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World War II in Europe Before dawn on September 1 1939 German forces crossed into Poland in an attack so fast and brutal they called it blitzkrieg meaning lightning war This time Britain and France decided to fight and on September 3 they declared war on Germany Roosevelt declared the United States neutrality but within weeks asked Congress to lift the Neutrality Acts arms embargo that prevented Britain and France form buying American weapons After weeks of debate it agreed to sell arms to the Allies if they paid cash and carried goods in their own ships After a lull in fighting over the winter of 1939 and 1940 Hitler launched an invasion of Norway and Denmark for resources such as the fjords Next the German armies swept into the Netherlands and Belgium where for the first time they met resistance from the British and French troops In the spring of 1940 German forces defeated the Allied army and drove it to the sea at the French town of Dunkirk breaking through the Maginot Line Cut off from retreat by land the army was saved when 300000 British and French troops were evacuated across the English Channel in a heroic nine day rescue effort aided by 600 private boats known as Operation Sea Lion In June 1940 Italy suddenly invaded France and declared war on Great Britain France surrendered and Britain faced Hitler alone As the German air force bombed British airfields factories and cities to prepare the way for German armies to cross the English Channel Britain found leadership in its new Prime Minister Winston Churchill For months London suffered bombing day and night by hundreds of German planes The fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force however kept the German from gaining control of the skies over Britain and forced Hitler to abandon his invasion plan When Hitler attacked Yugoslavia and Greece in the spring of 1941
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