World WAR II:from Beginning to End An Overview of Key Events of the War
Benito Mussolini ITALY 27-29 OCTOBER 1922 A one-time journalist and aspiring politician named Benito Mussolini turns Italy upside down. He stages a successful coup, supported by the military and business class. It is called the "March on Rome" and in just two days, Mussolini becomes the world's first Fascist leader, known to Italians as "Il Duce."
MeinKampf GERMANY NOVEMBER 1923 While in jail for an aborted coup (“Beer Hall Putsch”), Adolf Hitler begins to write Mein Kampf or "My Struggle.” The book is a political blueprint. It spells out, among other things, Hitler's views on anti-Semitism, Germany's need for more living space and the importance of propaganda.
Reichstag Fire GERMANY 27 FEBRUARY 1933 A young Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe sets fire to the German parliament, or Reichstag building. Hitler uses this incident to target German Communists. An "emergency decree" abolishes almost every civil right and liberty. It quickly comes to include other groups, such as Jews. Their businesses are boycotted, trade unions dissolved and political parties are banned. Hitler and his Nazi Party are in control of the country.
Assassination of SergeiKirov SOVIET UNION 1 DECEMBER 1934 Joseph Stalin's childhood friend, Sergei Kirov, is assassinated. The death of the Leningrad party chief serves as a pretext for Stalin to kill political opponents like Grigory Zinoviev. Stalin's reign of terror culminates with the Great Purge, a series of show trials against Communist party members who are labelled as enemies of the Revolution and executed.
Spanish Civil War SPAIN 17 JULY 1936 The Spanish Civil War begins. It is essentially a proxy battle between the Soviet Union and the Fascist and Nazi governments of Italy and Germany. Canada plays an important role in this war. More than 1,200 Canadian men volunteer to fight the Fascists. They form what is to become known as the “Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.”
Japanese Troops in China CHINA 7 JULY 1937 The war between China and Japan heats up. The two countries have been fighting since 1931, but now the conflict reaches a new level after a seemingly benign incident. At the Marco Polo Bridge, just south of Peking, a simple skirmish leads to war on an unprecedented scale. By mid-December, the Japanese Imperial Army will take China's ancient capital, Nanking, with a brutal campaign of murder and rape that becomes known as the "Rape of Nanking."
Kristallnacht GERMANY 9-10 NOVEMBER 1938 A German diplomat in Paris is killed by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew. In a coordinated attack over two days, the Nazis go on a violent rampage, targeting Jews and their property. Businesses are destroyed and synagogues burned to the ground throughout Germany. It becomes known as Kristallnacht, or, the “Night of the Broken Glass."
Hitler's 50th Birthday GERMANY 20 APRIL 1939 Hitler's birthday is one of the most important events in the Nazi calendar. His 50th surpasses all others, as the party faithful come to fete the Fuhrer. The main event is a parade featuring Germany's formidable war machine. Five months later, that machine rolls over Poland and World War II begins.
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact SOVIET UNION 24 AUGUST 1939 The Soviet Union: German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and his Soviet counterpart ,Vyacheslav Molotov, sign a non-aggression pact. It calls for both countries to remain neutral if either one is attacked by an outside force. The agreement also contains a secret deal—one that carves up Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. Hitler is now safe to proceed with his military ambitions. The stage is set for the beginning of World War II.
Nazis Invade Poland POLAND 1 SEPEMBER 1939 The summer of 1939 is a busy one for Nazi propagandists and their diabolical minister, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler wants to invade Poland, but the German public isn't interested. So the government comes up with a ruse. In late August, Hitler's elite storm troopers, the SS, stage an attack on a German radio transmitter. They blame the Poles, and the next day Germany invades. Two days later, on 3 September, France and Britain declare war on Germany. Canada will follow on 10 September.
Hospital for “Undesirables” GERMANY JANUARY 1940 The mass extermination of Jews and others in World War II is a well-known fact. However, the Nazis start doing this in 1940 with another group of so-called "undesirables.” They are the physically and mentally handicapped, whom the Nazis consider to be expendable. The program is known as Aktion T4. By the time it officially stops in August 1941, Nazi doctors will kill over 70,000 people.
Miracle of Dunkirk FRANCE MAY/JUNE 1940 Codenamed "Operation Dynamo,” a flotilla of 850 small boats and large ships rescues more than 330,000 British, French and Belgian troops on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. They had been cut off by the German Army during a fierce battle.
Germans Invade Paris FRANCE 23 JUNE 1940 In the spring of 1940, the Nazis march into Paris. Hitler is jubilant and for three hours he conducts a whirlwind tour of the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower and the Opera house. Hitler and his entourage turn the city into their personal playground. Hitler never sees Paris again.
London Blitz BRITAIN 7 SEPTEMBER 1940 The London Blitz begins. Nightly raids by the German Luftwaffe lay waste to the city. Hitler wants to crush the spirit of the British people and force their surrender. Great Britain is the last holdout against the Nazi domination in Western Europe. Soon, however, Hitler will give up and turn his attention to another battlefront.
Warsaw Ghetto POLAND 16 OCTOBER 1940 The Warsaw Ghetto is the largest ghetto in Nazi -occupied Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Jews from across Poland are herded into a tiny walled-off cluster of city streets. Starvation and disease are rampant. A quarter of the population dies in the first year alone.
Emperor Hirohito JAPAN 10 NOVEMBER 1940 It is a moment drenched in pomp and politics. Fifty thousand people from across Japan and around the world greet Emperor Hirohito in celebrating the country's 2600th anniversary. Five years in the making, the event serves as a message—if it comes to war Japan will not lose.
Lend-Lease Act USA 11 MARCH 1941 Washington: The U.S. Congress passes the Lend-Lease Act. Under this plan, vast amounts of war supplies are sent to the British, French, Soviet and other Allied nations, often using Canadian ships and planes. American support, however, doesn't extend to officially entering the war.
General Erwin Rommel AFRICA 30 MARCH 1941 German troops begin their offensive in Africa. Led by the so-called "Desert Fox,” General Erwin Rommel, the "AfrikaKorps" engage British and other Allied forces in a series of battles. It culminates in 1942, with a decisive victory by British General Bernard Montgomery at El-Alamein in Egypt.
Operation Barbarossa SOVIET UNION 22 JUNE 1941 Adolf Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union along a 3,000-kilometre front. Stalin and his army are caught by surprise, and the Germans take hundreds of thousands of prisoners. They advance quickly into Soviet territory, laying siege to Leningrad in August and causing tens of thousands to die of starvation and hypothermia. By December, the Nazis are at the gates of Moscow.
Fall of Hong Kong HONG KONG OCTOBER 1941 A contingent of almost 2,000 soldiers from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles of Canada are sent to Hong Kong. They are needed to defend the British colony against Japanese forces. The odds are stacked against the Allies. Canadian, British and Indian troops are outnumbered 5 to 1. The Battle of Hong Kong will end in a tragic defeat on Christmas Day. Canadian POWs will spend the next four years in captivity.
Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor USA 7 DECEMBER 1941 Japanese forces bomb the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor: 2,400 Americans die in the attack and countless warships are destroyed. President Roosevelt will call it "a date which will live in infamy.” Public opinion, which had been opposed to any military involvement, changes almost immediately. The next day, the Americans enter World War II.
Wannsee Conference GERMANY 20 JANUARY 1942 The Wannsee Conference. In a chic and quiet mansion outside of Berlin, 15 high- ranking Nazi officers gather for a meeting. There is only one item on the agenda: Hitler's plan for the "final solution to the Jewish question."
Battle of Midway PACIFIC OCEAN 4-6 JUNE 1942 The Battle of Midway. The Japanese navy loses four of its aircraft carriers to American forces. The ripple effects of this fight are huge, militarily and psychologically. For the Allies, it is proof that the Japanese can be beaten. And for Japan, it is the beginning of the end.
Dieppe Raid FRANCE 19 AUGUST 1942 6,000 troops, most of them Canadian, land on the beaches of Dieppe, France, a German-occupied port. It is meant to test Nazi strength should there be an Allied invasion. The raid is a disaster. Over 3,600 men are killed, wounded, or captured.
Operation Torch NORTH AFRICA 8 NOVEMBER 1942 Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria: Operation Torch. In North Africa, an area controlled by the French Vichy regime falls to the Allies. This marks the first time the Americans fight outside of the Pacific theatre. In just a few days all the French troops loyal to the Vichy government and its Nazi partners surrender and join the Allies.
Siege of Stalingrad Ends SOVIET UNION 2 FEBRUARY 1943 The German army is defeated at Stalingrad. It is considered a key turning point of the war. For the Soviets, it is a stunning victory of will over supposed German military supremacy, and for the Nazis, a staggering loss of men and machinery. It is now a battle for survival.
Italian Surrender ITALY 8 SEPEMBER 1943 Just days after their country is invaded, Italy signs an armistice with the Allies. The first Fascist government of the 20th century becomes the first to surrender. Even though some Italian forces would continue to fight alongside the Nazis, Italy ceases to be a major player.
Teheran Conference IRAN 28 NOVEMBER 1943 The Teheran Conference: Code -named Eureka, it is the first time the three major Allied leaders meet. Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill have important decisions to make: when to invade France and how to dismember Germany after its surrender.
D-Day FRANCE 6 JUNE 1944 Operation Overlord begins – the largest combined sea, air and land offensive ever undertaken in human history. 5,000 vessels, 11,590 aircraft and over 150,000 soldiers land on the beaches of Normandy. Alongside them comes an army of photographers, cameramen and reporters to record the momentous event. At Juno Beach, the 3rd Canadian Infantry division goes ashore. Fourteen thousand Canadian troops are part of this historic event.
Red Cross Inspection CZECHOSLOVAKIA 23 JUNE 1944 The Nazis grant permission to the International Red Cross to visit a concentration camp. They tour Theresienstadt, near Prague. Everything is meticulously prepared for the visit and the tour tightly controlled. Officials are duped and write a glowing report. When they later attempt to enter Auschwitz, they are turned back at the gate.
Capture of Saipan SAIPAN 9 JULY 1944 A key strategic point in the Pacific falls to the Allies. Desperate Japanese leaders urge the military and civilians to commit mass suicide rather than surrender. It is known as Gyokusai. Five months later, the Americans launch bombing raids on Japan.
Plot to Assassinate Hitler GERMANY 20 JULY 1944 The plot to assassinate Hitler. German officers, led by Count Claus von Stauffenberg (left), place a briefcase with a bomb inside Hitler's command post. It explodes, but Hitler survives. Hours later von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators are executed. Thousands more die in the purge that follows.
Liberation of Paris FRANCE 25 AUGUST 1944 General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division enters Paris. The commander of the German garrison, General von Choltitz, is taken prisoner. The liberation of Paris is not a great military victory, but for the French resistance who had fought the Germans since 1940, it is a sweet moment.
Liberation of Auschwitz POLAND 27 JANUARY 1945 The Liberation of Auschwitz. Soviet troops find 7,000 prisoners, most of whom are ill and dying. Other inmates are evacuated by the retreating Nazis weeks earlier, forced on death marches to other concentration camps. Almost a million and a half people are deported to Auschwitz during the war. Most of them, mainly Jews, are murdered.
Liberation of Holland HOLLAND MARCH 1945 Canadian troops begin the liberation of Holland. As they make their push across the country, much -needed food and supplies are handed out to a starving civilian population. The Canadian soldiers are welcomed as heroes.
Tokyo Fire Bombing JAPAN 9 MARCH 1945 U.S General Curtis LeMay's B-29 bombers fly their first low-altitude mission over Tokyo. They are carrying a destructive new weapon, specifically designed to burn Japanese buildings, most of which are made of wood. In just 3 hours 100,000 civilians are killed. The new napalm bomb used in the raid becomes known as the M-69.
Hitler Dead GERMANY 30 APRIL 1945 At 3:45 p.m., a shot rings out in the Führer's study in Berlin. When aides enter the room, they find Hitler slumped on one side of the sofa and Eva Braun, whom he'd married the day before, on the other side. She had swallowed a cyanide capsule and he had shot himself in the head. Both bodies are burned in the garden of the Chancellery and then buried in a shell crater.
Germany Surrenders GERMANY 7 MAY 1945 Berlin falls silent. The carnage comes to an end. The remaining German high command orders their soldiers to stop fighting. A few holdouts resist, believing Hitler to be still alive, but most simply give up. A decade earlier, Hitler promised a new Germany. Indeed, it is now unrecognizable – defeated, destroyed and occupied by foreign armies.
Atomic Bomb THE PACIFIC 6 AUGUST 1945 A B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, takes off from the Mariana Islands and heads toward Japan. At 8:15 a.m. local time, the first nuclear bomb in history is dropped from 10,000 metres. It takes 51 seconds to reach its target of Hiroshima. The fireball annihilates parts of the city. Around 75,000 people are killed instantly and 50,000 die in the following weeks. Three days later, another nuclear bomb levels the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Humanity has entered the nuclear age.
Nuremburg Trials GERMANY 20 NOVEMBER 1945 The Nuremburg trials open. Leaders of the Nazi regime are to be tried for war crimes. The irony escapes no one: the city had once been the site of huge rallies where Hitler promised to build a greater Germany. Of the 21 accused, 12 are sentenced to die.
THE END All text (with some editing) and pictures in this presentation are from the following CBC website: http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/lovehatepropaganda/timeline.html All sounds are in the public domain.