Christian History timeline: World Wars

[American sailor reading the Bible in World War II—]

The political backdrop of this issue


June 28 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Duchess Sophie, are assassinated by Serbian activist Gavrilo Princip.

July 28Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, officially launching World War I.


April 24 Genocide against Armenians begins in Turkey.

May 7German U-boat sinks British liner Lusitania.


May 16 Sykes-Picot Agreement divides the Middle East between Britain and France.

July 1 Battle of the Somme begins. 


April 2 Wilson asks the US Congress to declare war. 

June 25 First American troops land in France. The first US soldiers will be killed in combat in October.

November 7 Bolsheviks seize power in Russia. 


July 17 Bolsheviks execute the tsar and his family.

November 9 Germany and Austria become republics.

November 11 World War I ends on the Western Front.


January 25 League of Nations is created. It will meet for the first time in 1920.

June 28 Combatants sign Treaty of Versailles ending WWI. In November the US Congress will refuse to ratify it.


October 29 Turkey officially becomes a republic; Ottoman Empire is dissolved.


July 18 Hitler’s Mein Kampf is published.


April 12 Chinese Civil War begins.


August 27 Major powers sign Kellogg-Briand Pact in Paris outlawing aggressive warfare.


October 29 The Great Depression begins.


January 30 German president Paul von Hindenburg appoints Hitler chancellor. In the next six months, Hitler consolidates his power.


August 31 United States passes a neutrality act. 

September 15 Germany passes anti-Jewish Nuremberg Race Laws.


March 7 Germany reoccupies the Rhineland.

July 17 Spanish Civil War begins.

October “Great Purge” of accused political opponents of Stalin begins in the Soviet Union.


January 27 Chinese Nationalists and Communists cooperate against Japanese aggression. In July war begins between China and Japan. 


March 13 Germany bloodlessly takes over Austria. 


March 28 Spanish Civil War ends with the establishment of a dictatorship headed by Francisco Franco.

September 1 Germany invades Poland, officially beginning World War II in Europe.

October 21 United States begins atomic experiments. 

November 23 Germany orders Polish Jews to begin wearing yellow stars.


March 30Japan establishes a puppet government in China.

June 14 German forces occupy Paris.

July 10 Battle of Britain begins, culminating in the “London Blitz” on August 30.

September 19 Germany orders its Jews to wear yellow stars.


June 22 Germany invades the Soviet Union. 

December 7 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor as part of invasions throughout the Pacific. 


February 19 Roosevelt signs an executive order interning Japanese Americans and Italian Americans in camps.

June 3 Battle of Midway begins. It will result in a turn of the tide in the Pacific.

July 17 Battle of Stalingrad begins. Germany expects easy victory but will be defeated in February 1943.


September 3 Italian government surrenders to the Allies.


June 6 D-Day begins major Allied offensive.  

August 23 Romania surrenders to the Soviet Union and joins the Allies.

August 25 Allied forces liberate Paris.


January 25 Allies win Battle of the Bulge and begin final assault on Germany. 

January 27 Soviets liberate Auschwitz.

May 7 Germany surrenders.

August 6 US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on Nagasaki two days later.

August 15 Emperor Hirohito announces Japanese surrender.

The religious stories in this issue


September 1 Ludwig Wittgenstein begins reading Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief.

December 24 Soldiers observe an unofficial Christmas truce.


November 5 William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson tangle in the “Great Ezekiel War.”


Early July J. R. R. Tolkien arrives in France to fight at the Somme.


April US Army and Navy begin multiplying chaplains.

November  Nationalization of Russian land deprives the Orthodox Church of property. 


November 29 C. S. Lewis reaches the front lines in France on his birthday.


October 8 Alvin York commits his battlefield heroics. 


September 27 Mennonite Central Committee is founded.


May 15 Danish missionary Karen Jeppe takes role in Armenian relief work. 


March 14 Pope Pius XI issues Mit brennender sorge.


November 9 Nazis destroy Jewish property on Kristallnacht.


March 2 Pius XII becomes pope.


April 26 Methodists establish the first of many famous relief organizations founded during World War II.

September 5 Ion Antonescu comes to power in Romania.

September 16 US Selective Training and Service Act establishes provisions for conscientious objectors.


December 7 Mitsuo Fuchida helps attack Pearl Harbor. 


August 9 Nazis execute Edith Stein.


September 8 Sergius of Mos-cow, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since 1927, is finally allowed to become patriarch.


February 23 For Lent the people of Park Street Church forgo one meal a week and donate to war relief.

December 25 Clarence Swope and Ben Vegors have very different religious experiences.

Late December Nazis release Corrie ten Boom from a concentration camp by mistake.


April 9 Nazis execute Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

August 25 Chinese Communists kill John Birch. By 1953 all Western missionaries will be gone from China.

September  General Douglas MacArthur begins pleading for missionaries in Japan. 

This article is from Christian History magazine #121 Faith in the Foxholes. Read it in context here!


[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #121 in 2017]

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