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1940 WW2 Events Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 9/11/2014

1940 took a terrible turn for the worse for the Allies as the Axis powers made favorable gains on fronts in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

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There are a total of 109 1940 WW2 Events Timeline. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1940
Monday
January 1st

Only 21 operational boats make up the German U-boat fleet at this time.

1940
Tuesday
January 2nd

A new Soviet offensive on the Karelian isthmus fails.

1940
Sunday
January 7th

Stalin appoints a new commander to oversee the Winter War - General Semyon Timoshenko.

1940
Sunday
January 28th

Finnish ground forces recover territory from the Soviet 54th Division at Kuhmo.

1940
Thursday
February 1st

The Soviets enact a new offensive against Finnish positions along the Mannerheim Line, beginning with artillery attack accounting for some 300,000 shells.

1940
Sunday
February 11th - February 17th

The Soviet Army breaks through the defenses at the Mannerheim Line at Summa. Finnish Army units retreat.

1940
Friday
February 23rd

The Soviet government delivers terms of surrender to the Finnish government, claiming the Karelian isthmus and Lake Lagoda as their own. The Finns are required to defend the Soviet Union from the north if the empire is attacked.

1940
Tuesday
March 5th

Finland responds to the Soviet surrender overture with negotiations.

1940
Tuesday
March 12th

After months of fighting and countless lives lost on both sides, the Finnish government officially accepts the surrender terms of the Russian proposal in an internal vote numbering 145 to 3.

1940
Friday
May 10th

German airborne elements land across Belgium and Holland in advance of ground forces, capturing key bridges and routes.

1940
Friday
May 10th

89 German paratroopers land and take the Belgium fortress of Eben Emael with its garrison of 2,000 soldiers.

1940
Friday
May 10th

German paratroopers land in The Hague and Rotterdam.

1940
Saturday
May 11th

British and French army forces begin defensive preparations in Belgium in an effort to stave off the German advance. A long line of strategic defenses is contructed.

1940
Tuesday
May 14th

Facing light opposition, German Panzer Corps XV, XLI and XIX are free to set up three key bridge-heads covering Dinant, Montherme and Sedan.

1940
Tuesday
May 14th

Panzer Corps XV and XIX break through the Allied defenses at Sedan, allowing German forces to completely bypass the formidable defenses at the French Maginot Line.

1940
Wednesday
May 15th

German Panzer Corps cross into the north of France.

1940
Wednesday
May 15th

After periods of heavy bombing all across Rotterdam, the Dutch surrender to the Germans.

1940
Wednesday
May 15th

The RAF sends up its first night-time bombing raid against Germany. Of the 99 aircraft sent, only one fails to return home.

1940
Friday
May 17th - May 18th

Allied forces are in full retreat of the Germans, making their way towards the French coastline.

1940
Friday
May 17th - May 18th

Antwerp falls to the German Army.

1940
Friday
May 17th - May 18th

Brussels falls to the German Army.

1940
Monday
May 20th

Sensing a catastrophic loss in the making, Winston Churchill orders preparation of vessels to evacuate the British Expeditionary Forces from northern France.

1940
Monday
May 20th

Compounding battlefield losses across France and the Low Countries force a change at the helm - General Maxime Weygand replaces General Maurice-Gustave Gamelin as supreme Allied commander.

1940
Tuesday
May 21st

An Allied counterattack against the German Army near Arras ends in failure as the attack is itself countered by another advancing German land force.

1940
Friday
May 24th

German Luftwaffe bombers hammer Allied defensive positions in and around the French port city of Dunkirk.

1940
Friday
May 24th

In a stunning move, Hitler orders his forces not to cross the Lens-Bethune-St Omer-Gravelines line, allowing the retreating Allied forces more time to reach the French coast.

1940
Saturday
May 25th

The German Army takes Boulogne.

1940
Saturday
May 25th

More and more retreating Allied units arrive at the French port city of Dunkirk.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Over 850 British civilian vessels take part in assisting military forces off of French soil to awaiting transports in what would become the largest military evacuation in history.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Hitler orders his army forces towards Dunkirk for the final blow to the Allied cause.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Operation Dynamo - the all-out evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk - officially begins at 6:57 PM.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

With the fight gone out of them, the Belgian Army surrenders to the German 6th and 18th armies. Their actions, however, supply the evacuating Allies with much-needed time.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

King Leopold of Belgium orders his army to surrender to the Germans. By this time, his government has already relocated to Paris, France.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

Belgium falls to Germany in just 18 days.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

With Belgium out of the way, German Army elements begin making their way towards the French coastline in an attempt to completely eliminate Allied forces for good.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

By the end of this day, some 25,473 British soldiers have been evacuated from France.

1940
Wednesday
May 29th

Another 47,000 British troops are evacuated from Dunkirk.

1940
Thursday
May 30th

6,000 French soldiers join some 120,000 total Allied soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk on this day.

1940
Friday
May 31st

Over 150,000 Allied soldiers (including some 15,000 French) arrive in Britain.

1940
Saturday
June 1st - August 12th

German Luftwaffe forces concentrate efforts on maintaining control over the vital shipping lanes of the North Sea. At least 30,000 merchant ships are destroyed during this period.

1940
Saturday
June 1st

Defense of the outlying region near Dunkirk now passes to French XVI Corps.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of Allied forces at Dunkirk - officially ends. 338,326 total soldiers are saved including 113,000 French troops.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

German Luftwaffe bombers cease bombardment of Dunkirk.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Some 40,000 French soldiers are taken prisoner by Germany at the fall of Dunkirk.

1940
Saturday
July 6th

German ships begin operating out of captured bases along the French coast.

1940
Tuesday
July 16th

Hitler delivers Fuhrer Directive 17 as Operation Sea Lion - the land invasion of the British mainland to occur between September 19th and September 26th.

1940
Monday
August 12th

The first attacks on RAF airfields and radar stations are conducted by German fighters and bombers. Germany intends on destroying RAF air supremacy before attempting its land invasion.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

At least 40 total Luftwaffe aircraft are destroyed by the RAF and ground-based flak teams.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

Portland is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

Southampton is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

Andover is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940
Tuesday
August 13th

"Eagle Day" is enacted - a four day bombardment of key RAF airfields and radar installations. Poor weather initially delays the assault and any bombing thereafter produces mixed results.

1940
Thursday
August 15th

74 Luftwaffe aircraft launched from bases in Denmark and Norway are lost on what will be remembered as "Black Thursday".

1940
Saturday
August 17th

The RAF is forced to poach the ranks of Bomber Command in an effort to fill its dwindling supply of capable fighter pilots.

1940
Saturday
August 17th

German U-boats are given the green light to attack any and all merchant vessels - whether armed or not - in an attempt to stranglehold the British mainland into submission.

1940
Monday
August 19th - August 24th

Poor weather and overcast skies limit any major German bombing efforts over Britain.

1940
Monday
August 19th

Underestimating overall RAF fighter strength, Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering changes offensive tactics and orders his fighters to tempt RAF fighters to duke it out in the skies as opposed to bombing them while still on the ground.

1940
Saturday
August 24th - August 31st

Luftwaffe bombing resumes. During this period, RAF airfields are hammered with the loss of 200 fighters. However, losses for the Luftwaffe number some 330 aircraft.

1940
Monday
August 26th

The first RAF attack on the German capital of Berlin takes place. Some 81 aircraft are part of the airborne raid.

1940
Sunday
September 1st - September 30th

Italian forces, led by Marshal Graziani invade Egypt. During the month, the Italian army sets up a series of six defensive positions south of occupied Sidi Barrani known simply as Nibeiwa, Tummar East, Tummar West, North Sofafi, East Sofafi and West Sofafi.

1940
Tuesday
September 3rd

Due to consistent Luftwaffe losses and inconclusive results across the entire campaign, Hitler postpones Operation Sea Lion to September 21st.

1940
Saturday
September 7th

In an effort to break the resolve of the British people, Hitler orders the bombing of London over the bombing of strategic RAF airfields and installations.

1940
Saturday
September 7th

348 bombers and 617 fighters of the German Luftwaffe descend on the British capital city of London in a massive bombing raid.

1940
Sunday
September 15th

Two massive bombing raids are conducted against Britain. The German Luftwaffe sees some 300 total RAF fighters airborne, showcasing Goering's gross estimate of total RAF air power. 80 German aircraft are lost in total. This day would go on to become "Battle of Britain Day".

1940
Monday
September 16th

The German Luftwaffe redirects it sbombing campaign to now cover night-bombing of British cities.

1940
Tuesday
September 17th

With the unexpected results of his campaign against Britain, Hitler officially postpones Operation Sea Lion indefinitely.

1940
Friday
September 20th

Massive convoys breed equal massive measures - German U-boats begin operating in 20-strong "Wolf Packs" with coordinated attacks.

1940
Tuesday
October 1st - October 30th

German BF 110 twin-engine nightfighters take advantage of the new Lichtenstein radar systems to track, target and engage RAF bombers.

1940
Friday
October 18th - October 19th

An attack on two Allied convoys yields 36 sunken ships by the attacking German U-boats.

1940
Monday
October 21st

Operation Judgement - the Allied attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto - is postponed due to mechanical issues aboard the carrier HMS Eagle and a fire aboard the carrier HMS Illustrious.

1940
Monday
October 28th

An Italian force of 70,000 soldiers invades Greece.

1940
Saturday
November 9th

A Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber is lost to engine failure.

1940
Saturday
November 9th

The HMS Illustrious moves on Taranto.

1940
Sunday
November 10th

The British naval force moving against Taranto comes under attack from Italian aircraft near Malta.

1940
Sunday
November 10th

An Italian bomber is downed in the fighting near Malta.

1940
Sunday
November 10th

The Italian invasion force is in full retreat, repelled by a combined Greek resistance and RAF effort after just two weeks.

1940
Sunday
November 10th

Another Swordfish torpedo bomber is lost to mechnical failure.

1940
Monday
November 11th

The Libeccio is hit by a Royal Navy torpedo but the munition fails to explode.

1940
Monday
November 11th

The Italian battleship Caio Duilio is struck at her bow by a Royal Navy torpedo.

1940
Monday
November 11th

At 10:00 PM, the first wave of Swordfish bombers is launched from HMS Illustrious, now stationed off of Cephalonia.

1940
Monday
November 11th

At 10:58 PM, signal aircraft lead the first wave over Taranto, marking torpedo targets as they pass.

1940
Monday
November 11th

At 11:14 PM, the Italian battleship Cavour is struck by a Royal Navy torpedo delivered via Swordfish L4A. L4A is later downed by anti-aircraft fire, though both crewmembers survive.

1940
Monday
November 11th

At 11:15 PM, the Italian vessel Doria is struck twice by torpedoes in her forward section.

1940
Monday
November 11th

A Swordfish torpedo meant for the Vittorio Veneto fails to reach its mark, exploding harmlessly on the sea floor.

1940
Monday
November 11th

At 11:35 PM, the second wave of Royal Navy torpedo-laden aircraft moves into position.

1940
Monday
November 11th

Once again, the bombing wave is led by signal aircraft marking targets with flares.

1940
Monday
November 11th

Two signal aircraft attack the oil depot at Taranto but fail to produce much damage.

1940
Monday
November 11th

The Italian ship Littorio is struck by a torpedo along her starboard side. Swordfish L4M follows with another strike to the same side.

1940
Monday
November 11th

A third Royal Navy Swordfish aircraft is lost to engine malfunction. A bad batch of gasoline is centered on as the source of the Swordfish issues.

1940
Tuesday
November 12th

At 1:01 AM, The sinking Littorio is struck by another torpedo.

1940
Tuesday
November 12th

By 3:30 AM, all but two Swordfish aircraft are accounted for.

1940
Tuesday
November 12th

By 1:22 AM, the attack on Taranto harbor is officially over.

1940
Tuesday
November 12th

Swordfish E5H misses her mark against the Vittorio Veneto.

1940
Tuesday
November 12th

Swordfish E4H is downed by enemy anti-aircraft fire, killing her co-pilot.

1940
Tuesday
November 12th

Swordfish L5F scored a direct hit via bomb on the Trento.

1940
Friday
December 6th - December 8th

The Western Desert Force in Egypt, under the command of Major-General Richard O'Connor, set up pre-assault positions. The force includes 36,000 total men from the 7th Armored Division, 4th Indian Division and the New Zealand Division. They set up their initial position southeast of the Italian fort at Nibeiwa.

1940
Sunday
December 8th - December 9th

Aircraft of the Royal Navy are put into action against Italian forces dug in at Maktila and Barrani. Bombers are sent in to soften targets for the initial ground assault.

1940
Monday
December 9th

The British 7th Tank Regiment, along with the 4th Indian Division, attack Italian positions at Tummar West and Nibeiwa.

1940
Monday
December 9th

The British 7th Armored Division launches attacks on the Italian camps positioned near Sofafi and Rabia and makes its way toward the critical ocean-side road near Buqbug.

1940
Monday
December 9th

Operation Compass is officially launched.

1940
Tuesday
December 10th

The Italian XXI Corps is in full retreat.

1940
Tuesday
December 10th

The Italian camps at Tummar East fall to the Allies.

1940
Tuesday
December 10th

Italian forces stationed at Sidi Barrani are all but surrounded by the Allies.

1940
Tuesday
December 10th

Selby Force sets its eyes on Sidi Barrani.

1940
Tuesday
December 10th

Some 38,000 Italian soldiers are taken prisoner by the Allies.

1940
Tuesday
December 10th

Selby Force has removed the Italian 1st Libyan Division out of Maktila.

1940
Wednesday
December 11th

Royal Navy bombers begin attacks on Italian-held Sollum.

1940
Wednesday
December 11th

The Italian Catanzaro Division is captured, delivering another 30,000 Italian prisoners of war.

1940
Monday
December 16th

RAF bombers strike on Mannheim as revenge for the German air raids over Coventry.

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