Soviets recapture Sevastopol. In four days of fierce fighting, Russian troops recapture the Black Sea port and take more than 26,000 prisoners after a German evacuation by sea is mismanaged.
Allies break out from Anzio. Five months after landing at Anzio and getting pinned to the narrow beachhead by a German counterattack, the reinforced U.S. VI Corps launches an all-out assault inland.
Allies invade Normandy. D-Day dawns with the greatest amphibious assault in history—more than 175,000 troops in 4,000 ships—crossing the English Channel and landing on the beaches of Normandy, France. With Hitler obsessed that the Allied invasion would come at Pas de Calais, complete tactical surprise is achieved. Allied losses are 2,500 killed—fewer than anticipated—but Americans, nonetheless, suffer more than half of the close to 12,000 total casualties.
U.S. takes war to Japanese homeland. Flying from five airfields in China, 68 B-29 Superfortresses take out a steel plant on the island of Kyushu, in the first strike against Japan. U.S. capture of the southern Marianas eventually provides additional bases from which to strike the rest of the Japanese home islands. Using low-level bombing techniques, the bombers go on to destroy more than 30 percent of all buildings in Japan.
19 – 21
U.S. defeats Japanese fleet in Battle of the Philippine Sea. Despite numerical inferiority, the Japanese hope to lure the U.S. Fifth Fleet within range of their carrier- and land-based planes. U.S. intelligence, however, uncovers the plan and, in the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” that follows, the Americans knock out more than 300 planes and 14 ships. The victory deals a mortal blow to Japan’s naval air power and dooms the country to defeat.
1944 9 20
U.S. forces capture Saipan. Two Marine divisions, later reinforced by an Army division, establish a beachhead on the mountainous island in mid-June. Its 29,000 Japanese defenders mount repeated banzai attacks against the invaders, but lose 95 percent of their force in the process. Among the Japanese losses are civilians who hurl themselves off cliffs by the hundreds. Saipan’s airfield falls within three days, but the island is not secured until three weeks later.
Attempt to assassinate Hitler fails. In a plot hatched by anti-Nazi German Army officers, Lt. Col. Claus von Stauffenberg detonates a time bomb in the conference room at Hitler’s headquarters. The explosion kills four men but only mildly injures the Fuhrer. The failed assassination attempt prompts a paranoid Hitler to take complete control of the army, leaving him few trusted advisors to rely on for a massive counterattack he’s planning in the West that will ignite the Battle of the Bulge.
U.S. recapture Guam. American troops launched success amphibious attacks and land on the beaches of Guam, a prewar U.S. territory. The fighting rages for three weeks against the outnumbered Japanese who refuse to surrender. With the capture of Saipan, Tinian and Guam—located 1300 miles southeast of Tokyo—the Americans are able to base B-29 bombers on the Marianas island airfields within striking distance of the Japanese homeland.
Allies land in southern France.
Thousands of Germans are trapped by Allies in Argentan-Falais pocket.
Japanese forces withdraw from India.
Allies liberate Paris.
1 – 4
Dieppe, Brussels and Antwerp are liberated.
17 – 26
Disaster dogs Allied airborne operations in Holland and across Lower Rhine.
Allies breach Gothic Line in Italy.
U.S. Navy dominates Battle for Leyte Gulf. In the largest naval battle of the war, the U.S. Third and Seventh Fleets, together with 38th Task Force (143,000), inflict severe losses on sorely outnumbered Japanese forces (42,800) to recapture the Philippines. The Japanese lose 28 of 64 warships and 10,500 men—some four times more than the Americans do. The increased vulnerability of the Japanese homeland combined with decreased defensive support sparks an immediate increase in kamikaze attacks.