1939 Events  
  January 1939 Events  
  Reichsmarschall Hermann W. Göring appointed Reinhard Heydrich head of Jewish Emigration and ordered the planning of the removal of all Jews from Germany through emigration.  Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in Berlin, Germany, announced the discovery of uranium fission.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler told Foreign Minister Joseph Beck of Poland that Danzig should return to Germany politically but remain with Poland economically.  Germany signed non-aggression treaties with Denmark, Latvia, and Estonia. Norway, Sweden, and Finland refused similar treaty offers, insisting on strict neutrality.  The League of Nations issued a call for its members to aid China against Japanese aggression.  Hitler dismissed Hjalmar Schacht from the presidency of the Reichsbank, the German national bank.  The uranium atom was first split at Columbia University in New York.  National Service was introduced in Britain.  The British government was in the grip of the “Dutch War Scare”.  Göring ordered Heydrich to begin plans for the removal of all Jews from Germany through emigration.  General Francisco Franco's troops captured most of Catalonia. Hitler ordered Plan Z, a 5-year naval expansion program intended to provide for a huge German fleet capable of crushing the Royal Navy by 1944.  
  February 1939 Events  
  The first group of Canadian volunteers from the Spanish Civil War returned to Canada.  Resistance in Catalonia, by Republican troops against General Francisco Franco's Nationalist troops ends.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stated that any German attack on France would be automatically considered an attack on Britain. With the exception of wedding bands all Jews in Germany are ordered to surrender objects of gold, platinum, and silver to public purchasing centers.  
  March 1939 Events  
  Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli was elected to the papacy, becoming Pius XII.  Marshall Josef Stalin outlined the Soviet Union's international position and said that the Soviet Union would look after her own affairs, not fight anyone else's battles.  In a sharp condemnation of the aggressive acts of Germany, Italy and Japan, Dmitry Manuilsky, Vice-President of the Comintern said that at Munich, the British and French had freed the hands of the aggressors.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler invited Jozef Tiso, one of the leaders of the Slovak People's Party, to Berlin, where he offered Tiso the option of proclaiming the Slovak state and ceding from Czechoslovakia. After Tiso returned to Bratislava the Slovak Diet convened and unanimously declared Slovak independence from Czechoslovakia.  Carpatho-Ukraine declared independence from Czechoslovakia.  On March 15, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as President Emil Hácha signed the document turning the country over to Germany and the German Army moved into Bohemia and Moravia. Hitler made entered Prague at the head of 10-vehicle convoy. The streets of Prague were deserted and there were no cheering crowds.  Hungary annexed the Czechoslovakian province of Carpatho-Ukraine.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave a speech in Birmingham in which he defended his part in the Munich Pact of September 1938 and finished by warning Germany that Great Britain would stand up to aggression.  The British government issued a White Paper, commonly called the MacDonald White Paper, which limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to 10,000 a year for five years.  The Germans demanded that Lithuania give up the Klaipėda Region (also known as Memel Territory), which had been detached from Germany after World War I, or the Wehrmacht would invade Lithuania.  Colonel Józef Beck, the Polish foreign minister, rejected the British proposal of a consultative agreement between Poland, Great Britain, France, and the U.S.S.R. because he did not want to enter into any agreement that included the Soviet Union as a partner.  Plan Zachod was issued. The Poles partially mobilized their armed forces and began positioning four armies along their western border.  Romania and Germany signed a ten-year scheme for Romanian economic development.  With the unconditional surrender of the Miaja government, the Spanish Nationalists gained control of the last Loyalist strongholds in Madrid and Valencia. The members of the National Defense Council fled Spain ending the Spanish Civil War. General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist government immediately set up special tribunals to try hundreds of Republican leaders.  The British government pledged Anglo-French support if Germany threatened Polish independence.  
  April 1939 Events  
  The Roosevelt administration of the United States officially recognized the government of General Francisco Franco and Pope Pius XII congratulated and blessed Franco's victory.  The Soviet and Japanese governments accepted a fishing agreement for a one-year period.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler issued a directive to the Army High Command to prepare for an attack on Poland, code named Fall Weiss (Case White), to be ready to implement by September 1.  The British and French governments signed a mutual assistance pact with the Polish government, promising that the British and French would send military aid to Poland in the event of a German attack.  The Nationalist government of Spain joined Germany, Italy, and Japan by signing the Anti-Comintern Pact.  The Italian army seized control of the kingdom of Albania, taking advantage of the Slovak crisis.  Voters in Greater Germany approved the Anschluss - Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938.  The Hungarian government announced that it had withdrawn from the League of Nations.  The monarchy of King Zog came to a formal end when the Albanian parliament abolished the 1928 constitution and proclaimed Albania's union with Rome by offering the crown to the Italian monarch, Victor Emmanuel III.  The British and French governments extended their mutual assistance pacts to the Greek and Romanian governments in an attempt to bolster a united front against Germany and Italy in the Balkans.  U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt sent diplomatic notes to Hitler and Premier Benito Mussolini of Italy, requesting assurances that neither Germany nor Italy would attack 31 countries in Europe or the Middle East for a period of ten years.  The Soviet government approached the British and French governments with an alliance proposal to stem German aggression in Eastern Europe.  The largest military parade in the history of the Third Reich was held in Berlin. The parade was in honor of Hitler 's 50th birthday and was intended as a warning to the western powers by showing the military capabilities of Nazi Germany.  In Britain, Parliament enacted the Conscription Law, bringing back compulsory service for all men aged 20-21 in an effort to increase the kingdom's military forces by 300,000 men.  In a globally broadcasted speech in the Reichstag, Hitler officially renounced the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935 and the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934. Hitler also mocked Roosevelt’s requests for peace.  
  May 1939 Events  
The Soviet government suddenly dismissed Maxim Litvinov after 18 years of service and appointed Premier Vyacheslav Molotov as the new Commissar for Foreign Affairs.  The Hungarian government introduced a series of drastic anti-Semitic laws.  Prime Minister Kiichiro Hiranuma sent a message to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler that expressed admiration for Hitler's work in Germany and said he was working on Japan's "New Order in East Asia."  The Battle of Khalkhin Gol, known by the Japanese as the “Nomonhan Incident,” began when Mongolian horsemen and Manchukuoan troops exchanged shots.  The British and Turkish governments announced a mutual aid agreement in the event of aggression or war.  The German government offered bilateral, non-aggression pacts with the Scandinavian and Baltic states. The Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish governments rejected the proposal, basing their decisions on a policy of strict neutrality. The Danish, Estonia, and Latvian governments accepted the German proposal.  The British government published a new plan for the future of Palestine, after negotiations collapsed with Arab and Jewish leaders.  The new Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov told the German ambassador in Moscow, Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, that he no longer wanted to discuss only economic matters, and that it was necessary to establish a "political basis."  In Berlin, Germany and Italy signed the ten-year political and military alliance commonly known as “The Pact of Steel.”  Hitler told a secret gathering of 14 senior officers that the shedding of blood was inevitable and explained why Germany must attack Poland, and Britain and France if necessary.  U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull recommended to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a revision of the Neutrality Act to allow the sale of arms to belligerent states.
  June 1939 Events  
  Prince Paul, the Regent of Yugoslavia, paid a state visit to Berlin where German Chancellor Adolf Hitler guaranteed the inviolability of Yugoslavia's borders.  The HMS Thetis (N 25) sank during final diving trials.  The Italian government provided the Albania with a new constitution, which established a Superior Fascist Corporative Council.  The Latvian and Estonian governments decided to accept a mutual non-aggression pact with Germany.  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the United States in the first ever visit by a reigning British monarch to the country.  Fifty native Indian states rejected a British plan to establish India as a federation.  In violation of international conventions, the Japanese imposed a blockade on the Chinese port of Tientsin, a British treaty port. The Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish governments rejected an offer from the German government to negotiate a mutual non-aggression pact.  The Danish government accepted the offer.  The French and Turkish governments concluded a mutual assistance treaty in which the French gave up all claims to the Republic of Hatay.  The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) of the RAF was formed.  
  July 1939 Events  
  The French government warned Germany that France fully intended to honor her promises to Poland.  The Soviet 1st Front Army counterattacked the Japanese in Outer Mongolia.  The Soviets forced the Japanese to withdraw across the river across the Khalkin Gol River.  In a speech before the House of Commons British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain reaffirmed support for Poland.  The U.S. government notified the Japanese government that it planned to abrogate the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1911.  At a conference in Warsaw the Poles revealed to the French and British that they had broken the German Enigma coding machine.  The Danzig government presented two protest notes to the Polish government concerning illegal activities of Polish customs inspectors and frontier officials  
  August 1939 Events  
  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a letter from Albert Einstein that told of atomic research in Nazi Germany potential use of atomic science in producing destructive weapons.  Reichsmarschall Hermann W. Göring boasted "If an enemy bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring: you can call me Meier!"  German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop told Italian Foreign Minister Ciano “We want war.”  Germany and the Soviet Union signed an economic treaty providing for the trade of German technical goods in exchange for Soviet raw materials.  A Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union was signed in Moscow.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appealed to Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany, President Ignace Moscicki of Poland, and King Victor Emmanuel of Italy for peace.  The British parliament met in a special session and passed the Emergency Powers (Defense) Act giving the government near dictatorial powers.  British and Polish representatives signed a mutual assistance pact.  When Benito Mussolini informed Hitler that Italy would not honor the Pact of Steel if Germany attacked Poland in 1939, Hitler delayed the launch of Fall Weiss.  Isoroku Yamamoto was promoted to full Admiral and appointed commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet.  
  September 1939 Events  
  Germany initiated the operation code named Fall Weiss and invades Poland without a declaration of war.  The Italian government called for a conference between Germany, Italy, Britain, France, and Poland to address the Danzig-Polish crisis.  The British government announced the implementation of a naval blockade of Germany.  Great Britain and France declared war on Germany.  The Battle of the Atlantic began with the sinking of the passenger ship Athenia by the U-3. A total of 11 French divisions crossed the frontier into Germany against little opposition.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed a national emergency.  The Battle of the Bzura River was fought between the Poles and Germany’s Army Group South.  The siege of Warsaw, Poland began.  The Red Army invaded across the entire 800 mile eastern frontier of Poland along the entire 800 mile border.  Britain and France vowed to keep fighting in response to recent peace offerings by Hitler.  Roosevelt addressed a special joint session of Congress and urged the repeal of certain Neutrality Act provisions. Romanian Prime Minister Armand Calinescu was assassinated by members of the Iron Guard.  The Red Army captured Lvov, Poland.  Warsaw capitulated after 26 days of bombardment and 11 days of siege.  Germany and the Soviet Union renegotiated the partition of Poland and the Baltic States.  The Soviet Union and Estonia signed a 10year mutual assistance pact giving the Soviet Union air bases and military rights in Estonia. The fortress of Modlin in Poland surrendered to the Germans after an 18-day siege.  The Polish Government-in-exile was formed in Paris.  The German pocket battleship Graf Spee sank its first merchant steamer.  Germany notified Britain that armed merchant ships would be treated like warships and sunk without warning.  50 ships (200,728 tons) were sunk or captured and 3 ships (17,446 tons) were damaged by U-boats and mines during September 1939.  
  October 1939 Events  
  The Declaration of Panama was approved creating a 300 mile neutrality zone off the American coast to be patrolled by the U.S. Navy.  The German government notified the United States that all merchant ships must submit to visit and search.  The British 1st Corps of the British Expeditionary Force took over responsibility for a section of the Franco-Belgian frontier.  The Soviet-Latvia Pact of Mutual Assistance allowed the Soviets to station 25,000 men at bases in Latvia.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler toured the conquered capital of Warsaw.  Hitler appealed for peace in Europe in a major speech to the Reichstag in Berlin.  The Battle of Kock is ended as Major General Franciszek Kleeberg and the last remnants of the Polish Army surrendered to German forces.  Chinese forces repelled Japanese forces to win the First Battle of Changsha.  Germany formerly annexed western Poland.  Finland began mobilizing its armed forces in response to Soviet threats.  The Soviet- Lithuania Pact of Mutual Assistance allowed the Soviets to station 20,000 men at bases in Lithuania.  Grand Admiral Erich Raeder suggested to Hitler the possibility of invading Norway.  First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill argued to the British Cabinet in favor of mining the coastal waters of Norway.  The deportation of Jews from occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia to occupied Poland began.  The first Soviet forces enter Estonia and the Baltic Germans began leaving.  The U-47 penetrated Britain’s Home Fleet base at Scapa Flow’s defenses and sank the HMS Royal Oak.  A 15year Anglo-French-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance was signed in Ankara, Turkey.  The German High Command issued Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) in response to Hitler's Directive No. 6.  Hans Frank was appointed Governor-General of the General Government for the occupied Polish territories.  34 ships (185,305 tons) were sunk or captured and 3 ships (22,328 tons) were damaged by U-boats and mines during October 1939.  
  November 1939 Events  
  Germany formally annexed western Poland, Danzig and the Polish Corridor.  The Soviet Union formally annexed part of occupied eastern Poland.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Act of 1939, repealing the general embargo on arms and allowing the sale of arms to belligerents on a "cash and carry" basis.  The British Naval Attaché in Oslo, received an anonymous report offering German technical secrets.  The invasion of France, Belgium and the Netherlands - “Case Yellow” - was set and then would postponed because of bad weather beginning a pattern of delay by the Germans.  Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and King Leopold III of Belgium issued an appeal for peace and offered themselves as mediators.  An assassination attempt was made on German Chancellor Adolf Hitler at a beer hall in Munich.  British, French, Belgian, and German troops in the field marked the twenty-first anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I.  Finnish delegates returned to Helsinki from Moscow after negotiations failed to satisfy Soviet demands.  The Allied Supreme War Council met agreed to a plan which called for an immediate advance into Belgium if the Germans invaded that country.  The German battleships SMS Scharnhorst and  SMS Gneisenau sailed into the Iceland-Faroes passage on their first wartime sortie.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that German merchant shipping would be seized in retaliation for its indiscriminate mine warfare.  Japanese forces entered Nanning despite fierce resistance by some 100,000 Chinese Nationalist troops.  The Soviets staged a border incident by firing 7 mortar shells into a field near the village of Mainila on the Karelian Isthmus and then accused Finland of aggressive behavior.  The Soviet Union invaded Finland along a 800 mile border from Ladoga to the Arctic Sea and initially were met with little resistance.  29 ships (77,799 tons) were sunk or captured and 1 ship (11,500 tons) was damaged by U-boats and mines during November 1939.  
  December 1939 Events  
  Two governments, one a Soviet Republic and the other in opposition, were set up in Finland in response to the Soviet invasion.  British conscription was increased to cover men from 19 to 41 years of age, with limited occupational deferments.  The Red Army advanced slowly on the Karelian Isthmus sustaining massive casualties.  The Soviet 163rd Division was cut off in Suomussalmi by the attacks of the Finnish 9th Brigade.  The Battle of the River Plate took place between the cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles and the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee.  The League of Nations Assembly expelled the Soviet Union and offered to coordinate world aid to Finland.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered the OKW to plan for an invasion of Norway to protect crucial supplies of iron ore from Sweden.  The successful Finnish counterattack against the Soviet 8th Army came to an end.  The Red Army began its main assault on the Mannerheim Line around Summa.  The pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled outside of Montevideo, Uruguay.  British Admiralty scientists developed the degaussing method to demagnetize ships to prevent from them from detonating magnetic mines.  The United States embargoed technical information and other materials required for the production of high quality aviation gasoline to belligerent countries.  The Red Army ended its attacks on the north end of the Mannerheim Line.  The Battle of Suomussalmi ended with the Finnish 9th division destroying the remnants of Soviet 163rd division.  43 ships (108,347 tons) were sunk or captured and 4 ships (73,313 tons) were damaged by U-boats and mines during December 1939.  
  1938 Index 1940 Index  

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