nazis (1941): As part of the Nazi's promise to Hungary for joining the Axis Powers, they are awarded a significant portion of northern Romania, which contained a significant Hungarian population.

(Timeline Continued Below)

Jewish Exterminations Enter Full-Swing (1941): Now that Germany was firmly in control of most of Europe, they began to aggressively implement their final solution in regards to the Jews and other undesirables. Allied-control in Middle EastFrom 1933-40, less than 100,000 Jews had been exterminated. In 1941, about 1,100,000 were slaughtered. In addition to being murdered in death camps, Jews (including children) were forced to serve as subjects in cruel and torturous medical experiments. Many were forced to perform slave labor to support the war effort before being killed or literally worked to death (or starved to death). Death camps were set up throughout German-controlled territory. Other groups captured and exterminated included ethnic Poles, ethnic Roma, Soviet POWs, the disabled, homosexuals and political dissenters (such as various religious leaders).

Axis Powers Take Iraq from UK (April, 1941): In April, Axis-friendly regime overthrows UK-supported government in Baghdad.

German/Axis Invasion and Conquest of Yugoslavia (April, 1941): The Germans commenced the invasion on Yugoslavia the same day as their invasion of Greece (April 6). Victory came swiftly, with Yugoslavia surrendering just 11 days later. Yugoslavia was divided among Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Germany Helps Italy to Conquer Greece (April, 1941): With the Italians struggling to gain a foothold in Greece, Germany decides its participation is necessary. The Germans force Romania and then Bulgaria to allow their troops to pass through, beginning their invasion of Greece from Bulgaria to the north on April 6. With German's involvement, the Axis Powers quickly defeat Greece and supplemental Allied troops within a little more than a month. Germany then dictated how Greece would be divided among the Axis Powers.

Germany Sets Up Independent State of Croatia (1941): Nazi Germany puppet state. Declared itself a monarchy before the completion of the conquest of Yugoslavia. Most of Croatia's coastline was awarded to Italy.

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Axis occupation of Balkans

Allies Retake Iraq from Axis Powers (May, 1941).

Nazi Germany invasion of Soviet UnionGermany Begins Invasion of USSR (June 22, 1941): On this date, the Germany army crossed the German-Soviet border, commencing Operation Barbarossa. The Nazi army quickly conquered Soviet-controlled Poland, the Baltic nations, Ukraine SSR, Belarus SSR and a large chunk of Western Russia. Despite this crippling blow to the Soviets, the Germans failed to realize their objective of achieving victory. Although it controlled many dense population centers and important industrial sectors, it failed to capture Moscow, Leningrad or Stalingrad. This would turn the tide against Germany in both the USSR campaign and the war in general, as the Germans would become overextended, enabling the Soviets to regroup and push back. Operation Barbarossa became the largest and most deadly single military campaign in the history of the world.

Note: Purpose of Nazi Invasion of USSR. Hitler had always intended to invade the USSR, with the purpose of expanding the territory for Germans to inhabit, and to increase access to needed raw materials. Furthermore, Hitler viewed the Slavs as an inferior race, while also despising communism, providing justification to destroy and deport Soviets from the Soviet land he coveted. The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 simply gave Germany the time to build strength in Central Europe before poising themselves to conquer Eastern Europe. By fall of 1941, Hitler felt his army was prepared, and that the USSR was weakened following their poor performance in the Winter War vs. Finland.

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German invasion of Baltic statesGermany Takes Baltic Nations from USSR (1941): As part of Germany's invasion of the USSR, it also invades and conquers the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) which the Soviets just captured the year before. For Baltic peoples, the Nazi occupation is less harsh than that under the Soviets. However, it is far worse for the Jewish residents, a large portion who are massacred under Nazi rule, as part of their extermination program.

Allies Take Syria (June, 1941): The Allies determine that the Vichy France-controlled colony in the Middle East is supporting the Axis war effort. In June, the UK and fellow Allies invade from Iraq, successfully gaining control of Syria by July.

German Siege of Leningrad (USSR) Begins (Sept. 8, 1941): The German army attempted to destroy and starve the city of Leningrad through heavy bombardments and blockade. The worst of the siege lasted from September until December of 1941. Although the Germans would not abandon siege until January of 1944, they would lose their greatest advantage before the end of 1941, when the Soviets established a narrow land link to the outside world. More than 1.1 million would die during the siege.

Germany Initiates Battle of Moscow (Oct. 2, 1941): The German army attempted to submit the Soviet capital to their control. The Soviets managed to keep the Nazi army just outside city lines, forcing the Germans to abandon their objective by January of 1942, although the front line remained precariously close to Moscow over the course of the next few years. It marked the first Soviet victory against the invading Germans in WWII. By preventing a quick conquest of Moscow and Leningrad to the NW, the Soviets forced the Germans into a long, protracted war of attrition, which would prove unsustainable for the Nazis in a spacious foreign nation, forcing their all-out retreat in 1944.

Japan Attack of Pearl Harbor, U.S. (Dec. 7, 1941): In 1940, the U.S. prohibited the shipment of various types of war-related goods to Japan, escalating tensions. After Japan invaded and conquered French Indochina (Vietnam) in the summer of 1941, with Germany's endorsement, the U.S. responded by freezing Japanese assets and placing an embargo on oil exports to Japan. Japan was highly dependent on U.S. oil, and therefore considered the embargo an act of war. This provoked the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, abruptly drawing the U.S. into the war with full public support. The successful invasion proved to be a strategic blunder. First, Japan assumed that the U.S. would enter war against it at any moment, but this turned out to be a false assumption, as the U.S. only intended to declare war against Germany and Italy. By engaging the U.S. into the Pacific Theater, Japan turned the tide of the war against itself. Second, Japan focused its attack on battleships, but it was aircraft carriers and submarines that proved decisive in the Pacific Theater.

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Note: U.S. Support of Allies Before Joining War. In 1941, the U.S. significantly increased the size of its navy in light of the escalating threats from hostile German and Japanese ships. The U.S. Navy protected commercial ships conducting business with Allied nations and China, adding tension with Axis Powers, setting the stage for the entry of the U.S. into WWII on the side of the Allies.

Allied Vessel Losses Decrease Significantly in Battle of the Atlantic (1941): 1940 was a disastrous year for Allied ships (primarily UK and its former/current colonies), as German submarines and surface vessels hunted commercial ships mercilessly, while also managing to sink several battleships. Even "neutral" US commercials vessels were being sunk. This continued into 1941, but by spring, the Allies successfully implemented new strategies and technologies to drastically minimize losses. Increasing numbers of destroyers and other battleships were deployed to escort commercial ships. The British also innovated new technology to better detect enemy vessels, while also cracking Nazi naval codes.

(Timeline Continued Below)

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Japan Conquers Indochina (Vietnam) from France (1941): With the blessing of Hitler, Japan conquers the French colony of Indochina (Vietnam) from Vichy France.

Japan Conquers Allied Territories in Southeast Asia (1941): Japan also invaded Malaya (UK territory), Singapore (UK), Hong Kong (UK), Philippines (US) and Dutch East Indies (Netherlands). Japan was successful with each of these invasions, occupying each of these Allied possessions.

African Theater (1941):
North Africa:
Germans send forces into Libya to help the Italians against the Allied forces out of Egypt. With the aid of the Nazis, the Axis Powers push the Allied forces back into Egypt (primarily UK and Commonwealth forces).
East Africa: British troops retake British Somaliland from the Italians (Horn of Africa, East Africa). They then proceed to conquer the entire Italian colony of East Africa (modern Somalia and Ethiopia), bringing an end to "Italian East Africa", and ending the East Africa campaign of WWII.

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WWII Timeline:  |  1939  |  1940  |  1941  1942  |  1943  |  1944  |  1945  |

Next: World War II (1942)

Previous: World War II (1940)

Effect of World War II on Each Country

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