World War II: A Timeline of Key Events

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Axis Victories (1939-1941)

Axis Powers: Japan, Italy, and Germany

Following the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Hitler initiated the 'Blitzkrieg' (lightning war) strategy, employing surprise attacks, aerial support, and Panzer divisions. Poland was subsequently divided between the USSR and Germany.

In 1940, Germany invaded and occupied much of Western Europe, including Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and France. Great Britain remained the sole nation resisting German occupation. To prepare for a potential invasion of Britain, the German air force launched bombing campaigns on British ports and cities during the Battle of Britain. Britain successfully resisted the attacks, prompting Hitler to shift his strategy and impose a blockade on the British Isles to disrupt their supply lines (Battle of the Atlantic). Germany also conquered North Africa, and by 1941, Greece and Yugoslavia fell under German control. In June 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, invading the Soviet Union. This event marked a turning point in the war, as the USSR joined the Allied Forces. The United States also entered the war, supporting the Allied powers.

Allied Offensives (1942-1945)

The entry of the USSR and the USA into the conflict in 1942 marked a decisive shift in the war. Japanese and American forces clashed in the Pacific in two major battles. The Allies began to reclaim occupied territories. In North Africa, Great Britain defeated the Germans. Hitler's assault on Stalingrad resulted in his first major defeat, and within months, the USSR recaptured Ukraine.

End of the War in Europe

American and British troops overcame German resistance and advanced from the west, liberating parts of France and entering Germany. The USSR advanced from the east, driving the Germans out of Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland. The Allied armies occupied Germany and converged at the Elbe River on April 26, 1945. Hitler committed suicide on April 30, and Germany surrendered on May 8.

End of the War in the Pacific

The Americans continued their campaign against Japan, which mounted a fanatical defense using kamikaze attacks. To hasten the war's end, President Truman authorized the use of a new weapon: the atomic bomb. Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, marking the end of World War II.

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