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World War II: key dates

World War II: key dates

August 28, 2019

Paris: World War II started 80 years ago with the German invasion of Poland and drew in several countries before it ended six years later with Japan´s surrender.

It was the world´s deadliest conflict, estimated to have killed 40 to 60 million people, more than half of whom were civilians.

Here are key dates in the war.

 Nazis invade Poland

Adolf Hitler´s Nazi forces invade Poland from the west on September 1, 1939, prompting Britain and France to declare war on Berlin two days later.

Soviet forces attack Poland from the east on September 17, under a secret pact with Germany, and the city of Warsaw surrenders 10 days later.

 Northern France occupied

After occupying Denmark and Norway, Hitler launches a major offensive against Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and France in May 1940.

France´s wartime leader Philippe Petain on June 17 announces its capitulation; on June 22 he signs the armistice that allows Nazi forces to occupy the north of the country.

On June 18 French General Charles de Gaulle calls from London for resistance.

Petain sets up a government headquartered in the central spa town of Vichy that collaborates with the occupying German forces.

 Battle of Britain

On August 13, 1940, the Battle of Britain begins with German bombers carrying out massive attacks on cities such as Coventry and London, the raids continuing for nine months.

Faced with British resistance, Hitler abandons his planned invasion of Britain and declares, later in August, a blockade of the British Isles with his submarine fleet.

 Soviet Union attacked

On June 22, 1941, Berlin turns east and launches an attack against the Soviet Union.

The German army is halted at the gates of Moscow in December by a Soviet counteroffensive. However its siege of Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, will last nearly 900 days until January 1944.

 Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Japan -- allied with Germany -- attacks the US military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying most of the US Pacific fleet.

The Americans, led by Franklin D. Roosevelt, enter World War II the next day.


On January 20, 1942, Hitler ramps up at a Berlin conference his "Final Solution" plan to exterminate Jews, in particular by mass killings in concentration camps.

Some six million Jews are slain, as well as many political prisoners, including resistance fighters, homosexuals and gypsies.

 North Africa defeat

In October 1942 British troops defeat the German Afrika Korps in Egypt, handing the Nazi army its first major setback.

In November thousands of British and American forces land in North Africa, leading to the surrender in 1943 of German-allied troops in the region.

 Battle of Stalingrad

On February 2, 1943, the five-month Battle of Stalingrad ends with Soviet victory over the Nazis.

It is the first Nazi surrender in Europe since the war began, and costs the German army half a million men.

 D-Day in France

In November 1943 the Allies agree to attack Germany via occupied France.

D-Day is on June 6, 1944, when more than 156,000 mainly American, British and Canadian troops land on the Normandy beaches. They overwhelm the Germans and liberate Paris on August 25.

 Germany surrenders

The Soviet army arrives in Berlin in April 1945 and captures the city by early May.

Hitler commits suicide on April 30. On May 8 Germany surrenders unconditionally, ending the war in Europe.

 Japan capitulates 

On August 6 and 9 US aircraft drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively.

On September 2, 1945, Japan officially surrenders. World War II is over.