Today in WW II: 17 Feb 1944 First day of the Battle of Truk, one of the most significant Pacific Theater air battles.  More 
17 Feb 1944 Battle of Eniwetok Atoll in the Central Pacific Marshall Islands [17-23 Feb].
Visit the World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

World War II Timeline: 1940

Los Angeles Times coverage of German advance in France, Holland and Belgium, 15 May 1940
Los Angeles Times coverage of German advance in France, Holland and Belgium, 15 May 1940.

This page presents World War II Timeline events for the year 1940.

Links are provided in the timeline with additional information from pages or relevant books on the event or subject. For additional compilations of the events of World War II, go to one of the recommended time line web sites listed at the bottom of the main WWII Timeline page. If you have other events to suggest, or spot any errors, please contact

7 January Finnish forces destroy the Red Army's 44th Rifle Division at Raate road.
8 January England imposes rationing on bacon, sugar, butter and other food supplies.
8 January Soviet troops surrender around Lakes Kuivasjarvi and Kuomasjarvi as Finnish 9th division occupies Raate Road.
1 February Russian forces launch a major assault on Finnish troops occupying the Karelian Isthmus.
8 February Germans establish the first large Jewish ghetto in Poland in the city of Lodz.
11 February A mass attack by 140,000 Soviet troops strikes Finnish defenses on the Karelian Isthmus, overwhelming the Finnish defense.
16 February British destroyer HMS Cossack pursues the disguised German tanker Altmark into Norwegian waters [Jøssingfjord]; boarding party finds 299 captive British seamen.
25 February First squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force [RCAF] reaches Britain to assist in the defense.
26 February Finland announces evacuation of Koivisto coastal fortress, on right flank of Mannerheim Line.
29 February Battle of Viipuri begins [Finland] as Russians attempt to crush resistance in Karelian Isthmus [29 Feb-13 Mar].
29 February Food and gas rationing begsn in France.
5 March Soviet Politburo approves Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute the Polish Officer Corps, the plan that becomes the Katyn Forest Massacre.
12 March Peace signed in Moscow between USSR and Finland.
18 March Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at Brenner Pass in the Alps [between Austria and Italy] agreeing to an alliance against France and Britain.
2 April Soldiers of the Chinese Nationalist Army reoccupy Wuyuan after successfully ambushing some 3,000 Japanese troops.
3 April Katyn Forest Massacre: In a series of events, 21,857 Polish internees and prisoners were executed by Soviet secret police on or shortly after this date.
9 April Germany occupies Denmark and invades Norway [Operation Weserübung].
9 April British campaign in Norway is launched.
12 April To pre-empt a German invasion following the German occupation of Denmark and Norway, the British occupy the strategically important Faroe Islands [Operation Valentine].
14 April British North Western Expeditionary Force begins landing in Norway to oppose German invasion.
30 April Two killed on the ground in Clacton-on-Sea by the crash of a German Heinkel aircraft, England's first civilian casualties of the war.
10 May German Blitzkrieg ["lightning war"] begins with air attacks on Dutch cities and invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg.
10 May British Prime Minister Chamberlain resigns and is replaced by Winston Churchill.
10 May Iceland invaded by the United Kingdom [Operation Fork] to prevent a German presence there.
11 May Belgian fortress Eben Emael, on the Meuse River, reputed to be the most formidable stronghold in the world, falls to German Army glider assault.
11 May Luxembourg falls to the German army.
11 May On the night of 11-12 May, 1940 the Royal Air Force [RAF] attacked Mönchengladbach, Germany, the first Allied air raid on Germany of WW II.
13 May Winston Churchill addresses Parliment for the first time as Prime Minister, saying, "I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears, and sweat".
13 May French Maginot Line is breached at Sedan; General Guderian's 19th Panzer Corps pours through a 60-mile (97km) wide gap.
14 May 980 killed and 20,000 buildings destroyed in Rotterdam by brutal Luftwaffe bombing; Dutch government flees to London.
15 May Dutch armies surrender to Germany.
16 May US Pres. Roosevelt asks Congress for funding to build 50,000 airplanes per year, a startling undertaking at the time.
17 May Brussels falls to German forces; Belgian government flees to Ostend, Belgium.
20 May German General Rudolf Veiel's 2nd Panzer division reaches the English Channel at Noyelles, splitting the Allied defense.
20 May Largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, opens in Poland. Before liberation in 1945, about 1.1 million people died there, 90 percent Jews.
25 May Boulogne, France is captured by the Germans.
26 May Evacuation of Dunkirk begins, withdrawing British forces from continental Europe [Operation Dynamo, 26 May-3 June].
28 May Belgium surrenders to Germany.
2 June Adolf Hitler makes a tour of the North of France, meeting with German military leaders and visiting places where he served in WW I.
3 June Civilians flee the first bombing of Paris by German planes, as Germany prepares for the invasion of France.
4 June Neuengamme concentration camp, near Hamburg, Germany becomes autonomous, no longer a sub-camp of Sachsenhausen.
5 June 100 Wehrmacht divisions with 2000 Panzers plus massive air support attack France at four points, outflanking the static Maginot defenses and overwhelming the pathetic Weygand Line.
8 June British Navy fully withdrawn from Norway after ineffective defense operations against German invasion.
9 June British Commandos are created as a new type of military unit, tasked to show Germany that Britain was not out of the fight.
10 June Mussolini's fascist Italy declares war on Britain and France, invading through the Riviera with 400,000 troops.
10 June Norway surrenders to Germany.
11 June French government flees to Tours, abandoning Paris to the Germans.
12 June 13,000 British and French troops surrender to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at St. Valery-en-Caux, France.
13 June Paris, France declared an open city as German Army closes in.
14 June German army seizes Paris as French government flees to Bordeaux.
14 June Auschwitz concentration camp receives 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnòw, Poland, the first residents of the camp.
15 June Soviet Red Army occupies Baltic countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia [June 15-16].
15 June Verdun falls to German advamce.
16 June Armistice advocate, 84-year-old Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain becomes Prime Minister of France, requests peace terms from Germany, forms Vichy France government.
17 June As Germany overruns France, Allied troops execute Operation Ariel, the evacuation of France [15-25 June].
17 June Luftwaffe bombs and sinks the British ship RMS Lancastria with the loss of 5800 troops being evacuated near Saint-Nazaire, France.
18 June General Charles de Gaulle broadcasts from London, calling on all French people to continue the fight against Nazi Germany.
18 June Winston Churchill speaks to Parliament, concluding, "...if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'".
22 June Vichy France signs armistice with Germany, staged at Compiegne, in the same railway car where Germany surrendered to the Allies in 1918, at the end of WW I.
22 June Army sub-committee of the US Ordnance Department's Technical Committee, issued proposed specifications for a new lightweight vehicle that was to become the first military jeep.
23 June Adolf Hitler visits newly-defeated Paris to savor his victory over France.
24 June Vichy France government signs armistice with Italy.
24 June Newly formed British Commando unit stages first cross-Channel raid with 4 RAF air-sea rescue boats. Little was gained from the raid.
27 June Rumania cedes Bessarabia and No. Bukovina to USSR.
28 June General Charles de Gaulle officially recognized by Britain as the leader of all French people.
30 June German forces land in Guernsey, the start of their five year Occupation of the Channel Islands.
3 July British shell French ships at Oran, Algeria.
8 July Tea rationing begins in Britain.
9 July Battle of Calabria [Battle of Punta Stilo, the toe of Italy] fought between the Italian Royal Navy and the British/Australian Royal Navies, 30 miles [48km] east of Punta Stilo.
10 July Agreement divides France into German occupied zone of northern and western France, including the entire Atlantic coast, and unoccupied zone, the remaining 2/5 of France, under Pétain at Vichy.
10 July Germain air campaign against England, the Battle of Britain, begins with German attacks on English Channel naval targets [10 Jul-31 Oct].
11 July US Quartermaster Corps asked 135 companies to bid on seventy light reconnaissance and command cars, the origin of the military jeep.
23 July American Bantam and Willys-Overland submit the only two bids for the Quartermaster Corps light reconnaissance and command cars, the origin of the military jeep.
30 July President of Estonia, Konstantin Päts, is imprisoned by Soviet agents and deported to Russia.
10 August Britain takes decision to deploy almost all of its tanks to North Africa, despite still-looming German invasion potential.
15 August Peak day for Luftwaffe sorties against England, including bombing in the North of Britain.
17 August Italian armed forces under Marshal d'Armata Rodolfo Graziani invaded and occupied British Somaliland, threatening American Red Sea merchant shipping and British access to India.
20 August Winston Churchill refers to the valiant RAF pilots defending Britain: 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few'.
25 August RAF Bomber Command mounts a risky but successful reprisal raid on Berlin, a shock to German leadership who had been assured by Göring that such a raid was impossible [25-26 Aug].
26 August No. 1 Fighter Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force [RCAF] engages German bombers over southern England, the first RCAF combat.
2 September US-Great Britain Destroyers for Bases agreement, transferred 50 mothballed US destroyers to UK in exchange for land rights on British possessions.
7 September First day of the London Blitz, followed by German bombing for 57 consecutive nights over London and other British cities.
8 September Edward R. Murrow broadcasts from London with live reports of the Blitz, increasing America's understanding of the war between Hitler and isolated Britain.
13 September Italian Marshall Rodolfo Graziani begins an eastward advance from Libya into Egypt, with five divisions headed for the British controlled Suez Canal.
16 September Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 signed by Pres. Roosevelt, beginning the military draft of US men aged 21-36.
23 September After just seven weeks of development, American Bantam delivers the first prototype jeep to Camp Holabird, MD.
26 September Japanese troops land at Dong Tac, south of Haiphong port in French Indo-China [now Vietnam], advance to seize the harbor, airport and other facilities.
27 September Germany, Italy and Japan sign Tripartite Pact.
4 October Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet for conference at Brenner Pass in Alps, with staff including their foreign secretaries.
7 October First German troops, leading to an eventual one-half million, enter Romania [7-8 Oct].
9 October London's St. Paul's Cathedral hit by a bomb during a Luftwaffe Blitz nighttime attack [9-10 Oct].
15 October In the heaviest attacks of the Blitz so far, Birmingham and Bristol suffer while 400 bombers hit London for six hours. Exhausted RAF puts up only 41 fighters, shooting down only one bomber.
16 October Selective Service draft registration begins in the United States for approximately 16 million men.
16 October 34 ships sunk from Convoy SC-7 and Convoy HX-79 by German submarine Wolf Pack, one of the worst attacks of the war in the Atlantic [16-19 Oct].
26 October First flight of the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang aircraft, only 117 days after the Government contract was awarded.
28 October Greek Prime Minister Ionannis Metaxas refuses demand from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to permit Italian troops to occupy Greece.
28 October Balkans Campaign begins as Italian troops invade Greece, meeting strong resistance from Greek troops and civilians.
29 October First Selective Service System draft lottery is held in Washington, DC; Number 158 is the first chosen.
31 October End of Battle of Britain, Hitler's air war against London, other British cities, and the Royal Air Force [RAF].
5 November President Franklin Roosevelt elected to an unprecedented third term.
7 November RAF Bomber Command raids Krupp munitions factory in Essen, Germany.
11 November 55 Polish intellectuals murdered in Dachau concentration camp [near Munich], the first of many mass executions there.
11 November Operation SWORDFISH: Raid on Taranto, Italy, the British Royal Navy's first all-aircraft naval attack, launching obsolete canvas planes from an aircraft carrier [11-12 Nov].
13 November Willys delivered the Quad prototype jeep to the US Army.
14 November German Blitz air raids on Coventry, England with 449 bombers, destroy much of the city and its cathedral [November 14-16].
14 November Greek army pushes the Italians out of Greece, chasing them into Albania.
16 November RAF Bomber Command raids Hamburg, Germany.
18 November Alfred Loomis suggests the electronic air navigation system which was later developed into LORAN [long range navigation system] at MIT.
20 November Hungary joins Hitler's Axis Tripartite Pact, followed by Romania and Slovakia in the next few days [November 20-25].
23 November Ford delivered the Pygmy prototype jeep to the US Army.
9 December British North African offensive begins against Italian forces in Somaliland, Egypt and Libya.
18 December The Chief of Naval Operations authorizes use of the acronym 'RADAR' derived from the term Radio Detection And Ranging.
25 December Admiral Darlan and Hitler meet to solidify cooperation between Germany and Vichy France government.
25 December British Royal Navy earns the first kill for a Grumman F4F Wildcat, shooting down a Junkers Ju 88.
29 December London hit by the most devastating raid of the Blitz, causing destruction referred to as 'The Second Great Fire of London'.