K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

  Europe and North Africa The Pacific In the U.S. Media
March Finland signs a peace treaty with the Soviet Union.      
April Germany invades Denmark and Norway.     map of Axis-held territory in Europe, 1941

Axis conquests by 1941, after the German invasion of the USSR. About the map


Germany invades France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands on May 10. The Netherlands surrenders five days later; Belgium surrenders on May 28.

Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Britain.

Facing defeat in France, British troops begin evacuating the Continent from Dunkirk on May 26. They are forced to leave behind most of their heavy weapons and equipment, leaving the British Isles vulnerable to invasion.

    Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill gives the “V for Victory” sign. About the photograph


Germany begins bombing Paris on June 3. On June 14, German troops enter Paris. France is divided in half: a German occupation zone in the north and west, and an independent France with a capital at Vichy in the South. Vichy France quickly elects a pro-Axis government. Britain recognizes Charles de Gaulle as the leader of "Free France." De Gaulle will lead a resistance to the Vichy government and German occupation for the remainder of the war.

The Soviet Union invades the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Italy declares war on Britain and France.

    German soldiers march in formation by the Arc de Triomphe.

German soldiers march beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. About the photograph

map of the Soviet Union, 1989

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were absorbed into the Soviet Union. They regained their independence in 1991. About the map


The "Vichy" government of occupied France cuts off relations with Britain. Britain is now defeated on the Continent and is without European allies, but Churchill refuses to give up and urges the British people to steel themselves for a long war.

German U-boats (submarines) begin attacking merchant ships on the Atlantic Ocean.

The Soviet Union completes the occupation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The three nations become Soviet Socialist Republics and will remain part of the USSR until 1991.

The Battle of Britain begins with German air raids on Great Britain. Germany, preparing for an invasion of Britain in September, tries to gain control of the skies over the British Channel and potential landing beaches by destroying the Royal Air Force (RAF).

    German bombers fly over the sea.

German bombers fly low over rough seas on the way to Britain. About the photograph


The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) bomb British airfields along with other military installations and factories that produce munitions (weapons, ammunition, and equipment). The RAF, though heavily outnumbered, inflicts tremdendous losses on the Luftwaffe, shooting down two German planes for every RAF plane lost.

Britain counters with air raids on Berlin.

Italy attacks and occupies the British protectorate of Somaliland on the coast of present-day Somalia in East Africa.

    British Spitfire airplane.

The Royal Air Force defended Britain with Spitfire planes like this one. About the photograph

A spotter in London looks for German aircraft.

A spotter scans the skies over London looking for German airplanes. About the photograph


Unable to destroy the RAF, the Germans begin a campaign of terror against British civilians, with nighttime raids on British cities. King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth are urged to evacuate to Canada but refuse; they remain in London, where their presence boosts civilian morale.

Italy invades Egypt to capture the British-controlled Suez Canal, which linked the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea (and thus ultimately with the Indian Ocean, avoidng the need for European ships to round Africa to reach Asia).

Germany, Italy, and Japan sign the Tripartite or "Axis" Pact.

Japan invades and occupies French Indochina (now Vietnam).

The Selective Service and Training Act requires all men aged 21 to 35 to register with local draft boards. Men were then selected by lottery for military service lasting up to 12 months. It is the first peacetime draft in U.S. history. Homeless children in London, England.

Children left homeless by the bombing of London. About the photograph

Relief map of Indochina.

The region of Southeast Asia formerly called Indochina includes the present-day nations of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. About the photograph


Hitler postpones plans for the invasion of Britain until spring 1941. Churchill will observe of the RAF’s victory that "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Germany invades Romania.

Italy invades Greece.

  The draft begins. Between 1940 and 1947, more than 10 million men will serve in the U.S. armed forces.  

Hungary, fearing German conquest, joins the Axis powers. Romania soon follows.

The Nazis seal off the Warsaw ghetto, a 3.5 square mile section of the city in which they have confined 400,000 Jews. Jews attempting to leave the area were to be shot on sight, and only enough food was allowed into the ghetto to permit each person a bowl of soup per day. Hundreds died each day of starvation and disease.

  Franklin Roosevelt is re-elected President of the United States.  

Britain and the Commonwealth (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) begin an offensive against Italian troops in North Africa.

German plans firebomb London on December 29–30, destroying a large portion of the city.

    The ruins of bombed buildings in London during World War II.

Smoke rises from the ruins after London is firebombed. About the photograph