Encyclopedia of War

World War II 1939

Events of 1939

Three years of mounting international tension - The Spanish Civil War, the Anschluss of Germany and Austria, Hitler's occupation of the Sudetenland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia - culminated in the German invasion of Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. While the USA proclaimed neutrality, it continued to supply Britain with essential supplies, and the critical Battle of the Atlantic between German U-Boats and British naval convoys commenced.

Western Europe was eerily quiet during this 'phoney war'. Preparations for war continued in earnest, but there were few signs of conflict, and civilians who had been evacuated from London in the first months drifted back into the city. Gas masks were distributed, and everybody waited for the proper war to begin.

In eastern Europe and Scandinavia there was nothing phony about the war. With the Ribbentrop Pact signed between the Soviet Union and Germany in late August, Russia followed Germany into Poland in September. That country was carved up between the two invaders before the end of the year, and Russia continued this aggression by going on to invade Finland.

Austria was annexed into the German Third Reich on 12 March 1938. There had been several years of pressure by supporters from both Austria and Germany for the "Heim ins Reich " movement The Heim ins Reich Home into the Empire; or Back to Reich initiative was a policy pursued by Hitler starting in 1938 and was one of the main factors leading to the War.


Germany invades poland

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On September 1, 1939, Germany invades Poland the German attack was code-named Operation White (Fall Weiss). The Polish army was defeated within weeks of the invasion. From East Prussia and Germany in the north and Silesia and Slovakia in the south, German units, with more than 2,000 tanks and over 1,000 planes, smashed through Polish lines along the border and pushed on to Warsaw in a massive encirclement attack. After heavy shelling and bombing, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27, 1939. Britain and France, standing by their guarantee of Poland's border, had declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. The Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939. The demarcation line for the partition of German- and Soviet-occupied Poland was along the Bug River.

The Polish armed forces were no match for the German Blitzkrieg "lightning war" the Germans learned valuable lessons from World War I; were large forces got bogged down and and ended in trench warfare and opposing armies battled for control,but anything gained was lost just a quick with of large numbers of troops killed or wounded.

In the late thirties Polish headquarters prepared "Plan Zachód" (Plan West), a plan of mobilization of Polish Army in case of war with Germany. Earlier, the Poles did not regard the Germans as their main threat, priority was given to threat from the Soviets. In terms of air power, the Germans had 850 bombers and dive-bombers and 400 fighters. The Polish Air Force numbered 150 fighters and 210 bombers – Many of these were obsolete and were no match for the modern Luftwaffe that destroyed the Polish Air Force within two days of the first attack.

The Polish Navy consisted of four destroyers, five submarines, two gunboats, a mine-layer and six mine sweepers – which meant that any German attack from the sea could not be repulsed. Despite the terms of Versailles, Germany had built a modern navy that totally outclassed the Polish Navy.

The Polish were out manned and out gunned and had little chance to stop the German advance into Poland. There were even reports of Polish calvary charging German tanks in a desperate attempt to halt the advance but had no affect but these are supposed myths, creations of the Germans and even Italian propaganda and are very far from truth. Polish cavalry was active during the campaign and acted as horse mounted infantry. One of the most successful cavalry charges took place at Krojanty, where elements of 18th Uhlans Regiment attacked and destroyed German infantry battalion only to be counterattacked by German armored unit.

German casualties (8,082 to 10,572 killed, 27,278 to 30,322 wounded and 3404 to 5029 missing) were nothing compared to Polish casualties (66,300 killed, 133,700 wounded and 420,000 taken prisoner). Poles lost 327 out of their 435 airplanes in combat, while 98 flew to Romania. In addition, 26000 civilians were killed during the fighting. Germans lost some 993 to 1000 armored fighting vehicles (mainly destroyed by anti-tank guns), 370 to 400 artillery pieces, 697 to 1300 airplanes (damaged and destroyed) along with 11000 motor vehicles.


Britain and France declare war on Germany 


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Britain and France are at war with Germany following the invasion of Poland two days ago. At 1115 BST the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced the British deadline for the withdrawal of German troops from Poland had expired.

He said the British ambassador to Berlin had handed a final note to the German government this morning saying unless it announced plans to withdraw from Poland by 1100, a state of war would exist between the two countries.


Mr Chamberlain continued: "I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany."

Similarly the French issued an ultimatum, which was presented in Berlin at 1230, saying France would be at war unless a 1700 deadline for the troops' withdrawal was adhered to.

He continued: "I ask them to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right and reverently commit our cause to God."

A War Cabinet of nine members has been set up with two new ministers, including Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, the post he held at the outbreak of World War I. Lord Hankey becomes Minister without Portfolio.

Anthony Eden will take over as Dominions Secretary with special access to the War Cabinet. Mr Eden resigned from the post of Secretary of Foreign Affairs last year because he disagreed with the policy of appeasement.

The National Service (Armed Forces) Act has been passed making all men between 18 and 41 liable for conscription. The armed forces have already been mobilized for war and in July the first Territorial Army conscripts were called up.

Latest reports from Poland say the Germans have bombed a number of towns and cities, some with little or no strategic importance. About 1,500 are reported to have been killed or injured in the attacks on Friday and Saturday.

In his broadcast to the nation, Mr Chamberlain spoke of his sadness that "the long struggle to win peace" had failed.

He continued: "I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful.

The year previous 1938 Mr Chamberlain went to meet Hitler and signed the Munich Agreement, conceding the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany; and would return to Britain like a hero but the agreement wasn't worth the paper it was writen on.

Just over a year later it was War and the Allied forces were deployed.
The British had The British Expeditionary Force (BEF), this was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940

 The British Expeditionary Force was started in 1938 in readiness for a perceived threat of war after Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 these forces were mainly deployed along the French and Belgium borders but didnt see action until 10 May 1940 when Germany invaded France.


Soviet invasion of Poland-Finland

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The soviet union invasion of Poland began without a formal declaration of war on the 17 September 1939 roughly sixteen days after the Nazi Germany's invasion the soviets attacked from the east.The Red Army invades Kresy in accordance with the secret protocol,on 17 September,The soviets claimed the were the was acting to protect the Ukrainians and Belarusians who lived in the eastern part of Poland because of the collapse of the Polish state and couldn't guarantee the safety of its citizens.
Now facing a second front the Polish Government ordered the evacuation of all troops to neutral Romanian.

The soviet forces who outnumbered the Polish forces gain their objectives very easily and captured some 230,000 prisoners of war.now the soviets started a campaign to sovietizing the areas under their control.
To keep control of the masses the Red army proceeded with executions and thounsends of arrests now the soviets would deport hundreds of thounsends to Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet Union this happened in four major waves from 1939-1941 until the were pushed out by the Germans in operation Barbarossa until the Soviets reconquered it in 1944.

The Winter War

The very first attack on November 30, 1939 was an aerial bombardment on the city of Helsinki and all along the Finnish-Soviet border.This united the finns and the establishment of a false government in terijoki with exiled O.W.Kuusinen further United and angered the Finns,The Soviets who were building a large force of four armies which were split up into 16 divisions and a further three to be mobilized,
Compared to the Finnish army of 9 small divisions thats not even accounting for the Armour air and naval units in the conflict.
the major problem the Finnish forces faced was the had to defend a border that was nearly 88 miles in length.

The war was fought on two main fronts the karelia isthmus and the area of lake Ladoga,the Soviets main focus was on the city of Viipuri and would try and split the country in half and then drive from the north at Petsamo,by the end of December the two main fronts came to a standstill and Finns counter attacks kept the Russia bogged down.
The Finns in the north had been pushed back and took the higher ground in a attempt to stop the soviet advance,during this period the Finns attacked supply columns and carried out raids against the Russian lines.after replemsihing supplys in February started artillery barrage that lasted nine days while Russian troops carried out their own raids and started to rotate the troops and the front to try and keep pressure on the Finnish lines.
had seen that the only thing left to do was to negotiate a peace treaty with Moscow, which would turn out cause a new type of difficult.

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1940