About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

World War II timeline of development from 1930 - 1943

This blog entry lays out the chronology of important world events during the years of 1930 -1943 that led to the US involvement in World War II,  until the "Letters to Mary" resume in 1943.

Non-Interventionism before WWII
As Europe moved closer and closer to war in the late 1930s, the mood in America was divided. The U.S. attempted to keep hold of its policy of isolationism and non-interventionism; however, increasing threats, such as Nazi Germany, made this difficult.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland; Britain and France subsequently declared war on Germany, marking the start of World War II. In an address to the American people two days later, President Roosevelt assured the nation that he would do all he could to keep them out of war. However, his words showed his true goals. “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger,” Roosevelt said. Even though he was intent on neutrality as the official policy of the United States, he still echoed the dangers of staying out of this war. He also cautioned the American people to not let their wish to avoid war at all costs supersede the security of the nation.
The war in Europe split the American people into two distinct groups: non-interventionists and interventionists. The two sides argued over America’s involvement in this Second World War. The basic principle of the interventionist argument was fear of German invasion. By the summer of 1940, France had fallen to the Germans, and Britain was the only democratic stronghold between Germany and the United States. Interventionists feared that if Britain fell, their security as a nation would shrink immediately. They were also afraid of a world after this war, a world where they would have to coexist with the fascist power of Europe. Non-interventionists, although a minority, were well organized and had a powerful presence in Congress. 
Neutrality Acts of the 1930s
The Neutrality Acts of the 1930s were passed in response to the growing turmoil in Europe and Asia that eventually led to World War II. They were spurred by the growth in isolationism and non-interventionism in the U.S. following its costly involvement in World War I, and sought to ensure that the US.. would not become entangled again in foreign conflicts.
The 1935 act, signed on August 31, 1935, imposed a general embargo on trading in arms and war materials with all parties in a war. It also declared that American citizens traveling on warring ships traveled at their own risk. The act was set to expire after six months.
In January 1937, the Congress passed a joint resolution outlawing the arms trade with Spain. The Neutrality Act of 1937, passed in May, included the provisions of the earlier acts, this time without expiration date, and extended them to cover civil wars as well. Further, U.S. ships were prohibited from transporting any passengers or articles to belligerents, and U.S. citizens were forbidden from traveling on ships of belligerent nations.In a concession to Roosevelt, a "cash and carry" provision that had been devised by his advisor Bernard Baruch was added: the President could permit the sale of materials and supplies to belligerents in Europe as long as the recipients arranged for the transport and paid immediately in cash, with the argument that this would not draw the U.S. into the conflict. Roosevelt believed that cash and carry would aid France and Great Britain in the event of a war with Germany, since they were the only countries that controlled the seas and were able to take advantage of the provision.
The legacy of the Neutrality Acts in the 1930s was widely regarded as having been generally negative: they made no distinction between aggressor and victim, treating both equally as "belligerents," and they limited the US government's ability to aid Britain against Nazi Germany. These Acts did everything they could to delay U.S. entry into a European war.

Timeline courtesy of The History Place     http://www.historyplace.com
September 14 - Germans elect Nazis making them the 2nd largest political party in Germany.
War Merit Cross 2nd Class* of Nazi Germany retrieved from a fallen enemy by Wilbur C. Garner during the war.
Footnote on the War Merit Cross 2nd Class at the end of the timeline listing.
November 8 - Franklin Roosevelt elected President of the United States.

January 30 - Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. 

February 27 - The German Reichstag burns.

July 14 - Nazi Party declared Germany's only political party.
October 14 - Germany quits the League of Nations.


July 25 - Nazis murder Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss.
August 2 - German President Hindenburg dies.


March 16 - Hitler violates the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription.


February 10 - The German Gestapo is placed above the law.
March 7 - German troops occupy the Rhineland.
May 9 - Mussolini's Italian forces take Ethiopia.
July 18 - Civil war erupts in Spain.
August 1 - Olympic games begin in Berlin.
October 1 - Franco declared head of Spanish State.


June 11 - Soviet leader Josef Stalin begins a purge of Red Army generals.


August 12 - German military mobilizes.
September 30 - British Prime Minister Chamberlain appeases Hitler at Munich.
October 15 - German troops occupy the Sudetenland; Czech government resigns.


March 15/16 - Nazis take Czechoslovakia.
March 28, 1939 - Spanish Civil war ends.
May 22, 1939 - Nazis sign 'Pact of Steel' with Italy.
August 23, 1939 - Nazis and Soviets sign Pact.
August 25, 1939 - Britain and Poland sign a Mutual Assistance Treaty.
August 31, 1939 - British fleet mobilizes; Civilian evacuations begin from London.
September 1, 1939 - Nazis invade Poland.
September 3, 1939 - Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany.
September 4, 1939 - British Royal Air Force attacks the German Navy.
September 5, 1939 - United States proclaims its neutrality; German troops cross the Vistula River in Poland.
September 10, 1939 - Canada declares war on Germany; Battle of the Atlantic begins.
September 17, 1939 - Soviets invade Poland.
September 29, 1939 - Nazis and Soviets divide up Poland.
November 8, 1939 - Assassination attempt on Hitler fails.
November 30, 1939 - Soviets attack Finland.
December 14, 1939 - Soviet Union expelled from the League of Nations.


January 8, 1940 - Rationing begins in Britain.
March 12, 1940 - Finland signs a peace treaty with Soviets.
March 16, 1940 - Germans bomb Scapa Flow naval base near Scotland.
April 9, 1940 - Nazis invade Denmark and Norway.
May 10, 1940 - Nazis invade France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands; Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister.
May 15, 1940 - Holland surrenders to the Nazis.
May 26, 1940 - Evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk begins.
May 28, 1940 - Belgium surrenders to the Nazis.
June 3, 1940 - Germans bomb Paris; Dunkirk evacuation ends.
June 10, 1940 - Norway surrenders to the Nazis; Italy declares war on Britain and France.
June 14, 1940 - Germans enter Paris.
June 16, 1940 - Marshal Pétain becomes French Prime Minister.
June 18, 1940 - Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich; Soviets begin occupation of the Baltic States.
June 22, 1940 - France signs an armistice with Nazi Germany.
June 23, 1940 - Hitler tours Paris.
June 28, 1940 - Britain recognizes General Charles de Gaulle as the Free French leader.
July 1, 1940 - German U-boats attack merchant ships in the Atlantic.
July 5, 1940 - French Vichy government breaks off relations with Britain.
July 10, 1940 - Battle of Britain begins.
July 23, 1940 - Soviets take Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
August 3-19 - Italians occupy British Somaliland in East Africa.
August 13, 1940 - German bombing offensive against airfields and factories in England.
August 15, 1940 - Air battles and daylight raids over Britain.
August 17, 1940 - Hitler declares a blockade of the British Isles.
August 23/24 1940 - First German air raids on Central London.
August 25/26 1940- First British air raid on Berlin.
September 3, 1940 - Hitler plans Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of Britain).
September 13, 1940 - Italians invade Egypt.
September 16, 1940 - United States military conscription bill passed.
September 27, 1940 - Tripartite (Axis) Pact signed by Germany, Italy and Japan.
October 7, 1940 - German troops enter Romania.
October 12, 1940 - Germans postpone Operation Sea Lion until Spring of 1941.
October 28, 1940 - Italy invades Greece.
November 5, 1940 - Roosevelt re-elected as U.S. president.
November 10/11 - Torpedo bomber raid cripples the Italian fleet at Taranto, Italy.
November 14/15 - Germans bomb Coventry, England.
November 20, 1940 - Hungary joins the Axis Powers.
November 22, 1940 - Greeks defeat the Italian 9th Army.
November 23, 1940 - Romania joins the Axis Powers.
December 9/10 - British begin a western desert offensive in North Africa against the Italians.


January 22, 1941 - Tobruk in North Africa falls to the British and Australians. 
February 11, 1941 - British forces advance into Italian Somaliland in East Africa.
February 12, 1941 - German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Tripoli, North Africa.
February 14, 1941 - First units of German 'Afrika Korps' arrive in North Africa.
March 7, 1941 - British forces arrive in Greece.
March 11, 1941 - President Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act.
March 27, 1941 - A coup in Yugoslavia overthrows the pro-Axis government.
April 3, 1941 - Pro-Axis regime set up in Iraq.
April 6, 1941 - Nazis invade Greece and Yugoslavia.
April 14, 1941 - Rommel attacks Tobruk.
April 17, 1941 - Yugoslavia surrenders to the Nazis.
April 27, 1941 - Greece surrenders to the Nazis.
May 10, 1941 - Deputy Führer Rudolph Hess flies to Scotland.
May 10/11 - Heavy German bombing of London; British bomb Hamburg.
May 15, 1941 - Operation Brevity begins (the British counter-attack in Egypt).
May 24, 1941 - Sinking of the British ship Hood by the Bismarck.
May 27, 1941 - Sinking of the Bismarck by the British Navy.
June 4, 1941 - Pro-Allied government installed in Iraq.
June 8, 1941 - Allies invade Syria and Lebanon.
June 14, 1941 - United States freezes German and Italian assets in America.
June 28, 1941 - Germans capture Minsk.
July 3, 1941 - Stalin calls for a scorched earth policy.
July 10, 1941 - Germans cross the River Dnieper in the Ukraine.
July 12, 1941 - Mutual Assistance agreement between British and Soviets.
July 14, 1941 - British occupy Syria.
July 26, 1941 - Roosevelt freezes Japanese assets in United States and suspends relations.
August 1, 1941 - United States announces an oil embargo against aggressor states.
August 20, 1941 - Nazi siege of Leningrad begins.
September 3, 1941 - First experimental use of gas chambers at Auschwitz.
September 19, 1941 - Nazis take Kiev.
September 29, 1941 - Nazis murder 33,771 Jews at Kiev.
October 2, 1941 - Operation Typhoon begins (German advance on Moscow).
October 16, 1941 - Germans take Odessa.
October 24, 1941 - Germans take Kharkov.
October 30, 1941 - Germans reach Sevastopol.
November 13, 1941 - British aircraft carrier Ark Royal is sunk off Gibraltar by a U-boat.
November 20, 1941 - Germans take Rostov.
November 27, 1941 - Soviet troops retake Rostov.
December 5, 1941 - German attack on Moscow is abandoned.
December 6, 1941 - Soviet Army launches a major counter-offensive around Moscow.
December 8, 1941 - United States and Britain declare war on Japan.
December 16, 1941 - Rommel begins a retreat to El Agheila in North Africa.
December 19, 1941 - Hitler takes complete control of the German Army.


January 1, 1942 - Declaration of the United Nations signed by 26 Allied nations.
January 13, 1942 - Germans begin a U-boat offensive along east coast of USA.
January 21, 1942 - Rommel's counter-offensive from El Agheila begins.
January 26, 1942 - First American forces arrive in Great Britain.
April 23, 1942 - German air raids begin against cathedral cities in Britain.
May 8, 1942 - German summer offensive begins in the Crimea.
May 26, 1942 - Rommel begins an offensive against the Gazala Line.
May 27, 1942 - SS Leader Heydrich attacked in Prague.
May 30, 1942 - First thousand-bomber British air raid (against Cologne).
In June - Mass murder of Jews by gassing begins at Auschwitz.
June 4, 1942 - Heydrich dies of wounds.
June 5, 1942 - Germans besiege Sevastopol.
June 21, 1942 - Rommel captures Tobruk.
June 25, 1942 - General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrives in London.
June 30, 1942 - Rommel reaches El Alamein near Cairo, Egypt.
July 1-30 - First Battle of El Alamein.
July 3, 1942 - Germans take Sevastopol.
July 5, 1942 - Soviet resistance in the Crimea ends.
July 9, 1942 - Germans begin a drive toward Stalingrad in the USSR.
July 22, 1942 - First deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to concentration camps; Treblinka extermination camp opened.
August 7, 1942 - British General Bernard Montgomery takes command of Eighth Army in North Africa.
August 12, 1942 - Stalin and Churchill meet in Moscow.
August 17, 1942 - First all-American air attack in Europe.
August 23, 1942 - Massive German air raid on Stalingrad.
September 2, 1942 - Rommel driven back by Montgomery in the Battle of Alam Halfa.
September 13, 1942 - Battle of Stalingrad begins.
October 18, 1942 - Hitler orders the execution of all captured British commandos.
November 8, 1942 - Operation Torch begins (U.S. invasion of North Africa).
November 11, 1942 - Germans and Italians invade unoccupied Vichy France.
November 19, 1942 - Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad begins.
December 2, 1942 - Professor Enrico Fermi sets up an atomic reactor in Chicago.
December 13, 1942 - Rommel withdraws from El Agheila.
December 16, 1942 - Soviets defeat Italian troops on the River Don in the USSR.
December 17, 1942 - British Foreign Secretary Eden tells the British House of Commons of mass executions of Jews by Nazis; U.S. declares those crimes will be avenged.
December 31, 1942 - Battle of the Barents Sea between German and British ships.


January 2/3 - Germans begin a withdrawal from the Caucasus.
January 10, 1943 - Soviets begin an offensive against the Germans in Stalingrad.
January 14-24 - Casablanca conference between Churchill and Roosevelt. During the conference, Roosevelt announces the war can end only with "unconditional German surrender."
January 27, 1943 - First bombing raid by Americans on Germany (at Wilhelmshaven).
February 2, 1943 - Germans surrender at Stalingrad in the first big defeat of Hitler's armies.
February 8, 1943 - Soviet troops take Kursk.
February 14-25 - Battle of Kasserine Pass between the U.S. 1st Armored Division and German Panzers in North Africa.
February 16, 1943 - Soviets re-take Kharkov.
February 18, 1943 - Nazis arrest White Rose resistance leaders in Munich.
March 2, 1943 - Germans begin a withdrawal from Tunisia, Africa.
March 15, 1943 - Germans re-capture Kharkov.
March 16-20 - Battle of Atlantic climaxes with 27 merchant ships sunk by German U-boats.
March 20-28 - Montgomery's Eighth Army breaks through the Mareth Line in Tunisia.
April 6/7 - Axis forces in Tunisia begin a withdrawal toward Enfidaville as American and British forces link.

*The War Merit Cross Second Class of Nazi Germany

The War Merit Cross 2nd Class was the award that bore the main burden of replacing the non-combatant ribbon of the Iron Cross, there were two styles of cross which bore significance.
a. In the case of the combatant grade cross a pair of military swords, finished on both sides, were placed between the arms of the cross.  This Cross was presented to Military Personnel for bravery not necessarily in the face of the enemy.

Because this cross bears no swords it was from a Non-Combatant member of Nazi Germany.
b. The War Merit Cross 2nd Class without swords was presented to those whose actions were deemed to be in furtherance of the war effort but not directly involved in military operations. This could mean civilians such as teachers and industrialists or Military personnel on occupation duty or POW camp guards.

In reality there was a gray area in which individuals received the Cross with Swords when perhaps the non-combatant grade would have been appropriate, and other receiving the Iron Cross when the War Merit Cross would have fit better.
Number of Crosses Presented:
War Merit with Swords: 6,134,959
War Merit without Swords: 1,591,567
The War Merit Cross was eventually used to recognize virtually any service, and was to become the German decoration most widely presented during the war. 

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