World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

1923 - Hitler spearheaded an attempt to take over the German government through a putsch (a coup), called the Beer Hall Putsch.

 The coup failed and Hitler was caught and sentenced to five years in jail.
  Whilst he was in Landsberg prison he wrote his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle).  Hitler was released from prison after only nine months. After his release, Hitler was determined to strengthen the Nazi Party in the attempt to take over the German government legally.

 1933

January 30th - Hitler appointed as Chancellor


Feb 27th: The Reichstag building, seat of the German government, burns after being set on fire by Nazis. This enabled Adolf Hitler to seize power under the pretext of protecting the nation from threats to its security.

May 12th: First concentration camp opens: Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung) guards oversee prisoners who are carrying a tub near the entrance to the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1933. The SA was eventually replaced by Himmler's SS as the concentration camp system expanded to house an ever increasing number of political opponents and Jews, arrested and imprisoned without a trial or any right of appeal. The first camps included; Dachau in southern Germany near Munich, Buchenwald in central Germany near Weimar, and Sachsenhausen near Berlin in the north.

See Concentration Camps


1934

August 2nd - Paul von Hindenburg (President) died. 
Hitler took the title of Führer and Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor).

1937

Air Raid Precautions (ARP) - In April 1937,   an Air Raid Wardens' Service  was created.

1938


March - Hitler was able to annex Austria into Germany (called the Anschluss).

16th May, In anticipation of  WW2,  Women's Voluntary Service for Air Raid Precautions was established by Lady Reading. Sept 29th - Munich Agreement.

Danzig:

Germany invaded Poland on September 1 after having signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in late August. The German attack began in Danzig, with a bombardment of Polish positions at Westerplatte by the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, and the landing of German infantry on the peninsula. Outnumbered Polish defenders at Westerplatte resisted for seven days before running out of ammunition. Meanwhile, after a fierce day-long fight (1 September 1939), defenders of the Polish Post office were murdered and buried on the spot in the Danzig quarter of Zaspa in October 1939. To celebrate the surrender of Westerplatte, the NSDAP organized a night parade on September 7 along the Adolf-Hitlerstrasse that was inadvertently attacked by a Polish hydroplane taking off from Hel Peninsula. The city was officially annexed by Nazi Germany and incorporated into the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia.

In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, met Adolf Hitler at his home in Berchtesgaden. Hitler proposed invading Czechoslovakia unless Britain supported Germany's plans to takeover the Sudetenland. After some discussion  with  Edouard Daladier (France) and Eduard Benes (Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain told Hitler that his proposals were unacceptable.


Peace In Our Time

The phrase "peace for our time" was spoken on 30 September 1938 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration.

Less than a year after the agreement, following continued aggression from Germany and its invasion of Poland, Europe was plunged into World War II.

It is unknown how deliberate Chamberlain's use of such a similar term was, but anyone of his background would be familiar with the original.

Kristallnacht -- literally, "Night of Crystal," is often referred to as the "Night of Broken Glass." The name refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938 throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops. Instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, Kristallnacht owes its name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom-broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence.

1939

Conscription introduced in Britain on 27th April. Evacuation started on 1st September. Hitler invades Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declare war on Germany two days later. Battle of the Atlantic began in December.  HMS Royal Oak torpedoed on 13th October -833 lives lost.
Women's Land Army came into existence in June - lasted until 1950
  • Reserved Occupations 1939 - 1948: included railway and dockworkers, miners, farmers, agricultural workers, schoolteachers and doctors.
  • Ministry of Food established one week after outbreak of war.

 Start of WW2 - Sept 3rd

Three years of mounting international tension - encompassing the Spanish Civil War, the Anschluss (union) of Germany and Austria, Hitler's occupation of the Sudetenland and the invasion of Czechoslovakia - culminated in the German invasion of Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later.

While the USA proclaimed neutrality, it continued to supply Britain with essential supplies, and the critical Battle of the Atlantic between German U-Boats and British naval convoys commenced.

Western Europe was eerily quiet during this 'phoney war'. Preparations for war continued in earnest, but there were few signs of conflict, and civilians who had been evacuated from London in the first months drifted back into the city. Gas masks were distributed, and everybody waited for the proper war to begin.
In eastern Europe and Scandinavia, however, there was nothing phoney about the war.
With the Ribbentrop Pact signed between the Soviet Union and Germany in

late August, Russia followed Germany into Poland in September. That country was carved up between the two invaders before the end of the year, and Russia continued this aggression by going on to invade Finland.
Ministry of Food established one week after outbreak of war.

1940

Rationing was introduced in Britain on May 10th. 

Little happened in western Europe until the spring. The 'winter war' between Russia and Finland concluded in March, and in the following month Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

Denmark surrendered immediately, but the Norwegians fought on - with British and French assistance - surrendering in June only once events in France meant that they were fighting alone.

On 10 May - the same day that Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister of the UK - Germany invaded France, Belgium and Holland, and western Europe encountered the Blitzkrieg - or 'lightning war'.

Germany's combination of fast armoured tanks on land, and superiority in the air, made a unified attacking force that was both innovative and effective. Despite greater numbers of air and army personnel - and the presence of the British Expeditionary Force - the Low Countries and France proved no match for the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. Holland and Belgium fell by the end of May; Paris was taken two weeks later.

British troops retreated from the invaders in haste, and some 226,000 British and 110,000 French troops were rescued from the channel port of Dunkirk only by a ragged fleet, using craft that ranged from pleasure boats to Navy destroyers.

In France an armistice was signed with Germany, with the puppet French Vichy government - under a hero of World War One, Marshall Pétain - in control in the 'unoccupied' part of southern and eastern France, and Germany in control in the rest of the country.

Charles de Gaulle, as the leader of the Free French, fled to England (much to Churchill's chagrin) to continue the fight against Hitler . But it looked as if that fight might not last too long. Having conquered France, Hitler turned his attention to Britain, and began preparations for an invasion. For this to be successful, however, he needed air superiority, and he charged the Luftwaffe with destroying British air power and coastal defences.

The Battle of Britain, lasting from July to September, was the first to be fought solely in the air. Germany lacked planes but had many pilots. In Britain, the situation was reversed, but - crucially - it also had radar. This, combined with the German decision to switch the attacks from airfields and factories to the major cities, enabled the RAF to squeak a narrow victory, maintain air superiority and ensure the - ultimately indefinite - postponement of the German invasion plans.

The 'Blitz' of Britain's cities lasted throughout the war, saw the bombing of Buckingham Palace and the near-destruction of Coventry, and claimed some 40,000 civilian lives.


'Blitzkrieg' overwhelms Belgium, Holland and France.


  • 9th April - Norway Campaign
  • 10th April, Narvik Naval Battle.
  • 10th May, Britain garrisons Iceland.
  • 14th May - Formation of Home Guard.
  • 21st May - Battle of Arras (Northern France).
  • 22nd May - Battle for Calais and Boulogne.
  • 26 May - 4 June - British Expeditionary Force evacuated from Dunkirk.
  • 4 - 12 June - Battle for St Valéry-en-Caux (Northerne France)'
  • June - Siege of Malta starts.
  • 17th June - Britain's worst maritime disaster - bombing of HMT Lancastria.
  • July - September - British victory in Battle of Britain forces Hitler to postpone invasion plans.

  • 28th June - Channel Islands invaded.
  • 3 - 6 July, Mers-el-Kebir (Algerian Coast): following Vichey alliance with Germany
  • August - Italy invades British Somaliland (East Africa).
  • 7 Sept - 11 May 41 - Blitz on London.
  • Sept 1940 - Italy invades Egypt.
  • Sept - Destroyers for bases agreement between Roosevelt and Churchill.
  • 11 November - British raid Taranto Italy, soon to become a blueprint for Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour.
  • 9th Dec - Battle of Sidi Barrani (North Africa) - allies defeat Italians.

 

1940-41

Following the 76 (apart from one night - 2nd November - too cloudy for bombing) consecutive days/nights raids on London (between 7th  September and 22November),  this came on the 29th of December: The "Second Great Fire of London" became a synonym for one of the most vicious air raids of the London Blitz over the nights of 29 December/30 December 1940. The raid and the subsequent fire destroyed an area believed to be greater than that of the Great Fire of London of 1666.

Around 1500 fires were set, including three major infernos which led to causing a firestorm. The largest continuous area of Blitz destruction anywhere in Britain occurred on this night, which stretched  from Islington to the  edge of St Paul's Churchyard.

 

The Attack on Sheffield

The 12th of December Raid

The yellow alert was received at 6.15pm followed by the purple alert at 6.45pm, then red alert at 7pm. The raid was made by three main groups of aircraft tavelling from northern France. 13 Heinkel 111s from Kampfgruppe 100, the German Pathfinder unit arrived over Sheffield at 7.41 p.m. and dropped 16 SC50 high explosive bombs, 1,009 B1 E1 ZA incendiaries and 10,080 B1 E1 incendiaries. The first incendiaries were dropped over Norton Lees and Gleadless.

The 15th December Attack

The second attack saw the first use of a new German policy for their pathfinders. High Explosive bombs were no longer carried but were replaced by incendiaries. On this night the pathfinder force was made up of 16 Heinkel 111s that dropped 11,520 B1 E1 incendiaries between 7 p.m. and 7.50 p.m. The 15 large and numerous small fires started were visible from 90 miles away.


 

The Attack on Coventry

Although there had been previous smaller raids on Coventry, during the Battle of Britain in July and August 1940 which killed a few dozen people, much fewer than the those in cities such as London and Birmingham, the raid that began on of 14 November 1940 was the worst to hit Coventry during the war. It was carried out by 515 German bombers. The attack, was meant to destroy Coventry's factories and, although it was clear that damage to the rest of the city, including monuments and residential areas, would be substantial. The initial wave of 13 specially modified aircraft, were equipped with X-Gerät navigational devices, which accurately dropped marker flares.


The raid destroyed or damaged about 60,000 buildings in the centre of Coventry, and is known to have killed 568 civilians. During the raid, the Germans dropped about 500 tonnes of high explosives, including 50 parachute air-mines, of which 20 were incendiary petroleum mines, and 36,000 incendiary bombs.

 

Attack on Hull 

The Northern English port city of Kingston upon Hull, is almost invariably referred to as Hull. Air raids began in Hull on 19 June 1940 and continued until 1945; the city spent more than 1,000 hours under alert.

It suffered heavy bombing from May 1941 to July 1943,

Liverpool Blitz 

The Liverpool Blitz was the heavy and sustained bombing of the city of Liverpool and its surrounding area, in the United Kingdom, during the Second World War by the German Luftwaffe


The Christmas Blitz

The first major air raids began towards the end of 1940 against Liverpool and Wirral, with over 300 casualties sustained to air raids by the end of the year. 365 people were killed between 20 – 22 December often due to direct hits on air raid shelters; for example one shelter in Durning Road was destroyed with the loss of 166 lives and in the north of the city in the early hours of 29 November 1940, 40 died when a bomb struck railway arches on Bentinck Street, where local people were sheltering.

The bombing decreased in severity after the New Year.

The May Attack

The first bomb landed upon Wallasey, Wirral, at 22:15 on 1 May.The peak of the bombing occurred from 1 – 7 May 1941.

One incident on 3 May involved the SS Malakand, berthed in the Huskisson Dock.


Today one of the most vivid symbols of the Liverpool Blitz is the burnt outer shell of St Luke's Church, located in the city centre, which was destroyed by an incendiary bomb on 5 May 1941.


Blitz on Birmingham

 The Birmingham Blitz was the heavy bombing by the Nazi German Luftwaffe of the city of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, beginning on 9 August 1940 and ending on 23 April 1943. Overall, around 2,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Birmingham making it the fourth most heavily bombed city in the United Kingdom in World War II, behind only London, Hull and Liverpool.


 1941

With continental Europe under Nazi control, and Britain safe - for the time being - the war took on a more global dimension. Following the defeat of Mussolini's armies in Greece and Tobruk, German forces arrived in North Africa in February, and invaded Greece and Yugoslavia in April.

While the bombing of British and German cities continued, and the gas chambers at Auschwitz were put to use, Hitler invaded Russia . Operation Barbarossa, as the invasion was called, began on 22 June. The initial advance was swift, with the fall of Sebastopol at the end of October, and Moscow coming under attack at the end of the year.

The bitter Russian winter, however, like the one that Napoleon had experienced a century and a half earlier, crippled the Germans. The Soviets counterattacked in December and the Eastern Front stagnated until the spring.

Winter in the Pacific, of course, presented no such problems. The Japanese, tired of American trade embargoes, mounted a surprise attack on the US Navy base of Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, on 7 December.

This ensured that global conflict commenced, with Germany declaring war on the US, a few days later. Within a week of Pearl Harbor, Japan had invaded the Philippines, Burma and Hong Kong. The Pacific war was on.


 

  • Allies take Tobruk in North Africa, and resist German attacks.
  • 19th January - East Africa Campaign - allies defeat Italians.
  • 28th March - Battle of Cape Matapan (coast of Greece) - Italians defeated.
  • 31st March - Siege of Tobruk (Cyrenaica, Libya).
  • 6 April - Greece Campaign.
  • 30 April - Iraq and Habbaniya.
  • 15 May - Operation Brevity (North Africa)
  • 20 May - Battle for Crete.
  • 24 May - HMS Hood sunk by Bismarck in Denmark Strait.
  • 27 May - Bismarck sunk in North Atlantic.
  • 8 June - Syrian Campaigh (North Africa).
  • 15 June - Operation Battleaxe (Cyrenaica, Libya).
  • 8th August - Placentia Bay Conference (Newfoundland) between Churchill & Roosevelt - creation of  Anglo-American alliance.
  • 25th August - Invasion of Persia (now Iran).
  • 18th November - Operation Crusador (Cyrenaica, Libya).
  • December 41 to May 45 - Burma Campaign (South east Asia).
  • Dec 41 - Declaration of war on Finland - Britain at war with Finland, Romania and Hungary.
  • 8 Dec - US declares war on Japan.
  • 8 Dec - Fall of Hong Kong to Japan.
  • 8 Dec - Fall of Malaya & Singapore.
  • 10th Dec - HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse sunk (off coast of Malaya).
  • 15 Dec - Invasion of British Borneo - captured by Japan. 
  • 22nd Dec to 14 Jan 42 - Washington Conference - Churchill & Roosevelt.

The Final Solution

How to get rid of the Jews was a question answered by Adolf Hitler. His answer was to murder Jews throughout Europe along with other races that were believed to be sub-humans. This answer was called the “Final Solution,” a solution that started in the summer of 1941 and was believed to answer the “Jewish Question” and create an end to the Jews.  


Hitler first explained and thought about his “solution” since 1919. Hitler believed his race was pure, which was the Aryan race.

Wanting to protect racial purity, he then thought about getting rid of all Jews throughout Europe, along with other races he believed to be sub-human, including Slavs, Gypsies, Homosexuals, the mentally ill and disabled people. Shortly after 1933, Hitler and his Nazi party obtained power in Germany and tried to force Jewish emigration. In 1938, the Nazis defended the Jewish Policy by threatening and taking away some privileges hoping for them to leave. Some countries did not accept them, sending almost all of them back to Germany. Hitler, having a great amount of power, along with his army, had almost total control over Europe. The Nazis considered the “Jewish Question” no longer a German issue, but a European issue.

It was decided. Hitler had to reason with the Jews one way or an other. He had to carry out his idea of the “Final Solution” and make it a reality. Germany then invaded the Soviet Union to gather up more Jews. They collected as many Jews as they could grab a hold of. Hitler had sent SS (Schutzstaffel) units to search town to town throughout most of Europe to track down all the Jews in their path. Some Jews were killed right there on the spot, but most were sent to death camps built by Nazi’s and still under construction. They were going to be sent to Auschwitz, and other death camps where mass murder would shortly begin. The “Final Solution” was in progress, and the answer to solve the “Jewish Question” had begun.

Having the “Final Solution” in progress, The Germans began to kill Jews using simple methods at first. They fired at them with guns and put the bodies in pits. This did not work well as planned, it killed very few using too much time. By fall 1941, techniques were developed. With amounts of death camps, the number of Jews being assassinated greatly increased. They were sent to camps by trainloads as if they were animals. Load by load, they were all killed each day and it continued for quite a time. Many Jews died from starvation or were often killed in concentration camps. Unlike death camps, more than 6,000 died from Gas Chambers alone, each day. Gas Chambers consisted of the poisonous chemicals known as Zyclon B. After instant death, the bodies were gathered and thrown into crematoriums where they burned. Some bodies were even pushed by bulldozers into the giant pits, many Jews also died by failing physical tests, checked by SS doctors, known as selections. The weak and the ill often died. Having a doctor raise a single hand, another life was gone. The ones who failed, were sent to showers. Not knowing, the showerheads were fake. The doors were shut on them, and they were poisoned by cyanide gas that poured from the showerheads. The bodies were later burned as well. The “Final Solution” appeared to be successful for Hitler and was continued throughout the war.

Read more on this on the Concentration Camps page

  • Feb & April, Pacific War Council formed (Washington DC & London).
  • Germany suffers setbacks at Stalingrad and El Alamein.
  • Singapore falls to the Japanese in February - around 25,000 prisoners taken.
  • American naval victory at Battle of Midway, in June, marks turning point in Pacific War.
  • Mass murder of Jewish people at Auschwitz begins.
  • 11 - 12th Feb - Channel Dash.
  • 27 Feb - Battle of Java Sea (in Pacific (between Java & Borneo).
  • 27 to 28th Feb - Bruneval raid (north east France)
  • March - Cripps visit to India.
  • 28 March - St Nazaire Raid (Normandie Dock, France).
  • March to April - Raid in Indian Ocean.
  • 23rd April - Baedeker  Raids (Home Front).
  • 5th May - Madagascar captured.
  • 26th May - Anglo-Soviet Treaty.
  • 26 May - Battle of Gazala (Cyrenaica, Libyia).
  • 30 May - Thousand Bomber Raid (Western Eutope).
  • 27th June - PQ 17- attack on 37 Merchant ships near Norway,
  • July - Start of building of Burma railway which lef to the deaths of 13,000 POW's and 70,000 civilian workers.
  • 1 to 4th July, First battle of El Alamein in Egypt.
  • 19th Aug - Port of Dieppe (France) raided.
  • 30 Aug - Battle of Alam Halfa (Egypt).
  • 23rd October - second battle of El Alamein (Egypt).
  • Nov - The Beveridge Report (UK) by Sir William Beveridge - led to formation of Social Security and NHS.
  • 8 Nov - Allied landings in French North Africa (Morocco. Algeria & Tunisia). 
  • Dec - Arakan Offensive (Southern Burma).

1942

The first Americans arrived in England in January - 'Over paid, over sexed and over here' as the gripe went - and in North Africa Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps began their counter-offensive, capturing Tobruk in June.

The Blitz intensified in both England and Germany, with the first thousand-bomber air raid on Cologne, and German bombing of British cathedral cities.

In the Pacific, the Japanese continued their expansion into Borneo, Java and Sumatra. The 'unassailable' British fortress of Singapore fell rapidly in February, with around 25,000 prisoners taken, many of whom would die in Japanese camps in the years to follow.

But June saw the peak of Japanese expansion. The Battle of Midway, in which US sea-based aircraft destroyed four Japanese carriers and a cruiser, marked the turning point in the Pacific War.

The second half of the year also saw a reversal of German fortunes. British forces under Montgomery gained the initiative in North Africa at El Alamein, and Russian forces counterattacked at Stalingrad. The news of mass murders of Jewish people by the Nazis reached the Allies, and the US pledged to avenge these crimes.


 


Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway, fought in June 1942, must be considered one of the most decisive battles of World War Two. The Battle of Midway effectively destroyed Japan’s naval strength when the Americans destroyed four of its aircraft carriers. Japan’s navy never recovered from its mauling at Midway and it was on the defensive after this battle. The end of May saw intense activity in the port of Pearl Harbour. The carriers 'Enterprise' and 'Hornet' had moored there and were shortly joined by the battle-damaged 'Yorktown' - damage sustained at the recent Battle of Coral Sea. On May 28th, Task Force 16 sailed led by the 'Enterprise'. This force was commanded by Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance. The 'USS Enterprise' was accompanied by six cruisers, nine destroyers and two tankers. On May 30th, the newly repaired 'Yorktown' also left Pearl Harbour to rendezvous with the 'Enterprise' at 'Point Luck' some 350 miles from Midway Island.
The Commander-in-Chief Pacific, Admiral Chester Nimitz, had received intelligence that the Japanese, after what could be deemed the failure at Coral Sea, was out for a decisive battle against the American Navy. Nimitz knew that they wanted to capture Midway Island, on the western extremity of the Hawaiian islands, to further extend their control of the Pacific.
Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, believed that Japan would only gain control of the Pacific after an all-out naval battle with the Americans in which, according to Yamamoto's plan, America would suffer a defeat, leaving Japan free to conquer at will and consolidate her conquests. Yamamoto also believed, correctly as it turned out, that Nimitz would not avoid a major naval battle with the Japanese.
Yamamoto's plan for the attack on Midway was complex and relied on perfect timing and diversionary tactics to lure parts of the American force away from Yamamoto's main battle fleet. It also required that four out of Japan's eight aircraft carriers were in the vicinity. The Japanese fleet also included the biggest battleship in the world, the 'Yamato' the smaller battleships 'Nagato' and 'Mutsu', and numerous cruisers and destroyers. Yamamoto's plan was ingenious but too intricate. It also contained two defects:
1) Yamamoto believed in the supremacy of the battleship. He failed to realise that an aircraft carrier could deliver a massive blow to the enemy but at a much greater distance than a battleship could. Yamamoto saw the aircraft carrier as supporting the battleship rather than the other way round. His huge battleships were also slower than any other warship he had and the rest of his fleet had to sail at a pace that suited the battleships.
2) Far more fatal to Yamamoto was the fact that the Americans knew his course of action. Admirals Spruance and Fletcher had their ships waiting for an attack and Yamamoto's plan to lure American ships away from their main body clearly would not work if the Americans knew that this was his intent.
Spruance and Fletcher had rendezvoused on June 2nd with Fletcher taking control of the two task forces. It is believed that Yamamoto had no idea that he was sailing towards such a large force and his diversionary attacks on Dutch Harbour had failed to lure any part of Task Forces 16 and 17 away from where they were.
The first US attacks took place after a Catalina flying boat, on patrol, spotted the Japanese main fleet. Land based B-17 bombers attacked the fleet and claimed to have sunk two battleships. In fact, the ships that were spotted were transport ships and tankers and no hits were scored by the B-17's. This occurred 800 miles from Fletcher's task force and he realised from the intelligence reports he had that, that such incidents were peripheral to the main task he had. Fletcher knew that the Japanese carriers were just 400 miles from his force. During the night of June 3rd, Fletcher moved the two task forces 200 miles north of Midway - something the Japanese would not know about - thus setting up his scouting force for "one of the great decisive battles in history". (Captain D Macintyre)
Early on June 4th, both fleets launched some of their planes primarily for scouting missions. The Japanese also prepared a number of dive-bombers and escort Zero fighters for an actual attack on Midway. At 05.34, the Americans received a report from their scout planes that the Japanese main fleet, including the carriers, was 200 miles west-south-west of the 'Yorktown'. Fletcher ordered Spruance to sail in a south-westerly direction with Task Force 16. The American carriers 'Enterprise' and 'Hornet' steamed away with their escorts.
Midway was attacked by Japanese planes at 06.16 with power plants and oil installations being the main target. Ten torpedo-bombers had taken off from Midway to attack the Japanese carriers. However, the defence of these ships was such that none scored a hit and only three planes returned to Midway. Another attack by B-17's from 20,000 feet and Vindicator scout-bombers also failed to find their target - though this attack had achieved one result as many Zero fighters were put into the air to protect the fleet. Now they needed to be re-fuelled and re-armed which left the Japanese fleet commanded by Nagumo very vulnerable as it had neither fighter cover nor were his carriers in a position to do a great deal other than re-equip the planes.
It was at this moment, when his carriers were all-but defenceless against an air attack, that Nagumo received news of an incoming aerial attack from planes from both the 'Hornet' and 'Enterprise'. All that Spruance had left behind were sufficient planes to give his ships aerial cover - the rest were sent to attack the Japanese fleet. Spruance's planes first left the fleet at 07.52 led by Lieutenant-Commander McClusky. In all, 67 Dauntless dive- bombers, 29 Devastator torpedo-bombers and 20 Wildcat fighters were involved. However, they were spread out over a large area and communication between the flight leaders was difficult. In essence, four separate squadrons advanced on the Japanese. Unknown to them, Nagumo had changed course and when the planes arrived at the point that they believed the Japanese would be at - they found nothing. Some planes searched in vain; a lot of the fighters had to ditch as they simply ran out of fuel. However, the torpedo squadrons, flying low over the water, did find the Japanese carriers - but they had no fighter cover for the attack.
Regardless of this, the attack went ahead despite the extreme danger of it. Lieutenant-Commander Waldron, in his final message to his squadron, had written:

"My greatest hope is that we encounter a

favourable tactical situation, but if we don't,

I want each of us to do our utmost to destroy

the enemies. If there is only one plane to make

a final run in, I want that man to go in and get a hit.

May God be with us."



The attack was met with fearsome fire from the carriers escort ships and over 50 Zeros attacked. Very few torpedoes were fired and none hit their target. Only one pilot survived the onslaught.
Another attack also failed but it served a purpose of concentrating the focus of the Japanese on these torpedo squadrons. The Japanese defenders failed to notice dive-bombers flying at a much higher altitude. With their decks crammed with planes about to take off, the Japanese carriers were tempting targets. The first attack took out the flight deck of the flagship 'Akagi' detonating a store of torpedoes. The flames soon reached fuel supplies and within minutes the 'Akagi' was doomed, though it was another seven hours before the ship was abandoned. Other dive bombers attacked the 'Kaga'. Here again, fuel was soon ignited and the ship suffered severe damage, even if it took two hours to sink. More dive-bombers attacked the 'Soryu' with the same deadly impact. Only three bombs actually hit the 'Soryu' but they did enough damage for the captain, Yanaginoto, to order that the ship be abandoned. Like the 'Kaga' it continued afloat for some  hours but was doomed. The 'Soryu' went down at 19.13 along with her captain, Yanaginoto and 718 of her crew.
In the space of five minutes, the Japanese Navy had lost half of its carrier force, ships that were deemed to be crewed by the Navy's elite.
However, one carrier was left - the 'Hiryu'. This was found and attacked with the same devastating consequences as the other three carriers. However, it was planes from the 'Hiryu' that had attacked the 'Yorktown' and disabled it so badly that at 15.00 the order was given to abandon ship. This order may well have been premature because the carrier was still afloat on June 7th and there were high hopes that she could be towed in for repairs. However, a Japanese submarine, I-168, managed to penetrate the American fleet and with two torpedoes sunk the 'Yorktown' at 06.00 on June 7th.
The consequences of the Battle of Midway for the Japanese were huge. At a stroke they had lost four vital aircraft carriers that were considered to be vital for the Pacific campaign. Whereas the Americans could replace the 'Yorktown', the Japanese would have found it very difficult to replace one carrier, let alone four. Regardless of finding new carriers, experienced crew would also be needed and the Japanese had lost many experienced crewmen during the battle.



USS Yorktown 


Akagi 

1943

February saw German surrender at Stalingrad: the first major defeat of Hitler's armies. Battle continued to rage in the Atlantic, and one four-day period in March saw 27 merchant vessels sunk by German U-boats.

A combination of long-range aircraft and the codebreakers at Bletchley, however, were inflicting enormous losses on the U-boats. Towards the end of May Admiral Dönitz withdrew the German fleet from the contended areas - the Battle of the Atlantic was effectively over.

In mid-May German and Italian forces in North Africa surrendered to the Allies, who used Tunisia as a springboard to invade Sicily in July. By the end of the month Mussolini had fallen, and in September the Italians surrendered to the Allies, prompting a German invasion into northern Italy.

Mussolini was audaciously rescued by a German task force, led by Otto Skorzeny, and established a fascist republic in the north. German troops also engaged the Allies in the south - the fight through Italy was to prove slow and costly.

In the Pacific, US forces overcame the Japanese at Guadalcanal, and British and Indian troops began their guerrilla campaign in Burma. American progress continued in the Aleutian Islands, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

As the Russian advance on the Eastern Front gathered pace, recapturing Kharkov and Kiev from Germany, Allied bombers began to attack German cities in enormous daylight air raids. The opening of the Second Front in Europe, long discussed and always postponed, was being prepared for the following year.


 

  • 14 - 24th Jan - Casablanca Conference - Churchill, Roosevelt, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Eisenhower & Alexander.
  • 1 to 12th of March - Washington Convoy Conference.
  • Surrender at Stalingrad marks Germany's first major defeat.
  • Allied victory in North Africa enables invasion of Italy to be launched.
  • Italy surrenders, but Germany takes over the battle.
  • British and Indian forces fight Japanese in Burma (Chindit Operation).
  • 14 Feb - Battle of Medenine (Tunisia).
  • 5 March - Rurh Air Offensive (Western Europe).
  • 11th March - Battle of Mareth line (Tunisia).
  • 19th April - Bermuda Conference - agreed refugee camp for Jews in North Africa. 
  • 11 - 25th May - 2nd Washington Conference. 
  • 16th May - Dambusters Raid.  - Ruhr Valley.
  • 10th July - Allied landings in Sicily.
  • 24th July - Hamburg Offensive - devastation of city of Hamburg.
  • 17th Aug - Peenemunde raid - destruction of much of Germany's V-weapon facility. 
  • 17th August - First Quebec Conference. US & UK agreed no nuclear attacks without mutual consent.
  • 3rd September - Allied landings in Italy.
  • 9th September - Dodecanese Islands Campaigh- Mediterranean
  • 18 Oct - 1st Moscow Conference (in London). UK, USA, USSR & China.
  • 18 Nov - Berlin Air Offensive.
  • 23rd Nov - Cairo Conference - Churchill, Roosevelt & Chiang Kai-sheck (Chinese President).
  • 28th Nov - Tehran Conference - in Tehran - Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. 
  • 26th December - Scharnhorst sunk by Royal Navy.

Battle of the Ruhr 

The Battle of the Ruhr was a 5-month long campaign of strategic bombing during the Second World War against the Nazi Germany Ruhr Area, which had coke plants, steelworks, and 10 synthetic oil plants. The campaign bombed twenty-six major Combined Bomber Offensive targets. The targets included the Krupp armament works (Essen), the Nordstern synthetic-oil plant (Gelsenkirchen), and the Rheinmetal-Borsig plant in Düsseldorf. The latter was safely evacuated during the Battle of the Ruhr. Although not strictly part of the Ruhr area, the battle of the Ruhr included other cities such as Cologne which were within the Rhine-Ruhr region and considered part of the same "industrial complex". Some targets were not sites of heavy industrial production but part of the production and movement of materiel.

Although the Ruhr had always been a target for the RAF from the start of the war, the organized defences and the large amount of industrial pollutants produced that gave a semi-permanent smog or industrial haze hampered accurate bombing. Before the Battle of the Ruhr ended, Operation Gomorrah began the "Battle of Hamburg". Even after this switch of focus to Hamburg, there would be further raids on the Ruhr area by the RAF—in part to keep German defences dispersed, just as there had been raids on areas other than the Ruhr during the battle.

Offence and defence



The British bomber force was made up in the main of the twin-engined Vickers Wellington medium bomber and the four-engined "heavies", the Short Stirling, Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster. The Wellington and Stirling were the two oldest designs and limited in the type or weight of bombs carried. The Stirling was also limited to a lower operational height. Bombers could carry a range of bombs - Medium Capacity bombs of about 50% explosive by weight, High Capacity "Blockbusters" that were mostly explosive, and incendiary devices. The combined use of the latter two were most effective in setting fires in urban areas.

British raids were by night - the losses in daylight raids having been too heavy to bear. By this point in the war, RAF Bomber Command were using navigation aids, the Pathfinder force and the bomber stream tactic together. Electronic navigation aids such as "Oboe", which had been tested against Essen in January 1943, meant the Pathfinders could mark the targets despite the industrial haze and cloud cover that obscured the area by night. Guidance markers put the main force over the target area, where they would then dropping their bombloads on target markers. The bomber stream concentrated the force of bombers into a small time window, such that it overwhelmed fighter defences in the air and firefighting attempts on the ground. For most of the Battle of the Ruhr the Oboe Mosquitoes came from one squadron No. 109. The number of Oboe aircraft that could be used at any time was limited by the number of ground stations.

The USAAF had two 4-engined heavy bombers available: the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator - neither carried a bomb similar to the blockbuster bomb. USAAF raids were by daylight, the closely-massed groups of bombers covering each other with defensive fire against fighters. Between them, the Allies could mount "round the clock" bombing. The USAAF forces in the UK were still increasing during 1943 and the majority of the bombing was by the RAF.

The German defence was through anti-aircraft weapons and day and night fighters. The Kammhuber Line used radar to identify the bomber raids and then controllers directed night fighters onto the raiders. During the battle of the Ruhr, Bomber Command estimated about 70% of their aircraft losses were due to fighters. By July 1943, the German night fighter force totalled 550. Through the summer of 1943, the Germans increased the ground-based anti-aircraft defences in the Ruhr Area ; by July 1943 there were more than 1,000 large flak guns (88 mm calibre or greater) and 1,500 lighter guns (chiefly 20 mm and 37 mm calibre). This was about one-third of all anti-aircraft guns in Germany. Six hundred thousand personnel were required to man the AA defences of Germany. The British crews called the area scarcastically "Happy Valley” or the "valley of no Return".


Below - Bombing During The Battle:

Dambusters Raid

The Dambusters have been immortalised in World War Two folklore as a result of their attack on the dams of the Ruhr. As part of the Allies bombing campaign against Germany during the war, the Dambusters was an elite Lancaster bomber unit and the raid was led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC. How much impact the Dambusters raid had is still debated but what cannot be denied is the bravery of the men involved in the raid and the unique contribution made by Dr.Barnes Wallis (see Who Is Who Page) who developed the unique bouncing bomb that was used on the raid. If the raid did not have a long term impact, it did have enormous propaganda value for the Allies.

Barnes Wallis was an employee of the Vickers Aircraft Company. In March 1941, he completed a piece of work entitled "A note on the method of attacking the Axis powers." Wallis had envisaged the Allies using a huge bomb against the Germans – ten tons in weight so that any building/object was vulnerable to an aerial attack even if it was built underground.

This fifty-page piece of work stated that the Allies had to develop a new form of bombing if massive concrete structures were to be destroyed. He wanted much larger bombs built so that the area surrounding where the bombs were dropped would be so massively shaken as to create enough jarring pressure to shake a target to pieces. Therefore, pinpoint precision bombing would no longer be necessary as physics would take over once a bomb had exploded.

"To attack these targets successfully it is necessary to inject the largest possible charge to the greatest possible depth in the medium (earth or water) that surrounds or is in contact with the target." (Wallis)

Wallis proved that a 10 ton bomb dropped at 40,000 feet would go 135 feet into a normal surface and would create no crater as all energy would be directed into an earthquake effect with potentially devastating consequences. However, no one was particularly interested in what Wallis had written and many felt that his ideas were just ‘pie-in-the-sky’. No one had ever built a bomb that was 10 tons; no bomber had ever been built that could carry such a bomb and no plane flying then could fly at 40,000 feet. Some saw Wallis as an eccentric.

However, one part of his paper did attract attention. Wallis believed that Germany’s industrial heart could be destroyed – literally drowned – if the huge dams in the Ruhr were destroyed unleashing vast quantities of water into the Ruhr industrial sector. An ‘Air Attack on Dams Committee’ was formed in 1941 under the chairmanship Dr. Pye. The committee decided that the primary target should be the Möhne Dam which enclosed the Möhne and Hedve rivers. The dam was 130 feet high and 112 feet thick at its base. Even the top was 25 feet thick making it a formidable target to destroy.

The first idea Wallis had was to attack the dam with a series of very large bombs in a conventional manner. He quickly dropped this idea as the accuracy required for such an aerial attack was simply beyond the capacity for a bomb aimer at several thousand feet. A bomb would need to land within 50 feet of the dam’s wall for it to be effective and in July 1941, the Air Attack on Dams Committee concluded that:

"There seems to be no doubt that an attack on the Möhne Dam is impracticable with existing weapons."

However, Wallis was not easily put off. Wallis was keen on the idea of getting an explosive charge as near to the wall of the dam as was possible. Wallis believed that if this could be done on the lakeside of the dam, the vast pressure applied to that side of the damaged wall would be enough to destroy the dam itself.

A torpedo type bomb was out of the question as the Germans had already thought of that as a way of attacking the dam. Anti-torpedo nets protected the dam. Wallis came up with an idea he called "childishly simple". He believed that you could use a bouncing bomb that would clear the protective nets, that would smash into the dam wall, stay intact and then sink to a depth of 30 feet before exploding using a hydrostatic fuse (similar to the ones found in depth charges). To ensure that the bomb went down the dam wall, Wallis planned for the bomb to spin forwards after it had hit the wall – despite the fact that it would be dropped by a bomber spinning backwards.

Wallis received permission to develop the bomb – code-named ‘Upkeep’. The bomb was 50 inches in diameter, 60 inches long and weighed 9250 lbs. Of this weight, 6,600 lbs was powerful RDX explosive. The bomb was designed to be mounted across the bomb bay of a Lancaster bomber. It was spun using a system of V-shaped pivots to which was attached a small motor built into the bomb bay.

Upkeep was not an easy bomb to deliver and the elite of Bomber Command joined a brand new squadron called 617 in March 1943. The crew had to release the bomb while flying at exactly 220 mph and at a height of exactly 60 feet above the water. If the Lancaster was forced into a tight turn at this height, one of its wing tips would barely be above the surface of the water. Precision flying at its best was needed just to get the bomb in motion. To add to the difficulties, the crew had to drop the bomb at exactly 425 yards from the dam wall. There could only be 25 yards either side of this figure – a tiny amount of seconds given the speed the Lancaster's would be flying at – and the fact that German guns would be targeting them. To add to the task, the attack was also scheduled to be carried out at night.

The whole attack was given the code-name ‘Chastise’. Gibson was ordered by ‘Bomber’ Harris, head of Bomber Command, to pick men who had survived near enough 60 bombing raids as these men would have the necessary experience needed for the attack. 617 squadron started extensive sessions of low flying but none of them knew the target they were practising for – this they were only told at the last minute.

On the night of May 16th, 1943, nineteen Lancaster bombers took off from Scampton in Lincolnshire. They had three primary targets: the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams and two secondary ones, the Lister and the Eneppe dams. Of the nineteen planes, five would be held in reserve during the attacks.

Gibson led the first attack. At 00.56 hours, the Möhne Dam was breached and by 01.54 hours so was the Eder Dam. The Sorpe Dam was attacked by planes from the reserve force but, though hit, it held out.

Just how low the Lancasters flew during the attack is shown by the fact that one Lancaster had to turn back as it had hit the sea on the journey to mainland Europe and lost its bomb.

The attack had huge propaganda value and made Gibson a national hero. Of the nineteen Lancasters that took part in the attacks with 133 crew, eight planes were lost with the loss of 56 men; three of these men survived to become prisoners-of-war. Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for bringing round his Lancaster to give covering fire to the Lancasters that were following up his attack on the Möhne Dam. 33 others members of 617 squadron were also decorated.

How successful was the raid?

Severe flooding occurred where the Möhne Dam was breached. 1,200 people were killed including nearly 600 forced labourers from Eastern Europe who were housed in a labour camp near Neheim. Six small electricity works were damaged and rail lines passing through the Möhne Valley were disrupted. But industrial production was not affected in the long-term. When the Eder Dam broke, there were similar results. Kassel, an important arms producing town, was reached by the floodwater, but little actual damage was done. Had the Sorpe Dam been breached, then the damage would have been much greater. The potential for a major disaster was recognised by Albert Speer who commented that:

"Ruhr production would have suffered the heaviest possible blow."

In the short and long term, the damage done by 617 squadron was repaired quite quickly. But the most important impact of the raid was that 20,000 men working on the Atlantic Wall had been moved to the Ruhr to carry out repairs to the damaged and breached dams. This work was completed before the rains of the autumn appeared.

The bombing of specific military and strategic targets became more important as the war progressed, as the raid on Schweinfürt demonstrated. The raid by 617 Squadron was part of this approach.



 1944

With advances in Burma, New Guinea and Guam, Japan began its last offensive in China, capturing further territory in the south to add to the acquisitions made in central and northern areas following the invasion of 1938. However, their control was limited to the major cities and lines of communication, and resistance - often led by the Communists - was widespread.

The Allied advance in Italy continued with landings at Anzio, in central Italy, in January. It was a static campaign. The Germans counter-attacked in February and the fighting saw the destruction of the medieval monastery at Monte Cassino after Allied bombing. Only at the end of May did the Germans retreat from Anzio. Rome was liberated in June, the day before the Allies' 'Operation Overlord', now known as the D-Day landings.

On 6 June - as Operation Overlord got underway - some 6,500 vessels landed over 130,000 Allied forces on five Normandy beaches: codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Some 12,000 aircraft ensured air superiority for the Allies - bombing German defences, and providing cover. The pessimistic predictions that had been made of massive Allied casualties were not borne out. On Utah Beach 23,000 troops were landed, with 197 casualties, and most of the 4,649 American casualties that day occurred at Omaha Beach, where the landing was significantly more difficult to achieve, meeting with fierce German resistance.

Overall, however, the landings caught the Germans by surprise, and they were unable to counter-attack with the necessary speed and strength. Anything that was moving and German was liable to be attacked from the air.

Despite this, in the weeks following the landings Allied progress was slowed considerably, by the narrow lanes and thick hedgerows of the French countryside. Nevertheless, Cherbourg was liberated by the end of June. Paris followed two months later.

Hitler's troubles were compounded by a Russian counterattack in June. This drove 300 miles west to Warsaw, and killed, wounded or captured 350,000 German soldiers. By the end of August the Russians had taken Bucharest. Estonia was taken within months, and Budapest was under siege by the end of the year.


On July 20, 1944, Hitler barely survived an assassination attempt. One of his top military officers had placed a suitcase bomb under the table during a conference meeting at Hitler's Wolf's Lair. Because the table leg blocked much of the blast, Hitler survived with only injuries to his arm and some hearing loss. Not everyone in the room was so lucky.

One glimmer of light for Germany came in the Ardennes, in France, where in December a German counteroffensive - the Battle of the Bulge (see below) - killed 19,000 Americans and delayed the Allies' march into Germany.




Lancaster Bomber

  • Allies land at Anzio and bomb monastery at Monte Cassino.
  • Soviet offensive gathers pace in Eastern Europe.
  • D Day: The Allied invasion of France. Paris is liberated in August.
  • Guam liberated by the US Okinawa, and Iwo Jima bombed.
  • 16 Dec: Battle of the Bulge, or the Ardennes Offensive in Wallonia, Belgium.


Operation Overlord   D-Day 6th June

Initial focus

Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of north-west Europe in June 1944, was a remarkable achievement. It provided the springboard from which forces from Britain, the United States, Canada, Poland and France could liberate western Europe from German occupation - before advancing on Berlin to defeat Hitler.

The planning for Overlord began in the spring of 1943, and at the outset focused on where best to penetrate the system of German coastal defences. Stretching from northern Norway to the Franco-Spanish frontier, these defences were known as the 'Atlantic Wall'.

After an assessment of the alternatives it was decided that an initial assault force of 150,000 men would land on the beaches of Normandy, in northern France. Although here the English Channel was wider than at the Pas de Calais, Normandy was chosen because its beaches were close to English ports, were within range of Allied aircraft stationed in England, and had the useful French port of Cherbourg nearby.

With Normandy chosen, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, American General Dwight D Eisenhower then tasked his staff with the more detailed military planning for the invasion.

British General Sir Bernard Montgomery was put in charge of land operations, while lieutenant generals Omar N Bradley (commanding US First Army) and Sir Miles Dempsey (commanding British Second Army), took charge of the actual assault troops.

The final plan demanded that three airborne divisions be delivered to Normandy, to protect the flanks of the main invasion force of five divisions assaulting the beaches.


            For more on D-Day - click


Battle of Arnhem:

The Battle of Arnhem was a famous Second World War military engagement fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel and the surrounding countryside from the 17–26 September 1944.

After sweeping through France and Belgium in the summer of 1944, the Allies were poised to enter the Netherlands. The British forces landed some distance from their objectives and were quickly hampered by unexpected resistance – especially from elements of the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer divisions. Only a small force was able to reach the Arnhem road bridge while the main body of the division was halted on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile XXX Corps was unable to advance north as quickly as anticipated and failed to relieve the airborne troops according to schedule. After four days the small British force at the bridge was overwhelmed and the rest of the division became trapped in a small pocket north of the river – where they could not be sufficiently reinforced by the Poles or XXX Corps when they arrived on the southern bank, nor by the RAF's resupply flights. After nine days of fighting the shattered remains of the airborne forces were withdrawn in Operation Berlin.

With no secure bridges over the Nederrijn the Allies were unable to advance further and the front line stabilized south of Arnhem. The 1st Airborne Division had lost nearly three quarters of its strength and did not see combat again.

        For more on Arnhem - click

Ardennes Offensive


The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), took place toward the end of World War II (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) in the densely forested Ardennes Mountains area of Wallonia in Belgium. From here it took its French name, (Bataille des Ardennes). The German offensive was named the Ardennes-Alsace campaign but it became more widely known as the Battle of the Bulge, the "bulge" was the original invasion the Germans put into the Allies' line of advance.

The German offensive was shored up by various secondary operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte, Greif, and Währung. Germany's intention for this procedure was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp, Belgium, and then press on to surround and obliterate four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to settle a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favour.

The offensive was organised in total secrecy, minimizing radio communication and moving of troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Although the Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff anticipated a major German offensive, the Allies were still caught by surprise. This was achieved by Allies’ overconfidence, preoccupation with their own offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance.

Ferocious resistance, especially near the town of Bastogne, and topography favouring the defenders set the German timetable behind agenda. Allied support, including General George Patton's Third Army, sealed the failure of the offensive.

In the aftermath of the defeat, many German element were left seriously short of men and equipment as survivors retreated to the Siegfried Line. For the Americans, with about 500,000 to 840,000 men committed and some 70,000 to 89,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed, the Battle of the Bulge was the single largest and bloodiest battle that they fought in World War II.



      For More on Ardennes - Click

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 1945

The New Year saw the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, and the revelation of the sickening obscenity of the Holocaust, its scale becoming clearer as more camps were liberated in the following months.

The Soviet army continued its offensive from the east, while from the west the Allies established a bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, in March.

While the bombing campaigns of the Blitz were over, German V1 and V2 rockets continued to drop on London. The return bombing raids on Dresden, which devastated the city in a huge firestorm, have often been considered misguided.

On April 29, 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva Braun.The following day, April 30, 1945, Hitler and Eva committed suicide together.

Meantime, the Western Allies raced the Russians to be the first into Berlin. The Russians won, reaching the capital on 21 April. Hitler killed himself on the 30th, two days after Mussolini had been captured and hanged by Italian partisans. Germany surrendered unconditionally on 7 May, and the following day was celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) day. The war in Europe was over.

In the Pacific, however, it had continued to rage throughout this time. The British advanced further in Burma, and in February the Americans had invaded Iwo Jima. The Philippines and Okinawa followed and Japanese forces began to withdraw from China.

Plans were being prepared for an Allied invasion of Japan, but fears of fierce resistance and massive casualties prompted Harry Truman - the new American president following Roosevelt's death in April - to sanction the use of an atomic bomb against Japan.

Such bombs had been in development since 1942, and on 6 August one of them was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another was dropped on Nagasaki. No country could withstand such attacks, and the Japanese surrendered on 14 August.

The biggest conflict in history had lasted almost six years. Some 100 million people had been militarised, and 50 million had been killed. Of those who had died, 15 million were soldiers, 20 million were Russian civilians, six million were Jews and over four million were Poles.

 

  • Auschwitz  liberated by Soviet troops.
  • Russians reach Berlin: Hitler commits suicide and Germany surrenders on 7 May.
  • Truman becomes President of the US on Roosevelt's death, and Attlee replaces Churchill.
  • After atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrenders on 14 August.

V.E. Day:

At 02:41 on the morning of, May 7, 1945, at the SHAEF headquarters in Reims, France, the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway on May 7, the same day as Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document. It included the phrase "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European Time on May 8, 1945." The next day, General Wilhelm Keitel and other German OKW representatives traveled to Berlin, and shortly before midnight signed a similar document, explicitly surrendering to Soviet forces, in the presence of General Georgi Zhukov. The signing ceremony took place in a former German Army Engineering School in the Berlin district of Karlshorst which now houses the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.

Victory in Europe: News of the surrender broke in the West on May 8, and celebrations erupted throughout Europe. In the United States, Americans awoke to the news and declared May 8 V-E Day. As the Soviet Union was to the east of Germany it was May 9 Moscow Time when German military surrender became effective, which is why Russia and many other European countries east of Germany commemorate Victory Day on May 9.

German units cease fire: Although the military commanders of most German forces obeyed the order to surrender issued by the German Armed Forces High Command, not all commanders did so. The largest contingent not to do so were Army Group Centre under the command of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner who had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army on April 30 in Hitler's last will and testament. On May 8, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria, and the Soviet Army sent overwhelming force against Army Group Centre in the Prague Offensive, forcing German units in Army Group Centre to capitulate by May 11 (the last did on 12 May). The other forces which did not surrender on May 8 surrendered piecemeal:

Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers was signed by the four Allies on June 5, 1945. It included the following:

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 effect the annexation of Germany.

—US Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series, No. 1520.


Germany has signed an unconditional surrender bringing to an end six years of war in Europe, according to reports from France.

m at 10 Downing Street.




VJ Day(s)

In 1945 the End of World War II was celebrated on Victory in Japan (VJ) Day

There was much joy and celebration around the world when on 15th August 1945 US President Harry S Truman declared the day as Victory in Japan Day, at a White House press conference.

President Truman announced that the Japanese Government had agreed to comply in full with the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan.

To crowds gathered outside the White House, President Truman said: "This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbour."

The end of war was to be marked by a two-day holiday in the UK, the USA and Australia.

At midnight, the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee confirmed the news in a broadcast saying, "The last of our enemies is laid low."

The Prime Minister expressed gratitude to Britain's allies, in Australia and New Zealand, India, Burma, all countries occupied by Japan and to the USSR. But special thanks went to the United States "without whose prodigious efforts the war in the East would still have many years to run".

The following evening King George VI addressed the nation and the Empire in a broadcast from his study at Buckingham Palace.

"Our hearts are full to overflowing, as are your own. Yet there is not one of us who has experienced this terrible war who does not realise that we shall feel its inevitable consequences long after we have all forgotten our rejoicings today."

Historic buildings all over London were floodlit and people crowded onto the streets of every town and city shouting, singing, dancing, lighting bonfires and letting off fireworks.

But there were no celebrations in Japan - in his first ever radio broadcast, Emperor Hirohito blamed the use of "a new and most cruel bomb" used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for Japan's surrender.

"Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would lead also to the total extinction of human civilisation."

What the Emperor failed to mention however, was that the Allies had delivered Japan an ultimatum to surrender on 28th July 1945.

When this was ignored, the US dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6th August and Nagasaki on 9th August, the day that Soviet forces invaded Manchuria.

The Allies celebrated victory over Japan on 15th August 1945, although the Japanese administration under General Koiso Kuniaki did not officially surrender with a signed document until 2nd September.

Both dates are known as VJ Day.

 

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945 and the second on August 9, 1945.

For six months, the United States had made use of intense strategic fire-bombing of 67 Japanese cities. Together with the United Kingdom, and the Republic of China the United States called for a surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration. The Japanese government ignored this ultimatum. By executive order of President Harry S. Truman, the U.S. dropped the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" on the city of Hiroshima on Monday, August 6, 1945, followed by the detonation of "Fat Man" over Nagasaki on August 9. These two events are the only active deployments of nuclear weapons in war. The target of Hiroshima was a city of considerable military importance, containing Japan's Second Army Headquarters, as well as being a communications centre and storage depot.

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. The Hiroshima prefectural health department estimates that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness. In a US estimate of the total immediate and short-term cause of death, 15–20% died from radiation sickness, 20–30% from flash burns, and 50–60% from other injuries, compounded by illness. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians.

Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on August 15, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially ending the Pacific War and therefore World War II. Germany had signed its Instrument of Surrender on May 7, ending the war in Europe. The bombings led, in part, to post-war Japan adopting Three Non-Nuclear Principles, forbidding the nation from nuclear armament. The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender and the U.S.'s ethical justification for them, as well as their strategical importance, is still debated.