Nazi Germany Surrenders: February 1945-May 1945

A Japanese kamikaze pilot aims his aircraft at the USS Missouri in the waters off Okinawa on April 11, 1945. See more pictures of World War II.

On the afternoon of April 12, 1945, nearing the end of World War II, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt collapsed and died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Vice President Harry Truman was catapulted from relative obscurity to a world stage in which the United States had to oversee the final defeat of Nazi Germany and Japan and play a key part in the reconstruction of the postwar order.

Adolf Hitler interpreted Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death as a miracle of deliverance. Locked away in his bunker in Berlin, the German leader played out grotesque fantasies of a final victory in which his enemies became divided and hostile -- or tired of the terrible cost of subduing the German people. Adolf Hitler no longer saw the reality of his battered country. The heaviest bombing of the war reduced German cities to ruins one after the other -- most notoriously the city of Dresden. From February 13 to February 15, 30,000 people were killed there in Allied bombing. Nazi Germany could not sustain war production. In both west and east, German forces fought on fatalistically against hopeless odds.


By February 9, American troops had breached the Siegfried Line in western Germany, and by March 5 they had reached the Rhine River at Cologne. The Germans mounted little resistance, with only 26 poorly armed divisions. Meanwhile, 214 divisions tried to hold back the Red Army in eastern Germany. By May 4, the German forces in northern Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark surrendered to Montgomery's British Commonwealth armies. Farther south, General Eisenhower swung the American advance away from the Rhine-Berlin axis toward southern Germany, where he feared the German army might make a final stand in a mountainous redoubt. Americans entered Austria in early May, by which time Axis forces in Italy had also surrendered. On April 28, Benito Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and killed.

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Adolf Hitler survived him by just two days. Since January 1945, the Soviets had pushed relentlessly toward Berlin and Vienna. By February, a succession of rolling offensives brought the Red Army within striking distance of both capitals. In the south, Budapest was occupied by February 11 and the last Germans were driven out of Hungary by early April. Farther north, Zhukov's armies reached the Oder River by February 2, but for the next month fierce pockets of German resistance held up progress toward Berlin.

The plan for the final assault was approved by Joseph Stalin in early April, and a huge semicircle of Soviet Union forces was launched at Adolf Hitler's capital on April 16. The final battle cost both sides exceptional casualties, but Soviet Union progress was remorseless. Ten days after the start of the battle, the forces of General Chuikov -- defender of Stalingrad two years prior -- reached the center of Berlin. When on April 30 Adolf Hitler was told that there was no prospect of further defense, he said goodbye to his staff and commanders, retired to his bunker living room with Eva Braun -- the mistress he had finally consented to marry the day before -- and there poisoned and shot himself while she took poison. The bodies were incinerated in the garden of the Reich chancellery, where Soviet Union soldiers found charred remains a few days later.

Adolf Hitler's suicide heralded the end. On­ May 2, the battered remnants of the Berlin garrison surrendered. On May 7, Adolf Hitler's chief of operations, Alfred Jodl, signed the act of unconditional surrender in the early hours of the morning in Reims, France. The Soviet Union side wanted a more elaborate and symbolic ceremony, and a second surrender was staged in Berlin the following day. Though Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic on May 8, German forces fighting a desperate last stand around Prague refused to give up until May 12.

In the Pacific, the U.S. planned its assault on Iwo Jima the previous October, when it became clear that the islands close to the Japanese homeland would make important staging posts for the eventual invasion. Both Iwo Jima and Okinawa were to be attacked and cleared as a preliminary step. On both islands, large Japanese garrisons -- positioned in caves and foxholes -- were ordered to resist to the last man. After a heavy bombardment, four U.S. divisions landed on Iwo Jima on February 19. Four weeks of savage fighting brought exceptionally high American losses, but almost the entire Japanese garrison, more than 20,000 men, was wiped out.

On April 1, 1945, a similar landing was undertaken on Okinawa. After the U.S. established secure lodgements ashore, another bitter struggle followed to clear the island. The U.S. naval task force was attacked for weeks by kamikaze suicide planes, which sank more than 30 ships. Some 12,500 U.S. servicemen were killed, but so were 110,000 Japanese. Resistance on Okinawa did not end until June 21. The intense combat indicated just how difficult a final battle for the home islands of Japan might prove to be.

Before the capture of Iwo Jima, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt met in conference together for the last time. In the Crimean city of Yalta, from February 4 to February 11, Joseph Stalin repeated his earlier agreement that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Nazi Germany was defeated. In exchange, he was promised the Kurile Islands and the return of the Japanese half of Sakhalin Island. Agreement was also reached on creating a new Polish state.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in poor health, was also determined to lay the foundation for a postwar world order in which the Soviet Union could participate. The result was a conference in San Francisco, California, that began on April 25, 1945. Participants laid the foundations for the United Nations organization, whose founding charter was signed on June 26. By that time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- whose vision the organization largely reflected -- was dead.

Among the Western Allies, well more than a million people died during the war. The Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million, Poland six million, and Nazi Germany more than five million. "What a terrible war," Joseph Stalin told Zhukov. "How many lives of our people it has carried away. There are probably very few families left who have not lost someone near to them...."

Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred during the first two weeks of February 1945.

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World War II Timeline: February 1945-February 13, 1945

Germany and Japan, and British and American aircraft firebombed the city of Dresden. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the first two weeks of February 1945.

World War II Timeline: February 1-February 13

February: Peru, Lebanon, Turkey, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt join the Allies and declare war on Nazi Germany and Japan. Additionally, Iran will declare war against Japan this month.


Strong Japanese resistance slows the Allied advance throughout the Philippine Islands.

February 1: The USAAF launches a series of bombing raids on Iwo Jima, softening the island's Japanese defenses in preparation for a U.S. Marine ground assault.

February 4: Allied military leaders announce that they have cleared Belgium of all Axis forces.

February 4-11: Allied leaders Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin meet at Yalta (on the Crimean Peninsula) to plan the final phase of the war.

February 5: In Greece, recently liberated from the Axis yoke, Communist forces surrender their weapons to the new government.

February 6: Tens of thousands of German civilians flee Breslau before the westward advance of the Red Army.

February 9: The British 26th Indian Division captures Ramree Island, a strategically important Japanese base off the coast of Burma.

February 11: Reich officials remove Nazi Germany's 100-ton national gold reserve from Berlin and stash it in an Eisenach salt mine.

February 12: All German women between the ages of 16 and 60 are called up for service in the Volkssturm, the German people's army.

February 13: The German garrison at Budapest surrenders to the Red Army's Second Ukrainian Front. This follows a hard-won, 45-day battle in which 35,000 German prisoners of war were taken.

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Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the Yalta Conference, as well as the allies bombing of Dresden in the mid-1940s.

Yalta Conference decides fate of Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin (the Big Three) met for the second and last time from February 4 to February 11, 1945, at Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula. Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt was exhausted, Joseph Stalin refused to travel any farther west than Yalta. In negotiations for the fate of Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe, Joseph Stalin had the advantage since most of that area was already in Soviet Union hands. He was, therefore, able to violate the promises he made about free elections in Poland and democratic governments in the liberated states of Central and Southeastern Europe. The Soviet Union leader confirmed his prior promise to enter the war against Japan. Joseph Stalin also reduced his demand for all 16 Soviet Union republics to be represented in the United Nations to two: the Ukraine and Belorussia.

Allies firebomb Dresden and kill approximately 30,000 people: The beautiful German city of Dresden was known as the "Florence of the Elbe" before it suffered a series of bombings in 1945. The heaviest of these were conducted by British and American aircraft from February 13 to February 15. These bombings caused firestorms that destroyed much of the city and killed approximately 30,000 people. Outdoor temperatures reached as high as 2,700 °F, making it impossible for people to escape from their doomed homes. The military efficacy of the bombings has been questioned. Dresden was poorly defended from air attack at times, and its industries were mainly on its outskirts.

The month-long fight for Manila against the Japanese begins: Gutted buildings bear testimony to the Americans' struggle to capture Manila, Philippines, from the Japanese. General Yamashita Tomoyuki had decided to defend Manila, and Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji implemented Yama-shita's orders. U.S. troops arrived on February 3, 1945, to find the city held by about 21,000 Japanese naval and army personnel. Though General MacArthur initially placed restrictions on U.S. artillery and air support in hopes of avoiding serious damage to the "Pearl of the Orient," fanatical house-to-house resistance made such niceties impractical. The fighting lasted a month, and the city was largely destroyed.

The Allies gained power and delivered a devastating blow to Nazi Germany when they firebombed the city of Dresden. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on this and other important World War II events that occurred from February 13-15, 1945, to February 23, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: February 13-15, 1945-February 23, 1945

One of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific in World War II transpired when tens of thousands U.S. Marines stormed the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the month of February 1945.

World War II Timeline: February 13-February 23

February 13-15: The Allies unleash a devastating attack on Dresden, Germany, killing more than 30,000 in a bombing raid that triggers intense firestorms.


February 16: Two battalions of U.S. forces invade the Philippine island of Corregidor by air and sea. They encounter fierce Japanese resistance.

Aircraft carriers attached to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, along with dozens of support ships, launch a series of air raids over Tokyo.

February 17: Some 170 U.S. Navy frogmen lose their lives in an ill-fated effort to thwart Japanese beach defenses on Iwo Jima.

February 18: General Ivan Chernyak-hovsky, 39, one of the youngest Red Army generals to command a front during World War II, dies of wounds received in combat.

February 19: One of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war ensues when 30,000 U.S. Marines storm the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima.

February 20: Red Army troops advance on Berlin, Nazi Germany's capital and the heart of the Third Reich.

Allied troops breach the Siegfried Line in Nazi Germany and reach the banks of the Rhine River.

Twenty-three American aircraft are lost when some 1,500 bombers and fighters attack infrastructure targets in Nuremberg, Germany.

February 21: The Americans recapture the Philippine province of Bataan, site of the infamous Bataan death march three years earlier.

February 23: The USS Henry Bacon becomes the last Allied merchant ship to go down at the hands of the Luftwaffe when it is sunk in the Arctic Sea by German bombers.

The U.S. Marines capture Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi and raise a foreign flag on Japanese soil.

World War Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the treatment of American POWs in Japanese custody, as well as the battle of Iwo Jima in the mid-1940s.

Japanese troops kill and rape thousands during the "Manila Massacre": The burned corpse of a Filipino civilian murdered by Japanese troops lies in a Manila street, his hands still tied behind his back. Trapped by U.S. forces and facing certain death, Japanese naval personnel in Manila ran amok, butchering and raping thousands of helpless civilians. "I saw the bodies of priests, women, children and babies that had been bayoneted for a soldiery gone mad with blood lust in defeat," recalled Filipino editor Carlos Romulo. An estimated 100,000 civilians perished in what became known as the "Manila Massacre."

American POWs suffer while in Japanese hands: Liberation came too late for many sick and malnourished American POW at the Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao in the Philippines. One American POW died while trying to get a drink of water from a sink in the camp hospital. Of the approximately 25,000 U.S. troops captured during the war -- most during the first months after Pearl Harbor -- more than 10,000 died while in Japanese hands. Lack of adequate food and medical care, disease, forced labor, and outright murder all contributed to the toll. Japanese racism and a disdain for surrendered soldiers virtually ensured that the welfare of Allied POWs would remain a very low priority.

Marines land on Iwo Jima and suffer severe casualties: U.S. Marines hug a sandy terrace under enemy mortar fire after landing on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. Americans hoped to seize the island, located only 660 miles south of Tokyo, to eliminate a source of interference with B-29 raids from Saipan. They also wanted to provide a refuge for crippled bombers on their way home from Japan. The Marines found that the three-day preliminary naval bombardment had done little damage to Iwo Jima's 21,000 defenders, who had literally moved underground into a maze of tunnels and shelters. Japanese gunners waited patiently until the U.S. beachhead was congested with successive landing waves. They then opened fire, inflicting severe casualties.

Nepalese warriors are feared by German troops: A Gurkha soldier brandishes his weapon of choice -- the kukri, a curve-bladed knife. These natives of Nepal had served in the British Army since the beginning of the 19th century. During World War II, 40 battalions of Gurkhas fought in every theater of the war. Gurkha battalions attached to the British Eighth Army took part in the Italian campaign. They were feared by German troops for their ability to strike at any time and place, leaving their victims -- often with their throats cut -- as a sign of their presence.

Japanese troops embed themselves in rock and wait to attack U.S. Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima: A U.S. assault team warily clears a cave on Iwo Jima. Though dominated by 556-foot Mount Suribachi, the island's greatest defensive potential lay along a plateau two and a half miles to the north. General Kuribayashi Tadamichi located his best forces there among a nightmarish jumble of upheaved rock, gorges, caves, and ridges. The Japanese took full advantage of Iwo Jima's porous volcanic rock to burrow underground beyond the reach of U.S. heavy guns. Above ground, blockhouses with five-foot concrete walls and a multitude of pillboxes awaited U.S. Marines. These American forces had no alternative but to assault them one by one with flamethrowers and demolitions.

The Allies continued their advance into the German homeland, forcing the German army to begin conscription of boys as young as 16. Go to the next page for a detailed timeline on these and other important World War II events that occurred from February 24, 1945, to March 7, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: February 24, 1945-March 7, 1945

The Allied forces World War II campaign against Nazi Germany gained strength as they advanced into Cologne, Germany, and across the Rhine River into central Germany. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from February 24, 1945, to March 7, 1945.

World War II Timeline: February 24, 1945-March 7, 1945

February 24: Ahmed Maher Pasha, prime minister of Egypt, is assassinated on the floor of parliament, moments after reading a declaration of war against Japan and Nazi Germany.


February 26: In a daytime air raid, the USAAF drops 500,000 incendiary bombs on Berlin. British RAF units take over the attack after darkness falls.

U.S. forces capture Corregidor, leaving 5,000 Japanese troops dead and suffering 1,000 casualties.

March 1945: In a last-ditch effort to regain an upper hand in the air war, Nazi Germany forms its own suicide units, manned by some 300 volunteers.

With the exception of a few stragglers, the U.S. Navy has eliminated the enemy from shipping lanes throughout the central Pacific.

March 3: The Philippine capital of Manila is declared clear of Japanese forces.

March 4: The Finnish government in Helsinki declares war on Nazi Germany.

March 5: Continuing their advance into the German homeland, Allied troops march on Cologne.

Desperate for troops, the German army begins conscription of boys as young as 16.

March 6: Nazi Germany's Sixth Panzer Army launches Operation Spring Awakening against Soviet Union forces in Hungary in an effort to recapture the area between the Danube River and Lake Balaton.

In a move that leaves the Western Allies concerned about Communist expansion in postwar Europe, King Michael appoints a new, strongly pro-Communist Romanian government.

With Iwo Jima largely secure, the U.S. Air Force begins to use the island as a forward base.

March 7: Allied forces cross the Rhine River at Remagen and advance into central Germany, as German soldiers in the north capitulate in droves.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the vicious battle of Iwo Jima.

Savage combat on Iwo Jima leaves mangled soldiers on both sides: The hand of one of Iwo Jima's 21,000 Japanese defenders lies half buried in the blasted rubble. Veteran Time magazine correspondent Robert Sherrod observed that the dead of both sides had one thing in common: "They had died with the greatest possible violence." Nowhere in the Pacific had he seen such badly mangled bodies. Sherrod described bodies cut in half, limbs lying 50 feet from the nearest body, and the strong smell of burning flesh.

Members of Company E, 28th Marines, raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi: Private First Class Jim Michels kept watch as members of Company E, 28th Marines, raised the first flag on top of Mount Suribachi at about 10:30 a.m. on February 23, 1945. The 54" X 28" flag was hoisted aloft on a piece of discarded pipe after a Marine patrol, led by Lieutenant Harold Schrier, had scaled the height and engaged in a brief firefight with Japanese soldiers at the summit. Later that day, another patrol brought a larger, more visible flag up the mountain. The raising of the larger flag was photographed by Joe Rosenthal and became one of the most celebrated images of World War II.

Naval construction battalions, or "Seabees," construct airfields: Bulldozer operators carve out an airstrip on Eniwetok following the island's seizure in early 1944. Naval construction battalions, the "Seabees," gained fame for their ability to construct airfields quickly and erect support facilities on captured islands. Army engineers performed similar feats in the Southwest Pacific. The speed with which these islands were seized and transformed into fleet and air bases -- often within weeks -- astonished the Japanese and facilitated the fast-paced U.S. advance across the Pacific. The Seabees, whose motto was "Can Do," boasted: "The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer."

Actress Hedy Lamarr' invents Secret Communication System: In 1933, 19-year-old Hedwig Kiesler married Austrian munitions manufacturer Friedrich Mandl. Mandl sold munitions to Nazi Germany, where he and his wife socialized with Adolf Hitler. In addition to munitions sales, Mandl's company also conducted research on radio control systems. Hedwig, an actress, left her husband, changed her name to Hedy Lamarr, and moved to the U.S. in 1937. As a result of a casual conversation three years later with her neighbor, George Antheil, they invented the Secret Communication System (diagram above) in 1941. The Allied system had many applications, such as torpedo control and the transmission of secret messages. All the while, Lamarr starred in major Hollywood productions.

Mexico aids Allied forces: Mexican Air Force planes regularly patroled the coast near the U.S.-Mexican border. On May 21, 1942, the Mexican tanker Faja de Oro was sunk by a German submarine off Florida's Key West. Mexico declared war on Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan the next day. The declaration of war came after Mexico had broken diplomatic relations with the Axis powers soon after the United States entered the war in December 1941. Besides contributing resources and manpower to the U.S. production of war materials, the Mexican Air Force engaged in battle in the Philippines, where the Aztec Eagle squadron saw combat. Of 31 pilots, five were killed in action.

The U.S. air raid of Tokyo in on March 9-10 claimed the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 Japanese civilians. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on this and other important World War II events that occurred from March 7, 1945, to March 14, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: March 7, 1945-March 14, 1945

The U.S. World War II offensive campaign against Japan in the Pacific reached a new level when the U.S. waged an air raid attack on Tokyo with incendiary bombs and killed 80,000 to 100,000 civilians. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from March 7, 1945, to March 14, 1945.

World War II Timeline: March 7-March 14

March 7: The Jewish Brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Ernest Benjamin, launches operations in Italy. ­


Josip Broz Tito consolidates the government of newly liberated Yugoslavia under his authority.

The Chinese 37th Division captures Lashio, Burma, the southwest terminus of the Burma Road.

March 8: Office of Strategic Services chief Allen Dulles opens cease-fire negotiations with SS commander Karl Wolff for a surrender of German forces in Italy. ­

More than 100 civilians die when a German V-2 rocket destroys London's Smithfield Market.

March 9-10: The deadliest air raid of the Pacific war claims the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 Japanese civilians when the U.S. attacks Tokyo with incendiary bombs.

March 10: Following the Allied breach of the Rhine, Adolf Hitler appoints Field Marshal Kesselring to replace Rundstedt as commander of German armies in the West.

Transylvania, the mountainous region in central Europe that has been occupied by Nazi Germany since early in the war, is restored to Romania. ­

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tells a Spanish delegation that the United States will be unable to supply aid to Spain as long as Franco remains in power.

The Japanese disarm and eject Vichy authorities and establish the "Empire of Annam" in French Indochina.

March 11: An RAF raid on Essen, Germany, halts production at the Krupp Works munitions plant.

March 13: The U.S. House of Representatives reauthorizes the Lend-Lease Act for the last time.

March 14: The RAF drops the 22,000-pound "Grand Slam," the largest bomb of the war to date, on Nazi Germany's Bielefeld railway viaduct.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights that outline the events of World War II and show the details of American troops crossing the Rhine, as well as the American firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945.

More than 8,000 American troops cross the Rhine River in Nazi Germany: On March 7, 1945, American Lieutenant Karl Timmerman led his company of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion to the west end of the Ludendorff Bridge near Remagen, Germany. Since this was the last bridge still spanning the Rhine, Timmerman halted and looked closely for explosives. An explosion did occur as Timmerman and his men advanced across, but, as the smoke settled, he saw that the bridge still stood. More than 8,000 Americans crossed within 24 hours, establishing the first bridgehead across the Rhine. When Adolf Hitler learned that the bridge had not been destroyed, he had four of the officers in charge of destroying it executed.

Karl Wolff negotiates surrender of German forces in northern Italy: Longtime chief of staff to Heinrich Himmler, SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff negotiated the surrender of German forces in northern Italy. In March 1945, Wolff met secretly with OSS official Allen Dulles in Switzerland. Wolff tried (in vain) to bargain for the relocation of German forces in Italy to the Russian front. In 1945 and again in 1962, Wolff -- who denied any knowledge of extermination camps -- was convicted in German courts for sending 300,000 Jews to Treblinka. He served one week the first time, and half of a 15-year sentence the second time.

Americans B-29s bring death and destruction to Tokyo: Gnarled trees and blackened walls testify to the effectiveness of the B-29 incendiary raids on Tokyo. Dissatisfied with the results of high-level bombing, the 20th Bomber Command turned to low-level nighttime incendiary attacks in March 1945. The first major Tokyo raid on March 9-10 killed up to 100,000 people and destroyed more than 267,000 buildings -- about a quarter of the city's total. Over the next 10 days, B-29s torched a total of 32 square miles in Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe. Losses among the bomber crews were light. Though some American officers questioned the morality of the attacks, the prevailing view was that the raids were appropriate retribution for Japanese atrocities, would destroy enemy industry, and would demonstrate to the Japanese population that further resistance was futile.

As the Allies took control of the war, Adolf Hitler appeared in public for the last time on March 20, 1945, after issuing the "Nero Decree" the previous day. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on this and other important World War II events that occurred from March 14, 1945, to March 23, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: March 14-15, 1945-March 23, 1945

As the end of World War II approached, the Allied forces continued to attack Japan and Nazi Germany with large-scale bombing campaigns. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from March 14, 1945, to March 23, 1945.

World War II Timeline: March 14-March 23

March 14-15: Thousands die in an American bombing raid on Japan's southern port city of Osaka.


March 16-17: American bombers attack Kobe, on the Japanese island of Honshu, inflicting several thousand casualties.

March 18: Nearly 30 Allied planes are lost in large-scale bombing runs over the German cities of Frankfurt and Berlin.

March 19: Adolf Hitler issues the "Nero Decree," a scorched-earth directive calling for the destruction of all German infrastructure presumed in danger of falling to the Allies.

The Sarawak Maru, the final surviving ship of a 21-vessel Japanese convoy, is sunk, illustrating Allied strength and Japanese isolation in Asian waters.

Japanese kamikaze attacks on U.S. Task Force 58 damages American aircraft carriers Essex, Wolf, Enterprise, and Franklin, killing 832 on the Franklin alone.

March 20: Adolf Hitler appears in public for the last time. ­

The fiercely defended Burmese city of Mandalay is captured by Allied forces of the British 19th Indian Division.

March 21: More than 100 Danish civilians die when they become "collateral damage" in a British raid against Copenhagen's Gestapo headquarters.

Japanese piloted bombs make their debut against U.S. forces in the waters off Japan's home islands.

March 23: Charles de Gaulle announces that France will grant limited independence to Indochina at the conclusion of the war.

Allied forces from Britain, Canada, and the United States under General Bernard Montgomery launch Operation Plunder. They will cross the northern Rhine while protected by heavy air and artillery support.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of American troops landing on Okinawa, as well as the American discovery of Nazi Germany's hidden treasures in 1945.

German V-weapons are difficult to aim with precision: German V-1s and V-2s were fired at targets in England, Belgium, and France (after liberation) and even within Nazi Germany. Although they could wreak extensive damage, neither type of rocket could be precisely aimed. The British put out false reports about hits, sometimes tricking the Germans into targeting less populated areas. The only defense against the more sophisticated V-2s was to take out their launchpads. The Allies struck bunkered sites in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, although V-2s on truck-drawn mobile launchers proved hard to hit.

Americans land on Okinawa in the largest invasion of the Pacific War: GIs of the U.S. 77th Infantry Division use spliced ladders to bridge a gulch during the fighting on Okinawa. Intending to seize a base for the invasion of Japan, the Americans landed on Okinawa on April 1, 1945. It was the largest invasion of the Pacific war. The Navy fired more than 100,000 shells in a weeklong bombardment of the landing beaches. This expenditure was largely wasted, since Japanese general Ushijima Mitsuru had decided to fight from prepared positions inland. The initial landings by four U.S. divisions were virtually unopposed, but progress stalled when U.S. forces encountered the main defenses across the southern end of the island.

Japanese defenders dig to protect themselves from U.S. attack: A flamethrower tank clears Japanese snipers from caves on Okinawa. Dug deeply into Okinawa's ridges and escarpments, the Japanese were protected from even large-caliber artillery fire while taking a heavy toll of Americans who attacked in the open. By staying in their defenses, the Japanese intended to make U.S. troops pay dearly for every foot of ground while kamikazes battered the ships offshore. GIs and Marines countered with tanks and small-unit assaults. The latter included flamethrowers and demolitions to eradicate subterranean enemy positions -- a tactic that became known as "blowtorch and corkscrew."

Japanese prisoner becomes an object of curiosity: Crewmen on the USS New Jersey watch a Japanese prisoner of war bathe before being issued GI clothing. The relative rarity of Japanese prisoners made them an object of curiosity among Allied servicemen -- particularly those who were not directly engaged in infantry combat with enemy troops. Many U.S. servicemen were surprised to find that their enemy was not a superman, a monkey, or a slavering madman, but just an ordinary man much like themselves. Some even felt a degree of sympathy for their now helpless foe. This was not a sentiment shared by most front-line riflemen. With their personal safety in the balance, they had little room for curiosity or compassion for live Japanese.

Americans find $520 million of Nazi buried treasures: As U.S. troops advanced through Central Germany in early April 1945, they learned from informants that the Nazis had moved gold and art treasures to a salt mine (pictured) in the town of Merkers. On April 7, American officers accompanied German mining officials to the main vault more than 2,000 feet below ground. Blocked by a large steel door, they blew a hole in the wall and entered a vault 75 feet wide, 150 feet long, and 12 feet high. It contained thousands of bags of gold, silver, and coins worth more than $520 million -- as well as hundreds of pieces of jewelry and priceless art treasures that had been looted all over Europe.

As the U.S. Army closed ranks around the economically critical Ruhr region, more than 300,000 German soldiers are entrapped. The following page features a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from March 23, 1945, to April 1, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: March 23, 1945-April 1, 1945

In one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific in World War II, 60,000 United States troops landed on the island of Okinawa. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from March 23, 1945, to April 1, 1945.

World War II Timeline: March 23-April 1

March 23: Task Force 58 launches air raids on the Japanese island of Okinawa in preparation for an eventual American landing.


March 24: The war in northern Burma comes to an end as the Chinese 50th Division meets the Chinese New First Army near Hsipaw, Burma.

March 26: The remainder of the Japanese force on Iwo Jima stages one final, suicidal attack against the U.S. forces that occupy the strategically critical island.

March 27: Soviet Union officials convene a meeting with anti-Communist Polish leaders under false pretenses. They will incarcerate the Poles and eliminate opposition to communism by Poland's government-in-exile.

Britain suffers an attack by the terrifying German V-2 rockets for the last time.

The U.S. begins a program of mining Japanese waters in an effort to completely blockade the home islands.

March 29: American troops occupy the German heartland city of Frankfurt am Main.

April 1945: The first helicopter rescue is achieved when a Sikorsky YR-4 is used to rescue Captain James Green, a U.S. Air Force pilot who crashed in the Burmese jungle.

April 1: More than 300,000 German soldiers are entrapped as the U.S. Army closes ranks around the economically critical Ruhr region.

Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels launches Radio Werwolf in an effort to bolster German resistance to Allied forces in portions of Nazi Germany occupied by Allies.

In an effort to ensure that all Japanese are available to assist the cause of victory, all schools in the nation are closed.

Some 60,000 U.S. troops land on the island of Okinawa, launching one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of Americans mourning the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945.

Few African American soldiers honored for their bravery: On April 5, 1945, Second Lieutenant Vernon Baker's company was pinned down while attacking a German position near Viareggio, Italy. Baker crawled forward and destroyed four machine gun nests, killing nine Germans. For this action, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Since he was African American, however, it took the military 52 years to award it. More than 1.2 million African Americans served in the war, but few received battlefield decorations and none were awarded the Medal of Honor until January 13, 1997, when seven African Americans received it from President Bill Clinton. The 77-year-old Baker was the only one still living.

Americans mourn the death of FDR on April 12, 1945: Residents of Washington, D.C., mourn the passing of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died of a stroke in Georgia on April 12, 1945. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president elected four times, had pulled America out of the Great Depression and inspired his nation to victory in World War II. African Americans shared in the suffering of his loss: Through his Executive Order 8802, FDR had integrated the national defense program. Overseas, Winston Churchill broke into tears when he relayed the news of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in a speech to the House of Commons. Joseph Stalin, reportedly, was also moved by his ally's death.

Vice President Harry Truman is unprepared for presidency after the death of FDR: When Vice President Harry Truman was summoned to the White House on April 12, 1945, he was unaware of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death. When he was sworn in as president, he was not well prepared for the responsibilities of the office since, during his three months as VP, he had little contact with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Truman was sworn in as president that evening. The next day he told reporters, "When they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."

General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz were chosen to command land and sea forces for the Allied invasion of Japan. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on this and other important World War II events that occurred from April 3, 1945, to April 9, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: April 3, 1945-April 9, 1945

It was the beginning of the end of World War II when General Patton and his American troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Ohrdruf, Germany, on April 4, 1945. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from April 3-9.

World War II Timeline: April 3-April 9

April 3: The Red Army lays siege to the Slovak city of Bratislava in an effort to drive out German forces. The Soviets will liberate the city the following day.


Washington announces that General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz will command land and sea forces, respectively, for the Allied invasion of Japan.

April 4: American troops liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Ohrdruf, Germany. Upon witnessing the carnage at the camp, a disgusted General Patton assembles local townspeople for a viewing.

April 5: Soviet Union foreign minister Molotov puts the Japanese on notice that the USSR does not intend to renew the 1941 nonaggression pact between the two nations.

The Japanese high command orders its entire Second Fleet to make a run against U.S. forces off Okinawa.

April 6: Yugoslavian forces under the government of Josip Broz Tito take control of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

A fierce air and naval battle erupts off Okinawa. Japanese kamikaze pilots rain from the sky.

April 7: For the first time, the RAF launches bombing raids on Berlin from Allied bases in mainland Europe.

For the first time since the Allied capture of Iwo Jima, the island is successfully utilized as a base for operations against the Japanese home islands.

American planes engage the super-battleship Yamato, causing it to capsize in the East China Sea. Nearly 2,500 Japanese sailors die.

April 9: The German fortress at Königsberg falls to the Soviets.

Some 300 die when a bomb-laden Liberty ship explodes in the harbor at Bari, Italy.

The final offensive on the Italian front is launched by a multinational troop contingent that includes soldiers from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the fall of Nazi Germany, as well as the heroic actions of U.S. Army second lieutenant Daniel Inouye.

Allies close in on the Third Reich on both fronts: Despite Allied setbacks at Arnhem in September 1944 and the Ardennes that December, the fate of the Third Reich was now inevitable. In the West, the Allies crossed the Rhine River in March 1945, with armored forces striking deep into Nazi Germany. In terms of scale and ferocity, the major fighting still raged on the Eastern Front, where the Red Army was rapidly overrunning Eastern Europe. Warsaw fell in January and Vienna in April. On April 16, 2.5 million Soviet Union troops, 6,250 armored vehicles, and 7,500 aircraft launched the great offensive toward Berlin, which ended at the Reichstag six weeks later.

U.S. Army second lieutenant Daniel Inouye earns the Congressional Medal of Honor: On April 21, 1945, during combat near San Terenzo, Italy, U.S. Army second lieutenant Daniel Inouye was shot in the abdomen. He continued to lead his platoon while bleeding. After his right arm was shattered, he threw a grenade at the Germans with his left hand. Inouye earned the Distinguished Service Cross but spent 20 months in the hospital, where his right arm was removed. A review of the military records of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a Japanese American unit, 50 years later identified 20 members who were blocked, due to prejudice, from receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. U.S. senator Inouye of Hawaii was among them. This infraction was rectified on June 21, 2000, when he and 19 others from the 442nd were awarded the medal.

Liberated Jews die from typhoid fever at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp: "They are Jews and are dying now at the rate of three hundred a day," British soldier Peter Coombs wrote after liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. A typhoid fever epidemic had been sweeping through the camp, claiming thousands of lives, including that of diarist Anne Frank, by the time British troops arrived on April 15, 1945. A sign at the site of the camp (and a nearby sign in German) declares, the liberators discovered more than 10,000 corpses throughout the camp. British troops forced captured guards to bury the diseased bodies without the use of protective gloves.

Russian troops liberated the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945. Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on this and other important World War II events that occurred from April 9, 1945, to April 15, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: April 9, 1945-April 15, 1945

Allied troops advanced so quickly across Nazi Germany during their World War II ground campaign that many SS guards in slave and concentration camps were unable to escape and were immediately arrested by the Allies. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from April 9, 1945, to April 15, 1945.

World War II Timeline: April 9-April 15

April 9: Former Abwehr chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris is executed on the gallows at Nazi Germany's Flossenburg concentration camp.


April 10: American soldiers of the Ninth Army capture the central German city of Hanover.

April 11: Red Army troops of the Ukrainian army group penetrate the center of the Austrian capital of Vienna. It will fall to the Allies on the 13th. ­

The Russians liberate the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp.

American forces reach the southern German region of Bavaria, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Reich.

Japanese kamikaze pilots continue their barrage unabated off Okinawa, hitting the U.S. ships Missouri and Enterprise.

April 12: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies suddenly after suffering a stroke at his Warm Springs, Georgia, vacation home. Vice President Harry Truman is sworn in as president.

April 13: The South American nation of Chile joins the Allies and declares war on Japan.

April 14: The Allies march through the center of encircled German troops in the Ruhr Pocket, taking prisoners and splitting the German ranks.

The Allies launch Operation Teardrop in an effort to locate German U-boats in the North Atlantic rumored to be carrying V-2 rockets to be used against New York City.

April 14-15: Japanese imperial loyalists crush an attempted coup by hard-line military officers who, convinced that Emperor Hirohito was on the brink of surrender, had decided to seize control.

April 15: The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, with a survivor population of 40,000, is liberated by the British Army.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of concentration camp prisoners identifying camp officials, as well as Allied forces surrounding the Ruhr Pocket in April 1945.

Civilians in Gardelegen, Germany are forced to bury camp victims: On April 21, 1945, American troops of the 102nd Division ordered the males of the German town of Gardelegen to carry spades and white wooden crosses to a burned barn on the outskirts of their town. They were ordered to disinter and rebury the bodies of 1,016 prisoners who had been burned or shot by the Germans eight days earlier. Throughout occupied Nazi Germany, the Allies forced German civilians to confront the atrocities that took place in concentration camps short distances from their homes. Women were also forced to bury slave workers executed by German troops.

Liberated prisoners identify SS guards for Allied troops: Allied troops advanced so quickly across Nazi Germany that many SS guards in slave and concentration camps were unable to escape. Others chose to face the enemy instead of running away. Those guards who remained behind were immediately arrested once the Allies arrived. Liberated prisoners were asked to identify camp officials or brutal guards still in the camp. Other prisoners were taken to neighboring towns in an attempt to identify SS troopers who had abandoned their uniforms in an attempt to mingle with civilians.

Allies, German soldiers, and civilians surround the Ruhr Pocket: As the Allies advanced into western Germany in 1945, General Eisenhower ordered U.S. and British forces to surround Nazi Germany's main industrial region, the Ruhr. On April 1, what came to be called the Ruhr Pocket was surrounded, along with millions of civilians and hundreds of thousands of German soldiers, including the prisoners seen here. During the course of the month, U.S. forces entered and seized the pocket. They found the "armory of the German Reich" reduced to ruins from Allied area bombing. The demoralized population faced years of grueling reconstruction.

In April 1945, Adolf Hitler announced that he expected his officers to fight to the death, and he ordered the execution of any officer who orders a retreat. The next page features a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from April 16, 1945, to April 26, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: April 16, 1945-April 26, 1945

World War II was nearing its end. The Allies announced that the air war against Nazi Germany was over, and Berlin was fully encircled by the Red Army. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from April 16, 1945, to April 26, 1945.

World War II Timeline: April 16-April 26

April 16: Adolf Hitler announces that he expects his officers to fight to the death. He orders summary execution for any officer who orders a retreat.


The German transport ship Goya is torpedoed. It goes down in the Baltic Sea with 6,200 Germans who had just been rescued from the Hela Peninsula.

The Allied air force announces that future operations over Germany will focus on cleanup rather than strategic targets, effectively ending the air war.

April 18: German field marshal Walter Model leads his remaining 225,000 troops, encircled in Nazi Germany's Ruhr, in mass surrender to the Allies.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Scripps-Howard columnist Ernie Pyle is felled by a Japanese sniper's bullet while reporting on the Battle of Okinawa.

April 20: The Allies capture Stuttgart and Nuremberg. They raise the U.S. flag over Nuremberg Stadium, the site of the Nazis' iconic political rallies.

April 23: Street-to-street fighting erupts in the German capital of Berlin as the Soviets storm the city.

Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler offers the Allies a conditional surrender, stipulating that he will not capitulate to a Soviet Union official. Allied officials will reject the offer.

April 24: Furious over Göring's play for power in the Reich's final days, Adolf Hitler orders the arrest of his former right-hand man.

April 25: Berlin is fully encircled by Belorussian and Ukrainian army groups of the Red Army. ­

Northern Italy continues to fall to the Allies. Verona and Parma are liberated, and citizens of Milan and Genoa rise up against their Nazi occupiers.

April 26: Marshal Philippe Pétain, former leader of Vichy France, is arrested and charged with collaborating with the Nazis.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights that outline the events of World War II and show the details of Adolf Hitler's last birthday, as well as the death of Benito Mussolini in late April 1945.

5,000 Hitler Youth as young as 12 are forced to fight Allies: A German soldier named Hans-Georg Henke, age 15, cried after being captured by the U.S. Ninth Army in April 1945. On April 20, Adolf Hitler presented several 12-year-olds the Iron Cross for bravery in combat. After the ceremony, the boys returned to the front lines, joining youths and old men in battle against Soviets in the streets of Berlin. Three days after Adolf Hitler's presentation, Hitler Youth were chosen to defend bridges south of Berlin to be used by reinforcements that would never come. More than 5,000 boys fought the Soviets there, and when the fighting ended five days later, 4,500 Hitler Youth were dead or wounded.

German civilians fear wrath of Red Army and many take their own lives: The Soviet Union Army entered Vienna, Austria, on April 13, 1945, and encircled Berlin on April 21. German civilians feared Soviet troops, who sought retribution for the atrocities inflicted on their homes and families by the Nazis. More than 100,000 women were raped in Berlin, and thousands of Germans took their own lives in Nazi Germany, Austria, and Poland.

Adolf Hitler's last birthday is a subdued celebration in his underground headquarters: April 20, 1945, was Adolf Hitler's 56th birthday. The celebration in his underground headquarters, the Führerbunker, in the Reich Chancellery Park was very subdued. The Soviet Union Army was advancing toward Berlin, and Adolf Hitler knew that the end of his Third Reich was near. Later that day, Adolf Hitler left the bunker to decorate 20 Hitler Youth, most 12 to 15 years old, for bravery in combat. He then returned to the bunker in which he had lived since January 16, 1945. Protected by 16 feet of concrete and six feet of earth, Adolf Hitler's sanctuary protected him but did not mask the sounds of Soviet Union shells falling closer each day.

The Soviets reach Berlin with overwhelming military power: Soviet Union troops encircled Berlin on April 21, 1945. With 2.5 million men, the Soviets faced one million German troops, including about 45,000 male youth and elderly. The Germans were also greatly outnumbered in artillery, tanks, and planes. "The amount of equipment deployed for the Berlin operation," a Soviet Union soldier remarked, "was so huge I simply cannot describe it and I was there." Enormous firepower was brought to bear, but the Soviets discovered that many forward German positions had been abandoned before the bombardment. The German command pulled troops tightly around Berlin for a final, doomed defense of the city.

Italians express anger a the public execution of Benito Mussolini: On April 25, 1945, Benito Mussolini's puppet government in northern Italy dissolved, as Italian partisans and American forces ended German control of the region. Two days later, Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were captured in the Italian village of Dongo while trying to flee to Switzerland. On the 28th, Benito Mussolini, Clara Petacci, and 15 aides were executed at Giulino di Mezzegra. The bodies were brought to the Piazzale Loreto in Milan on April 29. Six of them, including Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci, were hung by the feet while a crowd of Italians spit on and beat the remains.

Knowing the end was near for Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun on April 29, 1945, and they committed suicide together the next day. Continue on to the next page for a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from April 27, 1945, to May 3, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: April 27, 1945-May 3, 1945

The terror caused by Adolf Hitler during World War II was finally over. Knowing his powerful days were finished, Adolf Hitler committed suicide with his new wife on April 30, 1945. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from April 27, 1945, to May 3, 1945.

World War II Timeline: April 27-May 3

April 27: Adolf Hitler sends one last message to his ally, Benito Mussolini. Defiant to the end, he asserts that "Bolshevism and the armies of Jewry...join their malignant precipitate chaos in our continent."


April 28: Italian partisans execute Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci.

April 29: Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun exchange wedding vows in Adolf Hitler's underground Berlin bunker.

General Vietinghoff, the German commander of Axis forces in Italy, signs documents surrendering to the Allies.

A U-boat wolf pack attacks Allied convoy RA-66 in the Arctic, in what will be the last convoy attack of the war.

April 30: The newly wed Hitlers commit suicide in the Berlin bunker. Joseph and Magda Goebbels follow suit, murdering their six children before taking their own lives.

Soviet Union forces capture the Reichstag.

The Dachau concentration camp is liberated as the Allies capture the Bavarian capital of Munich.

May 1: Admiral Karl Dönitz, Adolf Hitler's handpicked successor, establishes a government in Flensburg to control Nazi Germany following Adolf Hitler's suicide.

May 2: Some 490,000 German soldiers in Italy lay down their weapons, honoring the terms of the unconditional surrender signed by Vietinghoff three days earlier.

The British 26th Indian Division meets no Japanese resistance during an amphibious invasion of Rangoon, Burma.

May 3: Red Army units link up throughout Berlin as German resistance ends, completing the capture of the capital of the Third Reich.

Hamburg, Germany, and Innsbruck, Austria, fall to the Allies.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the fall of Berlin in late April 1945.

German pilot Hanna Reitsch flies to Adolf Hitler in April 1945: By 1945 German pilot Hanna Reitsch had received an Iron Cross and was one of the most accomplished fliers in the world. She had become a Luftwaffe test pilot in 1937 and flew several prototype planes and jets. In April 1945, Reitsch was a passenger when General Robert Ritter von Greim flew into beleaguered Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. Russian flak injured Greim's ankle, and Reitsch landed the plane in a rubble-strewn Berlin street near the Führer's bunker. When Adolf Hitler refused to fly to safety three days later, the plane, with Reitsch at the controls, took off amid a torrent of small arms and artillery fire. Reitsch was briefly interned after the war, and lived until 1979.

The fall of Berlin takes 12 days, as well as 300,000 Soviet lives: For 12 days, beginning on April 20, Joseph Stalin's troops fought through the streets of Berlin, one neighborhood at a time. Adolf Hitler ordered his Ninth and 12th armies to cut through the Soviet Union line and defend the city. But the Ninth was encircled and eventually decimated, and the 12th lacked the manpower or arms to attack the Soviets after holding up the Americans. The defense of Berlin was left to a disorganized band of soldiers as well as old men and boys of the Hitler Youth. They fought hard, inflicting 300,000 casualties on the Soviets.

Adolf Hitler and his new wife Eva Braun commit suicide: "I myself and my wife..." Adolf Hitler wrote in his last will and testament on April 29, 1945, "choose death." Shortly after midnight on April 29, he married his mistress, Eva Braun. On the 30th, the two committed suicide, Eva from biting into a cyanide capsule and Adolf Hitler from cyanide and a shot under his chin, according to his valet, Heinz Linge. Their bodies were carried out of the bunker, doused with gasoline, partially burned, and then buried in a shallow bomb crater. The bodies were discovered by the Soviets, who performed an autopsy to confirm Adolf Hitler's identity. War correspondents attached to the U.S. military examined blood stains in the bunker.

Nazi Germany signed the formal surrender documents in Reims, France, on May 7, 1945. Continue on to the next page for a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from May 3, 1945, to May 7, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: May 3, 1945-May 7, 1945

Nazi Germany's World War II campaign officially came to an end on May 7, 1945, when German general Alfred Jodl signed the formal surrender documents in Reims, France. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from May 3, 1945, to May 7, 1945.

World War II Timeline: May 3-May 7

May 3: British Royal Air Force (RAF) planes attack and sink three German ships -- the Cap Arcona, Thielbek, and Deutschland. Unknown to the RAF, these ships -- under the direction of the Red Cross -- are carrying rescued prisoners (mostly Jews) from German concentration camps. Some 8,000 lose their lives.


May 4: German troops surrender en masse throughout northern Germany and the Netherlands.

May 5: German and Allied officials meet in Reims, France, to reach agreement on the terms of Germany's capitulation.

The German army lays down its weapons throughout Bavaria.

American troops performing mop-up operations near Berchtesgaden capture Hans Frank, occupied Poland's Nazi governor general, who had established his headquarters in the city of Kraków.

U.S. forces liberate French and Austrian officials -- including premiers Reynaud, Daladier, Blum, and Schuschnigg -- from captivity in Austria.

Czech partisans rise up against the German occupation force in Prague.

A Japanese balloon bomb kills a woman and five children in Oregon, becoming the only such bomb of the war to induce casualties.

May 6: Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, supreme Allied commander of the Southeast Asia theater, announces that the Allied campaign in Burma has come to an end.

May 7: German general Alfred Jodl signs the formal surrender documents in Reims, France, as Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.

The Red Army captures Breslau, Germany, after laying siege to the German garrison for 82 days.

U-2336 sinks two merchant ships in the North Atlantic -- the last U-boat "kills" of the war.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the liberation of Dachau, as well as the execution of Dachau guards by U.S. troops in late April 1945.

Martin Bormann is Germany's "secret leader" : Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Parteikanzlei (Chancellery), completely controlled personal access to the Führer. By manipulating Adolf Hitler, Martin Bormann also affected Nazi Party directives, promotions, appointments, and finances. Present in the bunker during Adolf Hitler's final days, Martin Bormann was a witness to the wedding of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. After that, he disappeared. Evidence indicates that he perished in Berlin while attempting to escape through heavy gunfire. After the war, Martin Bormann was tried at Nuremberg in absentia. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

American skepticism over Adolf Hitler suicide leads to an extensive 11-year investigation by the FBI: A cover of Time, illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff, showed Adolf Hitler's face with a blood-red X over it. It appeared on the issue dated May 7, 1945, a week after the German leader's suicide. When word reached America that Adolf Hitler had taken his own life, the report was met with skepticism. In fact, the FBI conducted an extensive, 11-year investigation into whether the German leader faked his death. His suicide was confirmed in the 1960s by Russian journalist Lev Bezymenski. He reported that Soviets had performed an autopsy on corpses found buried in a shallow grave that were identified as belonging to Adolf Hitler, his wife, and their two dogs.

Traumatized World War II soldiers suffer from "shell shock" -- today called Combat Stress Reactions (CSRs): At the front lines in Nazi Germany in 1945, doctors routinely gave traumatized, exhausted American soldiers sedatives. Throughout World War II, Allied forces were troubled by incidents of what is today called Combat Stress Reactions (CSRs). It was then referred to as "shell shock," "battle fatigue," or "war neurosis." The 1943 episode in which General Patton slapped two troubled soldiers in Sicily generated concern about the problem, and by 1944 a psychiatrist was assigned to each American division. Some soldiers were sent to rear hospitals for psychological treatment.

The liberation of Dachau uncovers 30,000 prisoners and hundreds of unburied corpses: Flat-bed trucks were used to haul away bodies of prisoners who died at Dachau. Located near Munich, Germany, the Dachau concentration camp had been built in 1933 to confine political opponents of the Nazi movement, and in November 1938, 11,000 Jewish prisoners were sent there. Dachau was used as a model for other concentration camps in Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe. In spring 1943, a crematorium with four ovens was put into use at the camp. Upon liberating Dachau on April 30, Americans discovered more than 30,000 prisoners and hundreds of unburied corpses. In its 12 years, more than 30,000 of Dachau's 200,000 prisoners died.

U.S. troops execute Dachau guards on liberation day -- April 30, 1945: When Dachau was liberated on April 30, 1945, an unknown number of American GIs lined 16 SS camp guards against a coal yard wall in the adjacent SS training camp and executed them (pictured). Additional executions took place at Dachau's rail yard, at a guard tower, and at Würm creek. In all, 37 to 39 SS personnel were dispatched that day. These actions were "unauthorized" and did not reflect U.S. Army policy toward captured SS.

German commodore Karl Dönitz named president of Germany: In 1935 Adolf Hitler named German commodore Karl Dönitz as the first commander-in-chief of U-boats. He advanced in rank and command until 1943, when he became grand admiral of the German Navy. When two of Adolf Hitler's highest lieutenants, Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring, betrayed him, Adolf Hitler named Dönitz as his successor with the title of president. The only part of the Reich not in Allied hands by the end of April was an area near Flensburg in northern Germany. Dönitz's government there was never acknowledged by the Allies and came to an end on May 23, 1945, when he was arrested by British troops.

German troops continued to surrender to Allied forces throughout Europe, and Victory (V-E) Day was declared. Continue on to the next page for a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from May 8, 1945, to May 16, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: May 8, 1945-May 16, 1945

May 10 was a happy day for millions of U.S. troops -- the European World War II campaign was officially over, and the troops would be on their way home. Some of the troops, however, were sent to the Pacific Theater to continue fighting. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from May 8, 1945, to May 16, 1945.

World War II Timeline: May 8-May 16

May 8: Victory in Europe (V-E) Day is declared as German troops continue to surrender to Allies throughout Europe.


Hermann Göring surrenders to Allied troops. He will become, along with Admiral Dönitz, the highest-ranking Nazi to face trial at Nuremberg.

May 9: Norwegian collaborator and infamous turncoat Vidkun Quisling turns himself in to the authorities in Oslo.

The Allies assume control of the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in the port of Copenhagen, Denmark.

May 10: The U.S. high command announces that more than three million American troops stationed in Europe will soon be on their way home or to the Pacific Theater.

May 11: Australian troops capture Wewak from the Japanese, giving control of all of New Guinea's ports to the Allies.

May 12: Washington temporarily suspends Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union.

American Marines suffer heavy casualties as Japanese troops defend their positions on Okinawa's Sugar Loaf Hill.

May 14: Austrian self-determination returns to Vienna for the first time since the Anschluss.

The Allies discover a fortune in gold, currency, and looted art hidden by the Nazis in an Austrian salt mine.

USAAF B-29 bombers drop some 2,500 incendiary devices on the Japanese city of Nagoya.

Mid-May: The 1.2 million soldiers in German Army Group Center disband. Most will end up in U.S. or Soviet Union custody.

May 16: The Japanese cruiser Haguro goes down in the Malacca Strait after coming under attack by a small force of British destroyers.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the surrender of Hermann Göring, as well as the American and British victory celebrations in May 1945.

Wernher von Braun, Germany's rocket man, becomes an American hero following the 1969 moon landing: Wernher von Braun had been steered (he said pressured) into the Nazi Party and the SS because of his genius with rocketry. While developing his V-2 rocket at Pennemünde, Braun visited the Mittlewerk facility, where enslaved laborers toiled and died under deplorable conditions. Fearing the Soviet Union forces who were approaching, Braun and his team surrendered to U.S. troops on May 3, 1945. In America's subsequent Operation Paperclip, 1,600 German scientists were sent to the U.S. to develop the space program. Following the 1969 moon landing, Braun became a hero in America.

Hermann Göring surrenders on May 8, 1945: Brigadier General Robert Stack, assistant commander of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division, was handed an envelope on May 7, 1945, addressed to General Eisenhower. It was from Hermann Göring, who agreed to surrender if General Eisenhower would work with him to reorganize Germany. Göring's request was refused, and he surrendered to the 36th Division the next day. Hermann Göring had incensed Adolf Hitler on April 23 by requesting that the Führer, who was trapped in a bunker in Berlin, name him as Adolf Hitler's successor. Accusing Hermann Göring of treason, Adolf Hitler ordered his arrest and considered ordering his execution.

British celebrate V-E Day in the streets of London: On May 8, 1945, the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe (V-E) Day. Mrs. Pat Burgess of Palmers Green in North London waved a newspaper announcing Germany's surrender. She was one of more than a million Londoners who took to the streets to celebrate. They listened to an address by King George VI, cheered at exploding fireworks, and burned effigies of Adolf Hitler. In his speech that day, Winston Churchill somberly reminded the British that their rejoicing must be brief. "Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued," he said.

The German military agrees to an unconditional surrender: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signs the ratified surrender terms for the German military on May 8, 1945. The terms included the unconditional surrender of all German armed forces, cessation of active operations, and surrender of all weapons and equipment to local Allied commanders. Though the document neglected to mention the civilian government, an Allied Control Council was subsequently formed with authority over all military and civilian agencies.

U.S. soldiers find the Nazis' plundered art in a German salt mine: After the war, U.S. soldiers find Édouard Manet's In the Conservatory among many other paintings hidden by the Nazis in a German salt mine. Adolf Hitler's regime began looting cultural objects upon its rise to power in 1933. As the Germans conquered much of Europe, they confiscated millions of artworks, many of them from Jewish owners. In Warsaw alone, a reported 13,512 paintings and 1,379 sculptures were stolen. A great number of artworks were returned to their rightful owners after the war, but many more were lost forever or became tangled in litigation.

The American V-E Day celebration takes place in Times Square: Just as Londoners had done in Piccadilly Circus, New Yorkers packed Times Square on May 8, 1945, to celebrate V-E Day. By the end of the European phase of the war, the United States found itself a major player on the world stage, already assured leadership status in the soon-to-be-founded United Nations. However, America's V-E Day celebrations were dampened by the April 12 death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had done so much to assure an Allied victory and the creation of the UN.

With Nazi Germany defeated, the Americans focused their attention on the Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater. Check out the next page for a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from May 17, 1945, to May 28, 1945.

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World War II Timeline: May 17, 1945-May 28, 1945

After Nazi Germany was defeated in Europe, World War II fighting continued in the Pacific. The U.S. military leadership determined that Operation Olympic, the invasion of mainland Japan, would commence on November 1. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from May 17, 1945, to May 28, 1945.

World War II Timeline: May 17-May 28

May 17: U.S. forces capture Manila's Ipo Dam following a three-day bombing campaign in which more than 100,000 gallons of napalm were dropped on Japanese positions.


May 18: An intense, 10-day battle on Okinawa ends when the U.S. Marines capture the hotly contested Sugar Loaf Hill.

May 19: Nazi functionary Dr. Alfred Rosenberg is captured. Rosenberg had promoted the belief in Aryan racial superiority and the need for German Lebensraum (living space).

May 21: A division between Britain's Labour and Conservative parties leads Winston Churchill to call for general elections for the first time in a decade.

May 23: Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler commits suicide while in British custody.

Julius Streicher, the fanatical anti-Semitic publisher of the Nazi periodical Der Stürmer, is arrested in Bavaria.

General Eisenhower orders the arrest of leaders of the German military and of the new Flensburg government headed by Admiral Dönitz.

The U.S. military leadership determines that Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese mainland, will commence November 1.

May 27: Up to 200,000 Japanese troops are stranded when the Chinese reoccupy Nanning, cutting the Japanese supply route from Southeast Asia.

USAAF planes deliver the Chinese Sixth Army from Burma to China, marking the first airborne transport of an army in world history.

­Japanese authorities close the crippled Japanese port of Tokyo.

May 28: British radio personality William Joyce ("Lord Haw-Haw") is captured by the Allies.

Shipping rules for wartime are abolished everywhere outside the Pacific. Merchant traffic is allowed to use navigation lights, and abandon convoys.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the liberation of the Channel Islands, as well as the American starvation experiment.

Kamikazes strike the USS Bunker Hill and kill 346 servicemen: Wrecked aircraft litter the USS Bunker Hill's flight deck after the carrier was struck by two kamikazes on May 11, 1945, off Okinawa. The first enemy plane careened through parked aircraft on the flight deck, igniting numerous fires while its 550-pound bomb exploded below decks. The second kamikaze hit near the base of the ship's aft deck. Fires were brought under control within five hours, but casualties totaled 346 dead and 246 wounded. The damage put the veteran carrier out of the war. It eventually returned to duty in September with the "Magic Carpet" fleet, transporting servicemen back to the States for discharge.

The liberation of the British Channel Islands takes place in May 1945: In July 1940, the Germans easily seized and occupied the British Channel Islands. Under Adolf Hitler's orders, the islands were heavily fortified and became the sites of slave labor camps for European prisoners of war. Ironically, the islanders' worst sufferings came after the Allied invasion of Normandy, when they were cut off from food and other supplies from Europe. The islands were not liberated until May 1945, after Nazi Germany's surrender. Elated civilians on one of the Channel Islands eagerly greeted British troops.

Surrender leaflets encourage Japanese to surrender in 1945: This is one of millions of leaflets dropped among Japanese soldiers and civilians to encourage surrender. The I Cease Resistance phrasing was developed after it was discovered that Japanese soldiers were alienated by any mention of actual surrender. Leaflets were produced and printed by the Office of War Information and by the Far Eastern Liaison Office and Psychological Warfare Branch in the South West Pacific Area command. Early efforts brought few surrenders, but results improved dramatically in 1945, both because of deteriorating Japanese morale and a growing willingness among Allied troops to take live prisoners.

The American starvation experiment aids doctors in understanding how to treat emaciated victims: Beginning in November 1944, Dr. Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota worked with 36 conscientious objectors in the first study of the effects of semi-starvation. Receiving an average of about 1,500 calories a day from their fourth to 10th month of the yearlong experiment, the volunteers experienced significant changes in both their health and personalities. During the last three months, the men received from 2,000 to 3,000 calories daily, with the number increasing over time. It was learned that vitamins and proteins did not help on their own. The proper diet to nurse emaciated victims back to health consisted of about 4,000 calories a day.

Heinrich Himmler's final days conclude with his suicide: On April 28, 1945, Adolf Hitler learned that his trusted lieutenant, Heinrich Himmler, had tried to negotiate the surrender of the German army to the Allies. Incensed, Adolf Hitler ordered Heinrich Himmler's arrest. Following Adolf Hitler's suicide, the Führer's successor, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, denounced Heinrich Himmler. Hunted by Allied agents, Heinrich Himmler disguised himself as a sergeant major and attempted to flee to Bavaria. Although he shaved his mustache and wore a patch over his left eye, he was arrested and eventually identified. To escape his trial and inevitable execution, he killed himself by swallowing a cyanide capsule on May 23, 1945.

Cologne, Germany, takes a beating from numerous Allied bombings: The Allied bombing of Cologne, Germany, began in March 1942. During the war, the city was attacked by air numerous times, primarily because it was a military, economic, and manufacturing center along the Rhine River. The most destructive of the raids occurred on the night of May 30-31, 1942, when more than 1,000 planes of the Royal Air Force dropped about 1,500 tons of explosives on the city in only 75 minutes. By war's end, more than 20,000 Cologne civilians had been killed or wounded and most of the city was destroyed, leaving tens of thousands of civilians homeless.

To follow more major events of World War II, see:


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.