Berlin falls to Soviet forces. After surrounding Berlin and bombarding it with 40,000 guns, Red Army units launch their final assault on the beleaguered city and stamp out German resistance in heavy street fighting.
Germany formally surrenders. At the forward base of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in Rheims, France, officers of the German High Command sign document of unconditional surrender to Allied counterparts, which is ratified the following day in Berlin.
VE Day. The Allies declare victory in Europe, but World War II drags on for another four months until the Japanese formally surrender September 2 in ceremonies aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
U.S. forces secure Okinawa. Two Army and Two Marine divisions, totaling 60,000 men, invade the 60-mile-long island on April 1 and begin to square off against the dug-in Japanese 32nd Army. Repeated kamikaze attacks against the amphibious force ensue, but in weeks of fierce ground fighting, U.S. soldiers and marines force the Japanese to the southern tip of the island, where their resistance collapses. The bloody struggle, though, ends up taking close to 200,000 lives.
U.S. troops liberate Luzon. In early January, American soldiers, nearly 70,000 strong, secure a 20-mile-long beachhead and later begin moving on Manila. After hard fighting, Clark Field is secured, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur initiates a series of amphibious landings and parachute drops as the Japanese suffer huge losses trying to sustain their static defenses. Manila falls on March 3, and most of the island is cleared, with Filipino guerrillas helping to eliminate die-hard pockets.
First atomic bomb test takes place. The so-called Manhattan Project, involving more than 60,000 Americans working in countless installations, reaches fruition. At the Army Air Force Alamogordo Bombing Range in New Mexico, the world’s first atomic bomb, dubbed Fat Man, is exploded. With the successful test, the United States now has the means at hand to avoid the one million casualties estimated to be sustained during an invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Potsdam Conference starts. Replacing the late President Roosevelt, Harry Truman meets with Churchill and Stalin to discuss realities of a postwar world. Over the next two weeks, the leaders establish political and economic principles for Germany’s future government. But before their plans can be implemented, the Big Three must secure victory over Japan. Alluding to release of the still-secret atomic bomb, the Potsdam Proclamation presents an unyielding ultimatum—Japan must surrender unconditionally or face horrific devastation to its homeland.
The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.
Nagasaki endures destruction from a second atomic bomb, and Soviet forces invade Manchuria.
Japan formally surrenders in ceremony aboard U.S. battleship Missouri.
Nuremberg War Crimes begin. After 216 days of trial, Nazi leaders are convicted of a range of war crimes, many of which involve horrific brutality against millions of civilians and prisoners of war. Of the 22 leaders tried, 11 are sentenced to death, 3 to life in prison, and several others to lengthy prison terms. Two of Hitler’s closest cohorts, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, commit suicide before the trials commence.