The World at War

Global Timeline 1918-48

Peace and War

The period from 1918 to 1948 was one of lost peace, of unrest, instability, economical crisis, crimes, suffering, war and eventually the cold war and peace.


     With the armistice of 11 November, 1918 quiet descends on Europe for the first time in over four years. Among the casualties the First World War is liberal idealism and confidence in the achievements of science and technical advance to further the progress of man. Into the void will come a new and darker idealism forged in the fires of war and destruction. With the unhappy peace treaty of Versailles, come the arbitrary drawing of lines on a map, the sundering of empires and peoples, the creation of convenient catch-all nations, the treachery of politics. The flowering of Fascism in Italy emboldens those who have similar designs in other countries. Political unrest and instability quickly devolve into the inflation of 1923 and after a brief period of recovery, when the nations seemed to have found their footing, to the Great Depression of 1929.
     As the world struggles into the 1930's the democracies of the west will suffer a crises of confidence, and the fledgling Weimar Republic of Germany will be guided onto the rocks of totalitarianism by an unhappy concurrence of men and events. The League of Nations, the only real achievement of the victors of the Great War is never properly empowered by it's member nations who do not wish to surrender any bit of sovereignty in the interest of collective security and will sputter out of existence. The stage is set for the emergence of Hitler, the evil of Stalinism and the brutal militarism of the Japanese Army and it's savaging of China. The democratic West, under seige by doubt, division and economic hardship will prove to be not equal to the demands of peace and as the thirties come to a close, Europe and the world are again plunged into war. The violence of total war will be hurled onto soldier and civilian alike. Nearly all of Europe and half of China and the vast Pacific regions will feel the terrors of war before the final victory of the Allied Nations. When the dust settled in 45, some 60 million people had died in the war and in the worst crime that ever happened, the holocaust.
     This time, the mistakes of Versailles will not be repeated after the war as the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of the devastated nations is implemented. Still it is an uneasy peace, beset with fears of tyranny and nuclear anihilation that blankets Europe, America and Asia as the frightening realites of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union take hold. Eventually the West will demonstrate that it has well learned the folly of appeasement win the face of aggression. When Soviets try to bully Berlin into their occupation zone, they are defeated by the Berlin Airlift. With this, Western Germany is reassured of it's future and it's place with the Western democracies, the period of Soviet expansionism shifts from Europe to other places, setting the stage for the Cold War.

See also other timelines and our list of Armed Conflicts 1918-1948


1917 October With financial help from Imperial Germany the bolshevik party under Lenin manages to attain power in Russia.
1918 March 3 In the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the war with Russia is ended. Russia renounces any authority in Poland and the Baltic states and acknowledges the independence of Ukraine and Finland. The Central powers do not demand reparations.
November 11 The "Great War" is ended by an armistice between Germany and the Allied Powers, signed in Compiegne. The terms of the peace treaty are to be made later. Until the actual peace treaty is signed, the British blockade of Germany continues.
1919 January 18 Peace conference opens in Versailles. The main points are negotiated between David Lloyd George (Great Britain), Georges Clemenceau (France) and Woodrow Wilson (USA).
April 29 The constitution of the League of Nations is accepted at the Parisienne peace conference and will be included into the peace treaties as Article 1-26.
June 28 The Treaty of Versailles is signed by Germany. Shortly later Austria, Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria sign their own treaties. They include that Germany and the Central powers take all responsibility for the war and demand full reperations especially from Germany. The amount of the reparations remains open.
1920 November 15 First meeting of the full assembly of the Leage of Nations in Geneva. The US does not enter the League.
1921 January 24-29 Conference in Paris on reparations proceeds without participation of Germany. They decide that Germany has to pay 269 billion Goldmarks and, for 42 years,12% of the value of German exports (another some 1-2 Billions a year). This excluded any reparations that Russia might demand. German war expenses from 1914-18 amount to some 150 Billions. This money was collected mainly via war bonds and has to be repaid by the state to the population.
March 8 After Germany tries to negotiate the sum without success, parts of the Ruhr area are occupied by France.
April 27 The German reparations are newly fixed to 132 Billion Goldmarks, payable in 37 years.
May 1 Germany agrees to the conditions. The occupation of the Ruhr area continues.
August 24/25 The US, not having signed the treaty of Versailles, makes its own peace treaty with Germany and Austria.
November 12 -
Febr. 6
Washington Conference on arms reduction successfully reduces the size of the US, British, Japanese, French and Italian fleets. The participants agree on a tonnage-ration of 5:5:3:1,75:1,75 and not to build any new capital ships. The "Open door policy" for China is concluded.
1922 April 16 In the German-Soviet treaty of Rapallo both sides take up diplomatic relations and agree that any open questions resulting from the war are settled. With this the Sovietunion renounces any claims due to the Versailles-Treaty (article 116). This alienates France, which had planned to shift the huge Russian pre-war debts to France (which the Sovietunion simply did not acknowledge) upon Germany.
October 28 The March on Rome - In Italy the nationalist movement under Mussolini, disappointed with the results of the war for Italy, takes power. Fascism and Antifascism start to become competing ideologies.
1923 January 9-11 Over the vote of Great Britain the reparation comission decides that Germany has neglected its coal delivery. France and Belgium decide to send some engineers to the Ruhr area to speed up the German deliveries. Five divisions with heavy weapons are sent with them for protection, the Occupation of the Rhineland. The US withdraws their troops from the still occupied areas of Germany.
January 13 German cancellor Cuno declares "passive resistance". Strikes, riots and bloody clashes of the occupation troops with workers are common. The costs for this are mainly financed by printing bills in Germany.
September 26 New cancellor Gustav Streseman ends the passive resistance. The German Reich has reached it's economic and financial breaking point.
October 21 With French support, separatists try to declare an independent "Rhine Republic" in Aachen. The plan fails due to resistance by the population and the British disapproval.
October 24 With French support, separatists try to declare an independet "Autonomous Pfalz" in Speyer. With strong support from the French military, they manage to hold on for some time. Eventually the plan fails due to resistance of the population and the British disapproval. Bavaria declared martial law to counter this autonomy movement. President Ebert declared martial law in Germany to keep control of Bavaria.
Oktober In Saxony and Thuringia the coalition-governments of KPD and SPD protests against the prohibition of communist and socialist press. The Reichwehr forces these governments to resign.
Although ordered to do so, the Bavarian government refuses to take any steps against a NSDAP-newspaper. The Bavarian government takes direct control over the local parts of the Reichswehr.
Bloody street riots in Hamburg between communists and the police
The inflation reaches an all time high. One US-Dollar costs 40 Billion Mark. On the pro-side to the government all the private war bonds (which are rated by Reichsmark, not Goldmark like the reparations) can be paid back without problems. All savings on banks (or in war bonds) are lost, leading to widespread poverty.
November 9 The Beerhall Putch of Hitler. Despite the fact that Ludendorf takes part, police and Reichswehr do not support the putch but activley suppress it. The executive power is given by president Ebert to General von Seeckt. Germany becomes de jure a military government, but von Seeckt does not misuse his power.
Hitler is arrested and sentenced to fortress prison (which means without loss of honour). He is imprisoned at Landsberg where he writes "Mein Kampf". Six days after the putch a reform of the German currency takes place and the Rentenmark is introduced. This effectively ends the inflation.
1924 April 9 The Dawes Plan is put forward to stabilize the economic situation in Europe, to enable the Germans to pay their reparations and the Allies to pay their debts to the US. It sets an upper limit for payment of reparations and limits the time to 37 years. The Motto is "Business, not politics".
July 16-
August 16
The Dawesplan is generally accepted on the London conference.
October 5-16 The Locarno Conference solves many open questions and is a first important step to a system of collective security in Europe. Nationalists on all sides severly criticize the treaty.
1926 September 8 Germany enters the League of Nations. The vote is unanimous.
December 10 Nobel Peace Prize is shared by Gustav Stresemann of Germany and Aristide Briand of France. The next years prize is also shared by a German-French pair (L.Quidde and F. Buisson).
1928 August 27 The Kellogg-Briand Pact is signed by 15 Nations, 39 more until the end of 29. It bans war as a tool to solve international conflicts.
1929 February 9 Litinow-protocol. A non-aggression pact between the Soviet-Union, Rumania, Poland Lithuania and Estonia.
August 6-31 First Haague conference. The proposed Young Plan further reduces the reparations of Germany. The end of the occupation of the Rhineland by the allies is scheduled for mid 1930.
September 5 Aristide Briand of France proposes a plan for the United States of Europe.
October 25 Black Friday on the stock exchance of New York starts the world economic crisis.
1930 January 3-20 Second Hague Conference. The Young Plan is signed.
1931 September 18 Japan occupies Mukden and other places in Manchuko. War between Japan and China begins.
September 21 The bank of England drops the gold standard.
December 10 The League sends a commission to investigate the Japanese/Chinese conflict.
1932 February 18 Japan creates the "independent" state of Mandchuko (under Japanese protection).
June 16 - July 9 At the Conference in Lausanne reparations are fixed on a final sum of 3 billion Goldmarks. This gives a total of paid reparations of 53 Billion Goldmarks.
September 4 Lytton Report on the conflict between China and Japan accuses Japan of being the aggressor. Japanese special interests are acknowledged and it proposes to make Manchuko a autonomous part of China under Japanese control.
December 11 On a conference in Lausanne the major powers acknowledge Germanys equal rights in (re)armament.
1933 January 30 Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of the German Reich.
February 2 -
October 14
Second internalional conference on disarmament. ends without results. It tries to limit the army size of the major powers, while Germany is entitled to 200.000 man. Germany leaves the conference because a new plan postpones the limitations for four years. In reference to the Lausanne conference Germany starts a limited rearmament. The conference ends without any results.
March 25 Japan leaves the League of Nation as a reaction on the Lytton-report (resolution from Febr. 25). The lack of consequences demonstrates the weakness of the League against a determined aggressor.
July 15 A pact between France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy is signed.
October 14 Germany leaves the Leage of Nations
1934 January 24 Pact of non-aggression and friendship between Germany and Poland.
Arpil 22 French note to Great-Britain about Germanys violation of the Versailles treaty due to its raised arms etat. In the consequence France looks for allies in the east, especially the Soviet-Union.
September 18 The Soviet-Union enters the League of Nations.
1935 March 7 Reestablishment of the French-Belgian military pact.
March 16 Germany denounces any arms restrictions of the Versailles treaty and introduces the enlistment.
April 17 The League of Nations condemns the German violation of the Versailles treaty. No action is taken.
May 2 French-Soviet pact, effective for five years, for mutual help in the case of an attack by an European nation.
May 16 Soviet-Czechoslovakian pact, valid only if France supports both parties.
June 18 German-British Fleet agreement. The German fleet is set to 35% of the British. This supports the revision of the Versailles treaty and leads to some discomfort between France and Great Britain.
October 3 Italy invades Abessinia.
September 15 The Nuremberg racial laws ("The law to protect German Blood and German Honour") are promulgated.
October 11 The League of Nations condemns Italys aggression and imposes an embargo on weapons, credit and raw materials. This remains ineffective due to a very lenient position of France and Great Britain and open support by Germany.
1936 March 7 German troops enter the Rhineland. The western democracies take no action, the League protests the violation of the Versailles treaty.
Jule 4 With the occupation of Abessinia complete, the League ends its sanctions against Italy.
Jule 18 The Spanish Civil War starts. With German and Italian support, General Franco manages to put up a nationalist front. The Republican government (Peoples Front) is strongly supported and later controlled by the Soviet Union.
October 25 German-Italian treaty between Rome and Berlin (the Axis).
November 25 Anticomintern Pact between Germany and Japan. Italy enters a year later.
1937 July 7 The Japanese Chinese war is renewed.
October 5 Roosevelt renounces the neutrality policy towards Japan.
December 11 Italy leaves the League of Nations.
1938 March 12 German troops enter Austria which is annexed one day later.
September 29 Munich Conference. Hitler assures the world that this is his last territorial demand. British Prime Minister Chamberlain and French Premier Daladier cede Czech territories to Germany, Poland and Hungary.
August 12 Armistice declared between Japan and the Soviet Union after outbreak of border fighting.
November 9 "Reichskristallnacht" in Germany. In an organized progrom, most Synagogues are ravaged and many jews are killed.
1939 March 14 Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine declare independency from Czechoslovakia (strongly encouraged by the Axis-countries). A day later, German troops occupy the rest of the state.
March 15 United States begins serious preparations for war.
April 7 As a compensation for the German expansion in Czechoslavakia, Italy occupies Albania.
April 18 The Soviet Union offers a Soviet-British-French alliance which would guarantee the integrity of Poland. The consulations are unproductive.
May 11 Japanese attack on disputed border areas is renewed between Japanese and Soviets. Japanese are eventually heavily defeated.
August 23 German-Russian non-agression pact. A secret protocol divides Europe into spheres of influence.
August 25 A full British-Polish military alliance is formed. Great Britain guarantees Polands security.
September 1 World War Two begins with the German attack on Poland.
September 3 France, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries declare war upon Germany.
September 15 Soviets and Japanese sign another armistice on Manchurian border. This frees the Soviets to move troops to the west.
September 17 Soviet troops enter Poland and advance to the demarcation-line.
September 25 Poland is dismembered. Large parts of it are incorporated into Germany or the Soviet Union. The remainder on the German side with the core of the old Polish lands become the "Generalgouvernement". From the start, the German government systematically tries to eliminate the polish intelligentsia and educated classes.
November 8 An assassination attempt of Elser on Hitler fails. One of the consequences is that another attempt planned by the recistance movement has to be cancelled.
November 30 The Soviet-Finnish winterwar starts. Eventually Finlands forces are worn down and Finland capitulates.
1940 April 9 With operation "Weserübung" Germany occupies Denmark and Norway.
May 10 After several months of "Drôle de Guerre" (Phoney war, Sitzkrieg) the Germans finally attack in the west. After six weeks of heavy fighting, the Netherlands and Belgium are occupied, France capitulates after Paris falls and the British withdraw from the continent.
June 10 Mussolini enters the war against France.
June 22 The armistice between Germany and France is signed in the Compiègne wagon-lit. A French government of the unoccupied territories is formed in Vichy with General Pétain as head of state.
October 28 Italy attacks Greece.
December 9 Wavell's attack in Northern Africa proceeds from Egypt into Lybia.
December 18 Hitler signs order 21, Barbarossa. The planning has to be completed by May 15th.
1941 April 6-28 Germany occupies Yugoslavia and Greece.
May 20 A German air landing manages to capture Crete after twelve days of severe fighting.
June 8 British and Free French troops invade Syria. Vichy troops stoutly resist.
June 22 Operation Barbarossa commences. Germany attacks the Soviet Union.
3 million German soldiers attack the Soviet army of 5.7 million, 2.5 of them in the west. In the coming weeks, Stalin mobilizes some 10 million reservists. On the 29th the Central Commitee declares this the "Great Fatherland War".
October 2 The operation "Taifun" to take Moscow commences. It peters out due to stiffened resistance and especially bad weather.
December 5 The Soviet counter offensive hits the unsuspecting German army.
December 7 Japanese carrier planes attack the US fleet in Pearl Harbor.
In a series of campaigns they manage to occupy Malaya, the Phillipines, Singapoore, Java and Borneo.
December 11 Hitler declares war upon the United States.
1942 January 1 The pact of the "United Nations" is signed in Washington by 26 nations. They commit themselve to not agree to any seperate peace with Germany or Japan.
January 20 During the Wannsee Conference the procedures of the elimination of the European Jews are discussed. Shortly after this conference, the elimination camps of Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau began their work.
March 21 Hitler decided to mass-recruit foreign workers into service for Germany. Most of the finally 7.5 million workers are forced into service.
March 28/29 First carpet bombing of a German city (Lübeck) by the British Bomber-Command under General Sir Arthur Harris.
May 4-8 The air-sea battle of the Coral Sea comes out as an tactical victory but strategical defeat for Japan.
May 26 A German/Italian offensive in Northern Africa manages to proceed from El-Gazala to Bir Hacheim, later to El-Alamain.
June 3-7 In the Sea-Air battle at Midway the Japanese loose four of their best aircraft carriers against one of the US. This shifts the naval superiority from Japan to the US for the remainder of the war.
August 7 US-troops land on Guadalcanal. In a four month battle that involves sea-, air- and land battles they hold and later occupy the islands.
October 23 A well prepared offensive of the British 8th army (General Montgomery) forces the German Africa Corps (General Rommel) to retreat with great losses.
November 7/8 US/British forces land in Marocco and Algieria. After some fighting the French Vichy Forces join the Free French.
November 11 The remaining part of France is occupied by German and Italian forces.
November 19 The Soviet offensive northwest of Stalingrad breaks through the German lines and traps the 6th German army (250.000 men) in the city. Hitler forbids them to break out.
1943 February 2 The last resistance in Stalingrad ends. From 250.000 man who where trapped in Stalingrad only some 90000 survived (24000 left via air before). 6000 of these would live through their captivity to return.
April 19 -
May 19
Uprising in the Warzaw Ghetto. The SS needs a month of fighting to squash the revolt. 56000 casualties on the Jewish side are counted.
May 8 Casablance-Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill. The "unconditional surrender" becomes the goal of the war.
May 13 The German army in Africa capitulates in Tunis. 130000 German and 120000 Italian soldiers are captured.
May 23 After severe losses (in May, 43 submarines were lost) Dönitz ends the battle for the North Atlantic.
July 5 Operation "Zitadelle" is the last great German offensive in the East. Badly planned, it run into severe Russian defenses and gained no ground. On the 17th of July a Russian counteroffensive on the whole front quickly gained ground.
July 10 British and US troops land on Sicily.
September 9 British and US troops land at Salerno.
November 1 US Marines land on Bougainville. The island is only secured in 1945 by Australian troops.
November 20 US Marines attack Tarawa. The island is taken after four days of heavy fighting. There are no Japanese survivors.
November 28 -
December 1
The Teheran Conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin already dwells on the post-war order of Europe.
December 26 US troops land on New Britain.
1944 March 7 Japanese try to strike into India with an advance to Kohima and Imphal. They are stopped by British and Indian forces in a series of battles that rage until the end of May.
June 6 Allied troops land in Normandy.
June 15 US forces land on Saipan and take it in campaign of some three weeks. Tinian and Guam are secured by 1st of August. In an attempt to defend these islands, the Japanese navy rushes to help and gets almost wiped out in the battle of the Philippine Sea (19th of June).
June 22 The Soviet operation "Bagration" manages to cut off the German army group center. 28 divisions with some 350000 German soldiers are destroyed, killed or captured.
July 20 The assassination attempt on Hitler by Oberst Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg fails. He and several conspirators are executed. In the end, some 5000 people are killed for their connection to the plot.
July 31 US breakthrough at Avranches leads to the collapse of the German defense in France.
August 25 The Free French troops under De Gaulle and US troops liberate Paris.
October 20 US troops land at Leyte, on the Philippines. In a prolonged series of Sea-, Air- and landbattles Japan looses its hold on the Philippines, though large groups hold out until the end of the war. The 25th of October saw the defeat of the last Japanese naval fleet. Manila was secured on the 3rd of March 45. This campaign saw the first appearance of Kamikaze units.
December 16 The Ardenne offensive marks the last try of the Germans to regain the offensive. It is quickly squashed by Allied airpower.
1945 January 12 In a large offensive against the German Eastfront (void of supplies due to the Ardenne-offensive) the Soviets manage to advance into Germany.
February 4-11 At the Jalta-Conference, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill confer about the new world order. The establishing of the United Nations is agreed upon.
February 19 US Marines attack Iwo Jima. The island is secured after a month of heavy fighting.
April 1 US troops land on Okinawa. The battle was over on the 21st of June, with some 107000 Japanese casualties. The US troops lost almost 13000 killed and had 36000 wounded.
April 13 The Red Army conquers Vienna.
April 16 The Red Army starts its final attack on Berlin.
April 25 US and Soviet troops meet at Torgau.
April 26 The founding conference of the United Nations commences in San Francisco. It is signed on the 26th of June by representants of 51 nations.
April 30 Hitler commits suicide. Three days later the last defenders of Berlin capitulate.
May 8 Unconditional surrender of the remaining German forces to the Allies - VE-Day.
July 16 Trinity. The first atomic bomb is successfully tested in New Mexico.
July 17-
August 2
The Potsdam Conference with Truman, Churchill (Attlee since the 29th) and Stalin decides the details of the post war order and cements the division of Europe into two spheres of influence.
August 6 The first A-bomb explodes over Hiroshima. 80% of the town is destroyed, 90000 people die immediately, 400000 are wounded (with longterm-effects).
August 8 The Soviet Union declares war upon Japan and quickly advances into Manchuko, Korea and the Kuriles.
August 9 The second A-bomb explodes over Nagasaki. 40000 people die immediately, 60000 are wounded.
August 10 Japanese Emperor Hirohito sends a capitulation offer to the Allied Command.
August 10 VJ Day. The war ends with the unconditional surrender of Japan.
1946 January 10 First meeting of the full assembly of the United Nations in London.
1947 February 13 The UN establishes a commission for conventional disarmament.
March 12 The Truman Doctrine promises to help "free peoples whose liberties are endangered".
1948 April 26 The Soviet Union declared the Berlin Blockade. The western Allies build up the Air Lift to supply Berlin.
1949 April 4 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO is established.

National Timelines

Armed Conflicts

Links (see also our Link-Section)


  • Dr. Karl Julius Ploetz, Der Grosse Ploetz, Verlag Ploetz Freiburg, 1986
  • Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, F.A. Brockhaus Mannheim, 1987
  • Natkiel, Weidenfeld et al., Der grosse Atlas zum II. Weltkrieg, Reprint by Bechtermünz Verlag Augsburg, 1998

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