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updated 24 October, 2009.
*In 1943, Stalin was still pressing for the opening of another front in
Europe. Eventually, Eisenhower agreed. The plan was to
launch and attack on France from Great Britain. American,
British, Canadian, as well as refugee Polish, Dutch, Belgian, and
French troops massed in southern Britain. Some were set up as
decoys near Dover, so that the Germans reinforced Calais, thinking the
Allies would attack there.
*Instead, the Allies attacked the shores of Normandy. Several
beaches were selected and given code names.
*On 6 June 1944 the D-Day invasion began.
*Americans attacked Utah Beach, not actually landing where they were
supposed to, and Theodore Roosevelt, junior, led a quick and easy
landing. Americans also landed at Omaha beach, where over 2,000
were killed or wounded in minutes, making it the worse part of the
invasion. The British attacked Gold and Sword beaches, and
Canadians attacked Juno beach.
*Although casualties were heavy, half a million troops landed within a
week, and by late July there were 2 million Allied troops in Europe.
*After landing in Normandy in June 1944, the Allies began to move
across France. Although initially slowed down by the bocage,
American troops, especially George Patton’s Third Army, which used
tactics very similar to those of the German blitzkrieg, moved so fast
that their biggest problem was getting so far ahead of their supply
lines that they could not get fuel for their tanks.
*In Paris, the French Resistance started an uprising that threw the
Germans out on 25 August, 1944. After over four years of
occupation, Paris was free.
*A few days later the British and Canadians freed Belgium, and in
September British and American troops moved into the Netherlands, and
even cross the border into Germany.
*After liberating most of Hitler’s conquests in Western Europe, the
attack slowed at the Rhine, as the Germans fought harder in their
Fatherland. Hitler also reinforced the western army with new
recruits, even Hitler Youth as young as 15. In mid-December,
1944, the Germans threw all their force into a massive
counterattack. Hitting the First Army hard, the Germans pushed
deep into the centre of Allies, creating a bulge in the line.
This and the lengthy series of battles that followed was therefore
known as the Battle of the Bulge. Many Allied troops in small
groups were cut off from the rest of the Allies, the most famous being
a detachment of the 101st Airborne trapped at Bastogne, who, when asked
to surrender, replied ‘Nuts.’ They held out until rescued by
*In the ensuing weeks, First and Third Armies pushed the Germans back,
and began to move into Germany again. Lasting from 16 December
1944 to 25 January 1945, the Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle
on the Western Front and the largest single battle ever fought by the
US Army, involving 600,000 GIs, with 80,000 American casualties, and an
estimated 100,000 German casualties.
*In the East, the Soviets were also pushing into German territories,
both Germany’s allies and conquered nations, and into Germany
herself. After the fall of Stalingrad, the German army had been
repeatedly pushed back. About 3 million Germans and 11 million
Soviet soldiers died on this front. After this struggle, the
Soviets wanted to take Berlin as a matter of honour, and fought hard
for it, often house by house as the Germans fell back.
*This was a problem for the Allies. Although Stalin was very
useful to us, he was still a Communist, and an evil, tyrannical,
murderous dictator. We did not want him occupying too much of
Europe, so as he pushed west we pushed east, meeting at the Elbe River
near the centre of Germany on 25 April 1945.
*With the war almost over, the Allies had to decide what to do.
In February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met at Yalta in the
Crimea in the USSR. There they agreed to divide both Germany and
the city of Berlin into four occupation zones, for Britain, America,
France, and the USSR. They also made plans whereby Stalin would
allow free elections in the other Eastern European countries he
occupied after driving the Nazis out. Stalin also promised to
enter the war against Japan three months after Germany’s surrender.
*As the Soviets surrounded Berlin and moved through its streets, Hitler
refused to flee the city. He holed up in a bunker deep
underground, where he committed suicide on 30 April 1945. The
German U-boat commander, Admiral Karl Dönitz, was named the next
Führer of the Third Reich on 1 May and on 7 May 1945, he offered
Germany’s unconditional surrender. This is known as V-E Day.
*Not long after the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, America began a
*America’s main strategy in 1943 and 1944 was called
island-hopping. Americans would attack and seize Japanese-held
islands they thought they could take or that were important, and left
others behind, using the navy and tactics much like the German wolf
packs to prevent them from being re-supplied. Each time the US
took another island, it created another base on which to store supplies
and from which to launch future attacks.
*These campaigns were horrible for both sides. The Japanese would
not surrender. Of 31,629 Japanese on Saipan (one of the Mariana
Islands), approximately 29,500 died. Only 2,100 prisoners survived,
many of these only because they were too wounded to take their own
lives or they ran out of the means with which to kill themselves before
being over-run. Even civilians gave their lives for the Emperor,
refusing to surrender, in part because they assumed Americans would
treat them as badly as they would have treated Americans. In the
case of Japanese soldiers that might be true—Americans often shot them
rather than take them prisoner. Civilians, though, were treated
fairly, but most did not know this. On Saipan, civilians killed
themselves by holding on to hand grenades or by jumping off cliffs to
their deaths, even mothers holding infant children. Supposedly
there were so many bodies off the coast of Saipan after its capture
that the Navy had a hard time navigating the waters.
*After capturing the Mariana Islands, the US was close enough to Japan
to begin bombing her. The US bombed every major city and
industrial area flat, both to destroy Japan’s industry and to terrify
her people. Whereas the US did not use firebombs in Europe, they
did in Japan, creating terrible firestorms, killing 100,000 people in
one night in Tokyo, on just one of many occasions.
*By the end of the war, the Japanese economy was so badly injured that
Japanese school children made huge balloons out of paper and glue,
which the military then tied to bombs, and cast into the air, hoping
they might fly across the ocean and all on the US. Besides
starting one forest fire on the Pacific Coast, these did no harm.
*In October 1944 Americans invaded the Philippines. MacArthur
landed on the beach and announced for the benefit of the news cameras,
‘People of the Philippines, I have returned.’
*As part of the reconquest of the Philippines, the Americans faced a
new weapon, the kamikaze. More than any other Japanese soldier,
these suicide pilots were ready to die for the Emperor by diving
bomb-laden planes into American ships. Despite this, the
Americans won the battle. Of 80,000 Japanese in the Philippines,
1,000 were captured, and the rest would die bravely fighting on into
*As Americans got closer to the Home Islands, the Japanese resistance
grew stronger. In the Battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945,
Americans won 27 Medals of Honor, the most in any campaign. Of
25,000 Japanese on the island, 216 were take prisoner, and it took
110,000 men to beat them. When the island was taken, the Marines
raised the flag on the peak of Mount Suribachi.
*The last island before hitting Japan itself was Okinawa. It was
defended by 100,000 troops who swore to defend it to the death.
The US gathered 1,300 warships and 180,000 combat troops, making the
invasion second only to that at Normandy. 2,000 kamikaze attacks
were made on American ships. The battle lasted from April to June
1945, and 50,000 Americans were killed or wounded and only 7,200 of
100,000 Japanese surrendered.
*The home islands were next. The problem was that the Japanese
fought so hard, and were willing to die to the last man. Military
experts said it might take three million men or more just to start the
invasion and that one third of them would be killed and wounded.
*Fortunately, America had an alternative. In 1939, FDR had gotten
a letter from Albert Einstein, telling him about the possibility of a
new kind of bomb of terrible power powered by splitting the atom.
Eisenhower said he thought the Germans were building one, and that the
US needed to, too. Furthermore, Einstein would help get
physicists to work on the project. Roosevelt agreed, and under
top secret security, scientists worked on the Manhattan Project, trying
to make an atomic bomb. There were four major sites for
this. The first research and tests were done at the University of
Chicago. Once they knew a bomb could be made, they needed
fuel. Plutonium was refined at Hanford, Washington, and uranium
in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The bombs were assembled in Los Alamos,
New Mexico, and tested nearby at Alamogordo. This was the most
powerful bomb ever built. The qestion was: should it be
used on Japan?
*In April, 1945, just over a month after winning his fourth
presidential election, FDR had died of a brain hemorrhage while on
vacation at Warm Springs, Georgia, and Harry Truman became
president. The atom bomb was a surprise to him, and he only knew
it as a powerful weapon. Under the advice of experts, he chose to
use it for three main reasons:
1. To end the war with as few American casualties as
possible. The invasion of Japan was expected to cost one million
killed and wounded.
2. To end the war quickly before the USSR could get
involved and end up sharing Japan with the US.
3. To test the bomb on a real target.
*On 6 August 1945, the Enola Gay dropped a uranium bomb on Hiroshima,
killing about 80,000 Japanese and later infecting many with radiation
*On 9 August, another plane dropped the plutonium bomb on Nagasaki,
*On 14 August, Japan surrendered on the one condition that they could
keep their emperor, the next day Americans celebrated V-J Day, and on 2
September, 1945 the Japanese formally signed the surrender agreement,
ending the Second World War.