World War II marked the second time that conflict erupted on the global stage and set a new precedent for carnage and destruction that greatly surpassed that of the first World War. With an average of 27,000 people dying daily from September 1, 1939 until Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945, World War II earned a place in human history as the most destructive war to date. World War II pitted the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan against the Allies, which included Britain, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, the Soviet Union, China and the United States.
World War II Timeline
- Nazi Germany invaded Poland
- In response to the attack on Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany
- Canada declared war on Germany
- Germany invaded Norway and Denmark
- Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France
- Italy entered the war as a German ally
- France signed its official surrender to Germany
- Germany started a bombing raid against Great Britain
- Germany bombed the British capital
- Italian troops invaded Egypt, which was under British control
- Congress passed the Selective Service Act in the United States
- Germany, Italy and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, which recognized a new order in Europe and Asia that would provide mutual assistance against attacks from any nation not already involved in the war
- Italy invaded Greece
- Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in a large military effort known as Operation Barbarossa
- Germany and Italy declared the end of the Yugoslav nation
- Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300 American soldiers and wounding 1,100 more
- The United States declared war on Japan
- Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and the United States officially entered World War II as part of the Allied powers
- Japan captured Singapore
- President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the Japanese-American Internment order, which led to the capture and incarceration of Japanese-Americans in the United States
- Japan captured the Philippines
- Japan captured Burma, effectively ending British rule in the country
- The Allies defeated Japan near Hawaii in the Battle of Midway, which marked a favorable turning point for the Allies
- Japan attacked the U.S. mainland by shelling the military depot at Fort Stevens
- German troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Stalingrad, USSR
- Axis troops surrendered to Allied forces in Tunisia
- Allied forces bombed Rome
- Italy surrendered to the Allies and was the first of the Axis powers to break, which weakened the Tripartite Pact
- Italy declared war on Germany
- D-Day arrived as Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, to liberate Western Europe from Nazi control. It was the largest amphibious military operation in history and one of the bloodiest days in American history with more than 2,500 American casualties
- A German resistance group launched an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler
- Paris was liberated from Nazi occupation
- The Allies defeated Japan’s navy in the Battle of Leyte Gulf near the Philippines
- Allied forces captured the island of Iwo Jima in the western Pacific
- Adolf Hitler committed suicide
- Germany surrendered to the Allies in Reims, France, which ended World War II in Europe
- The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima
- The Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria
- The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki
- Japan formally surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending World War II
Read more: The Weapons Invented During WWII
World War II Fast Facts
- World War II started on September 1, 1939, with Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland and ended four years later September 2, 1945, when Japan surrendered to the Allies.
- The United Kingdom declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.
- Numerous countries were involved in World War II and sided with either the Allies or the Axis powers.
- The primary countries in the Axis powers were Germany, Italy and Japan.
- The primary countries in the Allied powers were Great Britain, the United States, France and the Soviet Union.
- The Battle of Britain was the first battle to be fought strictly in the air. It was fought between the German Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force.
- World War II ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, but didn't officially end in its entirety until Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945.
- Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Sweden all remained neutral during World War II.
- Nazi concentration camps killed approximately 6 million Jewish people during World War II.
- World War II caused the deaths of approximately 64 million people.
How Did World War II End?
World War II ended in Europe when Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945. It didn't end completely, however, until after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, which officially ended World War II.
Read more: How Was Germany Divided After WWII?