History Timeline 1940's

Troops from the United States and other Allied nations land on the beach at Normandy, France in 1944, beginning the western European invasion that would lead to defeat of Nazi Germany.

World War II, Invading Africa

U.S. Timeline - The 1940s

World War II



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  • Timeline

  • 1940 Detail

    June 3, 1940 - The United States government approves a sale of surplus war material to Great Britain.

    Hitler Invading Poland


    Neutrality was a term the United States had been using, as the war began with Adolph Hitler rolling into Poland in 1939, but the rumblings of what was occurring in Europe and its expansion in a few days into Paris, and eventually toward Great Britain was starting to become a reality for the Roosevelt administration. Neutrality was good in concept, but it was time to act in some way. Neville Chamberlain and his acts of concession had failed; Winston Churchill had taken command as Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10, 1940.

    May had seen not only a changing of the guard in London, but President Roosevelt's acknowledgement of war across many fronts in Europe; by May 11, Germany was at war with Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. He also saw the resolute stance of Churchill, now backed by Chamberlain, to fight on, even if France fell.

    "I would say to the House... that I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival," Winston Churchill, May 13, 1940.

    On May 16, German ships were moving toward the English channel. Belgium had been conquired by May 28. The previous debate in the Department of the Army, under U.S. Secretary of War Woodling, had been to protect Army secrets and was less anxious to send the most advanced planes. Roosevelt had favored sending the modern warplanes. With the German victories mounting, Churchill, on May 22, no longer started to ask for planes to be built then delivered, he wanted planes already in service.

    On June 3, 1940, approval of sending surplus war material from the United States to Great Britain was approved. Within days, declarations of war would be flying across Europe from Italy and Germany, and across the Pacific from Japan as the British, under Operation Dynamo, evacuated 338,226 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk by June 4. The debate continued within the Army as to what surplus war material meant as Roosevelt told Churchill in mid-June that he would send twelve B-17 warplanes to England. The Army generals balked, saying that would jeopardize the United States defense. Eventually, several months later, Roosevelt would release five of the planes.




    Timeline of Future Dates of USA Involvement During World War II Neutrality


    June 10, 1940 - Four days earlier, Roosevelt had condemned the actions of Italy's declaration of war against France and the United Kingdom.

    June 14, 1940 - On the same day Paris fell to the German army and Auschwitz received its first Polish prisoners, the Naval Expansion Act is signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, increasing the capacity of the U.S. Navy by 11%.

    September 16, 1940 - The U.S. Congress approves and enacts the first peacetime conscription draft.

    March 11, 1941 - The Lend-Lease Act is approved, which provided $7 billion in military credits for American manufactured war supplies to Great Britain and other allies; in the fall, a similar Lend-Lease pact would be approved for the USSR with a $1 billion loan.

    July 7, 1941 - The United States occupies Iceland, taking over its defense from Great Britain and attempting to thwart a potential invasion by Nazi Germany.

    August 14, 1941 - An eight point declaration of principles called the Atlantic Charter is issued by President Roosevelt and Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

    December 7, 1941 - The Japanese attack the naval base at Pearl Harbor; the United States declared war on Japan, entering World War II, the next day.

    Photo above: Photograph of Adolf Hiter watching German troops invade Poland in September 1939. Courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, German Federal Archives via Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Guns for the navy and its two-ocean fleet, circa 1942, Alfred T. Palmer, United States Office of War Information. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: "Aid to Great Britain vs. Arming of America," history.army.mil; Wikipedia Commons.


    Guns for the Two Ocean Navy





    History Photo Bomb