75 million people dead. 20 million soldiers; 40 million civilians.
6 million Jews murdered by the brutal and wicked Nazi regime.
5 world superpowers, supported by hundreds of smaller countries and colonies.
8 years that defined the course of the world.
2 bombs that changed history, forever.
World War II is a story of tragedy and triumph.
Brought on by the rise of imperialistic, fascist, and cruel regimes — born in the desperation of the Great Depression and fueled by vile delusions of racial supremacy — and run by villains who more closely resemble monsters, it was the defining conflict of the 20th century.
Its impacts can be seen in nearly every aspect — within the very fabric — of our modern world.
The World War II timeline is wrought with events that speak to the horror and misery that possessed the conflict in all forms, but it also speaks to the unbreakable will of people from all around the world who persevered through tremendous hardship to stay alive.
It’s filled with decisions, victories, and defeats that reshaped the global political landscape and redirected the course of human history.
So while we should all hope to never have to relive the terrors of World War II, we should also do our best to not only remember, but deeply understand what occurred during the eight long years of a global war.
We can learn from what happened, and do everything in our power to prevent it from ever happening again.
11/11/1918 – World War One Armistice signed. Warfare across the Western Front ceases and the First World War comes to an end after 4 years and 9-11 million military deaths.
6/28/1919 – Treaty of Versailles signed. Signed in the beautiful hall of mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, the treaty was very restrictive towards Germany. It included insulting clauses such as the dreaded ‘War Guilt‘ Clause which forced them to accept guilt for starting the war and clauses limiting the size of their army and navy.
1/16/1920 – League of Nations meets for the first time. The forerunner to the modern UN, it was the brainchild of the US President Woodrow Wilson and one element of his 9 point plan put forward at Versailles. It was the first worldwide inter-governmental organization who’s principal mission was to promote world peace via settling international disputes and promoting disarmament.
7/29/1921 – Adolf Hitler assumes control of National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party. Hitler had joined the party as member 555, but After left the party as a political stunt. Hitler rejoined on the condition that he was given absolute control and power. Having already built up a sizable following and being the leading public speaker of the party, the leaders acquiesced and he was given full control in a vote of 533 to 1.
10/24/1922 – Benito Mussolini calls for fascist “Blackshirts” to March on Rome. The beginning of the fascist ascendancy in Europe, Mussolini, the founder of Italian Fascism, calls for his militants to march on the capital and take control.
10/29/1922 – Mussolini appointed Premier by King Victor Emmanuel III. In a surprise to the prime minister Luigi Facta, who had ordered a state of siege to be placed on the Fascist’s in Rome, the King declined to sign the military order and instead gave power legally to Mussolini. This was a shrewd move as he was supported by the Military, the business class and the right wing of the country. Thus, Mussolini and the fascists came to power legally and within the framework of the constitution.
11/8-9/1923 – Hitler’s Munich Beer Hall Putsch fails. Hitler tries to emulate Mussolini’s ‘March on Rome’. With the help of WW1 Hero Erich Ludendorff, he marched on a beer hall and declared a new nationalist government. However, the required support from the military didn’t materialize and the police dispersed the march. Hitler was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison (of which he served just over 1).
1/3/1925 – Mussolini dismisses Italian parliament, begins to assume dictatorial powers. As the youngest Italian Prime Minister to date, he began dismantling the democratic laws of Italy and established himself at the head of a one-party dictatorship. The crisis came to a head with the murder of Socialist Giacomo Mattotti during the 1924 elections. Mussolini at first decried the assassination and ordered a cover up but soon it became too obvious that he was involved and under pressure from his militants, dropped all pretense of democracy,
7/18/1925 – Hitler’s treatise, Mein Kampf, is published. Dictated to his deputies whilst serving in prison, Mein Kampf has become one of the most notorious books in history. It laid out Hitler’s plans for transforming Germany into a state where society is based on race. It was especially demonic regarding Jewish people. By 1932, the two-volume piece had sold 228,000 copies, and in 1933, over a million copies were sold.
10/29/1929 – Wall Street Stock Market crashes. The beginning of ‘The Great Depression’, Black Tuesday saw the largest drop. In the history of the US Stock market. Between Black Monday and Black Tuesday, the markets had lost 23% in just two days. Confidence was shattered and a decade of economic turmoil ensured in the US.
9/18/1931 – Japanese Army invades Manchuria. The Japanese took advantage of the unease within the European world powers to invade Manchuria; a province of China. It is the first major test for the new League of Nations and the new organization largely failed; The Lytton report commissioned by the League declared that Japan was the aggressor and had wrongfully invaded the Chinese province. Japan took this as a rebuke and immediately withdrew from the organization, correctly ascertaining that the league was powerless to do anything.
11/8/1932 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected President of the United States. As part a by-product of the Great Depression, Roosevelt was elected as a democrat on the premise of widespread spending to pull the US out of recession. He would be President for the next 13 years until his death in 1945.
1/30/1933 – Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. In an echoing of the events in Rome a decade earlier, Hitler was appointed to the second most powerful position in Germany. He had lost to Hindenburg in the presidential elections a year earlier, and now in the absence of effective government, Hindenburg reluctantly appointed him Chancellor. He had followed the commitments that he had made a decade earlier and had achieved political power through legitimate means.
2/27/1933 – German Reichstag burns down; communists blamed, arrested. During yet another round of German Elections, a fire was started near the Reichstag (Parliament) building. A Dutch communist called Marinus Van De Lubbe was found in incriminating circumstance, although his guilt is still hotly debated. The fire enabled Hitler to pressure Hindenburg into passing sweeping emergency legislation. Hitler used this legislation to harass and suppress his political rivals the German Communist party.
3/23/1933 – Enabling Act passed by Reichstag; Hitler assumes dictatorial power. This sweeping law gave Hitler’s Nazi Party the power to pass and implement laws without the Reichstag’s consent for four years. These laws could even deviate from the constitution of the country. As such, it required two thirds majority to pass, so the Nazi’s used the emergency decrees granted to them to arrest all communists within the parliament and prevent them from attending. With the help of smaller parties, they passed the legislation and Germany was a de facto dictatorship.
7/14/1933 – Nazi party declared official party of Germany; all other parties banned. Hitler used his Stormtroopers to pressure all the other parties, including their coalition party, into dissolving.
10/14/1933 – Germany quits League of Nations. Germany decided to follow the example of the Japanese and quit the League of Nations; which by this time was already regarded as a useless and toothless organization.
6/30/1934 – Hitler orders murder of SA Chief Ernst Rohm in “Night of the Long Knives”. The SA had grown too powerful in many German eyes and so Hitler moved against them. In addition to Rohm’s death, political adversaries were rounded up, arrested and executed. Many in Germany felt the murders justified whilst there was international condemnation of the killings.
8/2/1934 – German President Paul von Hindenburg dies. The last remaining check on Hitler’s control, Hindenburg’s death had been preceded by a law being passed stating that on his death the office of President would be merged with that of Chancellor. He immediately altered the oath that the soldiers swore to mention him by name rather than to his new office of Commander in Chief.
8/19/1934 – Hitler combines the offices of president and chancellor; assumes the title of Fuhrer. Hitler’s assumption of the dual title was confirmed in a plebiscite where 88 percent voted in favor. Hitler had now removed the last legal manner in which he could be removed from his positions.
3/16/1935 – Military conscription introduced in Germany in violation of Versailles treaty. Hitler announced that he would reject the terms of the war treaty (which he had campaigned against for the past 15 years) and expanded the size of Germany army to 600,000 soldiers. He also announced the development of an air force and the expansion of the navy. Britain, France, Italy and the League of nations condemned these announcements but took no action to prevent them.
9/15/1935 – Nuremberg race laws promulgated. These extensive racial laws forbade Marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish Households. The Reich Citizenship law decreed that only those of German or related blood were allowed to be Reich Citizenships. The laws were later expanded to include Romani and Black people.
10/3/1935 – Italian Army invades Ethiopia. Buoyed by the successes of the Japanese in Manchuria and the German Rearmament campaign, Mussolini decided to take his first steps towards his vision of a new Roman Empire, by invading the small State of Abyssinia (Now Ethiopia). Following some border disputes, the Italian army steamrolled into the African nation and quickly overwhelmed it. The international response was one of condemnation but as usual the League of Nations was ineffective.
3/7/1936 – German troops remilitarize the Rhineland in violation of Versailles treaty. Following his repudiation of the treaty of Versailles limits on the German army, Hitler was emboldened and decided to remilitarize the Rhineland. He marched 3,000 troops in using the Franco-soviet treaty of mutual assistance as cover. The Allies decision to not risk war by enforcing their treaties, signaled a shift in European power, from France to Germany.
5/9/1936 – Italian campaign in Ethiopia ends. The Italians, with their superior firepower and numbers easily defeated the Abyssinians. Emperor Hallie Selassie fled to England where he lived out his days in exile.
7/17/1936 – Spanish Civil War breaks out; Hitler and Mussolini send aid to Franco. The war begins with a military uprising across Spanish cities against the republican government. However, military units in many cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, fail to take control, causing Spain to spiral into Civil War. Franco isn’t the leader of this uprising but after the deaths of many important leaders, he emerges as the leader on the nationalist side. Germany and Italy send aid in the form of arms and troops to the embattled general, leading to the famous massacre at Guernica.
10/25/1936 – Rome-Berlin “Axis” alliance formed. This was the start of the Axis alliance. It was given its name because Mussolini claimed that from then on, all other European countries would rotate on the Rome-Berlin Axis.
1/19/1937 – Japan withdraws from Washington Conference Treaty limiting the size of its navy. A naval treaty from the early 1920’s during the era of disarmament. However, by 1936 Japanese mood had changed and they swiftly, and without consequence, triggered a new naval arms race.
5/28/1937 – Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer to Stanley Baldwin, he was seen as a caretaker Prime Minister to take the Conservative Party to the next general election.
6/11/1937 – Josef Stalin begins purge of Red Army. Joseph Stalin began his famous purge of the Red Army, the Communist Party and Government officials and the Kulaks. It is estimated that the final death toll was between 680,000 and 1.2 million.
7/7/1937 – Full-scale war erupts between China and Japan. The second Sino-Japan war kicked off after a bridge dispute turned into a battle. The war would eventually amalgamate with the Second World War following the events of Pearl Harbor.
3/12/1938 – Germany invades Austria; Anschluss (union) proclaimed. This was the completion of a long-standing German foreign policy initiative and the latest in Hitler’s aims for a German super state at the heart of Europe.
10/15/1938 – German troops occupy Sudetenland. Whilst conspiring with ethnic Germans within the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, Germany encouraged them to engage in civil dispute and make increasingly outrageous demands for autonomy. Following the Munich agreement, Germany was allowed to occupy the Sudetenland.
11/9-10/1938 – Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). The first major sign of the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazi’s spilling out into violence. Jewish owned businesses, synagogues and buildings were ransacked. Given its name for the broken glass that littered the streets the following morning, over 7,000 Jewish buildings were attacked across Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. The pretense was the murder of a Nazi diplomat and some 40,000 Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. It was a chilling precursor to the horrors of the Final Solution.
3/15-16/1939 – German troops occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich Agreement. Hitler had always seen the invasion of Sudetenland as a precursor to the annexation of Czechoslovakia. Here, just as Winston Churchill had warned the previous year, Hitler marched on Prague and the rest of the country and it soon fell. Concerns about Poland’s safety intensified in Britain and France, leading to the signing of the Anglo-Polish military alliance and Chamberlain, feeling betrayed by Hitler’s broken promises, put the British Empire onto a war footing.
3/28/1939 – Spanish Civil War ends. Franco’s troops had been on a whirlwind campaign in the early part of the year and conquered the whole of Catalonia in the first two months. By the end of February, the winner was clear and the United Kingdom and France recognized Franco’s regime. Only Madrid remained, and at the beginning of March, the Republican army rebelled and sued for peace, which Franco refused. Madrid fell on the March 28th and Franco declared victory on April 1, when all republican forces had surrendered.
8/23/1939 – Nazi-Soviet nonagression pact signed. Known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (After the Soviet and Nazi foreign ministers who signed it), this groundbreaking agreement stated that they would guarantee peace towards each other and non-interference towards the other enemies. Unbeknownst to the other world powers (and only confirmed at the Nuremberg trials after the war), the treaty also contained a secret clause that agreed that the two powers would jointly invade and divide Poland up between them. It also defined the various spheres of influence that the two powers would have in the East.
9/1/1939 – German Army invades Poland. In the most brazen act of the 1930’s, Hitler invaded Poland. He assumed that the allies would once again back down and appease his territorial aspirations.
9/3/1939 – Britain and France declare war on Germany. The western powers didn’t back down and upon the news that that Nazi’s were refusing to adhere to their ultimatum to remove their troops from Poland, both France and Britain, along with their empires, declared war on Germany.
9/17/1939 – Red Army invades Poland in accordance with Nazi-Soviet Pact. This invasion took the polish by surprise and rendered the polish strategy of building a defensive fortification (similar to the Maginot line) useless.
9/27/1939 – Warsaw falls to the Nazis. Despite a spirited Polish counterattack holding the Germans up for a few days, the operation was futile attempt. Warsaw fell to the superior German forces and Poland fell. Many polish troops were redeployed to neutral Romania and remained loyal to the government in exile, fighting against the Nazi’s throughout the war.
11/30/1939 – Red Army attacks Finland. Having conquered Poland, the soviets turned their attention to the Baltic states. They forced Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to sign treaties allowing them to station soviet troops there. Finland refused to sign a treaty and consequently the Soviets invaded.
9/14/1939 – Soviet Union kicked out of League of Nations. For invading Finland and their role in suppressing the Baltic states, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations. This meant that for the first time the number of world powers who were outside the league (Italy, Germany, Soviet Union, Japan) now outnumbered those that were still in the league (USA, Britain and France).
3/12/1940 – Finland signs peace treaty with Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, with all its armor and overwhelming superiority, finally overcame the spirited Finnish resistance. Finland ceded 11 percent of its land, and 30% of its economy, to the victors. However, its international prestige was greatly enhanced by the war, and, importantly, it retained its independence. By contrast, the Soviet reputation was damaged, bolstering Hitler in his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
4/9/1940 – German Army invades Denmark and Norway. In order to protect its vital iron imports from Sweden, the Germans marched through Scandinavia to thwart the Allied efforts. Both countries quickly fell despite Allied support. Denmark fell within a few hours whilst Norway held out against the German war machine for a couple of months. Discontent at these events sent ripples through the British political establishment.
5/10/1940 – German Army invades France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands; Winston Churchill appointed British Prime Minister. The Germans were determined to attack the French, who were protected by the strong defensive Maginot line on their border. The Germans got around this by simply bypassing the defenses and invading the neutral low countries. Winston Churchill, despite nearly a decade of political exile within England, is appointed British Prime Minister and offers his “Blood Sweat and Tears” to the nation.
5/15/1940 – Holland capitulates to Nazis. Overwhelmed by the blitzkrieg tactics of the Wehrmacht, the Netherlands quickly capitulated to the German army.
5/26/1940 – “Miracle at Dunkirk.” The Germans carried out a surprise flanking maneuver through the Ardennes, which was believed to be an impenetrable natural banner for the Allies. Taken by surprise at the speed of the Wehrmacht’s advance, the allies were soon in full retreat. They were cornered at Dunkirk on the France-Belgium border. The miracle of Dunkirk saw thousands of small British vessels travel to the beachhead and ferry the beleaguered British troops to the bigger navy ships and British shore. Churchill hoped to save 30,000 troops; the final figure saved was some 338,226 Allied troops lived to fight another day.
5/28/1940 – Belgium capitulates to Nazis. Following on from the capitulation of the Netherlands, Belgium fell to the Nazis.
6/10/1940 – Norway capitulates to Nazis; Italy declares war on Britain and France. After two months, Norway finally fell to the Nazi forces, safeguarding their iron imports from Sweden. Italy joined the fray, officially declaring war on the British Empire and France. They marked this by sending an invasion force into the south of France.
6/14/1940 – Nazis take Paris. The German armed forces continued their blitzkrieg through France and turned south, aiming for Paris. The French surrendered their capital without a fight and the French were essentially taken out of the war.
6/22/1940 – France capitulates to Nazis. Following the loss of Paris, France was beaten and signed an armistice with Germany and Italy. Hitler insisted that the document be signed in the same railway carriage at Compiegne that the French had used when Germany surrendered at the end of the first world war. France was divided into three zones; German and Italian zones of occupation and the supposedly neutral, but German-leaning Vichy state. The French government escaped to Britain and France’s fleet was attacked by the British to avoid it falling into the German hands.
7/10/1940 – Battle of Britain begins. One of the most famous battles in the war; the battle of Britain began with German attacks on shipping and harbors. It was this battle that Churchill referred to in his famous speech declaring that “never in the history of man had so much been owed by so many to so few”.
7/23/1940 – Red Army (Soviet Union) takes Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The Red Army exercised its rights from the earlier Molotov Ribbentrop treaty and took control of the Baltic states.
8/3/1940 – Italian Army invades British Somaliland. With a view to increasing their colonies in Africa (in view with Mussolini’s plans for a ‘new Roman empire’), the Italian army invaded British possessions in Africa, thus opening up a new theater of war.
8/13/1940 – Luftwaffe (German Air Force) begins raids on British airfields and aircraft factories. The preparation for the invasion of Britain was fully underway and phase one was the destruction of the RAF (Royal Air Force). The Luftwaffe was asked to win the war of the skies so they could protect the cross-channel invasion force from the Royal Navy.
8/25-26/1940 – RAF mounts reprisal raid against Berlin. The RAF conducted a reprisal attack on Germany. Hitler was reportedly furious, having been assured that the Luftwaffe would never allow the RAF to bomb his city.
9/7/1940 – German “blitz” on British cities begins in earnest. The slight of the RAF bombing Berlin, combined with the Luftwaffe’s inability to defeat the RAF in the Battle of Britain, led Hitler to order an earnest change in approach. Despite his reservations in strategic bombing, he ordered his air force to hit the English cities and bomb them into submission.
9/13/1940 – Italian Army attacks Egypt. Having invaded and captured British Somaliland, the Italians turned their attention to British holdings in Egypt. They had long desired a stake in the Suez Canal and they took steps to the try and capture the lucrative and strategic Suez,
9/16/1940 – Military conscription introduced in United States. Despite public opinion being against US involvement in the war, Roosevelt knew that it was only a matter of time. Following the German capture of Paris, he started to increase the size of the United States Navy.
9/27/1940 – Tripartite alliance formed between Germany, Italy and Japan. This treaty formally united the three countries into the Axis Powers. Stipulated that any country, bar the Soviet Union, that attacked any of the three would have to declare war on all of them.
10/7/1940 – German troops occupy Romania. The Germans were acutely aware of their lack of oil l and the importance of the Romanian oil fields. They were also aware that the British had a stranglehold on the Mediterranean and that occupying Romania would be a strong position to strike at that dominance.
10/28/1940 – Italian Army attacks Greece. In a further attempt to cause disruption to the British hold of the Med, Italy invaded Greece from its hold in Albania. The invasion was regarded as a disaster and by Mid November the Italian advance had been halted.
11/5/1940 – Roosevelt re-elected. Roosevelt won re-election as the US president in an unprecedented third election victory. He won in an electoral vote landslide.
11/10-11/1940 – RAF (Wasn’t RAF but rather the Royal Navy Air Force) raid cripples Italian fleet at Taranto. This was the first all aircraft ship to ship battle in history. This suggested that the future of sea-based warfare was naval aviation rather than the heavy guns of the battleships. It was a decisive victory for the allies and 3 Italian battleships were sunk or heavily damaged. This vital victory would protect the supply line needed for British troops in Egypt.
11/20/1940 – Romania joins Axis. Romania officially joined the Axis alliance. Having seen land taken off them and given to Hungry by the Germans and Italians, A fascist government came to power and officially joined the alliance. Hungry had joined the pact mere weeks earlier.
12/9-10/1940 – British counter-attack begins against the Italian Army in North Africa. With their supply lines secured by the attack on Taranto, the British launched their counter-offensives. These were highly successful and had soon driven the Italians out of eastern Libya, taking large numbers of Italian soldiers’ prisoners as they went.
1/3-5/1941- British earn an important victory in the Battle of Bardia. A precursor to the more important later Battle of Tobruk, this battle was part of Operation Compass, the first British military operation of the Western Desert Campaign. It was also the first battle of the war where an Australian Army took place and where the battle was masterminded by an Australian General and Staff. The battle was a complete success and the strongly held Italian fortress was captured, along with 8,000 Italian Prisoners.
1/22/1941 – British take Tobruk in North Africa from Nazis. Following on from the victory in the Battle of the Bardia, the Western Desert force moved onto Tobruk; an important and fortified Italian naval base in the Eastern Libya. The British Victories leading up to Tobruk, including Bardia, had depleted the Italian forces and the Italian 10th Army had lost 8/9 divisions. The Victory was an important one for British Morale and resulted in 20,000 Italian Prisoners for only 400 British and Australian casualties.
2/11/1941 – British Army attacks Italian Somaliland. Named Operation Canvas, the attack on Italian Somaliland was an important one; Mussolini regarded Somaliland as the jewel in his new Roman Empire. As such, an invasion and attack was an important propaganda tool.
2/12/1941 – Erwin Rommel assumes command of German Afrika Korps. The Italian reverses in East Africa sent some shockwaves through the Axis powers. The Italians sent more armor to shore up their defenses and the Germans sent something even more powerful; Erwin Rommel. One of the most famous German Generals, he would later be executed by Hitler.
3/7/1941 – British Army comes to the aid of Greece. The British were keen to keep Greece open as a theatre of war and thus sent an expeditionary corp to Aid the Greek defense against the Italians.
3/11/1941 – Lend-Lease Act signed by Roosevelt. In order to get around the strict and popular neutrality laws in the US, Roosevelt opted for the Lend-Lease act. In the face of increasingly aggressive fascist states, the US provided the allies with oil, food and war material (including planes and ships) in return for leases on army and navy bases during the war. Seen as the first step towards direct American involvement in the war, it was opposed by Republicans in congress but passed and eventually saw some $50billion (equivalent to $565 billion today) worth of equipment shipped to the allies.
4/6/1941 – German Army hastily invades Yugoslavia and Greece. As anticipated due to the spirited Greek and British defense of the Italian invasion, the German army launches an invasion into the Balkans. The invasion of Yugoslavia was a joint venture by the Axis powers and followed a Coup d’état by the royal army officers, This coup had been launched with British support to overthrow the Yugoslav government that had just signed the Tripartite Pact and joined the Axis.
4/17/1941 – Yugoslavia capitulates to Nazis. The Axis invasion was swift and brutal. The Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade which was followed by thrusts from Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ostmark. Yugoslav defense failed quickly and Yugoslavia was partitioned between the victorious Axis powers.
4/27/1941 – Greece capitulates to Nazis. Faced with the overwhelming superiority of the German victory in Yugoslavia had caused disaster for the Greeks. The 2nd Panzer division had used the victory there to move into Greek territory and bypass its defenses. Thessaloniki had fallen soon after the invasion and the Greek defense was capitulating. German troops entered Athens and the Greek defense was limited to Crete.
5/10/1941 – Rudolf Hess flies to Scotland on “peace mission”. Unbeknownst to Hitler, his deputy, Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland to open negotiations with Britain via the Duke of Hamilton. He was immediately arrested. He was imprisoned for the rest of his life, first as a POW and later condemned by the Nuremberg trials. Hitler secretly ordered him shot on sight if he ever returned to Germany and put out propaganda detailing him as a madman.
5/15/1941 – British counter-attack in Egypt. The arrival of Rommel in Africa had changed the situation and his Afrika Korp had pushed back the British back and besieged Tobruk (the Libyan city on the border of Egypt). The British launched Operation Brevity; a failed counterattack in Egypt to afflict attrition on the Axis forces and prepare for an offensive to relieve Tobruk.
5/24/1941 – German battleship Bismarck sinks Hood, pride of the Royal Navy. The last British battle cruiser built for the Royal Navy; she was named for the 18th Century Admiral Samuel Hood. Commissioned in 1920, she was the largest warship in the world for 20 years. She was sunk within 3 minutes after being attacked by Bismarck’s shells. All but 3 of her crew died and the loss severely affected British morale.
5/27/1941 – Royal Navy sinks Bismarck. Following the sinking of Hood, the Royal Navy launched an obsessive pursuit of Bismarck. They found her two days later heading for France to undergo repairs. Bismarck was attacked by Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from HMS Ark Royal that rendered the steering inoperable. The following morning the already damaged Bismarck was engaged, damaged, scuttled and eventually sunk by two British battleships and two heavy cruisers. Of a crew of over 2,000 only 114 survived.
6/8/1941 – British Army invades Lebanon and Syria. Both countries had been held by France and as such had become part of Vichy France. Following the successes of the German operations, the British had decided that they needed to invade to prevent the Nazi’s from using those bases to attack Egypt. Despite an impressive defense by the French forces, the invasion was quickly successful and the Free French took over the governance of the province. The campaign remains relatively unknown, partly due to the censorship by the British as fighting the French would have a negative impact on public opinion.
6/22/1941 – Hitler launches operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. In one of the biggest events of the War Hitler declares war on his former ally and invades Soviet Russia in order to achieve Lebensraum. Hungary and Finland joined the German invasion shortly after.
6/28/1941 – Germans capture Soviet city of Minsk. Following the Blitzkrieg doctrine that had been so successful in Western Europe, the Nazi’s followed the same approach. Just 6 days after the invasion had started, they captured Minsk, some 650km from the start points.
7/3/1941 – Stalin launches “scorched earth” policy. In order to deprive the invaders of the resources and in a repetition of Russia’s response to Napoleon’s invasion, Stalin orders his ‘destruction battalions’ to summarily execute suspicious persons in the front-line areas and burn down villages, schools and public buildings. Through this directive the soviet secret service massacred thousands of anti-Soviet prisoners.
7/31/1941 – Planning begins for “Final Solution,” the systematic destruction of the Jews. The beginning of one of the most heinous crimes in history, the top council of Nazi’s began plans to massacre the Jewish population in Europe.
8/12/1941 – Atlantic Charter signed by Roosevelt and Churchill. In the clearest symbol that the US was supporting the UK in the war, the Atlantic charter set out allied goals for the end of the war. These included the right to self-determination, the restoration of liberty to those deprived of it, a reduction of trade barriers and a united movement towards greater economic cooperation, freedom of the seas and disarmament. The two nations also stated that they would not seek any territorial gains. It was the first step in the dismantling of the British Empire and the formation of the United Nations.
8/20/1941 – German siege of Soviet city of Leningrad begins. German troops quickly reached Leningrad (now known as St Petersburg) which was named for the former leader of Soviet Russia. The siege was one of the longest and most destructive in history and wouldn’t be lifted for 872 days. It resulted in the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.
9/1/1941 – Jews order to wear the yellow Star of David. In order to distinguish them, the Nazi’s ordered all Jewish people to wear yellow Stars of David.
9/19/1941 – Germans capture Soviet city of Kiev. In one of the blunders of the war, Hitler overruled his generals and ordered the capture of Kiev, in order to gain the agriculture and industry from Ukraine. Hitler’s generals had wanted to proceed with speed at the invasion of Moscow, to quickly and effectively neutralize the Soviets. Instead capturing Kiev held up the German forces and decisively changed the tide of the battle for Moscow. The battle of Kiev as the largest encirclement in the history of Warfare and some 400,000 soviet troops were captured.
9/29/1941 – German SS mass murders Russian Jews at Kiev. Named Babi Yar, this was the first documented massacre of Russian Jews. Some 33,700 Jews were taken out to the Babi Yar ravine and shot. They had thought that they were being resettled and by the time they realized what was happening it was too late. In a chilling precursor to the organized genocide at the concentration camps they were deprived of their clothes and valuables before the execution. The Nazi’s then undermined the ravine to bury the bodies. An estimated 100,000 people would eventually be massacred in that location under the Nazi occupation of the city.
10/16/1941 – Germans capture Soviet city of Odessa. The famous Russia sniper Lyudmilla Pavlichenko took part in this battle which lasted for 73 days. She recorded 187 kills during the battle. On Stalin’s orders the city’s industry, infrastructure and cultural valuables had been removed and transferred to safer locations inland.
10/17/1941 – Hideki Tojo becomes Prime Minister of Japan. He was one of the most outspoken proponents for a pre-emptive war against the US, in light of increased sanctions against them. His appointment as head of Japans government demonstrated a move towards war.
10/24/1941 – Germans capture Soviet city of Kharkov. The invasion of Kiev had opened further advances into the Crimea and allowed the Germans to attack the industrially developed Eastern Ukraine. This they did and Kharkov, and important city, fell soon after.
10/30/1941 – German Army occupies the Crimea. Following on from their victories at Kharkov and Kiev, the Germans occupied the entire of the Crimea; a strategic region that housed heavy industry and gave access to the Black Sea. The only exception was Sevastopol which held out until 3 July 1942.
11/20/1941 – Germans capture the Soviet city of Rostov-on-Don. Fiercely fought over during the battle of Rostov, the Soviet city of Rostov-on-Don finally fell to the Germans in November. However, the German lines were severely over extended and the left flank was left vulnerable.
11/27/1941 – Red Army retakes Rostov-on-Don. As expected, the Germans ordered a retreat form Rostov. Hitler was furious and sacked Rundstedt. However, his successor saw that he was right and Hitler was persuaded to accept the withdrawal, leaving the Russians to retake Rostov-on-Don. It was the first significant German withdrawal of the war.
12/6/1941 – Red Army launches major counter-offensive. In order to regain some of their lost territory, and using troops moved from the Japanese border (on evidence that the Japanese would remain neutral), the Soviets launched a massive counterattack aimed at driving the Germans out of their lands.
12/7/1941 – Japanese attack naval base at Pearl Harbor. Japan planned to seize the resources it needed to continue its conquests of European colonies in Southeast Asia. In order to prevent America intervening in these plans, it was necessary for them to neutralize the US Pacific Fleet. In order to do this, Japan launched attacks on British and American holdings, including the famous surprise attacks on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack resulted in mass damage to the base and the sinking of four battleships and damaging of another 4 damaged. All but one were raised, repaired and went onto serve in the war.
12/8/1941 – Roosevelt gives “Day of Infamy” speech; Britain and the United States declare war on Japan. In addition, China, Australia and a number of other states also declared war on Japan. The Soviet Union noticeably maintained its neutrality with Japan. Roosevelt gave a speech calling on Americans to remember the date. It is one of the most important presidential speeches in American history.
12/11/1941 – Germany declares war on the United States. In solidarity with its Japanese allies, Germany declared war on the United States, stating US hostility and attacks on its shipping.
12/16/1941 – Rommel’s Afrika Korps forced to retreat in North Africa. During Operation Crusader, the British made a concerted effort to lift the siege of Tobruk and recapture eastern Cyrenanica. Despite the Afrika Korps continually repelling British attacks and Rommel’s “Dash to the Wire causing chaos in the Allied rear, the New Zealand forces reached Tobruk in late November. Due to supply shortages, Rommel was forced to shorten his communications and reduce the size of the Front. He duly retreated to El Aghelia, allowing Bardia to be retaken.
12/19/1941 – Hitler assumed the post of Commander in Chief of German Army. Whilst he had effectively been the Commander in Chief of the German forces since he created the role of Fuhrer, Hitler formally adopted the title, cementing his total control of Germany.
1/1/1942 – Mass gassing of Jews begins at Auschwitz. In one of the most heinous acts in human history, the Nazi’s began to conduct inhumane medical experiments under the watch of Joseph Mengele and systematically massacre the Jewish population under their control. Auschwitz, with its sign declaring that ‘work will set you free’ became synonymous with the evil of the Nazi regime.
1/1/1942 – Allies forge Declaration of the United Nations. On the same day as the mass gassing began, the allies formalized their alliance. The big four (UK, USA, USSR and China) signed it on New Year’s Day, whilst a further 22 states signed it the following day. This treaty became the basis of the UN.
1/13/1942 – German U-boats begin sinking ships off American coast in “Operation Drumbeat”. One of the motivations of Germany declaring war on America was to open up a ‘second happy time’. The first had been the unchecked attacks on allied shipping in the North Sea during 1940-1941. During the operation Hitler sent forward his submarines to cause mass damage in the Atlantic. It was called the happy time because the disorganization of the allied shipping meant that the submarines could get in unchecked and cause massive damage for little risk. Some 609 ships were sunk during this period!
1/20/1942 – Nazis coordinate “Final Solution” efforts at Wannsee Conference. In a chilling addition to the final solution, the Nazis began to co-ordinate their approach into a refined, systematic and unified approach that underlined the horrors of the Nazi eugenics program.
1/21/1942 – Rommel counter-attacks in North Africa. Rommel surprised the Allies by launching a big counterattack early on in the year. It was an overwhelming success and drove the British Eighth Army back to the Gazala. Both armies subsequently reorganized and regrouped and prepared for the Battle of Gazala.
4/1/1942 – American citizens of Japanese descent forced into “relocation centers”. IN one of Americas most shameful moments of the war, President Roosevelt ordered the detainment, forced relocation and interment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. Over 60% of those detained were American citizens and the policy was more driven by racial tensions than by any legitimate security fears.
5/8/1942 – Germans launch summer offensive in the Crimea. The Soviets had counterattacked over the winter and made progress pushing the Wehrmacht back. However, as winter thawed, the Nazi’s launched their own counterattack and cut off the overextended Soviet troops at Kharkov.
5/30/1942 – Royal Air Force launches first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne, Germany. In a sign that the balance of air superiority was drastically changing, the RAF launched a huge morale boosting raid on Cologne, Germany.
6/4/1942 – Japanese Navy resoundingly defeated at Battle of Midway–war reaches its turning point in the Pacific; S.S. Leader Rheinhardt Heydrich dies of wounds sustained in partisan attack at Prague. The Battle of the Midway was one of the most important battles of WW2. It reestablished American dominance In the Pacific. The Japanese had hoped that victory would remove the Americans from the Pacific theatre. They prepared an ambush but weren’t aware that the US cryptographers had deciphered their message and forewarned the navy, who prepared their own ambush. Four of the six aircraft carriers that the Japanese had used to attack Pearl Harbor were sunk in the battle. The US 1 fleet carrier and a destroyer. After the battle their industrial capacity came to the fore and hey were able to replace their losses easier. The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich (one of the main supporters and organizers of the Holocaust) was a daring move. Two British trained Czech partisans lay in wait for him as he drove to his office in Prague Castle. The assassins waited at a tight curve and as Heydrich’s car slowed then drew their STEN guns to assassinate him. Unfortunately, the gun jammed and Heydrich made the fatal mistake of ordering the car to stop so he could shoot the assassins. Neither he nor his driver had spotted the second assassin who threw a grenade at the car. The grenade hit the back wheel and severely wounded Heydrich. Both assassins escaped in the subsequent gun fight. Heydrich, who demanded treatment only from German Doctors, initially responded well but slipped into a coma and died on the 4th June.
6/5/1942 – German siege of Sevastopol begins. The Germans had attempted to capture the last remaining city in the Crimea, Sevastopol in the latter stages of 1941 and by 1942 they had decided on a different strategy. Codenamed Storfang, the Germans launched a brutal siege against the city, accompanied by the most intense Arial bombardment seen so far.
6/10/1942 – Nazis annihilate Czech town of Lidice in retaliation for Heydrich’s assassination. In one of the examples of the Nazi’s complete disregard for life, all 173 males over 15 years old from Lidice were executed. The 184 women and 88 children weren’t immediately executed, but were instead transferred to the Chelmno extermination camp where they were gassed. The orders came directly from Hitler and Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The Germans wildly proclaimed their actions and celebrated the massacre of the village. It was to be the first of a number of similar massacres committed by the SS during the war.
6/21/1942 – German Afrika Korps recaptures Tobruk. The German counterattack had pushed the allies back to Gazala, a few miles from Tobruk and in February the British had given priority to fortifying these defenses. When the battle of Gazala began in late May, the erstwhile Rommel outflanked the British and they were forced to flee the Gazala line. Tobruk was once again put under siege (as it had been for 9 months of 1941) but this time the Royal Navy couldn’t guarantee supply. On the 21st June, the 35,000 strong Eighth Army garrison surrendered.
7/3/1942 – Sevastopol falls to German Army. After the intense bombing and siege of the city, Sevastopol eventually falls to the Germans. The Soviet coastal army was destroyed with 118,000 men killed, wounded or captured in the final assault. The total number for the siege was over 200,000 soviet casualties.
7/5/1942 – Nazi conquest of Crimea achieved. With the fall of Sevastopol, the Germans had control of Crimea and could move towards their new targets; the Caucasus oilfields.
7/9/1942 – German Army begins push towards Stalingrad. Stalingrad was an important Soviet city (Today known as Volgograd) and was named after the Soviet Leader.
8/13/1942 – General Bernard Montgomery assumes command of British Eighth Army in North Africa. In Early August Churchill and Sir Alan Brooke had visited Cairo on their way to visit Stalin in Moscow. In the wake of the first battle of El Alamein, they decided to replace commander Auchinleck. William Gott was appointed to command of the Eighth Army but he died open route to his post. Montgomery was appointed instead.
8/7/1942 – Battle of Guadalcanal. Not to be confused with the later Naval battle of Guadalcanal, this land battle saw the allied forces, predominantly US Marines, land in the Southern Solomon Islands and retake them to use as springboard to later attack the vital Japanese base at Rabaul. The battle would see the beginning of months of fierce battles from the Japanese to retake the island, and its important airfield.
9/13/1942 – German attack on Stalingrad begins. A major turning point in the War; this battle was one of the most deadly, destructive and longest battles and sieges in human history. Volgograd would go on to be given hero status within the Soviet Union for the sufferings and hardships its people suffered under siege.
11/3/1942 – Afrika Korps decisively defeated by British at the second battle of El Alamein. Taking place near the Egyptian railway hub, it was a re-run of the first battle of El Alamein, which had halted the Axis advance into Egypt. At the Second battle the Allies scored a crucial victory. This not only boosted morale of the Allies in North Africa, it also removed the Nazi threat to Egypt and protected the Suez Canal. 30-50,000 German casualties to the 13,000 Allied losses. Churchill famously said of the battle “It may be said that before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat”. The battle was notable for the way in which the allied air superiority was used, with the RAF supporting the movements of the troops on the ground forces. In contrast the Luftwaffe were keener to engage in air to air combat.
11/8/1942 – Allied invasion of North Africa begins in “Operation Torch”. Almost simultaneously to the engagement at El Alamein, this was an Anglo-American operation against French North Africa. Again, controlled by Vichy France, the colony was technically aligned with German but its loyalties were suspect. Eisenhower and his force aimed to take Casablanca, Oran and Algiers before moving into Tunis. The landings were a success despite some initial resistance. It was the first major airborne assault that the US carried out.
11/11/1942 – Axis forces occupy Vichy France. In response to the allied landings in North Africa, the Germans and Italian forces extended their control of French lands to include the south of France in an effort to protect the Mediterranean coastline.
11/19/1942 – Soviet forces encircle German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Whilst there was brutal close combat fighting going on in the city, The Soviets had launched Operation Uranus. This was a two-pronged attack that targeted the weaker Romanian and Hungarian armies that were protecting the German flanks. Both armies were overrun and German army was surrounded. Hitler ordered that they make no effort to break out of the encirclement.
12/31/1942 – German and British ships engage in the Battle of the Barents Sea. An important battle for what it didn’t achieve as opposed to what it did. The German Navy attacked British convoy ships and their escort in the Barents sea in North Cape Norway. The Germans destroyed a British destroyer but failed to inflict significant damages. Hitler was so enraged by this failure to cripple a convoy that he ordered that the German Naval Strategy would focus more on U-Boats than on the surface fleet. Only the resignation of Admiral Raeder, and the arguments of Raeders replacement U-Boat commander Admiral Karl Donitz, prevented Hitler from scrapping the entire fleet.
1/2-3/1943 – German Army retreats from Caucasus. Not sure about this date- cant find anything to do with it?
1/10/1943 – Red Army begins siege of German-occupied Stalingrad. After encircling the sixth German army, the Russians then began to siege their own city in order to take it from German control.
1/14-23/1943 – Roosevelt and Churchill meet at Casablanca, issue unconditional surrender demand. Stalin declined to attend, feeling that the ongoing battle of Stalingrad required his attention. The declaration that the Allies would fight on until unconditional surrender was important; it showed the steel will of the Allies and ensured that they had learnt from the mistakes of the First World War.
1/23/1943 – British forces take Tripoli. Continuing their push in Libya, Montgomery and the British 8th army took Tripoli from the Italians. This ended the Italian control of Libya that had stated in 1912.
1/27/1943 – U.S. Air Force opens daylight bombing campaign with attack on Wilhelmshaven, Germany. In a sign of things to come the Americans launch a daylight raid on Germany. Traditionally the bombing sorties had been kept to nighttime raids to minimize detection.
2/2/1943 – German Sixth Army at Stalingrad surrenders to the Russians; war in Europe reaches its turning point. Despite the German attempts to resupply and reinforce their Sixth army, the Germans had been driven back and the pockets of troops in Stalingrad had been separated from each other. Hitler had promoted the German General Paulus to a Grand Field Marshall. No one of that rank in German military history had every surrendered and the implication was clear; Paulus was to fight to the last. In the end, this wasn’t necessary and his subordinate generals negotiated the surrender. Hitler was furious as some 90,000 German prisoners, including 22 Generals were taken into soviet control. Only 5,000 would return to German and some wouldn’t be repatriated until 1955. Stalingrad was the first time that Nazi Government publicly acknowledged a failure in its war effort. It was one of the biggest defeats in history for the German army and marked a turning point in the war for the Germans.
2/8/1943 – Red Army takes Kursk. Whilst the Sixth German Army were surrounded at Stalingrad, the Red Army had moved against Army Group South; the rest of the German forces in Russia. They launched a counterattack in early January which broke the German defenses and allowed the soviets to recapture Kursk.
2/14-25/1943 – Battle of Kasserine Pass fought in North Africa between German and U.S. forces. Taking place in Tunisia, the battle was the first major engagement between the U.S forces and the Germans. It was a defeat for the inexperienced Americans (Although the German advance was halted and mitigated by British reinforcements) and led to changes in the way that the US army organized their units.
2/16/1943 – Red Army retakes Kharkov. Using the momentum from Stalingrad, the Red Army, during Operation star and operation gallop, reversed another success of the Germans in the early stages of Operation Barbossa.
3/2/1943 – Afrika Korps withdraws from Libya into Tunisia. Following the successes of the British 8Th Army, the Afrika Korps faced no choice but to withdraw and retreat into Tunisia.
3/15/1943 – Germany Army recaptures Kharkov. The Russian advance had caused them to overextend themselves and it was now the Germans time to counterattack and they did so with vengeance. 1943 was the last year that the Wehrmacht could achieve the large-scale attacks that had characterized their early incursions into Russia. The Wehrmacht attacked, encircled and defeated the Russian spearheads, with assistance from the Luftwaffe. After four days of heavy house to house fighting, Kharkov once again fell to the Germans, with 80,000 Russian losses.
3/16-20/1943 – German submarines achieve their largest tonnage total of the war. During the month of March, the German Submarine warfare was at its most prominent. They were aided by the sheer number of U-boats in the Atlantic which made it impossible for convoys to achieve any form of secrecy. Furthermore, the Germans had added a slight change to their U-Boat Enigma Key. Thus, led the allies to be in the dark for 9 days and meant that The U-Boats were able to sink 120 ships worldwide, with 82 in the Atlantic. 476,000 of goods were lost in the Atlantic and they only lost 12 U-boats.
4/19/1943 – S.S. begins “liquidation” of the Warsaw ghetto. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the ghettos in Nazi-Controlled Europe. At the peak it housed as over 450,000 Jewish people, in only a 3.4km squared area. After the Warsaw Ghetto uprisings had temporarily halted the deportations of members of the Ghetto to concentration camps, the Germans destroyed it. During the destruction of the Ghetto over 56,000 people were summarily executed or transferred to the death camps. The site of the Ghetto would itself become a concentration camp.
5/7/1943 – Allies capture Tunisia. Following his retreat to Tunisia, Rommel had given the American US II Corp a sharp defeat at the Kasserine Pass. This protected his supply lines and was to be his last victory of the war. In March he had returned to Germany and was forbidden to return to Africa, his command being taken by General Von Armin. Without the supplies that the Axis forces desperately needed, they were pushed back and back until they were eventually outmaneuvered. Attacked from both the Anglo-American force under Eisenhower and the British 8th Army under Montgomery, Tunisia and with it the whole of North Africa was lost.
5/13/1943 – Remaining Axis troops in North Africa surrender to Allies. Following the loss in the Tunisia campaign, there was nowhere else for the Axis forces to go and Italian General Messe duly surrendered the Axis forces. This control of the Mediterranean allowed potential allied invasions of Italy and Greece. Joseph Goebbels placed the defeat in North Africa on the same scale as Stalingrad, referring to it as ‘Tunisgrad’.
5/16-17/1943 – RAF targets German industry in the Ruhr. Not sure about these dates as the British targeted industry in the Ruhr throughout the war?
5/22/1943 – U-boat operations suspended in the North Atlantic due to steep losses. The battle of the Atlantic was one of the most complex naval engagements in history. It lasted a number of years and Churchill would later say that “the only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-Boat peril. Only two months before this, the British had considered giving up on the convoy system such were their losses. However, between March and May, their fortunes were reversed. A convergence of technologies and increased resources allowed the allies to sink more U Boats. A total of 43 were destroyed in May, of which 34 came in the Atlantic. Whilst a small number this represented 25% of the operational strength of the U boat arm.
7/5/1943 – Largest tank battle in history begins at Kursk. Hitler had decided to move against the protruding Russian Salient at Kursk. In the aftermath of the German Victory at Kharkov, he had had the option to rest and recuperate and wait for the inevitable counterattack from the Red Army or try and restore the front. He opted for the latter and as such the battle of Kursk began. As part of the wider fight, the engagement at the battle of Prokhorvoka was the largest tank battle in history. The battle consisted of the German attack and after that quickly stalled, a soviet counterattack. It was the final strategic offensive that the Germans were able to mount in Russia and following their loss, the strategic initative would remain with the Soviets. The Soviets had been prewarned of where the attack would happen and had set up strong defensive preparations whilst their tanks had been moved out of the salient to form the reserve for a counterattack.
7/9-10/1943 – Allied forces land on Sicily. The allied invasion of Sicily threw the German plans into chaos. In an incredibly clever intelligence operation involving dropping a corpse onto the Spanish coastline, the British had convinced Hitler and the Germans that the attack into Europe would come into Sardinia, rather than Sicily. The attack thus took Hitler by surprise and required the spare forces in France to be taken to Italy rather than to Russia as intended. This helped close down the attack on Kursk and ensured that the Germans were defeated on the Eastern Front.
7/22/1943 – American forces take Palermo, Sicily. The British and Americans had landed paratroopers and orchestrated an amphibious assault. The landings had been a success and despite some serious resistance from the German troops on the ground, the Americans soon entered Palermo.
7/25-26/1943 – Mussolini and the Fascists overthrown. Although the final hammer blow was late in falling, the writing had been on the wall for a while. The Germans knew about the plots to overthrow the Duce and the king had had several conspirators approach him. Mussolini’s responses had been denial yet the grand council of fascism reluctantly decreed fascism over and he was placed under arrest on the orders of the King.
7/27-28/1943 – Allied bombing raid creates firestorm in Hamburg, Germany. The unusually warm weather had made everything in Hamburg exceptionally dry and the good weather when the bombers attacked meant that there was a fierce concentration around the targets of the raid. This quickly transformed into a firestorm that was 460 meters high. The storm engulfed the city and totally destroyed it, killing 35,000 civilians and wounding 125,000 more. The operation was named Gomorrah, after the biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which inspired the attack. It was later referred to as the ‘Hiroshima’ of Germany and Hitler was said to have admitted that Germany wouldn’t be able to withstand many more similar attacks. Hamburg’s labor force was reduced by 10 percent and their industry never recovered.
8/12-17/1943 – Axis forces withdraw from Sicily. The Germans had decided by late July that the outcome of the battle of Sicily would be a forced withdrawal form Messina. Despite not having Italian permission, the Germans went ahead and began to withdraw; The Italians caught up by mid-August and began their own full-scale withdrawal on 11th August. Both evacuations were highly successful, with protection from 250 light and heavy anti-aircraft guns protecting the transports un the strait of Messina from RAF and USAF attacks.
8/17/1943 – USAF suffers steep losses in bombing run on ball-bearing plants at Regensburg and Schweinfurt, Germany. Whilst this raid did do significant damage to the Regensburg target, it did so at great loss to the USAF. Of the 376 bombers that took flight, 60 Bombers were lost and many more were mechanically put out of action. This meant that they were unable to follow up the attack. The severe loss was due to the lack of escorting fighters due to the long range of the attack.
8/23/1943 – Red Army retakes Karkhov. After the victory at Kursk, the Red Army was once again on the match and the Wehrmacht on the defensive. Whilst the German tiger tanks achieved some success in blunting the Soviet advances, they were ultimately unsuccessful and Kharkov was abandoned for the last time.
9/8/1943 – New Italian government announces Italy’s surrender. Sanctioned by both the King and the new Prime Minister Pietro Badogilo, the armistice of Casrellano was signed by Generals of both sides in an Allied military camp. The Italians had wanted the Allies to move troops to northern Italy to counteract the inevitable German invasion, but the Allies only confirmed that they would send paratroopers to Rome.
9/9/1943 – Allied forces land in Salerno and Taranto, Italy. Known as Operation Avalanche, the main allied force landed at Salerno, whilst in Operation Slapstick and Baytown, supporting operations landed at Taranto and Calabria respectfully. The landings were successful although hard fought. The allies were fortunate that the Germans viewed Northern Italy as a more important strategic hold than southern Italy.
9/11/1943 – German Army occupies Italy. Due to a confusion between the allies and the Italians, the airports in Italy weren’t under Italian control for the announcement of the armistice. Italian troops hadn’t made it back to defend Italy and the Allies just commenced with the announcement. As such the Germans, who had been anticipating the announcement, quickly invaded and established control over Northern and Central Italy.
9/12/1943 – Nazi commandos rescue Mussolini. In the daring Gran Sasso raid, personally ordered by Adolf Hitler, Major Harald Mors and Waffen-SS commandos rescued Mussolini from his remote mountain prison. It was a high risk but paid off. The commandos landed by glider, overthrew the guards and disabled communication and Mussolini was flown to Munich. Two days later he met Hitler.
9/23/1943 – Fascist government re-established in Italy. Hitler had planned to arrest the King, Crown prince and the rest of the government. However, their flight south to Allied hands had prevented this. Hitler had been shocked at Mussolini’s appearance and unwillingness to attack those who had overthrown him. Still Mussolini agreed to establish a new regime, The Italian Social Republic, in part to limit the effect of German retaliation.
10/1/1943 – Allies take Naples. The allies had focused on taking Naples as it was the northmost port that could receive air support by fighter planes flying from Sicily. Despite hoping that Hitler would leave southern Italy (He had previously indicated that he thought it was strategically unimportant), the allies faced heavy German resistance as they made their way north.
11/6/1943 – Red Army recaptures Kiev. The Red Army momentum continued and they were chasing the Germans retreat. The Germans armed forces were too weak to repeal an invasion themselves and Hitler had allowed them to retreat to the Ostwall, a line of defenses similar to the Siegfried line in the west. Unfortunately for the Germans these hadn’t fully been built and they were very difficult to hold. Eventually the Red Army broke out of their bridgeheads and recaptured Kiev; the third largest city in the Soviet Union.
11/28/1943 – “Big Three” of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill meet at Tehran. This meeting was codenamed Eureka and was held in the Soviet embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first meeting of the Big Three during the war and preceded the later Yalta and Potsdam conferences. It covered the Western Allies commitment to open up a Second Front with Nazi Germany through landing in Western Europe and discussed operations in Yugoslavia and Japan. It also recognized Iran’s independence and was the first mention of the United Nations. The most important outcome of the conference was the convincing of Churchill to commit to an invasion of France.
12/24-26/1943 – Soviets begin large offensive in Ukraine. The soviets now planned a large offensive to clear the German forces from the Ukraine. Following the large-scale retreats of the Wehrmacht and the capture of Kiev, the Soviets were able to strike out from there and drive the Germans back once more.
1/6/1944 – Red Army advances into Poland. The Red Armies successes had led them to reach the 1939 Soviet-Polish border by early Jan. They then advanced into German held Poland and began to encircle and capture pockets of German forces.
1/22/1944 – Allied forces land at Anzio, Italy. Codenamed operation Shingle, the allies were now facing mainly German troops. The battle was meant to be a surprise attack but the Germans were more prepared than was realized.
1/27/1944 – Red Army breaks 900-day siege of Leningrad. In one of the greatest struggles of the war, the Soviets finally managed to break the brutal Siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg). It was one of the longest sieges in history and had led to countless suffering from the inhabitants.
1/31/1944 – American forces invade Kwajalein. An American attack on the Marshall Islands, this was a major success for the US. They had learnt the lessons of Tarawa and attacked both Kwajalein and Roi-Namur in the north. The Japanese, who were outnumbered and unprepared, put up a strong defense and defended to the last man. From Roi-Naru only 51 men survived from the original garrison of 3,500. It was the first time the Americans had penetrated the “outer ring” of Japanese spheres in the Pacific. The Japanese would learn the lessons from the battle and the weaknesses of Beach line defense, leading to future battles being far more costly.
2/16/1944 – German 14th Army counter-attacks at Anzio. Despite the initial success of the landings, the allied forces had failed to take advantage and the Germans had held their defensive wall and were sufficiently strong to counterattack. It was in this attack that the Germans managed to overrun the 167th brigade, decimating the British forces. One man killed in this attack was Second Lieutenant Eric Waters. His son Roger Walters, bandmember of Pink Floyd would later write the sing ‘When the tigers Broke Free’ about his father’s death. The German attack would be itself counterattacked and by February 20th the attack had petered out with some 20,000 casualties on each side (from the first landings). This made it one of the most brutal and costly engagements in the Italian campaign. In addition, due to the landings the German High Command had taken the decision to forget its plans to move 5 of Kesselring’s best units across to Normandy to prevent any landings there.
2/18-22/1944 – American forces take Eniwetok. After the success of the US army at Kwajalein, the US forces began to ‘island hop’ their way through the Japanese defenses. Once again, the US took the island with heavy Japanese deaths (3,000) and relatively few US (300). The island yielded am airfield and harbor to the US forces to use against the Mariana Islands.
4/8/1944 – Red Army begins offensive in the Crimea. The red army had already managed to cut the Crimea theatre off from the other German forces after severing the Perekop isthmus. The 4th Ukrainian front then advanced their campaign to recapture the Crimea. First, they captured Odessa and then moved on towards Sevastopol. The Germans were able to resupply their forces in the Crimea using the Black Sea and they were desperate to hold it as losing it would open up the Romanian oilfields to soviet air attacks and damage relations with their allies.
5/9/1944 – Soviet troops recapture Sevastopol. An important morale boosting victory for the Soviets. They recaptured the important strategic city of Sevastopol. It had been due to be renamed in honor of Theodoric the Great, should Nazi Germany have defeated the Soviet Union. The defenses of Sevastopol hadn’t been restored properly after its fall in 19141 and the fortress was a shadow of itself.
5/12/1944 – German forces in the Crimea surrender. Following the loss of Sevastopol and cut off from German forces in the Ukraine and Poland, the German troops in the Crimea had no option but to surrender.
6/5/1944 – Allied forces enter Rome. After breaking out from Anzio, the Allied forces pushed on. Major Truscott had orchestrated the breakout of the forces from Anzio. Following this he faced a decision; either strike inland and cut off the communication of the German 10th Army (Who were fighting at Monte Cassino) or turn north-west and capture Rome. He reluctantly chose Rome, and the allies quickly captured it. As a result, the 10th Army were able to retreat and rejoin the rest of Kesselring’s forces north of Rome at the Gothic Line.
6/6/1944 – D-Day: invasion of Europe begins with Allied landings at Normandy. Named Operation Neptune, as part of Operation Overlord, this was one of the most important battles in the War. The weather on the original D-Day had been disadvantageous and so the operation had been postponed by a day. Had it been postponed further; the allies would have had to wait a further 2 weeks due to the requirement of the tides. Some 24,000 men landed that day and were faced with mined beaches, machine gun turrets. The allies didn’t achieve any of their objectives and only managed to link two sections of the beach. However, they did secure a foothold that they built upon over the coming months. Casualties were estimated at 4-9,000 for the Axis forces and the 10,000 for the allies, with 4,000 confirmed dead.
6/9/1944 – Red Army advances into Finland. Having been at war with Finland (a co-conspirator of Nazi Germany) since 1941, the Red army finally managed to break their lines in the Vyborg-Petrozavodsk Offensive. The main objective was to push Finland out of the war. The peace terms offered by the USSR had been very unfavorable and so they looked to remove them forcibly from the war.
6/13/1944 – Germans begin launching V-1 rockets against London. Named the Vergletungswaffe, or Vengeance weapon by the Germans and the Doodlebugs by the Allies. They were early forms of cruise missiles and were the only production aircraft to use a pulsejet for power. Due to their limited range they would be launched from the French and Dutch coasts and were formally designed to terrorize London. They were first launched in revenge for the Normandy Landings. One by one the launch sites were overran and the Germans switched to firing them at the port of Antwerp, as London was out of their 250km range.
6/15/1944 – American marines invade Saipan. One of the foremost Maianas Islands, Saipan was the target of an American invasion on the 15th June. The battle lasted until 9th July. The loss of Saipan, along with the 29,000 Japanese deaths (From a 32,000 strong garrison) led to the resignation of Prime Minister Tojo and put the Japan in range of the UYSAF B-29 Bombers. 13,000 Americans lost their lives taking the Islands.
6/19-20/1944 – “Marianas Turkey Shoot” results in destruction of over 400 Japanese aircraft. This was the last great “carrier vs Carrier” battle between the US and Japanese navies and was also the biggest in history, involving 24 aircraft carriers and some 1,350 aircraft. It was nicknamed the Marianas Turkey shoot by the US aviators due to the decisive victory and huge damage that the American pilots and anti-aircraft gunners dealt to the Japanese Aircraft. The US sunk two of the largest Japanese carriers and sunk light carriers. However, nightfall and low fuel meant that the American airplanes had to return to their carriers. At the time it seemed a missed opportunity to totally destroy the Japanese navy, but hindsight deemed it sufficient to cripple the majority of the Japanese Carrier air strength. The Japanese would lose nearly 500 aircraft to the Americans 123. The sea battle was launched simultaneously with an American landing on the Marianas islands, which was also successful.
6/22/1944 – Red Army begins massive summer offensive. Named the Belorussian Offensive (codename Operation Bagration) had been agreed at the Tehran conference and consisted of four soviet battle groups totaling over 120 divisions and over 2 million soviet troops. The Germans had expected them to attack Army Group North Ukraine (to achieve a link up with their Crimean successes) but the Soviets attacked Army Group Centre, which only contained around 800,000 men.
6/27/1944 – American forces liberate Cherbourg. Part of the battle of Normandy, the US forces finally captured the fortified port of Cherbourg. This was a vital port as it was a deep-water port, which allowed reinforcements to be directly from the United States, instead of having to go via Great Britain. The Americans benefitted from confusion from the German high command with Hitler insisting on illogical defense lines. After a month long battle to try and capture the city the US forces, with the aid of the British no. 30 Commando unit, captured the city. German Rear Admiral Walrwe Hennecke was awarded the Knights Cross for having destroyed the port of Cherbourg. This meant that the port wasn’t brought into use until the middle of August.
7/3/1944 – Soviet forces recapture Minsk. In the face of the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Soviets, the German defense had collapsed and in early July, the Soviets captured Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Some 100,000 Germans were trapped.
7/18/1944 – American troops liberate St Lo. The Americans liberated St Lo following a 11-day battle that formed part of the battle of the hedgerows. The bombarded the city to prevent German reinforcements in Britany making it to the front, and when they made it to the city nearly 95% of the city had been destroyed. The photograph of Major Howie’s body (symbolically the first American to enter the city as his corpse was station on the hood of the lead jeep) draped in the US flag whilst amongst the cathedral rubble became one of the enduring images of the war.
7/19/1944 – Allied troops liberate Caen. Caen was a major objective of the D-Day landings and yet had proved improved impossible for them to hold. The Allied plans duly changed, and they focused on the objective of linking the beachheads. Once they had established that they pushed on towards Caen and finally took It a month after the initial landings.
7/20/1944 – Hitler survives assassination attempt. The 20 July plot was an unsuccessful attempt on Hitler’s life by senior Wehrmacht officials. It was led by Claus von Stauffenberg. Their aim was to eliminate Hitler and take control of Germany from the Nazi party and the SS and then make peace with the Allies. The failure of the plot led to the Gestapo arresting more than 7,000 people, of which they executed nearly 5,000. Stauffenberg placed a bomb within his briefcase before a meeting with Hitler. Crucially he was only able to prime one of the two bombs that he had. He placed the briefcase down at the table and was subsequently summoned out of the room to answer the telephone. Colonel Heinz Brandt unknowingly moved the briefcase slightly by pushing it behind the leg of the conference table. This saved Hitler’s life as it deflected the bomb blast away from him. More than 20 people were injured when the bomb detonated with three officers, including Brandt, later dying. Hitler survived, minus some tattered trousers and a perforated eardrum. Stauffenberg would later be executed.
7/24/1944 – Soviet forces liberate concentration camp at Majdanek. Due to the speed at which the Soviet forces arrived, and the incompetence of the deputy commander of the camp, it is the best preserved of all the Holocaust camps. It was also the first major camp to be liberated. The death toll in the camp is reported to be 78,000 victims, although this Is open to some dispute.
7/25-30/1944 – Allied forces break-out of Normandy encirclement in “Operation Cobra”. The American forces used the confusion around the British and Canadian attacks on Caen to force a breakout whilst the German forces were unbalanced. It was an especially important moment in the Normandy campaign as reeling from the July 20 plot and the attack on Caen, the German forces couldn’t put up an effective defense and collapsed under the weight of the allied offensive. It transformed the warfare from close combat infantry combat into the fast-paced movement based warfare that led to the loss of Nazi France.
7/28/1944 – Red Army recaptures Brest-Litovsk. In conjunction with Operation Bagatron, the Red Army pushed into Belarus and with the support of the Polish freedom fighters took Brest.
8/1/1944 – Polish Home Army begins revolt against Nazis in Warsaw. A controversial event within the war, the Polish Home Army had begun their uprising in Warsaw to coincide with the Soviet advance into Poland. The German retreat had given them hope that they could rid the city of them and hold on until the Red Army came to their aid. It was the biggest military action undertaken by a resistance movement.
8/15/1944 – Allies invade Southern France. Codenamed Operation Dragoon, the allies landed forces in Provence. The aim was to put pressure on the German forces by opening up a new front. It was a swift allied victory, thanks to the German troops having been relocated elsewhere, the allied air superiority and the large-scale uprising of the French resistance. Most of Southern France was liberated in just over a month, whilst the captured French ports on the Mediterranean allowed them to solve their supply issues in France.
8/19-20/1944 – Soviet forces invade Romania. In a complimentary campaign to Bagration, the red army had launched the Lvov-Sandomierz operation on the 17th July. This had smashed the German forces in Western Ukraine and allowed the Soviets to advance south into Romania.
8/23/1944 – Rumania capitulates to Soviets. A coup was launched against the Axis-allied government, and Romania was effectively out of the war.
8/25/1944 – Paris liberated. Following on from their breakout in Normandy, all allied armies had been moving rapidly. By the 25th they were on the banks of the Seine and the German counterattack, which had been hopelessly optimistic had been defeated. Even the Falaise pocket, which they had been desperately fighting to keep open to try and let their troops escape, had been closed. With news that the Americans were approaching Paris, the French Resistance launched an uprising against the German garrison. The US Army under Patton rolled into Paris and Charles De Gaulle declared that the French Republic was restored.
8/31/1944 – Red Army takes Bucharest. The capitulation of the Romanian government effectively removed Romania from the war and allowed the Red Army to take Bucharest. The New administration in Romania would sign an armistice with the Soviet Union on 12th September.
9/3/1944 – Brussels liberated. Following on from liberating Paris, the Allied forces continued on, pushing into the Benelux countries. Brussels was liberated and captured on the 4th September by the Household Cavalry of the British Army and Antwerp was liberated the same day by the British second army. The speed at which the Germans had retreated after Falaise took everyone by surprise and the citizens of Brussels were overjoyed to be liberated so soon.
9/13/1944 – American troops reach the Siegfried Line in western Germany. The Siegfried line had quickly been rebuilt by 20,000 workers following the events of D-Day. Following the collapse of German defenses in France, the Germans focused their defense of Germany on the lines. In particular they focused on the Hurtgenwald (Hurtgen forest), just south of Aachen. This was because this was the obvious route into Germany as it allowed access to the industrial Rhineland.
9/18/1944 – Soviets and Finns sign peace treaty. With the widespread defeat of the German forces and knowing that the Soviets had an overbearing military presence, the Finns agreed to a ceasefire. Finland was required to return to the borders arranged in the 1940 treaty, fulfill war reparations and cut off all diplomatic ties with Germany and expel the Wehrmacht.
9/19/1944 – Battle of Hurtgenwald begins. Having reached the Siegfried Line, the Americans subsequently decided to attack. The Germans successfully defended the line from the American attack and in the course of the three month battle, was the longest single battle that the American army has ever fought.
9/26/1944 – Red Army occupies Estonia. The Estonian front had been a source of frustration of the Soviets as a quick conclusion to this front would have meant that the Soviets could have invaded East Prussia and used Estonia as an air and sea base for attacks into Finland. However, the German defense was stubborn and it was only after the Finns had signed an armistice with the Soviets and allowed them access to their waters, that the Germans withdrew in order to prevent being encircled.
10/2/1944 – Nazis brutally crush revolt in Warsaw; Allies advance into Germany. The Warsaw rebellion had been launched by the Polish Home Army to throw the Germans out of Warsaw. It was aimed to hold off the retreating Germans until the Red Army could come in to help. However, in a controversial move, the Red Army paused their advance on the edges of the city. This was possibly done by the Soviets to ensure that the Soviet backed Polish Committee of National Liberation took control, rather than the independent Polish Underground State. Either way, this gave the Germans the chance to crush the rebellion; which they did brutally. An estimate of the deaths is grim reading. Some 16,000 members of the polish resistance were killed, with another 6,000 injured and between 150-200,000 civilians were killed, often through mass executions. The German collapse in the west had been extreme and the allies advanced across German borders.
10/5/1944 – British invade Greece. Having lost the Romanian Oil fields, there was little point holding onto Greece, which had been captured to prevent British bombers stationed there to bomb the fields. With the preparations for a retreat sounded, the British landed troops to recapture the ancient country.
10/14/1944 – British liberate Athens; Rommel forced to commit suicide for alleged involvement in July assassination plot against Hitler. The British under General Scobie arrived in Athens. Four days later the government in exile of Greece would arrive. Rommel’s name had been raised in connection to the 20th July Plot, although his involvement within the plot is debatable. He had certainly been approached by army officers and hadn’t betrayed the plot to Hitler (Who he had significant disagreements with on military matters) but he hadn’t actively joined it either. Due to his popular status within Germany, Hitler knew that bringing him in front of a military tribunal would cause problems for the troops. He gave Rommel two options; commit suicide and leave his reputation intact and be given a full state burial as a hero of the realm, or watch his reputation and family punished for his actions by going in front of a jury. He choose the former and his death was reported as a heart attack. It was only after the war that the Allies found out the truth.
10/20/1944 – Belgrade, Yugoslavia falls to the Yugoslav Partisans, aided by the Red Army. In a joint operation by Stalin and Tito, who had been cooperating on tactical matters since September, the joint forces of Bulgaria, Yugoslav partisans and the Red Army took Belgrade and liberated Serbia.
10/23-26/1944 – U.S. naval forces destroy remnants of Japanese Navy at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval engagement in history
11/7/1944 – Roosevelt elected to unprecedented fourth term. In a moment that made US political History, Roosevelt was elected to his fourth term, beating Thomas E Dewey, by a landslide in the electoral college. There was little doubt that he would win as he remained popular both within his own party and with the American public in general. However, the democrats dropped Vice President Henry Wallace in favor of Harry S Truman. Roosevelt carried 36 states to Dewey’s 12 and won 432 seats in the electoral college to Dewey’s 99. Dewey performed better than any of Roosevelts other republican challengers. Despite the rumors of his ill health, Roosevelt campaigned hard. It would be the last time until 1996 that an incumbent Democrat had won reelection after serving a full term in office.
12/3/1944 – Civil war erupts in Greece; Japanese retreat in Burma. Following the retreat of the Germans, a vacuum appeared in Greece. Almost immediately a civil war broke out between the Communist left and the monarchist right. The government had decreed that all armed militia were o be disbanded but this brought down the government of national unity. The government declared martial law and the civil war was underway. The monsoon season in Burma meant that campaigning was only possible across half the year and the campaign began in December. When the campaign began the Allies launched several offensives into Burma. This put the Japanese on the back foot and they began to retreat.
12/13-16/1944 – American forces invade Phillipine island of Mindoro. Part of the Philippines campaign, the battle of Mindoro island was a relatively minor battle. There was no significant opposition from the Japanese and the garrison was eliminated in just three days. The capture of the island was important as it allowed the US to establish airfields which would place their fighters in range of the Lingayen gulf; their next target.
12/16/1944 – German Army launches “Battle of the Bulge” offensive on the Western Front. The Germans launched their final offensive of the war. They launched it through the Ardennes and were attempting to prevent the Allies from successful using Antwerp by trying to split their lines. It was a total and utter surprise to the Allies.
12/17/1944 – Waffen SS executes 84 American prisoners of war in “Malmedy Massacre”. This war crime was commended by a German Waffen SS unit led by Joachin Peiper. The prisoners were gathered in a field and gunned down with machine guns. These who remained alive were then summarily executed by a shot to the head. Some 40 troops survived by playing dead. The Nazis committed the massacre to inspire terror on the western front.
1/6-9/1945 – American forces invade Phillipine island of Luzon. Following on from their capture of Mindoro, the Americans targeted the Island of Luzon. They invaded Lingayen Gulf, landing on a 20km beachhead on the 9th January after bombing suspected Japanese positions for three days. This meant that they recaptured the islands that they had lost three years earlier.
1/16/1945 – Battle of the Bulge ends in German defeat. Despite its initial successes the bulge was never destined to completely change the tide of the war. The battle took a huge toll on the already depleted German forces and they lost a huge number of equipment. Unfortunately for the Germans, the roads that they had intended to use had been blocked and this slowed their advance and allowed the Allies ample time to reinforce supply lines. The weather conditions which had nullified the allied air superiority had turned around Christmas day and allowed the Allies to bomb the German supply lines. By the time early Jan came about, the offensive was over and the line had been restored to its previous position. 19,000 Americans were killed out of 80,000 casualties whilst the Germans had between 60-80,000 men captured, wounded or MIA. Many experienced German units were completely devastated and depleted of men and equipment.
1/17/1945 – Red Army liberates Warsaw. The Soviets finally attacked Warsaw in mid-January. The city had been destroyed by the retreating Germans and the intense close combat fighting that had occurred during the Warsaw Uprising. 1/19/1945 – German lines on Eastern Front collapse; full retreat begins. At this point the Russian armed forces significantly outnumbered their German counterparts. Following the loss of Warsaw, the Russians launched a general offensive and across a broad front consisting of four armies, the Red Army smashed the Germans, aided by their superiority of 6:1 in troop, tanks and artillery. They soon were moving 30-40 kilometers per day.
1/20/1945 – Hungary signs armistice with Allies. Hungary had already tried to reach an Armistice with the Allies a year before. Hitler had found out and invaded Hungary, overthrowing the government and establishing a pro German replacement. A similar thing happened when they announced an Armistice following the Soviet invasion of Hungary in late 1944. This new government was brutal and killed some 75% of Budapest Jewish population, numbering 600,000. After Budapest was attacked and surrounded in the battle for Budapest (1st Jan – 16th February 1945) the government negotiated an armistice with the Soviets. Many of the Hungarian troops carried on fighting under the command of the German forces.
1/27/1945 – Soviets liberate Auschwitz. During the Vistula-Oder offensive the Red army came across the concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland. The Nazi’s had forcibly marched most of the prisoners away from the camp, but around 7,000 had been left behind. The Soviet were shocked and appealed at the conditions of those left behind and the crimes that they uncovered at the camp where over a million people were murdered. The 27th January is remembered as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Red Army found 600 corpse, 370,000 Men’s suits, 837,000 Articles of Women’s Clothing and seven tons of human hair at the camp.
1/27/1945 – Red Army occupies Lithuania. Having already held Lithuania, and then lost it to the Nazis, the soviets reclaimed their Balkan possessions. There had been attempts for the Lithuanians to reclaim their independence but without western support these ideas were crushed by the soviets.
2/4-11/1945 – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin meet at Yalta Conference. The Second of the meetings between the “Big Three”, the Yalta conference was called to discuss the plans for postwar Germany. As the Nazi empire had stretched across the Europe the future of the post war peace involved the outcome of the re-establishment of sovereign nations across Europe.
2/13-15/1945 – Allied incendiary raid creates firestorm in Dresden. One of the most famous bombing raids, the Ash Wednesday raid on Dresden went down in infamy. 722 heavy bombers of the RAF and 527 of the USAF dropped thousands of bombs on the city. As with Hamburg, it created a firestorm that engulfed the city. Indeed, the firestorm was so large that the second wave of bombers had no need for the incendiary bombs to see where their targets were. 25,000 people were killed in the raids. The bombing was controversial die to the cultural status of the city, the strategic significance of the city and the lack of strategic advantage gleaned from the bombing.
2/19/1945 – American forces land on Iwo Jima. One of the most famous battles of the Pacific theatre, the landings on Iwo Jima were brutal. The landings highlighted the start of a 5 weeklong battle that would be as brutal as it was controversial. The strategic value of the island was limited and the casualties were high. Some 21,000 American troops were casualties making Iwo Jima the only battle in which the Japanese casualties were less than the US (although Japanese combat deaths were three times higher than their American counterparts)
3/1/1945 – The Battle of Okinawa. In the last major battle of the Second World War, lasting until June, the American naval forces landed in the largest amphibious assault in the pacific theater. The plan was to establish bases there and use them for Operation Downfall- the proposed invasion of Japan. Between 14-20,000 Americans died in the battle, with Japanese deaths standing at 77-110,00 deaths. It was referred to as the Typhoon of Steel to show the ferocity of the fighting.
3/3/1945 – American forces liberate Manila in the Phillipines; Finland declares war on Germany. The battle for Manila had been raging since the beginning of February. By the conclusion of the battle nearly 100,000 civilians had been killed and the city had been destroyed. Many Japanese troops had been committing mass murder of Filipino Civilians during the battle and it saw massive loss of life and cultural damage that rivalled the damage done to Berlin and Warsaw.
3/7/1945 – Allies capture Cologne; Ludendorff Rail Bridge on Rhine River captured intact at Ramagen. The allies reached and captured Cologne as part of their advance towards berlin, but the bridge that accompanied it (the Hohenzollern Bridge) had been destroyed by the Nazis. The allies were very surprise to find the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine was still standing, as the Germans had been systematically destroying bridges to slow the Allied advance. The bridge had been built during WW1 to improve supply lines to the Western Front and was named after a major supporter and advocate, German General Erich Ludendorff (Later a leading Nazi and ally of Hitller!) Thanks to the quick capture of the bridge, the allies were about to get 6 divisions across the damaged bridge before German bombing missions managed to destroy it. This speed helped the US forces to quickly get into the Ruhr and catch the Germans unawares. This success encourages Eisenhower to alter his plans to end the war. The Americans established anti-aircraft guns and counted some 367 different Luftwaffe plains attacking the bridge.
3/8-9/1945 – Tokyo firebombed. Named operation Meetinghouse, the bombing of Tokyo is widely considered by historians to be the most destructive raid in Human history. 325 B-29 bombers of the USAF attacked Tokyo destroying 10,000 acres and leaving 100,000 civilians dead, with another million homeless. It cut the Japanese industry of Tokyo in half.
3/21/1945 – Allies take Mandalay, Burma. The battle for Mandalay, and the concurrent battle of Meiktila, ended the Japanese occupation of Burma. They were decisive engagements and destroyed most of the Japanese armed forces in the area. This allowed the allies to move on and recapture Burma. Japanese losses were 6,000 deaths with a further 6,000 missing whilst allied losses were 2,000 with 15,000 missing.
3/26/1945 – Japanese resistance on Iwo Jima ends. American victory had been assured in this battle from the start and so it proved to be. The photograph of the US flag being raised on top of mount Suribachi became an iconic photograph of the war. The Japanese gave a stoic defense of the Island and it was one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific campaign.
3/30/1945 – Red Army liberates Danzig. Continuing its push into Germany, the Red Army captured Danzig. The previsions of the Yalta conference had decided that the free city would become part of Poland.
4/1/1945 – American troops encircle German forces in the Ruhr. Thanks to their quick success crossing the Ludendorff bridge, the American troops were able to quickly reach the industrial heartlands of the Ruhr. The German troops were surprised by the speed of the US advance and were quickly encircled.
4/9/1945- Red Army captures Konigsberg, East Prussia. This marked the end of the Soviets East Prussian operation. Although often overlooked in favor of the later Battle for Berlin, it was one of the costliest operations of the Red Army, costing nearly 600,000 casualties.
4/11/1945 – Buchenwald Concentration camp liberated. The prisoners in Buchenwald had smuggled together a radio and arms. When the SS evacuated the camp (forcing many thousands to join the marches) the prisoners sent out a message in German, English and Russian requesting help. Three minutes later the US Third Army responded with the message KZ Bu. Hold Out. Rushing to your aid. Staff of third Army.’. The prisoners rushed the watchtower and took control as the US rushed to the camp, entering it on the 11th at 3.15pm.
4/12/1945 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies of stroke; Harry Truman becomes President; Allies liberate Belsen concentration camp. Many Americans had been shocked at how Ill Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked upon his return from Yalta and his health deteriorated in the following months. On the afternoon of the 12th he was in his office at the Little white house and spoke of a terrible headache. He then slumped forward in his chair and was carried to his room. He died at 3:35pm that afternoon. His death was a shock to most in the US as his illness had been kept a well-guarded secret. In accordance with the constitution Vice President Harry Truman was sworn in as President. On the same day, the British forces of the 11th armored division liberated Belsen concentration camp. There were 60,000 prisoners, most seriously ill, still in the camp with 13,000 corpses lying unattended to. The liberation was captured on film and widely spread and the name Belsen became associated with Nazi crimes.
4/13/1945- Red Army captures Vienna. Finally overthrowing the Anschluss of 1938, the Red Army entered Austria on 30th march and captured the capital two weeks later.
4/16/1945 – Red Army launches Berlin offensive; Allies take Nuremberg. The Red Armies Berlin offensive had two stated aims; to meet the western Allies as far West as possible and to ensure that they captured Berlin so as to secure its strategic assets including Hitler and the German Nuclear Bomb program.
4/18/1945 – German forces in the Ruhr capitulate. Thanks in part to the success of crossing the Ludendorff bridge, the allied forces had encircled the German troops in the industrial heart of Germany. This was a major step towards decimating the German war effort, which by this point had been long destroyed.
4/28/1945 – Mussolini hanged by Italian partisans; Venice falls to Allied forces. Although nominally in charge of the Italian Socialist league, Mussolini was in reality nothing more than a puppet for the Germans and he lived under virtual house arrest. By April, the allied forces were advancing in northern Italy, and captured Venice. Mussolini and his mistress had set out for Switzerland and were attempting to make it to neutral Spain. They were caught on the 27th August by two communist partisans and after being identified shot the next day. Their bodies were driven to Milan and dumped in the ‘Fifteen Martyrs Square’. They were hung upside down from an Esso Gas Station and stoned by citizens.
4/29/1945 – Dachau concentration camp liberated. Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camps to be set up in 1933.
4/30/1945 – Adolf Hitler and wife Eva Braun commit suicide in Chancellery bunker. Hitler knew that the war was over for him and as the battle for berlin raged above his bunker, he married his long term partner and the next day committed suicide. In his will he lambasted Goring and Himmler for trying to take control and named Donitz and Goebbels his successors. Goebbels would himself commit suicide the next day, leaving Admiral Donitz in control of Germany. He committed suicide by pistol shot, whilst Eva Braun ingested a cyanide capsule. Their bodies were burnt and the burned remains were collected by the Soviets and interred in different locations . In 1970, they were exhumed, cremated and ashes were scattered.
5/2/1945 – All German forces in Italy surrender. Martin Boorman Dies. In April the Allies had 1.5 million men deployed in Italy and nearly all Italian cities had been under the allied control. German Army Group C, disorganized, demoralized and retreating on all fronts, had little choice but to surrender. Heinrich Von Vietinghoff, who commanded the forces after Kesselring had been transferred, signed the instrument of surrender and it came into place in May. Bormann was Hitler’s deputy and had been with him at the end. His place of death was wildly speculated on for many years until 1998 when DNA of his supposed remains were confirmed as his.
5/7/1945 – Unconditional surrender of all German forces. The battle for Berlin was over by May 2 and the forces surrounding it had surrendered that day. In the following days the German troops across Europe were surrendering and at 2am on the morning of the 7th May the Chief of Staff of the German Armed Forces high Command, General Afried Jodi signed an unconditional surrender for all German Forces to all the allies. Donitz and Jodi had been pushing for a surrender to just the Western Allies but both Montgomery and Eisenhower dismissed this and threatened to break off all contact with the German generals (Which would have forced them to surrender to the Russians)
5/8/1945 – Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Upon the news that the Germans had surrendered, spontaneous celebration erupted across most of the world. 8th May is celebrated as VE day because the end of operations as officially set for 2301 on My the 8th. Moscow celebrates VE day on 9th May as the operations finished after midnight on Moscow time.
5/23/1945 – SS Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler commits suicide. Himmler had been disavowed by Hitler and declared a traitor for his attempt to take control of the rapidly disintegrating Nazi Reich and open peace negotiations with the Allies. Following this order, he attempted to go into hiding but was detained by the British. He managed to commit suicide in British custody, after swallowing the Cyanide Capsule hidden in his mouth.
6/5/1945 – Allies divide Germany into occupation zones. This document read that ‘The Governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the Provisional Government of the French Republic, hereby assume supreme authority with respect to Germany, including all the powers possessed by the German Government, the High Command and any state, municipal, or local government or authority. The assumption, for the purposes stated above, of the said authority and powers does not affect the annexation of Germany.’
6/26/1945 – United Nations World Charter signed in San Francisco. 50 Countries signed the charter when it was opened and it entered into force on the ratification of the 5 permanent members of the security council in October 1945. It stated that the UN treaty held precedence over. All other treaties and bound its members to work towards world peace and observance of Human Rights.
7/16/1945 – First U.S. atomic bomb tested at Los Alamos, New Mexico; Potsdam Conference begins. Nicknamed Trinity’, the detonation of the first nuclear bomb occurred in the Jornada del Muertos desert. The test was part of the Manhattan project and the bomb was an implosion design plutonium device, nicknamed “The Gadget”. It was of the same design of the Fat Man bomb. The Potsdam Conference was the last major war conference held by the ‘Big Three’. Here the leaders decided how the postwar German government was to be organized, how the war territorial boundaries were to be arranged. It also arranged for the expulsion of Germans who had settled in the annexed Nazi lands, and arranged for the Industrial disarmament, De Nazification, Demilitarization and war reparations as fallouts of the war. The Potsdam agreement was signed on 12 August but the provisions arranged were largely ineffective as France had not been invited to participate and subsequently refused to implement any of the programs arranged.
7/26/1945 – Clement Attlee becomes British Prime Minister. In a surprise victory, Clement Atlee of the Labour party won the United Kingdom General Election and replaced Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. Atlee had served in Churchill’s government of national unity and under his premiership many socialist reforms, including the National Health Service were instigated. Attlee won 239 seats and 47.7% to Churchills 197 seats and 36.2% of the vote. Churchill remained as leader of the opposition and would return as Prime Minister in 1951.
8/6/1945 – First atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Following the successful tests of the Manhattan project device, President Truman ordered, with Churchills consent, the bombing of Hiroshima using the new device. It was the first use of a nuclear bomb in armed conflict. Japan had ignored the calls for the total unconditional surrender of its forces, even when the allies had threatened “prompt and utter destruction”. The allies had sent out orders on the 25th July for the atomic weapons to be used on 4 Japanese Cities. A modified B29 Bomber dropped the Uranium Gum type bomb (nicknames Little boy) on Hiroshima. Between 90-146,000 people died in Hiroshima, with about half dying on the first day. Despite the large military garrison, most of the dead were civilians.
8/8/1945 – Soviet Union declares war on Japan; Soviet forces invade Manchuria. One of the conditions of the Allie’s allegiance was that the Soviet forces would declare war on the Japanese once the Eastern Front had been concluded. Under American pressure, the Soviets duly followed suit and declared War on Japan, matching their diplomatic commitment to an invasion of the Japanese held Manchuria.
8/9/1945 – Second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. ‘Fat Man’, a plutonium, implosion bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days after the bombing at Hiroshima. Again, the bomb caused mass death of civilians and the final death toll was between 39-80,000 people.
8/15/1945 – Unconditional surrender of Japanese forces and. Victory over Japan (VJ) Day. Shortly after the bombings of Nagasaki I and Hiroshima and with the Soviet Union joining the war, the emperor Hirohito intervened and ordered his government to agree to the western terms of surrender. There were a few days of behind the scenes negotiations and even a failed coup but on the 15th the emperor gave the Jewel Voice Broadcast declaring the surrender of Japanese forces.
9/2/1945 – Japanese delegation signs instrument of surrender aboard battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Following the Japanese surrender and the Occupation of Japan on August 28th, the surrender ceremony was held. Officials of the government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. The Second World War was over.
11/20/1945 – Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal begins. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were held after the war to try the prominent members of the Nazi government for their war crimes. There were a significant number of trials that lasted many years. The first and main one, which was held before the International Military Tribunal was described as ‘The greatest trial in History was held between 20th November 1945 and 1st October 1846.
The tribunal tried the 24 most prominent Nazis. Bormann had died in May and was tired in absentia (the allies believed him to still be alive) Robert Ley committed suicide a week into the trial.
The 24 defendants and their punishments were:
- Martin Bormann (Death)
- Karl Donitz (10 years)
- Hans Frank (Death)
- Wilhelm Frick (Death)
- Hans Fritzsche (Acquitted)
- Walther Funk (Life imprisonment)
- Hermann Goring (Death, but committed suicide before his execution)
- Rudolf Hess (Life imprisonment)
- Alfred Jodi (Death)
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner (Death)
- Wilhelm Keitel (Death)
- Gustav Krupp con Bohlen und Halbach (No decision as medically unfit)
- Robert Ley (No decision as he committed suicide before trial)
- Baron Konstantin von Neurath (15 Years)
- Franz Con Papen (Acquitted)
- Erich Raeder (Life imprisonment)
- Joachim von Ribbentrop (death)
- Alfred Rosenberg (Death), Fritz Sauckel (Death)
- Dr. Hjalmar Schacht (Acquitted)
- Baldur von Schirach (20 years)
- Arthur Seuss-Inquart (Death)
- Albert Speer (20 years) and Julius Streicher (death)
After the sentencing, those condemned to death were executed on the 16th of October 1946, whilst those condemned to prison were transferred to Spandau Prison.