wwii began when germany invaded what country
On a desktop, hover over the map to zoom; on mobile, click to zoom. Seventy-five years this week, World War II began. The telephone in Franklin Roosevelt s bedroom at the White House rang at 2:50 a. m. on the first day of September,. In more ways than one it was a ghastly hour, but the operators knew they must ring. Ambassador Bill Bullitt was calling from Paris. He had just been called by Ambassador Tony Biddle in Warsaw. Mr. Bullitt told Mr. Roosevelt that World War II had begun. Adolf Hitler s bombing planes were dropping death all over Poland. On Sept. 3, the United Kingdom and France. Roosevelt wasn t the only one expecting the dramatic news. In that same TIME issue, the first to hit stands after Germany began its march into Poland, the magazine
explaining the war s start, despite a worldwide mood described as thoroughly sick of and appalled by the idea of war.
The retelling starts in March of 1939, after Hitler moved on Czechoslovakia, and continues throughout the spring as England and Germany deliberate over the future of Poland but as late as August 23, even after Germany surprised the world by announcing a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, war was not a foregone conclusion. The description of the events of that late August might read like a farce if it weren t so deadly serious: as Hitler uses impossible ultimatums to negotiate with Poland, a nation Britain has already sworn to aid if necessary, the timeline fills up with sudden deadlines, haggling over the difference between an ambassador and an emissary, offers that can t be sent because phone lines have been cut and orders to attack given simultaneously with offers of peace.
And then the time for negotiating was over. The original TIME story about those events can be read in full, for free, here Grey Friday and the map of Poland that accompanied the story appears above. The trench warfare of World War I convinced the French that a strong defense would be crucial to stopping a future German invasion. So France constructed a series of fortifications known as the Maginot Line (the heavy blue line in the lower-right of the map here) that stretched along the common border between France and Germany.
Hitler realized that a frontal assault on the Line would be counterproductive. Instead, in a repeat of German strategy from World War I, Germany attacked through Belgium and Holland, two small countries that lay north of France. The Germans soon reached the portion of the French border not protected by the Maginot Line. The pink region in this map shows German gains between May 10 and May 16, 1940. The Maginot Line has become a symbol for backwards-looking bureaucracies that waste resources "fighting the last war. " But this criticism is somewhat unfair.
It's true that the fixed defenses of the Line were less useful against highly mobile Nazi tanks than they would have been against German troops circa 1914. But the Maginot Line still played an important role in the defense of France. It forced early fighting to occur on Belgian rather than French soil, giving the French army time to mobilize before German troops arrived. And it allowed the French вВ whose army was smaller than Germany's вВ to concentrate their forces along the portions of the border not protected by the Maginot Line. The Line didn't stop the Germans from overrunning French defenses, but it probably helped.
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