World War II was nearing its end. The Allies announced that the air war against Nazi Germany was over, and Berlin was fully encircled by the Red Army. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from April 16, 1945, to April 26, 1945.
World War II Timeline: April 16-April 26
April 16: Adolf Hitler announces that he expects his officers to fight to the death. He orders summary execution for any officer who orders a retreat.
The German transport ship Goya is torpedoed. It goes down in the Baltic Sea with 6,200 Germans who had just been rescued from the Hela Peninsula.
The Allied air force announces that future operations over Germany will focus on cleanup rather than strategic targets, effectively ending the air war.
April 18: German field marshal Walter Model leads his remaining 225,000 troops, encircled in Nazi Germany's Ruhr, in mass surrender to the Allies.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Scripps-Howard columnist Ernie Pyle is felled by a Japanese sniper's bullet while reporting on the Battle of Okinawa.
April 20: The Allies capture Stuttgart and Nuremberg. They raise the U.S. flag over Nuremberg Stadium, the site of the Nazis' iconic political rallies.
April 23: Street-to-street fighting erupts in the German capital of Berlin as the Soviets storm the city.
Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler offers the Allies a conditional surrender, stipulating that he will not capitulate to a Soviet Union official. Allied officials will reject the offer.
April 24: Furious over Göring's play for power in the Reich's final days, Adolf Hitler orders the arrest of his former right-hand man.
April 25: Berlin is fully encircled by Belorussian and Ukrainian army groups of the Red Army.
Northern Italy continues to fall to the Allies. Verona and Parma are liberated, and citizens of Milan and Genoa rise up against their Nazi occupiers.
April 26: Marshal Philippe Pétain, former leader of Vichy France, is arrested and charged with collaborating with the Nazis.
World War II Headlines
Below are more highlights that outline the events of World War II and show the details of Adolf Hitler's last birthday, as well as the death of Benito Mussolini in late April 1945.
5,000 Hitler Youth as young as 12 are forced to fight Allies: A German soldier named Hans-Georg Henke, age 15, cried after being captured by the U.S. Ninth Army in April 1945. On April 20, Adolf Hitler presented several 12-year-olds the Iron Cross for bravery in combat. After the ceremony, the boys returned to the front lines, joining youths and old men in battle against Soviets in the streets of Berlin. Three days after Adolf Hitler's presentation, Hitler Youth were chosen to defend bridges south of Berlin to be used by reinforcements that would never come. More than 5,000 boys fought the Soviets there, and when the fighting ended five days later, 4,500 Hitler Youth were dead or wounded.
German civilians fear wrath of Red Army and many take their own lives: The Soviet Union Army entered Vienna, Austria, on April 13, 1945, and encircled Berlin on April 21. German civilians feared Soviet troops, who sought retribution for the atrocities inflicted on their homes and families by the Nazis. More than 100,000 women were raped in Berlin, and thousands of Germans took their own lives in Nazi Germany, Austria, and Poland.
Adolf Hitler's last birthday is a subdued celebration in his underground headquarters: April 20, 1945, was Adolf Hitler's 56th birthday. The celebration in his underground headquarters, the Führerbunker, in the Reich Chancellery Park was very subdued. The Soviet Union Army was advancing toward Berlin, and Adolf Hitler knew that the end of his Third Reich was near. Later that day, Adolf Hitler left the bunker to decorate 20 Hitler Youth, most 12 to 15 years old, for bravery in combat. He then returned to the bunker in which he had lived since January 16, 1945. Protected by 16 feet of concrete and six feet of earth, Adolf Hitler's sanctuary protected him but did not mask the sounds of Soviet Union shells falling closer each day.
The Soviets reach Berlin with overwhelming military power: Soviet Union troops encircled Berlin on April 21, 1945. With 2.5 million men, the Soviets faced one million German troops, including about 45,000 male youth and elderly. The Germans were also greatly outnumbered in artillery, tanks, and planes. "The amount of equipment deployed for the Berlin operation," a Soviet Union soldier remarked, "was so huge I simply cannot describe it and I was there." Enormous firepower was brought to bear, but the Soviets discovered that many forward German positions had been abandoned before the bombardment. The German command pulled troops tightly around Berlin for a final, doomed defense of the city.
Italians express anger a the public execution of Benito Mussolini: On April 25, 1945, Benito Mussolini's puppet government in northern Italy dissolved, as Italian partisans and American forces ended German control of the region. Two days later, Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were captured in the Italian village of Dongo while trying to flee to Switzerland. On the 28th, Benito Mussolini, Clara Petacci, and 15 aides were executed at Giulino di Mezzegra. The bodies were brought to the Piazzale Loreto in Milan on April 29. Six of them, including Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci, were hung by the feet while a crowd of Italians spit on and beat the remains.
Knowing the end was near for Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun on April 29, 1945, and they committed suicide together the next day. Continue on to the next page for a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from April 27, 1945, to May 3, 1945.