Russian Army Repels Hitler's Forces: August 1942-January 1943

German troops surrender at Stalingrad in January 1943.

The Nazi Germa­n armies that moved ­relentlessly toward Stalingrad in summer 1942 dur­ing World War II were confronted with a bleak terrain. "A barren, naked, lifeless steppe," wrote Johann Wieder, who survived the conflict to write his memoirs, "without a bush, without a tree, for miles without a village."

For a time, the advance appeared to be a repeat of the summer of 1941. The Sixth Army of General Friedrich Paulus pushed the Soviet forces in front of it. By August 19, they had reached the outskirts of Stalingrad. On August 23, the first formations reached the banks of the Volga River. Paulus promised Hitler that the city would fall within a few days.


In reality the attempt to seize Stalingrad turned into one of the epic battles of World War II. During the five months in which the battle for the city raged, the advance of the Axis powers was halted and crushed. By the time Friedrich Paulus surrendered in early February 1943, the tide had begun to turn not just on the Eastern Front but also in the Middle East and the Pacific.

Following the Japanese defeat at Midway Island in June 1942, the Allies found it possible to begin the long and brutal campaign to dislodge Japan's forces from the string of islands they had occupied around the ocean perimeter of the Empire. This was a difficult and costly campaign for both sides. Men and equipment had to be transported over long oceanic supply lines, thousands of miles from the home countries, and in terrain where tropical heat and disease took a high toll on ­the combatants, as did some of the bitterest fighting of the war.

The first battles were fought in southern New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, deemed by Japanese planners to be areas in the new perimeter that needed to be consolidated. In New Guinea, Japanese forces attempted, by an overland campaign, to seize Port Moresby, which they had tried to secure three months earlier by sea. The battle against Australian and American forces continued for six months until finally, on January 22, 1943, the last Japanese troops were cleared from the central portion of the huge island.

American forces landed on Guadalcanal and Florida Island in the southern Solomons on August 7, 1942. There, against fierce resistance, they captured the port of Tulagi and the airfield on Guadalcanal. The U.S. needed six months to secure these modest gains against fierce resistance that was repeatedly reinforced. However, the American capacity to supply large numbers of planes and trained pilots slowly tilted the conflict toward the Americans.

All Japanese efforts to destroy the tenuous American foothold were beaten off. At the end of December 1942, the Japanese high command decided to abandon the contest, having lost more than 20,000 men, 600 aircraft, and 15 warships in the attempt. Though Allied gains on New Guinea and in the Solomons had been modest, it was now clear to both sides that Japan was fully stretched by commitments in the Pacific and China, and lacked the capacity for further advance.


In the Middle East, Nazi German general Erwin Rommel advanced into Egypt and toward Palestine. However, this apparently disastrous position for the Allies was stabilized and then reversed. As in the Pacific, both sides were fighting far from the home base and at the end of supply routes, which were regularly threatened by submarine and air action.

By autumn 1942, British Empire forces had succeeded in building up large reserves while Axis supplies were regularly interrupted by submarine action in the Mediterranean. North Africa mattered differently to each side as well. For Adolf Hitler, North Africa was a sideshow. For the Allies, it was a vital part of their global strategy; the Middle East and Mediterranean should not be abandoned to the Axis.

Nevertheless, Erwin Rommel had achieved a great deal. On August 31, 1942, he began a final offensive designed to bring him into Egypt and Palestine so that the Jews there could be killed before the area was turned over to Italy. Like the Japanese, he discovered that his overstretched resources had reached their limit.

The British Eighth Army, which was dug in on a line near the small Egyptian city of El Alamein, absorbed Rommel's assault. On October 23, with overwhelming materiel advantage, a new British commander -- General Bernard Montgomery -- launched a counteroffensive. His 1,030 tanks proved too large an obstacle for the 500 or so Axis tanks that opposed him, and by November 4 Axis forces were in full retreat.

Bernard Montgomery did not cut off the Axis retreat, but by early February, Axis forces had been pushed back into Tunisia. Many of the Italian units were destroyed, and thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner. Once again, as in the Solomons, airpower had played a critical role in the Allies' success.

The change in fortunes owed something to the willingness of the Allies to collaborate. The three Axis powers made little attempt to coordinate their strategies, share economic resources, or divulge military or technical secrets. The Western Allies recognized earlier how important it was to share resources. They also understood how vital it was to mobilize their extensive manufacturing and scientific capacity as fully as possible to compensate for their lack of a large and experienced army.

The United States sent large amounts of food, raw materials, and equipment to Britain. So, too, did Canada, whose contribution is often overlooked. The Soviet Union was the beneficiary of a rich flow of resources from both North America and the British Empire, including a half-million vehicles and a million miles of telephone cable.

The Soviets received few weapons, but the provision of food, manufactured products, and materials allowed the Soviet economy -- which had lost around 60 percent of its capacity in 1941 -- to concentrate on the mass production of armaments.

The help was sourly acknowledged, because Joseph Stalin wanted his allies to launch a second front in 1942 to take the pressure off the Red Army. In August 1942, Winston Churchill flew to Moscow to discuss Allied strategy face-to-face. It was a difficult confrontation.

Joseph Stalin implied that the British were simply afraid of the Nazi Germans. Winston Churchill's furious rebuttal finally won over Stalin. He was told of Western plans for an expanded bombing campaign against Nazi German targets and of a still-secret operation, code-named "Torch," of Allied landings in northwest Africa, planned for November.

The invasion of North Africa began on November 8, 1942. Like operations in the Pacific, the American task force sailed the whole width of an ocean to reach the Moroccan coast on November 7. British forces landed at Oran and Algiers.

After brief fighting with French colonial forces, the whole area was secured three days later. The Allied armies rushed toward Tunis to cut off the retreating Erwin Rommel. The Nazi Germans deployed enough forces into the pocket from Italy to create a stable front line, and the battle for Tunisia began in the last week of November.

In retaliation, Adolf Hitler ordered Nazi German forces to occupy the whole of Vichy France, which was absorbed into the German New Order. Jewish refugees who had managed to hide in the unoccupied zone were now pursued with a new vigor. As Axis forces found themselves pressed on all fronts, the mass murder of Jews reached its crescendo in the death camps at Auschwitz, Sobibór, Belzec, Chelmno, and Treblinka.

This French magazine illustration of the fighting at Stalingrad signified the importance of that battle.

The gains in other theaters paled in comparison to the struggle that had engulfed the southern front in the Soviet Union. Nazi German expectations that the city of Stalingrad would quickly fall were frustrated by many factors: Nazi German forces had to be supplied along a single rail track into the battlefield.

The destruction of the very large city by Nazi German bombers created the ideal conditions for a determined infantry defense. And most of the buildings were modern steel and concrete structures with bunkers and cellars beneath them, which meant that not even regular shelling and bombing could easily flatten what was left of the twisted structures.

Into this wrecked landscape, the remnants of Soviet divisions retreated. They hid in the crumbled buildings and underground hiding places, attacking in small groups, often at night. Soviet sharpshooters pinned down Nazi German forces, which for most of the battle greatly outnumbered their opponents.

The commander in Stalingrad was a young Soviet general, Vasily Chuikov. The son of a peasant, Chuikov was robust and unflinching in the face of battle. His 62nd Army was scattered in pockets of what remained of the center of Stalingrad. It was supplied across the Volga River from the east bank, from which came waves of artillery and rocket fire, a stream of Soviet air attacks, and large numbers of soldiers.

On several occasions, his weakened forces were close to collapse, but Paulus lacked the means to launch a knockout blow. The last major Nazi German offensive, designed to sweep Chuikov's remaining troops into the river, began during the second week of November. On the 8th, Adolf Hitler told the party faithful in Munich that in days he would be "master of Stalingrad."

The swift retreat on the southern front had been a shock to Joseph Stalin, who was determined to hold the city which now bore his name. In mid-September, his deputy commander-in-chief, General Georgi Zhukov, worked with the army staff on a possible way out of the crisis.

Rather than throw more troops into the Stalingrad pocket, he suggested building up massive reserves on the Nazi German flanks that could be used to cut the German line of advance and encircle Friedrich Paulus's troops. As long as Chuikov could hold the city, the plan -- Operation Uranus -- would work.

Further north, Georgi Zhukov planned Operation Mars, another large assault on the Nazi German line. This operation would prevent any German reinforcement of the south and might unhinge the whole Nazi German front line in the Soviet Union.

This was the first time Soviet commanders had been able to plan, with Joseph Stalin's approval, a large-scale counteroffensive. Preparations were made under the strictest secrecy.

On November 19, Soviet armies fell on the unprepared Axis forces. Because they lacked the forces to guard the flanks of their advance, the Nazi Germans had pushed their Romanian, Italian, and Hungarian allies to increase their commitment of troops to the Eastern Front. Since the Nazi Germans had failed to provide these troops with proper equipment, the Romanian front was torn apart and Paulus was encircled.

Nazi German field marshal Erich von Manstein launched a counterattack to break the ring, but failed. Axis forces retreated back across the steppe. In the Caucasus, Soviet armies drove the southern Nazi German front back as well, though they failed to close off all avenues of escape. The success of Uranus masked the mixed fortunes of Operation Mars, in which the Red Army suffered very heavy casualties for virtually no strategic gain.

After another two months of bitter fighting, Friedrich Paulus and his shrunken army of diseased, hungry, and frostbitten soldiers finally surrendered on February 2, 1943. The remnants of the remaining Axis forces in the north of the city surrendered two days later. Some 91,000 Axis soldiers were taken prisoner.

This defeat, far more than the victories elsewhere, signified to the world that the Axis was not invincible.

Let's take a closer look at these World War II events, beginning with a timeline of early August 1942 on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: August 1942-August 11, 1942

On August 7, 1942, U.S. troops landed on Guadalcanal and Tulagi and seized control of Japanese-occupied territory for the first time. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of August 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: August-August 11

August: As many as 400,000 Jews will be murdered in occupied Europe during this month alone.


August 1: In an attempt to conserve oil for the war effort, President Franklin Roosevelt asks residents of the coal-rich states in the East to use that source of fuel instead of oil at every opportunity.

August 4: Auschwitz receives the first trainload of Jews from occupied Belgium to be designated for "resettlement."

August 7: Lieutenant General William "Strafer" Gott is killed by a Nazi German air assault in Egypt one day after reporting to his new post as commander of the British Eighth Army.

For the first time, the United States seizes control of territory occupied by Japan when the 19,000-man First Marine Division lands on Guadalcanal and Tulagi.

August 8: The United States executes six of eight German spies caught after coming ashore in Florida and Long Island. Two are given life sentences instead of death sentences after testifying against their comrades.

The day after a local victory on Guadalcanal, the Allies suffer a stunning setback offshore in the Battle of Savo Island, losing more than 1,000 sailors and four cruisers.

August 9: Nazi German operatives mark the ground near Long Island's Mitchell Field so that the important air base can be easily seen from the air.

In India, Mohandas Gandhi is arrested for impeding the war effort, three days after promising to engage his people in widespread civil disobedience if Britain continued to deny India immediate independence.

August 11: Vichy prime minister Pierre Laval claims that France will be liberated "when Germany wins the war."

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details and consequences of the Soviets repelling Hitler's forces in 1942.

Nazi Germans advance toward Stalingrad: During the first half of July 1942, Nazi German infantry and armored forces battled to the Don River near Voronezh (a key city in the supply line to Moscow), Rostov, and other towns. Soviet resistance was initially disorganized but determined, and it delayed the Nazi Germans' crossing of the Don (pictured above) long enough to move Red troops away from danger of capture. By mid-month, Stalin realized that the ultimate objective of this Nazi German drive was Stalingrad. Soviet resistance stiffened accordingly.

Medical care lacking on the Eastern Front: In the early days of their invasion, wounded Nazi Germans could be treated and even evacuated by air. But as Nazi German forces penetrated deeper into Soviet territory, and as Red Army resistance increased, German soldiers found themselves cut off from medical care. Russian troops stationed in cities had rudimentary emergency services, sometimes with medicines supplied by Allied nations. However, the isolation and sheer ferocity of the battlefields meant that any soldier with an injury of this severity had little chance of survival.

Ernest King commands U.S. Navy: In December 1941, U.S. secretary of the Navy Frank Knox wrote, "Lord how I need him." He was referring to Admiral Ernest King, in whose hands Franklin Roosevelt placed the command of the Navy. Single-minded and uncompromising, King often clashed with General George Marshall (a fellow member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and later in the war with General Douglas MacArthur. King's creation of the antisubmarine command of the 10th Fleet was a major reason for American success in the Atlantic. At times, King felt that not enough attention was being paid to the Pacific Theater, and his ideas and plans were a significant reason for the success in that region.

Young members of the Waffen-SS are known for civilian atrocities: The Waffen-SS (Armed-SS) was the military arm of the larger Nazi German Schutzstaffel (SS; Protective Squadron). An elite combat group famous for fierceness and willingness to take casualties, the Waffen-SS was also notorious for atrocities perpetrated against civilians and prisoners of war. Initially, Waffen-SS members had to be at least 171/2 years old, with experience in the Hitler Youth, but rules were relaxed as the Nazi German war effort became more desperate. The Waffen-SS saw action on the Polish, eastern French, and Balkan fronts, and troops numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

William Donovan creates the Office of Strategic Services (OSS): "Espionage is not a nice thing, nor are the methods employed exemplary. . . . But we will turn terror against him -- or we will cease to exist." This was William "Wild Bill" Donovan's mission statement in June 1942 for the overseas intelligence agency, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which he had been chosen to create and lead. Although members of different political parties, President Franklin Roosevelt and Donovan had been classmates in law school. Donovan had proven himself as a master of espionage when Roosevelt chose him as coordinator of information (COI) in July 1941. This led to Donovan being assigned the task of creating the OSS a year later. By the end of the war, he had 16,000 agents working behind enemy lines.

Japanese Type 92 heavy machine gun, dubbed the "Woodpecker": The Allies called the Japanese Type 92 heavy machine gun the "Woodpecker" because of its distinctive sound. Introduced in 1932, its origins lay in the French Hotchkiss 6.5mm caliber machine gun and its 1914 Japanese copy, the Taisho 3. The 7.7mm caliber Type 92, distinguishable by its pistol grips, was a robust improvement on these older designs, but it had weaknesses. The 30-round horizontal ammunition strips limited its rate of fire to 450 rounds per minute. The gas-operated design required cartridges to be oiled before loading. At 122 pounds, it was heavy, requiring three men to move it while gripping carrying handles.

U.S. Marines conquer Tulagi: Above, a crashed Japanese bomber floats off Tulagi. U.S. Marines invaded the small island, located just 20 miles north of Guadalcanal, on August 7, 1942, to secure its valuable harbor. The initial landing took the defenders -- a detachment of the Third Kure Special Naval Landing Force -- by surprise. The Japanese detachment radioed Rabaul, stating: "Enemy troop strength is overwhelming. We will defend to the last man." By August 8, the Marines had pushed the defenders into the southeastern part of the island, where they were annihilated. All but three of the 300-man garrison were killed.

American Marines land on Guadalcanal: After U.S. Intelligence discovered a Japanese airfield under construction on Guadalcanal, the First Marine Division interrupted its training in Australia and hastily shipped out to seize the island. Planners saw the airfield as an unacceptable threat to supply lines to Australia and New Zealand and a possible preliminary to a renewed enemy advance to the south. The landing by more than 11,000 Marines took the 2,571 Japanese -- mostly laborers working on the airfield -- by surprise. Most of the enemy fled into the jungle as the Marines stormed ashore.

Japanese navy fights back in Guadalcanal: Crashed aircraft and the transport USS George F. Elliott burn off Guadalcanal on August 8, 1942, following an attack by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. In the early morning hours of August 9, seven Japanese cruisers and a destroyer slipped past U.S. picket vessels in the darkness. In 32 minutes during this Battle of Savo Island, the Japanese sank four Allied heavy cruisers and a destroyer, killing 1,270 officers and men at virtually no loss to themselves.

America's first modern battleship: The USS North Carolina, the first of the U.S. Navy's modern battleships, participated in the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942. Though damaged by a torpedo on September 15, it returned to action, participating in operations throughout the Pacific. Its role was to screen carriers from air and surface attack and use its big guns to soften enemy island defenses prior to amphibious assault. The North Carolina received 15 battle stars for service during the war, more than any other U.S. battleship. It was decommissioned in 1947.

Find out about the major World War II events that took place in mid-August 1942 on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: August 12, 1942-August 22, 1942

During August 1942, some 75,000 Jews from the Polish city of Lvov were murdered at the Belzec death camp. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of August 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: August 12-August 22

August 12: Winston Churchill arrives in Moscow for a summit with Joseph Stalin, who will be disappointed with Churchill's assertion that U.S. and British forces will concentrate on driving Erwin Rommel out of North Africa rather than relieving the pressure on the Soviets with a second European front.


Japan goes on the offensive in China's Shantung Province, capitalizing on internal strife between Chinese Nationalist and Communist troops.

August 16: The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) sees its first action in the skies over Egypt, staging raids against Erwin Rommel's troops.

August 17: USAAF high-altitude "Flying Fortresses" attack Rouen, France, in the first all-American air raid of the war.

A contingent of Marine commandos known as Carlson's Raiders attacks Japanese units and a seaplane base on Makin Island, killing the entire Japanese garrison.

August 19: A racing pigeon named Tommy finds its way back to England from the Netherlands. It carries a message from the Dutch resistance that reveals the location of an important U-boat base.

August 20: With a portion of Guadalcanal in the hands of the Allies, 31 American fighters land safely on that island at Henderson Field.

August 21: The Nazi swastika is planted at the 18,500-foot summit of Mt. Elbrus in the Soviet Caucasus Mountains.

The Japanese suffer 800 casualties in an attempt to retake the airfield on Guadalcanal.

August 22: In the past two weeks, some 75,000 Jews from the Polish city of Lvov have been murdered at the Belzec death camp.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the details of World War II, including anti-Japanese propaganda and the use of war dogs.

Japan's unwise assault against U.S. defenders: Grossly underestimating the number of U.S. defenders, Colonel Ichiki Kiyono used only 900 men for a frontal assault on Marines defending Henderson Field on Guadalcanal on August 20-21, 1942. Nearly 800 Japanese were killed by the dug-in Marines. It was a mistake Japanese commanders repeated throughout the campaign. First Marine Division commander General A. A. Vandegrift wisely kept his forces in a defensive posture to protect the valuable airfield, moving reinforcements to critical points as needed.

Anti-Japanese propaganda delivered by the OWI: The U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) was created in June 1942 to consolidate the release of propaganda at home and overseas. It was common to use a stereotypical image of Japanese soldiers with slanted eyes engaged in evil acts. Japanese soldiers would be depicted with very sharp features carrying an American woman from a scene portraying hell. The message was that unless the Allies stopped the Japanese in the Pacific, horrors like this would happen in America.

War dogs ("K9 Corps") used in battle: The U.S. "K9 Corps" was created weeks after the U.S. entered the war. It initially accepted more than 30 breeds, but as the program progressed, the K9 Corps limited the breeds to German shepherds, Belgian sheepdogs, Doberman pinschers, farm collies, and giant schnauzers. To train each dog took from eight to 12 weeks. During the Battle of Guam in 1944, 25 Marine dogs were killed while serving as sentries, scouts, messengers, and on mine and booby-trap detection. America's allies and enemies also used dogs for these purposes. Nazi Germans primarily chose German shepherds and Doberman pinschers. Above, a sentry dog detects a nocturnal prowler.

The next timeline takes us through the World War II events that occurred during the rest of August and into early September 1942.

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World War II Timeline: August 23, 1942-September 10, 1942

On August 26, 1942, about 500,000 Nazi German and Romanian soldiers attacked the Red Army near Stalingrad. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: August 23-September 10

August 23: The fortifications around Stalingrad are beginning to succumb to the endless Nazi German onslaught, as some 600 Luftwaffe planes bomb the city.


August 25: The plane carrying the Duke of Kent (brother of King George VI) crashes in Scotland en route from Britain to Iceland. He becomes the first member of the modern Royal Family to die on active duty.

August 26: As many as a half-million Nazi German and Romanian soldiers attack the Red Army near Stalingrad.

August 28: The first of thousands of Japanese-launched incendiary balloon bombs fall on an Oregon forest.

September 2: British commandos raid a lighthouse off the Channel Islands (in the English Channel), seizing seven Nazi German operatives and secret codebooks.

September 3: Erwin Rommel's troops come under heavy Allied fire as they attempt an overnight retreat from Alam el Halfa in the North African desert.

September 5: Allied leaders determine that the invasion of northwest Africa, code-named Operation Torch, will include the landing of troops near Casablanca, Morocco, as well as Oran and Algiers, Algeria.

Soviet air raids bring nightly blackouts to the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

September 8: In a national broadcast, Franklin Roosevelt characterizes the global conflict as "the toughest war of all time."

September 10: In a speech before the House of Commons, Winston Churchill reports that troops have been sent to India to quell the revolutionary impetus of the Congress Party.

Nazi Germany makes a renewed attempt to disrupt American East Coast shipping when a U-boat plants 12 mines in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

World War II Headlines

Below are more details that outline the events of World War II that followed the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Soviets hold strong at Stalingrad: Ferocious Soviet resistance at Stalingrad stalled the Nazi German military juggernaut that had smashed through Russia. Even though Nazi German bombardment had turned 80 percent of the city to burnt rubble and killed tens of thousands of civilians, the Soviets held fast.

Soldiers fight among the rubble in Stalingrad: When Nazi German troops reached the suburbs of Stalingrad on August 23, 1942, they found little more than ruins. But Nazi German claims to victory were cut short by Russian soldiers and civilians fighting back from those remains. The war broke down into smaller battles in which, as a Nazi German general said, "The mile, as a measure of distance, was replaced by the yard. . . ." Above, in the fall of 1942, Soviet soldiers fight the enemy in an area already devastated by warfare.

German troops meet strong resistance in Stalingrad: Even when the Germans had taken most of Stalingrad, they met strong resistance in the city's northern industrial areas. Factory workers joined militias, produced tanks and weapons (which they sometimes took into battle themselves), and repaired damaged Soviet tanks near or on the battlefield. Raging conflicts at the Red October steel factory, Dzerzhinsky tractor factory, and Barrikady gun factory lasted far beyond Nazi expectations.

Soviets move factories out of the enemy's reach: Within a short time of the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union, they captured an area that contained 40 percent of the Soviets' population, 60 percent of the armament industries, and vast deposits of its natural resources. The Soviet leadership decided to move any major manufacturing plants not yet in Nazi German hands out of the enemy's reach, relocating them to the Ural, Volga, and Siberia regions. Plant workers were also shipped to these areas, even though they were unprepared for the severe weather and poor living conditions. Those industries that would remain closer to the Soviet cities were moved underground to escape Nazi German bombers and artillery.

Check out the next page for a timeline and headlines of World War II events that occurred during mid-September 1942.

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World War II Timeline: September 10, 1942-September 20, 1942

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) attacked Düsseldorf, Germany, on September 10, 1942. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of September 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: September 10-September 20

September 10: Düsseldorf is in flames following an intense, one-hour RAF raid that dropped more than 100,000 firebombs on the German city.


September 12: The British liner Laconia is torpedoed and sunk off Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. To the horror of the attacking U-boat crew, some 1,500 Italian POWs are among the victims. The U-boat crew attempts to rescue the Italians but comes under heavy American aircraft fire, leading Nazi Germany to decide to repudiate a 1936 accord calling for the rescue of vanquished crews.

September 13: Operation Torch planning gets underway in London, with U.S. general Dwight Eisenhower in command.

Some 1,200 Japanese die in a desperate bid to wrest control of Guadalcanal's Henderson Field from the U.S. Marines.

All Vichy French men 18 to 50 years of age, and single women ages 20 to 35, are ordered to labor for the Reich's war machine.

September 14: The U.S. emerges victorious from the Battle of Bloody Ridge at Guadalcanal when a large Japanese contingent is forced into retreat by 11,000 U.S. Marines.

September 15: The carrier USS Wasp goes down in waters south of Guadalcanal after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

September 18: The shipping lanes into Charleston, South Carolina, are mined by a Nazi German U-boat.

September 20: General Dwight Eisenhower and his military team decide to schedule Operation Torch, the invasion of the French protectorate of Morocco and the colony of Algeria, for November 8.

The situation in Stalingrad has so deteriorated that Nazi German and Soviet troops are engaging in house-to-house combat on the streets of the devastated city.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II, as well as more information about the Japanese army.

The USS Enterprise survives bombing: Above, a gun position lies in ruins after bombs struck the USS Enterprise on August 24, 1942. A veteran of Midway and the Doolittle Raid, the "Big E" survived thanks to efficient damage control. The carrier was struck again in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, but went on to participate in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and numerous other engagements, receiving 20 battle stars for World War II service. Though struck by a kamikaze off Okinawa in May 1945, the Enterprise survived the war and was decommissioned in 1947.

Finland fights alongside Nazi Germany: A Finnish combat patrol breaks into a Soviet position in 1942. Finland had lost some 16,000 square miles to a 1939-1940 Russian onslaught known as the "Winter War." From 1941 to 1944, in hopes of regaining that territory and perhaps more, Finland allied with Nazi Germany against Russia. Though they were dependent on Nazi Germany for food, fuel, and weapons, the Finns did not go along with most Nazi policies. They maintained a democratic government, kept armed forces from falling under Nazi German control, and did not persecute native Jews.

Japanese airmen lose their edge: Japanese naval pilots in the Pacific were without equal at the start of 1942. Training was highly selective. Of 1,500 naval pilot applicants in early 1937, only 70 were accepted and only 25 graduated. The lengthy program required 260 to 400 hours of basic flight training, followed by gunnery, combat tactics, and carrier operations. This training regimen broke down in the latter months of 1942, as pilot losses soared in the battle for air supremacy over the Solomons. The qualitative edge dulled and then vanished as veteran Japanese pilots were killed and the vacuum was filled by hastily trained replacements.

Japanese repulsed on Papua New Guinea: Two Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks are bogged down along a narrow jungle road following a failed amphibious assault at Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. About 2,400 Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops attacked the Australian base on August 25, 1942, intending to seize its strategically important airdrome. The Japanese light tanks inflicted severe casualties on an Australian infantry battalion. But Australian Kitty Hawk (Curtiss P40) ground attack aircraft retaliated with a vengeance, forcing enemy landing operations farther and farther from the air base. Encountering fierce resistance from a superior Australian force, the Japanese commander ordered a withdrawal on September 5.

Find a timeline and headlines of the major World War II events that occurred in late September and early October 1942 in the next section.

Learn more about the significant events and players of World War II in these informative articles:


World War II Timeline: September 21, 1942-October 2, 1942

Britain and the United States lowered their military induction minimum age to 18 in October 1942. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during 1942 below.

World War Timeline: September 21-October 2

September 21: The women and children of Stalingrad are evacuated from the dying city.


Boeing Field in Seattle is the site of the maiden voyage of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a high-altitude, long-range bomber.

September 24: Soviet pilot Olga Yamschchikova becomes the first woman to record an aerial "kill" when she downs a Nazi German plane over Stalingrad.

September 25: Madagascar becomes controlled by British forces after Vichy governor general Armand Léon Annet refuses to accept peace terms and the British gain control of the island nation's main port.

September 29: The RAF's Eagle Squadrons, comprised of American pilots, are officially transferred to U.S. command.

September 30: In a speech delivered at the Berlin Sportpalast, Adolf Hitler mocks the Allies, calling them "military idiots."

October: Britain and the United States begin sending troop and materiel convoys to North Africa in preparation for Operation Torch.

Both Britain and the United States lower their military induction minimum age to 18.

October 1: Bell test pilot Robert M. Stanley puts the XP-59 Airacomet, the first U.S. jet, through its paces in the skies over the Mojave Desert.

The Lisbon Maru, a Japanese ship carrying 1,816 Allied prisoners of war, goes down with its human cargo when the USS Grouper torpedoes it and the Japanese crew seals the exits before abandoning ship.

October 2: The Queen Mary, sailing in an evasive zigzag pattern off the coast of Ireland, accidentally slices through its escort, the Curacao, which sinks, claiming 338 lives.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the details of World War II, including Nazi Germany's most feared tanks and Allied raids over Germany.

Japan firebombs Oregon to create panic: On September 9, 1942, the Japanese submarine I-25 surfaced off the coast of Oregon. The sub carried a Yokosuka E14Y, a small, folding-wing seaplane type dubbed a "Glen." Not long after the aircraft was catapulted from the I-25's deck, Chief Warrant Officer Fujita Nobuo and Petty Officer Okuda Shoji dropped two incendiary bombs on Mount Emily, near Brookings, Oregon. Their hope was to ignite colossal forest fires and create panic. However, the incendiaries had little effect.

Robert Capa photographs the war: The American public's window to World War II was provided by civilian photojournalists and military photographers whose work appeared in the illustrated news magazines of the day. Some, such as Hungarian-born Robert Capa, became famous. Capa first received acclaim for his coverage of the Spanish Civil War. During World War II, he worked for Collier's magazine and later for Life. He risked his life by jumping into Sicily with an airborne unit in 1943, and landed under fire at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Though Capa survived the war, he was killed while on assignment in Indochina in 1954.

Adolf Hitler ousts the respected field marshal Wilhelm List: Competent field marshal Wilhelm List was commander-in-chief of Army Group A in the Caucasus in 1942 when Adolf Hitler unreasonably commanded him to push on to the Soviet city of Grozny and its nearby oil centers. Faced with fierce Soviet resistance along a sprawling front, List failed to carry out the Führer's orders. Hitler angrily relieved List of his command on September 9, creating a rift between himself and some of his highest officers.

The massive Tigers are Nazi Germany's most feared tanks: The Tiger I was Germany's most famous and feared tank. After its introduction on the Leningrad and Tunisian fronts in 1943, Allied soldiers' first instinct was to identify every enemy tank as a Tiger. This huge, fearsome weapon's 88mm gun could destroy any Allied tank at long range, and its armor was virtually impenetrable frontally. Its elite crews appreciated these qualities, but because it was underpowered and mechanically unreliable, they nicknamed it "furniture van." By war's end, the Henschel company had built about 1,350 Tigers.

Allied raids over Ruhr, Germany: By late 1942, American assembly lines were able to build enough bombers and fighter planes to support the United States' entry into the air war over Europe. Allied commanders began formulating a plan for around-the-clock bombing over the industrial centers in the Ruhr area of western Germany. In this new campaign, the Royal Air Force continued its blanket bombing of German cities at night while American planes struck industrial centers that were important to the Nazi German war effort during the day.

Krupp arms the military in Nazi Germany: Inspectors test shells at the Krupp munitions works in Nazi Germany. Krupp made an enormous contribution to rearming Germany before and during World War II. The firm supplied the Third Reich with staggering amounts of military hardware ranging from submarines to artillery. But Krupp's wartime profits came at a steep human cost. Some 100,000 slave laborers, about 23,000 of whom were prisoners of war, worked for Krupp under brutal conditions. After the war, the company's CEO, Alfried Krupp, was convicted of crimes against humanity.

Check out the next page for details on the major World War II events that occurred during October 1942.

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World War II Timeline: October 3, 1942-October 14, 1942

On October 4, 1942, Hermann Göring called World War II "the War of the Races." Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of October 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: October 3-October 14

October 3: Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket scientist who will ultimately go to the U.S. after the war and become one of the greatest minds at NASA, sees Nazi Germany successfully launch one of his earliest creations, the A4 ballistic missile.


October 4: Underscoring the Nazi obsession with Jewish genocide that will eventually contribute to the fall of the Reich, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring claims that the war is "not the Second World War, [but] . . . the War of the Races."

October 5: Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek calls for the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Sinkiang Province.

October 7: In a concept that will develop into the Nuremberg Trials, Franklin Roosevelt says that the perpetrators of mass murder and other wartime atrocities will be judged at the conclusion of the war.

October 10: Citing the "splendid showing the Italians in America" have made during the war, U.S. attorney general Francis Biddle suspends the "enemy alien" status of some 600,000 resident Italian citizens.

October 11-12: The Allies have an open supply line to Guadalcanal in the wake of Japan's defeat in the Battle of Cape Esperance.

October 12: The RAF's new long-range Coastal Command Liberator sinks its first U-boat in the North Atlantic.

October 14: Guadalcanal's Henderson Field is badly damaged in a bombardment by the Japanese battleships Kongo and Haruna.

The Red Army manages to stand against yet another intense, five-division Nazi German attack in Stalingrad.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the details of World War II, including information on U.S. aircraft carriers and Ukrainian slave labor.

Ukrainian slave laborers starved and mistreated: Delighted by the 1941 Nazi conquest of the Ukraine, Hermann Göring considered murdering all of the region's males over the age of 15 to make living space for the "master race." But Nazi German labor shortages soon persuaded Göring to work Ukrainians to death as slave laborers. As 1942 wore on, a small number of Ukrainians were enticed to come and work in "beautiful Germany." Many more were brought by forced deportations. Considered subhuman according to Nazi ideology, Ukrainian workers were starved and mistreated. Well more than 10 million Ukrainians are believed to have been killed from 1939 to 1945, many in Allied bombings.

France's Pierre Laval aligns with Germany: "If the Germans are beaten, General de Gaulle will return," predicted Pierre Laval, prime minister of the Vichy government, in September 1942. "He will be supported by . . . the French people, and I shall be hanged." After the Nazi Germans invaded France in 1940, Laval was named vice premier in Philippe Pétain's Vichy government. Laval, convinced Nazi Germany would win the war, pressed for a Nazi German-French military alliance. Suspicious of his subordinate, Pétain had Laval dismissed, but Laval came back even stronger with the support of Nazi Germany and was named prime minister. When the Vichy government fell in 1945, Laval was shot by a firing squad -- not hanged.

Japanese submarine sinks the USS Wasp: Commissioned in 1940, the USS Wasp was a smaller model of the larger Yorktown class carriers. Prior to the war, it engaged in Atlantic patrol duty and ferried RAF planes to Malta. Sent to the Pacific in June 1942, the Wasp participated in the Guadalcanal landings and later provided cover for resupply convoys to the Solomons. It was sunk by the Japanese submarine I-19 southeast of San Cristobal Island while escorting troop transports to Guadalcanal.

Find out about other key World War II events that took place during October 1942 in the next section.

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World War II Timeline: October 16, 1942-November 2, 1942

On October 21, 1942, Franklin Roosevelt approved an all-time high $9 billion tax bill. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: October 16-November 2

October 16: The supply line to the Burma front is crippled by a cyclone that claims 40,000 lives and devastates India.


October 18: Adolf Hitler issues a directive calling for the execution of all British commandos who fall into Nazi custody.

October 21: With defense expenses skyrocketing, Franklin Roosevelt signs legislation calling for an all-time high $9 billion tax bill.

October 23: The American M4 Sherman tank, equipped with high-explosive shells and capable of speeds up to 24 mph, makes its battlefield debut in the Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt.

October 29: An overland military supply route to Alaska is opened with the completion of the 1,500-mile Alaska Military Highway through the Yukon Territory.

October 30: As a U-boat sinks, two British sailors rescue a German Enigma machine. Before they drown, the sailors pass it into Allied hands.

October 31: The cathedral city of Canterbury, England, suffers extensive damage in a retaliatory raid for the RAF bombing of the Italian city of Milan.

November 2: Operation Supercharge, a massive Allied attack on Erwin Rommel's line in Egypt, is successfully launched. Defeated Axis forces will retreat by November 4.

Some 100,000 Polish Jews from Bialystok and the surrounding area are marked for deportation to the Treblinka death camp.

Berlin's so-called Ancestral Heritage Institute, a quasi-scientific organization searching for biological "proof" of Jewish inferiority, obtains the corpses of 150 Jewish Bolsheviks for dissection.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details and consequences of the Soviets repelling Hitler's forces in 1942.

Gypsies targeted for extermination by Nazis: Nazis classed the Sinti and Roma people -- nomadic groups commonly called Gypsies -- among the "inferior races." During the 1930s, Nazis arrested Gypsies, sterilizing some adults and making many children wards of the state.

In December 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the deportation of Gypsies and part-Gypsies to concentration camps. Scarce information on Sinti and Roma populations makes it hard to estimate how many were killed, but historians believe the number to be between 220,000 and 500,000. Pictured above is a Gypsy couple at Belzec, a camp in eastern Poland built in 1942 to carry out the "Final Solution."

Residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, harbor Jews: "Things had to be done, and we happened to be there to do them. It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people." This sentiment was shared by the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a small mountain town in southern France. Under the leadership of a local minister, Andre Trocme, and his wife, Magda, the citizens of the town began hiding Jews in their homes. A network of informants warned Trocme when searches of the town were to be made. Trocme encouraged a cousin, Daniel Trocme, to run a refugee house for children, but Daniel and his wards were discovered and shipped to the Majdanek concentration camp, where Daniel died. The townspeople saved nearly 5,000 lives.

U.S. Wildcat fighter plane sees lots of action: The Grumman F4F Wildcat was virtually the only Navy and Marine fighter that opposed the Japanese air force between Pearl Harbor and August 1943. The Wildcat was slow due to its small engine, but its large, square-cut, folding wings made it agile in battle. It was also more robust than its Japanese adversaries. It required only a short takeoff, and the final model, the FM-2, was the standard fighter on U.S. escort carriers in 1945.

Adolf Hitler overextends his forces: Above, Nazi German troops advance in the Caucasus in October 1942. Adolf Hitler attempted to seize this oil-rich region while other Nazi German troops advanced on Stalingrad. His decision vastly overextended his forces; German men and tanks in the Caucasus quickly outpaced their supply lines. Moreover, they faced impossibly narrow roads and impenetrable walnut forests. In one pointless act, alpine troops scaled 19,500-foot Mount Elbrus and planted a Nazi German flag at the summit. Hitler raged at this, and in the end the Caucasus misadventure destroyed whatever respect he retained for his generals.

Oil fields burn in the Caucasus: With their eye on the region's oil reserves, the Nazi Germans began their ill-fated invasion of the Caucasus on June 28, 1942. In response, the Soviets, as they retreated, carried out the scorched-earth tactics that they had followed in 1941. When the advancing Nazi Germans captured the North Caucasus oil center of Maikop, they found themselves faced with the demoralizing spectacle of burning oil fields.

See the next section for a timeline and headlines of the World War II events from early November 1942.

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World War II Timeline: November 5, 1942-November 11, 1942

On November 8, 1942, Vichy France severed diplomatic ties with the United States. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of November 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: November 5-November 11

November 5: General Dwight Eisenhower opens the operational headquarters for the Allied invasion of North Africa on the British island of Gibraltar.


November 6: Angling one more time for a second European Front, Joseph Stalin complains that the Soviets are dealing with the far greater Axis force while the British and Americans concentrate on the comparatively quiet North African front.

General Douglas MacArthur arrives in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, to supervise operations in that sphere of the Pacific Theater.

November 8: Allied forces land at their North African targets, with Algiers capitulating almost immediately. The U.S. and Britain plan to use occupied North Africa as a base for launching operations against Southern Europe.

Vichy France announces the severing of diplomatic ties with the United States following the invasion of French North Africa.

November 9: Units of the German and Italian armies occupy Tunisia without opposition by the French colonialists.

November 10: In a Mansion House speech covering Britain's victory over Erwin Rommel, Winston Churchill famously quips, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

All traffic into and out of one of the world's busiest ports ceases for two days when it is discovered that the Nazi Germans have mined the waters off New York Harbor.

November 11: Adolf Hitler ends the armistice between Free and Vichy France, occupying the entire country north of the Riviera.

The Moroccan city of Casablanca falls to the Allies.

World War II Headlines

Below are more details that outline the events of World War II, including the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

House-to-house fighting ensues between Nazi Germans and Soviets: The Soviet tactic of "hugging" -- keeping their soldiers close to or even intermingled with the enemy -- nullified Nazi air and artillery superiority. It reduced the war to house-to-house fighting, which the Nazi Germans called Rattenkrieg (rat war). In October 1942, a Nazi German officer wrote, "We have fought for fifteen days for a single house with mortars, grenades, machine guns and bayonets." He added that the battlefront had become "a corridor between burnt-out rooms" or "a thin ceiling between two floors."

Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands: Above, a Japanese torpedo plane approaches the battleship USS South Dakota during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. The battle on October 25, 1942, stemmed from a Japanese plan to use carrier aircraft to support a ground attack on Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (which, along with the Santa Cruz Islands, was part of the Solomon Islands).

The Santa Cruz engagement pitted two U.S. carriers and support ships against four Japanese carriers and their support. U.S. pilots damaged two enemy carriers and a cruiser, but the carrier USS Hornet and a destroyer were sunk in the exchange.

The Japanese claimed a tactical victory, but their failure to crush U.S. naval forces in the Solomons left the strategic advantage with the Americans. Indeed, Japanese losses in precious first-line aircrews made the battle a far greater Japanese defeat than Midway.

The dependable Curtiss P-40s fly with Allied forces: The Curtiss P-40 won international fame in late 1941 when the "Flying Tigers," American-

manned versions painted with shark teeth, fought the Japanese in China. P-40 fighters were built in the United States and flew with virtually every Allied air force. They proved valuable in France and with the RAF over the North African desert, and they shot down Japanese aircraft at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Though not especially fast, they were stable and tough. More than 14,000 were built, and numerous versions and designations existed, including Hawk, Mohawk, Tomahawk, Kittyhawk, and, most commonly, Warhawk.

Lewis Burwell Puller becomes most decorated Marine: Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell Puller was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. He received five Navy Crosses, a decoration second only to the Medal of Honor. Nicknamed "Chesty" on account of his barrel chest, Puller was a gruff, no-nonsense warrior. Shown a new-model flamethrower, he is said to have growled, "Where do you put the bayonet?" Puller earned his third Navy Cross when his outnumbered battalion fought off a Japanese attempt to seize Henderson Field on the night of October 24-25, 1942, and he earned a fourth for the Cape Gloucester campaign. Puller earned his fifth Navy Cross for heroism during the Korean War. He retired in 1955.

The Persian Corridor opens up supply line to Soviets: The Soviet Union and the British government became allies following the Nazi German invasion of the USSR. The Soviets were in desperate need of supplies, but a secure supply line had to be opened. They chose the newly completed Trans-Iranian Railway as the Persian Corridor to open the supply line from the Persian Gulf to the Soviet Union. Necessary permissions were secured from Iraq and Iran to use the corridor. Once the United States entered the war, it sent troops to guard and maintain the railway.

Find out about the other key World War II events of November 1942 on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: November 12, 1942-November 28, 1942

The U.S. government chooses a site in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to build a lab devoted to the development of the atomic bomb on November 25, 1942. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of November 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: November 12-November 28

November 12-15: The United States loses nine ships and the Japanese lose five in the waters off Guadalcanal. This is one of the most ferocious naval battles of the war, and a tactical victory for the United States.


November 15: The cruiser USS Juneau sinks off Guadalcanal, claiming the lives of five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa. Despite popular myth, no law or executive order inspired by the Sullivan tragedy is created that would prohibit family members from serving together. However, the practice is discouraged.

November 20: The RAF launches its most destructive raid against Italy in this war, devastating the northern industrial city of Turin.

In an address to the French people, Vichy prime minister Pierre Laval encourages the Vichy alliance with the Third Reich in the face of continued threats from "Jews and Communists."

November 22: In a stunning turnaround, some 270,000 soldiers of the Nazi German Sixth Army are surrounded by the Red Army in Stalingrad.

November 23: The U.S. Women's Coast Guard Reserve is established.

November 24: The Japanese begin construction of a new airfield at Munda, New Georgia, their new base of operations in the Solomon Islands.

November 25: The U.S. government selects a site in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to build a lab devoted to the development of the atomic bomb.

November 27: Citing betrayal by Vichy France, Adolf Hitler disbands the Vichy army.

November 28: Against the recommendation of Erwin Rommel, his accomplished general on the ground, Adolf Hitler insists that his beaten Nazi German forces fight to the death in the North African desert.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II, including the French reaction to Operation Torch.

Erwin Rommel defies Adolf Hitler and retreats in Egypt: On October 23, 1942, British lieutenant general Bernard Montgomery's Eighth Army struck Nazi Germany's Afrika Korps near the village of El Alamein, Egypt. After 12 days of desperate fighting against an army twice the size of his own, German general Erwin Rommel finally ordered his corps to retreat -- in defiance of Adolf Hitler's command to fight until they won or died. In those 12 days, the Nazi Germans lost 12,000 men and 350 tanks. Rommel had no more than 80 tanks remaining for the 1,400-mile retreat through the desert to Tunisia, where he hoped to find reinforcements and supplies.

Operation Torch offered as substitute for invasion of France: Above, Allied forces make an amphibious landing near Algiers on November 8, 1942. Few American troops based in Europe had been under fire, and they did not know whether Vichy French defenders would resist the landings. Military considerations aside, Torch was tricky politically because Joseph Stalin was insisting that U.S. and British forces commit significant numbers of men to European combat with an invasion of France. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill knew such an assault was not yet possible and offered Torch as a substitute.

French surprisingly resist Torch invasion: It took Franklin Roosevelt's intervention in July 1942 to resolve a serious dispute between U.S. and British military advisers. He sided with the British plan to invade North Africa in order to engage the Nazi Germans as soon as possible. French Morocco and Algeria were chosen as the sites for this attack since the Allies would face only French troops, who might let the Allies land unopposed. That is not how it turned out.

After the November 8, 1942, landing, the French troops did defend the landing sites. Here, a British ship takes a hit not far from shore. Negotiations with the French troops' commander, Admiral François Darlan, were needed to end the fighting on November 10. Darlan was assassinated in December by a French monarchist.

Check out the next section for a timeline and headlines detailing World War II events from early December 1942.

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World War II Timeline: December 1, 1942-December 13, 1942

On December 2, 1942, physicists achieve the first nuclear chain reaction, a breakthrough that will make atomic weaponry a reality. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of December 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: December 1-December 13

December 1: The United States institutes a gasoline-rationing program across the nation.

December 2: In a breakthrough that will make atomic weaponry a reality, University of Chicago physicists Enrico Fermi and Arthur Compton achieve the first nuclear chain reaction.

December 3: Attacking American bombers hamper the efforts of Japanese engineers to build an airfield on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.

December 4: Long-range U.S. Liberator bombers sink ships in a raid on Naples, Italy.

December 5: The Nazi German hospital ship Graz sinks after being torpedoed off the coast of Libya.

December 7: More than 700 young German Edelweiss Pirates, a group formed in response to the rigidity of the Hitler Youth movement, are arrested by the Gestapo in Düsseldorf, Cologne, and several other cities.

The USS New Jersey, the largest battleship in the U.S. fleet, is launched from the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard on the first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

December 8: Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco delivers a speech in Madrid. He defends his Axis alliance by claiming he'd rather be a Fascist than a Communist.

December 11: Adolf Hitler orders that the surrounded and besieged German Sixth Army may not retreat from Stalingrad.

December 13: The "Shark" Enigma code, which was especially difficult to crack due to its use of an extra rotor, is finally deciphered. This intelligence breakthrough allows the Allies to resume intercepting Nazi German communications to U-boats in the Atlantic.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the details of World War II, such as the involvement of African American soldiers in the war.

B-17 Flying Fortresses have mixed results: Above, B-17 Flying Fortresses bomb Lae, New Guinea. Many B-17s were destroyed on the ground by Japanese attacks in the opening days of the war, and the heavy bombers that survived attempted to interdict enemy shipping, with mixed results. Pacific-based B-17s proved more useful in attacks against enemy bases in the island-hopping campaign that followed Midway. The B-17 was tough, though early models were vulnerable to attack from the rear. The "belly gunner" also faced a horrifying fate if the plane was forced to land without its landing gear.

Barbed-wire beaches on Hawaii: Once a vacation retreat for the rich and famous, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was leased by the U.S. Navy as a major rest and relaxation center for military personnel. The average stay was 10 days at $1 a day for officers and a quarter for enlisted men. Barbed wire in front of the Royal Hawaiian stretched the length of Waikiki Beach. An air of suspicion existed across the rest of the Hawaiian Islands because approximately 118,000 civilians were of Japanese descent. Plans had been developed to evacuate 100,000 to the continental U.S., but when discussion ended, only about 1,000 were transferred.

Five brothers killed in action: "I am writing to you in regards to a rumor going around that my five sons were killed in action in November," Alleta Sullivan began in a letter to the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Soon after she sent the letter, she learned that all five of her sons serving on the USS Juneau had not survived its sinking in November 1942. The War Department turned this tragedy into a propaganda piece by sending the boys' parents on a lecture tour across the United States and by having Mrs. Sullivan christen the USS The Sullivans on April 4, 1943. The tragedy led to a Navy policy that discouraged family members on the same ship.

Find out about the key World War II events that took place during the remainder of December 1942 in the timeline on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: December 14,1942-December 31, 1942

The existence of Nazi death camps is first officially made public on December 17, 1942, in the British House of Commons. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of December 1942 below.

World War II Timeline: December 14-December 31

December 14: Despite an airlift of supplies, the German Sixth Army remains trapped, inadequately equipped, and under siege in Stalingrad. The airlift is hindered by the weather, the Red Air Force, and the need to use many transport planes to support Axis forces in Tunisia.

December 16: Adolf Hitler issues a directive that Germany is to be purged of Gypsies, and anyone with any amount of Gypsy blood is to be sent to "resettlement" camps in the East.

December 17: An Allied official makes the first public statement confirming the Nazi death camps when British foreign secretary Anthony Eden tells the House of Commons that Adolf Hitler has begun to make good on his threat to annihilate Europe's Jews.

Vichy admiral François Darlan announces that French ships and resources at North African ports will be at the disposal of the Allied cause.

December 22: A group of Jewish partisans sets off bombs in two Kraków cafés, killing 20 Nazi German army officers.

December 26: Former German prisoner of war general Henri Giraud succeeds Admiral Darlan as high commissioner for French North Africa following Darlan's assassination in Algiers two days earlier.

December 28: Despite the wartime alliance between the two nations, Franklin Roosevelt admonishes the Los Alamos science-research team against sharing atomic secrets with the British.

December 31: In the Barents Sea north of Norway, Nazi German ships attack a British convoy that is attempting to deliver materiel to the Soviet Union.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the details of World War II, including weapons and propaganda used during the war.

Soviets take revenge on German POWs: During the winter of 1941-1942, and again the following winter, Nazi German mechanized transport, tanks, artillery, and aircraft froze up, while frostbite killed and maimed inadequately clothed soldiers. Since Adolf Hitler still banned retreat, capture must have seemed a better option to many Nazi Germans. However, the Soviets took revenge for the crimes that Nazi Germans had committed against civilians during the invasion. The Soviets executed some POWs and sent others to work camps, where many died of exposure, starvation, and overwork during forced labor. Nearly 500,000 of the more than three million prisoners taken by the Soviet Union died in captivity.

Multibarrel rocket-launcher has psychological impact on enemy: Early during Operation Barbarossa, the Wehrmacht noted the efficacy of the Red Army's multibarrel rocket-launchers and quickly dev­eloped similar weapons, with the six-barrel, 150mm Nebelwerfer ("fog launcher"; pictured above) entering service in 1942. Over a 10-second period, while operated by a four-man crew, it fired salvos of six projectiles up to 7,000 meters.

Due to the heat and blast it produced, the Nebelwerfer was fired electrically from a position 10 meters away. With great trails of fire, smoke, and a whistling noise in flight, the weapon simultaneously inflicted destruction and had a deleterious psychological impact on the enemy. It was nicknamed "Moaning Minnie" by Allied troops.

Europeans use mythology as propaganda: European nations drew on history, heroic legends, and mythology to build nationalism, inspire their citizens, and spur their militaries to action. In the Soviet Union, propaganda posters compared 1942 to 1242, the year when Russian prince Alexander Nevsky led his troops in a rout of German invaders. In Germany, Hitler presented his Third Reich as the successor to the Holy Roman Empire and claimed to be establishing the 1,000-year utopia predicted in millenarian stories. In Italy, Mussolini justified expansionism as the creation of a New Roman Empire.

German brutality in Russia: In 1942, a young woman from a village near Moscow was hanged by Nazi German troops. Although beaten and tortured, she gave her captors no information before her death. A photograph of the hanging was found on the body of a Nazi German officer killed in action near Smolensk. The woman's defiance and the officer's grotesque souvenir both testify to a fierce antipathy between Nazi Germans and Slavs -- a loathing that helped make the Eastern Front a particularly brutal theater of operations.

The major World War II events of early January 1943 can be found on the next page.

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World War II Timeline: January 1942-January 13, 1943

The Chinese Nationalists form an official alliance with the United States and Britain on January 11, 1943. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of January 1943 below.

World War II Timeline: January-January 13

January: The German Sixth Army, trapped in Stalingrad, is in desperate need of food and supplies the men need to survive.

January 1: Americans' annual salaries are capped at $25,000, part of a short-lived plan designed to curb inflation. The law will be repealed within the year.

January 4: After forcing the Japanese to quit Guadalcanal, the U.S. Navy attacks Japan's new Solomon Islands base at Munda, New Georgia.

January 5: In an effort to put a stop to the Axis practice of seizing property and goods from occupied nations, 18 Allied nations agree that property transfers and similar business conducted under Nazi German or Italian occupation can be declared null and void at the discretion of the occupied government.

January 6: Ion Antonescu's forces detain and execute scores of disbanded Fascists after another attempt by the Iron Guard to wrest away control of Antonescu's Romanian government.

January 10: A Soviet force of nearly 300,000 men closes in on the surrounded Nazi German Sixth Army at Stalingrad following the refusal of Nazi German general Friedrich Paulus to negotiate a surrender.

January 11: The Chinese Nationalists form an official alliance with the United States and Britain. This comes two days after their Japanese-puppet counterparts in Nanking declared war against the Allies.

January 13: The Nazi Germans brutally suppress dissent in occupied Bulgaria, executing 36 anti-Nazi protesters in the capital of Sofia.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II, including the first artificial nuclear chain reaction.

French scuttle warships before handing them over to Nazis: When the Nazi Germans invaded France, they signed the armistice of 1940 with the Vichy government. This agreement stipulated that the French navy would disarm and remain in its ports, including Toulon. When the Nazi Germans learned that the fleet there was possibly on the verge of joining the Allies, they broke the armistice and attacked Toulon. Before the ships fell into the Nazis' hands, they were scuttled on November 27, 1942 (pictured above). The sunken ships included three battleships, 15 destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, 12 submarines, and more than 80 additional vessels.

Scientists create first artificial nuclear chain reaction: A number of scientists and dignitaries gathered together on December 2, 1942, on a platform next to a large oblong structure of bricks and wooden timbers. They were in a racquet court under the west stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. Physicist Enrico Fermi closely monitored a set of instruments, and at 3:25 p.m. directed a colleague to withdraw a rod from the structure. For 28 minutes, Fermi and onlookers witnessed the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The experiment produced only about 1/2 watt of controlled energy, but it was the first step in developing the atomic bomb.

Government provides temporary housing for war defense plant workers: Above, Mrs. Emma D. Gaw serves dinner to her husband, a worker at the Glenn Martin aircraft plant, in their trailer home in Middle River, Maryland. New or expanded war defense plants attracted tens of thousands of workers, creating a critical need for employee housing. The U.S. government eventually produced about two million dwelling units for workers nationwide, ranging from temporary economy units and trailers to dormitories and converted apartment buildings. Due to wartime shortages, temporary housing was constructed with materials that did not meet prewar standards.

Ernie Pyle chronicles the war: Ernie Pyle's coverage of the war began in 1940 when he traveled from his home country, the U.S., to England to write stories of the London Blitz. In November 1942, he joined American troops in North Africa and beyond. His stories of GIs in combat brought the true experiences of sons and husbands to the families back home. In 1945 he wrote to his wife about the war: "I've been part of the misery and tragedy of it for so long that I feel if I left it, it would be like a soldier deserting." On April 18, 1945, Pyle was killed by a sniper on Ie Shima, an island west of Okinawa.

Wartime comic book superheroes: Spy Smasher, an American comic book superhero introduced in 1940, beats up Axis leaders on the cover of a 1942 British edition. Comic book hero Captain America, clad in red, white, and blue, also achieved astounding popularity for his anti-Axis adventures.

Allied propaganda thrived in comic books, pulp novels, radio, and movies. Spy Smasher appeared in a movie serial in 1942, as did Captain America in 1944. Perhaps the most unlikely propaganda superhero was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian detective, Sherlock Holmes. Played by an implausibly ageless Basil Rathbone, Holmes matched wits against the Nazis in a series of wartime movies.

British intern enemy aliens: The British government's wartime policy of restricting or interning most enemy (German, Austrian, and Italian) aliens residing in Britain or arriving as refugees was unedifying and frequently unfair. However, it was an inevitable consequence due to the fear of spies, "fifth columnists" (subversive agents), and Nazi collaborators. Some 73,000 people were interned under military guard in temporary camps, partially constructed housing estates, and on the Isle of Man, or they were deported to Canada and Australia. Such indiscriminate government action provoked a public outcry. By mid-1941, only 5,000 detainees remained in custody.

The next section addresses the key World War II events that took place during mid-January 1943.

Learn more about the significant events and players of World War II in these informative articles:

World War II Timeline: January 14, 1943-January 21, 1943

On January 18, 1943, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto fought back for the first time after realizing "resettlement" is a charade. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of January 1943 below.

World War II Timeline: January 14-January 21

January 14: The British Royal Air Force (RAF) raids Nazi German U-boat ports at Lorient and Cherbourg in occupied France.

January 14-24: The Allied leadership meets in Casablanca, Morocco, to strategize the next phase of the global war. First priority is assigned to the defeat of the U-boats. In addition, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill announce publicly that they will demand the unconditional surrender of the Axis countries.

January 15: Acting on assurances from Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler calls for the daily delivery of 300 tons of supplies to the trapped Sixth Army in Stalingrad. While 300 tons would meet the needs of the men on the ground, it is far beyond what the Luftwaffe can accomplish.

January 16: For the first time in months, the RAF bombs Berlin.

January 18: After two and a half years, the siege of Leningrad comes to an end. With some 20,000 civilian deaths a day, relief has come too late for many of the city's residents.

The Nazi German army fields its new weapon, the Mark VI Tiger heavy tank, in a battle on the outskirts of the Tunisian capital of Tunis.

Realizing that the Nazi German concept of "resettlement" is a charade designed to lead them quietly to their deaths, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto fight back for the first time.

January 21: Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress in New York, receives a telegram from prisoners in the Warsaw Ghetto. They plead for aid and say, in part, that they are "poised at the brink of . . . annihilation" and that they "live with the awareness that in the most terrible days of our history you did not come to our aid."

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II, such as FBI raids and important military leaders of the war.

Tanaka Raizo's claims to fame: Rear Admiral Tanaka Raizo was the leading tactical commander of Japanese destroyer forces during the war. His finest hour came during the Battle of Tassafaronga off Guadalcanal on November 30, 1942, when his eight destroyers were ambushed by U.S. warships. Heavily outgunned, Tanaka sank one American cruiser and damaged three others with "Long Lance" torpedoes, while losing only a single destroyer. Tanaka also gained fame for his tenacious effort to resupply Japanese troops on Guadalcanal via the so-called "Tokyo Express." He was exiled to a shore command in 1943 because of his criticism of Japanese strategy and tactics in the Solomons.

Plotters and predictors of the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service: Seen at work is a plotter with the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army, in which women served in many capacities normally allocated to men. Working in Britain, plotters used radar to collect data about incoming enemy aircraft. Meanwhile, predictors stood on rooftops looking for planes. Together, their information was used to direct antiaircraft fire, vector fighter planes toward the Nazi German intruders, and alert the public to air raids.

Erich von Manstein, successful leader and supporter of Nazi party: Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein devised the Sichelschnitt (sickle-cut) plan that allowed troops to move past France's Maginot Line in 1940. Sent into the Soviet Union in late 1942 to rescue the trapped Sixth Army, Manstein fought through blizzards to within 30 miles of Stalingrad on December 19 before being stopped by the Red Army. Put in charge of Army Group South, Manstein halted the Red Army offensive and went on to capture Kharkov. A strong supporter of the Nazi Party, he accepted huge bribes from Adolf Hitler. However, the Führer relieved him of command in 1944.

FBI adds sabotage and espionage to its list of duties: In 1936, as the Fascist movement gained momentum in Nazi Germany and the threat of war grew stronger in Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt believed that America would soon become a target for seditious activities. The role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was expanded to include the investigation of those types of treasonable schemes. In 1939 the FBI's responsibilities were again expanded to include sabotage and espionage investigations. Raiding homes of suspected subversives proved fruitful in the bureau's fight against terrorism in the states.

Americans listen in on Japanese shortwave radio: An NBC technician mans a listening post in North Hollywood, California, monitoring shortwave radio broadcasts from the Far East. Numerous listening posts were maintained by American press associations, broadcasters, and government agencies -- such as the Federal Communications Commission -- to monitor foreign broadcasts. Though such broadcasts tended to be heavily laced with propaganda, they also provided clues about enemy intentions, policy changes, and other useful information.

In our final section, we'll cover the key World War II events that occurred during the end of January 1943.

Learn more about the significant events and players of World War II in these informative articles:

World War II Timeline: January 21, 1942-January 31, 1942

Friedrich Paulus surrenders to the Red Army at Stalingrad on January 31, 1943. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the month of January 1943 below.

World War II Timeline: January 21-January 31

January 21: Six teachers and 38 students, most under the age of seven, are killed when the Luftwaffe destroys the Catford Central School for Girls during a bombing raid of London.

January 22: Adolf Hitler refuses to consider the surrender of his forces at Stalingrad despite a desperate message from General Friedrich Paulus reporting dire conditions on the ground.

January 23: The British Eighth Army captures Tripoli, the capital of the Italian colony of Libya.

The United States seizes control of Kokumbona and Mount Austen, Japan's last two strongholds on Guadalcanal.

January 27: American bombers attack the critical port at Wilhelmshaven, Germany, causing extensive damage. It is the first air raid against Nazi Germany conducted exclusively by American forces.

January 29: Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner takes the post in Adolf Hitler's inner circle vacated by the assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. Kaltenbrunner will oversee the death camps, the Einsatzgruppen, the SS, and the Gestapo.

January 30: As Nazi Germans in Berlin gather to observe Adolf Hitler's 10th anniversary as Führer, RAF bombers sweep down over the city in their first daytime raid on the Nazi German capital.

The H2S bombing radar, a device that displays the contours of the ground below a bomber, is made operational by the RAF.

January 31: To Adolf Hitler's disgust, newly promoted field marshal Friedrich Paulus surrenders to the Red Army at Stalingrad. Hitler made the promotion because no field marshal in Nazi German history had surrendered.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II, including the surrender of General Friedrich Paulus to the Soviets in Stalingrad.

U.S. takes control of Guadalcanal: By January 1943, the Japanese conceded defeat and started to evacuate surviving troops from Guadalcanal. As the war moved on, U.S. engineers transformed the island into a bustling rear-area base, complete with full amenities. The campaign had cost Japan nearly 25,000 dead, irreplaceable resources, and control of the central portion of the Solomon Islands. At a cost of approximately 1,600 Marines and soldiers killed, the U.S. had turned the tide of the ground war in the Pacific.

Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill meet in Casablanca: President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Casablanca, Morocco, January 14-24, 1943. Because the strategy to defeat the Nazis was discussed, the Combined Chiefs of Staff also attended. The leaders agreed that the campaign against the U-boats must have the highest priority in 1943. They also agreed on a combined bomber offensive against Nazi Germany. A landing on Sicily was to follow the end of the fighting in Tunisia, and might in turn be followed by a landing in Italy. They also decided to make public their policy that the war against Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan would end only with the unconditional surrender of those enemies.

Friedrich Paulus surrenders in Stalingrad: In November 1942, surprise Soviet offensives isolated the Nazi German Sixth Army in Stalingrad, led by General Friedrich Paulus. Adolf Hitler refused to allow Paulus to break out while escape might have been possible, even though the Nazi German forces were not equipped with sufficient clothing, food, or medical supplies to withstand the Soviet winter. On January 30, 1943, the Führer promoted Paulus to Generalfeldmarschall, assuming that a man of such rank would either fight to the death or commit suicide rather than surrender. Paulus, hoping to save some of his men, is seen above surrendering to the Soviets on January 31.

The Nazi German casualties of Stalingrad: The Battle of Stalingrad has been called the bloodiest battle in history. More than a million Nazi Germans and Soviets (combined) were killed, wounded, or captured. The 91,000 taken as Russian POWs were already exhausted, starving, and weakened by disease and untreated wounds. Only 6,000 of them would survive the overwork and malnutrition of Soviet labor camps and return home after the war. Some of the 22 captive senior officers, including General Friedrich Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements that were used in Soviet propaganda broadcasts.

Bernard Montgomery both despised and admired: General Bernard "Monty" Montgomery, wearing his trademark beret with two badges, inspired conflicting emotions in others, ranging from fury to fierce loyalty. Montgomery was deeply disliked by many of his officers for the discipline he imposed on them, and deeply admired by his soldiers for the confidence he instilled in them. He was frequently at odds with other Allied generals.

For example, his vain and boastful personality provoked legendary quarrels with the equally vain and boastful General George Patton, and General Dwight Eisenhower considered him a limited strategist. Above all else, Monty was methodical, cautious, and reluctant to throw away the lives of his men -- characteristics that made him slow but highly effective.

Learn more about the significant events and players of World War II in these informative articles:


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.