17 Sep 1939

Atlantic Ocean
  • German submarine U-29 torpedoed British carrier HMS Courageous off Ireland. Courageous sank in 20 minutes, taking down 518 of the crew of 1,200, including the captain. ww2dbase [Start of the Battle of the Atlantic | AC]
  • German submarine U-29 sank British carrier Courageous southwest of Ireland, killing 500. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Japanese 101st Division (Lieutenant General Masatoshi Saito) and 106th Division (Lieutenant General Ryotaro Nakai), having recently captured strategic locations in Jiangxi Province, China as a preparation, began marching toward Changsha in the neighboring Hunan Province. Meanwhile, 3rd Division (Lieutenant General Shinichi Fujita), 6th Division (Lieutenant General Shiro Inaba), 13th Division (General Shizuichi Tanaka), and 33rd Division (Lieutenant General Shigetaro Amakasu) attacked targets in northern Hunan Province. In support of this attack, Japanese Navy's China Area Fleet dispatched 13th Gunboat Unit of 11th Battle Squadron, Shanghai Special Naval Landing Force, and 4th Guard Unit. ww2dbase [First Battle of Changsha | Changsha, Hunan | CPC]
  • Friedrich Ruge was awarded clasp to his Iron Cross 2nd Class medal. ww2dbase [Friedrich Ruge | CPC]
  • Adolf Hitler arrived in Berlin, Germany. ww2dbase [Adolf Hitler | Berlin | CPC]
Italy Mediterranean Sea
  • Garland suffered an accidental detonation of her own depth charges while underway in the Mediterranean Sea, badly damaging the aft end. ww2dbase [Garland | CPC]
  • In Poland, German troops captured Kutno west of Warsaw. East of Warsaw, Heinz Guderian's XIX Panzerkorps of Army Group North made contact with XXII Panzerkorps of Army Group South, just to the south of Brest-Litovsk; virtually the whole Polish Army (or what remained of it) was now trapped within a gigantic double pincer. In Russia, Joseph Stalin declared that the government of Poland no longer existed, thus all treaties between the two states were no longer valid; Soviet troops poured across the border to join Germany in the invasion, ostensibly to protect Ukrainian and Byelorussian interests from potential German aggression. ww2dbase [Invasion of Poland | TH, AC]
  • In Romania, the Polish government was interned after attempting to obtain asylum. On the same day, one hundred Polish Air Force planes, as well as 50 civilian aircraft, flew to safety in Romania; many of the escaping airmen would eventually make their way to Britain to continue the fight. ww2dbase [AC]
  • Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Soviet NKVD, established the Directorate for Prisoners of War and Interned Persons (UPVI), which would run camps for 240,000 Polish prisoners of war in the near future. ww2dbase [Lavrentiy Beria | TH, CPC]
United States
  • US aviator Charles Lindbergh made an address over radio against any American intervention in the European War. ww2dbase [CPC]
Photo(s) dated 17 Sep 1939
HMS Courageous sunk by torpedoes, 17 Sep 1939Residents of West Byelorussia, Poland welcoming Soviet invaders, Sep 1939Soviet forces crossing the Polish border, 17 Sep 1939Firefighting in the ball room of the Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland, 17 Sep 1939
See all photos dated 17 Sep 1939

17 Sep 1939 Interactive Map

Timeline Section Founder: Thomas Houlihan
Contributors: Alan Chanter, C. Peter Chen, Thomas Houlihan, Hugh Martyr, David Stubblebine
Special Thanks: Rory Curtis

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Famous WW2 Quote
"I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944

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