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2008-02-21 18:47:04
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Dates for the Start of World War II



Taught by: [Imperator]

Made by: [Fingon]


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The year generally given for the beginning of the war is 1939. However, one can make a case for other dates for the start of World War II.

Different countries sometimes have varying beginning dates depending on when they entered into the war.

Most historians agree the second World War started in 1937 or in 1939. The most commonly accepted date is either September 1st or 3rd, 1939.


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The date is debated, as the following events are cited as possible starting points:

1 September 1939: The German invasion of Poland.

3 September 1939: France and Britain declared war on Germany. (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed by 10 September).

In Russia and in some other countries of the former Soviet Union: 22 June 1941 (German attack on the USSR).

7 July 1937: The Japanese invasion of China (the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War).

1931: The Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

Still others argue that World War I and World War II are one conflict separated only by a ceasefire.


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Prior to September 1939 Germany had regained the Saarland by plebiscite (in 1935, as stipulated in the Versailles Treaty). It had annexed Austria in March 1938 and effectively Czechoslovakia, but France and Britain did not deem these as acts of war. They agreed to the first annexation of Czech territory (Munich Agreement, 1938) in the hope of avoiding another major war. When Hitler invaded Poland, Britain and France issued an ultimatum to Hitler, which was ignored, and declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa - independent members of the British Commonwealth - also declared war on Germany.

Some see the war starting when Japan, in 1931, took over Manchuria and resigned from the League of Nations, but this did not develop into full-scale war until 1937. In 1938, Japan attacked the USSR and was soundly beaten back by the then-unknown Georgi Zhukov, who later masterminded the defeat of Hitler.

The end of WWII was in 1945. However, there were some Japanese soldiers on isolated islands in the Pacific who never got the message that the war ended (or they believed it was a trick) and they fought on for years afterward. Believe it or not, the last Japanese soldier to surrender was Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onada who emerged from the Philippine jungle in 1974 to finally surrender. His book, "No Surrender - My Thirty-Year War" is fascinating.

The commencement of World War Two has different dates in different countries. To the Americans, World War Two started on December 7th, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. To Britain, France, Canada, Poland, World War Two started on Sept. of 1939, when Nazi Germany attacked Poland. To Czechoslovakia, World War Two started in March of 1939, when Nazi Germany attacked them. To the Ethiopians, World War Two started in 1936, when Italy attacked. To the Chinese, it dates back to 1931, when Japan occupied Manchuria. The Russians date the start start June 1941 (not 1939).

World War 2 "started" on the 3rd of September, when Britain declared war on Germany (they had a treaty with Poland). The war ended in early May 1945 in Europe, Hitler having committed suicide in April of that year. The war in Japan ended after their surrender to the Americans in response to the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -respectively the 6th and 9th of August 1945.

By a long-standing convention, the dates are usually given as 1939-1945, except in Russia, where they are usually given as 1941-1945. If one gives another starting date, one conveys the message that one is making some point or other, for example, that one is claiming that the sufferings of the Chinese have not been given the attention they deserve. As for the notion that WWI and WWII were one war with a 20-year truce, this is usually not meant in a literal sense.


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Entrance into the war and the subsequent surrender of the axis nations are as follows:

10 June 1940: Fascist Italy declares war on Britain and France.

7 December 1941: Japan attacks America without any declaration of war.

8 December 8 1941: America declares war on Japan.

11 December 1941: Germany and Fascist Italy declare war on the United States.

8 September 1943 Fascist Italy surrenders.

13 October 1943: Italy declares war on Germany.

19 April 1945: German forces in Italy surrender.

8 May 1945: Germany surrenders (VE Day, Victory in Europe Day).

2 September 1945: Japan surrenders (VJ Day, Victory over Japan Day). General Okamura Yasiyi submitted surrender to Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.


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Back to History of World War II or History or the Elftown Academy


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