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.