World War 2 (1939-1945)
Timeline of Causes of
World War 2
American Involvement 1941-1945
| Officially, the United States entered World War 2 in 1941 responding to a sneak Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. However, the United States involvement in that war, and its causes, albeit mostly as a non-belligerent, can be found 30 odd years before at the close of World War 1. United States international policy was dictated by domestic politics that swerved between activism, isolationism, delicate neutrality and ultimately as a combatant.
The timeline of causes of World War 2 (1939-1945) will cover the deep policy divisions that steered the American course between two world wars. As you review the causes of World War 2, some of the events and comments appear random, but they have a cumulative effect much like a row of a child's blocks ready to fall as new ones are added.
After your review of this timeline of causes of World War 2, we call your attention to the additional links located below this table detailing the decisive elements of this war.
|Austria-Hungary empire responds to the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne committed by a Serbian national by declaring war on Serbia, an ally of Russia. Germany, pursuant to a pact with Austria-Hungary, readies itself to engage with its Austrian ally against Russia who is allied with France, and, who in turn, has an alliance with Great Britain. Thus the guns of war are unleashed, as we reveal the causes of World War 2.
|United States enters war allied with Great Britain and France and form Triple Entente. (See causal timeline of World War I prompting United States entry into war.)
|Germany and its allies surrender to Triple Entente.
|Leaders of the Entente, Prime Ministers Lloyd George (Britain), Georges Clemenceau (France), President Woodrow Wilson (United States) meet to discuss reparations to be exacted from Germany. France is particularly bitter, having suffered from German expansionism in two wars, and vehemently demands harsh penalties.
|Treaty of Versailles exacts following penalties from Germany: Admission of guilt for causing the war, 6,600 million pd sterling, loss of all of its colonial possessions and prohibition of any future union with Austria (anschluss). Most particularly places restrictive limits on German militarization.
|League of Nations, forerunner of United Nations, formed a world wide association of countries growing from the vision of President Woodrow Wilson. Never adopted by the United States Senate as required by the U.S. Constitution. League’s mission to peacefully resolve disputes between countries lacked enforcement mechanisms. Germany, Italy and Japan, ultimately war partners (Axis nations), withdrew their membership
|Italian fascism creates a template for one man rule. Dictatorship introduced by Benito Mussolini who leads Italy for 21 years when he was deposed as another casualty of world war 2.
|World-wide depression, particularly hard on German public, and one of the major causes of World War 2.
|Japanese government suffers an economic loss of trust with their people and militarism rises and Japan invades Manchuria. China appeals to League of Nations to halt trade with Japan. Their plea is ignored by member nations.
|Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) elected 32nd president of United States. Dominated domestic and international policy until his death in 1945.
|Adolph Hitler, born in Austria, appointed chancellor of Weimar Republic and leader of Germany until his death by suicide in 1945. Once again an Austrian connection with Germany as in World War 1. Repudiates Versailles Treaty. No overt responses from United States, France, Great Britain.
|Hitler seizes sole power of Germany and establishes a Nazi (National Socialist German Workers Party) dictatorship. Secretly commences rebuilding German military.
|Italy invades Abyssinia and petitions League of Nations for aid. Not heeded by member countries.
|1935, '36, '37, '39
Acts dating to 1794
|All neutrality measures during these years satisfy isolationists in congress and in lock-step with air ace, Charles Lindbergh, of the America First Committee to oppose Roosevelt's sentiment to aid Great Britain. The isolationist wing in congress was fearful of communism and upset that U.S. allies in World War 1 had failed to repay war debt to the United States. Senator Burton K. Wheeler recommended that the U.S. seize French and British possessions in the Caribbean as payment of war debt. George Washington approves Act that prevents any military operation against any nation at peace with the United States.
|United States passes a series of neutrality laws imposing arms embargo. Satisfies isolationists in congress and Charles Lindbergh at odds with Roosevelt's sentiments to aid Britain.The isolationist wing in congress was fearful of communism and upset that U.S. allies in World War 1 had failed to repay war debt to the United States.
|Hitler announces that French – Russian pact a threat to Germany.
|Neville Chamberlin becomes prime minister of Great Britain. Enters office with sympathies for German penalties under treaty of Versailles and predisposed to appease Hitler in order to avoid war.
|Japan invades China.
|Germany further breaches Versailles Treaty by marching troops into Austria to the acclamation of that country. Hitler announces that Germany will not pursue further expansion. Six months later demands that Czechoslovakia cede Sudetenland to Germany.
|Prime Minister Chamberlin meets 3 times with Hitler and in Munich Agreement appeases Hitler by accepting the annexation of the Sudetenland with the promise that Hitler would seek no further territory. Great Britain, France and Italy signatories. Chamberlin proclaims this will prevent war.
|Hitler invades Czechoslovakia.
|Soviet Russia-Germany non aggression pact with secret agreement to partition Poland between those countries.
|Britain and France vow war if Poland attacked by Germany.
|Germany invades Poland from the west.
|Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.
|South Africa declares war on Germany.
|Canada declares war on Germany.
|Soviet Union invades Poland from the east.
|United States alters prior neutrality Acts to provide sale of war materiel to belligerents for cash.
|Soviet Union invades Finland.
|United States Cones Congress passes legislation to institute draft (conscription).
|Germany invades Norway and Denmark.
|Winston Churchill new prime minister of Great Britain.
|British troops occupy Iceland giving them Atlantic Ocean base to battle German U boats.
|Germany repeats World War 1 strategy and attacks Holland and Belgium as a passage to France
|Germany invades France.
|British expeditionary force and remnants of French and Belgian troops escape the continent by sea from the German onslaught at Dunkirk on French coast.
|German ally, Italy, enters war.
|France surrenders to Germany.
|Germany invades British islands in the English Channel.
|Britain desperate to augment its fleet agrees to grant several bases (New Foundland, Trinidad) to U.S. in exchange for United States destroyers. Churchill warns Roosevelt that a British defeat would result in a German takeover of its Caribbean island possessions.
|Germany commences heavy bombing strikes on England (London blitz).
|Italy attacks Egypt (former British colony and still subject to British interests).
|Tripartite Pact signed by Germany, Italy, Japan.
|Italy invades Greece
|March 21, 1941
|Neutrality Acts superseded by congress and commences new program: Lend/Lease. Sidesteps prohibition against “sale” of war materiel. Applicable to Great Britain, Free French forces in exile, China, Russia.
|Germany invades Greece and Yugoslavia.
|Reacting to Japanese seizure of French Indo-China, United States freezes Japanese assets effectively damaging Japanese efforts to buy oil on international market.
|Roosevelt authorizes firing on German navy in act of self defense.
|U.S.N. destroyer, Reuben James, sunk by Germans.
|Repeal of all Neutrality Acts and authorizes arming of all U.S. ships.
|Japanese air force attacks American interests In Hawaii at the time its ambassadors are negotiating for peace in Washington D.C.
|Our timeline of causes of World War 2 is almost concluded as the United States declares war on Japan.
|Germany and Italy declare war against the United States and the United States reciprocates in kind, thus concluding our timeline of causes of World War 2.
|Every American war was defined and illuminated by thousands of moving parts. In a sense, a war machine is like a huge wheel designed to advance a strategy, a goal, but inherently capable of sudden stops and reversals. You may examine the wheel and its component spokes (links) that propelled the American war machine, all transformative, and the human hands that created the turns and pivots that marked this war and our times.