Nazi Germany Conquers France: April 1940-December 1940

German troops advance along Norway's rugged, snow-covered terrain in April 1940. See more pictures of WW II.

The first several months of World War II -- nicknamed the "Phony War" -- began and ended with the German invasion of neighboring states -- Poland first, in September 1939, and then Denmark and Norway in April 1940. Here, the similarity ended. Nazi Germany invaded Scandinavia in 1940 due to Germany's naval war against the British and their American suppliers, and to protect the winter route for iron from Sweden. And unlike the invasion of Poland, the attacks on Denmark and Norway launched a permanent state of fighting in Europe that lasted right down to German defeat in May 1945.

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The brief northern campaign was one of the most successful of Hitler's gambles. On April 9, German forces entered Denmark and occupied the peninsula without serious resistance. A seaborne and airborne force, covered by a German air screen, then invaded Norway. Despite stubborn Norwegian resistance, and the landing of British and French troops in support in northern Norway, the Norwegian government agreed to an armistice on June 9. However, many German warships were sunk or damaged in this operation.

On May 10, Adolf Hitler had his forces in the West -- after months of patient preparation -- launch the attack on France through the Low Countries and the Ardennes Forest farther to the south, which the Allies had thought impassable by a modern army. A few hours after German troops crossed the Dutch border, an act of long-term significance took place in London when Winston Churchill succeeded Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister. At that moment, Churchill later wrote, "I felt as if I was walking with destiny."

The first weeks of Churchill's premiership proved disastrous for the Allies. German plans to push heavily armored divisions along forested terrain, supported by waves of aircraft, succeeded well beyond the expectations of many German generals. The French defensive line was pierced, and within days a gap burst open in the Allied front that could not be closed. The British Expeditionary Force was pushed back toward the sea around the port of Dunkirk, France, and faced annihilation -- until General Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt and Adolf Hitler ordered German forces to stop on May 24 to refit and prepare to break the new French defense line further south. By the time the attacks began again on May 26, the British had planned a hasty marine retreat. By June 4, 338,000 troops, one-third of them French, had been evacuated.

Though the "miracle of Dunkirk" has long been celebrated in Britain, it represented an ignominious defeat. The surviving French resistance slowly crumbled. On June 14, German forces entered Paris; on June 22, the French sued for an armistice, and German victory was complete. While a similar campaign during World War I had lasted four years and cost the lives of 1.5 million Germans, this campaign was over in six weeks. This time, Nazi Germany lost 30,000 men. The reasons for the rapid German victory have been debated often. The Allies, including Dutch and Belgian forces, had a clear advantage in number of army divisions, tanks, and armored vehicles. Airpower favored the Germans, but only because German air forces were concentrated in an aerial spearhead that pushed forward in coordination with the armored divisions on the ground. Military competence and strategic daring counted for something on the German side. The central problem for the Allies was the dispersal of their troops. Because French commander Maurice Gamelin had sent his reserve army northward, it could not plug the Ardennes gap. Aircraft were stationed all over France and Britain, but were not concentrated at the front; and the system of communications on the western side worked poorly. The argument that French soldiers lacked stomach for the fight because French society was in some sense "decadent" is difficult to prove. Their morale was poor because they sensed that they were poorly led. German victory in June 1940 had profound consequences. For the British and French, it was the worst possible outcome. France was defeated, its northern half as well as its Atlantic coast occupied by German forces. Britain was isolated from Continental Europe and had no prospect of reentering it to dislodge Adolf Hitler without the help of powerful allies (i.e., the United States and Soviet Union). France was now ruled by the authoritarian Marshal Philippe Pétain, who set up a new government center at Vichy, where his regime pursued policies that mimicked those of other Fascist states.

Much of the strategic planning for World War II's Operation Barbarossa was carried out at Adolf Hitler's Alpine retreat -- the Berghof -- during high-level conferences such as this one.

On June 10, 1940, Benito Mussolini's Italy declared war on Britain and France. Thus, a powerful enemy lay across Britain's main route in the Mediterranean to its eastern empire. Hitler was faced with the pleasing but unexpected prospect of German domination of Europe. On July 19, he announced before the Reichstag proposals for a European peace if Britain would accept the reality of German dominance and end hostilities. Churchill's government rejected it. British society braced itself for a possible invasion.

Hitler faced a critical dilemma in the summer of 1940. Successful beyond his expectations, he wanted to subordinate Britain in order to prepare for conflicts with the Soviet Union and the United States. When Britain refused to accept a German peace, Hitler ordered his forces to prepare to invade. The Luftwaffe (air force) was given the task of softening British resistance.

On July 31, a few days before the air attacks on Britain began in earnest, Adolf Hitler called his commanders together and told them that he had abandoned his and their hopes of invading the Soviet Union in the fall of 1940, and instead would begin that operation in the spring of 1941. German troops were sent into Romania and military arrangements were made with Finland since these two countries were to join Nazi Germany in invading the Soviet Union.

While the invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion) was being prepared, the Luftwaffe began its assault. This was the start of what would become known as the Battle of Britain. Waves of bombers, strongly supported by fighter aircraft, first attacked British air fields and sources of air supply. In September, they attacked the whole military and urban infrastructure within range of German fighters. The Germans' goal was to create conditions for landing an invasion force on the coast of southern England. The air battle was regarded as decisive only because the failure to eliminate Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) would force the postponement of what the Germans considered a risky operation.

The defending British fighter force had difficulty preventing German bombing, but it was able to inflict high levels of attrition on the attacking force thanks to the first successful use of radar detection. From July to the end of October 1940, the RAF lost 915 aircraft while the Germans lost 1,733. The number of fighter pilots and fighter aircraft on the British side remained at roughly the same level as at the start of the battle, but German numbers declined. By mid-September, it was evident that the Luftwaffe was making little headway, and the first phase of the Battle of Britain was over.

The second phase was more deadly and more prolonged. On September 17, Adolph Hitler postponed Sealion, and the Luftwaffe was given the task of knocking Britain out of the war by bombing alone. Heavy raids were directed at military and economic targets as well as urban areas, and civilian casualties were heavy. More than 40,000 British citizens were killed during the course of the "Blitz," which came to be directed at all major ports and industrial and commercial centers.

By December 1940, the German leadership expected Britain to surrender. "When will Churchill capitulate?" Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary. Bombing did produce widespread disruption and local panic, but at no point did the British government consider surrender. Gold and foreign exchange reserves were moved to Canada, and preparations were made for guerrilla activities in any portion of the country occupied by the Germans. The public was heartened by news of British victories in East Africa and Libya against Italian-led forces, and the knowledge that British bombers were regularly attacking German cities in return.

See the next section for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred during early April 1940.

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World War II Timeline: April 2, 1940-April 18, 1940

The Germans began their western offensive in early April 1940, attacking both Denmark and Norway. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the month of April 1940.

World War II Timeline: April 2-April 18

April 2: Chinese Nationalists score a victory when they reoccupy the city of Wuyuan after successfully ambushing some 3,000 Japanese troops.


April 5: In what will become known as the Katyn Forest Massacre, Soviet secret police murder more than 4,000 Polish prisoners of war. The Soviet government will deny culpability until 1989. Around the same time as Katyn, more than 15,000 other Polish POWs are killed at other locations.

April 8: Despite Norway's neutrality, the Allies mine coastal waters in the region in an effort to impede German activity.

April 9: Nazi Germany attacks Norway and Denmark on the pretext that occupation is necessary to preserve their neutrality. Norwegian Fascist leader Vidkun Quisling quickly moves to create a pro-Nazi government. As a result, his surname will become synonymous with traitor.

April 10: Denmark surrenders to Nazi Germany.

Wary of abandoning its neutrality, Belgium declines the Allies' offer of "preventative aid."

The German cruiser Königsberg is sunk by British warplanes, marking the first time in history that a large warship is sunk by an aerial assault.

April 14: Allied troops arrive in Norway to counter the German invasion force.

April 15: MI6, Britain's secret intelligence service, unravels the Enigma code used by the Wehrmacht during the Norwegian campaign.

April 18: The Allies occupy Norway's Faeroe Islands to prevent the strategically important region from falling into Nazi hands.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details and consequences of the German invasion in 1940.

The Maginot Line gives French military a false sense of security: Soon after World War I, under the direction of Minister of War André Maginot, France constructed formidable concrete obstacles, machine gun posts, and forts along its borders with Germany, Italy, and later Belgium. In 1939-1940, France hurried to improve the secret fortifications. Underground bunkers that could house thousands of men included such amenities as a wine cellar, morgue, chapel, hospital, and dental clinic. Illustrators often depicted the constructions as compact, but they were actually spread out and connected with tunnels through which trolleys carried troops and weapons. These preparations gave the French military a false sense of security. Invading German forces simply maneuvered around the Maginot Line.

Norway forced into war through Nazi German invasion: Norwegian houses burn in Narvik during the spring 1940 German invasion. After the British rescue of Altmark prisoners and other actions in Norwegian waters, Hitler feared losing the neutral country's ports of Narvik, which were essential for shipping Scandinavian iron ore to Germany. Adolf Hitler attacked Norway by land, air, and sea, overrunning resistance. In mid-April, British, Polish, and French forces landed to aid the Norwegians and took Narvik. The British sank 10 German destroyers -- half of the entire fleet. However, with France near collapse, the Allies withdrew on June 8, leaving Narvik to German occupation. The Norwegian conflict included the first paratrooper attack (by Germany) in history, and Britain's first major amphibious landing of the war (at Narvik).

Norwegians refuse to surrender to Nazi Germany: When the Germans occupied Norway in April 1940, they showed off these three experimental tanks (never put into production) in the streets of Oslo. Germany had trouble taking Norway due to bad weather, strong fortifications, and tenacious Norwegian resistance. The royal family and members of Parliament had time to escape to the north. Although the Germans set up a puppet government under Nazi supporter Vidkun Quisling, Norway's King Haakon never surrendered. When the Allies evacuated Norway, the Norwegian government moved to Britain and operated in exile. It controlled its own merchant navy and built a new military to support the Allies.

British plane spotters recognize and report enemy aircrafts: A Royal Observer Corps (ROC) plane spotter watches for enemy aircraft. Back in 1925, the ROC was formed to provide a system for detecting, tracking, and reporting aircraft over Britain. Plane spotters learned to recognize aircraft by their silhouette, and often by the sound of their engines. In the U.S., Civil Defense workers and WAACS (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) maintained spotting stations, and in Germany the Reichsluftschutzbund (National Air Defense League) had a similar mission.

Follow more World War II events of April and May 1940, including Nazi Germany's invasion of the Low Countries, on the following page.

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World War II Timeline: April 27, 1940-May 10, 1940

Late April and early May of 1940 found Adolf Hitler declaring war against Norway and invading the Low Countries. These World War II events and others are detailed in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: April 27-May 10

April 27: SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler orders the construction of a concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. Known as Auschwitz in German, the facility will play a central role in the Nazi plan to exterminate Europe's Jews.


The Reich issues an official declaration of war against neutral Norway.

April 29: President Franklin Roosevelt sends a personal message to Benito Mussolini in which he beseeches him to work for peace.

April 30: Carnegie Institute president Samuel Harden Church publishes a letter in The New York Times offering a $1 million reward to whomever can capture Adolf Hitler alive.

The Allies make a hasty retreat from Norway under the pressure of an intense German aerial assault.

The Nazis establish a Jewish ghetto in Lódz, Poland.

Hitler warns his generals to be prepared to invade Western Europe within 24 hours of receiving his orders on any date after May 5.

May 2: Benitio Mussolini contacts President Franklin Roosevelt. He suggests that Italy's continued recognition of the Monroe Doctrine is contingent on America's continued neutrality in the European war.

May 7: President Franklin Roosevelt directs the Navy's Pacific Fleet to remain at the ready off the coast of Hawaii.

May 10: Asserting that the Allies are planning to use neutral nations Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands as a staging area for an attack on Germany, Adolf Hitler invades the Low Countries.

Winston Churchill becomes Britain's prime minister when Neville Chamberlain, who was losing support in Parliament, resigns.

Communication centers are targeted in the first British Royal Air Force (RAF) bombing raid over Germany.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details and consequences of Nazi German aggression in 1940.

Bletchley Park code-breakers decipher German Enigma code: Alan Turing, a pioneer in the field of computing, was a leading member of the highly successful analysis and code-breaking team based at the top-secret signals intelligence center at Bletchley Park in England. With the assistance of material provided by Polish intelligence, his team eventually broke the German operational and strategic Enigma encoding system. These code-breakers worked exceptionally long hours in cheerless office accommodations and excessively hot and noisy computer rooms. They included scientists, mathematicians, linguists, crossword experts, and others with diverse analytical skills.

German Ju-88 bomber important to Luftwaffe: The Ju-88 twin-engine medium bomber boasted a maximum speed of 269 mph, a ceiling of almost 30,000 feet, and a range of 1,112 miles. Carrying capacity was about 6,000 pounds of bombs. This fast, maneuverable, and versatile aircraft provided sterling service to the Luftwaffe throughout the war in bombing, occasional dive-bombing, close support, maritime torpedo, interceptor, and night-fighter roles. Some 14,676 Ju-88s were built, with about 9,000 used primarily as bombers.

Learn more about Nazi Germany's campaign in the Low Countries on the World War II timeline next.

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World War II Timeline: May 11, 1940-May 16, 1940

Nazi Germany continued its march through Europe in May 1940, invading and crushing the Netherlands. The World War II timeline details this and other events from May 1940.

World War II Timeline: May 11-May 16

May 11: The Allies land in the Dutch West Indies to guard the oil resources of Aruba and Curaçao against German saboteurs.


Luxembourg falls to German troops.

May 11-12: In what is regarded as the Allies' first significant air raid against a civilian population, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) attacks Mönchengladbach, Germany, losing three planes in the process.

May 12: England and Scotland begin the practice of detaining German and Austrian men ages 16 to 60 in internment camps.

May 13: In his first speech before the House of Commons as prime minister, Winston Churchill delivers the famous line: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

Northeast France is under heavy assault as several panzer divisions cross the Meuse River near the town of Sedan.

May 14: Rotterdam, Netherlands, capitulates after a heavy German bombing campaign devastates the city, claiming 980 lives and more than 20,000 buildings.

The Netherlands government flees The Hague. It will establish itself in exile in London.

The RAF suffers its greatest defeat to date in this conflict, losing 45 of 109 airplanes while attacking German troop positions in France.

May 15: The Nazi campaign in the Netherlands ends when the Dutch army surrenders to the Wehrmacht.

Concerned about Japan's activity in the Pacific Theater, Winston Churchill asks President Franklin Roosevelt for ships, planes, ammunition, and an American naval presence in Singapore and Ireland.

May 16: President Franklin Roosevelt asks Congress for a $1.2 billion increase in defense spending to mobilize the Army and Navy and procure an additional 50,000 planes a year.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details and consequences of the Nazi attack in the spring of 1940.

British dive-bombers effective in attack on Nazi warship: Fires rage unchecked on the German light cruiser Königsberg after the first successful British air attack on a warship. On April 10, 1940, Blackburn Skua dive-bombers located the Königsberg -- already damaged by Norwegian shore artillery -- in Bergen Harbor, Norway. The Skuas dove out of the rising sun and dropped their 500-pound bombs from heights ranging from 3,000 feet to as low as 200 feet, proving the effectiveness of dive-bombing to a skeptical RAF establishment. The Königsberg lost electrical power and, unable to control the fires, sank within three hours.

Germans storm France, Low Countries: On May 10, 1940, German tanks, troops, and bombers smashed into France and the Low Countries in a Blitzkrieg -- a swift attack with combined air and mobile land forces -- that was totally unexpected by the Allies. Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands fell quickly. Hitler's tanks charged through the Ardennes forests, bypassed the static French defenses, and drove westward across northern France to the English Channel. By May 21, the Germans had split the Allied forces in two. Here, a French tank crewman surrenders to German forces.

In June 1940 Nazi Germany marched into France. Learn about this and other World War II events on the timeline found on the following page.

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World War II Timeline: May 17, 1940-June 5, 1940

May and June of 1940 found the French defense crumbling under the powerful Nazi war machine. This and other events from late May to early June 1940 are detailed in World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: May 17-June 5

May 17: A Nazi occupying force marches into Brussels, Belgium. Antwerp, Belgium, will capitulate the next day.


May 21: According to reports out of Berlin, the French Ninth Army has been completely destroyed.

May 22: The Emergency Powers Act passes in Britain. It grants Winston Churchill total control of the resources needed to run the nation's war machine.

May 24: London decides to pull its troops out of a defeated Norway.

May 26: The Allies launch Operation Dynamo, a massive rescue operation to save troops surrounded by the Axis in Dunkirk, France. In just one week, nearly 350,000 British, French, and Belgian soldiers will be evacuated while Luftwaffe planes try to hinder the operation.

May 27: Nazi Germany takes the port city of Calais, France -- a mere 26 miles across the Channel from Dover, England.

May 28: King Leopold III orders the surrender of the 500,000-man Belgian Army, an order that will lead to his deposition at the hands of the Belgian government, which is in exile in France.

June 3: More than 250 Parisians lose their lives when the city endures an air assault by some 200 Luftwaffe planes.

June 4: Winston Churchill delivers the memorable "fight on the beaches" speech before the House of Commons, claiming, "We shall never surrender."

June 5: The French capture Luftwaffe pilot Werner Mölders. He will be liberated at the armistice near the end of the month, resume flying, and ultimately be credited with more than 100 victories before being killed in an accident.

World War II Headlines

Below are more World War II headlines and images from the Nazi invasion in May and June of 1940.

Bad strategy dooms Netherlands in fight against Nazis: The Netherlands was woefully unprepared for Germany's ground and air Blitzkrieg in May 1940. Dutch strategic planning had been shaped by an underestimation of Germany, strong pacifist influences, appeasement policies, refusal to coordinate with Britain and France, and a dependence upon defensive strong-points (such as this steel-gated bridge over the Maas River) and obstacles -- including flooding large areas of Holland. Consequently, the Germans quickly overwhelmed the sizable but outdated, ill-equipped, and largely immobile Dutch army. While some Dutch citizens formed an effective resistance movement beginning in 1942, anti-Semitism and pro-German collaboration were also in evidence.

The "Schmeisser" principal weapon of Wehrmacht: The MP40 Maschinenpistole was known universally but inaccurately as the "Schmeisser" after weapons designer Hugo Schmeisser, who did not design this submachine gun. However, this was one of the iconic weapons of the war, with both Allied and German troops recognizing it as the best weapon of its class. Conceived originally as a weapon for paratroops, it quickly became the Wehrmacht's principal submachine gun. It had a caliber of 9mm, a magazine that held 32 rounds, and a rate of fire of 500 rounds per minute. It was accurate up to 200 meters. Moreover, its all-metal stamped construction made it both cheap and easy to mass-produce.

The MG 34, a highly effective German machine gun: A German infantryman takes aim at the enemy with an MG 34 7.92mm light machine gun. While this version utilized a 50-round metal-link belt, the MG 34 could also be equipped with 50- and 75-round drum ammunition feeds. Although the MG 34 was expensive to produce, it was a highly effective weapon. It delivered a maximum rate of fire of 900 rpm to 600-800 yards (light role), and 300 rpm to 2,000-2,500 yards when mounted on a tripod in the heavy role. MG 34s also were fitted extensively to armored vehicles and trucks, and for anti-aircraft defense.

The following page contains a detailed timeline of World War II events from June of 1940.

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World War II Timeline: June 5, 1940-June 14, 1940

In June 1940 Benito Mussolini and Italy joined Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany as an Axis power in World War II. The timeline below summarizes this and other major World War II events from June 1940.

World War II Timeline: June 5-June 14

June 5: Marshal Philippe Pétain becomes prime minister of France, replacing Paul Reynaud.


June 7: Norwegian leadership flees the country and establishes a government-in-exile in London.

Berlin suffers its first bombing raid of the war when it is attacked by a single French aircraft, a four-engine Farman 223.

June 8: More than 1,500 British sailors perish when German ships sink the aircraft carrier Glorious and its escort of two destroyers.

June 9: A German panzer division crosses the Somme River and surrounds the French 10th Army.

June 10: After a lengthy delay, Italy enters the war with an invasion of a weakened France, already wounded by the German army.

With German troops only 50 miles from Paris, the French government relocates to Tours, France.

Benito Mussolini declares war against both Britain and France, while Canada reciprocates by declaring war on Italy. South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand will join Canada the following day.

June 11-12: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) bombs Italy, losing one plane while scoring 10 hits on Turin and two on Genoa.

June 12: Italy launches its air war, dropping bombs on civilian targets on the British protectorate island of Malta.

With Italy's entry into the war, President Franklin Roosevelt declares that the United States will offer material support to the Allies.

June 14: France asks the United States to intervene as the Nazis occupy Paris.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing events of World War II and the Nazi German and Italian aggression of late May and early June 1940.

Dunkirk evacuees escape by ship: In late May 1940, Adolf Hitler agreed with Nazi German General Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt to order a temporary halt to their attack. The reprieve lasted 48 hours and gave the British time to set up defenses and begin evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring promised that the Luftwaffe could destroy the Allied troops, but Dunkirk, France, was too close to British air bases. The British evacuees included many highly experienced soldiers who were eager to return to the fight, but they had lost all of their equipment.

"Little Ships" save troops, symbolize spirit of Dunkirk: British soldiers wait for rescue on Dunkirk Beach. When the planned evacuation was announced to the British public on May 27, 1940, a fleet of fishing boats, pleasure craft, merchant marine vessels, and other small boats rushed across the English Channel to help. They retrieved the British, French, and Belgian troops from the bombed-out harbor, which the larger ships could not enter, and ferried those troops to the big ships. These "Little Ships" quickly gained legendary status, and the "Spirit of Dunkirk" became a British rallying cry.

Luftwaffe rains terror on France: Firemen turn their hoses on a Parisian building that has been reduced to a smoldering ruin by Nazi bombardment. Even as the Allies evacuated at Dunkirk, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring directed his Luftwaffe bombers inland. On June 3, 1940, 200 planes struck airfields, industrial sites, and buildings in Paris. This successful German effort to damage France's economy, reduce its military, and create terror in its population had a devastating psychological effect. To keep government officials at their posts, the French minister of interior had to threaten dire penalties against anyone who fled.

The French capitulated in mid-June of 1940. The timeline on the following page lists this and other World War II events from June 1940.

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World War II Timeline: June 15, 1940-June 19, 1940

In mid-June 1940 Paris fell to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. The World War II timeline below summarizes this and other important World War II events from mid-June, 1940.

World War II Timeline: June 15-June 19

June 15: Despite pleas from both France and Britain, the U.S. Congress continues to refuse to intervene in Europe, with some legislators going so far as to suggest that England and France surrender to Hitler.


June 16: In an 11th hour rescue attempt, Britain offers to unite its empire with that of France. The following day, France will ask Germany for an armistice, requesting "peace with honor."

Italy sinks the British submarines Grampus and Orpheus in the first Mediterranean naval conflict of the war.

Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera mobilizes the Irish military in preparation for an Axis invasion of nearby England.

June 17: About 2,500 British troops perish when five Luftwaffe bombers attack the Lancastria, a Cunard luxury liner being used to transport troops.

With most naval forces focused on the Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Navy asks Congress for $4 billion to build an equally strong Atlantic fleet.

June 18: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) pulls out of France, and the French military hastily retreats from the Wehrmacht. French general Charles de Gaulle, speaking from London, pleads with his countrymen to continue to resist Germany, claiming "France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war."

In a meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich, Benito Mussolini is bitterly disappointed to find that he will not be granted large tracts of French territory. Hitler hopes that by offering France easy surrender terms, the French will be less likely to continue fighting from North Africa.

June 19: With the German conquest of France complete, the exiled governments of Poland and Belgium move to London.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and the German invasion of France in 1940.

Hundreds killed, wounded in Paris by German attacks: A Parisian victim of German bombing raids lies in a hospital bed. The German bombardment of Paris inflicted some 900 casualties, including 254 dead. Most of the victims were civilians and many were schoolchildren. Designed to produce terror, the air attack had the desired effect. Fleeing civilians clogged all roads around Paris, where some were strafed by German planes.

Luftwaffe attacks leave Dunkirk in flames: French civilians flee danger and destruction during the aerial bombardment of Dunkirk, France. Heavy Luftwaffe attacks left the dead and wounded scattered among the burning wreckage of homes, vehicles, and military equipment. British Expeditionary Forces Captain Richard Austin wrote: "The whole front was one long continuous line of blazing buildings, a high wall of fire, roaring and darting in tongues of flame, with the smoke pouring upwards and disappearing in the blackness of the sky above the rooftops." Dunkirk was reduced to rubble.

Allies evacuate 220,000 from Cherbourg, France: British and French soldiers leave Cherbourg, France, on British ships bound for Southampton, England. After the successful evacuation at Dunkirk, the British rescued an additional 220,000 Allied troops that had been stranded in France. On June 10, Operation Cycle picked up evacuees at Le Havre. Beginning on June 15 at Cherbourg, in Operation Ariel, Allies spirited soldiers away from Saint-Malo, Brest, Saint-Nazaire, and other ports all the way down the French coast to the border with Spain. When the evacuations were complete on June 25, a total of 558,000 Allied troops had escaped the German invasion.

Vichy's minister of defense balances opposing interests: French General Maxime Weygand served as Vichy defense minister from June to September 1940. In that burdensome role, he juggled Japanese demands for freedom of movement in northern Indochina against strong U.S. opposition to the idea. Then as Vichy delegate to the French North African colonies, Weygand alternately protested and collaborated with Nazi policies. Heeding U.S. warnings, Weygand opposed German bases in Africa, though he had equipment delivered to Rommel's Afrika Korps. Weygand's semi-collaboration was insufficient for Hitler. Under Nazi pressure, Weygand was recalled in November 1941, arrested in 1942, and held by Germany for the duration of the war.

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The Nazi invasion of France: On May 10, 1940, German General Fedor von Bock's Army Group B struck into Belgium and the Low Countries. This was only a diversionary attack, as the main assault by General Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A was launched from the Ardennes forests, while General Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb's Army Group C secured the southern flank and pinned down some 30 French divisions. By June 25, France had fallen.

Keep reading for a World War II timeline detailing events of late June and early July 1940.

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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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World War II Timeline: July 4, 1940-July 18, 1940

In July 1940 Romania announced its alliance with Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler ordered the destruction of the British Royal Air Force (RAF). These and other major World War II events are discussed in the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: July 4-July 18

July 4: Great Britain and France break off diplomatic relations.


July 5: Sweden allows the Nazis transit rights as Germany tries to get supplies and troops to and from Norway.

Romania announces its alliance with Germany and Italy, one day after Romania's King Carol oversees the installation of a pro-Axis government.

Vichy, France, attacks British Gibraltar with planes from its bases in French Morocco.

President Franklin Roosevelt launches a limited embargo against Japan, banning the shipment of materials that could be used to feed the Japanese war machine.

July 10: Berlin's Jewish Affairs Office proposes an emigration plan that would move as many as four million European Jews to Madagascar.

President Franklin Roo­sevelt details his plans for an army of up to two million men, and asks Congress for the funds to make this plan a reality.

July 11: Germany installs Philippe Pétain as leader of unoccupied France.

July 13: Hitler orders the annihilation of the RAF, which he sees as a necessary first step to any invasion of the British mainland.

July 16: More than 20,000 French citizens are driven from Alsace-Lorraine when the Nazis annex the region.

Naturalized Jews are stripped of their French citizenship by France's Vichy government.

July 18: Britain acquiesces to Japan's demand that the Burma Road be closed to shipments of war material for three months, cutting off China's link to outside aid.

Germany begins propaganda broadcasts in the United Kingdom, agitating for Scottish separatism.

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Below are more images and highlights detailing the events of WWII in 1940 and Nazi Germany's relations with France.

French politician Paul Reynaud stands up to Nazis: Prior to the war, French lawyer and politician Paul Reynaud protested French and British appeasement, calling on France to remain united against the Nazis. Made premier in March 1940, Reynaud appointed Charles de Gaulle undersecretary of war. That June, Time magazine ran a cover story on Reynaud, quoting him: "Nothing has lowered our will to struggle for our land and liberty... France cannot die." That same month, Reynaud refused to surrender to the Nazis, and resigned. He was arrested by the Vichy government and imprisoned for the duration of the war.

Vichy's Philippe Pétain weak in face of Nazis: Marshal Philippe Pétain became a French national hero in World War I, primarily because of his defense of Verdun. Between the wars, his posts included inspector general of the army, war minister, and ambassador to Spain. In May 1940, French Premier Paul Reynaud invited Pétain to become vice premier. After Paris fell, Pétain became head of state on June 16. French hopes for a repeat of Verdun proved misplaced. Now 84, Pétain cut a pathetic figure, apparently unable to raise enthusiasm for anything but minimizing French bloodshed. On June 22, 1940, he concluded an armistice with Germany.

British attack French ships in Algerian port: The French battleship Bretagne burns in an Algerian port after being hit by British fire on July 3, 1940. Following the defeat of France, Britain moved to prevent French warships from falling into Nazi hands. A British ultimatum to the French commander in Algeria (where the substantial French fleet was of particular concern) demanded that the French ships either join with the British, sail under control to a British port, sail to a French port in the West Indies and be demilitarized, or be entrusted to the U.S. When no response came in six hours, Winston Churchill gave the order to attack. In the ensuing Battle of Oran, the British damaged and destroyed several French warships, killing more than 1,200 French sailors.

In August 1940 Adolf Hitler began preparing for Operation Sealion, the invasion of Britain Keep reading for a World War II timeline discussing this and other important World War II events of August 1940.

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World War II Timeline: July 21, 1940-August 17, 1940

Late July and early August of 1940 found Adolf Hitler preparing to invade Britain and Benito Mussolini sending Italian forces into north Africa. These and other World War II events are detailed in the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: July 21-August 17

July 21: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania join the Soviet Union under duress.


July 22: Adolf Hitler's strings-attached "peace offer" is rejected by London.

The Special Operations Executive is created by Britain's War Cabinet to carry out acts of sabotage against Nazi Germany in occupied countries.

July 24: Nearly 50 civilians are killed in an Italian air raid of Jerusalem.

August 1: Adolf Hitler orders increased bombing of strategic British targets in preparation for Operation Sealion, which he intends to launch on September 15, 1940

August 3: East Africa's British Somaliland is overrun by a large contingent of Italian troops.

August 5: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini confer in Rome, with Mussolini assuring Hitler he will soon open the North African front with an assault into Egypt toward the Suez Canal.

August 8: In an effort to persuade India to take a more active role in promoting British interests in Southeast Asia, Britain promises its colony a new postwar constitution.

August 9: Due to greater needs on other fronts, British troops abandon Shanghai.

August 11: The U.S. Army announces plans to send 4,000 tanks to Britain.

August 15: Germany is dealt a major blow during the Battle of Britain. Intending to knock out Britain's Royal Air Force, the Luftwaffe actually loses more than twice as many aircraft -- 75 compared to Britain's 32.

August 17: Germany blockades Britain, heavily mining its waters and vowing to attack all approaching ships, whether belligerent or neutral.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing important events of World War II and the German and Italian invasions of 1940.

Germans train for Operation Sealion: In this faked photo, a German armored vehicle is supposedly on the beach of Dover, England. In 1940 Operation Sealion was a high-risk undertaking; no invasion of Britain had succeeded since 1066. Nevertheless, German plans advanced throughout that summer. Thousands of troops of the Ninth and 16th Armies assembled and trained in the coastal region, horses were conditioned to travel on barges, and hundreds of troop-carrying vessels were collected in French and Belgian ports. However, all ultimately depended upon the Luftwaffe achieving overall air supremacy beforehand, and so the victory won by the RAF during September's Battle of Britain effectively made Sealion no longer viable.

British submarines successful in Mediterranean: The HMS Taku was one of the oceangoing T-class boats that formed the mainstay of the British submarine fleet. Royal Navy submarines operated in shallow waters that were heavily mined and well defended by antisubmarine forces. Of more than 50 deployed, nearly one out of three was destroyed, usually going down with all hands. Nevertheless, Royal Navy subs took a heavy toll on German ships in Norwegian waters. In the dangerously shallow and clear Mediterranean, British subs successfully interrupted German and Italian supply routes to Africa. British submarines also landed and picked up clandestine agents in various areas, and supported Allied efforts in the Malacca Straits and seas near Indonesia.

The Blitz continued throughout September 1940. On the following page is a World War II timeline detailing this and other events.

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World War II Timeline: August 20, 1940-September 11, 1940

In August 1940, Britain retaliated for an attack on London by bombing Berlin for the first of what would be many air attacks in World War II. Follow this and other major World War II events from August and September of 1940 in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: August 20-September 11

August 20: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill offers President Franklin Roosevelt the use of military bases in the West Indies and Newfoundland.

August 23-24: The Luftwaffe bombs London. Though oil facilities east of the city are targeted, London proper sustains most of the damage. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) will retaliate two nights later, attacking Berlin for the first time.

August 28: Liverpool, England, suffers its first bomb raid.

August 31: In the greatest one-day loss for the RAF to date, the Luftwaffe takes out 38 planes and critical airfields in southern Britain.

September 5: France's Vichy government severs diplomatic ties with Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Norway.

As many as 4,000 German troops perish when the transport ship Marion founders after taking a direct hit from a British torpedo.

German authorities seize Jewish-owned businesses following Luxembourg's annexation by Germany and adoption of the Nuremberg Laws.

September 6: Fascist General Ion Antonescu and his Iron Guards take control of the Romanian government. Romania's King Carol is forced to abdicate after ceding much of Transylvania.

The U.S. Navy transfers the first eight of 50 destroyers promised to the Royal Navy in exchange for U.S. bases at Bermuda and other British possessions.

September 7: The Luftwaffe turns its attention from British military to civilian targets. This is part of what will be called the Blitz.

September 10: Italian troops stage themselves in Albania prior to their planned assault on Greece.

September 11: The Luftwaffe bombs London, inflicting heavy damage on St. Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and the German Blitzkrieg in 1940.

Nazi Germany's Blitz of London kills 43,000: From September to mid-November 1940, an average of 200 Axis aircraft bombed London on every night but one. Meanwhile, Luftwaffe fighter bombers and single bombers on precision bombing missions also attacked the capital by day. Regular air raids then con­tinued until May. Destruction was widespread and severe. This massive crater was possibly caused by one of the Luftwaffe's huge 2,500-kilogram "Max" Sprengbombe Cylindrisch bombs. Countrywide, from September 1940 to May 1941, the Blitz caused 43,000 civilian deaths and 139,000 serious injuries, as well as laying waste to many residential areas and industrial, dockland, and infrastructure facilities.

Hurricanes, Spitfires defend Britain: In 1937 the RAF's first monoplane fighter -- the Hurricane Hurricane Mark I -- entered squadron service. It boasted a top speed of more than 300 mph, eight machine guns (replaced with cannons in late 1940), and an operating radius of up to 600 miles. This formidable aircraft, together with the Spitfire (introduced in 1938), proved to be the mainstay of RAF Fighter Command during the crucial Battle of Britain. Using radar to track the approaching German bombers, RAF headquarters sent these Hurricanes and Spitfires to intercept. They inflicted crippling losses upon the Luftwaffe, which helped prevent a German invasion.

Keep reading for a World War II timeline summarizing more important events from September 1940.

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World War II Timeline: September 13, 1940-September 25, 1940

In September 1940 Italy continued its assault on north Africa and both the United States and Canada instituted conscription policies. Read about these and other important World War II events in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: September 13-September 25

September 13: An anemic British force is pushed back when Italy embarks on its first significant assault on the North African front, marching five army divisions into Egypt from Libya.

The African war continues with a 20-mile incursion by Italian troops from occupied Ethiopia into British Kenya.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth remain in London, despite narrowly missing being struck by bombs that tore through the roof of Buckingham Palace.

September 15: Canada conscripts its single men, ages 21 to 24.

Adolf Hitler postpones Operation Sealion after another botched air battle leaves the Luftwaffe with 60 planes lost while Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) loses 26.

September 16: The U.S. Congress passes the Selective Training and Service Act, which will enable the registration and conscription of American males ages 21 to 35.

September 17: Seventy-seven British children, en route to Canada to escape the destruction of war, die when a U-boat sinks their ship, City of Benares.

September 21: Officials in London permit Londoners who do not have access to bomb shelters to use the Underground for that purpose. At one point, more than 170,000 people will be sleeping in the "Tube."

September 23: In a sign of horrors to come, Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler decrees that gold teeth should be removed from the mouths of dead concentration camp inmates.

September 25: American intelligence agents crack Japan's diplomatic code, known as "Purple." Along with Britain's deciphering of the German Enigma machine, this is a significant victory for Allied intelligence.

World War II Headlines

More images and highlights from major events of World War II and its impact on Britain are below.

London firefighters battle blazes caused by Blitz: In 1940 and '41, Britain's fire services included full-time and part-time regular firefighters as well as part-time auxiliaries. The full-time firefighters worked shifts of 48 hours on duty followed by 24 hours off, and they were joined during the particularly busy night hours by the part-time auxiliaries. Here, firefighters battle a blaze in London. Initially, the firefighting response to major fires that involved operations across local authority boundaries was hampered by the fire service's localized and excessively parochial system of command and control. However, after the Blitz ended in May 1941, all of these semiautonomous forces were brought together to form the National Fire Service.

Britain's Auxiliary Fire Service unsung heroes: Members of the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) add pins, probably representing the locations of pumps or fires, to a map of London on the wall of Fire Brigade Headquarters during the Blitz. The Auxiliary Fire Service had existed since 1937, and by September 1939 it had tens of thousands of male and female members. They were amateur firefighters recruited to work alongside regular fire brigades fighting fires started by enemy bombing. Incompatibility of the brigades' equipment hampered effectiveness, and in 1941 the AFS and regular brigades were merged into the National Fire Service. Winston Churchill called the London firefighters "heroes with grimy faces." More than 900 firemen and women lost their lives during the war.

British Army's Corps of Royal Engineers defuse "dud" bombs: The skillful but immensely hazardous task of disposing of unexploded bombs (UXB) or "duds" fell primarily to the British Army's Corps of Royal Engineers. Some 10 percent of the high-explosive bombs that were dropped failed to explode or had delayed-action fuses, and by the end of 1940 there were some 3,000 UXBs waiting to be defused. Whether still lying buried or clearly visible, these marked and cordoned (but still potentially deadly) devices would disrupt all movement and activity in the surrounding area. Here, Royal Engineers remove a deeply buried one-ton UXB near St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The huge bomb was safely exploded 30 minutes later.

October 1940 saw Britain imploring the United States for military assistance in both the Atlantic and Pacific. Read about this and other events on the World War II timeline next.

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World War II Timeline: September 27, 1940-October 12, 1940

In late September 1940 Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany signed the Tripartite Pact with Italy and Japan. This and other major events of World War II are summarized in the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: September 27-October 12

September 27: France's Vichy government orders all Jews to carry cards identifying them as such.

The Axis is sealed with the signing of the Tripartite Pact, an economic and military alliance among Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan.

September 29: Luxembourg is formally incorporated into the Reich.

October 3: Warsaw's Jews are herded into the city's Jewish ghetto.

October 4: With Operation Sealion temporarily delayed, Adolf Hitler meets with Benito Mussolini in an effort to enlist Italy to take on Britain on alternate fronts.

Fearing Japanese aggression in the Pacific, Winston Churchill requests naval reinforcements from Franklin Roosevelt to defend Britain's colony of Singapore.

October 7: With Ion Antonescu's assent in Romania, Nazi Germany occupies that country on the pretext of protecting its oil fields from British saboteurs.

Japan formally voices its objection to the American ban on sales of fuel, scrap metal, and machine tools to Asia.

October 9: London's Cathedral of St. Paul sustains serious damage to the roof and altar when it is struck by a German bomb.

October 12: Adolf Hitler reschedules his invasion of Britain for April 4, 1941, leading Winston Churchill to joke that Britain is "waiting for the long-promised invasion. So are the fishes."

In a speech that implies that the U.S. may be ready for a greater role in the war, President Franklin Roosevelt claims that Americans "reject the doctrine of appeasement," calling it "a major weapon of the aggressor nations."

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing World War II events from October 1940.

Homing pigeons crucial to military communications: British, American, Canadian, and German forces all used homing pigeons, such as this one, to carry essential war-front messages. Dropped by parachute, pigeons also enabled communications from resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and Holland. One of the most famous birds was "GI Joe," a pigeon that raced to the U.S. Air Support Command with word that the Italian village of Colvi Vecchia had been taken by the British. The message arrived just in time to cancel a scheduled bombing, saving the lives of the villagers and 1,000 British troops.

Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) begins targeted bombing of Berlin: In 1940 RAF bombers began trying to hit German oil refineries, factories, communications sites, and transportation lines, then increased attacks in 1941. In August 1940, the RAF made its first bombing raid on Berlin. Soviet Premier Vyacheslav Molotov, in the German capital in November 1940, was told that Britain had lost the war. If so, Molotov reportedly asked, "why are we in this shelter, and whose are the bombs which fall?" This photo of an RAF night raid on Berlin on October 7-8, 1940, shows German searchlights (broad, wavy lines) and tracks of antiaircraft fire. Exploding bombs show up as bright circles on the ground. According to later British assessments, few bombs hit their intended targets, and the bombing did little to diminish German morale.

In October 1940 Benito Mussolini disastrously decided to invade Greece. Learn about this and other World War II events from October 1940 on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: October 13, 1940-November 3, 1940

In October 1940, Benito Mussolini invaded Greece in a move that would end in utter disaster for Italy and the Axis powers. Follow this and other major World War II events in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: October 13-November 3

October 13: More than 150 people die when a London bomb shelter sustains a direct hit during an air raid. Another 64 will be killed on the 15th when bombs strike the Balham Underground Station.

Joseph Stalin sends Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov to Berlin to negotiate Soviet adherence to the Tripartite Pact.

October 15: London's primary water source, a pipeline that carries some 46 million gallons every day, is severely damaged in a bombing raid.

October 17: More than 1,500 British civilians have been killed in German bombing raids in the past week alone.

October 18: In defiance of Japan, Britain restores China's trade route to the West by reopening the Burma Road.

October 18-19: German U-boats attack two British convoys, sinking more than 30 ships.

October 22: The Nazis begin to deport Jews from parts of Germany to southern France.

October 23: Francisco Franco, Spain's Fascist leader, is unmoved by a nine-hour meeting with Adolf Hitler, and refuses to ally Spain with the Axis.

October 26: With more than 150,000 Italian troops at the ready, Benito Mussolini attempts to justify his inevitable invasion of Greece by claiming that Greece has attacked Albania.

October 28: Benito Mussolini sends Italian troops into Greece in an invasion attempt that will end in total disaster for the Italians.

November 3: British troops and RAF units land in Greece to help repel the invading Italian army.

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Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and the Axis and Allied movements of 1940.

Nazis ghettoize Warsaw's Jews: Polish and Jewish laborers contribute to the construction of a 10-foot-high wall that will enclose the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw. After the 1939 Nazi German takeover of Poland, Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich ordered Jews into segregated living areas. In the fall of 1940, Heydrich used the pretext of a typhus outbreak in Jewish neighborhoods to force the city's Jews into a 3.5-square-mile section of town. Non-Jewish Poles were moved out of the area. That November, the ghetto wall's 22 gates were closed, sealing off 360,000 Jews (one-third of Warsaw's entire population) from the rest of the Polish capital.

The World War II timeline on the following page lists important events from November 1940.

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World War II Timeline: November 5, 1940-November 16, 1940

November of 1940 saw a mass execution of Polish intellectuals at Dachau, the first of many such executions by Nazi Germany. The World War II timeline below summarizes this and other important World War II events.

World War II Timeline: November 5-November 16

November 5: The tremendously popular President Franklin Roosevelt is elected to a third term, a break from the presidency's traditional, though not mandated, two-term limit.

November 7: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) bombs the Krupp munitions factory in Essen, Germany.

Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera denies Britain the use of Irish naval bases.

November 8: Adolf Hitler's annual observance of his 1923 coup attempt is interrupted by an RAF air raid on Munich.

November 9: Nazi Germany begins the process of expelling some 180,000 French citizens from Alsace-Lorraine, the partially ethnically German region in southern France.

November 11: In the first successful attack by carrier-based warplanes, a flight of 20 RAF biplanes bombs Taranto, Italy, destroying or damaging half the Italian fleet.

Fifty-five Polish intellectuals are murdered in the first of many mass executions at Dachau, the concentration camp outside of Munich.

November 12-14: The Soviet Union's foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, meets with Adolf Hitler to discuss possible Soviet adherence to the Tripartite Pact.

November 14: Much of the British city of Coventry, including its stunning medieval cathedral, is destroyed in a Luftwaffe raid in which 449 bombers attack the region.

In an embarrassing defeat for the Italian military, the Greek army pushes the Italians out of Greece and follows their retreat into Albania.

November 16: Hamburg, Germany, is blasted by RAF bombers.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing World War II events and the Axis and Allied movements of 1940.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt struggles with war decision: While Franklin Roosevelt guided America through the Great Depression of the 1930s, Adolf Hitler and his fellow Axis leaders constructed military juggernauts with the mission to crush the democratic nations of the world. When war broke out in September 1939, Roosevelt's attempts to aid America's allies in Europe were blocked both by Congress and a majority of American citizens committed to the policy of neutrality and isolationism. America's experience in World War I had soured many on the idea of any more "European entanglements," if only because of the great monetary cost. But FDR believed that if the Axis powers were successful in their conquests, the United States would eventually become the only surviving democracy in the world, standing alone and outnumbered against well-armed enemies.

Go to the next page for a World War II timeline detailing important events from November and December 1940, including the completion of plans for Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler's scheme to invade the Soviet Union.

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World War II Timeline: November 20, 1940-December 6, 1940

In early December 1940 Adolf Hitler finalized plans for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, a decision that he would come to regret. This and other World War II events from November and December of 1940 are summarized in the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: November 20-December 6

November 20: Hungary signs the Tripartite Pact, joining Germany, Italy, and Japan in the Axis.

In what will become known as the "100th Regiment Offensive," Chinese Communists stage guerrilla raids against Japanese forces.

November 22: The Greeks overwhelm Italy's Ninth Army and occupy Korçë, an Albanian town strategically important to the Italians.

November 23: Romania follows Hungary's lead and signs the Tripartite Pact, joining the Axis. Slovakia will join the following day.

November 25: A wood-bodied De Havilland Mosquito prototype -- a fast, light, and agile British fighter that will become known as the "Timber Terror" -- takes to the air for its first flight.

Bulgaria postpones signing the Tripartite Pact.

November 26: Pierre Ryckmans, the governor general of the Belgian Congo, declares war on Italy. Italy will declare war on Belgium the following day.

Workers begin the construction of a 10-foot-high wall around the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland.

November 27: In an effort to bolster his power, Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu orders his Iron Guard to execute 64 officials who are loyal to the government of King Carol.

November 29: Plans for the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, dubbed Operation Barbarossa, are finalized.

December 1: Italy begins rationing its key staple: pasta.

December 6: A major upheaval in the Italian military command follows the disastrous invasion of Greece, as the army's chief of staff resigns. The chief of the Italian navy will resign on December 8.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and highlights detailing World War II events and the German occupation and invasion of Europe.

German submarine U-48 sinks more than 50 ships: On September 11, 1940, Herbert Schultze, commander of the German submarine U-48, sent a terse radio message to Winston Churchill, announcing that he had sunk the British steamer Firby. After giving the wreck's coordinates, Schultze added, "Save the crew, if you please." Fast, agile, and far-ranging, the U-48 was commissioned on April 22, 1939, and proved herself the most successful German U-boat of the war, sinking more than 50 ships and damaging others during its 12 patrols. By June 1941, the U-48, already becoming obsolete, was relegated to training exercises.

Greece defends its soil from Italian invasion: Greek and Italian troops are portrayed in battle during the Greco-Italian War (1940-41). Embarrassed that his Italian forces had not achieved conquests comparable to Nazi Germany's, Benito Mussolini decided that Greece would be an easy target for invasion. Boasting that Adolf Hitler "will find out from the papers that I have occupied Greece," Mussolini launched his attack from Italian-occupied Albania on October 28, 1940. The outnumbered and outgunned Greeks won an unexpected victory in the Pindus Mountains, then drove the Italians back into Albania. By mid-December, the Greeks had seized a third of Albania, including the strategic Ionian port of Sarandë. After the Italian defeat, a dismayed Adolf Hitler was forced to invade Greece.

In December 1940 the Luftwaffe began firebombing London. The following World War II timeline summarizes this and other World War II events from December 1940.

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World War II Timeline: December 8, 1940-December 29, 1940

December 1940 saw Nazi Germany firebomb London and President Franklin Roosevelt officially abandon the United States' isolationist stance. These and other World War II events are detailed on the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline

December 8: Desperately out-matched, Italy pleads with Nazi Germany for assistance with its campaign against Greece.

December 10: Adolf Hitler is forced to cancel a planned invasion of Gibraltar when Spain's General Francisco Franco refuses to assist.

In London, British officials hang Jose Waldberg and Carl Meier. Both are convicted spies for Nazi Germany.

December 11: Britain recaptures the Egyptian city of Sidi Barrani from Italy following a surprise offensive of 30,000 British soldiers against a larger Italian contingent.

December 18: Adolf Hitler approves the outline for plans for a massive German invasion of the Soviet Union.

December 20: The small Dutch navy escapes in its entirety across the English Channel to safety in Britain.

December 23: Jacques Bonsergent becomes the first French citizen executed by the Nazis in Paris, following an altercation with a German officer.

December 25: With Italian bombers threatening, the town of Bethlehem is blacked out on Christmas for the first time in memory.

December 27: The Luftwaffe begins its firebombing of London. Over the next several days, some 20,000 British firemen will struggle to extinguish the flames.

December 28: Resource-pinched Japan begins an alternate-fuel program by which private automobiles will be powered by charcoal.

December 29: Finally abandoning America's isolationist stance, President Franklin Roosevelt publicly recommends a program of direct arms aid to Great Britain.

World War II Headlines

More images and headlines from World War II events and the 1940 battles between the Allied powers and Nazi Germany are below.

British Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers antiquated but deadly: The Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber entered service with the British Royal Fleet's Air Arm in 1936. Although limited by a slow speed of 138 mph and armed with just two machine guns, the carrier-launched biplane had much to offer. It was highly maneuverable, had a range of more than 500 miles, and could carry either a 1,620-pound torpedo or the equivalent weight of bombs, mines, or depth charges. It flew with a two- or three-man crew. On November 11, 1940, 21 of these aircraft neutralized the Italian fleet at Taranto, Italy, knocking three battleships out of commission and inflicting serious destruction in general. Later, on May 26-27, 1941, the Swordfish also played a crucial part in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck.

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:John S. D. Eisenhower, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Richard Overy Ph.D., David J. A. Stone, Wim Coleman, Martin F. Graham, James H. Hallas, Mark Johnston Ph.D., Christy Nadalin M.A., Pat Perrin, Peter Stanley Ph.D.