The D-Day Invasion: January 1944-July 1944

Nazi German soldiers attempt to organize a defense Warsaw, Poland, in the summer of 1944. See more pictures of World War II.

On January 27, 1944, the besieged Soviet Union city of Leningrad, where an estimated one million people had died from starvation, disease, and constant shelling, was finally fully freed from encirclement after almost 900 days. This was just one of the small victories that led to the D-Day invasion and the end of World War II.

It was the end of a terrible epic of suffering in which the old had been sacrificed to save the young on the principle of Soviet Union doctrine that "he who does not work does not eat." Life in wartime Leningrad represented the idea of "total war" at its most intense. Every citizen was a potential victim. Everyone was obliged to do their utmost to defend the city. "We are all on death row," confided a nurse to her diary, "we just don't know who is next."

The year 1944 saw every combatant nation exert itself to the fullest extent. After three to four years of warfare, populations had become used to ceaseless rationing, travel restrictions, air-defense blackouts, and long hours in fields and factories. In Europe, approximately two-thirds of the countries' national product was diverted to war. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union between them mobilized about 46 million men and women in the armed forces. These were levels of effort that few populations could sustain for long.

World War II Image Gallery

Total war necessitated the mass participation of women, who comprised 35 percent of the British and American workforce and more than 50 percent in Nazi Germany and the USSR. Only in the United States, whose geographical immunity freed the population from the more onerous restrictions, did the war produce an economic boom. The American economy alone could afford large armaments while maintaining reasonable living standards.

For the first six months of 1944, the pace of advance on land against the Axis slowed. Both sides knew that at some point Europe would be invaded from the west, and that this blow, if successful, would probably ensure the defeat of Nazi Germany and its European allies. But while preparations went ahead for the invasion of France, Allied forces engaged in prolonged and bitter fighting on other fronts.

In Italy, the German redoubt around the ancient monastery of Monte Cassino, perched high in the mountains, proved a firm barrier. On January 22, an Allied task force landed at Anzio, farther up the coast toward Rome, in the hope of outflanking the German line. But the beachhead was contained, and for five more months the front stalled. Only on May 18 did a fierce assault by a Polish unit fighting with the Allies secure Monte Cassino. This victory broke the German line. On June 4, American forces entered Rome. The German army retreated northward to a new defensive position, the Gothic Line, from Pisa to Rimini.

In the Soviet Union, the momentum achieved after the Battle of Kursk (summer 1943) slowed. But in the winter of 1943-44, the Soviets advanced into the Ukraine against isolated counteroffensives from the German army. After six months, Soviet Union forces reached the Romanian and Hungarian borders. The Crimea was cleared, and on May 9 the Germans surrendered Sevastopol. Farther north, the Red Army reached the edge of the Baltic States and was poised for an assault on Poland.

In the central Pacific, the Americans' island-hopping campaign brought them control of the Gilbert Islands and Marshall Islands by February 1944. Moreover, landings along the coast of northern New Guinea isolated Japanese strongholds and brought the Philippines within striking distance. The Japanese carrier base at Truk in the Caroline Islands was neutralized by superior American airpower, and the advance on the Mariana Islands in June destroyed Japanese land-based airpower there.

When U.S. Marines landed on the Mariana island of Saipan on June 15, the Japanese fleet finally intervened. Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo led nine carriers and 450 aircraft against 15 American carriers and more than 900 aircraft. The Battle of the Philippine Sea was fought from June 19 to 20. By the end of it, the Japanese had lost the majority of their aircraft and withdrew. The 30,000-strong Japanese garrison on Saipan fought to the death, and by early July the island was in American hands. From the Marianas, it was possible to begin long-distance bombing of the Japanese homeland with the new B-29 Superfortress.

Throughout these months, the Allies' western strategy was dominated by preparation for Operation Overlord, the invasion of northwestern France by a combined American and British Commonwealth force. The planning and administration alone absorbed 300,000 people. A combined arms assault on a heavily defended coastline was an operation fraught with risk. The deadlock at Anzio and the cost of assaults in the Pacific against small but determined garrisons made it clear that a frontal attack on continental Europe across the Atlantic Wall defenses would be a costly and uncertain enterprise.

The attackers did have some clear advantages. Britain and the United States had overwhelming naval power, and after their victory in the Atlantic in 1943, they could maintain seaborne logistics without considerable difficulty. The Allies also had attained air superiority over Western Europe in February and March 1943. During the invasion, 12,000 aircraft would support Allied forces against only 170 serviceable German aircraft. The Allies also could choose the place and time of the invasion, as long as it could be concealed from the enemy.

The greatest success enjoyed by the Allies in the run-up to Overlord was in the field of disinformation. The extensive use of double agents, careful camouflage, and the strictest secrecy prevented the Germans from guessing the invasion point or the precise day. The German commander of the Atlantic Wall, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, believed like most of the high command that the Allies would take the short route across the English Channel toward the Pas de Calais. Limited German forces were kept in Normandy, France, but it was always assumed that an attack there would be a feint.

U.S. general Dwight D. Eisenhower would decide the final date. He had been appointed the supreme commander of Allied forces due to his great skills as an organizer and diplomat, qualities he needed to the full in holding together his command team. General Marshall thus could be held in reserve in case the invasion failed and a second one had to be mounted. The Allies had appointed General Bernard Montgomery, who had already defeated Rommel once, as their ground forces commander.

In late May, the final battle plan was approved. Allied forces would attack in Normandy across five selected beaches. Once established, the bridgehead would be consolidated and then used as the launchpad for a breakout. The Allies would roll up the German front in France and push it back to the Rhine River.

The date for the invasion was fixed as early May, but postponed to June when more landing craft would be available. The weather in early June was so severe that German commanders relaxed. Rommel went back to Nazi Germany for his wife's birthday. Eisenhower set D-Day -- military shorthand for the first day of any major operation -- for June 5. But with no improvement in the weather by June 4, Eisenhower was faced with a difficult choice. At 9:45 p.m. on the 4th, he gathered his commanders to order the invasion for June 6. Though heavy rain continued outside, there was better meteorological news. Eisenhower said quietly, "OK, let's go," launching the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Twenty-seven hundred ships moved to position, and in the early hours of June 6 they approached the French coast. By the time German forces were alerted, the invasion was upon them. A colossal naval barrage and around-the-clock bombing reduced resistance on all but one beach, Omaha. There, U.S. forces faced stiff opposition from defenders who were dug in on high cliffs and had by chance avoided the worst of the bombardment. The American army did not have a foothold on Omaha until the evening. On the other beaches, rapid progress was made and a bridgehead a few miles wide and deep was carved out in the first hours. Within days, more than 300,000 soldiers and 54,000 vehicles went ashore, using prefabricated harbors known as "Mulberries" that had been towed in sections across the Channel.

Throughout June, the Allies made slow progress. U.S. forces cleared the Cotentin Peninsula further west, but the city of Caen -- which was to be the hinge of the whole operation -- remained in German hands. Relations between Eisenhower and Montgomery worsened. Historians to this day have argued that the British were too cautious in the face of fierce German resistance. Britain's chief concern was to avoid defeat at all costs. Most of the Anglo-American troops lacked battle experience, and the invasion was a steep learning curve. At no point in June could ultimate victory be taken for granted.

On July 1, Rommel began an assault on the British line with five panzer divisions, provoking the fiercest fighting of the campaign so far. American attempts to accelerate the breakout southward (code-named Operation Cobra) were slowed by the rapid redeployment of German armor.

The situation was made more awkward for the Western Allies by the rapid success of the Red Army in the East. Stalin had promised a renewed summer campaign to coincide with Overlord. The operation, code-named Bagration, was undertaken against the largest concentration of German forces in the East, Army Group Center. Bagration also was meticulously prepared, veiled in secrecy, and covered by a deception operation as successful as that in the West. Soviet Union forces moved into concealed positions, while partisan attacks disabled German communications and Soviet Union aircraft pounded German positions.

On June 22, the full-scale operation was launched with devastating success. Within a week, Soviet Union forces broke through the German defensive line, captured tens of thousands of German soldiers, and advanced at a rate of up to 25 miles per day. Farther south, the Ukrainian campaign began again with assaults toward Lvov. Here, too, German defense crumbled. While the Western Allies were facing 15 German divisions, the Red Army engaged 228 German divisions across a 500-mile front.

Farther east, Japan launched a wide offensive across large tracts of central China. This was one of the last major offensives by the Axis powers, and it came at a time when Japanese fortunes in the central Pacific were waning. On April 18, the Japanese army began Operation Ichi-Go to destroy air bases that could be used by American aircraft to attack the Japanese mainland. The operation was also designed to open a continuous overland route (road and rail) between Manchuria and Singapore to facilitate the importation of strategic resources from Japanese conquests in the Southeast without interdiction from American submarines and aircraft.

On May 27, the Japanese launched a separate operation to capture the area of the middle Yangtze River. After six months of fighting, Japanese-held territory was consolidated into a single bloc. The campaign caused a growing rift between Chiang Kai-shek and the Americans, represented in China by General Joseph Stilwell. With the loss of air bases, there was little more that the Americans could achieve. Stilwell was recalled at Chiang's insistence, and the Chinese theater remained a contest between Nationalist, Communist, and Japanese forces over the future of Eastern Asia.

In the next section, get a detailed timeline of daily World War II events from January 1-10, 1944.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

­

World War II Timeline: January 1, 1944-January 10, 1944

At the start of 1944, the United States prepared for the invasion of France by delivering airborne operatives -- and weapons -- to the country. The timeline below summarizes this and other key events of early January 1944.

World War II Timeline: January 1-January 10

January 1: American Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts with their song "Ration Blues."

January 3: Thousands of German troops die, and others are captured, as the Red Army invades Nazi-occupied Poland and sends Hitler's army into retreat.

January 4: The United States launches operations behind Axis lines, delivering weapons and supplies to anti-Nazi partisans in France, Italy, and the Low Countries.

January 7: In preparation for the invasion of France, Allied planes drop airborne operatives into the occupied country to help train their partisans in guerrilla tactics to support regular troops.

January 8: Count Ciano, Mussolini's one-time foreign minister, ambassador, and son-in-law, faces a tribunal for his role in the vote to oust Il Duce. His wife will escape to Switzerland the next day, but the count will die before a firing squad on January 11.

January 9: Winston Churchill meets with Free French leader Charles de Gaulle to discuss the role the Free French will play in the Allied invasion of France.

The Allies attack Cervaro and Monte Trocchio, Italy, in yet another effort to break through the defenses known as the German Winter Line.

Twenty-two civilians are murdered in Lyons, France, in reprisal for the assassination of two German soldiers by members of the French Resistance.

January 10: The waters off Burma are heavily mined by the RAF. This will ultimately bring a complete, though temporary, halt to Japanese shipping in the area.

World War II Headlines

The headlines below summarize war-related news stories and events from early 1944, including details of the battle between the Australians and Japanese in New Guinea.

Japanese prime minister Tojo Hideki's reign is short-lived: Japanese prime minster Tojo Hideki reviews a regiment of Thai troops in January 1944. Disagreements within the Japanese supreme command over the conduct of the war prompted Tojo to name himself chief of Army General Staff in February. This unprecedented move brought the prime minister to the pinnacle of his power. His reign, however, was short-lived. Disaster followed disaster on the battlefield, culminating in mid-1944 with the fall of Saipan. Abandoned by his political backers, Tojo and his entire cabinet resigned on July 18, 1944. Once one of the most powerful men in Asia, Tojo went into seclusion.

Australians succeed in New Guinea against Japanese troops: From 1942 until about January 1944, Australian troops shouldered the brunt of the ground combat against the Japanese in New Guinea. In late 1943, the Australians drove the Japanese from Lae and Salamaua and then from the Huon Peninsula and the Ramu Valley. Defeated and starving, the Japanese 18th Army was sent into full retreat toward Wewak. About 35,000 Japanese died while the Australians lost fewer than 1,300.

Japan uses Koreans as forced laborers: Koreans were only one of many nationalities tapped as slave labor by the Japanese Empire. Some were sent to work in Japanese factories and mines. Others were used as forced labor on engineering projects, as so-called "comfort women" in army brothels, and as soldiers with the Japanese military. As many as five million Koreans are thought to have been taken as forced workers. How many died from 1939 to 1946 will never be known, but the estimates run as high as one million.

Japanese soldier's skull is a "souvenir" from New Guinea: In May 1944, Life magazine featured this photo of Phoenix war worker Natalie Nickerson. She is writing a thank you note to her Navy boyfriend for sending her a Japanese soldier's skull as a war souvenir. Her "big, handsome Navy lieutenant" had collected the skull while fighting in New Guinea. He and 13 friends autographed the skull and inscribed it, "This is a good Jap -- a dead one picked up on the New Guinea Beach." Natalie named the skull "Tojo" after Japanese prime minister Tojo Hideki.

Some French collaborate with Nazis: Even before the German invasion of France, part of the French population longed for a Fascist government similar to Franco's regime in Spain. Such people actually welcomed France's surrender to Nazi Germany in June 1940. During 1940-45, when France was ruled by the Germans and the pro-Nazi Vichy government, a low-level civil war was fought between the French Resistance and Nazi collaborators.

Continue following World War II events from January 1944 by consulting the timeline and headlines in the next section of this article.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: January 11, 1944-January 27, 1944

The Allies began bold attacks on Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe and on German positions in Italy in January 1944. Read the following World War II timeline to discover more wartime events in early 1944.

World War II Timeline: January 11-January 27

January 11: Operation Pointblank, a direct Allied attack on the Luftwaffe, kicks off with a series of bombing raids against German aeronautic facilities.

January 14: The Allies bomb the Axis-aligned Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt warns Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek that the United States will withhold lend-lease assistance if the Chinese do not send additional troops to the front. Chiang will reply by demanding a $1 billion loan in exchange for continued collaboration.

January 17: The British government denies an unfounded accusation in the Soviet media that it is negotiating peace with the Nazis.

Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower taps General Omar Bradley to lead the U.S. First Army.

January 22: The Allies mount a massive surprise attack on German positions in south-central Italy, landing a 37,000-man force on the coast at Anzio.

January 24: Following Adolf Hitler's orders to hold it to the death, German forces harden their positions along the Gustav Line.

January 26: In a report detailing their "investigation" of the Katyn massacre, Soviet authorities issue a denial and blame the Germans. However, Katyn will prove to be one atrocity not attributable to the Nazis.

January 27: After 872 days, the siege of Leningrad finally ends. Close to a million Soviets died, mostly from starvation and bombings.

Winston Churchill directs the British bomber command to prioritize the support of partisan guerrillas in occupied Europe, along with the destruction of the Axis war machine.

The U.S. government publishes a report detailing the horrors of the Bataan death march.

World War II Headlines

The Manhattan Project dominated World War II history in early 1944. For details, see the headlines below.

U.S. brigadier general Leslie Groves leads the Manhattan Project: U.S. brigadier general Leslie Groves named the Manhattan Project and was a driving force behind the creation of the first atomic bomb. He chose the sites for research and materials production and put physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in charge of the scientific laboratory. Groves was intelligent and highly organized, and although his arrogance offended some scientists, he worked well with Oppenheimer. Groves maintained high security at the Los Alamos, New Mexico, facility, having mail censored, long-distance calls monitored, travel restricted to within 100 miles, and contact with those on the outside limited.

American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer directs Los Alamos team assigned to the Manhattan Project: The presence of brilliant American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer attracted scientists from all over the world to the remote New Mexican desert to work on the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer directed the scientific team headquartered at Los Alamos. Although he suffered from periods of depression, he personally helped resolve or control conflicts that inevitably rose among the diverse international group. He, like most Los Alamos scientists, was dedicated to ending war for all time. After atomic bombs were used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer was appalled at the civilian deaths. Following the war, as chief advisor of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, he lobbied for the international control of atomic energy.

In January and February 1944, the United States attacked Frankfurt, Nazi Germany, and a Japanese island. Learn more about these and other operations in the next section.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: January 29, 1944-February 5, 1944

The United States' first attack on Japanese soil occurred in early 1944. This event and others from January and February 1944 are highlighted in the following World War II timeline.

World War II Timeline: January 29-February 5

January 29: More than 700 civilians die when U.S. bombers attack Frankfurt, Germany, with about 800 bombers.

The Luftwaffe takes another hit in a disastrous raid on Britain, losing 57 airplanes.

The U.S. begins an air campaign over the Marshall Islands to soften Japanese defenses prior to a ground-based assault.

January 30: The U.S. Army suffers a tremendous loss when an offensive against the Italian town of Cisterna turns into an ambush. Nearly two battalions of U.S. Army Rangers lose their lives.

February 1: Relaxed rationing rules in Britain allow for the return of pockets, pleats, buttons, and collars to men's suits.

February 2: The Americans obtain authorization to use Soviet air bases to rest and refuel during shuttle sorties.

One hundred Polish civilians are murdered by the Nazis in reprisal for the partisan killing of Franz Kutschera, the SS chief in charge of the Warsaw district.

February 3: The Wehrmacht is forced to divert valuable resources to rescue some 60,000 Eighth Army troops caught in a snare by the advancing Red Army within Soviet territory.

The U.S. Navy attacks Japanese soil for the first time, blasting the northern Japanese island of Paramushiro with ship-based artillery.

February 4: The United States loses nearly 150 troops while capturing the Marshall island of Kwajalein. The defeated Japanese fare far worse, losing nearly 5,000 soldiers.

February 5: Michel Hollard, the French Resistance leader who warned the British about Germany's V-bomb capabilities -- enabling the Allies to destroy some related facilities -- is captured by the Nazi Gestapo. He will survive the war.

World War II Headlines

News from the early months of 1944 include the Allied invasion of Italy and the development of the atomic bomb. See the headlines and image below for more information.

Los Alamos scientific community isolated for security reasons: In 1943 hundreds of families moved to the highly secret Los Alamos National Laboratory community in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was built. Isolated on primitive roads, fenced with barbed wire, and patrolled by mounted guards, the community was shut off from the outside world. Even so, young Princeton scientist Richard Feynman demonstrated security weaknesses by repeatedly sneaking out through holes in the fence and then walking back in through the gate to draw guards' attention to the flaws. Workers lived in simple housing, although those higher in the scientific hierarchy had proportionately better homes. Los Alamos residents worked hard and relaxed at movies, restaurants, and parties within the compound.

Italian groups resist German occupation: After Italy's government surrendered to the Allies on September 8, 1943, a sprawling and spontaneous Italian resistance movement sprang up against German occupation. It consisted of a loose and sometimes quarrelsome network of Catholics, Jews, Communists, and other groups. Resistance took many forms, including strikes, noncooperation of Italian soldiers in the Wehrmacht, and partisan warfare. These Italians, pictured in Sicily, aided South African troops in locating German snipers. During 1944, resistance groups exasperated the Germans by establishing several provisional governments in northern Italy.

Allies' Operation Shingle designed to destroy German defenses: The Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943 resulted in a stalemate as the Germans successfully defended the Gustav Line across Italy. The Allies launched Operation Shingle (so-called because it was expected to peel away German defenses like roof shingles) on January 22, 1944. Allied troops, such as the ones seen here, landed behind the Gustav Line a mere 35 miles from Rome. But the landing was not followed by an adequate Allied offensive, and the Battle of Anzio turned into a bitter four-month siege that was eerily reminiscent of World War I's paralyzing trench warfare.

Stern American propaganda designed to encourage war funding: After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, propaganda messages on the radio and on posters encouraged Americans to conserve particular materials and help fund the war. This poster of children about to be covered with the shadow of a swastika was typical of wartime propaganda. It attempted to convince everyone that the Axis threat was real and that the only way to stop it was through the purchase of war bonds.

German field marshal Albert Kesselring designs strategy in Italy: The military shrewdness of German field marshal Albert Kesselring, seen here at Anzio in February 1944, proved the bane of Allied hopes for an easy conquest of Italy. It was he who engineered the Gustav Line, a seemingly impassable barrier that thwarted an Allied advance upon Rome. Initially surprised by the January 1944 Allied landings of Operation Shingle, Kesselring quickly observed the inadequacy of the Allied offensive, then deftly mobilized German troops to pin down the invaders on the Anzio beachhead. Kesselring, who was especially adept at finding defensive advantages in Italy's landscape and weather, also ordered the killing of Italian civilians.

In the next weeks of World War II, the heaviest bomb up to that point would be dropped, and the most intense air raid staged. Continue to the next section for a timeline of events for the first half of February 1944.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: February 7, 1944-February 15-20, 1944

In February 1944, World War II witnessed the heaviest bomb dropped thus far -- and the most intense bombing raid. Summaries of these and other war highlights appear in the timeline that follows.

World War II Timeline: February 7-February 20

February 7: The first U-boat outfitted with a Schnorkel, which allows delivery of outside air to the submerged ship, becomes operational.

February 8: The RAF drops the heaviest bomb of the war thus far, six tons, on the Gnome-et-Rhone aircraft engine manufacturing facility in Limoges, France.

February 9: Dr. George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, questions the necessity of bombing raids against German targets in a speech before the House of Lords. His concerns are rebuffed.

February 10: The Allies are told that Hungary might offer its unconditional surrender, provided that the Soviet Union is not represented at the ceremony.

February 10-11: Nazi Germany's prized battleship Tirpitz once again survives an attempt on its life, this time by the Soviet Union air force.

February 12: Wary of men in his own inner circle who would like to see him dead, Hitler merges the SD (political foreign intelligence organization) and the Abwehr (German military intelligence organization).

February 15: The historic monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy is bombed by the Allies in an effort to root the Germans from their strategically superior hilltop post. Though the monastery is destroyed, the Germans tenaciously hold the hill.

February 15-16: In the most intense raid to date, more than 800 Allied bombers rain destruction on Berlin.

February 15-20: New Zealand takes Green Island in the eastern Solomons, winning an important forward air base.

World War II Headlines

Check out the stories and image below for more World War II news from early 1944, including a U.S. carrier attack on Truk Island and details on "Merrill's Marauders."

U.S. bombards Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands: GIs of the Seventh ("Hourglass") Division manhandle a gun forward during fighting on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. A model amphibious operation, the landing on February 1 was preceded by a naval, air, and artillery bombardment so intense that "the entire island looked as if it had been picked up to 20,000 feet and then dropped," said a witness. Initial U.S. casualties were light, but resistance stiffened on the third day. The island, with its valuable anchorage and airfield, was secured the following day. GI casualties included 142 killed and 854 wounded. Japanese casualties included 4,938 killed and 206 captured.

American "Merrill's Marauders" Special Forces unit formed to operate in Burma: In late 1943, 2,900 American servicemen responded to a presidential call for volunteers for hazardous duty. They formed a Special Forces unit (partly modeled on Orde Wingate's British "Chindits") to operate behind Japanese lines in Burma. "Merrill's Marauders" -- named after their leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill -- began disrupting Japanese communications and supply lines in February 1944. In five major engagements and many skirmishes, they defeated veteran Japanese soldiers, who greatly outnumbered them. The highly successful Marauders lost 700 men. Nearly that many, including Merrill, had to be hospitalized.

Raids devastate Japanese at Truk Island: Japanese "Jill" torpedo bomber attacks through a hail of anti-aircraft fire during a U.S. carrier attack on Truk Island. As the principal Japanese fleet base in the Pacific, Truk was subjected to repeated U.S. carrier raids. One of the most devastating took place on February 17 and 18, 1944, in conjunction with the Marshall Islands operation. The attack destroyed 250 to 275 enemy aircraft and sank nearly 40 ships of various types. The raids so devastated enemy capabilities at Truk that Admiral Nimitz abandoned plans to invade the island with five U.S. divisions. The once potent enemy bastion was simply bypassed.

Raids devastate Japanese at Truk Island: Japanese "Jill" torpedo bomber attacks through a hail of anti-aircraft fire during a U.S. carrier attack on Truk Island. As the principal Japanese fleet base in the Pacific, Truk was subjected to repeated U.S. carrier raids. One of the most devastating took place on February 17 and 18, 1944, in conjunction with the Marshall Islands operation. The attack destroyed 250 to 275 enemy aircraft and sank nearly 40 ships of various types. The raids so devastated enemy capabilities at Truk that Admiral Nimitz abandoned plans to invade the island with five U.S. divisions. The once potent enemy bastion was simply bypassed.

Get daily World War II highlights of the second half of February 1944 in the next section of this article.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: February 16-17, 1944-February 22, 1944

American and Soviet Union advances against Nazi Germany are among the notable World War II events of February 1944. Daily highlights are included in the following World War II timeline.

World War II Timeline: February 16-February 22

February 16-17: Japan's Imperial Navy is forced to withdraw from Truk, its main base in the central Pacific, when Truk is subjected to a highly destructive assault by American carrier aircraft.

February 17: The Red Army accepts the surrender of nearly 20,000 German Eighth Army troops, who are among those trapped earlier in the month. However, most of the Germans, some 55,000, go down fighting.

The Americans capture another forward base in the Marshall Islands with the occupation of Bikini Atoll. The atoll will become famous in later years as the site of the first hydrogen bomb test.

February 18: Seventy members of the French Resistance, sitting on death row in Amiens Prison in Nazi-occupied France, escape when Allied bombs damage the walls of their cells.

February 20: A ferry laden with tanks of heavy water en route to German atomic research facilities is sunk by a Norwegian saboteur in the very deep waters of Lake Tinnsjö.

February 20-25: During "Big Week," the American Air Force in Britain forces the Germans to send up their fighters to protect their aircraft factories against a massive assault by bombers. The escorting Mustang fighters decimate German fighter strength.

February 22: Greek partisans sabotage a track used by German troop trains. As a result, a train plunges into a ravine, leading to the deaths of some 400 German soldiers.

Japanese prime minister General Tojo takes over as chief of the Japanese Army General Staff.

World War II Headlines

The headlines and images below provide more information about World War II's 1944 events, including Soviet advances and the American seizure of Eniwetok.

Nazi General Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist defies Hitler with retreat in Russia: After participating in the invasions of Poland in 1939, France in 1940, and Yugoslavia in 1941, General Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist led his tanks across the Russian border on June 22, 1941. By September, he had played critical roles in astounding military successes, including the capture of much of the Ukraine. He was promoted to field marshal in 1943. But even Kleist's considerable prowess faltered before inexorable Soviet Union offensives. Never one of Hitler's yes-men, Kleist in 1944 defied the Führer's orders by retreating across the Ukrainian territory he had earlier conquered. In March, Hitler permanently relieved him of command.

Soviet Union advances turn the tide against Nazi Germany: A grim picture of a slain soldier, mashed by military vehicles like roadkill, hints at the savagery of the fighting on the Eastern Front. By early 1944, the Soviet Union had turned the tide against the Germans. On January 4, Axis forces were routed westward across the prewar Polish border. A month later, Soviet Union troops had advanced 100 miles into Poland. In the Ukraine, the port city of Odessa fell to the Soviets on April 10, and the Germans lost Sevastopol on May 9.

Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's excesses are fodder for cartoonists: By 1944 Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, discredited by his Luftwaffe's failures, was showing the ill effects of his devotion to sensual pleasures. His bloated girth, outlandish costumes, and erratic behavior made him a popular subject for cartoonists. (Even Germans referred to him as "Der Dicke," meaning the "Fat One.") One caricature of a grossly fat Göring with a skull-like face was signed "Kukryniksy." The best known of Soviet cartoon signatures, Kukryniksy was actually a collective name used by collaborating artists Mikhail Kupriyanov, Porfiry Krylov, and Nikolai Sokolov.

U.S. fights on Bougainville island: American soldiers advance with a Sherman tank during the fighting on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. After the initial landings on November 1, 1943, construction of an airstrip at Cape Torokina began immediately. Two other airfields were soon constructed to support the air campaign against Japanese-held Rabaul. U.S. Army troops under Major General Oscar Griswold relieved the Third Marine Division in December to expand the beachhead, protect the perimeter, and tend to the logistics of the newly established base. Army troops saw limited fighting until March 9, 1944, when the Japanese attacked in force. The GIs smashed the enemy assault, and the valuable airfields were never again threatened.

Americans seize Japan's Eniwetok atoll: Marines of the 22nd Regiment stay low during combat on Japanese-held Eniwetok. The U.S. seized the atoll on February 17-23, 1944, almost as an afterthought to the landings on Roi-Namur and Kwajalein. Those operations had gone so well that Admiral Chester Nimitz decided to capitalize on his good fortune and seize Eniwetok more than two months ahead of schedule. The atoll would serve as a base for future operations against Japanese-held Truk and the Caroline Islands. The 22nd Marines and the 106th Infantry quickly overcame the 3,500 Japanese defenders on Eniwetok and adjacent islands. Fewer than 350 Americans were killed in action.

For more information about World War II events leading up to D-Day, move to the the next section of this article.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: February 23, 1944-March 6, 1944

Among the events of March 1944 was the U.S. bombing of Berlin, in which the U.S. lost a record number of planes. Summaries of World War II events in February and March 1944 are included in this timeline.

World War II Timeline: February 23-March 6

February 23: The Seventh Indian Division of the British 14th Army scores Britain's first military victory over the Japanese, at Sinzweya, Burma.

The Marianas see action for the first time during the war, as the Allies launch a series of air attacks against the Japanese on the islands of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

February 29: Ukrainian Red Army general Nikolai Vatutin is mortally wounded in an attack by Ukrainian nationalists who are fighting for a Ukraine independent of the Soviet Union.

American infantrymen invade the strategically important Admiralty Islands, north of New Guinea.

March 1: Nazi Germany announces that it has detained and enslaved some five million foreign nationals to fulfill the Reich's war-related labor needs.

March 2: More than 400 Italian civilians die on a cargo train when it stalls in a tunnel and asphyxiates them with fumes. The freight cars had become the only means of transportation in a country where all available resources are being devoted to the war effort.

Turkey pays for its stubborn neutrality with the loss of American lend-lease assistance.

March 3: The Allies reveal that the U.S., Britain, and Soviet Union will share equally in the war spoils of the Italian navy.

As many as six million workers in northern Italy strike in protest of deportations of Italians to German slave labor camps.

March 4: The Japanese authorities order schoolchildren as young as 12 to mobilize for the war effort.

March 6: Berlin is bombed by a U.S. force of nearly 700 bombers, but the Americans suffer the loss of 69 planes, a one-day record.

Chinese and American tank forces engage the remnants of a Japanese marine division at Burma's Tanai River.

World War II Headlines

Headlining war news in 1944 were the Allied attacks on Italy and Japan, and the presence of a Hitler relative in the U.S. military. Read the following timeline for more news from this period.

Adolf Hitler's nephew, William Patrick Hitler, sworn into U.S. Navy: Unknown to most Americans but watched very carefully by the FBI, William Patrick Hitler, the nephew of Adolf Hitler, lived with his mother in New York City during the war. He was the son of Hitler's half-brother, Alois, and Alois's Irish-born wife. William and his mother traveled to America for a lecture tour, and they stayed voluntarily there at the start of the war. His attempt to enter the American military in 1942 was stonewalled, but he eventually was sworn in to the Navy in March 1944.

Allies execute dual assaults in Italy: The Allied landing at Anzio and the initial Allied assault on the Italian town of Cassino both took place in January 1944. Allied leadership hoped that the Anzio landing would bypass the Germans' formidable Gustav Line and divert and weaken German defenses at Cassino, the key position on the line. The strategy failed, and fighting dragged on in both places. But in May, the Allies finally broke through both at Anzio and Cassino. Bombing raids left Cassino in ruins.

British Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose, INA fight against the British: Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose became commander-in-chief of the Indian National Army (INA). The INA allied itself with the Japanese during the war. A former president of the Indian National Congress, Bose rejected Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent resistance to British colonial rule, declaring, "Give me blood and I shall give you freedom!" His 85,000-man INA fought alongside the Japanese in the defeats at Kohima and Imphal. They surrendered following the capitulation of Japan. Though official records claim Bose died in a plane crash in 1945, his actual fate remains uncertain.

British major general Orde Wingate known for eccentricities: Eccentric British major general Orde Wingate wore an alarm clock on his wrist and snacked on raw onions. He first demonstrated a flair for unconventional warfare while fighting Arab insurgents in Palestine. In 1941 he led a guerrilla unit against the Italians in Ethiopia, where his 1,700-man force eventually accepted the surrender of 20,000 enemy soldiers. In 1943 and 1944, he led a long-range penetration brigade, the famed "Chindits," against the Japanese in Burma. Wingate was killed in a plane crash on March 24, 1944.

Japanese war veterans stigmatized In Japan: The popular Japanese rhetoric celebrating heroic death on the battlefield left wounded veterans in an uncomfortable situation when they returned home maimed but alive. An effort was made by the Military Protection Association, part of the Ministry of Welfare, to portray the war-wounded as hakui yûshi (heroes in white). Their presence was encouraged at patriotic rallies and other public events. Still, the unstated feeling that they had somehow failed to meet their obligation to seize victory or die was deeply ingrained and difficult to overcome.

War, earthquake contribute to bleak outlook in Japan: Osaka, Japan, suffered from the effects of Allied attacks and an earthquake. Despite a media brimming with upbeat "victory news," it was becoming clear by 1944 that the war was not going well for Japan. Shortages of food and clothing led to price controls and rationing, while defeats such as the loss of Saipan could not be concealed. Patriotic slogans -- "Deny one's self and serve the nation" -- proliferated in an effort to stiffen Japanese resolve. Despite their skepticism about the news, the general population was prepared to fight to the end.

Find out how World War II progressed through March 1944 in the next section of this article. A detailed timeline of events and headlines of major news stories are included.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: March 7, 1944-March 20, 1944

Notable events of March 1944 include the deaths of thousands at Nazi Germany's Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. For more on World War II history from this period, follow the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: March 7-March 20

March 7: The British House of Commons debates whether popular singers, singing about the hardships of war on the BBC, damage morale on the front.

The gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau claim more than 3,800 Jewish deportees from the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

March 11: In the first of what will be many trials of French "collaborators" (French men and women who aided and abetted the Nazis), Vichy interior minister Pierre Pucheu receives a guilty verdict and a death sentence.

March 12: Czechoslovakia's government-in-exile sends a message to Czech citizens back home to revolt against the occupying Nazis.

Britain suspends travel between England and Ireland two days after Ireland denies an Allied request to close down Axis consular offices that effectively serve as espionage operations for Axis nations.

March 14: In Nazi Germany, Wernher von Braun (a future NASA star) is detained temporarily for spending time and money on projects that have little to do with the imperialist aims of the Reich.

March 15: Responding to Hungary's recent flirtation with the Allies, German troops stage along the border, forewarning an invasion.

March 16: Oswald John Job, at age 59, becomes the oldest person to be executed under the terms of Britain's 1940 Treachery Act. Job had passed secrets to the Nazis in letters using invisible ink.

March 18: The RAF drops 3,000 tons of bombs on Frankfurt, Nazi Germany. A separate raid four days later will claim more than 1,000 civilian lives.

March 20: Nazi Germany occupies Hungary two days after Hitler gave his troops the order to march.

World War II Headlines

The following headlines include information on the Allies' success in Burma and the importance of ships to the war effort. Read about these and other newsworthy items from 1944.

Allies ultimately prevail in Burma campaign: The fate of the China-Burma-India region was determined by the British 14th Army's successful Burma campaign (supported by U.S.-led Chinese Nationalist forces) from mid-1944, following its victories at Imphal and Kohima. The experienced and battle-hardened Japanese had initially enjoyed some successes against the British and Indian forces from 1942 to early 1944. However, Japan's overextended logistic support system finally frustrated its strategic plans. Mandalay was occupied by the Allies in March, and Rangoon fell in May. The Japanese forces in Burma eventually surrendered on August 28, 1945.

Allies advance in India, Burma: Alarmed by the buildup in Allied strength in late 1943, the Japanese launched an offensive against Imphal and Kohima in northeastern India in order to cut the railway that supplied "The Hump" airlift to China. After hard fighting, the Japanese conceded defeat by early July and retreated, having suffered 55,000 casualties. It was the largest Japanese defeat up to that time. Elsewhere, Chinese divisions commanded by General Joseph Stilwell were on the attack in the Ledo area of Burma, and in mid-April 1944 Chinese divisions mounted an attack on the Yunnan front. Hard-pressed, the Japanese retreated. By the time monsoon season arrived in 1944, the Allies were poised to recapture Burma.

French Resistance commits act of sabotage: A train car sits atop the remains of an engine in Saône-et-Loire, France. Such acts of sabotage by the French Resistance were among the most effective tactics against German occupation. From January to September 1943, the number of attacks on railroads leaped from 130 each month to 530, greatly reducing German mobility in France. French factories used for German military production were also frequent targets. In addition to committing acts of violence and sabotage, the French Resistance also supplied intelligence to the Allied powers -- information that proved especially crucial on D-Day.

Soviet Union forces storm into Belorussia: Launched on June 22, 1944, Operation Bagration pitted 1.7 million Red Army troops against 800,000 Germans of Army Group Center in Belorussia. Enjoying overwhelming superiority in men and guns -- including 24,000 artillery pieces -- the Soviet Union forces were unstoppable. Minsk fell on July 3. In two months of fighting, the Red Army liberated most of Belorussia and drove into Poland. German Army Group Center was annihilated, with 300,000 dead, 250,000 wounded, and 120,000 captured. Soviet Union losses totaled 68,000 killed or missing and 110,000 wounded.

Liberty ships carry military cargo during the war: Liberty ships were the workhorses of the war, carrying valuable military cargo to Allied forces across the Atlantic and Pacific. Eighteen shipyards across the U.S. built 2,751 Liberty ships during the war. While generally dependable, many Liberty ships suffered from structural defects, such as cracks in the decks and hulls. Nineteen split in half and sank during the war.

Henry Kaiser, father of American shipbuilding, cranks out ships for the war effort: Known as the father of modern American shipbuilding, Henry Kaiser owned seven shipyards during the war. Using an assembly-line process, his yards could build a Liberty ship in five days, although most took two to three weeks. Kaiser began producing ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission in the 1930s. He expanded his production facilities with orders from England following the start of the war. In all, his shipyards built 1,490 vessels for the war effort.

Both the Japanese and the British Royal Air Force suffered significant losses in March 1944. Read about these and other World War II events in the next section.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: March 24, 1944-April 1, 1944

The British suffered a significant loss of bombers during one raid in March 1944. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during late March and early April 1944.

World War II Timeline: March 24-April 1

March 24: The Chindits, a British special army force comprised of Indian nationals, are left rudderless after their leader, Major General Orde Wingate, dies in a plane crash over Burma.

The Nazis murder 336 Italian civilians to avenge a partisan attack that claimed the lives of 33 members of the SS who were marching through a narrow street in Rome.

March 25: Seventy-six Allied pilots escape from the German POW camp Stalag Luft III, outside of Berlin, via an expertly engineered underground tunnel.

March 26: Only one sailor survives to tell the story of the sinking of the Tullibee, a U.S. Navy submarine whose own torpedo struck the ship after following a circular trajectory after being fired.

March 27: The Nazi SS carries out a mass murder of the Jewish children of Kovno, Lithuania. No child younger than 13 is spared.

March 29: What will eventually become a massive flow of aid to war-torn Europe begins with a relative trickle when Washington allocates $1.35 billion to aid European refugees.

March 30-April 2: The Japanese suffer major equipment and supply losses when U.S. Navy ships bombard Japanese positions in the Caroline Islands.

March 31: In the worst RAF losses of the war, 95 bombers are lost in one night in an unsuccessful raid of Nuremberg, Nazi Germany.

Admiral Koga, commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy in succession to Yamamoto, is presumed dead after his plane disappears over the Philippines.

April 1: Neutral Switzerland loses 50 civilians in an accidental USAAF raid over Schaffhausen.

World War II Headlines

The following headlines provide more information about World War II-related news from 1944, including the fight for Monte Cassino.

Britain's Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) provides needed entertainment to troops: The British Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) was similar to the American United Service Organizations (USO). ENSA musicians, actors, comedians, and singers performed in hotels, factories, theaters, and at war-effort work sites. ENSA performers also toured war fronts around the world. The organization presented more than 2.5 million shows to some 300 million British and Allied troops and civilian war workers. Although some British citizens liked to poke fun at the performances, ENSA entertainments were popular with their audiences.

The U.S. Office of Price Administration controls prices of consumable goods during the war: Created in August 1941, the U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) was a governmental agency that controlled the prices and use of consumable goods. The agency had the power to place price ceilings on retail items. The OPA also oversaw the rationing of many frequently used items to ensure there were enough resources for the military. Rationed consumables included rubber products (such as tires), gasoline, sugar, shoes, and meat. When the war was over, rationing ended and price controls gradually disappeared. The OPA closed in 1947.

U.S. West Coast braces for possible attack: Half of all American military aircraft were produced in California. The oil industry thrived there, and millions of tons of cargo and munitions were shipped from West Coast ports. Citizens and military leaders constantly expected Japanese attacks. West Coast harbors were mined and guarded with mobile anti-aircraft guns, radar, and searchlights. Sound detectors remained on guard in 1944 (even with radar in use), with military personnel still listening for enemy airplanes.

Next, learn more World War II history, including what happened in the first half of April 1944.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: April 2, 1944-April 13, 1944

Allied actions in April 1944 included the destruction of Nazi Gestapo headquarters and a massive bombing campaign in Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Nazi Germany. More notable events from this time appear in the following timeline.

World War II Timeline: April 2-April 13

April 2: Nazis murder 86 French civilians in reprisal for partisan aggression.

Soviet Union troops invade Romania, with a plan to recapture the oil-rich nation for the Allies.

April 3: With the Nazi Germans in control of Hungary, the Allies revoke their promise to spare the country and attack German positions in the capital of Budapest.

April 4: General Charles de Gaulle assumes leadership of the Free French army.

April 5: Allied aircraft again attack the Axis-controlled oil production and transport facilities of Ploesti, Romania.

April 6: In Britain, the dramatic increase in the number of wage-earning citizens leads the government to introduce pay-as-you-earn taxation, whereby an employer deducts a set amount from an employee's paycheck per pay period.

April 7: The Soviet Union declines a renewed Japanese offer to negotiate a separate peace between the Nazis and the Russians.

April 10: The Red Army reclaims Odessa, an important Soviet port on the Black Sea, from the retreating German army.

April 11: The RAF destroys the Gestapo's headquarters in The Hague, including files on individual Dutch nationals scheduled to be deported to the Nazi camps.

World War II Headlines

The battle for control of Italy continued in 1944. Read about this and other World War II headlines below.

The fight for Italy continues: The Allies' success in North Africa enabled them to invade Sicily in July 1943 and Italy in September. But despite an Italian armistice on September 8, the Germans continued to fight on determinedly. Due to the impending Allied invasion of Northern Europe, the Italian campaign was consistently accorded a lower priority by the Allies, and consequently was often under-resourced. The strategic failure of the landing at Anzio exemplified this and other Allied deficiencies. Meanwhile, the German defense of Cassino was particularly tenacious. Nevertheless, the Allies advanced relentlessly northward, smashing through the Gustav Line and the Gothic Line. The Germans surrendered in Italy on May 2, 1945.

American infantryman Ira Eaker plans bombing offensive: American Ira Eaker, an infantryman during World War I, began training as a pilot in 1918. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1929 for helping set a world flight endurance record. In 1942 he was named commander of the Eighth U.S. Army Air Force based in Britain, where he led the first U.S. bomber raid on Europe. A proponent of daylight precision bombing, he helped persuade Winston Churchill to launch the Combined Bomber Offensive (also known as the Eaker Plan), in which the Americans focused on daylight bombing and the Royal Air Force conducted night bombing. He was named commander-in-chief of the Allied Air Force in the Mediterranean in late 1943.

Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) aids the war effort: Although WAAFs did not fly planes (unlike their civilian female counterparts in the Air Transport Auxiliary), their duties centered around such vital matters as weather, radar, codes, reconnaissance, and intelligence. Beginning in 1944, many WAAFs served beyond the home front, including in Europe after the invasion of Normandy.

Pope Pius XII is hailed and criticized for wartime actions: In 1943, Time magazine praised Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church for "fighting totalitarianism more knowingly, devoutly, and authoritatively, and for a longer time, than any other organized power." However, even during his life, Pius's wartime policies were controversial. Despite his muted denunciations of Nazi aggression and racial theories, the Vatican under his leadership remained officially neutral throughout the war. Pius also stirred criticism for not denouncing the Nazis' atrocities against the Jews. Members of the Church hierarchy, however, hid Jews in monasteries, convents, and the Vatican itself, saving thousands of Jewish lives.

Romans hail American liberators: Shortly before the June 4, 1944, liberation of Rome, the city had endured a week of Allied bombings that killed some 5,000 civilians. Even so, crowds of Romans grateful for an end to the Nazi occupation joyfully greeted the soldiers of U.S. general Mark Clark's Fifth Army, showering them with flowers. In his fireside chat of June 5, President Roosevelt reminded his listeners that Ancient Rome had once ruled the known world. "That, too, is significant," he said, "for the United Nations are determined that in the future no one city and no one race will be able to control the whole of the world."

Continue following World War II's history with the 1944 timeline and headlines presented in the next section of this article.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: April 13, 1944-April 25, 1944

The Allied air raid over Normandy, France, is just one event summarized in the following chronological timeline of World War II events for the second half of April 1944.

World War II Timeline: April 13-April 25

April 13: A massive Allied bombing raid hits German targets in Hungary and Yugoslavia, as well as in Nazi Germany proper.

April 13: The Allies confront Sweden, which -- despite increasing pressure from the international community -- continues to supply the Nazis with ball bearings for their equipment and weapons.

Less than two months before the planned Allied invasion of France, American and British warplanes soften German defenses on the Normandy coast.

April 14: The Nazis deport the first trainload of Greek Jews from Athens. They are destined for the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers.

At a Bombay port, nearly 1,000 people die, 20 ships are lost, and tens of thousands of tons of supplies are destroyed in a massive series of explosions that are triggered when a TNT-laden ship catches fire.

April 17: The Japanese initiate a major offensive, code-named Ichi-Go, against American and Chinese positions in China's Honan Province.

April 18-19: Nearly 1,400 French civilians die in Allied air raids over the province of Normandy.

April 19: The U.S. House of Representatives approves a one-year extension of the Lend-Lease Act.

April 20: The Allies are finally able to convince "neutral" Turkey to stop supplying the Axis with chrome for weapons and transport production.

April 24: The U.S. Department of War concludes that only through a ground invasion of the Japanese homeland will the Allies succeed in winning the war in the Pacific Theater.

April 25: U.S. general George Patton creates a buzz when he implies that the Allies have plans for world domination.

World War II Headlines

The American capture of a German submarine and the fall of Crimean city of Sevastopol to the Soviet Union are among the notable news stories of 1944. Summaries of these and other major World War II events follow.

Americans capture German submarine U-505: Launched and commissioned in 1941, the German submarine U-505 sank eight ships and survived more damage than any other German submarine during World War II. On June 4, 1944, depth charges from the USS Chatelain forced U-505's crew to abandon ship, after which the sub was boarded and saved from sinking by U.S. sailors (pictured). Valuable documents and codebooks were taken from the submarine, which was then towed to the United States. This was the first enemy ship captured by the U.S. since 1815.

Nazi Germans patrol the bluff at Pas de Calais, France: A German tank patrols the beaches of Pas de Calais in the spring of 1944. The Germans had every reason to believe that the main impending Allied invasion would arrive in Pas de Calais -- and not farther west in Normandy, as the Allies actually intended. After all, Pas de Calais was close to England and had excellent landing beaches. The Allies added to Nazi Germany's misapprehension through a number of ruses, including the creation of a phantom army group that was stationed directly across the channel from Calais and was led by U.S. general George Patton.

Nazi politician Fritz Sauckel heads forced labor program in Nazi Germany: In March 1942, Hitler put Nazi politician Fritz Sauckel in charge of acquiring manpower for the war effort. Sauckel pursued his duties with extraordinary cruelty, forcing war prisoners and citizens of occupied Eastern territories into brutal slave labor. In a memo, Sauckel ordered, "All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure." Sauckel's policies brought some five million workers to Nazi Germany, only about 200,000 of them voluntarily. After the war, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged.

The Nazis represent Terzin as a "model camp" to visitors: The 18th century fortress of Terezin (Theresienstadt in German), Czechoslovakia, became a Nazi "model camp." To deceive Red Cross inspectors and other international visitors, Theresienstadt -- which included a theater, café, and park -- was filled with Jewish scholars, musicians, and artists who were encouraged to give public performances and exhibits. On Adolf Hitler's orders, actor Kurt Gerron directed a propaganda film, The Fürhrer Gives the Jews a City, praising Theresienstadt. Of the 144,000 Jews sent there, about 33,000 died of starvation and epidemic diseases, and another 88,000 were deported to extermination camps.

City of Sevastopol falls to the Soviet Union: On April 8, 1944, the Soviet Union launched a major offensive (500,000 troops) against the German 17th Army, which had been isolated in the Crimea since November. Outnumbered two to one and with their backs to the Black Sea, the Germans attempted to make a stand at Sevastopol. However, after being shattered by massive artillery barrages and relentless infantry attacks, the city fell on May 9. Of the 230,000 Axis troops originally trapped on the peninsula, about 150,000 escaped by sea. The rest were killed or captured.

British air chief marshal Sir Arthur Tedder uses bombers to clear way for troops: British air chief marshal Sir Arthur Tedder was appointed Eisenhower's deputy supreme commander for the invasion of Normandy. Tedder successfully carried out the Allies' "Transportation Plan," which involved bombing French railways to slow down Axis reinforcements during the Allied landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944. His tactic of using bombers to clear the way for advancing troops ("Tedder's Carpet") also proved effective at Normandy and elsewhere. In May 1945, he signed Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender on Eisenhower's behalf.

Follow the progression of World War II through late April and early May 1944 by continuing the next section of this article.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: April 27, 1944-May 4, 1944

The World War II timeline below summarizes key events of late April and early May leading to D-Day, including a D-Day "practice run."

World War II Timeline: April 27-May 4

April 27: In the run-up to D-Day, British authorities ban all travel outside the country in an effort to put a stop to intelligence leaks about the invasion.

April 29: Disaster strikes a D-Day practice run when German naval forces attack an American training exercise, killing more than 600 troops.

Some 120 Japanese planes are destroyed as the Allies return to the key Japanese base of Truk to inflict further damage.

April 30: The first prefabricated, $2,200 home goes on display in London, in advance of Churchill's plan to use hundreds of thousands of these structures to house those left homeless by the war.

May 1944: The Soviet Union prevails in the Battle of the Crimea. The area is emptied of German and Romanian forces, tens of thousands of whom have been killed.

This month, for the first time since 1940, no British civilians will die in Axis air raids.

Japanese shipping is severely curtailed following Allied mining of the waters off Thailand and Burma.

May 2: Schoolteacher and crossword puzzle creator Leonard Dawe attracts the attention of the Allies when one of his puzzles, published in the London Daily Telegraph, contains the word Utah. Subsequent puzzles will include the words Omaha and Overlord, leading Allied security to suspect Dawe is leaking intelligence about the D-Day invasion. He is not doing so.

May 3: Spain's Fascist government under General Francisco Franco agrees to curtail supply shipments to Nazi Germany in exchange for an increase in oil shipments from the Allies.

May 4: The United States suspends the rationing program for most types and cuts of meat.

World War II Headlines

The headlines below summarize D-Day preparations, the D-Day invasion, and other major events of World War II in 1944.

British military argues about area bombing: Along with Arthur "Bomber" Harris, RAF chief of the air staff Sir Charles Portal was a vigorous advocate of area bombing -- destroying civilian populations instead of military targets. But Portal's thinking changed, putting him increasingly at odds with Harris. Over Harris's strong objections, Portal sided with Eisenhower's commitment to the "Transportation Plan" of bombing French railroads instead of German cities in preparation for D-Day. Portal grew increasingly skeptical of area bombing's military effectiveness, but was unable to restrain Harris from bombing city after city late in the war.

U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower greets troops before D-Day: On June 5, 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower wrote a short note. "If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt," he wrote, "it is mine alone." Success was not guaranteed, and Eisenhower probably composed this message in advance of D-Day for fear that the proper words would not come to him if the invasion failed. "Ike" visited the men of the 101st Airborne as they prepared for their drop. He asked their names and where they were from. Not long after, he watched as the planes carried his airborne troops into the night.

General Omar Bradley's men storm Omaha, Utah beaches in Normandy, France: Due to his success in corps command during campaigns in North Africa and Sicily, General Omar Bradley was chosen by General Eisenhower as the First U.S. Army commander for the invasion of France. Eisenhower decided that Bradley's First Army, with its three corps, would land on the Omaha and Utah beaches in the first wave of the invasion of Normandy. Bradley watched the assaults from the USS Augusta. The landing at Utah met with relatively little opposition. Omaha, however, was heavily defended by German forces. After securing a beachhead on Omaha beach, Bradley's Operation Cobra, begun on July 25, 1944, tore a hole in German defenses.

Aerial reconnaissance assesses enemy defenses: Photography provided essential intelligence to all belligerents. The RAF rapidly developed strategic reconnaissance (with fast, high-altitude, unarmed aircraft) and tactical reconnaissance (with low-flying armed fighters). Their photographs were interpreted with stereoscopic techniques, producing a 3-D image from two overlapping prints. By 1942 Allied aircraft could produce 1:10,000 scale photographs from 30,000 feet. The USAAF initially employed specially equipped bombers (such as the one pictured) for long-range reconnaissance, but it soon switched to adapted fighters. Aerial photography proved invaluable for assessing enemy defenses (notably for Operation Overlord), interfering with the production and use of the V-weapons, and planning strategic bombing.

The five beaches of Normandy are given code names: Sword and Gold were code names for the beaches attacked by the British Second Army. Americans landed on Utah and Omaha. British troops landing at Sword met with very little resistance, sustaining 600 casualties. The Canadians attempting to land on Juno met with greater resistance, suffering about 50 percent casualties in the first hour. But once over the sea wall, they faced less opposition. The British who attacked Gold faced some resistance, which decreased as they moved inland. Americans landing at Utah faced the least resistance, suffering only 200 casualties on D-Day. Omaha proved the toughest, as the terrain was best suited for defense. By the time the Americans advanced off the beach, they had left about 3,000 casualties behind.

Breaking through the Nazi Atlantic Wall proves perilous: To defend against an Allied invasion from Britain, the Germans constructed the Atlantic Wall -- fortifications along the western coast of Europe. Obstructions were placed under water to tear holes in landing craft, and mines were seeded under the sand. Antitank barriers and walls of barbed wire were strategically placed along the beaches. The Omaha beach was raked by machine guns in pillboxes with overlapping fields of fire. Soldiers who made it to the barbed wire used Bangalore torpedoes -- 50-foot-long pipes (pictured) filled with 85 pounds of TNT -- to blow holes through the wire wall.

Allies encounter strong resistance after landing at Utah beach: Allies met with the stiffest resistance on Juno and Omaha beaches. U.S. colonel George Taylor of the First Infantry Division tried to motivate his shell-shocked and fatigued men to advance off Omaha. "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach," he said, "the dead and those who are going to die." Once beyond the obstructions, troops advanced up the slopes to destroy pillboxes, from which machine gun and artillery fire rained down.

In the next section, we'll provide a chronological timeline of World War II events for the first half of May 1944, as well as relevant headlines from the period.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: May 5, 1944-May 13, 1944

The Allies' preparations for D-Day continued throughout May 1944. The timeline below includes summaries of major World War II events during this crucial time.

World War II Timeline: May 5-May 13

May 5: Ailing Indian Congress Party leader Mohandas Gandhi leaves prison nearly two years after his incarceration for impeding Britain's war effort.

May 6: Nazi Germany orders an additional 1,800 laborers from France to help staff the Mittelbau-Dora slave labor camp near Nordhausen, Germany. The workers are needed to step up production of the V-2 bombs that will terrorize Britain for much of the year.

May 8: Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower confirms June 5 as the date for Operation Overlord, the invasion of France.

May 9: Luftwaffe installations on French soil are pounded by Allied aircraft in an attempt to render them harmless prior to D-Day.

On the Eastern Front, the Soviet Union recaptures the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol.

May 10: President Roosevelt appoints James Forrestal secretary of the Navy following the death of Forrestal's predecessor, W. Franklin Knox.

May 12: The Allies engage in heated battles with German troops across much of Italy, and manage to make steady gains.

The Allies warn secondary Axis powers Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria that they will suffer if they continue to stand with Nazi Germany.

A Free French tribunal finds Vichy Admiral Edmond Darian guilty of collaborating with the Nazis and sentences him to life imprisonment.

A joint U.S.-RAF aerial assault over Nazi Germany inflicts heavy damage on the Luftwaffe while wreaking havoc on several synthetic-oil production facilities.

May 13: The Allies finally break through the German Gustav Line, the western segment of the Winter Line, and begin their march northward through Italy.

World War II Headlines

American advances in Europe, the dissemination of news of the Normandy invasion, and more World War II events are illustrated in the following headlines from 1944.

Allies break out from the Normandy beaches: The Allied seaborne and airborne landings in Normandy by General Montgomery's 21st Army Group on June 6, 1944, were the culmination of years of operational and logistic joint planning and preparation. Although the U.S. Fifth Corps landing on Omaha Beach at first encountered severe difficulties, Anglo-Canadian-U.S. success on the other four beaches -- Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword -- was generally remarkable. Nevertheless, several first-day objectives -- notably Caen -- were subsequently secured only after weeks of hard fighting in the densely wooded countryside of northern France. The delayed Allied breakout meant that many German troops escaped encirclement in the Falaise Pocket.

News of the invasion of France is released: At about 3:30 a.m. Eastern time in the U.S. on June 6, 1944, the following news was released: "Allied naval forces . . . began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France." This landing had been much anticipated in the Allied and Axis nations. Most Americans were anxious for news. President Roosevelt emphasized in a news conference that the invasion did not mean the fighting was almost over. "You don't just walk to Berlin," he said, "and the sooner this country realizes that, the better." The Japanese ambassador in Berlin notified Tokyo that German headquarters told him there would be no counterattack in Normandy because the German army still awaited (erroneously) the invasion of "the main body, which the Allies [have] not yet landed."

Hedgerows impede Allies' progress in Cherbourg, France: "Too many hedges," an Allied unit reported. "Must go forward slowly . . . take one hedgerow at a time and clean it up." Bocage is French for mixed woodland and pasture separated by thick, high hedgerows. Cherbourg Peninsula's terrain proved excellent for defense, undermining America's advantage in air support, armor, and artillery. The hedgerows did not stop a tank, but the machine's underbelly -- the weakest part of a tank's armor -- was exposed to enemy antitank and bazooka fire as it reached the top of a hedgerow. Units from the U.S. First Army needed 17 days to travel seven miles toward Saint-Lô.

British forces seize Bayeux, France: A British soldier fires a Bren gun over debris in Bayeux, France. Notice that censors have obscured his shoulder patch so his unit could not be identified. A member of the British 50th Division, he landed on Gold beach. The 50th came closer than any other Allied unit to its June 6 objective, as Bayeux was captured by the British the day after the landing. This soldier is using a Bren Gun -- a light machine gun popular in the British Army during World War II. It used magazine- instead of belt-fed ammunition like other machine guns. One of the gun's benefits was that it fired the same ammunition as the standard British rifle, the bolt-action Lee Enfield.

Americans break through the German line at Saint-Lô, France: In mid-June 1944, the Germans' defense stiffened in the hedgerows of Normandy. The British advance stalled at Caen, which was defended by much of Nazi Germany's armor. However, the Germans had few tanks in the American sector at Saint-L'99, allowing U.S. forces to breach the German line there in early August. U.S. general George Patton's newly formed Third Army threatened to encircle the German force still deployed across Normandy. Hitler called for a retreat from Normandy on August 16, leaving 50,000 dead and about 200,000 captured.

American troops made advances in operations in Italy and New Guinea in the latter part of May 1944. Read more about these World War II operations in the next section.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: May 13, 1944-May 29, 1944

Key World War II events of the latter part of May 1944 include Allied captures in Italy and New Guinea. Read about these events and others in the following timeline.

World War II Timeline: May 13-May 29

May 13: Klaus Dönitz, son of the German Kriegsmarine commander, dies when the Allies sink the ship he is on.

May 15: The Nazis begin the process of deporting Hungarian Jews to labor and death camps with the assistance of the local Hungarian police. Ultimately, close to 440,000 will be deported, with about two-thirds ending their journey in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

May 18: After four months of bloody battle and at a cost of some 20,000 lives, the Allies finally capture the ruined hilltop of the Monte Cassino monastery in Italy.

May 19: About 50 of the Allied POWs who escaped Stalag Luft III via an underground tunnel are executed after almost all who escaped were recaptured. About 20 are returned to the camp to serve as a warning to other inmates.

May 21: The Americans capture Wakde Island, off the north coast of Dutch New Guinea, two days after their initial landing. The conquest gives them an important forward base for their planned invasion of western New Guinea.

May 22: The North Atlantic island nation of Iceland declares itself independent of Denmark.

May 25: Josip Broz Tito, leader of the Communist Yugoslavian partisans, narrowly evades capture in a surprise German raid on his headquarters.

May 26: Nearly 5,500 French civilians die in Allied air raids over the southern part of the country.

May 29: Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring admits that his fleet has yielded the skies over Europe to the Allies, telling Hitler "not a single Luftwaffe aircraft dares show itself."

World War II Headlines

The headlines below contain news of 1944's important wartime events, including the D-Day invasion and the treatment of American prisoners of war.

Allied invasion of Normandy, France, deemed a resounding success: The Allies' successful invasion and subsequent landing of supplies surpassed everyone's expectations. Once the beaches were under Allied control, two prefabricated harbors, made of six miles of flexible steel roadway, were towed from England and constructed at Omaha and Gold beaches. By the end of June, approximately 850,000 troops, 150,000 vehicles, and 570,000 tons of supplies had crossed the English Channel. Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated that Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion, was "the most difficult and complicated operation ever to take place."

Nazis massacre French residents at Oradour-sur-Glane, France: On June 10, 1944, a Waffen-SS battalion led by Adolf Diekmann surrounded the Vichy French town of Oradour-sur-Glane, where French informants had reported that the Maquis (resistance) was holding a German official for execution. The Nazis herded the town's men into barns and the women and children into a church. They then killed these local residents by arson and machine gun fire. After slaughtering 642 people, the Nazis burnt the entire town. The German official supposedly held there was never located.

Nazis deployed remote-controlled tanks to destroy targets: German "Goliaths" -- small, remote-controlled tanks -- were loaded with TNT and designed to destroy such targets as bunkers, fortified positions, and full-scale tanks. Deployed in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and at the beaches of Anzio and Normandy, these devices were ingenious but not especially effective. They were controlled by lengths of three-wire electric cable, which a daring enemy soldier could simply cut with a shovel. Still, an unmolested Goliath could travel at a speed equal to a brisk walk, and the operator could detonate the charge at will.

In the next section of this article, get a detailed chronological timeline of World War II operations from late May to early June 1944.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: May 29, 1944-June 5, 1944

In early June 1944, the French Resistance was alerted to the upcoming D-Day invasion. This and other key World War II events of May and June 1944 are highlighted in the chronological timeline that follows.

World War II Timeline: May 29-June 5

May 29: Tanks clash in the Pacific Theater for the first time when U.S. forces attempt to evict the Japanese from their strategically important airfield on the island of Biak.

The USS Block Island, a Bogue Class escort carrier, becomes the only American carrier to go down in the Atlantic when it is torpedoed by U-549 in waters northeast of the Canary Islands.

May 30: The Nazis order all Germans to kill downed Allied airmen on sight.

June 1: The French Resistance is given its marching orders and alerted to the timing of the D-Day invasion when the BBC broadcasts Verlaine's poem "Chanson d'Automne."

The Ultra code-breakers at Britain's Bletchley Park press "Colossus" -- a speedy, fully electronic Enigma deciphering machine -- into service.

June 2: As the Allies approach Rome, appeals come in from all quarters to spare the ancient city the destruction wrought on much of the rest of Europe.

June 4: The Allies march on Rome, one day after Hitler orders his armies withdrawn. Though sporadic fighting occurs in the outskirts, the city center is spared.

A forecast of high winds and excessive cloud cover forces the postponement of D-Day by one day, to June 6.

The U.S. Navy captures U-505, an intact U-boat, off the coast of Africa.

June 5: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel leaves his post on the coast of France to travel to Nazi Germany to celebrate his wife's birthday. He will spend most of D-Day speeding back to the Normandy front.

Allied paratroopers land in France late in the evening as a prelude to the D-Day invasion.

World War II Headlines

The headlines below describe Nazi rocket ingenuity, the U.S. Marines' experience in the Mariana Islands, and other World War II news from 1944.

Germans launch "buzz bomb" rockets at London: On June 13, 1944, Nazi Germany launched the V-1 flying bomb at London for the first time. The "buzz bomb" was an unmanned, pulse-jet aircraft developed in Peenemünde, a town on a small German peninsula in the Baltic Sea. German scientists, under the direction of Wernher von Braun (later the father of the U.S. space program), also developed the V-2 ballistic missile, a pilotless aircraft that traveled at four times the speed of sound, making it invulnerable to antiaircraft and fighter fire. RAF bombers attacked Peenemünde on August 17-18, 1943, destroying much of the missile development site. However, production of these weapons continued there and at other locations.

Nazis produce the Fritz-X rocket, the first successful radio-guided missile: Before and during World War II, the Germans researched rocket and missile technology. Even before German V-1 pilotless "buzz bombs" and V-2 ballistic missiles struck London and other cities in 1944-45, underground factories worked to complete a V-3 gun designed to fire long-range warheads. The Germans' "Fritz-X" missile (pictured) was the first successful radio-guided bomb. Fritz-X missiles sank the Italian battleship Roma and the British cruiser Spartan, and damaged other Allied warships.

Communication is key to U.S. victory on Saipan: A Marine works a field telephone switchboard at a temporary command post on Mount Tapochau in the center of Saipan. Even command posts were unsafe on Mount Tapochau in the center of Saipan; 19 battalion commanders were killed or wounded. Tapochau, the island's highest point (1,554 feet), was a crucial objective from which Japanese observers had initially called down artillery fire on the beaches. Its capture by the Second Marine Division on June 25 without loss was a turning point. Despite a lack of radio batteries and occasional cut telephone lines, efficient American communications on Saipan contributed enormously to the complex invasion's eventual success.

U.S. Marines land on Mariana Island, Saipan: Invading the Mariana Islands, from which U.S. bombers could bomb Japan, was an immense logistical challenge. Some 535 combat ships and auxiliaries transported 127,571 troops to islands more than a thousand miles from the nearest U.S. base, Eniwetok. The Marianas were 3,500 miles from the troops' departure point, Pearl Harbor. Early on June 15, 1944, after Admiral Turner gave the go-ahead to the landing force, vessels such as landing craft carried Marines to the key Mariana island, Saipan. More than 600 amphibious craft debarked two divisions on eight beaches on a four-mile front with no serious collisions. Some 8,000 Marines were landed in the first 20 minutes. Once the troops were ashore, they met fierce resistance.

U.S. troops face troublesome obstacles in Saipan: Saipan's terrain was much more diverse than the small, low-lying atolls of the Marines' and Army's recent campaigns. Mountains, tangled vegetation, cane fields, ravines, and caves all presented obstacles. The enemy usually proved difficult to locate, and fighting everywhere was at close quarters. Grenades proved invaluable, and so did satchel charges and flamethrowers. U.S. naval dominance had prevented the Japanese from receiving the reinforcements and supplies needed to strengthen their defenses before the invasion. But the 30,000 Japanese defenders fought with characteristic determination for land that they considered strategically vital home territory.

To learn more about World War II history in 1944, read on. Another detailed timeline and news headlines for June 1944 follow.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: June 6, 1944-June 13, 1944

Learn about the Allied invasion of France -- the D-Day invasion -- and other major June 1944 events by following the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: June 6-June 13

June 6: In an awesome show of military force, the Allies land on the coast of France. By the end of the day, German positions in Normandy will be bombarded with more than 175,000 troops, 600 warships, and nearly 10,000 bombers and other warplanes. By the end of the month, nearly a million Allies will be on French soil.

While the European Theater is heavily engaged on the beaches of Normandy, Allied Pacific Theater commanders set the date for a similar invasion of Japan for October 1 of the following year.

June 7: German troops detain King Leopold III of Belgium and transport him to Nazi Germany.

June 8: The beaten and depleted Wehrmacht retreats from coastal positions in eastern Italy.

June 9: For the first time, the Allies launch bombing missions on German positions from recaptured airfields on the French mainland.

June 10: The village of Oradour-sur-Glâne is destroyed, and 642 men, women, and children are slaughtered, by members of the Waffen-SS who are searching for a missing gold shipment and Major Helmut Kämpfe, kidnapped by French partisans.

Americans on the Normandy beaches code-named "Utah" and "Omaha" join forces and move inland.

June 11: The U.S. Navy deals a harsh blow to the Japanese, destroying more than 200 of their air fleet in an attack on bases in the Marianas.

June 12: Six days after the initial D-Day invasion, the Allies have cemented a solid offensive line along the Normandy beaches.

June 13: Hitler unleashes his long-promised "secret weapon" against England. Over the next 80 days, V-1 rocket bombs will kill 5,500 civilians and cause widespread destruction.

World War II Headlines

The headlines below shed light on additional newsworthy events of 1944, including news from the Pacific theater.

Japanese soldiers in Saipan choose death over surrender: In a World War II photo, the corpse of one of the 23,811 Japanese known to have died on Saipan leans back on a tree as if asleep. How he died is unknown, but he evaded the fate of thousands sealed in caves or charred beyond recognition. Perhaps he died in a night raid or a banzai charge. The last charge, on July 7, cost more than 3,000 Japanese lives. Perhaps this soldier in the photo committed suicide rather than surrender. Only 736 of the 30,000 defenders, includuing 438 Koreans, allowed themselves to be captured. As the garrison commander, General Saito, concluded before committing hara-kiri, "Whether we attack, or whether we stay where we are, there is only death."

U.S. Marines seek spiritual strength during Saipan campaign: During the initial landings on Saipan, Marines listened as chaplains gave them a prayer and blessing over the ships' loudspeakers. Of 71,034 officers and men committed to the invasion of the island, casualties amounted to 14,111, or about 20 percent. Nearly four times as many Marines became casualties on Saipan as on Tarawa. Navy chaplains, who supported the Marine Corps, moved between units from dawn till dusk, providing up to 14 services a day. They also performed burial services.

Americans try to spare civilians while attacking in Saipan: American forces on Saipan were ordered to avoid civilian casualties when attacking enemy-held caves. Most American troops showed good will towards civilians, even amid a quintessentially brutal battle. Civilians showed fear when encountering American servicemen, whom the island's Japanese commander called "American devils." Propaganda that civilians would be tortured and killed prevented many from leaving their caves. Hundreds followed the lead of Japanese troops and committed suicide, most famously by leaping off cliffs at Marpi Point.

In the next section, find out what happened during the remainder of June 1944. Notable World War II events of the period are chronicled in a timeline.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

World War II Timeline: June 14, 1944-June 29, 1944

World War II events following the invasion of Normandy included the Allied bombing of Cherbourg, France, and a heavy blow to the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The timeline that follows summarizes these and other events of the latter part of June 1944.

World War II Timeline: June 14-June 29

June 14: Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle returns to France some four years after the Nazi occupation sent him into exile.

June 15: Operating out of Chinese bases, American B-29 long-range bombers attack the Japanese island of Kyushu, damaging a steel plant that is a key supplier for the imperial war effort.

June 19-20: The U.S. Navy deals a heavy blow to the Japanese, and their naval air fleet in particular, in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. U.S. losses are relatively small, while the incapacitated Japanese fleet is forced to retreat to Okinawa.

June 22: The Allies bomb the French city of Cherbourg after a warning, delivered a day prior to the occupying German force, is met with silence.

President Roosevelt signs the GI Bill of Rights, a wide-ranging veterans benefits package that will become the catalyst for the "American dream" ideal of the 1950s.

Keeping an eye on the postwar prize, the Soviets establish a puppet Communist government in Chelm, Poland. The new body is called the Polish Committee of National Liberation.

June 27: The U.S. Army occupies the French city of Cherbourg two days after naval bombardments and street fighting began to engulf the city.

June 28: Philippe Henriot, the Vichy minister of information who was known as "the French Goebbels," is murdered in his bed by members of the French Resistance.

June 29: In a meeting with his top commanders at Berchtesgaden, Hitler refuses to listen to their bleak reports on the state of the war. They leave enthused by his comments.

World War II Headlines

Making the news in June 1944 were the Battle of the Philippines, the American GI Bill, and more. Read summaries of these noteworthy events below.

Americans cripple Japanese carrier forces during the Battle of the Philippine Sea: U.S. airman Ronald "Rip" Gift celebrates his survival following a night landing on the USS Monterey during the two-day Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19-20, 1944). The "Get the carriers" exhortation on the ready room blackboard reflects the emphasis placed on aircraft carriers as priority targets. By mid-1944, U.S. carrier task forces were prowling the seas, striking enemy targets at will. By contrast, the Japanese navy was steadily weakening. Losses of Japanese carriers, aircraft, and pilots during the Battle of the Philippine Sea were the final blows to Japanese hopes for naval dominance.

Congress passes the GI Bill: in June 1944, the U.S. Congress passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, more popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights. The House of Representatives had attempted to scale down the bill's provisions, but after much negotiation, the House finally passed it almost intact. The act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 22. Two of its major provisions were low-interest home loans and educational benefits. The home loans, utilized by 2.4 million returning veterans, would help to develop America's suburban landscape and personal wealth. The educational provision would give colleges the financial boost to expand programs and enrollment. By 1951, 2.3 million GIs would attend colleges and universities of their choice, 3.5 million would receive educational training, and 3.4 million would take part in on-the-job training.

British children traumatized by bombing raids over London: British youngsters were traumatized by bombing raids, separation from their families, and the deaths of parents. Some children were killed or wounded. "We sat there listening to German planes coming over the shelter on their way to London and we then had to stay there until they came back," Margaret Hoffman later wrote about the 1944 air strikes.

This article's timelines, headlines, and photos detail the World War II events of January 1944-June 1944, providing a comprehensive overview of preparations for -- and the execution of -- the seminal D-Day invasion.

For more timelines and information on World War II events, see:

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:John S. D. Eisenhower, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Richard Overy Ph.D., David J. A. Stone, Wim Coleman, Martin F. Graham, James H. Hallas, Mark Johnston Ph.D., Christy Nadalin M.A., Pat Perrin, Peter Stanley Ph.D.