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Chronology 1939

Date Event Historical Background
January 1939 British Official Visit to Italy Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax conducted an official visit to Rome to confer with Italian Premier Benito Mussolini. The British leaders hoped to find some leverage with the Italians to maintain the status quo in the Mediterranean, but the visit had few tangible results.
January 1939 French Official Visit to Corsica and Tunisia Premier Eduoard Daladier of France conducted an official visit to Corsica and Tunisia to demonstrate France's claims on these territories in the face of Italian demands. The warm Tunisian reception for the French premier demonstrated that the Arabs had little enthusiasm to exchange French rule for Italian colonization. Tensions between the French and Italian governments remained high as the French refused to discuss any cessation of French territory to the Italians.
January 1939 First Conference of American National Committees on Intellectual Cooperation To promote intellectual cooperation in Latin America, the League of Nations hosted a conference in Santiago, Chile.
January 12, 1939 U.S. Defense Plan U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress for $552 million in defense expenditures to prepare the country for war. The American government planned to expand fortifications in the Pacific and the Caribbean (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands). President Roosevelt began to express his strong support for the Western democratic states. The Roosevelt administration allowed the French government to purchase large numbers of American aircraft and built an additional 600 aircraft for the U.S. armed forces.
January 16-20, 1939 One Hundred-Fourth League Council Session The League of Nations Council held its one hundred-fourth session in Geneva.
January 19, 1939 Norwegian Claim in Antarctica The Norwegian government laid claim to one million square miles of Antarctic territory from 20 degrees West Longitude to 45 degrees East Longitude, the region between Coats Land and Enderby Land. This claim represented 20 percent of the entire Antarctic coast.
January 19-April 4, 1939 First Session of Judicial Year 1939/Permanent Court of International Justice The Permanent Court of International Justice held its first session in Judicial Year 1939 in the Hague.
January 26-28, 1939 Permanent International Studies Conference To promote the science of international relations, the League of Nations sponsored a conference in Bergen, Norway.
February 1939 Italian Official Visit to Poland Count Nobile Ciano, Italian Foreign Minister, conducted an official visit to Poland and received an enthusiastic reception, which included a popular demonstration against the Germans. The Polish government, bowing to public pressure, put forward claims for a share in the colonies demanded by "have not" countries.
February 10, 1939 Death of Pope Pius IX Pope Pius IX died at the height of European tensions between fascism, communism, and democracy. Pius IX gained an international reputation for standing firm against any regime which threatened religion or the rights of the individual. As a result, his policies often challenged the Communists and the Fascists.
February 10, 1939 Japanese Occupation of Hainan Japanese forces occupied the island of Hainan, giving the Japanese greater control over the southern Chinese coast.
January 20-23, 1939 Italian Official Visit to Yugoslavia Italian Foreign Minister Count Nobile Ciano conducted an official visit to Belgrade to establish closer political, economic, and cultural relations with the Yugoslav government. One goal of the foreign minister's visit was to achieve a reconciliation between the Yugoslav and Hungarian governments. The Yugoslav government's unwillingness to consider any cession of territory to Hungary, however, made any reconciliation almost impossible.
January 26, 1939 Spanish Nationalists Capture of Barcelona General Francisco Franco, with the aid of Italian forces, captured Barcelona, and Spanish Republican resistance collapsed in Catalonia. Within a few weeks, the Spanish Nationalists controlled the entire province. Over 200,000 Republicans crossed over the border to France, where they were disarmed.
February-March 17, 1939 Palestine Conference in London Arab and Jewish representatives met in London to discuss the latest British plan for the future of Palestine. Despite the efforts of non-Palestinian Arabs to reach a compromise, both the Jewish and Palestinian Arabs rejected the British plan.
February 15, 1939 Resignation of Hungarian Premier Premier Bela Imredy resigned from power after conducting an aggressive anti-Semitic policy when the National Socialists in Hungary taunted him with his Jewish background (he admitted that this great-grandfather was Jewish).
February 24, 1939 Hungarian Adherence to Anti-Commintern Pact The new government of Count Paul Teleki, after suppressing the leading Fascist organization, changed policies mid-stream and Hungary joined the Anti-Commintern Pact with Germany, Italy, and Japan.
February 27, 1939 British and French Recognition of Franco Government With the fall of Catalonia, the British and French governments recognized the Franco government as the official Spanish government without conditions.
February 28, 1939 Resignation of Spanish President Azana After the British and French governments recognized the Franco government, President Manuel Azana, who had taken refuge in Paris, resigned his office. The British and French governments attempted to bring the Spanish Civil War to an end, but Republican Premier Juan Negrin, refused to participate in the peace negotiations. The radical elements of Republican Spain supported Premier Negrin and the continuation of the war.
March 1939 French Military Preparation With German expansion to the east, Premier Eduoard Daladier asked for, and received, power to govern by decree without express reservations from the French Chamber of Deputies. This transfer of power was unprecedented in the history of the Third Republic. Premier Daladier used his new political power to speed up the country's rearmament program and to begin partial mobilization of reserves. The French government supported Britain's new anti-fascist front foreign policy and negotiated non-aggression pacts with Poland, Greece, Romania, and Turkey in an effort to bolster Eastern Europe from German demands.
March 2, 1939 Election of Pope Pius XII The College of Cardinals elected Engenio Pacelli as the new pope, Pius XII. He had served for several years as the papal secretary of state and chief advisor to Pope Pius XI. The new pope had a reputation for a strong will, an astute character, and diplomatic skill. Pius XII immediately set out to avoid a general war in Europe, but his efforts did not reflect a change in policy from Pius XI.
March 2, 1939 Political Reforms in Rajkot Mohandas K. Gandhi initiated another fast to force the ruler of the small state of Rajkot to implement political reforms. The British viceroy secured a compromise between Gandhi and the ruler of Rajkot, but the fast restored Gandhi's prestige.
March 6, 1939 Republican Military Coup in Madrid General Segismundo Casado led a military coup in Madrid which overthrew the government of Premier Juan Negrin. Premier Negrin and his ministers fled by air to France, while General Jose Miaja, defender of Madrid from 1936-1937, set up the new National Defense Council. The Republican fleet escaped from Cartagena and sailed to the Tunisian port of Bizerta, where it surrendered to the French government and accepted internment. The Miaja government introduced the policy of "peace with honor," a program rejected by the Spanish Communists. This led to fighting within the capital. Eventually Premier Miaja defeated the Communists and began negotiations on a political compromise with the Spanish Nationalists. Unable to secure assurances for leniency, the National Defense Council had no recourse but to surrender unconditionally to General Francisco Franco.
March 9, 1939 U.S.-Brazilian Agreements The Roosevelt administration and the Brazilian government concluded a series of agreements, through which the Brazilians received financial aid and general economic development assistance.
March 10, 1939 Czecho-Slovakian Dismissal of Tiso The Czecho-Slovak government deposed Joseph Tiso, Premier of Slovakia, for attempting to sever Slovakia's union with Bohemia and Moravia, with the support of the Fascist Hinkla Guards. Premier Tiso appealed to the Germans for assistance and traveled to Berlin to confer with Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
March 10-12, 1939 Radical Indian Independence Plan Rejected at Tripuri The party congress at Tripuri rejected a radical plan to send the British government an ultimatum demanding Indian independence.
March 14, 1939 Slovakian and Carpatho-Ukrainian Independence The German government summoned Czecho-Slovak President Emil Hacha and Foreign Minister Chvalkosky to Berlin, after promising support for ousted Slovakian Premier Josef Tiso. Chancellor Adolf Hitler induced the Czecho-Slovak leaders to place the fate of the their people in German hands, promising an autonomous development of their national life. Under this new plan, Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine received their independence while Bohemia and Moravia became a German protectorate. The Czecho-Slovaks offered no resistance to the German occupation.
March 15, 1939 German Occupation of Bohemia and Moravia None of the Great Powers opposed the German annexation of Bohemia and Moravia or the Hungarian occupation of Carpatho-Ukraine (Ruthenia), which marked the end of an independent Czecho-Slovak state. The annexation dispelled any hopes that the Germans would limit their territorial expansion to Germanic populations. The Hungarians, on the other hand, annexed Carpatho-Ukraine after heavy fighting began under Augustin Volosin. The Hungarians also secured a small slice Eastern Slovakia from the Germans. The U.S. government refused to recognize Germany's annexation of Czecho-Slovakia and imposed countervailing duties on imports from Germany. The incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia marked the end of Czecho-Slovakia's membership in the League of Nations.
March 16, 1939 Establishment of German Protectorate over Slovakia Restored to power, Premier Joseph Tiso made Slovakia a German protectorate. The German government also named a former Foreign Minister, Constantin von Neurath, the new Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, while President Emil Hacha remained the head of state.
March 18, 1939 Spanish-Portuguese Non-Aggression Pact The Portuguese and Spanish Nationalist governments signed a non-aggression pact.
March 20, 1939 Recall of U.S. Ambassador to Germany The Roosevelt administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Berlin in response to Germans violation of the Munich Agreement and the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia.
March 23, 1939 German Annexation of Memel The German government applied pressure to the Lithuanian government and the Lithuanians accepted the peaceful transfer of Memel back to Germany. In return, the German government guaranteed Lithuanian independence and integrity. The two governments concluded a commercial treaty, establishing close economic relations. Simultaneously, the German government issued strong demands to the Polish government for the annexation of Danzig and Posen (Pomorcze/the Polish Corridor) which would reunite East Prussia with Germany proper. The Polish government turned to the Western powers for assistance.
March 28, 1939 End of the Spanish Civil War With the unconditional surrender of the Miaja government, the Spanish Nationalists gained control of the last Loyalist strongholds in Madrid and Valencia. The members of the National Defense Council fled Spain. The Spanish Civil War resulted in the loss of 700,000 men in battle, 30,000 executed or assassinated, and 15,000 killed in air raids. General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist government immediately set up special tribunals to try hundreds of Republican leaders. Despite pleas for moderation by the British and French governments, a large number of Loyalist leaders were convicted.
March 31, 1939 Anglo-French Guarantee of Aid to Poland The British government recognized that continued German expansion in Europe would irreversibly undermine the status quo. As a result, the Chamberlain government pledged Anglo-French support if the Germans threatened Polish independence. This treaty officially marked the end of the Chamberlain government's appeasement policy, as it became clear, after the German annexations of Bohemia, Moravia, and Memel and threats against Poland, that the Germans were determined to expand territorially in Eastern Europe. In place of appeasement, the Chamberlain government undertook a series of negotiations and mutual assistance treaties designed to form an anti-fascist front or "peace front." The British concluded agreements with Poland, Greece, Romania, and Turkey and conducted talks with the Soviet Union.
April 1939 Peruvian Withdrawal from the League The government of Peru informed the League of Nations of its intention of withdrawing from the organization.
April 1, 1939 U.S. Recognition of Spanish Nationalist Government The Roosevelt administration officially recognized the government of General Francisco Franco as the official government of Spain.
April 2, 1939 Fascist Election Defeat in Belgium The Belgian cabinet faced a prolonged crisis and the Pierlot ministry asked King Leopold III to dissolve parliament. In the national elections, no political party won a majority, but the number of Rexist (fascist) deputies fell from 21 to only four.
April 2, 1939 Russo-Japanese Fishing Rights Dispute Tensions between the Soviet and Japanese governments reached the boiling point over fishing rights. Calmer heads prevailed and the two governments accepted a fishing agreement for a one-year period. The Japanese government also agreed to participate in an auction of the contested fishing areas on Soviet terms.
April 4, 1939 Death of King Ghazi of Iraq King Ghazi of Iraq died in an automobile accident in Baghdad. The king's death led to widespread disorders and Iraqis, believing rumors that the British had planned Ghazi's demise, attacked the British consul and stoned him to death. Faisal, the three-year old son of Ghazi, became King Faisal II.
April 6, 1939 Anglo-French Mutual Aid Agreement with Poland The British and French governments signed a mutual assistance pact with the Polish government, promising that the British and French would send military aid to Poland in the event of a German attack.
April 7, 1939 Italian Conquest of Albania The Italian army seized control of the kingdom of Albania, taking advantage of the Slovak crisis. The Italians bombarded several coastal towns and landed an army, which overran the kingdom after some resistance by the Albanians. King Zog and his queen fled to Greece, and eventually went to Turkey. Despite this clear violation of the Anglo-Italian Agreement of 1938, the British government did not intervene.
April 7, 1939 Spain Adherence to the Anti-Commintern Pact Having emerged victorious in the Spanish Civil War, the Nationalist government joined Germany, Italy, and Japan by signing the Anti-Commintern Pact.
April 11, 1939 Hungarian Withdrawal from the League of Nations The Hungarian government announced that it had withdrawn from the League of Nations, a decision which reflected German influence on Hungary.
April 12, 1939 Albania Incorporated into the Italian Empire An Albanian constituent assembly voted in favor of a personal union with Italy and King Victor Emmanuel accepted the Albanian crown on April 16th. Albania ceased its membership in the League of Nations on April 12th due to the country's incorporation into Italy.
April 13, 1939 Anglo-French Mutual Aid Agreements with Greece and Romania The British and French governments extended their mutual assistance pacts to the Greek and Romanian governments in an attempt to bolster a united front against Germany and Italy in the Balkans. The Italian annexation of Albania placed Greece in direct danger of invasion, while the Germans placed pressure on the Romanians.
April 15, 1939 American Assurances Notes U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt sent diplomatic notes to Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany and Premier Benito Mussolini of Italy, requesting assurances that neither Germany nor Italy would attack 31 countries in Europe or the Middle East for a period of ten years. In return, President Roosevelt called for discussions for the reduction of armaments and the restoration of world trade. In response, on April 28th, Chancellor Hitler restated German grievances and claims which stemmed from the World War I treaties and denied that the German government had any aggressive intentions.
April 16, 1939 Soviet Alliance Proposal with Britain and France The Soviet government approached the British and French governments with an alliance proposal to stem German aggression in Eastern Europe.
April 24, 1939 New Australian Government After the death of Prime Minister Joseph A. Lyons, R.G. Menzies formed a new government, dedicated wholeheartedly to Australian rearmament.
April 27, 1939 British Conscription Order The British government introduced military conscription for all men aged 20-21 in an effort to increase the kingdom's military forces by 300,000 men. The Chamberlain government also increased military expenditures to $3 billion for one year.
April 27, 1939 Reorganization of Yugoslavia as a Federation The Yugoslav government reached an agreement with Vladko Machek, leader of the Croats, on the reorganization of the kingdom as a federation.
April 28, 1939 German Renunciation of Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935 In a speech in the Reichstag, Chancellor Adolf Hitler officially renounced the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935, which had restricted the German navy to one-third the size of the Royal Navy, as well as the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934, accusing the British and Polish governments of attempting to "encircle" Germany. Chancellor Hitler also renewed his demands on Poland regarding Posen and Danzig and offered bilateral non-aggression pacts to the Scandinavian and Baltic states. In response, the Polish government gave up its demand of a proposed guarantee from Russia and now supported British efforts to attract the Soviet government into a new "peace front."
April 29, 1939 Resignation of Bose as President of Indian Congress Subhas Chandra Bose, a supporter of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and avid Indian nationalist, resigned as president of the Congress Party in light of the rejection of the radical independence plan offered at Tripuri. Rajendra Prasad, a disciple of Mohandas K. Gandhi, was elected the new president of the party. In response, Gandhi introduced a policy of reconciliation with the native Indian princes.
May 1939 Manchukuo-Mongolian Fighting Serious fighting between Manchukuo and Mongolian military forces broke out on the Mongolian frontier. In practice, the fighting occurred between Japanese and Russian forces, which escalated tensions in the region. The intensity of fighting heightened during the summer months, although developments in Europe shifted world attention away from north Asia.
May 3, 1939 Harsh Anti-Semitic Laws in Hungary The Hungarian government introduced a series of new, drastic anti-Semitic laws which included rigorous limitations on Jews in business and in the professions, expulsion from government service, and eventual emigration within five years.
May 3, 1939 Molotov New Soviet Foreign Minister The Soviet government suddenly dismissed Maxim Litvinov after 18 years of service and appointed Premier Vyacheslav Molotov as the new Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Commissar Molotov sharply criticized the British suggestions of a defensive alliance against Germany and Italy. During the summer, the Soviets rejected a series of drafts in negotiations with the British and French governments and demanded guarantees for the Baltic states, insurance against internal revolution, and the right to send Red Army troops into Poland in the event of a German invasion. The Western Powers were unable to concede these points, but they sent military missions to Moscow to demonstrate their sincerity.
May 9, 1939 Spanish Withdrawal from League of Nations The Nationalist Spanish government informed the League of Nations that Spain was withdrawing from the League of Nations.
May 12, 1939 Anglo-Turkish Mutual Aid Agreement The British and Turkish governments announced a mutual aid agreement in the event of aggression or war, which marked the expansion of military assistance treaties in Eastern Europe to the Middle East. In spite of close economic ties with Germany, the Turkish government supported a British bloc to check German expansion into the Balkans.
May 15-June 15, 1939 Second Session of Judicial Year 1939/Permanent Court of International Justice The Permanent Court of International Justice held its second session in Judicial Year 1939 in the Hague.
May 17, 1939 German-Scandinavian Non-Aggression Pacts The German government offered bilateral, non-aggression pacts with the Scandinavian and Baltic states. The Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish governments rejected the proposal, basing their decisions on a policy of strict neutrality. The Danish, Estonia, and Latvian governments accepted the German proposal. In response, the British government entered into negotiations with the Soviet government in an attempt to persuade the Soviets to enter into a anti-fascist front. The Soviets remained suspicious and insisted on complete reciprocity in military affairs and a guarantee on the independence of the Baltic states (the Baltic republics opposed these types of guarantees).
May 17, 1939 New Palestine Plan The British government published a new plan for the future of Palestine, after negotiations collapsed with Arab and Jewish leaders. The British plan called for an independent Palestinian state within ten years, which included a treaty relationship with Britain. Both Jews and Arabs would participate in a new government, which represented the interests of both peoples. During a transition period, Arabs and Jews would lead departments, with the support of British advisors, and participate in an advisory executive council based on population. After five years, a representative organization would draft a constitution, which would provide for a Jewish home and make arrangements for various communities. The British ended the principle of absorptive capacity, which had served as the basis for Jewish immigration to Palestine, and Jewish immigration would end after five years, unless the Arabs agreed to its continuation. Under this scheme, the British would permit the immigration of 75,000 Jews into Palestine, which would result in one-third of the population being Jewish by 1944. The British announced they would regulate, and sometimes prohibit, the transfer of land. Both the Arabs and Jews strongly criticised the new proposal.
May 17, 1939 British Royal Visit to Canada King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrived in Canada to begin an official state visit to the dominion. This was the first time a British monarch visited Canada and the Canadian welcome reinforced Anglo-Canadian ties.
May 20-June 20, 1939 German and Italian Troop Withdrawal from Spain After an imposing victory parade in Madrid, the German and Italian governments withdrew their military forces from Spain. The Germans had 10,000 men in Spain, serving primarily with the National air force and in their armor units. With the Italian "volunteers," the Germans played a significant role in General Francisco Franco's final victory, from ferrying Nationalist troops from Spanish Morocco in the early days of the war to playing a major role in later engagements with the Republicans.
May 22, 1939 German-Italian Military Alliance The German and Italian governments concluded a military and political alliance between the two states. This agreement marked the culmination of the Rome-Berlin Axis.
May 22-27, 1939 One Hundred-Fifth League Council Session The League of Nations Council held its one hundred-fifth session in Geneva.
May 23, 1939 British Parliament Approval of Palestinian Plan The British Parliament approved the new Palestinian plan, announced on May 17th, by a narrow majority (89 votes). Jews around the world denounced the plan since it made Palestine a "territorial ghetto." The Palestinian Arabs also rejected the scheme and clashes broke out across the mandate.
May 26, 1939 Anglo-Portuguese Agreement The British and Portuguese governments reaffirmed their ancient alliance. This agreement secured Britain's strategic sea lanes to Africa and the Mediterranean. The Portuguese also demonstrated their desire to work with both the Western and Fascist powers.
May 28, 1939 Hungarian National Elections While the Hungarian government secured 180 out of a total of 260 seats, the National Socialists increased their power within the Hungarian Parliament from six seats to 53.
June 1, 1939 Yugoslav Regent Visit to Germany Prince Paul, the Regent of Yugoslavia, paid a state visit to Berlin where Chancellor Adolf Hitler guaranteed the inviolability of Yugoslavia's borders in a state toast.
June 3, 1939 Fascist Government in Albania The Italian government provided the Albanians with a new constitution, which established a Superior Fascist Corporative Council. The king, however, retained extensive control over the council.
June 7, 1939 German-Estonian-Latvian Non-Aggression Pact In light of the German advance in the east, the Soviet government demanded an Anglo-French guarantee of the independence of the Baltic states, especially Latvia, during their negotiations for an alliance with the Western Powers. The Latvian and Estonian governments, ever suspicious of Soviet intentions, decided to accept a mutual non-aggression pact with Germany.
June 8-11, 1939 British Royal Visit to the U.S. For the first time, the reigning British monarch, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, visited the United States. The state visit was designed to bolster Anglo-Saxon relations in response to the increasing tensions in Europe.
June 8-24, 1939 Twenty-Fifth Session of the International Labor Conference The International Labor Organization (BIT) held its twenty-fifth session in Geneva. Representatives addressed the regulation of written contracts for indigenous workers, the recruitment and labor conditions of migrant workers, penal sanctions for breaches of contract by indigenous workers, and the regulation of work hours and periods of rest in the road transportation industry.
June 12, 1939 Rejection of British Indian Federation Plan Fifty native Indian states rejected a British plan to establish India as a federation. The representatives, however, left the door open for further negotiations.
June 14, 1939 Japanese Blockade of Tianjin In violation of international conventions, the Japanese imposed a blockade on the Chinese port of Tianjin (Tientsin), a British treaty port. The Japanese action also blockaded French interests as well. The Japanese government imposed the blockade after British authorities refused to turn over four Chinese citizens, accused of terrorism against the Japanese. The Japanese demanded that the British end all support for the Chinese nationalists and cooperate with the Japanese government in establishing a "New Order" in the Far East, but the British refused to relent. The Japanese were fighting the Chinese across a broad front, and the Chinese resolve remained strong. The Russians provided military supplies to Chiang Kai-shek, while the American and British governments provided the Nationalists with loans. In response, the Japanese applied pressure on the foreign powers in China, demanding greater influence in the Shanghai international concession, and challenging foreign rights in China.
June 17, 1939 Nordic Rejection of Non-Aggression Pact with Germany The Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish governments rejected an offer from the German government to negotiate a mutual non-aggression pact. The German offer was spurred by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's suggestion that Germany's neighbors felt threatened by aggression. These states also announced their opposition to a joint Anglo-French-Soviet guarantee of the independence of the Baltic states. The Nordic foreign ministers discussed the German offer at length, but agreed to remain aloof from all commitments to rival power groups. Relations between the Finns and the Soviets began to cool, especially as the Soviet delegation to the League of Nations blocked League approval for the refortification of the Aaland Islands. The Danish government was the only Scandinavian power to accept the German offer.
June 23, 1939 Franco-Turkish Mutual Aid Agreement The French and Turkish governments concluded a mutual assistance treaty, based on the earlier Anglo-Turkish Treaty. Under the Franco-Turkish pact, the French gave up all claims to the Republic of Hatay, which became a part of Turkey. In return, the Turkish government promised to extend mutual aid to France in the case of aggression. With the acquisition of Hatay, the Turkish government stood squarely behind the Western powers.
July 25, 1939 U.S. Ratification of Panama Treaty of 1936 The U.S. Senate finally ratified the treaty with Panama, negotiated in 1936, which gave the Panamanian government the commercial rights of a sovereign state to the Canal Zone. U.S. naval and military authorities opposed the revised treaty and delayed Senate ratification.
July 26, 1939 U.S. Denunciation of the Trade Pact of 1911 with Japan The Roosevelt administration withdrew from the trade pact of 1911 with Japan in an effort to maintain the status quo in the Far East. Trade between the two countries would be conducted on a day-to-day basis and the Roosevelt administration wanted to apply economic pressure on the Japanese to modify Japanese policies in China.
August 1939 Italian-German Secret Conferences Italian Foreign Minister Count Nobile Ciano conducted a series of secret conferences with the German government in advance of the Danzig-Polish crisis. The Italian government strongly supported Germany's demands on the Polish government and the Italian press upheld the German position, although Premier Benito Mussolini tried to use his influence to achieve a negotiated settlement.
August 20-September 1, 1939 The Danzig-Polish Crisis After months of agitation and recrimination between the Polish and German governments, and a number of border incidents between the two countries, the long-expected crisis came to a head when Albert Forster, the National Socialist leader in Danzig, proclaimed that the hour of deliverance was at hand.
August 20, 1939 Soviet-German Trade Agreement The world was shocked when the German and Soviet governments announced a trade agreement between the two states. Both countries had been mortal enemies ideologically and the conclusion of a trade agreement caught the world unaware.
August 22, 1939 British Support for Poland The Chamberlain government publicly renewed Britain's pledge to Poland, but also appealed to the German government for a truce to stave off a war. The British were willing to negotiate German claims in return for peace in Eastern Europe.
August 23, 1939 Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact The announcement that the German and Soviet governments had signed a non-aggression pact proved to be an even greater blow to the British and French than the Soviet-German economic treaty. Under the terms of the agreement, both the German and Soviet governments promised not to attack the other, but also called for their neutrality in the event that the other was attacked by a third power. The two signatories also promised not to join any group of countries "which is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party." In the secret provisions of the agreement, the Germans and Soviets divided up their territorial aspirations in Poland, Romania, and the Baltic countries. This agreement marked the collapse of the Anti-Commintern Pact, which provided Japan a free hand in its foreign policy planning. The pact had greater ramifications for the Western allies. The British and French governments had been conducting negotiations with the Soviet government for several months and the British and French hoped to bring the Russians into an anti-fascist front. The Soviet decision to suddenly change ranks was a terrible and bitter blow to the Western allies. From the Soviet perspective, the Polish government's refusal to allow Red Army troops onto Polish territory in the event of war alienated the Soviet regime. As a result of this agreement, the British and French governments abandoned their peace program and intensified their military preparations. Simultaneoulsy, the Germans concentrated their military forces along the Posen border and Slovakia.
August 23, 1939 Belgian Appeal for Peace King Leopold III of Belgium issued an appeal for peace on behalf of Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian states. His appeal fell on deaf ears.
August 24, 1939 U.S. Arbitration Proposal U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt contacted King Victor Immanuel of Italy, Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany, and President Ignace Moscicki of Poland, calling for direct negotiations between German and Polish representatives, arbitration, or conciliation to defuse the Danzig-Polish crisis. The Polish government agreed to conciliation by a third party, but the Germans refused to relent.
August 24, 1939 Anglo-Polish Mutual Assistance Pact The British parliament met in a special session and voted the Chamberlain government almost dictatorial powers to deal with the Danzig-Polish crisis. At the same time, British and Polish representatives signed a mutual assistance pact. The British government wanted to demonstrate its support of Poland to deter a German invasion and the Polish government began to call up reserves.
August 24, 1939 Forster Proclaimed Supreme Head in Danzig The leader of the National Socialists in Danzig, Albert Forster, became the "supreme head" of Danzig.
August 25, 1939 Anglo-German Talks In a discussion with the British ambassador to Germany, Chancellor Adolf Hitler renewed his demand that Britain give the Germans a free hand to deal with Poland. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt again urged Chancellor Hitler to consider a peaceful settlement to the crisis.
August 25, 1939 Croatian Autonomy In light of the political tensions in central Europe, the Yugoslav government extended autonomy to Croatia in an attempt to restore political stability in the kingdom.
August 26, 1939 French Appeal to Germany French Premier Eduoard Daladier appealed to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler for a peaceful settlement of the Danzig-Polish crisis. Chancellor Hitler replied the next day that he hoped for Franco-German peace, but continued to press his demands against Poland.
August 26, 1939 Democratic Government Restored in Yugoslavia The Cvetkovich government restored democratic government in Yugoslavia, including secret ballots. The state was reorganized on a federal basis and the Croats received complete autonomy in cultural and economic issues. Vladko Machek, the leader of the Croats, became Vice Premier and five other Croats joined the government. This political settlement addressed a long-standing dispute between the Croats and the Serbs.
August 28, 1939 British Warning to Germany The British government responded to the German note on Poland, urging a truce and negotiations to settle the crisis, while simultaneously issuing a warning in the event of German aggression against Poland. The British government recalled shipping from the Baltic and Mediterranean and the German government introduced emergency rationing as both countries prepared for war.
August 29, 1939 German Response to Britain Chancellor Adolf Hitler responded to the British note of August 28th, reiterating Germany's non-negotiable demands from Poland. Chancellor Hitler refused to participate in any negotiations until the German demands were met. He requested a Polish plenipotentiary to visit Berlin within 24 hours.
August 30, 1939 Partial Polish Mobilization The Polish government decreed a partial mobilization to meet the German threat. In Germany, Chancellor Adolf Hitler set up a six-man cabinet council for the defense of the Reich under Marshal Hermann Goering.
August 31, 1939 German 16-Point Proposal to Poland The German government published a 16-point proposal for the Polish government. Before the proposal could be transmitted to Warsaw, communications between the two states were cut off. Chancellor Adolf Hitler, arguing that his proposals to the Polish government had been rejected, issued orders to invade Poland.
August 31, 1939 Supreme Soviet Ratification of the German Non-Aggression Pact The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union ratified the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact.
September 1, 1939 German Invasion of Poland The German army, air force, and navy launched a concerted attack on Poland, utilizing Blitzkrieg tactics to annihilate the Polish army. Over 1.7 million troops advanced into Poland from East Prussia, Silesia, and Slovakia. Led by tactical air strikes by the Luftwaffe, armor divisions struck deep into Polish territory. While the Poles could field an army of 600,000 men, they were unable to mobilize efficiently or coordinate their defense. Within four weeks, the Germans destroyed most of the Polish army and occupied the western and central regions of Poland. The British and French governments mobilized their military forces, but expressed a readiness to negotiate a settlement if the Germans withdrew their military forces from Polish territory. The Italian government declared its intention to remain neutral in the crisis.
September 1, 1939 Danzig Reunion with Germany Albert Forster, leader of the National Socialists in Danzig, announced the reunion of Danzig with Germany in response to the German invasion of Poland.
September 2, 1939 Italian Five-Power Conference Proposal The Italian government called for a conference between Germany, Italy, Britain, France, and Poland to address the Danzig-Polish crisis. The British government, however, refused to participate as long as German troops remained on Polish territory. Since the German government did not respond to diplomatic notes from Britain and France, these two governments sent an ultimatum calling for a German withdrawal from Poland. In response, Chancellor Adolf Hitler sent back a note blaming the British government for encouraging the Polish government in a policy of persecution and provocation. The German government flatly rejected the Anglo-French demands for a withdrawal from Poland.
September 3, 1939 British and French Declarations of War against Germany In response to the German diplomatic note of September 2nd, the British and French governments declared war against Germany. The Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand governments took immediate steps to aid the British in the war effort.
September 3, 1939 Italian Neutrality Declaration Although allied with Germany, the Italian government maintained its neutrality after the British and French governments declared war on Germany. Italian neutrality served the German war effort by guaranteeing a secure source of supplies for Germany.
September 3, 1939 Belgian Neutrality Declaration While the Belgian government mobilized the kingdom's armed forces, the Pierlot ministry declared the country's neutrality in the event of a European war.
September 3, 1939 Spanish Neutrality Declaration The Spanish government declared its intension of remaining neutral in a European war over the future of Danzig.
September 3, 1939 British Naval Blockade of Germany The British government announced the establishment of a naval blockade of Germany.
September 3, 1939 Fireside Chat on Neutrality U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt declared in a fireside chat that the U.S. would remain a neutral nation in regard to the war in Europe, but he could not ask every American to remain neutral in thought as well as action.
September 5, 1939 U.S. Neutrality Declaration The U.S. government proclaimed neutrality in the European war. Under the Neutrality Act of 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt prohibited the export of arms and munitions to the belligerent powers, including Britain and France.
September 5, 1939 South African Rejection of Neutrality General Jan Christian Smuts became the new prime minister of the Union of South Africa and the South African Parliament rejected legislation which would have made the dominion neutral in the European War.
September 8, 1939 U.S. Declaration of a Limited National Emergency In response to the war in Europe, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed a limited national emergency.
September 16, 1939 Soviet-Japanese Armistice The Soviet and Japanese governments agreed to an armistice, which ended the fighting on the Mongolian-Manchukuo frontier, which began in May. Soviet attention was now focused on Eastern Europe.
September 17, 1939 Soviet Invasion of Poland As German forces drove the Polish army deep into central Poland, the Red Army launched an invasion of eastern Poland. The Soviet government exercised its options in the secret clauses of the Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, and absorbed approximately one-third of Poland. German and Soviet forces met outside Brest-Litovsk two days later. The Soviet invasion led the collapse of Polish resistance, which effectively ended the fighting in the eastern front for several years.
September 21, 1939 Assassination of Romanian Premier Members of the Iron Guard, a Fascist organization, assassinated Premier Armand Calinescu of Romania. The assassination led to a series of cabinet crises in Romania until Jorge Tatarescu became the new Romanian prime minister on November 24th.
September 21, 1939 Request to End Arms Embargo U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt called for a special session of Congress to revise the Neutrality Act of 1937 and repeal the arms embargo to Allied countries.
September 22-October 3, 1939 Pan American Conference Representatives of the American republics announced the establishment of a "safety zone" around the Western Hemisphere in an attempt to isolate the Americas from the world war. The waters surrounding the Western Hemisphere for a distance of 300 miles from shore and as far north as Canada constituted "sea safety zones." No hostile actions were to take place in these zones by non-American belligerents. The delegates at the conference also adopted a General Declaration of Neutrality of the American republics.
September 27, 1939 Surrender of Warsaw After a grueling defense and destructive bombardment, the Polish forces in Warsaw surrendered and Polish opposition came to an end, although Polish forces east of the Vistula did not surrender until October 5th. Surviving Polish forces crossed the frontier into Romania. The German armed forces Blitzkrieg tactics proved remarkably successful and determined the outcome of the campaign within the first ten days of the fighting.
September 29, 1939 Soviet-German Treaty of Friendship The German and Soviet governments met to sign a Treaty of Friendship and to formally divide their Polish conquest. Germany annexed the Free City of Danzig and Posen (32,000 square miles between East Prussia and Silesia). The Germans also established the Gouvernment General, composed of 39,000 square miles of territory, which came under German protection. As a result of this agreement, Germany gained 22 million new citizens and 72,866 square miles of territory. The Soviets occupied 77,620 square miles of eastern Poland, with a population of 13 million people. In addition, Lithuania and Slovakia received small cessions of Polish territory.
September 29, 1939 Russo-Estonian Military Agreement The Soviet government signed an agreement with Estonia which provided the Russians with naval and air bases in Estonian territory.
September 30, 1939 Establishment of Polish Government-in-Exile Members of the Polish government who had escaped from Poland formed a government-in-exile in Paris. This government then moved to London after the German invasion of France.
October 5, 1939 Russo-Latvian Military Agreement The Soviet government concluded an agreement with the Latvian government which provided the Russians with naval and air bases in Latvian territory.
October 10, 1939 Russo-Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Pact The Lithuanian government gave the Soviets the right to occupy strategic military bases in Lithuania; in return, the Soviets ceded Vilna and the surrounding territory to Lithuania. The agreement was to remain in effect for 15 years.
October 11, 1939 Atomic Bomb Proposal U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt met with Albert Einstein and other scientists regarding the development and deployment of an atomic bomb. This meeting lay the ground work for an American effort to complete an operational nuclear weapon before the Axis powers.
October 19, 1939 Anglo-French-Turkish Pact of Mutual Assistance The British and French governments signed a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with Turkey in light of the deteriorating conditions in Eastern Europe.
November 3, 1939 Neutrality Act of 1939 The U.S. Congress amended the Neutrality Act of May 1937, repealing the embargo on arms to belligerents, but also placing the sale of arms exports to belligerents on a cash-and-carry basis. This allowed U.S. munitions manufacturers to sell arms to the Allies while avoiding the war debt problems which emerged during World War I and soured post-war American-Allied relations.
November 21, 1939 Expansion of British Blockade of Germany The British government declared a blockade on German imports and implemented plans to stop German exports as well.
November 24, 1939 Japanese Offensive in Southern China Japanese forces advanced into southern China, cutting off Chinese communications with French Indo-China.
November 26, 1939 Finnish Rejection of Soviet Demands The Finnish government rejected a series of demands by the Soviet government, which were similar to concessions the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian governments granted the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviet government demanded that the Finnish government end its troop mobilization along the Russo-Finnish frontier.
November 28, 1939 Soviet Denunciation of the Non-Aggression Pact with Finland In response to the Finnish government's rejection of Soviet demands, the Soviet government denounced the Soviet-Finnish Non-Aggression Pact.
November 28-December 5, 1939 Third Session of Judicial Year 1939/Permanent Court of International Justice The Permanent Court of International Justice held its third session of Judicial Year 1939 in the Hague.
November 30-March 12, 1940 Russo-Finnish Winter War The Red Army invaded Finland after the Soviet government issued a series of demands for access to Finnish military bases. The Soviets attacked on three fronts: at Petsamo, on the Arctic Ocean; in central Finland; and on the Karelian Isthmus. Unexpectedly, the Finnish army put up a stout defense and broke the initial Soviet offensives. The Red Army proved poorly equipped and led, although the Soviets had time and resources behind the Red Army.
December 1, 1939 British Warning to Neutral Shipping The British government advised neutral shippers to obtain a "navicert," a certificate from British consular officials. These certificates permitted neutral cargo ships to pass through Royal Navy and allied patrols. The Italian, Dutch, Belgian, and Japanese governments issued formal protests against the British government for these blockade measures.
December 8, 1939 U.S. Protest of British Cargo Seizure The Roosevelt administration sent a diplomatic note protesting the British policy of seizing German goods on neutral (especially, U.S.) ships. A similar policy in World War I led to tensions between the British and American governments.
December 9, 1939 One Hundred-Sixth League Council Session The League of Nations Council held its one hundred-sixth session in Geneva.
December 11-14, 1939 Twentieth League Assembly Session The League of Nations Assembly held its twentieth session in Geneva.
December 13, 1939 Battle of the Platte In the South Atlantic, three British cruisers attacked the German pocket battleship "Graf Spee" and forced the German warship into Uruguayan waters. This activity violated the Pan American "safety belt" and the Uruguayan government strictly enforced neutrality laws. Two days later, when the Uruguayan government threatened to seize the German capital ship, the Germans left Montevideo and scuttled the warship. The President of Panama protested the military action in American waters, sending diplomatic notes to the British, French, and German governments.
December 14, 1939 One Hundred-Seventh League Council Session The League of Nations Council held its one hundred-seventh session to consider the Soviet Union's expulsion from the organization in response to the Soviet invasion of Finland. The Council suspended operations at the end of the session and never convened again.
December 14, 1939 Expulsion of USSR from League of Nations The League of Nations formally expelled the Soviet Union from the organization for Soviet acts of aggression against Finland.
December 14, 1939 U.S. Challenge to the British Blockade The U.S. government challenged the Royal Navy blockade plan whereby neutral ships were diverted to British and French control bases for inspection for contraband. This practice violated the "freedom of the seas," an important theme in U.S. foreign policy since the early 19th century.
December 27, 1939 U.S. Protest of British Mail Censorship The Roosevelt administration protested the British government's censorship of neutral mail while searching for contraband. The Wilson administration, in World War I, protested the same British practice.
December 31, 1939 Russo-Japanese Fishing Accord After heightened tensions between the Soviet and Japanese governments since Summer 1939, the two states signed an accord which renewed fishing rights in adjacent territorial waters and the settlement of Soviet debt claims in Manchukuo.

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Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert, Chief, UNOG Registry, Records and Archives Unit, United Nations