World War 2 - Timeline, Causes and Aftermath

16 Aug 2022  Read 2614 Views

The war of the wars, World War I ended with the collapse of four big empires- Russian, the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and German; many old countries were abolished, new ones were formed, boundaries were redrawn, and new international organizations were established, but this was not the end. Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 drove Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany, marking the beginning of another devastating war “World War II,” a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world from Sept 1939 to Sept 1945. 

During WWII, the countries were divided into two parts: the Axis powers Germany, Italy, and Japan, and the Allies—France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. The war was regarded as a continuation after an uneasy 20-year gap between the two wars, i.e., due to the disputes left unsettled by WWI. The 4- 5 crores of deaths incurred in World War II made it the bloodiest conflict and the largest war in history.

What was the cause of WWII?

  • The Treaty of Versailles was the major cause of World War II. The conditions of the Treaty of Versailles were specifically aimed at making Germany as weak as possible after WWI.

  • Other exact causes of World War II are highly debated. Still, contributing factors included the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, the rise of fascism in Europe, and rising European tensions since World War I. 

  • World War II broke out in Europe on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. After this, Great Britain and France responded by declaring war on Germany on September 3rd. 

  • Hitler had always desired to witness Germany expand eastwards to gain Lebensraum or 'living space' for its people. After the fall of France, Hitler commanded plans to be drawn up for an invasion of the Soviet Union. 

  • So, the war between the U.S.S.R. and Germany began on June 22, 1941, with Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union). 

  • The war in the Pacific began on December 7-8, 1941, when Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and other American, Dutch, and British military installations throughout Asia.

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbour? Hitler takes advantage

The main reason is oil. Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor stunned the Americans; its roots date back more than four decades. As Japan industrialized during the late 19th century, it wanted to modernize its economy such as the US, which had established colonies in Asia and the Pacific to secure natural resources and markets for their goods. However, Japan’s expansion resulted in a collision with the United States, particularly concerning China. 

  • Competing interest in Chinese markets- To a certain extent, the conflict between the United States and Japan is rooted in their competing interests in Chinese markets and Asian natural resources.

  • Japanese invasion of Manchuria- The first situation happened in 1931 when Japan took its first step toward building a Japanese empire in eastern Asia by invading Manchuria, a fertile, resource-rich province in northern China. 

  • Lack of resources- Japan installed a puppet government in Manchuria, renaming it Manchukuo. But the US refused to recognize the new regime. So, Japan tried to modernize its economy and build its empire throughout the 20th century. But for this, it lacked resources, especially oil.

  • Second Sino- Japanese War- After capturing Manchuria, as discussed, Japan entered a war with China and could not make any progress in 1937. Therefore, it had to look elsewhere for its needed resources to fight China. Meanwhile, the USA was slowly awakening from its isolationism.

  • Retaliation from America- When Japan occupied French Indochina in 1941, America retaliated by freezing all Japanese assets in the states, preventing Japan from purchasing oil. Japan lost 94% of its oil supply, and it wasn’t willing to submit to U.S demands

Japan planned to take the oil needed by force. So, although it planned to attack British Malaya & Dutch East Indies, it decided to attack the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, hoping the US would agree to peace. However, the attack at Pearl Harbor did not pay off. 

The Holocaust- a systematic annihilation of the jews?

During WWII, the Holocaust was Nazi Germany’s deliberate, organized, state-sponsored persecution and machinelike murder of approximately six million European Jews and at least five million prisoners of war. Hitler did not invent the hatred of Jews. Jews in Europe had been victims of discrimination and persecution since the Middle Ages, often for religious reasons. Christians saw the Jewish faith as an aberration that had to be quashed. Jews were sometimes forced to convert or not allowed to practice certain professions. There are many speculated reasons for Hitler's hatred toward Jewish. Hitler is said to have been ashamed of his partly Jewish roots. Another explanation links his hatred of Jews to trauma caused by a poison gas attack in the First World War. Yet other theories suggest that Hitler had contracted a venereal disease from a Jewish prostitute. Hitler played well by highlighting the Jewish issue to distract nations (Shooting one’s guns from someone else’s shoulder)

Timeline of World War II (WWII)

 • November 11, 1918- World War I ends

Britain, France, the US, and other allies defeat Germany, ending World War I, i.e., “the war to end all wars.”

 • January 30, 1933- Hitler appointed as Germany leader

Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and later assumed dictatorial powers. German rearmament takes off.

• August 19, 1934- Election of Germany’s President

Hitler is also elected as President of Germany.

• September 1, 1939- World War II begins

Germany invaded Poland to regain lost territory and ultimately rule their neighbor to the east after World War I as Hitler wanted to expand his territory; this invasion outraged Poland’s allies, Britain & France, to declare war on Germany. 

• September 17, 1939- The Soviet Union invades Poland

Working in tune with Hitler, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin orders the invasion of Poland, getting a share of Polish territory.

Note: In short, Poland was invaded and occupied by two powers: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, acting per the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Germany acquired 48.4% of the former Polish territory.

• September 27, 1939- Warsaw captured

Warsaw was the first European capital in Poland conquered by Nazi Germany. Warsaw surrenders to German troops. Poland holds out for another nine days before capitulating.

• December 13, 1939- UK wins the war’s first sea battle

British cruisers (Britain & France were against Germany) defeated a German battleship Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval engagement or battle of World War II. One of the most famous German battleships of WWII, the Graf Spee, sunk on 1939.

• September 1939- April 1940- Phoney War by the French to assist Poland

Phoney war began which was eight months period at the start of World War II. There was only one limited military land operation on the Western Front when French troops invaded Germany's Saar district. The Saar Offensive was a French attack into the Saarland defended by the German 1st Army to assist Poland. The assault was stopped after a few kilometers, and the French forces withdrew.

• April 8, 1940- Norway invaded

British and German naval forces met at the first Battle of Narvik on the 9th and 10th of April, and the first British forces landed at Åndalsnes on the 13th. Basically, Germany invaded Norway to seize the port of Narvik and guarantee the iron ore required for critical steel production. This invasion ended the “Phony War.”

• May 10, 1940, Churchill becomes PM

Winston Churchill replaces Neville Chamberlain as British PM. On the same day, Germany invaded Belgium to attack the french army as Germany wanted to cut through Belgium to have easier access to France.

• May 26- June 4, 1940- The Dunkirk Evacuation

The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches (seaports) around Dunkirk. Around 330,000 men were trapped here, a sitting target for the Germans. The trapped British army evacuates to England from Dunkirk, France, surviving to fight another day.

• June 14, 1940- Paris falls to the Nazis

Paris fell in the hands of German forces after eight months of relative calm (known as the Phoney War on the Western Front struck France in 1940, bypassing the Maginot Line and slipping through the Ardennes). France surrendered 11 days later.

• July 10- Oct 31, 1940- Britain fights for its life

The Battle of Britain pits German bombers against British fighters in a thwarted German start to invasion.

• December 7, 1941- the U.S plunged into war

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, starting a war with the US. Sensing weakness due to this situation, Hitler declared war on America 4 days later. 

• April 19 to May 16, 1943- Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Warsaw ghetto uprising was a violent revolt during World War II. It was an operation by the Polish underground resistance to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. Residents of the Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Warsaw in Poland staged an armed revolt to prevent displacement to Nazi-run extermination camps. However, it ended with the surrender of the surviving Polish rebels to German forces.

• April 30, 1945- Hitler commits suicide

Hitler died from suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting himself in the head as it’s speculated that Hitler’s officers warned him that the Russians were on their way and that it would only take them a day or two to take the chancellery.

"The Winning Weapon"

On August 6, 1945, atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place. During WWII, American bombing raids on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the first use of atomic weapons in war. This was done to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end and spare American lives.

Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, who won WWII. Germany signs a second, very similar, document of surrender in Berlin


Aircraft played a major role in the war, enabling the strategic bombing of population centers and the only two uses of nuclear weapons in war. World War II was the bloodiest conflict in human history; it resulted in millions of fatalities, mostly civilians. Tens of millions died due to genocides (including the Holocaust), starvation, massacres, and disease. Due to the Axis defeat, Germany and Japan were occupied, and war crimes tribunals were conducted against German and Japanese leaders.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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