World War II Timeline: September 24, 1944-October 18, 1944
In September of 1944, Allied forces were already planning for post-war reconstruction, and Nazi forces were showing their desperation. The detailed World War II timeline below summarizes events in September and October 1944.
World War II Timeline: September 24-October 18
September 24: The U.S. releases the Morgenthau Plan, a postwar plan that proposes a total restructuring of the German economy to an agrarian footing.
September 25: Nazi Germany organizes the Volkssturm, a militia that drafts men as old as 60 and as young as 16.
September 26: Allied planes drop American paratroopers behind German lines in Italy to establish the same sort of resistance network that had been so successful in helping the Allies capture France.
September 27: The British suffer 1,200 deaths and lose some 6,600 more to German POW camps as they fail in their nine-day bid to secure a bridge over the Rhine in the Dutch town of Arnhem.
September 29: The Soviets fly their last sortie in support of the Warsaw resistance.
October 2: After two months of fierce urban warfare, the Germans crush the Polish resistance in Warsaw. As many as 250,000 Poles have died during the struggle.
The Allies break into the Siegfried Line, a defensive line running along Nazi Germany's western border. The breach is in the north, near Aachen, and it is there that U.S. troops will penetrate western Germany.
October 7: A group of Sonderkommandos, captive Jews whose lives are prolonged while they assist the Nazis with gas chamber and crematorium operations, attacks SS guards at Auschwitz. Though the revolt is quickly and violently quelled, they do kill several SS men and destroy their barracks, as well as Crematorium IV.
October 9-18: Churchill, Stalin, and U.S. ambassador William Averell Harriman meet in Moscow to discuss the postwar status of Poland and the Balkan States.
World War II Headlines
Learn about Russian resistance fighters and Canadian Commander Henry Duncan Graham Crerar in the headlines from 1944 below.
The Soviets' westward push: Despite the disaster at Stalingrad in January 1943, the Germans subsequently halted a number of Soviet Union offensives, and even retook Kharkov in March. In July, however, their Blitzkrieg-style attacks at Kursk were effectively absorbed and defeated by the Red Army during the greatest tank battle of the war. The Russians then launched successful counteroffensives at Orel and Kharkov. These advances eventually paved the way for a devastating series of Soviet Union offensives across the whole Eastern Front beginning in June 1944. These included the destruction of Army Group Center in Belorussia and successes in the Ukraine, Poland, the Balkans, and Romania. By December, the Eastern Front no longer lay within the Russian homeland.
Russian Partisans resist German forces: As German forces stormed through Russia in 1941, pockets of resistance formed behind the German lines. By the end of 1941, anti-German resistance fighters began to come together, creating partisan units. Their mission was to cut or destroy supply and communication lines between the German troops and their supply bases. As their numbers grew to the tens of thousands in 1943, partisans began to launch attacks on German units as the latter fled from the Red Army.
Russians begin to rebuild: In the western Soviet Union, entire towns were razed during the war. But as soon as Russians regained their most important cities, they began restoring them. In Leningrad, the city was cleaned up and some museums reopened as early as 1944. The Crimean city of Sevastopol -- named a "hero city" for its resistance to invasion -- had to be rebuilt stone by stone. That same year, Russia began using German prisoners as forced labor in reconstruction work.
The Red Ball Express is created to supply Allied troops: After Allied troops landed in Normandy in June 1944, they found that the railroads had been almost completely destroyed by their own bombers. Since transportation was needed to supply the Allied advance across Europe, the Red Ball Express was created. During the Red Ball's three-month history, starting in August, more than 6,000 trucks drove along a French highway loop restricted to military use. These vehicles carried more than 500,000 tons of food, fuel, and ammunition.
Henry Duncan Graham Crerar, A top Canadian commander: Henry Duncan Graham Crerar, commander of the First Canadian Army had been an isolationist before the war, but he supervised the training of Canadian troops in 1941. By 1944 he was the leading Canadian field commander in Northwest Europe, earning him a spot on the cover of Time magazine. Time reported that Crerar "drove his jeep from one command post to another -- pausing to read reports with the avidity of a hungry wolf, to give orders in his quiet, precise, unbending manner."
The drowning of Allied POWs on the Rakuyo Maru: British and Australian POWs were rescued by the submarine USS Sealion II following the sinking of the Japanese ship Rakuyo Maru in the China Sea. Crammed with 1,317 POWs from Singapore and unmarked with a red cross or any other indication that prisoners were on board, the Rakuyo Maru was torpedoed by Sealion on September 11, 1944. Japanese escort vessels rescued surviving crew members, but left most of the POWs to die in the water. Ninety-two POWs were picked up by U.S. submarines, but more than a thousand others died.
Continue on to the next page for even more World War II headlines of events in October 1944.