This chronological coverage of World War II provides comprehensive daily summaries of events for each day from September 1, 1939 to September 30, 1945 - a timeline of 2222 days. Nothing comparable is available on the internet or in print. Political, military, economic as well as socially significant moments are given recognition; battles and campaigns of WWII. In addition, the layout incorporates calendars for the years 1939 to 1945.
In Poland... At 0445 hours German forces invade Poland without a declaration of war. The operation is code named Fall Weiss (Plan White). The Germans allot 52 divisions for the invasion (some 1.5 million men), including the 6 armored divisions and all their motorized units. Of the divisions left to defend against an Anglo-French front, only about 10 are regarded by the Germans as being fit for any kind of action. General Brauchitsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, is in command of the campaign. Bock leads Army Group North, consisting of the 4th Army (Kuchler) and 3rd Army (Kluge); Rundstedt leads Army Group South, consisting of 8th Army (Balskowitz), 10th Army (Reichenau) and 14th Army (List). Air support comes from two Air Fleets, commanded by Kesselring and Lohr, which have around 1,600 aircraft. Army Group South, advancing from Silesia, is to provide the main German attacks. The 8th Army on the left is to move toward Poznan, the principal thrust is to be delivered by 10th Army which is to advance in the center to the Vistula River between Warsaw and Sandomierz, while 14th Army on the right moves toward Krakow and the Carpathian flank. The 4th Army from East Prussia is to move south toward Warsaw and the line to the Bug River to the east; 3rd Army is to cross the Polish Corridor and join 4th Army in moving south. The Poles have 23 regular infantry divisions prepared with 7 more assembling, 1 weak armored division and an inadequate supply of artillery. They also have a considerable force of cavalry. The reserve units were only called up on August 30th and are not ready for combat. In the air, almost all the 500 Polish planes are obsolete and prove unable to blunt the impact of the German attack. During the day, the Luftwaffe launches air strikes on Warsaw, Lodz and Krakow. The Polish Commander in Chief, Marshal Rydz-Smigly, has deployed the stronger parts of his army in the northwestern half of the country, including large forces in the Poznan area and the Polish Corridor. He hopes to hold the Germans to only gradual gains. All along the front the superior training, equipment and strength of the Germans quickly brings them the advantage in the first battles. Many Polish units are overrun before their reinforcements from the reserve mobilization can arrive. At sea, as in the air, Polish technical inferiority leads to crushing early defeats. Three of the four Polish destroyers manage to leave for Britain before hostilities begin and later one submarine also escapes. On the first day the old pre-Dreadnought battleship, Schleswig-Holstein, bombards the Polish naval base at Westerplatte.
In Berlin... Officials claim that Polish army regulars started firing on Germans along the frontier and that the fire was returned beginning at 0445 hours. Hitler addresses the Reichstag during the day, declaring "I am determined to eliminate from the German frontiers the element of insecurity, the atmosphere which permanently resembles that of civil war."
From Warsaw... The Polish government appeals for British and French intervention under the terms of the Mutual Assistance Treaties.
In London... The British government demands a German withdrawal from Poland.
In Britain... Because of the fear of air attacks, the evacuation of young children from London and other supposedly vulnerable areas is begun. General mobilization is proclaimed. (The Royal Navy was mobilized on August 31st.) Air Raid Precautions (ARP) are introduced and a "blackout" enforced from sunset. British railways are taken under government control.
In Paris... The French government demands a German withdrawal from Poland.
In France... General mobilization and a "state of siege" (martial law) are proclaimed.
In Rome... The Italian government announces that it will not take any military initiative.
In the Soviet Union... The armed forces are mobilized and the draft age is lowered from 21 to 19.
In Washington... President Roosevelt calls for a ban on indiscriminate bombing of civilians and undefended towns.
In Oslo... The Norwegian government declares its neutrality.
In Bern... The Swiss government declares its neutrality.
In Helsinki... The Finnish government declares its neutrality.
In Poland... Troops of German Army Group South (Rundstedt) troops are already over the Warta River in many places after rapid but expensive victories in the frontier battles. Krakow is now near the front line. In the north, 4th Army (Kluge) makes contact with the Third Army (Kuchler) from East Prussia. Two Polish divisions are destroyed while attempting to pull back through the Corridor. The Luftwaffe is spreading chaos in the Polish rear. The Polish regular troops have been stationed too far forward so the German advance is soon in their rear areas, preventing movement of reserves and completely dislocating any communication left unscathed by the repeated German air strikes in support of the ground forces. There are 6 air raids on Warsaw.
In London... Throughout the day there are frantic talks about how to oppose Germany. The British Parliament is openly opposed to the passive line that the Chamberlain government is taking and in the evening, the Cabinet decides to present an ultimatum to Germany. The National Service Act is passed, allowing for the conscription of all men aged 19-41.
In Paris... Deliberations on how to oppose the German invasion of Poland are held throughout the day. A French government decides to transmit an ultimatum to Germany. The government declares that it will fulfill its obligations to Poland.
In France... The British RAF Advanced Air Striking Force arrives. Some 10 bomber squadrons are involved in the deployment.
In Rome... Mussolini again declares Italian neutrality and calls for a 5-power peace conference.
In Berlin... The German government announces that Norwegian neutrality will be respected, provided that Britain and France do the same. Hitler rejects an offer to mediate the German-Polish dispute, made by Mussolini on August 31st and the proposal for a peace conference.
In Dublin... The Irish government declares its neutrality.
In Bern... The Swiss government orders a general mobilization.
In London... The British ultimatum to Germany expires at 1100 hours and at 1115 hours, Chamberlain broadcasts to announce that the war has begun. Chamberlain forms a War Cabinet, which includes Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty (which is signaled to all Royal Navy ships and installations with the message "Winston is back") and Eden as Secretary for the Dominions. Churchill and Eden have been the most prominent opponents of an appeasement policy. A Ministry of Economic Warfare is established. The British government also announces the implementation of a blockade of Germany. At 1135 hours, as if to confirm the state of war, there is an air-raid warning in London but it is a false alarm.
In Paris... In the afternoon, at 1700 hours, the French declare war before their ultimatum expires.
In Poland... The Polish Lodz Army is now in retreat after being beaten in the frontier battles with Army Group South. German 10th Army ( General Reichenau) forces have crossed the Warta River in some areas while 14th Army (General List) troops are converging on Krakow. The city of Czestochowa falls to German forces. Some Polish units penetrate into East Prussia but their position becomes untenable as German forces cut them off to the south. The Polish air force ceases to exist as an effective fighting element. In Warsaw, there are pro-British demonstrations.
In the North Atlantic... The British passenger liner, SS Athenia, is torpedoed off the northwest coast of Ireland en route to Canada by U-30 because it is mistakenly identified as an auxiliary cruiser. There are 112 dead including 28 American citizens, of some 1400 passengers including some 316 Americans. The German government is unaware of the action of the U-boat until later in the month. Britain believes that this is the start of unrestricted submarine warfare. At this time, 39 of the German fleet of 58 U-boats are at sea. Doenitz, the submarine chief, had hoped for a fleet of 300 before contemplating war with Britain.
In Britain... The 3-day evacuation of 1.5 million civilians from the larger cities to the country is completed.
Over Germany... During the night (September 3-4), British RAF aircraft drop 6 million leaflets on cities in northern Germany and the Ruhr in the first of a series of propaganda raids.
In Sydney... The Australian government declares war on Germany.
In Wellington... The government of New Zealand declares war on Germany.
In Brussels... The government of Belgium declares its neutrality. King Leopold III assumes command of the Belgium Army.
Over Germany... The first attacks by RAF Bomber Command go in against German warships in the Heligoland Bight with 29 Blenheim and Wellington bombers in a daylight raid. The Admiral Scheer is hit three times but the bombs do not explode. The cruiser Emden is damaged by wreckage of a shot-down Blenheim. Of the attacking aircraft, 7 are lost. There is no question at this stage of attacking targets in Germany.
In Poland... In the north, the Polish Modlin Army begins to retreat after putting up a stubborn defense around Mlawa. In the south, the German 10th Army (General Reichenau) forces have already advanced more than 50 miles. Over Lodz, German Me109 fighters reportedly destroy 11 Polish fighters and 3 bombers.
On the Western Front... There are reports of skirmishing in "No Man's Land" between the French Maginot Line and the German Siegfried Line.
In France... Advance elements of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) land from destroyers at Cherbourg.
In Britain... Prime Minister Chamberlain broadcasts to Germany, in German, explaining the British stand and denouncing the Nazi regime.
In Germany... In an article published in the official newspaper of the NSDAP, the Volkischer Beobachter, Goebbels claims that the sinking of the SS Athenia was arranged by Churchill to create an incident between Germany and the United States.
In Tokyo... The government of Japan declares its neutrality and notes that she will "concentrate her efforts on a settlement of the China affair."
In Poland... The German 10th and 14th Armies cross the Vistula River, breaking through the cordon of Polish armies. Polish rear guards and armed civilians offer determined resistance at Bydgoszcz, on the southern end of the Polish corridor, before yielding to the units of the German 3rd Corps. Germans troops find hundreds of German residents of the city massacred by the fleeing Poles. Such incidents are used to provide support for earlier claims by Hitler justifying the invasion. On entering Piotrkow, German forces set fire to the Jewish district. The Polish supreme command orders a general retreat behind the Vistula. Meanwhile, German bombers destroy the town of Sulejow, southwest of Warsaw.
In Britain... The Ministry of Information is formed.
In Washington... The United States government proclaims its neutrality.
In Pretoria... General Jan Christian Smuts is named prime minister of South Africa after the legislature defeats a proposal that the country declare its neutrality. Many South Africans of Dutch descent are sympathetic to German racial policies and are not disposed to aid the British war effort. Smuts replaces pro-German Prime Minister Herzog.
Over Britain... Two RAF Spitfires shoot down 2 RAF Hurricanes in error during the first air raid warning, which turns out to be false. The incident becomes known as the "Battle of Barking Creek."
In Poland... The German 10th Army (Reichenau) continues to lead the advance, having already penetrated to the east of Lodz. Armored spearheads of the German forces capture Tomaszow and Kielce, southwest of Warsaw. Krakow is taken by troops of the German 14th Army (List). The Polish government and supreme command leave Warsaw. The government is relocating to the region of Luck-Kremieniec, while the supreme command moves to Brzesko on the Bug River. The Polish supreme command issues orders for all Poles capable of fighting, in and out of uniform, to retire to the line of the Narew, Vistula and San rivers. Meanwhile, Hitler visits the headquarters of the German 19th Panzer Corps (Guderian), on the northeastern front.
In Pretoria... The government of South Africa, lead by Prime Minister Jan Christian Smuts, declares war on Germany.
In Madrid... The Spanish government, led by dictator General Franco, declares its neutrality. Franco also makes a secret pledge to support the Axis cause.
In Britain... The Royal Navy forms the Northern Patrol consisting of 8 cruisers. The first British eastern convoy sails.
In France... A 72-hour working week is introduced in the munitions industry.
In the Soviet Union... The German passenger liner, Bremen, (52,000 tonnes) arrives at Murmansk, in northern Russia, from New York.
In Baghdad... The Iraqi government breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany.
On the Western Front... French patrols cross the frontier into Germany near Saarbrucken, marking the beginning of the Saar offensive. A total of 11 divisions advance along a 32 km frontage. There is negligible German opposition. The French mobilization is too slow and their tactical system too inflexible to permit any grander offensive operation. These gentle probes continue until September 17th when a larger advance is supposed to be made but is in fact cancelled because the Polish collapse makes it pointless.
In Poland... The Polish naval base at Westerplatte, a enclave in Danzig, surrenders after renewed German bombardment after being besieged since September 1st. The Polish command decides that it will be impossible to hold the line of the Narew River although the order to do so has only been in force for one day. The forces in the Narew area are to retire to the Bug River. The German Schleswig-Holstein begins daily bombardment of Hela, a Polish naval base.
In Berlin... Hitler meets with Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, and orders that "in order not to provoke neutral countries, the United States in particular, it is forbidden to torpedo passenger steamers, even when sailing in convoy. Warfare against French merchant ships, attacks on French warships and mine laying off French ports is prohibited." The order is in response to the sinking of the Athenia.
In Germany... The death penalty is decreed for anyone "endangering the defensive power of the German people."
In London... General Viscount Gort, VC, is appointed to command the British Expeditionary Force.
In the North Atlantic... The first British Atlantic convoys set out. The convoy system has already been reintroduced on the East Coast. Although escorts can only be provided as far as 12.5 degrees west, they do provide effective protection against U-Boats. Many of the faster ships and some particularly slow ones do not sail in convoy at this stage or later in the war. During 1939, almost all U-Boat successes are from such "independents."
In Poland... The German 4th Panzer Division, spearheading the German 10th Army (Reichenau) reaches the Warsaw suburb of Ochota, in the southeast, late in the day (having advanced 225 km in 7 days). The Polish garrison commander in Warsaw, General Czuma, broadcasts a defiant Order of the Day: "We shall fight to the last ditch!" Some 100,000 Polish civilians in Warsaw are engaged in digging trenches on the city outskirts. Meanwhile, other elements of the German 10th Army are heavily engaged around Radom, only 60 miles south of Warsaw; about 60,000 Polish troops are encircled to the west of Radom. The German 14th Army (List) reaches the San River north and south of Przemysl. In the north, the German 19th Panzer Corps (Guderian) is attacking along the line of the Bug River to the east of Warsaw.
On the Western Front... A group of 5 Curtiss Hawk fighters of l'Armee de l'Air (French air force) engage 5 Me109 fighters and claim to shoot down 2 of the German planes.
In London... In response to what the British government declares to be German resort to unrestricted submarine warfare, the government announces a long-range blockade of Germany, broadening the original blockade announced on September 3rd. Also, the government revives the convoy system for merchant ships. Three protected routes are established, two from Liverpool and from the Thames to the Atlantic, one from the Thames and the Firth of Forth.
In Washington... Roosevelt proclaims a state of "limited national emergency," citing the war in Europe which "imposes on the United States certain duties with respect to the proper observance, safeguarding and enforcement" of its neutral status "and the strengthening of the national defense within the limits of peacetime authorizations." All US military forces are authorized to increase enlisted manpower strength and to recall reservists to active duty.
In Poland... The German 4th Panzer Division, part of the German 16th Panzer Corps, mounts an attack in the southeast suburbs of Warsaw but is beaten off. The German command believes that almost all the Polish forces have retired east of the Vistula River but in fact fresh units from the Poznan Army and part of the Pomorze Army have joined together around Kutno. About 10 Polish divisions are assembling in this area under the command of General Tadeusz Kutrzeba. They now begin a counterattack over the Bzura River against the German 8th Army. The battles which follow will be the hardest fought of the campaign. Initially, the Poles gain some success.
On the Western Front... French troops advance into the Warndt Forest across the German border and occupy 3 square miles of German territory. The action is widely viewed as having more propaganda than military purpose since the region, referred to by the French as "occupied Germany," is deserted, heavily mined and booby-trapped.
In France... The last of 13 RAF squadrons arrives in move begun on September 4th to strengthen the British Expeditionary Force.
From Moscow... Molotov prematurely congratulates the Germany for the "entry of German troops into Warsaw" and promises Soviet intervention "within the next few days."
From Berlin... Goring threatens reprisals against Britain if the RAF bombs Germany and boasts that Berlin will never be subjected to enemy aerial attack. He says that "the Polish Army will never emerge again from the German embrace." Ribbentrop invites the Soviets to advance to their new common frontier, the Narew, Vistula and San rivers (the Bug and Pissa would eventually replace the Vistula to avoid a divided Warsaw.
In Poland... Polish armies are ordered to conduct a general retreat to defensive positions in the southeast. The Luftwaffe conducts 15 air raids on Warsaw. German forces broadcast a false news bulletin, announcing the fall of the capital on the same wavelength as Radio Warsaw.
On the Western Front... In reply to insistent demands by the Polish Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Smigly-Rydz, the French Chief of the General Staff, General Gamelin, announces that more than half of his active divisions are in contact with the enemy on the northeast front and that he can do no more.
In France... The first major units of BEF begin to land. Field Marshal Lord Gort is in command. Small advance parties have been arriving since September 4th. In the first month 160,000 men, 24,000 vehicles and 140,000 tons of supplies are sent to France.
In Ottawa... The government of Canada declares war on Germany. The Canadians are the last of the great Dominions to declare war, however, the few days of hesitation permits the accelerated delivery from the US of large amounts of war goods which are now barred under American neutrality laws.
In the North Sea... The British submarine Triton mistakenly torpedoes the British submarine Oxley.