A variety of worldwide World War II operations took place in early July and late August 1943. Here is a timeline describing key events.
World War II Timeline: July 27-August 4
July 27-28: Some 20,000 German civilians die when an RAF raid on Hamburg ignites a series of deadly firestorms.
July 28: The U.S. continues to develop plans for an invasion of Kiska, unaware that the Japanese have secretly withdrawn from the Aleutian island.
August 1: The Americans hit Axis fuel supplies with a damaging air raid on the oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania.
German troops begin to execute a plan to seize control of Italy in the wake of Mussolini's fall from power. The Germans infiltrate northern Italy and disarm Italian forces on Crete.
With the occupation of Burma complete, the Japanese announce that Burma is henceforth independent, no longer a colony of Britain.
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels broadcasts an announcement on Berlin radio recommending the evacuation of all nonessential personnel. For many Germans in the capital city, this is the first admission that Berlin could be in jeopardy from heavy air raids.
August 2: An uprising at the Treblinka death camp leads to the deaths of 16 SS guards, while about 150 of the approximately 700 prisoners manage to escape in the melee.
The Japanese destroyer Amagiri rams and sinks USS PT-109. Lieutenant John F. Kennedy and 10 of the 12 men under his command will survive the incident. Though Kennedy will be hailed by most for saving the crew, General MacArthur will be unimpressed with Kennedy and will question why the highly maneuverable PT boat was unable to evade the Amagiri.
August 4: About 150 Italian civilians die when the USAAF bombs the southern port of Naples.
World War II Headlines
Learn how homesick American soldiers dealt with war, how the Nazis viewed the Roosevelts, how John F. Kennedy became a wartime hero, and more by reading these headlines from 1943.
American GIs' favorite pinup girl, Betty Grable: Far from home during World War II, American GIs found escape in the movies and image of actress, singer, and dancer Betty Grable. In 1943 the bubbly, accessible-seeming Grable was Hollywood's No. 1 star, and probably the highest-paid woman in America. In a publicity stunt engineered by her studio, 20th Century-Fox, her shapely legs were insured for $1 million. Servicemen voted her their favorite pinup girl, and her image decorated not just barracks walls but bomber jackets and aircraft. Even when Grable posed for pinups in bathing suits, she preserved her image as the wholesome "girl next door."
Allied raid on Ploesti, Romania: By summer 1943, refineries in Ploesti, Romania, produced 60 percent of Germany's crude oil supply. The location was too far for bombers to reach from England, but the capture of Libya made such a raid possible. At dawn on August 1, 1943, 177 U.S. B-24 bombers flew out of Libya for a raid on Ploesti, one of the most heavily defended targets in Europe. Confusion after the lead navigators were shot down reduced the effectiveness of the raid. By the end, 54 bombers were lost. About 42 percent of the refineries' production capacity was lost, although they were rebuilt by the Germans within weeks.
The Nazis' portrayal of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: In a 1943 German cartoon, President Franklin Roosevelt holds the war casualty list as Eleanor Roosevelt asks, "Have we lost many dollars, Delano?" The president replies, "Don't worry, Eleanor, we are paying only in human lives." Eleanor Roosevelt wears a Star of David and has exaggerated lips. Nazi propaganda frequently presented the Roosevelts as puppets of the Jews, and also made fun of the first lady's support of African American singer Marian Anderson.
Japanese demolish John F. Kennedy's PT boat: Naval lieutenant and future U.S. president John F. Kennedy was at the helm in the early morning hours of August 2, 1943, when his PT boat (a motor torpedo boat) was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri in the South Pacific. PT-109 was sliced in half, and two crewmen were killed. Though Kennedy was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions following the sinking, some officers felt he should have been court-martialed for negligence. PT-109 was the only PT boat in the war to be surprised and rammed by an enemy ship.
Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh helps the Allies: Ho Chi Minh cooperated with the Allies during the war in hopes of obtaining Vietnamese independence from French rule. A fervent nationalist, Ho formed the Communist-dominated Viet Minh independence movement in 1941. Traveling to China in 1942 to seek military assistance, he was arrested as a spy and spent 13 months in jail. Returning to Vietnam upon his release, he worked with the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), rescuing Allied pilots shot down over Indochina and conducting operations against the Japanese. Despite his efforts, the U.S. government supported a return to French colonial rule after the war. Ho and his Communist forces would battle the United States in the Vietnam War.
FDR's vice president Henry Wallace speaks against segregation: Henry Wallace was President Roosevelt's secretary of agriculture from 1933 to '40 and vice president from 1941 to '44. A committed anti-segregationist, he declared in a 1943 speech that America could not fight the Nazis abroad and condone racism at home. Wallace's vision of a postwar America included close relations with the Soviet Union. This position put him at odds with Roosevelt's successor to the presidency, the staunch Cold Warrior Harry Truman, who fired him from his cabinet post as secretary of commerce in 1946. Wallace made an unsuccessful run as the Progressive Party's presidential candidate in 1948.
To learn how World War II progressed during the first weeks of August 1943, continue to the next section of this article.
For more timelines and information on World War II events, see: