.. er General Courtney H. Hodges and General George S. Patton. After the Americans had turned east from Avranches in the first week of August, a pocket developed around the German Fifth Panzer and Seventh armies west of Falaise.
The Germans held out until August 20 but then retreated across the Seine. On August 25 the Americans, in conjunction with General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French and Resistance forces, liberated Paris. Meanwhile, on August 15, American and French forces had landed on the southern coast of France east of Marseille and were pushing north along the valley of the Rhne River. They made contact with Bradley’s forces near Dijon in the second week of September. Allied Advances in Italy (1944). The Italian campaign passed into the shadow of Overlord in the summer of 1944.
Clark’s Fifth Army, comprising French and Poles as well as Americans, took Monte Cassino on May 18. A breakout from the Anzio beachhead five days later forced the Germans to abandon the whole Gustav line, and the Fifth Army entered Rome, an open city since June 4. The advance went well for some distance north of Rome, but it was bound to lose momentum because U.S. and French divisions would soon be withdrawn for the invasion of southern France. After taking Ancona on the east and Florence on the west coast in the second week of August, the Allies were at the German Gothic line. An offensive late in the month demolished the Gothic line but failed in three months to carry through to the Po River valley and was stopped for the winter in the mountains.
The Air War in Europe (1944). The main action against Germany during the fall of 1944 was in the air. Escorted by long- range fighters, particularly P-51 Mustangs, U.S. bombers hit industrial targets by day, while the German cities crumbled under British bombing by night. Hitler had responded by bombarding England, beginning in June, with V-1 flying bombs and in September with V-2 rockets; but the best launching sites, those in northwestern France and in Belgium, were lost in October. The effects of the Allied strategic bombing were less clear-cut than had been expected.
The bombing did not destroy civilian morale, and German fighter plane and armored vehicle production reached their wartime peaks in the second half of 1944. On the other hand, iron and steel output dropped by half between September and December, and continued bombing of the synthetic oil plants, coupled with loss of the Ploiesti oil fields in Romania, severely limited the fuel that would be available for the tanks and planes coming off the assembly lines. The shortening of the fronts on the east and the west and the late year lull in the ground fighting gave Hitler one more chance to create a reserve of about 25 divisions. He resolved to use them offensively against the British and Americans by cutting across Belgium to Antwerp in an action similar to the sweep through the Ardennes that had brought the British and French to disaster at Dunkirk in May 1940. The Final Battles in Europe Hitler’s last, faint hope, strengthened briefly by Roosevelt’s death on April 12, was for a falling out between the Western powers and the Soviet Union.
The East-West alliance was, in fact, strained, but the break would not come in time to benefit Nazi Germany. On April 14 and 16 the U.S. Fifth and British Eighth armies launched attacks that brought them to the Po River in a week. The Soviet advance toward Berlin began on April 16. The U.S. Seventh Army captured Nuremberg, the site of Nazi party rallies in the 1930s, on April 20. Four days later Soviet armies closed a ring around Berlin. The next day the Soviet Fifth Guards Army and the U.S.
First Army made contact at Torgau on the Elbe River northeast of Leipzig, and Germany was split into two parts. In the last week of the month, organized resistance against the Americans and British practically ceased, but the German troops facing east battled desperately to avoid falling into Soviet captivity. The German Surrender Hitler decided to await the end in Berlin, where he could still manipulate what was left of the command apparatus. Most of his political and military associates chose to leave the capital for places in north and south Germany likely to be out of the Soviet reach. On the afternoon of April 30 Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker.
As his last significant official act, he named Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz to succeed him as chief of state. Doenitz, who had been loyal to Hitler, had no course open to him other than surrender. His representative, General Alfred Jodl, signed an unconditional surrender of all German armed forces at Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims early on May 7. By then the German forces in Italy had already surrendered (on May 2), as had those in Holland, north Germany, and Denmark (May 4). The U.S.
and British governments declared May 8 V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. The full unconditional surrender took effect at one minute past midnight after a second signing in Berlin with Soviet participation. The Defeat of Japan Although Japan’s position was hopeless by early 1945, an early end to the war was not in sight. The Japanese navy would not be able to come out in force again, but the bulk of the army was intact and was deployed in the home islands and China. The Japanese gave a foretaste of what was yet in store by resorting to kamikaze (Japanese, “divine wind”) attacks, or suicide air attacks, during the fighting for Luzon in the Philippines. On January 4-13, 1945, quickly trained kamikaze pilots flying obsolete planes had sunk 17 U.S. ships and damaged 50.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki The next attack was scheduled for Kyushu in November 1945. An easy success seemed unlikely. The Japanese had fought practically to the last man on Iwo Jima, and hundreds of soldiers and civilians had jumped off cliffs at the southern end of Okinawa rather than surrender. Kamikaze planes had sunk 15 naval vessels and damaged 200 off Okinawa. The Kyushu landing was never made. Throughout the war, the U.S.
government and the British, believing Germany was doing the same, had maintained a massive scientific and industrial project to develop an atomic bomb. The chief ingredients, fissionable uranium and plutonium, had not been available in sufficient quantity before the war in Europe ended. The first bomb was exploded in a test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Two more bombs had been built, and the possibility arose of using them to convince the Japanese to surrender. President Harry S. Truman decided to allow the bombs to be dropped because, he said, he believed they might save thousands of American lives.
For maximum psychological impact, they were used in quick succession, one over Hiroshima on August 6, the other over Nagasaki on August 9. These cities had not previously been bombed, and thus the bombs’ damage could be accurately assessed. U.S. estimates put the number killed in Hiroshima at 66,000 to 78,000 and in Nagasaki at 39,000. Japanese estimates gave a combined total of 240,000. The USSR declared war on Japan on August 8 and invaded Manchuria the next day. The Japanese Surrender On August 14 Japan announced its surrender, which was not quite unconditional because the Allies had agreed to allow the country to keep its emperor.
The formal signing took place on September 2 in Tokyo Bay aboard the battleship Missouri. The Allied delegation was headed by General MacArthur, who became the military governor of occupied Japan. Cost of the War World War II’s basic statistics qualify it as by far the greatest war in history in terms of human and material resources expended. In all, 61 countries with 1.7 billion people, three-fourths of the world’s population, took part. A total of 110 million persons were mobilized for military service, more than half of those by three countries: the USSR (22-30 million), Germany (17 million), and the United States (16 million).
For the major participants the largest numbers on duty at any one time were as follows: USSR (12,500,000); U.S. (12,245,000); Germany (10,938,000); British Empire and Commonwealth (8,720,000); Japan (7,193,000); and China (5,000,000). Most statistics on the war are only estimates. The war’s vast and chaotic sweep made uniform record keeping impossible. Some governments lost control of the data, and some resorted to manipulating it for political reasons. A rough consensus has been reached on the total cost of the war.
In terms of money spent, it has been put at more than $1 trillion, which makes it more expensive than all other wars combined. The human cost, not including more than 5 million Jews killed in the Holocaust (see Holocaust: Results of the Holocaust) who were indirect victims of the war, is estimated to have been 55 million dead25 million of those military and 30 million civilian. Economic Statistics The U.S. spent the most money on the war, an estimated $341 billion, including $50 billion for lend-lease supplies, of which $31 billion went to Britain, $11 billion to the Soviet Union, $5 billion to China, and $3 billion to 35 other countries. Germany was next, with $272 billion; followed by the Soviet Union, $192 billion; and then Britain, $120 billion; Italy, $94 billion; and Japan, $56 billion. Except for the U.S., however, and some of the less militarily active Allies, the money spent does not come close to being the war’s true cost.
The Soviet government has calculated that the USSR lost 30 percent of its national wealth, while Nazi exactions and looting were of incalculable amounts in the occupied countries. The full cost to Japan has been estimated at $562 billion. In Germany, bombing and shelling had produced 4 billion cu m (5 billion cu yd) of rubble. Human Losses The human cost of the war fell heaviest on the USSR, for which the official total, military and civilian, is given as more than 20 million killed. The Allied military and civilian losses were 44 million; those of the Axis, 11 million. The military deaths on both sides in Europe numbered 19 million and in the war against Japan, 6 million.
The U.S., which had no significant civilian losses, sustained 292,131 battle deaths and 115,187 deaths from other causes. The highest numbers of deaths, military and civilian, were as follows: USSR more than 13,000,000 military and 7,000,000 civilian; China 3,500,000 and 10,000,000; Germany 3,500,000 and 3,800,000; Poland 120,000 and 5,300,000; Japan 1,700,000 and 380,000; Yugoslavia 300,000 and 1,300,000; Romania 200,000 and 465,000; France 250,000 and 360,000; British Empire and Commonwealth 452,000 and 60,000; Italy 330,000 and 80,000; Hungary 120,000 and 280,000; and Czechoslovakia 10,000 and 330,000. Perhaps the most significant casualty over the long term was the world balance of power. Britain, France, Germany, and Japan ceased to be great powers in the traditional military sense, leaving only two, the United States and the Soviet Union. Bibliography “World War II,” Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.
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