Wars and Conflicts of 1939: The Eve of World War Two


Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)--Japanese war of aggression against China. American support of China in this war was a leading cause of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Spanish Civil War (July 17, 1936-March 28, 1939) --Nationalist/Fascist rebel troops rebelled against the Leftish Republican government of Spain in 1936. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sent troops and other aid to help the Fascist General Francisco Franco. The Soviet Union aided the Leftist Spanish government forces. The war ended with Franco taking total control of Spain in 1939. Franco ruled Spain until his death in 1975.

Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936–1939)--Arab revolt against British rule and against the Jewish population in Palestine. This was a precursor to the Arab-Israeli wars which began in 1948.

German Occupation of Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939) --German troops occupy the Czeck portion of Czechoslovakia. Hitler announces the "German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia." Czechoslovakia ceases to exist as a united nation until liberation in 1945.

German Occupation of Memel/Klaipeda (March 23,1939) --German troops occupy the the port region of Memel (called Klaipeda in Lithuanian), from the small Baltic nation of Lithuania. Lithuania surrendered the region peacefully, under threat of German military action if it did not give up the land and city of Meme. Memel was formerly German territory, but was awarded to Lithuania following World War One.

Slovak–Hungarian War (March 23, 1939-April 4, 1939)--Hungary, encouraged by Germany, picked a fight wtih the Slovak rump state left over after the German annexation of the Czech portion of Czechoslovakia. Hungary gained a stip of land from Slovakia.

Italian Invasion of Albania (April 7, 1939- April 12, 1939) --Italy conducted a brief, but successful invasion across the Straits of Tiran to seize control of Albania. During World War Two, Albanian partisan guerrillas would resist Italian and German occupation forces.

Ariostazo Coup Attempt (August 25, 1939) --A brief revolt of the Tacna artillery regiment of the army of Chile in South America, led by General Ariosto Herrera. The revolt failed. The coup attempt is named after the General (his first name). NOTE: One of the few conflicts in the world to take place in 1939 not related to World War Two.

Soviet-Japanese Border Wars (1938-1939)

Battle of Khalkhin Gol (May-September, 1939)--also known as the Nomonhan Incident. Very large and bloody battle (Soviet casualties: at least 7,974 killed and 15,251 wounded. Japanese casualties: 8,440 killed, with 8,766 wounded.) Some historians consider this battle very significant given that Stalin now knew his troops could handle the Japanese, and the Soviet victory at Khalkhin Gol ensured that Japan would not intervene when the Soviet Union joined the new European war in Poland on September 17, 1939.

German Invasion of Poland (September 1, 1939-October 6, 1939)--Germany invaded Poland on September 1, and Britain, France, and Canada, declared war on Germany on September 3. The Soviet Union joined the war on Germany's side on September 17, with the Soviet Invasion of Poland from the east. The German Invasion of Poland (called Operation Case White/Unternehmen Fall Weiss by the Germans), marks the beginning of World War Two in Europe. (NOTE: World War Two in Asia is generally considered to have begun with the Japanese Invasion of China in 1937)

Winter War (November 30, 1939-March 12, 1939)-Soviet Invasion of Finland. Finland refused to surrender border lands to the Soviet Union, resulting in the Soviet attack on Finland. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Finns made the Soviets pay a huge price for the war.(Soviet casualties: 87,506 dead, 188,671 wounded, 39,369 captured and missing). Soviet ineptitude in this war helped convince Hitler that the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 might succeed.

Links and Resources on the Wars of 1939:

1. Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Wars. New York: Facts On File Publications. 1986.

2. Marley, David F. Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed Conflict in the New World, 1492 to the Present. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 1998.

3. Fagg, John E. Latin America: A General History, Second Edition. New York,New York: The MacMillan Co., 1971.