World War II Day by Day: August 1940

The German Army conquered much of Western Europe in 1940 in a series of spectacular Blitzkrieg victories. German armor and aircraft attacked and defeated a succession of Allied armies in Scandinavia, France, and the Low Countries. Germany’s defeat in an aerial battle over Britain, however, saved that nation from any invasion. Britain’s survival now depended on North American aid. Meanwhile, the war widened, with Italian offensives in Africa and the Balkans.

1 August

Politics, Germany

Hitler issues Directive No. 17, which states that preparations for the invasion of England are to be complete by September 15, ready for an invasion between the 19th and 26th.

2 August

Sea War, Mediterranean

A British naval force attacks the Italian naval base on the island of Sardinia.

3-19 August

Africa, British Somaliland

Italian forces, superior in manpower and artillery, attack the 1475-strong garrison in British Somaliland from neighboring Ethiopia.

5 August

Politics, Germany

General Franz Halder, the chief-of-staff, inspects the first plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union. He proposes a two-pronged offensive, principally directed against Moscow, and a secondary attack on Kiev.

13-17 August

Air War, Britain

‘Eagle Day’ heralds a four-day German air offensive designed to destroy Britain’s Fighter Command with raids on airfields and industrial targets. Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, postpones the early raids, however, and the later attacks are inconclusive.

15 August

Air War, Britain

Police and resuce workers frantically clear debris after a German air raid on London
Police and resuce workers frantically clear debris after a German air raid on London

Three German air fleets totaling 900 fighters and 1300 bombers launch massed daylight and night attacks on British airfields and ports to lure RAF fighters into combat. Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding’s 650 operational fighters, aided by effective radar defenses, are able to concentrate effectively to intercept the attackers in the coming days.

17 August

Politics, Germany

A total blockade of the British Isles is declared. Any Allied or neutral vessels found in British waters will be attacked on sight.

17-18 August

Sea War, Mediterranean

British naval vessels bombard Bardia and Fort Capuzzo, Libya, and shoot down 12 Italian bombers sent to attack them.

24-25 August

Air War, Britain

The Luftwaffe inflicts serious losses on the RAF during attacks on its main air bases in southeast England, straining the resources of Fighter Command to breaking point in a few days. London has also been bombed.

26-29 August

Air War, Germany

The RAF launches a night raid with 81 aircraft on Berlin following a similar raid on London. Raids also take place against Düsseldorf, Essen, and other cities. The raids contribute toward a critical change in Germany’s strategy, as aircraft are redirected to make retaliatory raids on London. This move relieves the pressure on Fighter Command’s air bases.