Today in WW II: 13 Jan 1942 German U-boat offensive begins along the US east coast.   

World War II Timeline: Prelude

New York Times coverage of the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, 31 January 1933
New York Times coverage of the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, 31 January 1933.

This page presents World War II Timeline events for the period 1938 and earlier.

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

30 January 1933 Adolf Hitler comes to power in Germany as President Hindenburg appoints him Chancellor. Nazis organize huge torchlight parade in Berlin to celebrate.
3 February 1933 Adolf Hitler's first meeting with Germany's military leaders; he sets forth his policy of conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanization.
27 March 1933 Japan gives notice of withdrawal from the League of Nations.
21 October 1933 Germany gives notice of withdrawal from the League of Nations.
3 October 1935 Italian armed forces from Eritrea invaded Ethiopia [Abyssinia], resulting in a state of war between the two countries.
2 May 1936 Italian forces enter Addis Abba, the capital of Abyssinia.
17 July 1936 General Francisco Franco stages a military revolt in Spain precipitating the Spanish Civil War. Nazi Germany supports Franco.
7 July 1937 Full scale war begins between Japan and China, the Second Sino-Japanese War.
25 September 1937 Devastating bombing of Nanking, China kills over six hundred civilians.
13 December 1937 Nanking, China surrenders beginning the Rape of Nanking.
18 February 1938 Bombing of China's wartime capital Chongqing begins; Japanese aircraft conducted 268 air raids against Chongqing, focused on the city's civilian population [18 Feb 1938 - 23 Aug 1943].
29 July 1938 Japanese invasion of territory claimed by the USSR [Battle of Lake Khasan, 29 July-31 August].
30 September 1938 Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier sign the Munich Agreement, abandoning Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland to German occupation.
9 November 1938 Kristallnacht [Night of Broken Glass], a night of attacks by Nazis on the synagogues, shops & homes of Jews in Germany and Austria (9-10 Nov) including beatings, deaths, & deportations.