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: