Soviet Union Casualties
For those who doubt that the principal scene of conflict of World War II was other than the Eastern Front, the Russian casualty figures settle the issue. During almost four years of total war fought across the unending vastness of the Russian Steppes, among the ruins of the Soviet Union's towns and cities, and through the devastation of Eastern Europe to the very heart of the Third Reich in Berlin, nearly nine million Red Army soldiers were killed and 18 million were wounded.
From October 1944 to May 1945 alone, the Red Army sustained 319,000 fatal casualties. Also, of more than 4.5 million Red Army prisoners captured by the Wehrmacht, only 1.8 million ultimately survived. Many of them were then persecuted by an unforgiving and suspicious Soviet Union regime. The wholesale destruction of Russian towns and villages during combat, and the reprisal operations and executions carried out by the SS and the Wehrmacht during an uncompromising counter-partisan campaign, resulted in at least 18 million Soviet Union civilian war dead. Altogether, some 26 million to 27 million Soviets died. In contrast, this was more than five times greater than the total German war dead incurred from 1939 to 1945.
World War II Timeline: August 5, 1943-August 14-24, 1943
In August 1943, Nazi forces began withdrawing from Sicily and the Allies won key battles in the Pacific. Highlights of this period are presented in the timeline below.
World War II Timeline: August 5-August 24
August 5: The Soviets recapture the city of Orel, Russia, from the Germans.
Sweden revokes the right of troop transit it had granted to the Germans at the beginning of the war.
A series of fierce battles concludes in the Pacific island chain of New Georgia, where the Japanese fled following their defeat on Guadalcanal. The Allies emerge victorious, capturing the airfield at Munda on New Georgia.
August 6-7: A small Japanese fleet attempting to resupply Japan's Solomon Islands base at Kolombangara is intercepted and badly damaged by a fleet of American destroyers.
August 9: In one of the first viable challenges to National Socialism in years, several German leaders form the Kreisau Circle, a resistance group calling for, among other things, the "acknowledgement of the inviolability of human dignity as the foundation for an order of peace and justice."
August 12: With Sicily all but lost to the Allies, Nazi Germany begins the successful withdrawal of a substantial portion of its reeling defensive force. Casualties include 32,000 Germans and 132,000 Italians.
More than 600 British Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers pummel Milan, Italy.
August 14: On orders from General Dwight Eisenhower, foul-tempered General George Patton apologizes to the two American soldiers he slapped in field hospitals after accusing them of malingering.
August 14-24: Allied leaders meet in Quebec for the Quadrant Conference, at which they hammer out details for the next phase of the war. It is decided that both the invasion of France and the occupation of Italy remain on the table. The invasion of France will take precedence.
World War II Headlines
The following World War II events were among those that made headlines in 1943.
Allies' Operation Strangle continues in Italy: British general Bernard Montgomery and American General Dwight Eisenhower study the Italian mainland. The lack of coordination between Allied commands in Sicily not only prolonged the fighting but also contributed to the escape of more than 100,000 Axis troops and thousands of vehicles across the Strait of Messina to the mainland. For several months, the Allied air force had been active in its own operation over Italy, Operation Strangle. The objective was to shut down the Axis supply lines throughout Italy. Rail facilities, railroads, and bridges were pounded from spring 1943 to 1944.
Battles rage for Soviet Union city of Kharkov: Kharkov, the fifth largest Soviet Union city, was captured by the German Sixth Army on October 24, 1941. Soviet Union troops failed to recapture the city in May 1942. German defenders held off another Soviet Union attack in February 1943, but abandoned the city on the 16th when it was obvious they would be surrounded. Reinforced, these Germans mounted a counterattack in early March. Holding off Soviet Union attacks, the Germans retook the city on March 15. In the offensive thrust following their victory at Kursk, the Soviets drove German troops out of Kharkov for good in August.
Germans meet Corsican resistance: From their mountainside position, a group of Corsican patriots fires upon occupation forces. When German and Italian troops occupied the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea, they were harried by highly effective resistance fighters. The tangled scrubby foliage on Corsica's mountainous terrain, called maquis, not only gave patriots a place to hide but also gave its name to the entire French resistance movement -- the Maquis. On September 9, 1943, Corsicans rose up to participate in their liberation by the Free French and other Allies.
Italy surrenders to Nazi Germany: When Italy surrendered in early September 1943, there was much celebration in America's Italian communities, for many had immigrated to escape Mussolini and his Fascist policies. Once Hitler learned of Italy's surrender, he ordered the German occupation of his onetime ally and the arrest of all Italian troops. More than 6,500 Italian soldiers were executed in Greece for allegedly resisting arrest. The Germans also removed 50,000 Allied prisoners from Italy and sent them and 268,000 Italian troops to labor camps in Germany.
In the next section, learn about a major Allied victory over the Japanese, the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and more World War II history from 1943.