World War II Documents and Resources
Topic Summaries:

World War II Sources

As more and more pages are added to the World Wide Web, a virtually unlimited amount of material will become available. Below—and above, on all these pages—you find but a small sample of what is out there. Caution is always advisable, however, as not all web sites are equally trustworthy. Choose with care.

Documents

Literature on World War

It would be impossible to list all the literature on World war II, but below are a few titles that cover major events.

Gen. Omar Bradley. A Soldier’s Story. New York: Holt, 1951.

Carlo D’este. Patton: A Genius for War. New York: Harper, 1996.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Crusade in Europe. Garden City: Doubleday, Inc., 1948.

Sir Martin Gilbert. The Second World War: A Complete History. Rev. ed., New York: Holt, 2004.

John Keegan. The Second World War. New York: Penguin, 2005.
Captain Basil H. Liddell Hart. History of the Second World War.  Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky, 2007. (Reprint Edition.)

Samuel Eliot Morison. Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War. Boston: Little Brown, 1963.

William Manchester. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964. New York: Dell, 1983.

E.B. Potter. Nimitz. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2008.

Ronald Spector. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan. New York: Vintage, 1985.

WORLD WAR II: CHRONOLOGY

1937   July 7. Hostilities begin between Japan and China, though war is not formally declared. Nanking falls to the Japanese in December. The war in China continues through 1945.

1939  September 1. World War II begins in Europe when Germany invades Poland. Warsaw capitulates September 27. Great Britain and France declare war September 3.
November. Russia attacks Finland, is expelled from the League of Nations.
Little activity after Poland falls (“Sitzkrieg”)

1940  April. Germany invades Denmark and Norway.

May 10. Without warning, German forces invade Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. German armies enter France within a few days. Italy declares war on France on June 10. France falls June 22, and the Vichy government cooperates with Nazi Germany.

May–June. More than 330,000 French and British troops evacuated from Dunkirk. The Battle of Britain, a fight for control of air space over the English Channel and Great Britain, begins. Success of the RAF leads to the Blitz of London.

The U.S. begins economic and military aid to Great Britain.

1941  Germans invade Balkans, Yugoslavia surrenders. Germans enter Athens in April.

June 22. Germany invades the Soviet Union.

Following German invasion of Russia, FDR
agrees to aid Russia—$1 billion in Lend Lease goods authorized.

June. Italians defeated in East Africa. Germans arrive to bolster Italian forces.

August. Roosevelt and Churchill confer in Newfoundland, producing the Atlantic Charter.

Dec 7. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. Germany declares war on the United States on December 11.

1942   Question after United States enters war is where and when to attack: across English Channel or at “soft underbelly.” United States wants to go across early, feels that a North African invasion is “unsound.” Churchill concerned about British interests in the Suez, and so on.

FDR orders Japanese to be moved to “relocation centers.”

April 9. Philippine Islands fall to Japan.

April 18. General Jimmy Doolittle leads a bombing raid on Tokyo with B-25 aircraft launched from the U.S.S. Hornet.

May 30. German city of Cologne attacked by more than one thousand bombers.

May 7–8. The Battle of the Coral Sea stops the Japanese advance in the Pacific. First naval battle in which ships are out of sight of each other.

June 3–6. Battle of Midway. The first major Japanese defeat—they lose four carriers. Restores naval balance in Pacific, allows United States to take the offensive.

June 10. Village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, destroyed in retaliation for assassination of SS General Heydrich.

June–September 13. German summer offensive in Russia eventually reaches Rostov, Stalingrad.

June 1942. British disaster occurs in North Africa at the hands of Rommel. 33,000 British soldiers surrender at Tobruk; 75,000 casualties during summer of 1942. But: Rommel’s logistics problems are worsening. The Germans are vulnerable.

October 23–November 4. Decisive Battle of El Alamein, a great victory for Field Marshal Montgomery over Rommel, but Germans are not at their peak. The Suez is safe, the Mediterranean under British control.

August 7–February 1943. Guadalcanal. First major U.S. ground offensive of the war.

November 8. Operation TORCH: U.S. forces under Eisenhower land in North Africa. Planning had begun in August 1942. Tough going early on—Kasserine Pass defeat in February 1943 is bad for U.S. troops, who are overrun. Coordination poor, plans confused, and so on. Individual (green) soldiers fought well. Patton and Bradley moved up in command structure, dead wood tossed out. (See film Patton.)

November 19. Russian counteroffensive begins on the Stalingrad front.

1943 January. Casablanca Conference—Churchill and FDR agree on goal of “unconditional surrender.” Critics will later claim it prolonged Axis resistance.

February 2. Twenty German divisions surrender at Stalingrad. 600,000 men lost.

May 13. North African campaign formally ends as last German troops surrender. 250,000 Axis troops surrender. U.S. casualties 18,500.

July 11–August 17. Allied invasion of Sicily. Month-long bombardment. Germans and Italians evacuate much equipment, defense not especially strong.

July 24. Mussolini overthrown. Armistice with Italy reached September 3.

September 8. Salerno. Operation AVALANCHE. U.S. Fifth Army (General Mark Clark), VI Corps. Tough operation as United States, Great Britain are unable to consolidate beachheads. Kesselring counterattacks, allied positions desperate. Reinforcement, air, naval gunfire save beachhead. Italy looked easy, but was not. Took eight months to get to Rome.

November 24. Tarawa in the Pacific secured by marines. Costly battle.

November. FDR, Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin pledge defeat of Japan and agree on invasion plans at the Cairo and Teheran Conferences.

1944   In the Pacific, U.S. forces take the Marshall and Marianas Islands as part of the island-hopping campaign. MacArthur advances through Indonesia toward the Philippines.

In 1944 Germans lose 180,000 square miles in Russia.

January 22. Anzio. Follow-on invasion of Italy.

June 6. Operation Overlord. D-Day. The Allied invasion of Normandy is the largest and most complicated military operation ever conducted. Thousands of men, ships, planes take part, and hundreds of thousands of tons of equipment and supplies are moved across the Channel and put ashore in the early days. (The Longest Day; Saving Private Ryan.)

August 15. Operation Dragoon—Allied invasion of southern France to take pressure off the Normandy area.

August 25. Liberation of Paris led by General De Gaulle.

October 23–25. Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific.

November 24. U.S. B-29s begin attacking Tokyo from Saipan.

December 16–26. Battle of the Bulge. Surprise attack catches American unaware, costs many U.S. casualties, but Germans lack supplies, cannot sustain offensive.

1945   By January the Americans are in Luzon in the Philippines.

February. Yalta (Crimea) Agreement signed by FDR, Churchill, Stalin establishes basis for occupation of Germany, returns to Soviet Union lands taken by Germany and Japan.

February 19. Invasion of Iwo Jima.

April 1. Invasion of Okinawa.

May 8. V-E Day. Germany surrenders.

July 17–August 2. Berlin-Potsdam Conference—Truman, Churchill, Atlee (after July 28), Stalin create council to prepare peace treaties and plan for postwar Germany. New German government will be created in 1949.

End of War in Japan

  • August 6. Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
  • August 8. Russia declares war on Japan.
  • August 9. Nagasaki is bombed.
  • August 10. Japanese offer to surrender.
  • August 15. V-J Day (Victory over Japan) —the war is over.
  • Japan formally surrenders aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September. General MacArthur accepts the Japanese surrender on behalf of the Allies.

ISSUES OF WORLD WAR II

  • The Value of Intelligence
    • Pearl Harbor: Who knew what and when?
    • The Man Who Never Was: Counterintelligence plan fooled Germans about Operation Dragoon.
    • The Battle of the Bulge: Lack of aerial reconnaissance let Germans surprise U.S. forces.
    • Impact on D-Day: Germans not convinced it was the “real thing” until too late because of deceptive measures taken.
  • The Value of Technology and Industry
    • An engineer in every squad: U.S. troops improvised “on the spot.”
    • Radar and other inventions changed the odds.
    • American factories produced almost 30 percent of all Allied materials
    • The war was won in Detroit, Birmingham, California, . . .
  • Total War
  • The Air War over Germany and Japan: Dresden and Hiroshima
  • May 30, 1942: 1,000-plane raid on Cologne
  • Regensburg and Schweinfurt
  • February 1945: The attack on Dresden kills more than 100,000.
  • American people fully behind the war, willing to sacrifice
  • THE HOLOCAUST: “Lest we forget . . .”

Links

A few good books on World War II
World War II Home | Updated December 12, 2013