World War II Today: September 3

The official beginning of World War 2: After Germany rejects the Anglo-French ultimatum of September 1st, which called for the withdrawal of all German forces from Poland, Britain and France declare war on Germany at 11am.

The Kriegsmarine begins its campaign against British merchant shipping with 17 U-boats putting to sea out of a total of about 57 operational boats, far fewer than the 300 Dönitz had felt he needed to succeed against Britain.

The British passenger ship Athenia is sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic, with 30 Americans among those killed. American Secretary of State Cordell Hull warns Americans to avoid travel to Europe unless absolutely necessary.

An RAF Blenheim bomber of 139 Squadron conducts the RAF’s first operational sortie of the war when it flew over to Germany to check shipping in the Schillig Roads. With a frozen radio, it was unable to transmit any information back to base and by the time it landed it was too late to mount an attack that day. Later that night, Whitley bombers conduct an number of leaflet dropping sorties over Germany.

55 Polish peasants are rounded up and shot at Truskolasy by the Nazis.

The Australian Prime Minister, R.G. Menzies broadcasts that Australia is now at war with Germany.

The US Congress finally agrees to the handing over of 50 old destroyers in return for 99 year leases of British Naval bases in Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, British Guiana the Bahamas, Jamaica and Argentia.

German invasion of Britain, Operation Sealion, is set for the 21st September.

Romania is forced to cede Transylvania to Hungary and Dobrudja to Bulgaria under the Vienna award.

Dutch government-in-exile forms in London under Pieter Gerbrandy.

Gas chambers at Auschwitz in Poland are used for first time, using Zyklon B, which was basically Hydrogen Cyanide.

The defenders of Leningrad launch an attack in a vain attempt to meet the relief forces. The pincers of the 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army finally meet up to the west of Stalingrad at Pitomnik. The Germans now attempted to break into Stalingrad from the west, but were unable to do so because of limited Red Army counter-attacks against his flanks, which diverted a significant proportion of his forces. Luftflotte 4 continues its round-the-clock air attacks against Stalingrad.

The RAF makes a record number of sorties in North Africa as desert battle rages. Rommel’s withdrawal is speeded up by heavy New Zealand pressure.

The new Italian government under Marshal Badoglio signs an armistice with the allies in secret. This allows the allies to launch Operation ‘Baytown’, the invasion of mainland Italy. The British Eighth Army crosses the Strait of Messina unmolested.

A National Day of Prayer is declared in Britain on fifth anniversary of outbreak of war.

British Empire casualties are revealed as 242,995 killed, 80,603 missing, 311,500 wounded and 290,381 captured.

The British Second Army liberates Brussels.

The U.S. First Army takes Tournai. French and U.S. forces enter Lyons.

Field Marshal von Rundstedt assumes command of the German armies in the West.

Wake Island and other strategic targets in Pacific are strafed by U.S. Navy aircraft for two days, during which 13 Japanese ships are reported sunk.

Anne Frank and family are deported from Amsterdam to concentration camps.

The Ghent Altarpiece recovered from the Altaussee salt mine, 1945 (US National Archives)

General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Japanese commander of the Philippines, surrenders to Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright at Baguio.

The famous Van Eyck altarpiece is returned to Ghent, Belgium.

Japanese forces on Wake and in the Caroline and Bonin Islands surrender.

ETO World Series opens in the old Hitler Youth stadium in Nuremberg, with racially integrated American teams.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:

Scroll to Top