World War II Day by Day: October 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.

7 October

Balkans, Romania

German forces enter Romania on the pretext of helping to train the army of the fascist Iron Guard government. Germany’s principal motive is to occupy the Ploesti oil fields.

9 October

Politics, Britain

Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain, the former prime minister, as Conservative Party leader. Churchill was initially an unpopular figure in the party but his war leadership has gone a long way to reverse this.

12 October

Politics, Germany

Hitler postpones Operation Sealion until spring 1941.

15 October

Politics, Italy

The Italian war council decides to invade Greece. Italy plans not to tell its Axis partner Germany about the operation, which is scheduled to commence at the end of October.

16-19 October

Politics, Japan

The Dutch East Indies agrees to supply 40 percent of its oil production to Japan for six months despite British attempts to obstruct this.

18 October

Politics, Vichy France

The puppet Vichy regime introduces anti-Semitic laws.

28 October

Balkans, Greece

Italy issues an ultimatum to Greece demanding the right to occupy the country for the war’s duration. Before the ultimatum expires, eight divisions, led by General Sabasiano Visconti-Prasca, attack from Albania. Italy hopes for a rapid advance to rival Germany’s conquests, but mountainous terrain and the absence of maps for commanders hamper the invasion. The winter weather limits air support and thousands die of cold. Greek forces, under General Alexander Papagos, the commander-in-chief, mount stiff resistance.

30-31 October

Mediterranean, Crete

British forces occupy the Greek island.