Hitler announced the rearmament of Germany and the reintroduction of conscription. His move was a direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Germanys plans for rearmament began as soon as the Treaty was signed in 1919. Although it began secretively, it expanded to great proportions after the Nazi Party came to power in 1933. Historians have argued that Hitlers rise to power was condoned by the West in order to allow a rearmed Germany to act as a bulwark against the emergence of a powerful USSR. This mindset was evident when Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa to invade Soviet territory, and the West observed with anticipation the hope that Germans and Russians would fight themselves to a bloody standstill. Before the war, allied governments, in particular British Prime Minister Chamberlain, failed to intercede earlier because he believed that his appeasement policies would be effective to avert war. There was the speculation that anything that might have caused Hitler not to overreach as quickly and as far as he did, would only have condemned Europe to living behind a Nazi Iron Curtain, in which Germany would still be able to commit the atrocities against the Jews in the "Final Solution", and develop its nuclear weapons program. According to respected historian George Kennan, "Unquestionably, such a policy might have enforced a greater circumspection on the Nazi regime and caused it to proceed more slowly with the actualization of its timetable. From this standpoint, firmness at the time of the reoccupation of the Rhineland (March 7, 1936) would probably have yielded even better results than firmness at the time of Munich."
Germans bombed Scapa Flow naval base in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. In the Naval Situation General review submitted to the British War Cabinet the event was described as follows; " At dusk on 16 March an attack was made on Scapa by 15 enemy bombers operating in small groups, and continued from 7:45pm until 9pm...It is reported that only the first wave of five aircraft attacked ships in the harbour, dropping about 20 bombs. This attack came in low and climbed on reaching Scapa Flow to make dive bombing attacks on the fleet. H.M.S. Norfolk was hit in the quarter deck and holed by a near miss aft, 4 officers being killed, and 4 officers and 3 ratings wounded. The damage to the ship necessitates docking, but she was capable of steaming at 10 knots, and has since arrived at the Clyde. H.M.S. Iron Duke (depot ship) was also damaged by two near misses, and one other capital ship was attacked but not hit." (Britain had chosen Scapa Flow to be their main naval base, primarily due to its great distance from German airfields. British defenses from WWI had fallen into disrepair consequently the defences were inadequate. Upon Churchill's order, construction began for a series of causeways to block the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow, as well as placing booms and mines over the main entrances, installing coastal defence and anti-aircraft batteries at crucial points, and sinking new blockships.)