Italy Falls to the Allies: February 1943-June 1943

By May 1943 more and more German U-Boat crew found antisubmarine warfare progressed. See more pictures of WWII.

By February 1943, momentum in the second World War seemed to have shifted somewhat. Yet critical Allied World War II victories on Guadalcanal and at Stalingrad have to be put into perspective. In both cases, the overwhelming bulk of enemy armed forces remained undefeated. In each instance, victory was geographically remote from the enemy heartland. The Allies understood that winning the war would be a long, drawn-out, and costly endeavor.

The turning points that are familiar to us now were less clear-cut at the time. In most cases, small victories were important in order to keep the Allied populations committed to an otherwise demoralizing and indecisive war. In February 1943, Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, asked an audience in Berlin, "Do you want total war?" His audience clamored approval, but the mood among Nazi Germany's non-Nazi loyalists was somber and fearful. The changing expectations on both sides also played an important part in determining an outcome that was still more than two years away.

Just days before the German surrender at Stalingrad on January 31, 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met for a high-level conference in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, recently captured in Operation Torch. There they discussed the future direction of the war. They gave the European Theater priority, but they would not commit to an invasion of Northern Europe until the Atlantic could be made safe for the mass transport of men and supplies. While the naval struggle continued, they agreed, the two Western states would capitalize on success in North Africa by continuing a Mediterranean strategy against Benito Mussolini's Italy. They would also maintain a relentless bombing campaign against the European Axis states to ease the pressure on the Red Army. This Combined Bomber Offensive was the Allies' substitute for a second front, which was deemed too risky in 1943.

At the final press briefing of the conference, President Franklin Roosevelt -- in agreement with Winston Churchill -- announced that the enemy states had only one option open to them: "unconditional surrender." Though secret contacts were occasionally made between individuals on both sides with a view to brokering an agreement, Roosevelt's public statement committed the Allies to a fight to the finish. No room was put aside for maneuver or compromise.

After a year in which the Allies lost 7.8 million tons of shipping, the submarine threat was expected to get worse during 1943. But a fortunate set of tactical changes tilted the balance in the Allies' favor. Most important was the adoption of new forms of radar on ships and aircraft as well as the transfer of adequate numbers of long-range planes to patrol the sea lanes. In May 1943, the German navy lost 41 submarines while Allied merchant vessel losses dropped sharply. Over the next two months, a further 54 submarines were sunk, prompting the German naval commander-in-chief, Admiral Karl Dönitz, to withdraw from the North Atlantic. The Allies' victory over the submarine menace was a critical one, for it made possible the full extension of American military and economic power into the European Theater.

That power was principally represented in the air in 1943. The Combined Bomber Offensive was officially launched as Operation Pointblank in June 1943, although British Bomber Command and the U.S. Eighth Air Force had begun around-the-clock bombing -- the British by night, the Americans by day -- from the winter of 1942-43. The offensive was aimed at the enemy's military-economic complex -- the source of German airpower and the morale of the urban workforce.

The Russian victory in the Battle of Kursk drove Nazi Germany out of central and southern Russia and opened the way to victory in the East. The Russian victory in the Battle of Kursk drove Nazi Germany out of central and southern Russia and opened the way to victory in the East.
The Russian victory in the Battle of Kursk drove Nazi Germany out of central and southern Russia and opened the way to victory in the East.

Efforts to attack identifiable industrial or military targets could not be achieved with prevailing technology without a high cost to civilians. Over the course of the war, more than 420,000 German civilians would die from the bombing attacks; a further 60,000 civilians would be killed in attacks on Italian cities.

The bomb attacks immediately affected German strategy. The Germans established a large air defense sector. To do so, they had to withdraw valuable resources of manpower, artillery, shells, and aircraft from the military front line. There, German armies were forced to fight with shrinking air cover. Though military production continued to rise in Germany during 1943, the increase was much lower than it would have been otherwise. Bombing placed a ceiling on the German war effort and brought the war to bear directly on German and Italian society.

The Allies capitalized on these growing advantages. In North Africa, the Axis forces that were bottled up in Tunisia were slowly starved of supplies by Allied naval and air power in the Mediterranean. By May 13, when the battle was over, 275,000 Italian and German troops had surrendered.

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The Allies' pressure at sea, in the air, and on the southern front made the Axis task in the Soviet Union more difficult. Following the collapse of the German assault on the Caucasus and Stalingrad, the Red Army became overly ambitious. After the Soviets pressed the German army back, a swift counteroffensive around Kharkov in early 1943 was a reminder that the huge German army remained a formidable foe. Adolf Hitler listened to the advice of his generals, who argued that in summer weather, with good preparation, they could smash a large part of the Soviet army in a single pitched battle. They chose a large salient that bulged into the German front line around the city of Kursk as their battleground.

Operation Citadel lacked the geographical scope of previous operations, but it became one of the largest set-piece battles of the whole war. It followed a classic German pattern: Two heavily armored pincers would close around the neck of the salient, trapping the Soviet armies in the salient and creating conditions for a possible drive into the areas behind Moscow. Manstein, who commanded the southern pincer, wanted to attack in April or May, before the Red Army had time to consolidate its position. But Adolf Hitler, in agreement with General Model (who commanded the northern pincer), ordered a delay until German forces were fully armed with a new generation of heavy tanks and guns -- the Panthers and Tigers.

The Soviets, for the first time, guessed the German plan correctly. Stalin had to be persuaded by Georgi Zhukov and the General Staff that a posture of embedded defense was better strategy than seeking open battle against a powerful mobile enemy. Stalin accepted it only because the defensive stage was to be followed by a massive blow struck by Soviet reserves against the weakened and retreating German armies. In May and June, a vast army of Soviet civilians turned the Kursk salient into a veritable fortress, and they waited for the Nazi attack.

See the next section for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred during early February 1943.

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World War II Timeline: February 3, 1943-February 10, 1943

In February 1943 General Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed control of the Allies' north African forces. Follow this and other World War II events from February 1943 in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: February 3-February 10

February: Along several fronts in Tunisia, Allied forces clash with German units in heavy fighting. Nazi Germany's Mark VI tanks battle the Allies' Churchill and Sherman tanks.

February 3: Germans observe the first of three official days of mourning for the loss of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Of a force of about 270,000 men, nearly 150,000 were killed and 90,000 taken prisoner.

February 4: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command receives orders that the next phase of the German bombing campaign is to focus on the destruction of Germany's U-boat manufacturing capabilities.

American General Dwight D. Eisenhower assumes command of the Allies on the North African front.

The British Eighth Army, fresh from victory in Tripoli, rolls into Tunisia.

February 5: Benito Mussolini relieves his son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, of his duties as Italy's foreign minister, reassigning him to the ambassadorship at the Vatican. Il Duce (Mussolini) will appoint himself to fill the vacant ministry post.

February 8: The Russians retake Kursk, a vital operations base, from the German occupation force that has held the city for almost 14 months.

February 9: President Franklin Roosevelt orders a 48-hour minimum workweek in several U.S. industries that are key to the war effort.

After six months of desperation, disease, and brutal fighting, the U.S. declares Guadalcanal secure the day after the last Japanese soldier quietly evacuates the island.

February 10: Civilians evacuate the town of Lorient, France, site of an active German U-boat base, in the face of a heavy RAF bombing campaign.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing events of World War II and the Axis and Allied campaigns of 1943.

Hundreds of thousands die at Treblinka: Before Jews and other enemies of the Third Reich were exterminated at the Treblinka death camp in Poland, their shoes (and other possessions) were confiscated. This image alone suggests that a huge number of people met their fates at Treblinka. In fact, more than 700,000 Jews died at the camp, a death toll exceeded only at Auschwitz. Most of the victims came from such major ghettos as Warsaw (250,000 in the summer of 1942) and Bialystok, while others endured (or died during) long train rides from Czechoslovakia, Greece, and other countries. Deportations to Treblinka ended in May 1943.

Soldiers endure wretched conditions in New Guinea: Australian infantrymen fight in New Guinea in this painting by Henry Hanke. The Japanese naval offensive toward Port Moresby in New Guinea in 1942 raised justified concerns that an invasion of Australia was imminent and prompted the recall of Australian troops from the Middle East. Australians shouldered the brunt of the early fighting in New Guinea, as significant numbers of U.S. troops were not available. Plagued by disease and constant rain -- their movement limited to muddy footpaths over steep, jungle-choked mountains -- soldiers on both sides suffered terrible hardships during the seven-month campaign.

British agent Nancy Wake known as the "White Mouse": Nancy Wake used her position as wife of a wealthy French businessman to help the French Resistance. She served as courier, obtained false papers, bought an ambulance to aid fleeing refugees, and helped get some 1,000 escaped prisoners and downed Allied fliers out of France. By 1943 Wake -- called the "White Mouse" because she was so hard to catch -- topped the Gestapo's most-wanted list. She fled to Britain, was trained by the SOE (Special Operations Executive, a spy agency), and then parachuted back into France. There she served as liaison between London and the Maquis, and also led guerrilla raids.

Allied propaganda warns U.S. workers: Allied propaganda typically portrayed the Japa­nese as nearsighted, bucktoothed caricatures or as monkeys, alternating between a subject of ridicule and an object of fear. This particular piece, probably made to be posted in U.S. defense plants, reminds workers that goldbricking hurts productivity and aids the enemy. It also links Japan to its Axis partner, Germany, through the subject's swastika collar medallion.

See the next section for a detailed timeline on more important World War II events from February 1943.

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World War II Timeline: February 10, 1943-February 22, 1943

Wilmshaven, Germany before the bombing
Wilmshaven, Germany before the bombing

In late February 1943 the Russians retook the city of Kharkov in the battle for the Soviet Union. This and other pivotal World War II events are summarized in the timeline below.

World War II Timeline: February 10-February 22

February 10: Mohandas Gandhi stops eating in protest of Britain's detention of India's independence-seeking Congress Party leaders. He vows to consume only diluted fruit juice for the next three weeks.

February 11: The Allied assault on the U-boat program continues with the first of a series of intense British Royal Air Force (RAF) raids on the German port of Wilhelmshaven.

February 14: The RAF launches a nighttime bombing raid against the northern Italian city of Milan.

The Allies suffer a setback in Tunisia, as the Axis drives back Allied forces with the capture of the city of Sidi Bou Zid.

February 15: A German panzer unit withdraws from the Russian city of Kharkov in defiance of an order from Hitler to stand against the Red Army. The Soviets will retake the city the next day.

February 16: Radio Risorgi, an anti-Mussolini radio show broadcast from Britain and staffed by Italian detainees, begins operation.

The Vichy French government institutes a mandatory labor program to which young adults must devote two years of their lives.

February 18: A prototype B-29 long-range bomber crashes into the Frye Packing Plant during a test-flight near Boeing's Seattle headquarters. The accident kills 31 people.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek makes a state visit to Washington. In a speech before Congress, she expresses confidence in a Japanese defeat.

February 21: The Wehrmacht attacks the Red Army in an attempt to retake the Russian city of Kharkov.

February 22: University of Munich students Christoph Probst and Hans and Sophie Scholl die at the guillotine for leading the "White Rose" anti-Nazi resistance movement.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing events of World War II and the Axis invasion.

Before and after aerial photos of the bombing of Wilhelmshaven: The German port city of Wilhelmshaven was bombed twice in 1943 -- once by the USAAF on January 27, and again by the RAF Bomber Command on February 11-12. These aerial reconnaissance images show Wilhelmshaven before and after the two bombings. The second bombing, carried out at night, was especially challenging because of dense cloud cover. Planes equipped with the RAF's newly developed H2S ground-mapping radar located strategic targets, then illuminated them with parachute flares. A successful strike on a naval ammunition dump south of Wilhelmshaven caused widespread destruction of dockyards and the city.

Air Force machine gunner most dangerous position: U.S. Army Air Force machine gunner Sergeant William Watts fires at enemy planes from a bomber over Europe in 1942. Almost 300,000 aerial gunners were trained during World War II -- a substantially greater number than were trained as pilots, navigators, or bombardiers, and for good reason. A bomber's very survival depended upon the gunners' skill at fending off enemy planes. Gunners also held the crew's most dangerous and physically disagreeable positions. They were unprotected by armor, and because of high altitudes, they sometimes had to endure temperatures as low as ­minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Adolf Hitler loses support of some generals: Adolf Hitler and his generals study maps in February 1943. From the left are General Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, Adolf Hitler, General Theodor Busse, and General Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist. Hitler had made himself supreme military commander early in the Nazi reign. In December 1941, he became commander-in-chief of the German army. By 1943 devastating failures on the Eastern Front and in North Africa had convinced some German generals that they could save their nation only by getting rid of the Führer. However, a bomb placed on a plane carrying Adolf Hitler to Smolensk in March failed to go off, and several other attempts on the Führer's life also failed.

Keep reading for a World War II timeline detailing events of late February and early March 1943.

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World War II Timeline: February 22, 1943-March 2, 1943

Late February 1943 found Nazi Germany under constant bombing from a joint Allied attack. Below is a World War II timeline detailing this and other important events from late February 1943.

World War II Timeline: February 22-March 2

February 22: The Bulgarian government authorizes the deportation of 11,000 Jews from the annex areas of Thrace and Macedonia. Most will die in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

February 25: The Allies enjoy 24-hour bombing capability with the implementation of a schedule that assigns daytime raids to the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) and nighttime bombing to the British Royal Air Force(RAF).

February 27: Allied commandos sabotage the Vemork power plant, a German plant on Norwegian soil that produces heavy water used in atomic weapons research. Engineers will get the facility back on line by summer.

February 28: The Allies outline the ELKTON Plan, with the goal of seizing and occupying the southwest Pacific region of New Guinea, New Ireland, and New Britain.

March: Spring mud bogs down both the Wehrmacht and the Red Army on the Soviet front, leading to a relative (though temporary) peace.

The Nazis begin the deportation of Greek Jews from their zone of occupation. Most are bound for Auschwitz, though the fortunate ones escape to Palestine via Turkey and a small number are rescued by Spanish and Turkish diplomats.

March 1: The Polish government is put on notice that the eastern part of the country that was occupied by the Soviets following Nazi Germany's 1939 invasion will be incorporated into the Soviet Union.

The Allies convene the Atlantic Convoy Conference in Washington. They agree on a plan in which the U.S. Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy will share the escort of convoys on the Atlantic.

March 2: Berlin threatens retaliation against New York and Washington after the most punishing Allied air raid to date on the German capital.

World War II Headlines

Below are more headlines and images detailing the events of World War II in 1943.

Tresckow involved in Hitler murder plots: "Hitler is not only the very enemy of Germany, but the enemy of the world." This sentiment was expressed by German Major General Henning von Tresckow, chief of staff of the German Army Group Center. Although an officer, Tresckow hated Adolf Hitler and was a leader in the military resistance. An attempt to blow up Hitler in a plane in March 1943 was unsuccessful. Another attempt at a meeting in July 1944 also failed. Learning of this latest failure and realizing it could be traced back to him, Tresckow killed himself a day after the attempt.

Ernst Kaltenbrunner named head of Gestapo: As head of the Austrian SS, Ernst Kaltenbrunner assisted in the 1938 German annexation of Austria, enforced anti-Jewish measures, and opened a death camp. In 1942 he replaced assassinated Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich, assuming responsibility for the Nazi "Final Solution" to the "Jewish question." Kaltenbrunner claimed ignorance of genocide when he was brought to trial at Nuremberg, but he was found guilty and hanged. More than 50 years later, his personal seal identifying him as head of the Nazi security police was discovered in an Alpine lake, where he had apparently tossed it before surrendering under a false name.

In March Italy's forces started to crumble. On the next page is a World War II timeline summarizing this and other events from March 1943.

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World War II Timeline: March 2, 1943-March 13, 1943

In March 1943 the Nazis began shutting down the Jewish ghettos in Poland, sending the residents to death camps such as Auschwitz. The timeline below summarizes this and other World War II events from March 1943.

World War II Timeline: March 2-March 13

March 2: In the wake of a devastating defeat at the hands of the Red Army, Benito Mussolini pulls Italy's surviving troops from the Eastern front.

An Allied attack on a Japanese troop convoy en route to New Guinea culminates in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. The Japanese will suffer heavy losses.

March 3: Nearly 180 Londoners die after a woman trips entering an Underground station serving as an air raid shelter. The crowd rushing to get under cover presses in and suffocates the fallen.

March 5: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) introduces its latest weapons technology, the OBOE navigation system, in an air raid over Essen, Germany, home of the Krupp plant.

The Reich war machine orders the Vichy government to deliver an additional 100,000 slave laborers.

The RAF conducts test-flights of the Gloster Meteor, its first fighter plane powered by a jet engine.

March 6: General George Patton assumes control of the U.S. Second Army Corps on the same day that German general Erwin Rommel loses his last North African battle. Rommel, accused of "pessimism" by the Führer, will be succeeded by General Jürgen von Arnim.

The Allies lose 13 supply ships when a North Atlantic convoy is attacked by German U-boats.

March 10: Congress moves to extend the Lend-Lease Act, which would allow the United States to continue to supply the Allies with war materials without any expectation of repayment.

March 13: Some 14,000 Jews are sent to Auschwitz and other death camps as the Nazis begin to shut down the Jewish ghetto in the Polish city of Kraków.

An attempt on Adolf Hitler's life fails when the chosen weapon, a bomb made of plastic explosives, fails to detonate.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and headlines detailing World War II events and the Axis and Allied campaigns of 1943.

U.S. Coast Guard contributes to war effort: On April 17, 1943, U.S. Coast Guardsmen watch the explosion from a depth charge they have dropped on the German submarine U-175. Spotting the U-boat on sonar as it maneuvered to attack an Allied convoy in the mid-Atlantic, the Coast Guard cutter Spencer took the submarine by surprise. Coast Guardsmen boarded the badly damaged submarine when it surfaced and rescued the surviving 41 German crewmen. In the Atlantic, the Coast Guard sank 13 U-boats and captured two Nazi surface ships. In the Pacific, they sank at least one Japanese submarine.

Allied make significant gains in North Africa: In the fall of 1942, General Montgomery's Eighth Army inflicted a significant defeat upon General Rommel's Afrika Korps at El Alamein in Egypt. At last the tide of German successes had turned, as Alamein now opened the way for a general advance westward by the British. Simultaneously, Anglo-U.S. landings (Operation Torch) at Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers were largely unopposed by the Vichy French defenders. Tripoli fell on January 28, 1943, and in February the Allies entered Tunisia -- where U.S. forces suffered a costly reverse at Kasserine Pass. However, the end was in sight, and the remaining Axis forces in North Africa surrendered on May 12.

Next is another World War II timeline tracing major events of March 1943, including an attempt on Adolf Hitler's life.

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World War II Timeline: March 15, 1943-April 2, 1943

In March 1943 Adolf Hitler survived yet another assassination attempt. Below is a timeline outlining this and other major World War II events from 1943.

World War II Timeline: March 15-April 2

March 15: The Germans prevail in the Third Battle of Kharkov, the last major local victory for the Germans in the war.

March 16: Tired of having the burden of the entire Eastern Front placed on the shoulders of the Red Army, Joseph Stalin demands a second European front from the U.S. and Britain.

March 16-19: The Allies suffer serious losses when 21 merchant ships and a convoy escort are lost in a three-day battle with nearly 40 German U-boats.

March 18: General Henri Giraud, a French war hero and new leader of the Free French, restores full citizenship, rights, and property to French Jews.

The government of French Guiana aligns itself with the Free French, repudiating Vichy France.

March 20: Another attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, this time via suicide bomber, fails when Hitler leaves the vicinity before the bomb can be detonated.

March 22: The Nazis open a new, diabolically efficient death chamber at Auschwitz. Crematorium IV will allow the Nazis to drive their victims into an underground gas chamber equipped with a lift that conveys the corpses into the crematorium.

March 26: The U.S. Navy prevents Japan from reinforcing its troops on Alaska's Aleutian island of Attu, as it attacks and repels a Japanese naval convoy.

March 30: The suspension of Allied convoys to the Soviet port of Murmansk, due to very heavy ship losses, drives a wedge between the Soviet Union and its allies.

April 2: Hermann Göring orders every able-bodied man and woman in Germany to take part in anti-air raid civil defense, manning anti-aircraft guns and partaking in similar duties.

World War II Headlines

These headlines and images detail more events of World War II and some of the consequences of the Allied campaign.

Allies prevail in North Africa: On May 6, 1943, the Allies launched their last offensive against the Axis in North Africa. On May 13, the German and Italian troops in Tunisia surrendered. This was the first major success of the alliance between America and Britain. It was not only good for the morale on the home front, but it also took some pressure off President Franklin Roosevelt to turn the military's attention primarily to the fight in the Pacific. To promote this success, director Frank Capra prepared this 75-minute documentary of the North Africa campaign, beginning with Operation Torch and ending with the fall of Tunisia.

Armored cars important to desert campaign: From the outset, the main belligerents' armored forces included armored cars. Their primary roles were reconnaissance and scouting, so they needed to be faster and quieter than tanks, and to have a better range. Typically they had thin armor, light or nonexistent armament, and limited cross-country performance. This vehicle, a British Daimler, fires its two-pounder (40mm) gun near Tripoli in January 1943. Daimler armored cars performed well in the desert from their introduction in 1941. They served throughout the war, with nearly 2,700 produced.

See the next section for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred during early April 1943.

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World War II Timeline: April 5, 1943-April 15, 1943

April 1943 found the Allies redoubling their efforts against Axis powers in the Mediterranean. The timelime below analyzes this and other major World War II events.

World War II Timeline

April 5: The German SS murders 4,000 Jews at the Ponar Woods near Vilna, Lithuania.

U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) pilots staging a raid on a Luftwaffe facility in Antwerp, Belgium, miss their targets by more than a mile and kill more than 900 Belgian civilians.

The Allies launch their most intense air raid to date on both sides of the Mediterranean, hitting Axis targets in Italy and North Africa.

Japanese troops overrun British headquarters on the Mayu Peninsula in Burma.

April 7: A downcast Benito Mussolini meets Adolf Hitler in Salzburg to discuss the string of recent Axis defeats and to lobby for a separate peace with the Soviet Union, but Hitler convinces him that their setbacks are temporary.

The British government releases the Keynes Plan, named for economist John Maynard Keynes, which calls for the establishment of a world bank.

April 12: Thousands of bodies -- Polish army officers massacred by the Soviet secret police -- are found in Russia's Katyn Forest. The grim discovery is seized upon by German propagandists and denied by the Soviet Union.

April 14: Joseph Stalin's oldest son, Yakov, dies in a German POW camp. Captured in 1941, he was offered back to Russia in a prisoner trade, but Stalin declined.

April 15: The Allies attack the important German manufacturing center of Stuttgart with aptly named bombs called "factory-smashers" and "blockbusters."

The U.S. high command is reorganized, as General George Patton is needed to plan the American portion of the invasion of Sicily. General Omar Bradley will take Patton's place as the commander of the U.S. Second Army Corps.

World War II Headlines

More headlines and images detailing the events of World War II and the developments of 1943 are below.

British Admiral Sir Max Horton's ideas lead to success in Atlantic: Late in 1942, British admiral Sir Max Horton, commander-in-chief of the Western Approaches Command, changed antisubmarine strategy. He sent groups of fast "hunter-killer" ships away from their convoys to attack German U-boats, preventing the formation of "wolf packs." By spring 1943, those tactics had successfully reopened the North Atlantic to merchant and military shipping. As a WWI submarine commander, Horton had responded to an admiral's assessment of all submariners as "un-English" and "pirates" by flying the "Jolly Roger" (skull and crossbones flag) after his sub sank two German ships. WWII British and Australian submariners took up the Jolly Roger as a signal of success.

Next is a World War II timeline listing major events from April 1943, including the courageous Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

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World War II Timeline: April 16, 1943-April 25, 1943

In April 1943 the Jews of Warsaw's ghetto rose up against their Nazi oppressors, a courageous act that drew brutal reprisals. The following World War II timeline discusses this and other pivotal World War II events from April 1943.

World War II Timeline: April 16-April 25

April 16: As Allied air raids against German U-boats continue unabated, France evacuates from several key ports all citizens who are not staffing critical war-related jobs.

April 18: In the midst of calls by the Polish government-in-exile for an investigation into the Katyn massacre, the Soviets attempt to save face by blaming the Nazi Gestapo.

The Allies shoot down 69 Luftwaffe planes en route to Tunisia into the Mediterranean in a 10-minute dogfight. The Allies lose just nine of their own planes in the process.

Japan's Admiral Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet and the mastermind behind the attack on Pearl Harbor, is shot down and killed over the Solomon Islands by American P-38 Lightnings.

April 19: A force of more than 2,000 SS men under General Jürgen Stroop, sent by SS chief Heinrich Himmler to empty the Warsaw Ghetto, are unexpectedly driven out by lightly armed Jewish residents.

April 21: Responding to rumors that the Japanese are executing American POWs, President Franklin Roosevelt promises to follow through with his plan to prosecute war criminals.

April 23: Adolf Hitler demands "utmost severity" from his SS troops in their suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The Allies establish a London-based command under British Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan to plan an invasion of Axis-controlled Europe.

April 24: A U.S. Navy fleet departs San Francisco en route to Alaska's Aleutian Islands to reclaim the Japanese-occupied island of Attu.

April 25: Turncoat Chinese army commander Sun Tien-ying joins the Japanese.

World War II Headlines

Below are more headlines and images detailing events of World War II and the Axis and Allied campaigns of 1943.

American fears lead to invasion of Attu: Soldiers unload supplies during the invasion of Attu. The recapture of this remote, inhospitable island in the American Aleutian chain (off Alaska) cost the lives of 549 Americans from May 11-31, 1943. The operation was prompted by fears that the island -- seized by the Japanese in June 1942 -- could serve as a base for air attacks on the U.S. mainland and threaten sea lanes between Seattle and the Soviet Union. Hindsight indicates that the invasion was driven as much by national pride and a determination to eject Japanese occupiers from American soil than by any overwhelming strategic concerns.

Chinese, Japanese battle in Burma: Chinese soldiers battle Japanese units along the Salween River in Burma in June 1943. Spurred by American insistence, 16 Chinese divisions commanded by General Wei Li-Huang crossed the river on the night of May 11-12, 1943. Their mission was to trap enemy forces by seizing key terrain north and south of the Burma Road. Fierce Japanese resis­tance slowed the attack. Chinese forces to the south reached the outskirts of Lung-ling on the Burma Road in early June before a counterattack pushed them back. Lacking adequate supplies, the Chinese offensive finally stalled.

See the next section for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events from early May 1940.

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World War II Timeline: April 26, 1943-May 7, 1943

In late April 1943 Britain launched the deceptive Operation Mincemeat, ultimately fooling Adolf Hitler in a major strategic victory for the Allies. This and other events from World War II are summarized on the following timeline.

World War II Timeline: April 26-May 7

April 26: Angered by the investigation and accusations surrounding the Katyn massacre, Soviet officials sever diplomatic relations with Poland's government-in-exile.

A United States force reaches Alaska and begins its assault on the Japanese-held Aleutian island of Attu.

April 28-30: German panzer units attack Djebel Bou Aoukaz, Tunisia, in what will be Nazi Germany's last offensive armored maneuver in North Africa.

April 30: The British launch Operation Mincemeat by releasing a corpse -- which is dressed as a British officer and carries falsified war plans -- off the coast of Spain. The "plans," which indicate that the Allies will attack Greece and Sardinia, and not Sicily as long suspected, will successfully divert Axis defenses from several key fronts.

May: War shortages affect civilians on both sides of the Atlantic, as Canada introduces meat rationing while Nazi Germany further reduces the size of existing rations.

Due to improved Allied interception technology, Nazi Germany will lose a third of its U-boats out on patrol this month. This leads German admiral Karl Dönitz to implicitly concede an Allied victory in the Battle of the North Atlantic when he repositions his fleet to the south.

May 1: German and Italian forces retreat in Tunisia.

May 2: The war reaches Australian shores once more when Japanese aircraft pound the port city of Darwin in the Northern Territory.

May 7: A day after destroying Germany's 15th Panzer Division, the Allies score a major victory with the fall of the Tunisian capital of Tunis. Approximately 250,000 Axis soldiers will surrender in the upcoming days.

World War II Headlines

The following headlines and images detail events of World War II and the 1943 activity of the Allies and Nazi Germany.

U.S. bonds finance the war: Treasury Department workers such as these received, checked, and counted a million Series E bonds daily, sealing them into packages of 4,000 for distribution. Sold at 75 percent of its face value, a "war bond" matured in 10 years to $25, $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, or $10,000. War bonds were promoted on posters, in ads contributed by radio stations and print publications, at sports events, and via celebrity appearances. More than 85 million Americans (most of the population) spent a total of more than $185 billion on War Bonds -- at a time when the median annual income was about $2,000. The bonds helped finance the war effort and took cash out of the economy to control inflation.

Britan's Operation Mincemeat utterly fooled Adolf Hitler. On the next page a World War II timeline from May 1943 looks at the events that followed.

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World War II Timeline: May 7, 1943-May 17, 1943

May 1943 brought the surrender of Axis forces in north Africa, a major boost in momentum for the Allies. This and other pivotal events are discussed in the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline

May 7: Japanese dominance on the Burma front continues unabated, as they handily capture Buthidaung from the Allies.

May 8: Operation Retribution, an Allied naval operation designed to prevent the Axis from safely retreating from the North African front, is staged in the Strait of Sicily.

British women ages 18 to 45 are now required to fill part-time national service jobs.

May 9: Three days after the Allies launch what will prove to be their last offensive against Axis positions in North Africa, several Wehrmacht units in North Africa surrender. All Axis forces in North Africa will officially surrender on May 12.

Concerned by an apparent increase in resistance activities among the Dutch, the German occupation force imposes martial law throughout the Netherlands.

The Allies score an intelligence coup when a German flight crew defects.

May 12: Thoroughly fooled by Operation Mincemeat, Adolf Hitler orders Axis reinforcements to Greece's Peloponnese while relaxing defenses on Sicily.

May 13: As a prelude to a full-scale assault in Sicily, the Allies attack Pantelleria, a small Italian island about 30 miles off the Tunisian coast and strategically located in the Strait of Sicily.

May 15: The Axis launches Operation Black in Yugoslavia, a military action designed to crush Josip Broz Tito's Communist partisans.

May 16-17: A British Royal Air Force (RAF) raid causes extensive damage to two of Nazi Germany's largest dams and important sources of hydroelectric power. Nearly 1,300 people die in the ensuing floods.

World War II Headlines

More headlines and images of World War II events and the military campaigns of 1943 follow.

Soviets halt German advance: Soviet tanks, troops, and artillery stubbornly fought the advancing Germans, inflicting heavy casualties for each mile gained. As the Second SS Panzer Corps advanced on July 12 out of the town of Prokhorovka, it was met by the Soviet Fifth Guards Tank Army. About 1,200 tanks participated in this battle, the largest tank fight of the war. Although the Soviets suffered many more casualties than the Germans, the advance was halted. The Allied invasion of Sicily caused Adolf Hitler to order the Second SS Panzer Corps to Italy. Facing weakened resistance, the Soviet Union launched an offensive, which it would maintain until the end of the war.

Soviets practice scorched-earth policies: As the Nazi German Army pushed the Soviets through the Ukraine in 1941 and 1942, Joseph Stalin ordered his army and civilians to destroy anything that could be useful to the Germans, including industrial facilities, rail lines, communication lines, and shelter. The Germans practiced their own scorched-earth policy in 1943 and 1944 as they retreated through Russia and Europe. As his country was collapsing in March 1945, Adolf Hitler ordered his armaments minister, Albert Speer, to destroy any German resources not yet in Allied hands. Unknown to Hitler, Speer never carried out the order.

Nazis force Ukrainians to work in German factories: Once the German army occupied the Ukraine, it attempted to attract large numbers of workers for German factories. Failing to supply the necessary number of workers voluntarily, the occupying troops began to ship large numbers of Ukrainians to Nazi Germany forcibly. Called Ostarbeiter (East workers), about three million were eventually deported to manufacture war supplies for the German army and other work. Many died from overwork and starvation while others were killed in Allied attacks on German factories. After the war, most workers were repatriated to the Ukraine, where many were killed or imprisoned by the Soviets on political grounds or because of purported collaboration.

Keep reading for a World War II timeline that looks at events from late May 1943, including the arrival of the infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz.

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World War II Timeline: May 17, 1943-May 25, 1943

May 1943 brought massive Allied bombing over German cities, including the air raid of Dortmund. The following WWII timeline summarizes this and other major events.

World War II Timeline: May 17-May 25

May 17: The British MI6 and the American Office of Strategic Services agree to share cipher intelligence. They also agree to the designation "Ultra" for all Axis code intelligence.

Allied ships traverse the Mediterranean unmolested by Axis ships for the first time since Italy entered the war, offering tangible proof that the Axis has quit North Africa.

May 19: Peter Dönitz, son of German admiral Karl Dönitz, dies when his U-boat is sunk by the Allies.

May 19-20: The Allies heavily bomb Sicily and Sardinia as a precursor to their invasion of Italy.

May 22: The German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet plane reaches speeds of 520 mph in its inaugural test-flight, giving the Luftwaffe newfound optimism.

Joseph Stalin dissolves the Comintern in an effort to quell Allied concerns over Soviet ambitions of world domination.

May 23: The Allies attack Dortmund, Germany, with more than 800 planes, dropping more than 2,000 tons of bombs in what is the most intense air raid of the war to date. Nearly 700 civilians will lose their lives.

May 24: Dr. Josef Mengele becomes the camp doctor at Auschwitz. He will soon become infamous for conducting cruel and inhumane experiments on the prisoners.

Admiral Karl Dönitz recalls most of the German U-boats in the Atlantic after losing many of them to Allied aggression.

May 25: President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill conclude a successful summit in Washington, D.C. The meeting produces several strategic decisions regarding the continued prosecution of the war, most significantly setting the date for the invasion of France at May 1, 1944.

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Below are more headlines and images of World War II events and the military campaigns of 1943.

Important American cargo ships made treacherous voyages: This painting by American artist Thornton Oakley shows a U.S. cargo ship unloading scrap materials -- indicating both Nazi and U.S. air force losses -- to be recycled. In the background, more ships wait. Cargo ships carried food, ammunition, clothing, guns, and troops. These U.S. merchant vessels came in all sizes and were outfitted with cranes for loading and unloading. They were subject to destruction by mines, battleships, bombers, submarines, and kamikaze attacks. During the war, 733 cargo ships were lost and more than 5,000 U.S. merchant seamen were killed.

Keep reading for a World War II timeline that looks at events from late May and early June 1943, including important activity from the French Resistance.

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World War II Timeline: May 29, 1943-June 7 1943

The World War II timeline below traces important events from late May and early June of 1943, including the U.S. recapture of Attu from the Japanese and a scolding of the West by the Pope.

World War II Timeline: May 29-June 7

May 29: Chinese forces arrest the progress of the Japanese army.

May 30: Almost 20 days after U.S. troops first landed on the Aleutian island of Attu, it is finally recaptured from the Japanese, who lose some 2,000 soldiers in the battle.

June 2: Pope Pius XII sends a pointed message to the Allies in which he implicitly condemns the routine targeting of civilians in "terror" bombing campaigns, although he has not commented on German bombing.

June 3: German mining operations sink Halma, a cargo ship sailing under the Panamanian flag, off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

French generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud join forces in Algiers to create the French Committee of National Liberation. Their organization will act as the French authority wherever the French empire exists beyond the reach of the Nazis.

The Michelin tire plant in Clermont-Ferrand, France, is sabotaged by the Resistance, costing the Reich some 300 tons of tires.

The plane carrying British serviceman Leslie Howard, the actor who played Ashley Wilkes in the screen version of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, is shot down by Axis planes over the Bay of Biscay.

June 6: In a speech ironically delivered a year to the day prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy, General de Gaulle insists that France does not want assistance throwing off the Nazi yoke, claiming, "We intend to win our liberty ourselves."

June 7: The Axis discovers the "Comet Line," an underground network of safe houses established in 1940 to rescue Allies trapped behind enemy lines. The houses stretched from Belgium through France, Spain, and Gibraltar.

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Below are images and highlights of World War II events and the consequences of military activity in 1943.

Allied invasion of Sicily slowed by intense heat, resistance: Rough terrain and the stubborn resistance of German troops slowed the Allied advance across Sicily. Oppressive heat (100°F) also affected the advance. More than 10,000 Allied soldiers became sick with heat exhaustion and malaria. Those Allied troops who could still fight found that the enemy would not go down easily. The British capture of the town of Centuripe exemplified the intensity of combat. The British 78th Division launched its attack on the town on July 31, and needed four days of treacherous house-to-house fighting to finally capture it.

British admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham stars in Mediterranean: British admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, the naval commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, aggressively destroyed Italian warships and ran supplies to Malta. Using obsolete Swordfish aircraft, he mounted the first all-aircraft naval attack in history at Taranto in November 1940, cutting the Italian fleet in half. When Germany seized Crete in May 1941, Cunningham insisted on evacuating 16,500 trapped Allied troops in the face of heavy Luftwaffe opposition. He commanded the Naval Task Forces during Operation Torch -- the November 1942 British-American invasion of French North Africa -- under General Dwight Eisenhower, who praised Cunningham for his intelligence, devotion, and selflessness.

As June 1943 progressed, the Allies continued their bombing of Sicily in preparation for invasion. Read about this and other major World War II events on the timeline on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: June 8, 1943-June 22, 1943

June 1943 saw the U.S. winning another major battle over the Japanese at Guadalcanal. This and other important World War II events are outlined on the World War II timeline below.

World War II Timeline: June 8-June 22

June 8: Japanese military leaders order their troops to evacuate the Aleutian island of Kiska.

June 11: SS chief Heinrich Himmler orders the resettlement of all remaining Jews in occupied Poland from urban ghettos to death camps.

June 11-12: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) stages a massive air raid against Düsseldorf, Germany, bombing the city from some 800 planes.

June 13: Soviet director Mikhail Slutsky and 240 camera operators shoot Day of War, a documentary record of a day on the Russian front.

Seventy-four die when the Germans drop anti-personnel bombs on Allied troops in a raid over Britain.

June 15: Nazi Germany conducts a test-flight of the first jet-powered bomber, the Arado Ar 234.

June 16: The U.S. enjoys a dramatic victory in the skies over Guadalcanal. An attacking Japanese force is mauled, losing 107 of 120 planes.

June 17: In an effort to reduce the number of collateral air-war casualties, the BBC warns civilians living near Axis factories to evacuate to safer ground.

June 18: The Allies "soften" Sicily with a pre-invasion bombing campaign.

June 20: For the first time, the Allies engage in "shuttle" bombing, hitting more than one target per bombing sortie and resting and refueling at remote bases between stops.

June 21: Heinrich Himmler orders the Jewish ghettos of occupied Russia emptied and their remaining occupants deported to the death camps.

June 22: The U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) attack the German Ruhr region in daylight for the first time, temporarily decommissioning a critical rubber factory.

World War II Headlines

Below are more images and highlights detailing important World War II events and the military campaigns of 1943.

Soviet cavalry forces prove valuable in battle: In 1946 a U.S. Intelligence Bulletin reported, "Red Army cavalry units have proven the right of the almost legendary Cossack to remain part of the armed forces of the U.S.S.R." Mounted troops such as these could move through forests, swamps, and other terrain impassable by mechanized forces. They also could avoid air attacks by operating at night. Mounted troops sometimes flanked enemy units, staging surprise counterattacks and setting up roadblocks against retreats. The cavalry filled in gaps on the battlefield and covered Soviet withdrawals. Where needed, they dismounted and operated as infantry forces.

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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.