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War Stories
A Narrative History of World War 2

September 11-20, 1939

The HMS Courageous is sunk

September 11, 1939
Germany launches a counterblockade against Britain.
German forces cross the River San in Poland. Polish units at Radom disintegrate, and some 60,000 troops are captured.
The first meeting of the Anglo-French Supreme War Council takes place.
September 12, 1939
Polish forces have some success, pushing the Germans back twelve miles south of Kutno and recapturing Lowicz.  The Luftwaffe bombs Krzemieniec, which had been declared an open village, and where Warsaw's diplomatic community had sought refuge.
Germany threatens military action if Rumania gives asylum to Polish officials.
September 13, 1939
According to Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr., the US ambassador in Warsaw, German bombers are intentionally bombing the civilian population of the city. The German High Command responds that civlian targets will be bombed since civilians are fighting the German invaders.
Heavy fighting at Bzura will result, several days hence, in the capture of 150,000 Polish prisoners by the victorious Germans.
September 14, 1939
German forces cross the Narew River near Modlin and begin an encirclement of Warsaw. Guderians XIX Panzer Corps reaches Brest-Livotsk, and German troops enter Gdynia.
Moscow launches a propaganda program in preparation for its attack on Poland. Pravda condemns Polish treatment of minorities. Ukrainian residents of Poland in Lwow and Stanislawow attack Polish army units.
The German submarine U-39, sunk by British destroyers in the Atlantic, is the first wartime naval loss of the Third Reich.
September 15, 1939
Warsaw's military commander, Gen. Juliusz Rommel, refuses to discuss surrender. The Polish Poznan Army is encircled at Kutno. Bresat-Litovsk is surrounded by the Germans.
Russia concludes a ceasefire with Japan, ending the ongoing conflict along the border of Mongolia and Manchuria.
September 16, 1939
September 17, 1939
Russia invades Poland, with 40 divisions of the Red Army overwhelming the 18 to 25 Frontier Corps battalions saddled with the task of protecting Poland's thousand-mile-long eastern border.
40,000 Polish prisoners are taken by the Germans at Kutno. Brest-Livotsk is captured after a three-day battle. Warsaw is completely encircled as German forces meet at Siedlce.
Russia recognizes Slovakia as an independent state.
Italian promises it will take no military action against Greece.
The British fleet carrier Courageous becomes the first Royal Navy vessel lost in the war, sunk by a German U-boat (U-29) off the coast of Ireland with the loss of 500 crewmen. The Admiralty resolves that carriers will no longer be employed in anti-submarine patrols.
September 18, 1939
German and Russian troops meet in Poland, and the two countries implement previously-made plans (a secret agreement on 23 August) to split the conquered country along the Brest-Livotsk line.
The German Third and Tenth Armies begin their assault on Warsaw.
Polish president Moscicki and Commander-in-Chief Rydz-Smigly cross the border into Rumania and are interred.
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden simultaneously announce their intention to trade with all belligerents.
September 19, 1939
German bombers begin a continuous assault on Warsaw. 30,000 Polish troops who have fought their way out of the Kutno trap reached Warsaw. Vilna falls.
September 20, 1939
The first air engagement between the Luftwaffe and the RAF occurs over Aachen when Me-109s intercept three RAF Battles patrolling the French-German border.