Causes of World War 2

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.

Event (Causes of World War 2)
1914 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.
1917 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.)
1918 Germany and its allies surrender to Triple Entente.
1919 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.
1920 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
1922 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.
1929 World-wide depression, particularly hard on German public, and one of the major causes of World War 2.
1931 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.
1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) elected 32nd president of United States. Dominated domestic and international policy until his death in 1945.
1933 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.
1934-1935 Hitler seizes sole power of Germany and establishes a Nazi (National Socialist German Workers Party) dictatorship. Secretly commences rebuilding German military.
1935-1936 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.
1935 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.
1936 Hitler announces that French – Russian pact a threat to Germany.
1937 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.
1938 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.
1939 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.
Sept 1 Germany invades Poland from the west.
Sept 3 Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.
Sept 6 South Africa declares war on Germany.
Sept 10 Canada declares war on Germany.
Sept 17 Soviet Union invades Poland from the east.
Nov 1 United States alters prior neutrality Acts to provide sale of war materiel to belligerents for cash.
Nov 30 Soviet Union invades Finland.
1940United States Cones Congress passes legislation to institute draft (conscription).
April 9 Germany invades Norway and Denmark.
May 10 Winston Churchill new prime minister of Great Britain.
British troops occupy Iceland giving them Atlantic Ocean base to battle German U boats.
May 11 Germany repeats World War 1 strategy and attacks Holland and Belgium as a passage to France
May 12 Germany invades France.
June 4 British expeditionary force and remnants of French and Belgian troops escape the continent by sea from the German onslaught at Dunkirk on French coast.
June 10 German ally, Italy, enters war.
Paris falls.
June 22France surrenders to Germany.
June 30Germany invades British islands in the English Channel.
Sept 2 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.
Sept 7 Germany commences heavy bombing strikes on England (London blitz).
Sept 13 Italy attacks Egypt (former British colony and still subject to British interests).
Sept 20 Tripartite Pact signed by Germany, Italy, Japan.
Oct 28 Italy invades Greece

United States Enters War

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.
April 6 Germany invades Greece and Yugoslavia.
July 26 Reacting to Japanese seizure of French Indo-China, United States freezes Japanese assets effectively damaging Japanese efforts to buy oil on international market.
Sept 11 Roosevelt authorizes firing on German navy in act of self defense.
Oct 31 U.S.N. destroyer, Reuben James, sunk by Germans.
Nov 17 Repeal of all Neutrality Acts and authorizes arming of all U.S. ships.
Dec 7 Japanese air force attacks American interests In Hawaii at the time its ambassadors are negotiating for peace in Washington D.C.
Dec 8 Our timeline of causes of World War 2 is almost concluded as the United States declares war on Japan.
Dec 11 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.

World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons and Air War

World War 2  Navy

World War 2 Pictures 1939-1940

World War ii Pictures 1941-1942

World War 2 Photos 1943

World War ii Photos 1944

World War 2 Photographs 1945

Aftermath World War 2 Photos

World War 2 Propaganda

World War 2 Facts

World War ii Facts


Return from Causes of World War 2 to History of American Wars Home