Visual Timeline: World War II

Warning – some images are graphic.
1937: Japan, already in Manchuria since 1931, escalates invasion of China. Kuomintang and Communists temporarily unite to fight Japanese.
Japanese invasion of China (1931-1945). Source
(Jul 7) Marco Polo Bridge Incident gives Japan pretext to escalate invasion of China, declaring war on 26th Jul (Jul 30) Japan captures Tianjin (Aug – Nov) Battle of Shanghai; including defense of Sihang Warehouse; China retreats inland after holding Japanese for 3 months; Nationalist government moves to Wuhan
Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces, outfitted with gas masks, prepare for an advance amid the rubble of Shanghai, China, Aug 1937. Source
(Aug 8) Japan captures Beijing (Nov) Japan captures Xinkou and Jin capital Taiyuan (Dec) Nanjing Massacre / Rape of Nanking; Japanese rape and murder 50-300k residents of then Chinese capital over 6 weeks; one of the worst atrocities in human history
A young man awaits beheading at the hands of a Japanese soldier during the Nanking Massacre. Dec 1937. Source
Rape of Nanking. Dec 1937. Source
 
1938: (Mar 12) Germany annexes Austria (Anschluss)
Germany annexes Austria. Mar 1938. Source
(Mar-Apr) Chinese repel Japanese at Battle of Tai’erzhuang; strategic railway and Grand Canal city on road to Xuzhou; key Chinese victory, but Japan continues Westward push into China (Jun 9) Yellow River flood; Chiang Kai Shek orders dikes along Yellow River to be breached to slow Japanese advance; but also costing ~1m Chinese civilian casualties
Yellow River Flood 1938 slows down Japanese advance, but at a huge cost. Source
(Sep 29) Chamberlain UK gets complacent with Hitler Germany at Munich Agreement; appeasement policy
British PM Neville Chamberlain returns from Munich after meeting with Hitler, making his ‘peace in our time’ address. 29 Sep 1938. Source
(Oct) Japan captures Canton (Guangzhou) (Nov) National government moves from Wuhan to Chongqin
1939: (Mar 16) Germany annexes Czechoslovakia. (Mar 28) Spanish Civil war ends, fascist Franco Nationalists defeats Republicans, starts 30 year dictatorship (May 22) Hitler Germany signs pact with Mussolini Italy (May-Sep) Soviet Union-Mongolia victory over Japan at Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Jun) US navy intelligence starts to attempt to decipher Japanese naval code (Aug 23) Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact; Molotov-Ribbentrop (Sep 1) Germany invades Poland (Sep 3) Britain and France declare war on Germany; WWII officially starts (Sep 17) Soviets invade Poland (Sep 27) Germany captures Warsaw
German troops marching through occupied Warsaw, Poland, 1939. Source
(May-Sep) Soviet Union-Mongolia victory over Japan at Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Sep) Soviet Union and Japan sign ceasefire (Oct) Soviet Union demands territory from Finland (Nov 30) Soviets invade Finland; Finland signs for peace in Mar40
Finland resistance in Winter War makes Russia’s victory embarrassingly costly. (Nov39-Mar40). Source
(Nov) Japanese offensive on Guangxi (Dec 13) UK wins first sea battle against Germany (Dec) China Winter Offensive  
1940: (Feb) Pro-Japanese Chinese govt established in Nanjing (Mar) Soviets win Winter War against Finland but slow, painful, costly (Apr 9) Nazis invade Denmark and Norway (May 10) Blitzkrieg: Nazis invade France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands (May 10) Churchill becomes Britain PM; Chamberlain resigns. (May 15) Nazis capture Netherlands (May 28) Nazis capture Belgium (Jun 4) British evacuate from Dunkirk (Jun 10) Italy declares war on UK and France (Jun 10) Nazis capture Norway (Jun 10) Soviets occupy Baltic States (Jun 14) Nazis capture Paris
A French man weeps as Germans march into Paris. 14 Jun 1940. Source
Hitler in Paris. 23 Jun 1940. Source
(Jun 16) Petain becomes France PM (Jun 18) Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich (Jun 22) Petain France signs armistice with Hitler Germany (Jun 28) Britain recognizes general Charles de Gaulle as free French leader (Jul 5) Vichy France breaks off relations with Britain (Jul 10) Battle of Britain (Jul-Oct) begins (Jul 23) Soviets capture Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia
An iconic Battle of Britain photo, Spitfires from, No. 610 Squadron, based at Biggin Hill, Kent, fly over South East England. 24 Jul 1940. Source
(Aug) Communist forces begin Hundred Regiments Campaign (Aug 23) First German air raids on London (Aug 25) First British air raids on Berlin (Sep 15) Massive German air raids on Britain
Children of an eastern suburb of London, who have been made homeless by German bombings, sit outside the wreckage of what was their home. Sep 1940. Source
(Sep 27) Axis (Tripartite) Pact signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan (Sep) Britain hands over every scientific innovation (inc. magnetron – advanced radar 1000x more effective than best US one) in exchange for access to US production lines (Sep) Soviet tank T-34 goes into mass production; How Russia stopped the Blitzkrieg
Assembled T-34 tanks in Chelyabinsk factory. Source
Iconic “Wait for me daddy” photo. British Columbia Regiment, DCO, marching in New Westminster, Canada. Oct 1 1940. Source
(Sep) Japan occupies northern French Indochina (Sep) Chinese victory at Second Battle of Changsha (Oct 7) Nazis invade Romania (Oct 28) Italy invades Greece (Nov 5) FDR re-elected US president. (Nov 20) Hungary joins Axis (Nov 22) Greeks defeat Italian 9th Army (Nov 23) Romania joins Axis
Japanese scientists hose down a Chinese test subject to prevent the germ weapons they’ve infected him with from spreading. Jilin Province, China, Nov. 1940. Source
(Dec 9) British begin North Africa campaign against Italy  
1941: (Mar 11) US president FDR signs Lend-Least Act (Mar 27) Coup in Yugoslavia overthrows pro-Axis govt (Apr 6) Nazis invade Greece and Yugoslavia (Apr 17) Yugoslavia surrenders to Nazis (Apr 27) Greece surrenders to Nazis (May) Chinese victory over Japanese in southern Henan (May 27) Japanese encircle 130k Chinese troops at Zhongtiao Mountain (May 27) British sink German battleship Bismarck (Oct40-May41) Franco-Thai War; indecisive fighting between Vichy France and Thailand over areas of Indochina (Jun 14) US freezes German and Italian US assets (Jun 22) Germany invades Soviet Union; Operation Barbarossa begins
German troops in Russia amidst Operation Barbarossa. 1941. Source
1941. Operation Barbarossa. Source
Operation Barbarossa 1941. Source
(Jul 3) Stalin calls for scorched earth strategy (Jul 10) Germans cross Dnieper river into Ukraine (Jul 12) Mutual Assistance agreement between Britain and Soviets (Jul) British Alan Turing cracks Nazi secret code Enigma; at Bletchley Park (Jul) US freezes assets and imposes oil embargo on Japan for occupying Indochina (Aug 20) Siege of Leningrad begins (Aug) Japan occupies southern Indochina (Sep 1) First use of Auschwitz gas chambers (Sep 19) Nazis capture Kiev (Oct 2) Operation Typhoon Nazi push to Moscow begins (Oct 16) Nazis capture Odessa (Oct 24) Nazis capture Kharkov (Oct 30) Nazis reach Sevastopol (Nov 27) Nazis capture Rostov (Dec 5) Nazi attack on Moscow abandoned (Dec 6) Major Soviet counter-offensive around Moscow (Dec 7) Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, turns neutral US population in favor of war
A captured photograph taken aboard a Japanese carrier before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec 7, 1941. Source
Flak bursts of anti-aircraft shells pepper the skyline above rising smoke from the battleship USS Arizona during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor. Dec 7, 1941. Source
The forward superstructure of the sunken battleship USS Arizona burns after the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Dec 7, 1941. Source
(Dec 8) US and Britain declare war on Japan (Dec 8) Neutral Thailand enters alliance with Japan after five-hour long invasion (Dec 11) Germany declares war on US
Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States at the Reichstag in Berlin. Dec 11, 1941. Source
(Dec 19) Hitler takes full control of German Army  
1942: (Jan 20) Nazi leaders propose Final Solution at Wannsee Conference (Jan 21) Nazi Rommel counter-offensive from El Agheila begins (Jan 26) First US forces arrive in Britain (Jan) Chinese victory at Third Battle of Changsha (Feb 5) Japan captures British Singapore (Feb 19) Japan bombs Darwin Japanese empire at its height.
Japanese empire at its height in early 1942. Source
(Mar) China supports British against Japanese in Burma; but Japanese gain ground throughout year (Apr) US bombs Tokyo (Apr 9-17) Bataan Death March; 80k US and Filipino POW forcefully march
Prisoners of war have their hands tied behind their backs during the March of Death from Bataan to the Cabanatuan prison camp, in the Philippines, May 1942. Source
(May 4-8) US victory over Japan at Battle of Coral Sea; first aircraft carrier battle in history
Battle of the Coral Sea. US aircraft carrier USS Lexington explodes. 8 May 1942. Source
(May 8) German offensives in Crimea begin (May 26) Rommel begins offensive against Gazala Line
German general Rommel in North Africa. June 1942. Source
(Jun 4-7) Battle of Midway; US sinks 4 Japanese carriers, crippling Japanese naval capabilities for rest of war
Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu burns before sinking during the Battle of Midway. Jun 5, 1942. Source
(Jun 5) Germans besiege Sevastopol (Jun 21) Rommel captures Tobruk (Jun 25) General Eisenhower arrives in London (Jun 30) Rommel reaches El Alamein near Cairo (Jun) Mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz begins
Photo taken in 1944 of Nazi concentration camp of Majdanek, the second largest death camp in Poland after Auschwitz. Source
(Jun) Manhattan Project begins; top-secret project to develop nuclear bomb; 130k employees $2b ($25b in today’s money)
Manhattan Project. 1942-1945. Source
(Jul 3) Germans capture Sevastopol (Jul 5) Soviet resistance in Crimea ends (Jul 7) British General Montgomery takes command of 8th Army in North Africa (Jul 9) Germans begin push toward Stalingrad (Jul 14) Indian National Congress demands independence from UK (Jul 1-30) First Battle of El Alamein (Jul) Sinkiang (modern Xinjiang), Soviet-backed warlord regime realigns with Nationalists (Jul-Nov) Kokoda Track campaign; Australia repels Japanese invasion of New Guinea
California’s Manzanar War Relocation Center, one of ten internment camps in which the U.S. government held a combined 110,000 Japanese-Americans during the war, where evacuees of Japanese ancestry in the US spent the duration of WWII. Jul 3, 1942. Source
(Aug 12) Stalin and Churchill meet in Moscow (Aug 17) First all-US air attack in Europe (Aug) Japanese naval victory at Battle of Savo Island; America’s worst naval defeat (Aug-Sep) Allies set trap and defeat Rommel at Battle of Alam Halfa (Aug42-Feb43) Guadalcanal; island in British Solomon Islands; first US invasion of Japanese-held territory (Sep 13) Battle of Stalingrad begins (Nov 1) Allies break Axis lines at El Alamein (Nov 8) US invades Vichy Morocco and Algeria (Nov 19) Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad begins (Nov-Feb)
Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad, surrounds German Sixth Army. Source
(Dec 2) Fermi sets up atomic reactor in Chicago (Dec 13) Rommel withdraws from El Agheila (Dec 16) Soviets defeat Italian troops on Soviet River Don (Dec 31) Battle of Barents Sea between German and Britain  
1943: (Jan 2) Germany begins Caucasus withdrawal (Jan 14-24) Casablanca conference between Churchill and FDR (Jan 23) Montgomery’s 8th Army captures Tripoli (Feb 2) German Sixth Army (under von Manstein) surrenders at Stalingrad, first major Nazi defeat
Assault units of the 62nd Soviet army battle the Germans in Stalingrad. Source
(Feb 8) Soviets capture Kursk (Feb 14-25) Battle of Kasserine Pass, US tanks vs German tanks in North Africa (Feb 16) Soviets capture Kharkov (Mar 15) German counterattack under Manstein recaptures Kharkov (Third Battle of Kharkov) (Mar 16-20) Climax of Battle of Atlantic with 27 merchant ships sunk by German U-boats
Battle of the Atlantic: Depth charge explosion by USCGC Spencer sinks German submarine U-175, 17 April 1943. Source
(Mar 20-29) Montgomery 8th Army breaks through Mareth Line in Tunisia (Apr 6-7) Axis withdraw from Tunisia as British and US forces link (Apr) Allies win Battle of Atlantic; closing mid-Atlantic U-boat gap thanks to improved radar tech (Apr 19 – May 16) Warsaw Ghetto uprising; 60k Jews killed
Iconic ‘Warsaw Ghetto Boy’ photo. Apr-May 1943. Source
Jewish civilians are led down a street by Waffen SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. Apr-May 1943. Source
(May 7) Allies capture Tunisia (May 13) Germans and Italians in North Africa surrender. (Jul 5-13) Russians repel major German offensive at Battle of Kursk, largest tank battle in history
Battle of Kursk, 1943. Source
(Jul 9) Allies land in Sicily
US ship Robert Rowan explodes after being attacked by a German bomber off the coast of Gela, Sicily. Jul 11, 1943. Source
(Jul 19) Allies bomb Rome (Jul 22) Allies capture Palermo in Sicily (Jul 26) Mussolini arrested and Italian Fascist govt falls, successor Badoglio negotiates with Allies (Jul 27-28) Allies bomb Hamburg killing 43k, most destructive bombing campaign of RAF (Operation Gomorrah)
U.S. Air Force bombers fly over Ploiești, Romania, following a raid on August 1, 1943. Of the 16 cameramen accompanying this mission, the one who took this photo was the only one to survive. Source
(Aug 12-17) Germans evacuate Sicily (Aug 23) Soviets re-capture Kharkov (Sep 9) Allies land at Salerno and Taranto (Sep 11) Germans occupy Rome (Sep 12) Germans rescue Mussolini, becomes German puppet ruler until death in Apr45 (Oct 1) Allies enter Naples (Oct 13) Bagdalio Italy declares war on Germany (Nov 6) Soviets recapture Kiev (Nov 18) Major British air raid on Berlin (Nov 28) FDR, Churchill and Stalin meet in Tehran Conference
Stalin, FDR, and Churchill meet in Tehran Conference, Iran. Source
(Nov-Dec) China repels Japanese attack on Changde  
1944: (Jan 6) Soviets advance into Poland (Jan 22) Allies land in Anzio, Italy (Mar 4) Soviets begin offensive on Belarus front (Mar) British and Indian Chindit Offensive against Japanese in Burma (Mar-Jul) Britain and India repels Japanese invasion at Imphal and Kohima, Burma
Corporal Edwards leads soldiers of 14th Army through torrent of water near Kohima during the Battle for Imphal Kohima, Burma, 1944. Source
(Apr-Dec) Japan launches major offensive Ka-Go to finally defeat China (May 9) Soviets re-capture Sevastopol (May 11-18) British-Polish victory against German paratroopers in Italy at Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino (May 12) Germans surrender in Crimea (May 25) Germans retreat from Anzio
Soviet and American airmen pose with the bombs on which they’d written messages for the Nazis at a Russian air base on June 2, 1944. Source
(Jun 5) Allies enter Rome (Jun 6) Allied D-Day landing in Normandy
U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gives instructions to paratroopers in England in preparation for the imminent D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Source
D-Day: Allies land in Normandy. “Taxis to Hell- and Back- Into the Jaws of Death.” 6th Jun 1944. Source
A Cromwell tank leads a British Army column from the 4th County of London Yeomanry, 7th Armoured Division, inland from Gold Beach after landing on D-Day in Ver-sur-Mer, France, Jun 6, 1944. Source
Omaha Beach secured after D-Day, Jun 1944. Source
(Jun 9) Soviets attack Finland, peace in Jul after repatriations and territory (Jun 13) First German V-1 rocket attack on Britain (Jun 19-20) US victory over Japanese at Battle of the Philippine Sea, “greatest carrier battle of the war”
French women accused of collaborating with the Nazis have their heads shaved by French Resistance fighters in Paris. Jun 21, 1944. Source
(Jun 23) Soviet summer offensive Operation Bagration begins (Jun 27) Cherbourg, France liberated (Jul 3) Soviets capture Minsk (Jul 9) Caen, France liberated
Canadian troops patrol along the destroyed Rue Saint-Pierre, Caen after German forces were dislodged. Jul 1944. Source
(Jul 28) Soviets capture Brest-Litovsk (Aug 1) US reach Avranches (Aug 4) Anne Frank family arrested by Gestapo in Amsterdam (Aug 7) Major German counterattack on Avranches (Aug 19) Soviets invade Romania (Aug 20) Allies encircle Germans on Falaise Pocket (Aug 25) Paris liberated
US 28th Infantry Division march down the Champs Elysees in Paris after capturing the city from the Germans, Aug 29, 1944. Source
(Aug 31) Soviets capture Bucharest (Aug 1 – Oct 2) Germans defeat Polish resistance at Warsaw Uprising (Sep 1-4) Belgium liberated
Liberation of Brussels, Belgium, Sep 1944. Source
(Sep 13) US reach Siegfried line in western Germany (Sep 26) Soviets capture Estonia (Oct 14) Allies liberate Athens, Rommel commits suicide (Oct-Dec) US victory over Japanese at Battle of Leyte Gulf, Philippines
U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur wades ashore during the initial landings at Leyte, Philippine Islands in Oct 1944. Source
Two U.S. Coast Guard-manned LST’s open their great jaws in the surf on Leyte Island beach as soldiers strip down and build sandbag piers out to the ramps to speed up unloading operations, Leyte, Philippines, Oct 1944. Source
(Oct 21) Major German surrender at Aachen
German soldiers captured by US soldiers during the taking of Aachen march through the streets of the ruined city, in Aachen, Germany, Oct 1944. Source
(Oct 29) Soviets capture Riga (Oct 30) Last gas chamber use at Auschwitz (Nov) Japanese capture Guilin, southern China province (Dec 16-27) Allies defeat Hitler’s last major western front force at Battle of Bulge in Ardennes
1944. Battle of the Bulge. Source
(Dec 26) Patton relieves Bastogne (Dec 27) Soviets besiege Budapest (Dec) Civil War in Greece, Athens placed under martial law  
1945: (Jan 1-17) Germans withdraw from Ardennes
US soldiers of the 347th Infantry Regiment are served food on their way to La Roche, Belgium. Jan 13, 1945. Source
(Jan 16) US 1st and 3rd Armies link up after month-long separation during Battle of the Bulge (Jan 17) Soviets capture Warsaw, Poland (Jan 27) Soviets liberate Auschwitz; revealing sheer scale of Nazi atrocities
A Soviet doctor of the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army helps take survivors out of Auschwitz. Jan 27 1945. Source
(Jan 30) German ship Wilhelm Gustloff sunk by Soviet submarine; killing 9k, making it greatest maritime disaster in history (Feb 4-11) FDR Churchill Stalin discuss post-war Europe at Yalta Conference (Feb 13-14) Allied bombings destroy Dresden in firestorm (22k killed)
Victims of the massive Allied bombing campaign in Dresden, Germany. Feb 1945. Source
(Feb – Mar) US captures Iwo Jima from Japanese with heavy casualties
A US Marine flame thrower operator in action on Iwo Jima, Feb 1945. Source
Raising the Flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, 23 Feb 1945. Source
(Mar 6) Last German offensive of war to defend oil fields in Hungary (Mar 7) Allies capture Cologne and establish bridge across Rhine
US soldiers crossing the Rhine river under German enemy fire at St. Goar, Mar 1945. Source
(Mar 10) US bombs Tokyo, remains as the most destructive air raid in human history
Bombing of Tokyo, 10th March 1945. Remains the most destructive air raid in human history with 100k casualties. Source
(Mar 30) Soviets capture Danzig (Apr 1) Allied offensive in northern Italy (Apr 12) Allies liberate Buchenwald and Belsen concentration camps
Slave laborers in the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany are pictured after U.S. soldiers of the 80th Division entered the camp, Apr 16, 1945. Source
(Apr 12) US president FDR dies, succeeded by Truman (Apr 16) Soviets begin attack on Berlin
U.S. infantrymen move through the destroyed town of Waldenburg, Germany. Apr 16, 1945. Source
(Apr 18) Germans in Ruhr surrender to Allies
A young man sits on an overturned stool next to a burnt body inside the Thekla concentration subcamp outside Leipzig, Germany soon after its liberation by U.S. forces on Apr 18, 1945. Source
(Apr 21) Soviets reach Berlin
Raising a Flag over the Reichstag, 30 Apr 1945. Source
(Apr 29) Mussolini killed by Italian partisans; Allies capture Venice (Apr 30) Hitler commits suicide as Red Army enters Berlin
A US soldier views art stolen by the Nazi regime and stored in a church at Ellingen, Germany. Apr 24, 1945. Source
(Apr-Jun) Battle of Okinawa (aka Typhoon of Steel); one of the bloodiest battles in Pacific War (12k US and 100k Japanese dead, inc. commanding generals on both sides)
U.S. Marines battling for control of a ridge near Naha, Okinawa, May 1945. Source
(May 2) Germans in Italy surrender (May 7) German unconditional surrender (under Alfred Jodl)
Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel signs the unconditional surrender of the German army at the Soviet headquarters in Karlshorst, Berlin on May 8, 1945. Source
(May 8) Victory in Europe Day
A celebration of Germany’s surrender takes place on Paris’ Champs Elysees, as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. May 8, 1945. Source
A German resident is overcome with emotion as she walks past the bodies of 800 murdered by SS guards near Namering, Germany, May 17, 1945. Source
(Jun 5) Allies divide Germany and Berlin. (Jul 16) US detonates first atomic bomb in New Mexico desert (Jul 21) Chinese Civil War between Nationalists and Communists reopens (Jul 26) Atlee succeeds Churchill as Britain PM. (Jul) Chinese offensive Second Guangxi Campaign pushes Japanese out of Guangxi/Kwangsi (Jul 17 – Aug 2) US Britain USSR settle post-war Europe borders at Potsdam Conference (Aug 6) US drops first atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima
Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima kills 80k instantly, wiping out 90% of the city. Aug 6 1945. Source
Devastation is seen in the vicinity of ‘ground zero’ after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Aug 1945. Source
(Aug 8) Soviet Union declares war on Japan; invades Manchuria and Korea (Aug 9) US drops second atomic bomb ‘Fat Man’ on Nagasaki
Smoke rises more than 60,000 feet (18km) into the air over Nagasaki, Japan, from an atomic bomb, the second ever used in warfare, dropped from a B-29 Superfortress bomber. Aug 9, 1945. Source
(Aug 10-15) Korea divided at 38th parallel (Aug 14) Japanese unconditional surrender; WWII ends
Kiss in New York City’s Times Square celebrating the surrender of Japan. Aug 14, 1945. Source
Gaunt allied prisoners of war cheer rescuers from the U.S. Navy at Aomori camp near Yokohama, Japan, Aug 29, 1945. Source
(Sep 2) Victory over Japan day; Japan formally surrenders onboard USS Missouri
Japanese representatives, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff attend the surrender ceremonies on board the U.S. Navy battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, Sep 2, 1945. Source
U.S. F4U and F6F planes fly in formation during surrender ceremonies aboard the USS Missouri, off Japan. Sep 2, 1945. Source
US General MacArthur and Japanese Emperor Hirohito at their first meeting, 27 Sep 1945. Source
(Oct 24) UN established; after signing charter in San Francisco on Jun 26 (Oct 25) Japanese in Taiwan surrender
Allied movements against Japanese Empire. Source