What Is a Timeline for World War II?

The timeline of World War II officially begins in 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, causing Britain and France to declare war on Germany, and ends with Japan’s surrender Sept. 2, 1945. But the first rumblings of World War II began in 1932, when the Nazi party won a majority in the German legislature and Japan invaded Manchuria, which it held until the war was over.

1933: Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany and begins persecuting Jews.

1934: Hitler becomes president of Germany.

1935: Italy invades Ethiopia.

1936: Italy claims an alliance with Germany; Germany occupies the Rhineland; and the Spanish Civil War begins. The Spanish Civil War pitted Germany and Italy against the U.S.S.R.

1937: Japan invades China, beginning a war that segues later into World War II.

1938: Germany allies itself with Japan against the U.S.S.R. and China, which is backed by the United States, France and Britain. Germany threatens Czechoslovakia and pressures Austria into an alliance.

1939: Germany invades Czechoslovakia and the Spanish Civil War ends, then Spain allies itself with Germany. Italy aligns with Germany; France, New Zealand and Australia declare war on Germany, beginning World War II.

1940: Germany invades Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Romania and begins bombing Britain. The Soviet Union invades Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia; and Italy declares war on Britain and France, invades Greece and takes over British land in Somalia and Egypt. Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, known as the Allies, begin attacking Italian troops in north Africa.

1941: Germany conquers Yugoslavia and Greece, and Allied forces take Iraq from a pro-Axis (Germany and its allies) government and invade Syria and Lebanon. Germany invades the U.S.S.R.; Japan attacks several countries in the Pacific and the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, causing the U.S. and Britain to declare war on Japan and causing Germany to declare war on the U.S.

1943: Germany admits defeat in Stalingrad and withdraws from Tunisia, allowing Allied forces to invade Italy, which surrenders. Soviet troops march through the Ukraine to Poland.

1944: Allied forces land in France on June 6, known as D-Day. The Allies capture Athens and Aachen, Germany, and invade Leyte Gulf, destroying much of the Japanese navy. The Germans begin a counter-offensive known as the Battle of the Bulge.

1945: Allied troops win the Battle of the Bulge, take German forces in Italy, bomb Dresden, liberate the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald and invade Okinawa. Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders. In August, the U.S. drops two atomic bombs on Japan. The Soviet Union declares war on Japan, and Japan surrenders on Sept. 2, ending World War II.