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Nazi Germany Conquers France: April 1940-December 1940


World War II Timeline: June 20, 1940-July 3, 1940

In late June 1940 France officially surrendered to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and in early July Hitler made plans to invade Britain. These World War II events and other major dates are detailed in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: June 20-July 3

June 20: Japan coerces defeated France to allow landings of Japanese naval vessels in French Indochina. Japan also admonishes authorities in French Indochina to stop assisting the Nationalist Chinese.

June 21: Winston Churchill calls for the outfitting and training of 5,000 paratroopers.

June 22: France surrenders to Nazi Germany, and will surrender to Italy on the 24th. A formal cease-fire will take hold on the 25th.

Britain uncovers the German Knickebein system when it locates a radio beam targeting the Rolls-Royce airplane engine factory and leading back to a transmitter in Germany. The system has been helping to guide Luftwaffe bombers to their targets.

June 23: Charles de Gaulle forms the French National Committee while exiled in London. Britain's government will recognize him as the French leader in exile on the 28th.

Adolf Hitler takes a brief, triumphant tour of Paris.

July 1: Winston Churchill sends a letter to Moscow in which he requests a meeting to discuss German imperialism. Pleased with his agreement with Germany, Joseph Stalin maintains that Russia will avoid conflict with Hitler.

The French government moves to Vichy, France.

July 2: Adolf Hitler orders his generals to draft plans for Operation Sealion -- the invasion of Britain.

July 3: With the Vichy regime running France, Britain takes measures to prevent the occupying Nazis from controlling the French navy. The British sink parts of France's fleet in Algeria and commandeer French ships in British ports.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing important events of World War II and the German march through Europe.

Germans sink the Lancastria: The Cunard liner Lancastria, refitted for military transport, helped evacuate British troops and civilians from France. On June 17, 1940, the loaded ship was struck by German Junker 88 airplanes near the port of St. Nazaire. The bombs -- one of which is said to have gone down the ship's funnel -- were fatal. The Lancastria rolled over and sank in minutes. Many who went into the water choked on spilled fuel oil or died when the oil slick caught fire. Of the estimated 4,000 to 9,000 on board, fewer than 2,500 survived.

British remove signs as part of anti-invasion measures: In mid-1940, many in Britain believed that a German invasion was all but inevitable. Throughout the country, and especially in southern England, numerous anti-invasion measures were implemented. Road signs were removed so that parachutists would be disoriented; hundreds of concrete pillboxes were constructed in a series of east-west defensive lines; tall wooden posts were erected in open areas to disrupt parachute or glider-borne landings; hundreds of miles of barbed wire and thousands of mines were laid along the coastline; and detailed plans were made to defend every town and village. Meanwhile, the population everywhere was on the alert for spies, subversive agents, and enemy paratroopers.

Lord Beaverbrook head of British aircraft production: Lord Beaverbrook (William Maxwell Aitken) was Britain's minister of aircraft production and a member of the War Cabinet from May 1940. His sometimes ruthless but invariably focused approach, coupled with his inspired leadership, produced remarkable results during 1940. More than 7,300 aircraft were built between January and August -- just in time for the strategically vital Battle of Britain. He became minister of supply in 1941 and minister of production in 1942, while also dealing with the provision of Anglo-U.S. military aid to Russia. Soon thereafter, ill health forced the resignation of the man who Winston Churchill said was "at his best when things were at their worst."

The next page contains a detailed timeline summarizing important World War II events from July 1940.

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