June 26, 2011
World War II: The Invasion of Poland and the Winter War

In August of 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty — one week later, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. The first attack of the war took place on September 1, 1939, as German aircraft attacked the Polish town of Wielun, killing nearly 1,200. Five minutes later, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on a transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig. Within days, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany and began mobilizing their armies and preparing their civilians. On September 17, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. Polish forces surrendered in early October after losing some 65,000 troops and many thousands of civilians. In November, Soviet forces invaded Finland and began a months-long battle dubbed the Winter War. By the beginning of 1940, Germany was finalizing plans for the invasions of Denmark and Norway. Collected here are images of these tumultuous first months and of Allied forces preparing for the arduous battles to come.
Above: View of an undamaged Polish city from the cockpit of a German medium bomber aircraft, likely a Heinkel He 111 P, in 1939. (Library of Congress) 

The second installment from our 20-week series on World War II. See more incredible shots at In Focus or follow the entire retrospective here.

World War II: The Invasion of Poland and the Winter War

In August of 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty — one week later, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. The first attack of the war took place on September 1, 1939, as German aircraft attacked the Polish town of Wielun, killing nearly 1,200. Five minutes later, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on a transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig. Within days, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany and began mobilizing their armies and preparing their civilians. On September 17, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. Polish forces surrendered in early October after losing some 65,000 troops and many thousands of civilians. In November, Soviet forces invaded Finland and began a months-long battle dubbed the Winter War. By the beginning of 1940, Germany was finalizing plans for the invasions of Denmark and Norway. Collected here are images of these tumultuous first months and of Allied forces preparing for the arduous battles to come.

Above: View of an undamaged Polish city from the cockpit of a German medium bomber aircraft, likely a Heinkel He 111 P, in 1939. (Library of Congress)

The second installment from our 20-week series on World War II. See more incredible shots at In Focus or follow the entire retrospective here.

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