Feature   Know Your Military

Significant Events of World War II

Aug. 14, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

World War II involved combatants from most of the world’s nations and was considered the deadliest war in history. Around 85 million military and civilians died as a result. The end finally came on Sept. 2, 1945, when Japanese officials signed the surrender documents aboard the battleship USS Missouri at Tokyo Bay, Japan.
 

Significant Events of World War II


Sept. 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland, marking what many regard as the start of the war, though Japan invaded China on July 7, 1937. Two days later, France and the United Kingdom declare war on Germany.
German planes fly over Poland,
German planes fly over Poland, Sept. 1939.
German planes fly over Poland,
Poland Invasion
German planes fly over Poland, Sept. 1939.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 200319-O-ZZ999-001A

A Frenchman weeps as German soldiers march into Paris.
A Frenchman weeps as German soldiers march into Paris on June 14, 1940, after the Allied armies had been driven back across France.
A Frenchman weeps as German soldiers march into Paris.
Paris Falls
A Frenchman weeps as German soldiers march into Paris on June 14, 1940, after the Allied armies had been driven back across France.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 200727-O-ZZ999-003

April 9 to June 22, 1940:
Germany takes control of much of Western Europe, including France.


July 10, 1940:
Germany launches an air war, known as the Battle of Britain, against the United Kingdom.
Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is seen as the city burns around it .
Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is seen as the city burns around it during the great fire raid, one of the most destructive Nazi bombings of London, Dec. 29, 1940.
Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is seen as the city burns around it .
Burning London
Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is seen as the city burns around it during the great fire raid, one of the most destructive Nazi bombings of London, Dec. 29, 1940.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 200727-O-ZZ999-004

Three men in military uniforms sit behind a long table with lots of people standing behind them.
Leaders of the Axis powers, Japan, Italy and Germany, sign the Tripartite Pact, creating an alliance between the three countries, Sept. 1940.
Three men in military uniforms sit behind a long table with lots of people standing behind them.
Tripartite Pact
Leaders of the Axis powers, Japan, Italy and Germany, sign the Tripartite Pact, creating an alliance between the three countries, Sept. 1940.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 200728-O-ZZ999-001

Sept. 22, 1940:
Germany, Italy and Japan sign the Tripartite Pact.

Dec. 7, 1941:
Japan’s naval air force attacks military bases on Oahu, Hawaii.
A military ship burns in the water.
The USS Arizona burns after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
A military ship burns in the water.
USS Arizona
The USS Arizona burns after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 411207-O-ZZ999-001

A man looks down as he signs a document.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan, Dec. 8, 1941.
A man looks down as he signs a document.
War Declaration
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Japan, Dec. 8, 1941.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 411208-O-ZZ999-001

Dec. 8, 1941:
The United States declares war against Japan.


Dec. 11, 1941:
The United States declares war on Germany and Italy.
A man signs a paper.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Germany, Dec. 11, 1941.
A man signs a paper.
War Declaration
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war against Germany, Dec. 11, 1941.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 411211-O-ZZ999-001

A military jet takes off from a ship.
A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter takes off from the USS Yorktown on combat air patrol during the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942.
A military jet takes off from a ship.
Midway Fighter
A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter takes off from the USS Yorktown on combat air patrol during the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942.
Photo By: Navy photo
VIRIN: 200728-N-ZZ999-001

June 4 to 7, 1942:
The U.S. Navy defeats the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway.


July 9, 1942:
Allied forces invade Sicily.
Two military officers talk.
Army Gen. George S. Patton, left, speaks with Army Lt. Col. Lyle B. Bernard on the outskirts of Messina, Sicily, Aug. 17, 1943.
Two military officers talk.
Officers Meet
Army Gen. George S. Patton, left, speaks with Army Lt. Col. Lyle B. Bernard on the outskirts of Messina, Sicily, Aug. 17, 1943.
Photo By: Navy photo
VIRIN: 200728-N-ZZ999-002

A large gun prepares to fire.
The front view of an American 240mm howitzer just before it fires into German held territory in Italy, Jan. 30, 1944.
A large gun prepares to fire.
Howitzer Power
The front view of an American 240mm howitzer just before it fires into German held territory in Italy, Jan. 30, 1944.
Photo By: Army photo
VIRIN: 440130-O-ZZ999-001

Sept. 8, 1943:
Italy surrenders to the Allies, but German forces occupy northern Italy.


June 6, 1944:
Allied forces land on the beaches of Normandy, France, marking D-Day.
In a historic photo, a group of soldiers in combat gear wades through the hip-deep water as they head to a shoreline.
Soldiers wade ashore on Utah Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
In a historic photo, a group of soldiers in combat gear wades through the hip-deep water as they head to a shoreline.
Utah Beach
Soldiers wade ashore on Utah Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 440606-O-ZZ999-001C

Five Army vehicles drive down a tree-lined street, with hundreds of soldiers marching behind them. In the background is the famed Parisian Arc de Triumphe.
Members of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division drive and march down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Aug. 29, 1944.
Five Army vehicles drive down a tree-lined street, with hundreds of soldiers marching behind them. In the background is the famed Parisian Arc de Triumphe.
Marching Soldiers
Members of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division drive and march down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Aug. 29, 1944.
Photo By: Pennsylvania State Archives
VIRIN: 440829-O-ZZ999-859C

Aug. 25, 1944:
Allies take control of Paris.


Dec. 16, 1944:
Germans counterattack in northern France, Belgium and Luxembourg, known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Three soldiers trudge through heavy snow in a forest carrying lots of equipment.
Army engineers emerge from defensive positions in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium, after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
Three soldiers trudge through heavy snow in a forest carrying lots of equipment.
Battle of the Bulge
Army engineers emerge from defensive positions in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium, after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
Photo By: Army photo
VIRIN: 191210-A-ZZ999-983A

Marines land on Iwo Jima.
Marines land on Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945.
Marines land on Iwo Jima.
Marine Landing
Marines land on Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945.
Photo By: Navy photo
VIRIN: 450219-O-ZZ999-001A

Feb. 19, 1945:
U.S. Marines land on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.


March 22, 1945:
The U.S. 3rd Army crosses the Rhine River in Germany.
Troops crowd into a boat as it crosses a river.
U.S. troops cross the Rhine River in Germany under enemy fire, March, 1945.
Troops crowd into a boat as it crosses a river.
Rhine Crossing
U.S. troops cross the Rhine River in Germany under enemy fire, March, 1945.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 200729-O-ZZ999-001

A Marine aims his weapon while another Marine looks for cover.
A Marine assigned to the 1st Marine Division aims his gun at a Japanese sniper during fighting on Okinawa, June 22, 1945.
A Marine aims his weapon while another Marine looks for cover.
Okinawa Aim
A Marine assigned to the 1st Marine Division aims his gun at a Japanese sniper during fighting on Okinawa, June 22, 1945.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 200417-O-ZZ999-002A

April 1, 1945:
U.S. soldiers and Marines invade Okinawa, Japan.


April 25, 1945:
The Soviet army encircles Berlin and links up with the Americans on the Elbe River.
Two men in military uniforms smile at each other.
A U.S. and Russian soldier smile together after the historic meeting of their respective armies near Torgau, Germany, April 25, 1945.
Two men in military uniforms smile at each other.
East Meets West
A U.S. and Russian soldier smile together after the historic meeting of their respective armies near Torgau, Germany, April 25, 1945.
Photo By: Army photo
VIRIN: 450425-O-ZZ999-001

A group of military officials stand together with one of them holding a pen.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, third from left, stands with other top military officials holding the pen with which the unconditional surrender of Germany was signed in Reims, France, May 7, 1945.
A group of military officials stand together with one of them holding a pen.
Historic Pen
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, third from left, stands with other top military officials holding the pen with which the unconditional surrender of Germany was signed in Reims, France, May 7, 1945.
Photo By: Army photo/Library of Congress
VIRIN: 200219-D-ZZ999-003A


Aug. 6, 1945:
The U.S. drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
A man waves from the cockpit of a plane.
Air Force Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the pilot of the Enola Gay, waves from his cockpit before takeoff on the flight that would drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6. 1945.
A man waves from the cockpit of a plane.
Cockpit Wave
Air Force Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the pilot of the Enola Gay, waves from his cockpit before takeoff on the flight that would drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6. 1945.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 450806-O-ZZ999-001

A dense column of smoke rises thousands of feet in the air.
A dense column of smoke rises thousands of feet in the air after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, Aug. 9, 1945.
A dense column of smoke rises thousands of feet in the air.
Mushroom Cloud
A dense column of smoke rises thousands of feet in the air after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, Aug. 9, 1945.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 450808-O-ZZ999-001

Aug. 9, 1945:
The U.S. drops an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.


Sept. 2, 1945:
Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, marking V-J Day, although the initial announcement of surrender was made Aug. 15, 1945.
A military officer sits at a desk and signs papers while other officers stand around him.
Supreme Allied Commander Army General Douglas MacArthur signs the formal Japanese surrender during ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945.
A military officer sits at a desk and signs papers while other officers stand around him.
Surrender Signing
Supreme Allied Commander Army General Douglas MacArthur signs the formal Japanese surrender during ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan, Sept. 2, 1945.
Photo By: DOD photo
VIRIN: 450902-D-ZZ999-001A

Experience: V-E Day
Smiling troops gather round a chalkboard posted outside with "WAR OVER IN EUROPE" written on it.
War Is Over
U.S. troops smile as they read the news flash "War Over in Europe" after it was written on a board following word of the German surrender, May 7, 1945.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 200312-O-ZZ999-006Q
Experience: V-J Day
A crowd of people on a city street smile and hold up newspapers with headlines that say "PEACE" in big letters.
Peace in Paris
Service members and civilians celebrate the end of World War II in Paris, August 1945.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 450815-O-ZZ999-001Q
Spotlight: Commemorating WWII
Soldiers wade through water while making their way from a landing craft ramp onto shore.
Normandy Landing
Soldiers disembark from a landing craft under heavy fire off the coast of Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.
Photo By: National Archives photo
VIRIN: 440606-D-LX472-540Q