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D-Day | Timeline

World War II in Europe

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National Archives

1939
August: The Russians and the Germans sign a non-aggression pact. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin agree not to invade each other's borders. The two leaders secretly plan to divide Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe between them.

September: Employing blitzkrieg (literally, "lightning war") tactics, Germany invades Poland. Polish military forces are unprepared for the ferocity of Germany's attack.When efforts to negotiate a withdrawal fail, Britain and France declare war on Germany. World War II begins.

1940
May: As Germany marches into Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, Winston Churchill replaces a disgraced Neville Chamberlain, the man responsible for the appeasement of Hitler, as prime minister of Great Britain.

June: Germany captures Paris, and France surrenders to the Nazis. Exacting revenge for his nation's defeat in the first Wold War, Hitler forces French officials to sign surrender papers in the same railroad car in which Germans signed the armistice of 1918.

July 10: The Battle of Britain begins. A three-month battle fought in the skies over Britain will include destructive bombing raids on London and other cities, but by the end of October, the British will hand Hitler his first defeat.

1941
March: President Franklin Roosevelt convinces a largely isolationist Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act, allowing the U.S. to sell or lend war materials to "any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States."

June: Roosevelt freezes German and Italian assets in the U.S.

August: Emerging from secret meetings conducted on warships off of Newfoundland, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt unveil the Atlantic Charter. The charter outlines goals concerning "the final destruction of Nazi tyranny," and a pledge to support "the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live."

December 7: The United States is thrust into war when Japan launches a devastating surprise attack on the U.S. Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. President Franklin Roosevelt will ask the Congress to delcare war on Japan the following day, December 8th.

December 11: Germany and Italy declare war on the U.S.

1942
January: U.S. troops arrive in Europe. Through March, the number of troops shipped overseas averages about 50,000 per month — a number that will soar upwards of 250,000 per month in 1944.

August: Germany begins its assault on the Russian city of Stalingrad. In a battle that will rage for six months, and take hundreds of thousands of German and Russian lives, the Red Army finally defeats invading Nazis. The long, bloody battle proves to be a turning point in the war, as Germany begins a retreat from the Eastern Front.

1943
January: Roosevelt and Churchill hold a conference at Casablanca, Morocco. They affirm their goal of securing the Axis nations' unconditional surrender.

May: U.S. troops led by Generals Dwight Eisenhower and George S. Patton join forces with British troops under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to defeat German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in North Africa.

June: Eisenhower is appointed commander of the U.S. forces in Europe.

July - September: Allied forces capture Sicily and key spots in southern Italy. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is overthrown and imprisoned. Hitler dispatches German troops to fend off an Allied advance in what will be a series of hard fought, costly battles.

November: The "big three," Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, convene in Teheran, Iran to discuss the invasion of Italy. It is the first time all three have met.

December: Eisenhower is named supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.

1944
February: German aircraft production centers are the target of a massive bombing campaign by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Shortly thereafter, more than six hundred U.S. bombers raid Berlin. Despite the devastation caused by the bombing, Germany is able to maintain weapons and aircraft production levels.

June: The Allies capture Rome, Italy.

May 30: The Allied invasion of France commences; troops based in England begin their mobilization to cross the Channel, in a massive effort code-named Operation Overlord. Eisenhower will wait for a good weather forecast to determine the exact day of the invasion.

June 5: Overlord is set into motion. An advance wave of paratroopers flies to drop spots over France late in the evening, and descends into enemy territory.

June 6: D-Day. Over 160,000 Allied troops and 30,000 vehicles are landed along a 50-mile stretch of fortified French coastline and begin fighting on the beaches of Normandy.

July: The Allies take control of the French port city of Cherbourg. The retreating Germans, however, have left the city badly razed and booby-trapped.

August : After four years of German occupation, the Allies liberate Paris with the help of French resistance troops led by General Charles de Gaulle.

December 16: The Battle of the Bulge begins. Hitler sends a quarter million troops across an 85-mile stretch of the Allied front, from southern Belgium into Luxembourg. In deadly cold winter weather, German troops will advance some 50 miles into the Allied lines, creating a deadly "bulge" pushing into Allied defenses.

1945
January: By the end of the month, the Battle of the Bulge ends. Over 76,000 Americans have been killed, wounded, or captured. The Allies regain the territory they held in early December.

February 4-11: The last meeting of the Big Three — Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin -- takes place in the Soviet city of Yalta. Roosevelt and Churchill agree to allow Stalin to control the governments of Eastern Europe at war's end, thereby setting the stage for future Cold War clashes.

March: U.S. forces cross the Rhine River. The Germans retreat into Germany.

April 30: As Soviet forces push into Berlin, Adolf Hitler takes shelter in his bombproof bunker. There, he marries his mistress, Eva Braun, before poisoning her and shooting himself. His remains will never be found.

May 7: General Dwight Eisenhower accepts Germany's unconditional surrender at Reims, France. Germany likewise surrenders to Russia in Berlin.

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