1940 Events  
  January 1940 Events  
  The Soviet army launched a major offensive against Finland on the Karelian Isthmus but was halted by several Finnish victories; numerous Soviet tanks are destroyed.  The U-25 became the first Axis submarine to take advantage of Spain's offer to allow reprovisioning and refueling in its ports.  Hermann Göring was given control of Germany's wartime economy.  Adolf Eichmann reaffirmed that “On the order of the Reichsfuhrer-SS the evacuation of all the Jews from the former Polish occupied territories is to be carried out as a top priority.”  A major Finnish victory at Suomussalmi was reported. Almost 17,500 men of the Soviet 44th Division perish at Raate, a loss of approximately 70% of the Division's strength.  As merchant shipping routes were disrupted and food supplies diminished, rationing was introduced in the United Kingdom to make sure that the little food that was available was shared out equally.  A converted Wellington bomber operating from Manston, Kent, England, and equipped with DWI (Directional Wireless Installation) achieved its first successful detonation of a mine without a problem.  The Mechelen Incident occurred during the Phony War period. A German plane with an officer on board carrying the plans for Fall Gelb, a German attack on the Low Countries, crash landed in neutral Belgium near Vucht, in the present municipality of Maasmechelen. This revealed the plans to the French and British command and caused an immediate crisis situation for both the Germans and the Allies.  The Emperor of Japan appointed Admiral Yonai Mitsumasa, aged 60, to form a new cabinet after General Abe Nobuyki and his ministers resigned.  Finland’s IV Army Corps halted its offensive in the Pitkäranta area.  After correcting an error in the plans for the Enigma rotors IV and V rotors, Polish cryptologists in England made the first break into wartime Enigma traffic.  In a speech broadcasted from London, Winston Churchill, First Lord of British Admiralty, admonished neutral nations to support the Allied cause, claiming, "Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."  Two former associates of Wang Ching-wei, head of the Japanese sponsored Chinese government in Nanking, publish a text of an agreement, signed by Wang, giving Japan total political and economic dominion in China. Wang issued a strenuous denial.  The U-22, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Karl-Heinrich Jenisch, sank three vessels including the destroyer HMS Exmouth (H 02) on Sunday, January 21, 1940.  The Polish town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) was chosen as the site of a new Nazi concentration camp.  The Canadian Parliament was dissolved because of a recent controversy over the alleged weakness of war preparations and elections were set for March 28, 1940.  American-Japanese Treaty of Navigation and Commerce was allowed to lapse because the US government refused to negotiate in protest against Japanese aggression in China.  Hitler ordered the initial OKW study concerning Norway to be revised and placed under his personal supervision. The study was given the code name “Weserübung” (Weser exercise) and was to be completed in the shortest time possible.  The U-20, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Harro von Klot-Heydenfeldt, sank four vessels on Saturday, January 27, 1940.  56 ships (173,996 tons) were sunk and 2 ships (13,959 tons) were damaged by U-boats and mines.  
  February 1940 Events  
  The Soviet Union began a new offensive against the Mannerheim Line in Finland.  The Japanese Diet announced a record high budget with over half its expenditures being devoted to the military.  The Japanese demanded the return of the German nationals removed from the Japanese liner SS Asama Maru.  The Allied Supreme War Council, meeting in Paris, made a final decision to send a British expeditionary corps of 100,000 and a French force of 50,000 men, to Finland. It was also decided that in sending an expeditionary force to Finland, the Swedish iron ore mines should be occupied by troops landed at Narvik, Norway.  Pressure from the Admiralty led to new guidelines for BBC war reporting being agreed at Broadcasting House.  Disregarding security concerns, British and French newspapers published the Allied Supreme War Council’s decision to send aid to Finland.  Friedrich Ubelhor, the governor of the Kalisz-Lodz District, issued the order to establish the Lodz ghetto.  Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to a new trade treaty to provide 660 million Reichmarks worth of raw materials within 18 months to be paid for within 27 months by German supplies.  Using overwhelming numbers, the Soviet Army breakthrough achieved a breakthrough in the Mannerheim Line as breaches were made in both flanks at Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland.  Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the United Kingdom's Home Department Osbert Peake stated that “a general licence has been granted to British subjects to enlist in the Finnish forces."  Finnish Commander-in-Chief Carl G. E. Mannerheim decided to abandon the Mannerheim Line and pulled Finnish troops back to the the “V-line.”  The German tanker Altmark was boarded and captured in Norwegian waters freeing 299 British prisoners.  The basics of the revised version of "Fall Gelb” (Case Yellow) was described to German Chancellor Adolph Hitler by General Erich von Manstein.  General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was placed in command of the Operation Weserübung ("Exercise on the Weser"), the invasion of Norway and Denmark.  Without informing the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine conducted Operation Wikinger and two destroyers were mistakenly sunk.  Finland's Foreign Minister Väinö Tanner received a communication from Stockholm containing a precise statement of the Soviet Union's harsh terms for peace.  The Air Defense Command was created by the War Department as the Air Defense Command. As a component of the U.S. First Army, its mission was to plan for and execute the air defense of the continental United States.  51 ships (185,405 tons) were sunk and 3 ships (21,114 tons) were damaged by U-boats and mines.  
  March 1940 Events  
  The British Government informed the Cunard Line they would be requisitioning the Queen Mary ocean liner for war duty.  Three Soviet divisions launch a massive general offensive in Finland.  The office of the Canadian Prime Minister announced that there are no legal obstacles for Canadian volunteers participating in the war in Finland. The first batch of volunteers boarded a ship in Ottawa which was bound for Finland.  Finland was ready to open peace talks if the Soviet Union will drop its demand for cession of Viipuri and Sortavala.  The Soviet Government formally apologized to Sweden over the bombing of Pajala on February 21, 1940.  The Soviet Union announced its readiness to open talks with Finland in Moscow, but would not agree a ceasefire until the talks were actually underway.  Finland’s delegation under the leadership of Prime Minister Risto Ryti in Moscow met the Soviet negotiating team on March 8,1940.  On March 9, 1940 the U-140 sank 3 merchant ships.  German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop met Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini in Italy. von Ribbentrop informed Mussolini of Hitler’s plan to invade France  and assured him of a swift victory. The Treaty of Moscow ending the Winter War was signed in the Kremlin at 1 o'clock in the morning Finnish time.  The peace treaty took effect on all fronts at 11 a.m.  In the Bay of Bengal near the Nicobar Islands, British aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (94) was damaged when a major explosion occurred in a bomb room.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini met each other at the little station on the Brenner Pass on the border of Italy and Austria.  French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier resigned under a storm of criticism over his handling of the Finnish situation and other matters.  RAF Bomber Command carried out their first attack on an enemy land target when 41 Whitleys and Hampdens attacked the German seaplane base on the island of Sylt.  The French the Chamber of Deputies elected Paul Reynaud Prime Minister and he formed a new French government.  The Lahore Resolution was adopted by the All-India Muslim League and its principles formed the foundation for Pakistan's first constitution.  At a meeting in London the Allied Supreme War Council resolved that neither Britain nor France would make a separate peace with Germany.  Wang Jingwei became the President of the Executive Yuan and Chairman of the National Government, effectively the head of state of the Japanese puppet Central China government based in Nanjing.  The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic was created by merging the KASSR with the Finnish Democratic Republic, created from territory ceded by Finland in the Winter War by the Moscow Peace Treaty.  26 ships (73,071 tons) were sunk by U-boats and mines.  
  April 1940 Events  
  The Pacific Fleet, commanded by Admiral James 0. Richardson, left the West Coast of the United States for Hawaii.  First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill became chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee.  The British and French governments announced that their navies had mined Norwegian waters in an effort to prevent German warships from passing through them.  Germany launched Operation Weserubung, invading Denmark and Norway. Denmark would capitulate within twelve hours.  The German heavy cruiser Blücher was sunk by Norwegian shore defenses.  British and German naval forces engaged in a battle at Narvik.  British troops occupied the Denmark's Faroe Islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The Second Battle of Narvik occurred when the British battleship HMS Warspite, 9 destroyers, and the aircraft carrier HMS Furious under Vice-Admiral William Jock Whitworth, entered Ototfjord to destroy the remaining German flotilla at Narvik.  The British 146th Territorial Brigade began arriving at Namsos, north of Trondheim, Norway.  At an official press conference Japanese Foreign Minister Hachirō Arita declared that all of Southeast Asia was "economically bound [to Japan] by an intimate relationship of mutuality in ministering to one another's needs."  U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull said that “Any change in the status of the Netherlands Indies would directly affect the interests of many countries. The Netherlands Indies are very important in the international relationships of the whole Pacific Ocean."  The first engagement between British and German land forces in World War II occurred near Trondheim.  10 ships (35,433 tons) were sunk and 1 ship (6,999 tons) was damaged by U-boats and mines.  
  May 1940 Events  
The British began to evacuate Allied forces from Norway.  Hegra Fortress surrendered following the Allied evacuation around Trondheim and the surrender of southern Norway.  Debate opened in British parliament on the conduct of the war and especially of the Norwegian campaign.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government was sustained by a test vote of 281 to 200 in the House of Commons.  Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), the invasion of Western Europe, began as 76 German divisions crossed a 175-mile front into Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill.  Britain occupied Iceland as a preventive measure.  The Belgian Fort Eben Emael surrendered to German infantry.  The British Air Ministry made the decision to attack purely civilian targets in Western Germany.  The French 7th Army advanced into Holland and engaged with the German advance.  German armored units entered Sedan without a fight and their armored forces reached the Meuse north of the city.  Winston Churchill made his first speech as British Prime Minister in a radio broadcast. He says, "I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and sweat."  Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Government escaped to London.  German armor units crossed the Meuse River.  With the exception of forces in the Zeeland, the Dutch army surrendered.  French Premier Paul Reynaud phoned British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and told him, "We have been defeated; we have lost the battle."  General Heinz Guderian's panzers reached Montcornet less than 15 miles from Laon. Guderian was ordered to halt there but after vigorous complaints he was allowed another day's march. A halt order is issued to the German tank forces.  Many at the OKW (German army headquarters) cannot accept that the panzers could advance so far without exposing their flanks.  Churchill flew to Paris. In a meeting with the French commanders, Churchill asked General Maurice Gamelin, "Where is the strategic reserve?" "There is none," Gamelin replied.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged production of 50,000 planes a year, a speedup in military manufacture and  the immediate appropriation of $896 million in military spending.  The German 6th Army entered Brussels, Belgium.  The German 18th Army captured Antwerp, Belgium.  Gamelin was removed from his post as commander of the French armed forces by Reynaud.  General Maxime Weygand was called upon to take command of the French Army.  The Germans reached the English Channel trapping much of the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force in a northern pocket.  Grand Admiral Erich Raeder mentioned to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler for the first time that it may be necessary to invade Britain.  The Allied Supreme War Council in Paris decided to end its involvement in Norway.  The order is issued to begin Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk.  King Leopold III agreed to the surrender of the Belgian army without consulting the other Allies or the Belgium government.  Because of the destroyer losses in Operation Dynamo and the demand for them in other operations the Admiralty decided that the more modern types needed to be withdrawn.  Arthur Seyss-Inquart was installed as the Reich Commissioner of the Netherlands.  In a joint address to the Congress Roosevelt stated that the recent extensive use of tanks and planes in war made it imperative that at least $1,000,000,000 more should be spent for U.S. national defense.  16 ships (63,537 tons) were sunk and 1 ship (9,494 tons) was damaged by U-boats.
  June 1940 Events  
  The last ship of Operation Dynamo left the beaches of Dunkirk at 3:40 a.m. on June 4th. 40,000 men remained behind to be captured by the Germans but 338,226 soldiers had been evacuated.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to the U.S. government for war materials, after the British disaster in northern France.  Churchill made his "We shall fight on the beaches ... we shall never surrender." speech to Parliament.  The French line along the Somme between Amiens and the coast was broken by the attacks of 15th Panzer Corps.  The heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (39) transported King Haakon VII and members of the Norwegian Government from Tromso to Britain.  The German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau found and sank the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and her escorting destroyers.  The Soviet and Japanese governments signed an agreement which ended the dispute regarding the borders of Manchukuo.  The Italian government ended its neutrality and declared war on France and Great Britain.  Spain sent a 3,000-man force to occupy the international zone at Tangier, Morocco.  Coastal evacuations of British and Canadian troops from Cherbourg began.  The Soviet Union occupied Lithuania.  French Prime Minister Reynaud l resigned and was replaced by Marshal Philippe Pétain.  Estonia and Latvia submitted to Soviet demands and were occupied.  Churchill made a radio broadcast saying that the Battle of France was over and that the Battle of Britain was about to begin.  General Charles de Gaulle became the leader of "Free France."  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt strengthened his Cabinet by appointing in two prominent Republicans. Henry Stimson became Secretary for War and William “Frank” Knox became the Secretary for the Navy.  France formally surrendered to Germany.  In his first and only visit to Paris, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler toured the occupied French capitol.  France and Italy signed an armistice.  The Romanian government agreed to submit to the Soviet Union’s territorial demands.  German forces seized control of the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey.  63 ships (335,530 tons) were sunk and 4 ships (28,110 tons) were damaged by U-boats during June 1940.  
  July 1940 Events  
  Germany rejected an American diplomatic note regarding the Monroe Doctrine principle.  Germany asked the United States to withdraw diplomatic missions from Norway, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxemburg.  The Romanian government renounced the Anglo-French guarantee of territorial integrity.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered the preparation of plans for the invasion of Britain, code-named Operation Sealion.  The British attacked the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria.  The British board and took over all French warships in British ports.  At Alexandria, Egypt the French agreed to demilitarize their warships.  A pro-Axis government was installed in Romania.  The Vichy French government broke off diplomatic relations with Britain in protest of the sinking or capture of the French fleet.  Sweden and Germany signed a treaty allowing transit of German war material between Norway and ports in southern Sweden.  The Battle of Calabria was fought in the Mediterranean between the British Royal Navy and the Italian Regia Marina.  The "Battle of Britain" began as the Luftwaffe started attacking convoys off the English coast.  The Vichy government in France was formed with Marshal Philippe Pétain as its leader.  Romania withdrew from the League of Nations.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his "war of the unknown warriors" speech in a BBC radio broadcast.  The outnumbered British garrison at Moyale, Kenya withdrew from the town in face of attacking Italian forces.  The results of the plebiscites conducted in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia showed a unanimous desire to join the Soviet Union.  Japanese Prime Minister Yonai resigned because of military pressure and a new government was formed under Prince Fumumaro Konoye.  The British government announced that it was closing the Burma Road and Hong Kong for the transit of war supplies to China.  In a speech to the Reichstag Hitler urged Britain to make peace with Germany.  The Battle of Cape Spada took place in the Mediterranean between the British Royal Navy and the Italian Regia Marina.  The Vinson-Walsh Act (the Two-Ocean Navy Act) was approved by the U.S. Congress.  The Soviet Union formally annexed Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.  Britain rejected Hitler’s peace offer.  The Special Operations Executive was created.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt invoked the Export Control Act that essentially placed an embargo on airplanes, parts, machine tools, and aviation gasoline to Japan.  41 ships (203,709 tons) were sunk and 2 ships (13,027 tons) were damaged by U-boats during July 1940.  
  August 1940 Events  
  Japan issued a policy declaration concerning a "New Order" in "Greater East Asia."  An Italian army invaded British Somaliland.  Moldavia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia were incorporated into the Soviet Union.  The British government announced that it would be abandoning the British presence in Shanghai and Tientsin province, in northern China.  “Adlertag” (Eagle Day) commenced, with 1,485 Luftwaffe sorties against British ports and airfields.  Sir Henry Tizard left for the United States on the Tizard Mission, giving over to the Americans a number of top secret British technologies.  The German government announced a “total blockade” of Great Britain.  The evacuation of British forces from Berbera in British Somaliland to Aden was completed.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" speech to the House of Commons.  The first German air raids on Central London occurred.  The first British retaliated with an air raid on Berlin.  Romania ceded territory to Hungary and Bulgaria.  57 ships (287,312 tons) were sunk and 9 ships (69,982 tons) were damaged by U-boats during August 1940.  
  September 1940 Events  
  The United States and Great Britain ratified an agreement to exchange naval and air for fifty World War I naval destroyers.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler set the date for the start of Operation Sea Lion, the German invasion of England.  U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull warned the Japanese to respect the territorial integrity of French Indochina.  The anti-war America First Committee was established.  King Carol abdicated the Romanian throne in favor of his son Prince Michael.  The London Blitz began.  The first 8 U.S. Navy destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy under the destroyers for bases agreement in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  German Governor-General Hans Frank ordered the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto.  The Italian 10th Army launched an offensive into western Egypt.  The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 became law.  Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion indefinitely.  Japan and Vichy France concluded an agreement on air bases, troops stationed, and transit rights in Indochina.  British and Free French forces unsuccessfully tried to use force to bring the port of Dakar in French West Africa over to the Allied cause.  The United States loaned China $25 million to stabilize Chinese currency and the Chinese government.  Josef Terboven, the German Reich-Commissar for Norway, formally deposed the King of Norway and reorganized the country's political administration.  The first fully intelligible message of the Japanese "purple" cipher was recovered by U.S. cryptanalysts.  Over a 7 day period U-boats successfully attacked 4 Allied convoys in the North Atlantic sinking 27 ships.  In an action aimed at Japan, the United States declared an embargo on all exports of scrap iron and steel, except to Britain and nations of the Western Hemisphere.  The Tripartite Pact was signed in Berlin by representatives of Germany, Italy, and Japan.  56 ships (281,874 tons) were sunk and 7 ships (42,636 tons) were damaged by U-boats during September 1940.  
  October 1940 Events  
  Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned his positions as Lord President of the Council and as a member of the War Cabinet.  German troops entered Romania to block the Soviets and protect their access to Romania’s oil fields.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was elected the head of the Conservative Party.  Marshal Philippe Pétain, leader of Vichy France, made a radio broadcast in which he announced his intention of collaborating with Germany.  Germany postponed Operation Sea Lion until the spring of 1941.  Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and the Italian War Council made the final decision for an attack on Greece.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the opening of the draft over the radio.  The Burma Road was reopened to the passage of supplies to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Chinese forces.  U-boats sank a large number of merchant ships from Convoys SC-7 and HX-79.  Italian aircraft bombed Cairo, Egypt and American-operated oil refineries in the British Protectorate of Bahrain.  Churchill appealed to the French in a radio broadcast not to hinder Britain in the war against Germany.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler met with Spanish leader Generalissimo Francisco Franco but failed to persuade him to join the Axis.  General de Charles Gaulle formed a free government for France.  Italian forces invaded Greece.  61 ships (345,482 tons) were sunk and 12 ships (64,311 tons) were damaged by U-boats during October 1940.  
  November 1940 Events  
  Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican challenger Wendell Willkie to win an unprecedented third term as President of the United States.  Former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain died of bowel cancer.  U.S. Ambassador to England Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. stated in an interview for the Boston Sunday Globe that “Democracy is finished in England. It may be here…”  The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (87) launched 21 Swordfish planes that attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop met with Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov in Berlin to discuss a new world order.  Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia joined the Tripartite Pact with Germany, Japan, and Italy.  The U-100 and U-123 attacked two North Atlantic convoys and sank 11 ships in a single day.  Japan officially recognized the Nanking government led by President Wang Ching-wei.  33 ships (171,787 tons) were sunk and 3 ships (13,409 tons) were damaged by U-boats during November 1940.  
  December 1940 Events  
  Marshal Pietro Badoglio resigned his post as chief of the general staff of the Italian army.  The British, under General Richard O'Connor, began an offensive in the North Africa.  Sidi Barrani, Egypt was liberated by the British offensive.  Yugoslavia and Hungary signed a perpetual friendship pact.  German Chancellor Adolf Hitler issued Führer Directive 20 concerning the invasion of Greece.  The first "area bombing" raid on a German city was conducted by the RAF on Mannheim.  British forces occupied Fort Capuzzo, Sollum, and three other Italian positions near the Egypt-Libya border.  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a press conference suggesting that the U.S. lend arms to Britain.  Hitler issued Führer Directive 21 concerning the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  Viscount Halifax was appointed British ambassador to the U.S. to succeed the late Lord Lothian and Anthony Eden became the Foreign Secretary in the Churchill Cabinet.  A large German incendiary air raid on London destroyed or badly damaged eight churches designed by Christopher Wren including St Paul's Cathedral.  Vice Admiral Claude C. Bloch warned the Navy Department of the inadequacy of the defenses at Pearl Harbor.  41 ships (234,707 tons) were sunk and 9 ships (73,141 tons) were damaged by U-boats during December 1940.  
  1939 Index 1941 Index  

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