WW2 Chronology 1939
When the U.S. entered WW2, the war had been going on for over two years and three months in Europe, five years in Africa, and ten years in China.
- Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931 and became Sino-Japanese War in 1937.
- Mussolini had invaded Ethiopia in 1935.
- Spanish Civil War had started in 1936.
- Germany annexed Austria, requested and got Sudaten.
No American capital ships were completed in 1939 -- "schools not ships" policy.
Japan possesses the richest portions and half the population of China.
Jan 22. The uranium atom was 1st split at Columbia University.
Jan 26. Franco conquered Barcelona.
Jan 27. FDR approved the sale of U.S. war planes to France.
Feb 2 . Hungary broke relations with the Soviet Union.
Feb 10. Japan occupied the Chinese island of Hainan located off the coast of French Indochina
Mar 3 . Ghandi began a fast to protest the state's autocratic rule.
Mar 15. Hitler annexes the rest of Czechoslovakia - Bohemia and Moravia
Mar 22. Hitler protects Slovakia, annexes Memel, city in Lithuania..
Mar 23-Apr3. Solvak-Hungarian War.
Mar 28. Madrid falls to Franco.
Mar 28. Poland rejects Hitler's demand for Danzig. Britain and France pledge to support Poland.
Mar 31. Seven French islands annexed by Japan.
Apr 4 . End of Spanish Civil War with Franco as head of state.
Apr 6 . Great Britain and Poland sign a military pact.
Apr 7 . Mussolini invades Albania
Apr 15. FDR writes Hitler seeking peaceful resolution to all issues.
Apr 16. Stalin requested a British, French and Russian anti-Nazi pact.
Apr 28. Hitler renounces British Naval Agreement and Polish No-Aggression pact
Apr 30. Hitler speech rejects diplomatic efforts to limit Germany.
May 11. Border fighting begins undeclared border war on Khalka River between Japanese
Manchukuo (Manchuria) and Russian controlled Mongolia ; both sides build up forces.
May 19, Churchill signed British-Russian anti-Nazi pact.
May 22. Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel. 100 days till war.
May 23. US submarine Squalus sank off NH. A diving bell designed by Momsen brought 33 survivors (26 perished).
Recommissioned as Sailfish she made 12 Pacific patrols in WW2.
British submarine HMS Thetis sank during trial dive.
Jun 14. Tientsin Incident: The Japanese blockade the British concession in Tianjin, China.
June . Brewster F2A "Buffalo" enters service.
Jun 28, Pan American Airways began regular trans-Atlantic air service as the "Dixie Clipper", N.Y. to Portugal.
July 5 . IJN carrier Hiryu commissions -- Pearl Harbor, Wake, Moluccas, Darwin, Java Sea, Indian Ocean -> Midway.
July 13. RAdm Byrd appointed command of Antarctic Expedition.
Aug 2 . Albert Einstein signed a letter to President Roosevelt urging creation of an atomic weapons research program. Received by FDR Oct. after war started in Europe.
Aug 20. Overwhelming Russian armored forces defeat Japanese in Battle of Khalkhin Gol in border war over Mongolia.
Aug 20. Soviet and German trade agreements were signed.
Aug 21. Admiral Graf Spee departs for South Atlantic and refuels at sea.
Aug 23. Molotov-Ribbentrop secret Pact: Hitler and Stalin agree to divide Europe between themselves
Finland, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia and eastern Poland to the USSR ; Lithuania and western Poland to Germany.
Aug 24. Deutschland is deployed to raid commerce in the North Atlantic.(later renamed Lützow).
Aug 25. Britain and France signed a treaty with Poland promising military assistance should the Germans invade.
Aug 26. Kriegsmarine orders German-flagged merchant ships to German ports immediately
Aug 27. Heinkel He-178, made its first flight became the first jet-powered airplane to fly. It remained airborne for 7 minutes. See Coanda 'thermojet', 1910 !
Aug 29. Standard Oil removes all German crew from its 27 German built ships in western hemisphere.
Aug 30. Isoroku Yamamoto was appointed supreme commander of the Japanese fleet.
Aug 31. Poland mobilizes troops to counter German troop buildup.
Sept 1. Germany invades Poland with Blitzkrieg.
Sept 1. United States Army has 28 operational tanks.
Sept 2. Danzig , Gdansk, is annexed to Nazi Germany.
Sept 3. Britain give ultimatum to withdraw. War declared in Europe.
Sept 3. Submarine U-30 torpedoes British passenger liner Athenia without warning in the belief that she is an armed merchant cruiser; 28 American citizens are among the dead.
Sept 3. U.S. freighter Saccarappa, with a cargo of phosphates and cotton, is seized by British authorities and cargo confiscated. Patrol stops 108 merchantmen over the next three weeks, ordering 28 into the port to have their cargoes inspected, confiscated, and to remove German nationals. British, French and Germans stop and inspect ships on the high seas and capture cargo deemed contraband. This continues at least thru 1939 until a procedure to certify cargoes before departure.
Sept 4. USN to form Neutrality Patrol to extend about 300 miles off the eastern coastline of the United States and along the eastern boundary of the Caribbean to report foreign men-of-war and render prompt assistance.
Sept 4. US cruisers organized to establish patrol off the eastern seaboard to observe
and report the movements of foreign men-of-war.
Sept 5. FDR proclaims U.S. neutrality in World War II.
Sept 6. The 1st WWII German air attack on Great Britain took place.
Sept 7. French forces marched 5 miles into the Cadenbronn and Wendt Forest near Saarrucken.
Sept 8. FDR proclaims limited state of emergency in U.S.
Sept 9. FDR increases authorized strength of Navy and Marine Corps and recalls to active duty officers, men, and nurses on retired lists.
Sep 10. U.S. freighter Wacosta, bound from Scotland to New York is stopped by German submarine for three hours.
Sep 11. British submarine Triton torpedoed British submarine Oxley. Two survivors.
Sep 12. French withdraw from German soil
Sep 13. Forty reserve DDs ordered recommissioned to support a Neutrality Patrol.
Sep 14. British sink the German U-39. U.S. neutrality patrol makes first deployment.
Sep 14, Sikorsky flew the VS-300 helicopter on its first test flight.
Sep 15. Warsaw surrounded. Polish army ordered to SE, Romanian border to hold out till Allies arrive.
Sep 16. Ceasefire ends undeclared Border War between Soviet Union and it Mongolian allies and Japan. Japan decides it must attack south (Dutch East Indies) to obtain resources.
Sep 17. Russia invades Poland. Destroys Poland defensive plan.
Sep 17. The German U-29 sinks the British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous (CV.77)
Sep 19. A British Expeditionary Force starts to land in France
Sep 19. Poland collapses.
Sep 20. German U-27 sunk by destroyers HMS Fortune and Forester off Hebrides.
Sep 21. FDR asks repeal of arms embargo of Neutrality Act.
Sep 25. Luftwaffe strikes Warsaw with fire bombs.
Sep 26. Chinese halt Japanese advance into Hunan and southern China
Sep 26. Last of Polish army's attempt to reach Romania failed, capitulated
Sep 27. Warsaw surrenders.
Sep 28. Germany and the Soviet Union reach secret an agreement on the division of Poland. Polish whip Russian force at Szack ; all captured Polish officers and NCOs executed
Sep 29. British warships operating on the Northern Patrol continue to stop neutral merchantman; between this date and 12 October, 63 vessels are stopped, of which 20 are detained for the inspection of their cargoes.
Sep 30. French withdrawal to the Maginot Line in anticipation of a German counterattack.
Twilight or Phony War lasts till Spring, 1940 . Little action on the Western Front.
British and French have 676 warships vs. German 130 of which 57 are submarines, U-boats.
Oct 1 . Churchill called the Soviets a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
German has 4700 modern aircraft. RAF 3600 mostly obsolete, France virtually none.
German has 53 divisions with modern equipment. France has 28 division with WWI equipment.
The U.S. Navy consists of 396 commissioned ships. ( 285 today.) [Battle fleet alone in 1946 is 1,060.]
Oct 5 . Hawaiian Detachment is formed and sent to its new operating base, Pearl Harbor.
Oct 5 . Hitler's victory parade in Warsaw.
Oct 6 . Chinese defeat Japanese in Battle for Changsha
Oct 6 . Germans losses during the invasion of Poland : 10,572 killed, 217 tanks, 285 planes.
Oct 7 . Poles lost 50,000 dead and 333 aircraft. POW 650,000. Escaped 140,000.
Oct 8 . Hitler delays invasion of the Low Countries because of losses in Poland.
Oct 9 . Finland called for full scale mobilization for war.
Oct 10. British authorities remove from freighter Black Gull, 303 sacks of American mail. This is among the first instances of the British removing mail addressed to neutral countries and opening and censoring sealed letter mail sent from the United States. This continues at least thru the early March 1940.
Oct 11. U.S. sets up Uranium Advisory Committee.
Oct 12. German submarines attack convoys of French and British of Wales; U 48 shells and sinks French tanker Emile Miguet and later torpedoes and sinks British freighter Heronspool.
Oct 13. German pocket battleship Deutschland sinks Norwegian freighter Lorentz W. Hansen 420 miles east of Newfoundland.
Oct 14. German submarine U-47 penetrates defenses of British fleet base at Scapa Flow and torpedoes battleship HMS Royal Oak.
Oct 15. Admiral Graf Spee meets tanker Altmark and refuels.
Oct 16. Ranger (CV-4) and San Francisco (CA-38) are mobilized to locate and trail German tanker departed Tampico, Mexico, for Admiral Graf Spee.
Oct 17. Luftwaffe air raids on British warships.
Oct 18. FDR bans war submarines from U.S. ports and waters.
Oct 19. Gunboat Erie (PG-50) arrives off Manzanillo, Mexico on neutrality patrol to monitor movements of German freighter Havelland.
Oct 20. Commander Atlantic Squadron informs his ships to use plain language radio reporting of contacts.
Oct 21. British light cruiser HMS Orion and Canadian destroyer HMCS Saguenay locate German tanker Emmy Friedrich in the Yucatan Channel
Oct 22. U.S. freighters Endicott and West Gambo are detained by French authorities and portions of their cargo ordered ashore as contraband.
Oct 23. British light cruiser HMS Caradoc intercepts Emmy Friedrich whose crew scuttles her to avoid capture.
Oct 24. German U 37 sinks British steamships Menin Ridge (topredoes) and Ledbury (gunfire) off Gilbraltar.
Oct 25. U.S. freighters continue to be detained by British and French authorities .
Oct 27. U.S. Consul at Gibraltar meets with British objecting to detention of U.S. merchantmen.
Oct 28. Admiral Graf Spee again rendezvous with tanker Altmark, near Tristan de Cunha, to refuel and transfer British crews to her.
Nov 1 . Heinkel He 178, first jet plane, was demonstrated to German Air Ministry. Unimpressed.
Nov 4 . U.S. modifies Neutrality Act to allow arms trade on a cash and carry basis, ending arms embargo.
Nov 5 . President Roosevelt declares area around British Isles a combat zone.
Nov 6 . Nazi imprison professors of University of Krakow.
Nov 8 . Finns refused to allow the establishment of Soviet military bases.
Nov 10. Lockheed Hudson of Coastal Command shoots down a German Do.18 flying boat.
Nov 15. U.S. Antarctic Service motorship North Star departs Boston, Mass. for the south polar regions
Nov 16. German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee sinks steamer in Indian Ocean.
Nov 17. Three German destroyers laid 180 magnetic mines in the Thames Estuary and more by subs on the Humber.
British did not know these were new magnetic mines and were without defensive sweeping capabilities.
Nov 18. German aircraft laid parachute mines. Merchant ships striking mines during this period.
Nov 20. U31, U.33, U.35, U.47, U.48 were deployed around the Orkneys to support German Fleet operations.
Nov 21. "Navicert" system is instituted by U.S. to avoid incidents at sea -- merchant ships obtain clearances for cargoes prior to leaving port.
Nov 22. French navy moves from various African ports to Brest.
Nov 23. British armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi sunk attacking German warships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.
Nov 24. RN Home Fleet repositioned to search for German warships and raiders from Iceland to South Atlantic.
Nov 25. German liner Adolph Woermann is scuttled when overtaken by HMS Neptune (CL-20)
Nov 26. The Soviet government claims "incident" on the Karelian Isthmus and demands withdrawal of Finnish troops
Nov 27. British Uskmouth in convoy sunk by U-43. Steamer Royston Grange sunk by U-28.
Nov 28. USSR denounces its 1932 Non-Aggression Pact with Finland.
Nov 29. German submarine U-35 sunk off Bergen by destroyers Kingston and Kashmir.
Nov 30. Soviets invade Finland with 4 armies, 540,000 men, 2485 tanks, and 2000 guns.
Lose "The Winter War" ; win in the spring.
Dec 1 . Ranger (CV-2) comes to aid of Reuben James (DD-245) which had run aground ;
offloads ammo to float her.
Dec 2 . Six modern submarines (SubDiv14) arrives in the Philippines, the first modern reinforcements received by the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in many years.
Dec 4 . Battleship HMS Nelson, damaged by mine at Clyde , unable to proceed until Jan 4.
Dec 5 . Ussukuma intercepted by HMS Cumberland and Ajax scuttled herself rather than be captured.
Dec 6 . HMS Despatch (CL) captures German steamer Dusseldorf; later renamed Empire Confidence for British service .
British Force W consisted of Fleet Tenders A and B (dummy battleships) return escort duty. C is dummy aircraft carrier.
Dec 7 . Battlecruiser HMS HOOD, badly in need of attention after her scheduled refit in November had been cut short.
Dec 8 . Germans holding 125 neutral ships for evaluation of contents ; virtually all Baltic shipping.
Dec 9 . Twelve German steamers at Curacao seized by Dutch authorities ; three escape, two scuttled.
Dec 10. Convoys depart weakly escorted and ships strike mines through this period.
Dec 11. French battleship Dunkerque with 100 tons of gold for deposit in Canada departed Brest for Halifax.
Dec 12. Finns destroy two Soviet divisions.
Dec 13. British cruisers Exeter, Ajax, and Achilles engage Admiral Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate.
Dec 14. German freighter Arauca departs Vera Cruz, Mexico, followed subsequently by passenger liner Columbus, the third largest ship in Germany's merchant marine. Two U.S. destroyers trail Columbus and Arauca. A succession of U.S. ships over ensuing days send out plain-language position reports.
Dec 17. Graf Spee scuttled.
Dec 18. Four Australian destroyers arrive for service in Mediterranean
Dec 19. HMS Hyperion (DD.97) intercepts German passenger liner Columbus 450 miles east of Cape May, NJ ; the liner is scuttled to prevent capture.
Dec 20. Attempted breakout by pocket battleship Deutschland, turned back next day.
Dec 20. HMS Orion (CL.85) intercepts German freighter Arauca off Miami, Fla ; the latter puts in to Port Everglades to avoid capture. The U.S. Navy eventually commissions Arauca as refrigerated storeship Saturn (AF-40).
Dec 22. Canadian troop convoy two departed Halifax with another 8,000 troops.
Dec 25. Canadian troop convoy escorted by 12 Home Fleet destroyers from mid-Atlantic through the Western Approaches.
Dec 28. Battleship HMS Barham torpedoed by U-30; out of service until 1 July
Dec 30. Soviets had lost 27,500 men in Winter War and Finland 2,700.
Dec 31. Day 120 since the declaration of war in Europe.
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About this page: 1939 - World War 2 started seventy-five years ago. This a chronology of interesting events leading to that war to help in understanding the period.
Created July 10, 2009