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Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, begining World War II. Quickly overruning Polish border defenses, German forces advanced towards Warsaw, the Polish capital city. This footage from German newsreels shows German forces in action during the invasion of Poland. Warsaw surrendered on September 28, 1939.
German forces launched Operation "Barbarossa," the invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941. The German army made rapid initial progress in the campaign into Soviet territory. In this German military footage, German soldiers separate women and children from men in a Soviet village.
After the defeat of France in June 1940, Germany moved to gain air superiority over Great Britain as a prelude to an invasion of Britain. During almost nightly German air raids (known as "the Blitz") on London, the civilian population of the city sought refuge--as shown in this footage--in air raid shelters and in London's subway system (called the "Underground" or the "Tube"). Despite months of air attacks, Germany was not able to destroy Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). In the fall of 1940, the invasion was indefinitely postponed. The German bombing campaign against Britain continued until May 1941. The Germans ultimately halted the air attacks primarily because of preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Germany launched its western offensive on May 10, 1940. German paratroopers landed in the Netherlands on the first day of the German attack on that country. They seized key bridges and fortifications, compromising Dutch defensive positions. This footage shows the German air force (Luftwaffe) dropping paratroopers near Rotterdam. Within days, the Netherlands was defeated. The country surrendered to Germany on May 14. The Dutch government and Queen Wilhelmina fled to exile in Great Britain.
The Junkers (Ju) 87, known as the "Stuka," spearheaded the Blitzkrieg ("lightning war") attacks that were decisive in the western campaign in 1940. Stuka dive-bombers closely supported German forces on the ground. They destroyed enemy strong points, aircraft, and airfields, and spread panic in rear areas. Although slow and easily shot down by Allied fighters, the Stukas proved devastatingly effective in the German invasions of Poland and western Europe, where Germany enjoyed air superiority. Stuka dive-bombers caused terror among Allied ground forces, who came to recognize the telltale shriek of a bomber's dive. This German newsreel footage shows (from both the air and the ground) destruction caused by Stuka attacks during the western campaign in Flanders.
The Junkers (Ju) 87, known as the "Stuka," spearheaded the Blitzkrieg ("lightning war") attacks that were decisive in the western campaign in 1940. Stuka dive-bombers closely supported German ground forces. They destroyed enemy strong points, aircraft, and airfields, and spread panic in rear areas. Although slow and easily shot down by Allied fighters, the Stukas proved devastatingly effective in the German invasions of Poland and western Europe, where Germany enjoyed superiority in the air. Stukas caused terror among Allied ground forces, who learned to recognize the telltale shriek of a bomber's dive. This German newsreel footage shows a Stuka raid during the German invasion of the Low Countries in 1940.
Massive Allied landings of air- and sea-borne forces on five Normandy beaches (codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword) began on June 6, 1944 (D-Day). The purpose of the invasion was to establish a bridgehead from which Allied forces could break out and liberate France. By the end of the operation's first day, some 150,000 troops were ashore in Normandy. This footage shows Allied forces landing on the Normandy beaches.
After the defeat of France in June 1940, Germany moved to gain air superiority over Great Britain as a prelude to an invasion of Britain. Despite months of air attacks, Germany was not able to destroy Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). In the fall of 1940, the invasion was indefinitely postponed. The German bombing campaign against Britain continued until May 1941. The Germans ultimately halted the air attacks primarily because of preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The German army (Wehrmacht) regarded the war in the east as a crusade against communism and not subject to the "normal rules" of war. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet soldiers followed a "scorched earth" policy to hinder the German advance. In this German newsreel footage, German soldiers approach a burning village, one of many destroyed during the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Germany invaded France in May 1940. This footage shows German tanks, artillery, and divebombers attacking the Maginot Line, a series of French fortifications intended to protect France's border with Germany. The main German assault, however, went to the north through Luxembourg and bypassed the Maginot Line. German forces entered Paris on June 14, 1940. Little more than a week later, defeated France signed an armistice with Germany.
World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ended in Allied victory in Europe with the German surrender in May 1945. May 8 was proclaimed VE (Victory in Europe) Day. In this footage, United States president Harry S. Truman proclaims victory in Europe and promises to continue the war in the pacific until the unconditional surrender of Japan.
While Japanese diplomats in Washington, DC, negotiated with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Japanese planes bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor. American outrage at the surprise attack overcame isolationist sentiment and the United States declared war on Japan the following day.
On the night of November 14-15, 1940, almost 500 German bombers attacked the British industrial city of Coventry in central England. The bombers dropped 150,000 incendiary bombs and more than 500 tons of high explosives. The air raid destroyed much of the city center, including 12 armament factories and the historic Saint Michael's Cathedral. This footage shows scenes from the aftermath of the attack. The bombing of Coventry came to symbolize, to Britain, the ruthlessness of modern air warfare.
The German western campaign into the Low Countries and France shattered Allied lines. Within six weeks, Britain evacuated its forces from the Continent and France requested an armistice with Germany. Paris, the French capital, fell to the Germans on June 14, 1940. In this footage, triumphant German forces raise the swastika flag over Versailles and over the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Versailles, the traditional residence of French kings, was deeply symbolic for the Germans: it was the site of both the declaration of the German Empire in 1871 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had imposed humiliating peace terms on Germany after its defeat in World War I. Germany would occupy Paris for the next four years, until 1944.
German troops reached parts of Warsaw on September 8 and 9, 1939. During the German siege of Warsaw, the city sustained heavy damage from air attacks and artillery shelling. Warsaw surrendered on September 28. Here, German troops occupy Warsaw. This footage comes from "Tale of a City," a film made by a Polish underground film unit.
Portion of the speech in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the US Congress to declare war on Japan following the previous day's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Although constrained by powerful isolationist sentiment in the United States, President Roosevelt was determined to help democratic Great Britain continue the war against Nazi Germany. Even as he promised to keep the United States neutral in the European war, Roosevelt ordered the expansion of military construction and pledged--as shown in this footage--that the United States would serve as the "great arsenal of democracy." In March 1941, Congress approved Lend-Lease aid for Britain. Britain ultimately received over 31 billion dollars in military aid from the United states. The United States finally entered World War II after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Habor on December 7, 1941.
The Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 (Operation "Barbarossa"). German forces occupied Vitebsk in the northeastern region of Belorussia on July 11. Soviet forces seized the initiative from the Germans after the battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943. The Soviet army liberated Vitebsk on June 26, 1944, during their summer 1944 offensive. This footage shows military units involved in the fighting and German soldiers captured during the campaign. By the end of the summer, the Soviet offensive reached the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland.