1 Sept: Poland, by Germany
17 Sept: Poland, by the USSR
30 Nov: Finland, by the USSR
Helicopter, by Russian-born US airplane designer Igor Sikorsky
|Hitler invades Czechoslovakia|
By 1938, Czechoslovakia had become the last surviving democracy in eastern Europe. The Munich Conference of 1938 had transformed the Czechoslovakia into a federation (union) of three republics. Then, in mid-March, Hungary seized Carpathian Ruthenia, and Slovakia broke away becoming an independent (but German-dominated) state on March 14.
The Czech Republic was the last to go. Its president, Emil Hacha, tried to appease the Germans by enacting anti-Jew and anti-communism laws. Still, the Germans troops started building up at the border. On the day Slovakia declared independence, Hacha travelled to Berlin to plead with Hitler not to invade his republic.
At 1.15 am, Hitler announced that the invasion would begin at 6.00am and stalked off. Cabinet ministers Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop remained in the room and told the Czechs that Prague (the Czech capital) would be bombed unless they signed surrender documents. Hacha fainted, because his heart condition, but was revived by Hitlerís physician long enough to sign the document.
That evening, Hitler rode with his troops into the Czech capital, beaming with pride and joy. He was greeted by weeping, boos and jeers of angry crowds. In World War II, the former Czechoslovakia, rich in natural resources and industries, would provide Germany with important war-time resources.
|Invasion of Poland sparks of World War II|
On 24 August 1939, the Soviet Union, who had joined other nations in condemning Germanyís aggressive policy towards its neighbours for several years, signed a treaty with Germany that shocked Europe. The two countries promised not to attack each other in the event of war. With no fear of retaliation by great power of the east, Germany could safely extend its aggression to Poland.
At dawn on 1 September, Germany made a massive invasion of Poland. In 1934, the two countries had signed a non-aggression pact, but now Hitler clearly showed that he was bent on ruthlessly conquering his European neighbours. The attack had been expected for some time, but its defenders were no match for the Germans.
German planes attacked airfields, while hundreds of tanks and other armored vehicles crossed the border into Poland, which was 2800km (1750 miles) long, and impossible to completely guard. The Poles resisted bravely but they were outnumbered, and the Germans had far superior war equipment through years of building up its armaments. Of Polandís one million soldiers, 700,000 were taken prisoners, while 80,000 fled the country (total casualties are unknown). Meanwhile, of Germanyís 1.5 million soldiers who took part in the invasion, only 45,000 died, were wounded, or went missing.
On 3 September, both London and France, who had mutual aid agreements with Poland, declared war on Germany. Thus World War II started.