In the first year of war, Germany occupied Denmark and Norway, where it constituted two collaborationist governments. In May 1940, on the western front, the German army invaded Belgium and Holland regardless of whether they were two neutral countries. From there, Hitler immediately started to attack France: the German tactic of the Blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) was proving successful.
Thanks to the passage between Belgium and Holland, the Germans managed to bypass the Maginot Line, reaching and occupying Paris without encountering any obstacle whatsoever. On 14 June, the Germans entered the French capital: Marshal Philippe Pétain surrendered and, on 22 June, signed the armistice with Germany.
On 10 June, Italy too enters the war against France and England. France, exhausted, called for an armistice, which was signed on 24 June. The northern regions and the Atlantic coast become a German-occupied zone, while in southern France a collaborationist government – based in Vichy – was settled; from Radio London, De Gaulle incited the French to the resistance.
At this point, according to Hitler’s expectations, England would have accepted the compromise with Berlin and focus all its military efforts against the USSR, but Churchill did not accept and opted to continue the war.
In the meantime, on 27 September 1940, Italy, Germany and Japan signed the tripartite pact, an agreement signed in Berlin with the purpose of recognising the areas of influence in Europe and Asia. In so doing, these three powers legitimised the right of “leading” powers, each in its own area, namely: Europe for Germany, the Mediterranean for Italy, and the Far East for Japan.
On 28 October, Italy declared war on Greece, clashing once again with resistance above its expectations. In December, the British conquered Cyrenaica, and it is at this point that Mussolini had to accept German aid to restore its dominion over the region.
29 February – United States: actress Hattie McDaniel is the first black person to win the Academy Award at the 1940 Academy Awards ceremony.
7 April: US Post Office prints the first stamp depicting an African-American, Booker T. Washington.
10 May: Winston Churchill becomes UK Prime Minister.
15 May: Richard and Maurice McDonald open the first McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California.
27 May: the quartet Quartetto Egie (which will later change its name in Quartetto Cetra) makes its debut at the Teatro Valle in Rome.
27 May: Operation Dynamo. English and Allies begin the evacuation of Dunkirk.
29 May: Fausto Coppi wins the Florence- Modena stage of the Giro d’Italia with over four minute lead and wins his first pink jersey.
10 June: Italy enters the war alongside Hitler’s Germany as its Allied.
14 June: Parsis occupied by German troops.
14 June: Auschwitz concentration camp made operational.
18 June: “Appeal of 18 June”, the first speechby French general Charles de Gaulle as part of the radio broadcasts of Radio London, aired by the BBC, which incites the French resistance against the German invasion.
27 July: Bugs Bunny first aired.
9 October: John Lennon is born.
15 October: “The Great Dictator”, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin, is released in cinemas.
13 November: Walt Disney’s animated film “Fantasia” is released.
11 November: Willys-Overland Motors presents its “Willys MB” model, better known as “Jeep”.
December: first issue of Captain America comic book.
12 September: discovery of the Lascaux Caves in France.
23 October: Pelé is born.
First Walkie-talkie designed by Motorola.
The Tripartite Pact is signed by Germany, Italyand Japan to seal their alliance with an anti-communist
On 28 October Italy invades Greece.
The Second World War
In the course of the two decades from 1920 to 1939, Europe saw the development of all the preconditions that would soon trigger the Second World War.
A devastating conflict, fought with modern weapons, which involved for the first time the entire civilian population.
World War II was fought from 1 September 1939 to 8 May 1945 in Europe, and from 7 December 1941 to 2 September 1945 in Asia. Germany, Italy and Japan, united in the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, were destroyed by the conflict, while the United States, the USSR and Great Britain would thereafter define the new world order.
During the conflict, Hitler maintained a ferocious conduct, claiming that the Aryan race was superior to all other races. Millions of people were interned in concentration camps, the most famous of which being Auschwitz. Italy was the theatre of war starting in 1943, when it was virtually divided in two, namely: the Kingdom of the South to the south, and Mussolini’s Republic of Salò to the north. The line that separated the peninsula was called the Gustav Line, which was completely broken down when the city of Cassino suffered heavy bombing.
Following numerous battles fought over seven years of war, the latter came to an end with the Japanese massacre: the USA actually dropped the first terrible atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.