World War II

.. lhead at Volochisk fifty miles away. General Zhukov, who also led the mission to disable the railway, took over the German base at Uman which gave them the crucial position they needed. Zhukov’s next move was to disable another rail line which delivered supplies through Poland to the German forces in the Ukraine. Zhukov, along with Konev, isolated the German forces in the Ukraine and the area was liberated by April of 1944. Now the only German troops left in the U.S.S.R were those in Crimea.

The Fourth Ukrainian Front, under General Tolbhukin, defeated the German seventeenth army by the twelfth of May. The Normandy invasion, often called D-Day, began on June sixth, 1944 when American, British, and Canadian forces landed on the Cotentin Peninsula. The objective of the invasion of Normandy was to regain France which had been taken over by Germany earlier in the war. The initial attack was spit into three divisions. The first division landed near Bayeax-Caen and was composed of British and Canadian troops. The second and third divisions were both American and landed at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, respectively.

In order for the troops to get across the English Channel a massive convoy of ships was needed. 5,000 Higgins boats and other small ship-to-shore craft were needed, making the mission the largest ever on water. The British-Canadian offensive, as well as the one at Utah beach, went well and both were positioned by nightfall. However, the circumstances at Omaha Beach, primarily the fortified bluffs, proved to be a much tougher fight for the Americans. On the first day the objectives failed and German forces put up a struggle for the following four days.

The landing forces totaled fourteen divisions from Britain and sixty divisions from America. Opposing them were fifty German infantry divisions, thirty-six of which were stationed on the western coast, and ten Panzer divisions. Hitler had been working on a long range rocket, called the V-1, which he would use against London for the previous three years and perfected it around the time of the Normandy invasion. Later in the summer the V-2 was developed which had longer range and harder hitting power. With these tactical weapons Hitler was able to strike at England from a safe distance and used this advantage.

Britain was bombed 1,100 times and Liege and Antwerp were bombed over 1,600 times. On June twenty-seventh the first port had fallen to American force after 1,500,000 troops had landed at Normandy and secured it. The Americans broke through on a road towards a small, but heavily defended town called Brittany. The Germans fought to the death and it proved to be the bloodiest battle in the west. By August nineteenth German forces were in full retreat all along the line and Paris was liberated on August twenty-fifth.

The port of Antwerp was capture on September fourth and Verdun was taken without a fight. Allied forces continued to deal a beating on Germany but were slowed drastically by gasoline shortages. The Soviet forces broke through the Mannerheim line just four days after the Normandy invasion and the war between the U.S.S.R and Finland virtually stopped, even though negotiations didn’t happen until later. One hundred Soviet divisions reached the German front on June twenty-third, followed by the defeat of the German occupied Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev, and Zhlobin. The German Ninth Army was nearly non-existent and the German Fourth Army was in full retreat.

Two different encircling moves by the First Ukrainian Front forced Romania out of the war on August twenty-fifth. Bulgaria removed itself from the war the next day. The Axis forces were rapidly losing forces and the war. Hitler was able to concentrate 250,000 troops to a small area near the U.S. VIII Corps without foreign intelligence knowing.

Early in the morning of December sixteenth, 1944 Hitler’s army attacked and brought complete surprise to the Allies, it was known as the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler himself thought up the plan, but actions by the Allies turned a nearly devastating onslaught into a stunning victory. Ardennes, Bastogne, and St. Vith were all very important places during the Battle of the Bulge. At their highest point the German’s came within a few miles of the Meuse River and unknowingly passed by an Ally supply within a quarter mile. Germany continued to pour troops into the battle which stabilized by Christmas Eve.

When the skies finally cleared the Allies aircraft began bombing the German armor and trains, which were at a near standstill. Hitler eventually decided to withdraw from the Ardennes on January twenty-first, but only after losing 120,000 men. Iwo Jima was an important tactical position in the Pacific War and the Americans were willing to sacrifice much for it. They sent in 60,000 officers, followed by the Fifth Fleet. By February twenty-seventh, 1945 the Americans had won over half the island and on March fifteenth the fighting stopped after nearly 20,000 American casualties.

Okinawa was the last island needed before the direct attack of Japan itself. Okinawa was invaded and quickly destroyed, followed by the Tenth Army moving towards Japan. It was here that the kamikaze technique, flying an airplane with a warhead attached to it, against war ships and other targets. The Tenth Army was the largest amphibious movement in the Pacific War, comprised of 1,427 ships. Okinawa was readily waiting for the arrival of the Americans on the south side of the island, with 100,000 soldiers and an intricate system of fortification in the coral and limestone rock.

The Japanese fleet then came out and intercepted the American fleet. The Soviets, after rapidly expelling the Germans from their own country, took a little longer to move into Germany. The Soviets did go full force, sending all four of their armies into Germany, north and south of Breslau. By mid-February they had already taken over Bunslau, which is a mere 125 miles from Berlin. Zhukov reached Oder, then Posen along the Warta River, within sixty miles of Berlin.

During February of 1945 the armies in the west were having trouble making it up the Rhine. The U.S. Third Corps followed the Germans over the Rhine Bridge after being commanded to “Get five divisions across as quickly as possible.” by Eisenhower. The Americans were able to get across the bridge so quickly that the Germans didn’t even have time to demolish it. The U.S. First and Ninth Armies linked on April first near Paderborn and held the German Army Group B and two corps of Group H in captivity.

After constant air attacks the remaining 325,000 men and 30 general officers surrendered. The Third U.S. Army took Frankfurt, then Kassel. The Seventh U.S. Army crossed the Rhine near Worms and joined with the Third near Darmstadt.

As a result of this massive movement of Allied forces, the German defense in the west basically fell apart. Eisenhower decided to halt many of his troops, knowing that the Soviet forces would be coming through on the other side, fearful that the two allies might mistake each other for enemy. The Americans met the Soviets at Torgau on April twenty-fifth. The Soviet army continued onward toward Berlin and had the city enveloped the same day. Hitler, choosing not to flee with many of his advisers, committed suicide on April thirtieth, knowing that there were Soviet forces just above his bunker.

The Berlin forces surrendered on May second. The war on the front next to Italy was surrendered on April twenty-ninth. Mussolini, the ex-dictator of Italy and his mistress, were killed after attempting to escape from imprisonment. On May fifth a representative of Doenitz, the inherited leader of Germany, offered a surrender of all troops in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and Schleswig-Holstein. Even though the war had ended in Europe, the battle in the Pacific continued. Bombing Japan seemed to be the most effective way to eat away at the Japanese forces.

On July sixteenth, 1945 news that the nuclear bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico, was a success was rushed to President Truman. Even though the bomb was originally intended for Berlin, Truman decided that the weapons could also be used to force a quick surrender in the Pacific. On July twenty-sixth America joined Britain and China in issuing an ultimatum for unconditional surrender. On August sixth, after Japan ignored the ultimatum, a B-29 bomber appeared over Hiroshima and then sped away. A few moments later the first atomic bomb to be dropped on humans detonated, killing and injuring about half the city’s population, 320,000 people. Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

The second bomb did less damage, killing and injuring 80,000 people because the bomb was off target. On August tenth the Japanese declared that they would accept the terms of the Potsdam ultimatum. The second world war was officially over on September second, aboard the Missouri where the Japanese signed a document ending all fighting.