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World War 2 Events of 1940 - (January 1st - December 31st, 1940)


Timeline detailing the events of World War 2 Events of 1940 in day-by-day format.
  World War 2 Events of 1940: British soldiers take aim along the line.  
Picture of the World War 2 Events of 1940

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



1940 proved itself a disastrous year for the Allies as major defeats mounted. The Low Countries were lost as was Norway and, ultimately France. There stood little in the way of Germany directly assaulting the British mainland and this, of course, arrived with the Battle of Britain. Much-needed victories were had by the brave men and women who fought the good fight in this tumultuous year of an ever-expanding war. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com

There are a total of (198) World War 2 Events of 1940 events in the SecondWorldWarHistory.com database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events are also included for perspective.




January 1st
1940

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

January 2nd
1940

A new Soviet offensive on the Karelian isthmus fails.

January 7th
1940

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

January 10th
1940

A German plane carrying two officers and the German invasion plans of Western Europe scheduled for January 17th mistakenly lands in Belgium. This forces Hitler to push the invasion back.

January 14th
1940

A new government is formed in Japan under Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai following the resignation of PM Nobuyuki Abe.

January 28th
1940

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

February 1st
1940

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

February 5th
1940

The Allied Supreme War Council agrees to come to the aid of Finland and Norway - if only to protect valuable Swedish ore from falling to the Germans.

February 11th - February 17th
1940

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

February 16th
1940

HMS Cossack, a Royal Navy destroyer, moves into neutral Norwegian waters to claim its merchant men from the German ship Altmark. Germany and Norway both protest the action.

February 23rd
1940

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.

February 24th
1940

Following General von Manstein's recommendation, the German invasion plans of Western Europe are revised to send armored forces through the "impassable" Ardennes Forest.

March 5th
1940

Finland responds to the Soviet surrender overture with negotiations.

March 11th
1940

The Finns agree to the Treaty of Moscow with the Soviets. 10 percent of Finnish territory is ceded to the invaders at the cost of 25,000 Finns to 200,000 Soviets.

March 12th
1940

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.

March 20th
1940

French PM Daladier resigns his post after the failure to save Finland.

March 21st
1940

Paul Reynaud succeeds Edouard Daladier as France's Prime Minister.

March 28th
1940

The governments of France and Britain agree to not make any secret peace treaties with the Germans and remain a unified front.

April 8th
1940

HMS Glowworm intercepts a portion of the German invasion fleet headed to Norway.

April 9th
1940

Norwegian coastal guns sink the German cruiser Blucher with 1,600 lives being lost.

April 9th
1940

Norwegian royalty and its government flee northward from the invasion.

April 9th
1940

HMS Rodney, a British battlecruiser, engages the German warships KMS Gneisenau and KMS Scharnhorst.

April 9th
1940

The German invasion force strikes Norway and Denmark.

April 10th
1940

Five British destroyers surprise a German force of ten destroyers near Narvik. Nine German cargo ships are lost as well as two destroyers. The British also lose a pair of destroyers in the action.

April 10th
1940

KMS Konigsberg, a German light cruiser, becomes the first warship sunk by dive bombing at Bergen.

April 12th
1940

British aerial bombing of KMS Admiral Hipper, KMS Gneisenau, and KMS Scharnhorst fail to net the needed results.

April 13th
1940

The Second Battle of Narvik nets the British eight German destroyers and a submarine.

April 14th
1940

An Allied rescue force made up of British, Polish, and French begin arriving at Namsos, Alesund, and Narvik.

April 20th - April 30th
1940

The German defense at Trondheim holds and prepares for reinforcements.

April 24th
1940

Allied naval guns open up on German positions at Narvik in preparation for a ground assault.

May 1st - May 2nd
1940

Allied forces abandon their missions at Namsos and Andalsnes.

May 2nd
1940

German forces arrive at Andalsnas.

May 3rd
1940

Duringan evacuation operation, the French destroyer Bison and the British destroyer Afridi are sunk by air attack.

May 5th
1940

French and Polish forces land at Tromso and Harstad.

May 8th
1940

General Semyon Timoshenko succeeds Marshal Kliment Voroshilov as Commissar for Defense.

May 10th
1940

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigns.

May 10th
1940

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

May 10th
1940

German paratroopers land in The Hague and Rotterdam.

May 10th
1940

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

May 11th
1940

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.

May 13th
1940

Norwegian forces move on Narvik.

May 13th
1940

French forces land at Bjerkvik.

May 14th
1940

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.

May 14th
1940

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

May 15th
1940

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

May 15th
1940

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

May 15th
1940

German Panzer Corps cross into the north of France.

May 17th
1940

The British lose HMS Effingham when it runs aground near Narvik.

May 17th - May 18th
1940

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

May 17th - May 18th
1940

Brussels falls to the German Army.

May 17th - May 18th
1940

Antwerp falls to the German Army.

May 20th
1940

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.

May 20th
1940

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

May 21st
1940

The Allies are able to make some gains near Narvik.

May 21st
1940

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

May 24th
1940

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.

May 24th
1940

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

May 25th
1940

The German Army takes Boulogne.

May 25th
1940

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

May 26th
1940

The British lose HMS Curlew in an attack from the air.

May 26th
1940

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

May 26th
1940

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

May 26th
1940

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.

May 27th
1940

The Allies enter Narvik.

May 27th
1940

German warplanes destroyer the city of Bodo.

May 28th
1940

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

May 28th
1940

Belgium falls to Germany in just 18 days.

May 28th
1940

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.

May 28th
1940

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.

May 28th
1940

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

May 29th
1940

Another 47,000 British troops are evacuated from Dunkirk.

May 30th
1940

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

May 31st
1940

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

May 31st
1940

British forces at Bodo evacuate.

May 31st
1940

The U.S. government commits millions to a new defense program aimed at modernizing and strengthening the current force.

June 1st
1940

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

June 1st - August 12th
1940

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.

June 1st
1940

The British and French governments notify the Norwegian government of their plans to evacuate.

June 4th
1940

Allied forces at Harstad begin their evacuation of the area.

June 4th
1940

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

June 4th
1940

German Luftwaffe bombers cease bombardment of Dunkirk.

June 4th
1940

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

June 7th
1940

The Norwegian government joins several other powers as a government-in-exile. Its officials board HMS Devonshire for their escape.

June 8th
1940

The Germans enact Operation Juno to relieve its forces at Narvik.

June 8th
1940

HMS Glorious is sunk by KMS Scharnhorst and KMS Gneisenau.

June 9th
1940

The Norwegian military is ordered to surrender.

June 10th
1940

The invasion of Norway is complete, the victory going to the Germans.

June 10th
1940

Canada declares war on Italy.

June 11th
1940

South Africa declares war on Italy.

June 11th
1940

Australia declares war on Italy.

June 11th
1940

New Zealand declares war on Italy.

June 13th
1940

War goods begin leaving U.S. shores bound for Britain.

June 13th
1940

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signs a $1.3 billion dollar commitment to modernize the United States Navy fleet in preparation for possible war.

June 17th
1940

French Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, having replaced outsted Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, ask Germany for armistice terms.

June 20th
1940

Republican Frank Knox is appointed Secretary for the Navy by President Roosevelt.

June 20th
1940

Republican Henry Stimson is appointed Secretary for War by President Roosevelt.

June 24th
1940

The formal signing of the French surrender takes place at Compiegne - site of the original German surrender of World War 1.

June 26th
1940

The Romanian government agrees to allow Soviets into Bessarabia and part of Bukovina.

July 6th
1940

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

July 16th
1940

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

July 18th
1940

The British close down the Burma Road supply route to China in an effort to avoid war with Japan.

July 25th
1940

In an effort to disrupt the Japanese war economy, the U.S. government enacts a restrictive licensing program for its export of important steel and oil products.

August 1st
1940

Hitler reveals Directive Number 17 which calls for finalization of the invasion of Great Britain for September 15th.

August 3rd
1940

Italian Army elements attack a small British force stationed in British Somaliland from positions in Ethiopia.

August 5th
1940

The initial German plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union are reviewed by German commanders.

August 12th
1940

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.

August 13th
1940

Andover is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

August 13th
1940

Portland is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

August 13th
1940

Southampton is heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

August 13th
1940

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

August 13th
1940

"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.

August 15th
1940

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

August 17th
1940

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

August 17th
1940

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.

August 17th
1940

The German government declares a naval blockade of the British Isles freeing its forces to attack any and all targets in the region.

August 19th
1940

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.

August 19th - August 24th
1940

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

August 24th - August 31st
1940

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.

August 26th
1940

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

September 1st - September 30th
1940

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.

September 2nd
1940

The British and American governments agree to a deal for the British to receive some 50 old USN destroyers.

September 3rd
1940

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

September 7th
1940

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

September 7th
1940

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.

September 15th
1940

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".

September 15th
1940

The Canadian government announces conscription of males between the ages of 21 and 24.

September 15th
1940

The Soviet government announces conscription of males between the ages of 19 and 20.

September 16th
1940

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

September 17th
1940

The British government announces conscription of males between the ages of 21 and 35.

September 17th
1940

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

September 20th
1940

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

September 21st
1940

Incumbent Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies wins reelection.

September 22nd
1940

Japanese forces enter French Indochina now being governed by French Vichy.

September 23rd
1940

A combined force of Free French and British personnel attempt to take Dakar of French West Africa but the invasion falters after several days.

September 24th
1940

Vichy French air elements launch unsuccessful attacks on British positions at Gibraltar.

September 27th
1940

The Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan strengthen their ties through the Tripartite Act which makes an enemy of an ally an enemy to all.

October 1st - October 30th
1940

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

October 7th
1940

German forces cross onto Romanian soil to train the national military as a means to position themselves closer to the vital Ploesti oil fields.

October 9th
1940

Winston Churchill succeeds beleagured Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister.

October 12th
1940

Hitler is forced to postpone the British mainland invasion until the Spring of 1941.

October 15th
1940

Unknown to the Germans, the Italians decide on an operation to invade Greece.

October 16th
1940

The Dutch East Indies government and Japan agree to a six-months-long transfer of oil.

October 18th - October 19th
1940

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

October 18th
1940

The Vichy French government imposes anti-semitic laws upon the local Jewish population.

October 21st
1940

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.

October 28th
1940

An Italian force of 70,000 soldiers invades Greece.

October 28th
1940

The Italian government issues an ultimatum to Greece to accept occupation or war.

October 28th
1940

Italian forces begin launching attacks into Greece from positions in Albania.

October 30th - October 31st
1940

British forces begin to occupy positions on the island of Crete.

November 5th
1940

Franklin Roosevelt is reelected to a third term as President of the United States.

November 9th
1940

A Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber is lost to engine failure.

November 9th
1940

The HMS Illustrious moves on Taranto.

November 10th
1940

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

November 10th
1940

An Italian bomber is downed in the fighting near Malta.

November 10th
1940

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

November 10th
1940

Another Swordfish torpedo bomber is lost to mechnical failure.

November 10th
1940

Italian General Ubaldo Soddu succeeds General Sabasiano Viscounti-Prasca as Commander-in-Chief over operations from Albania into Greece.

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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.

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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.

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 11th
1940

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

November 12th
1940

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

November 12th
1940

Swordfish E5H misses her mark against the Vittorio Veneto.

November 12th
1940

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

November 12th
1940

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

November 12th
1940

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

November 12th
1940

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

November 14th - November 22nd
1940

A combined British-Greek force begins an offensive against the Italians in Greece, forcing the invaders into retreat.

November 18th
1940

A Sunderland flying boat aircraft - fitted with new radar - locates its first German U-boat submarine.

November 20th
1940

The Hungarian government formally allys with the Axis powers.

November 23rd
1940

The Romanian government formally allys with the Acis powers.

November 26th
1940

The construction of a ghetto in the Polish capital of Warsaw is begun in an effort to corral the local Jewish populations.

November 30th
1940

Japan formally recognizes the puppet regime of China led by President Wang Ching-wei.

December 6th
1940

Italian Commander-in-Chief Marshal Pietro Badoglio tenders his resignation.

December 6th - December 8th
1940

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.

December 8th - December 9th
1940

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.

December 9th
1940

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.

December 9th
1940

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

December 9th
1940

Operation Compass is officially launched.

December 10th
1940

The Italian camps at Tummar East fall to the Allies.

December 10th
1940

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

December 10th
1940

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

December 10th
1940

Selby Force sets its eyes on Sidi Barrani.

December 10th
1940

The Italian XXI Corps is in full retreat.

December 10th
1940

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

December 11th
1940

Royal Navy bombers begin attacks on Italian-held Sollum.

December 11th
1940

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

December 16th
1940

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

December 18th
1940

Hiter's Directive Number 21 is revealed as the invasion of the Soviet Union through Operation Barbarossa.

December 29th
1940

Roosevelt's Fireside Chat radio program attempts to strengthen American support for the war against the Axis through supporting the British effort.