World War II (1939 – 1945)
Devastation of Europe, Change in Global Balance of Power

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Allies Gain Control of Africa (1943): British & Commonwealth troops drive German forces out of Libya, into Tunisia. U.S. and Free French Forces invade from the West. The Germans are trapped in Tunisia, being attacked by Allies from all directions. They are forced to surrender on May 13, 1943, with nearly 240,000 prisoners of war.

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Allied Invasion of Sicily (July 9-Aug 17, 1943): Primarily carried out by the UK, US and Canadian forces, launched from Tunisia after recently gaining complete control over North Africa. The Allies’ objective is to secure safe passage through the Mediterranean Sea.

Mussolini Removed from Power(July 25, 1943): With the war effort rapidly deteriorating, Mussolini is overthrown and imprisoned.

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Allied Invasion and Conquest of Mainland Italy (Sept 3-16, 1943):After taking Sicily with surprising ease, the Allies (primarily UK, USA, Canadian forces) determined it was time to strike Italy from the south while it was reeling. Popular supportamong Italians for the war effort had dropped precipitously by this point, especially after the Allies began to carry out air raids upon Rome. Italians were also dissatisfied with the large numbers of German troops that were now present throughout Italy. Mussolini was overthrown and arrested on July 25, and the new government began to negotiate a surrender with the Allies. This compelled the Nazi troops to change their disposition from a guest armed force to an occupying force. Even as the new Italian government was finalizing an armistice with the Allies, the Allied invasion began, in order to place greater pressure on the Italian government and to drive out the Nazis. The Nazis quickly retreated north, ceding a large portion of Southern Italy.

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Italian Socialist Republic Set Up as Nazi Puppet State (Sept, 1943): The Nazis rescued Mussolini from imprisonment in September, and placed him as the leader of the puppet state covering Northern Italy, after the Allies invaded and gained control over Southern Italy.

Germany Takes Control of Italy-Occupied Areas in Balkans (1943): Once Germany was aware that Italy had negotiated an armistice with the Allies, it moved in to take control of Italy’s possessions in the Balkans.

German Siege of Leningrad (USSR) Falters(1943): Germans intensify bombing, desperately attempting to bring their invasion to a quick conclusion. However, the Soviets manage to increase the corridor through the Nazi blockade, enabling them to continue holding out. Germany nears the point of being unable to further sustain the attack on Leningrad.

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Germany Withdraws from Battle of Stalingrad (1943): A large part of the Nazi army is trapped inside the city, engaged in urban warfare, resulting in heavy casualties among the Germans. By February of 1943, they are forced to withdraw, ceding victory to the Soviets, who also suffered immense loss of life. The city itself was nearly decimated.

German Retreat Out of USSR Begins (1943): Stalled just short of its primary targets inside Russia, the Germans begin to fall back, since their supply lines were constantly attacked, spreading them thin despite their large numbers. Plus, with the resulting lack of supplies, they were suffering from an increasingly high death toll.

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The U.S. and Allies Strengthen Their Position in Asian-Pacific Theater Against Japan(1943): The U.S. gained the upper hand in the Pacific Ocean. Its superior industrial capability allowed it to build up the size of its fleet to outclass that of the Japanese navy. The U.S. also conquered multiple island bases from Japan, tightening the perimeter Japan had established in surrounding Pacific islands to buffer itself. Fighting in China between British/Chinese forces and Japanese forces remained at a stalemate.

Allies Gain the Upper Hand in Battle of the Atlantic (1943): After the winter moratorium in the naval battle, early spring began disastrously for the Allies. The Germans became increasingly aggressive with their U-boat submarine attacks, realizing more success than ever in sinking battleships. May proved to be the turning point, as the full participation of U.S. helped spark a turn-about in fortunes. In addition, the new technologies developed the previous years, such as improved radar and submersive missiles, began to be highly effective in real-world application. By the end of the year, Allied convoys were inflicting greater losses upon the German navy than losses suffered.

Lebanon Independence (1943): The Allies (including Free French Forces) drove German forces out of Lebanon in 1941, fearing that Germany would pressure the subservient Vichy France government into ceding the territory to Nazi ownership. Under international pressure (from fellow Allied nations, especially the U.S.), the Free French Forces recognize Lebanon Independence in 1943. To protect it from the Axis Powers, Lebanon remains under Allied military control until the end of the war.

Portugal Abandons Neutrality to Support Allies (1943): Portugal had tried to remain neutral, but with Nazi Germany at the threshold of the Pyrenees Mountains separating France and Spain, the Nazi threat loomed large. When Germany tried to force Portugal to provide raw materials needed for its war effort, Portugal resisted. Consequently, German U-boats sank a few Portuguese commercial ships. By 1943, Portugal was more than happy to cooperate fully with the Allies, lending air force and naval bases to the UK.

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WWII Timeline:  |  1939  |  1940  |  1941  |  1942  |  1943  |  1944  |  1945  |

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Comments (12)

Wehrmacht “scorched earth” retreat in Russia

A Russian village burns during the German retreat, August 1943.

Three Panzer IV make a river crossing on an improvised bridge, August-September 1943.

On the Eastern Front the tide was now turning decisively against the Germans, and it was difficult for many men to adjust to the new situation that they found themselves in.

As the Wehrmacht pulled back to behind the Dnieper river they were engaged in more than a withdrawal. When the Soviets had withdrawn in 1941 they had done their utmost to leave behind nothing of use to the enemy. Extraordinary acts of dismantling whole factories were achieved, factories that were soon up and running safely behind the Ural mountains. What could not be taken was often destroyed.

Now the Germans applied the same scorched earth policy to the territory that they had to give up. In his memoirs Field Marshal Erich von Manstein manages to argue that they were entirely reasonable in the way they went about this:

The extremely difficult conditions under which these movements had to be carried out made it imperative that we should take every possible measure likely to impede the enemy. It was essential to ensure that when he reached the Dnieper he could not immediately continue his offensive while still enjoying the advantages of pursuit.

Consequently it was now necessary for the Germans, too, to resort to the ‘scorched-earth’ policy which the Soviets had adopted during their retreats in previous years.

In a 15-mile zone forward of the Dnieper everything which might enable the enemy to go straight over the river on a broad front was destroyed or evacuated. This included anything affording cover or accommodation for Soviet troops in an assembly area opposite our Dnieper defences and anything which might ease their supply problem, particularly in the way of food.

At the same time, in pursuance of instructions specially promulgated by Goring’s economic staff, the zone was to be emptied of all provisions, economic goods and machinery which could assist Soviet war production. In the case of my own Army Group, this measure was confined to essential machinery, horses and cattle.

Naturally there was no question of our ‘pillaging’ the area. That was something which the German Army – unlike certain others – did not tolerate. Strict check points were set up to ensure that no vehicle carried misappropriated goods. As for the effects and stocks of factories, warehouses and Sovkhozes, these were in any case the property of the State and not of private individuals.

Since it was Soviet policy, whenever any territory was recaptured, immediately to embody all able-bodied males under sixty into the armed forces and to conscript the whole of the remaining population for work of military importance, often in the battle zone itself, the Supreme Command had directed that the civil population would also be evacuated. In practice, this coercive measure was applied only to men of military age, who would have immediately been re-enlisted.

On the other hand, a considerable proportion of the Russian population joined our withdrawal quite voluntarily in order to escape the dreaded Soviets, forming big trek columns like those we ourselves were to see later in eastern Germany.

Far from being forcibly abducted, these people received every possible help from the German Armies and were conducted into areas west of the Dnieper in which the German authorities had arranged to feed and accommodate them. They were allowed to take along everything, including horses and cattle, which could possibly accompany them, and wherever we could manage to do so we put our own vehicles at their disposal.

Although the war caused these people a great deal of misfortune and hardship, the latter bore no comparison to the terror-bombing suffered by the civil population in Germany or what happened later on in Germany’s eastem territories. In any case, all the measures taken on the German side were conditioned by military necessity.

One or two figures may serve to show what an immense technical achievement this withdrawal operation was. To begin with, there were 100,000 wounded to evacuate. About 2,500 trains were needed to shift German equipment and stores and requisitioned Soviet property. And the Russian civilians who had attached themselves to us alone numbered many hundreds of thousands.

Despite the extra diiculties involved in having only a few crossing points at our disposal, the with- drawal was completed in a relatively short space of time, thereby proving— contrary to what others might think— that even operations ofthis kind can be executed quickly.

By 30th September every army in the Group was back on the Melitopol—Dnieper line.

See Erich von Manstein: Lost victories

A 'Raupenschlepper' or caterpillar truck pulling an artillery piece on the Eastern front.

German troops with a Tiger tank, September 1943.

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