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WWII Timeline – Spring 1940

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1940 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1940

April and May 1940

Soviet secret police committed a series of mass executions of Polish military and intelligence officers in April and May of 1940 in several areas. Because of the later discovery of the first mass graves in the Katyn Forest, the executions have come to be known as the Katyn Forest Massacre. The number of victims has been estimated to be about 22,000.

April 5, 1940

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain unwisely claimed,

Hitler has missed the bus, a German invasion of the West is now unlikely to succeed.

April 9, 1940

The Nazis invaded Denmark, with a Jewish population of 8,000, and Norway, with a Jewish population of 2,000.  Denmark surrendered the day of, or day after, the attack. Norwegian leader Vidkun Quisling moved to create a pro-Nazi government.

April 27, 1940

Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

April 30, 1940

The gates were closed on the Lodz Ghetto in occupied Poland, sealing it off from the outside world with estimates ranging from 164,000 to 230,000 Jews locked inside. Lodz was reported to be one of the largest ghettos in all of German-occupied Europe, second only to the Warsaw Ghetto.

May 1, 1940

Rudolf Höss was selected as Kommandant of Auschwitz.

May 7, 1940

President Roosevelt directed the U. S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet to remain at the ready off the coast of Hawaii.

May 10, 1940

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister.

The Nazis invaded France, with a Jewish population of 350,000, Belgium, with a Jewish population of 65,000, the Netherlands, with a Jewish population of 140,000, and Luxembourg, with a Jewish population of 3,500. Hitler feared that the Allies were planning to use the neutral nations as staging areas for attacks on Germany.

The first RAF (British Royal Air Force) bombing raids over Germany targeted communication centers.

May 12, 1940

England and Scotland began detaining German and Austrian men, and eventually Italian men, ages sixteen to sixty, in interment camps.

May 13, 1940

New British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made his “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech in the House of Commons,

I would say to the House as I have said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” You ask, what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

The Nazis established bridgeheads (the strategically important area of ground around the end of a bridge which is sought to be defended) across the Meuse River in Belgium.

The Netherlands’ Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch royal family arrived in London, establishing themselves in exile after fleeing the Hague.

May 15, 1940

The Dutch Army of the Netherlands surrendered to the Nazis.

May 20, 1940

The largest concentration camp of the Nazis, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, was established.

May 26, 1940

Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British, French, and Belgian troops surrounded by the Axis powers from Dunkirk, France began.

May 27, 1940

Germany captured the port city of Calais, France, which is twenty-six miles across the English Channel from Dover, England.

May 28, 1940

Belgium surrendered to the Nazis.

June 3, 1940

The Nazis bombed Paris, and two hundred fifty Parisian citizens died from the air assault of two hundred Luftwaffe planes.

The Dunkirk evacuation ended with the total rescue of 224,686 British troops, and 121,445 French and Belgian troops.

Franz Rademacher sent out the first of several memos on the “Madagascar Project.”

June 4, 1940

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ended a speech before the House of Commons with,

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

June 8, 1940

The British aircraft carrier, HMS Glorious, and its escort of two destroyers, the HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent, were sunk by German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. More than 1,500 sailors were lost on the three British ships.

June 9, 1940

Norway surrendered to the Nazis.

June 10, 1940

Italy declared war on Britain and France.

Canada declared war on Italy.

June 14, 1940

South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand joined Canada in declaring war on Italy.

The Nazis marched into Paris, beginning a four-year occupation. All remaining British troops in France were ordered to return to England.

The Soviet Union occupied the Baltic States June 14–18.

June 15, 1940

The U. S. Congress continued to refuse to intervene in the war in Europe despite pleas from France and Britain.

June 16, 1940

Marshal Philippe Pétain replaced Paul Reynaud as French Prime Minister.

Italy sank the British submarines Grampus and Orpheus.

June 17, 1940

Five Luftwaffe bombers attacked the Cunard luxury ocean liner Lancastria, which was being used to transport troops, of which 2,500 died.

The U. S. Navy requested $4 billion from Congress to build an Atlantic fleet equal in strength to its Pacific fleet.

June 18, 1940

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met in Munich. Hitler did not offer the large tracts of French land that Mussolini expected to be granted.

June 21, 1940

Italy invaded southern France.

June 22, 1940

France surrendered to and signed an armistice with Nazi Germany. In the agreement, Germany would occupy the northern half of France and the entire Atlantic coastline. A collaborationist regime with its capital in Vichy would be established in southern France,

June 23, 1940

Adolf Hitler toured Paris accompanied by architect Albert Speer.

June 28, 1940

Britain recognized General Charles de Gaulle, in exile in London, as the Free French leader.

The Soviet Union forced Romania to cede the eastern province of Bessarabia and the northern half of Bukovina to the Soviet Ukraine.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Winston Churchill Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat Speech

Winston Churchill Beaches Speech

The Katyn Forrest Massacre

Civilian Internment

The Sinking of the HMS Glorious

Franz Rademacher’s Madagascar Project

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1940

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

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