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.
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