World War II: Fall of the Third Reich
World War II in Europe from Stalingrad to the fall of Berlin (20 June 1944)
Historical Map of Europe & the Mediterranean
Despite Allied successes, Western Europe had remained firmly under German control since 1940. By June 1944 the Americans and British were ready to change this, landing 45 000 troops in northern France. The Second Front that Stalin had been demanding since the launch of Barbarossa was open.
Learning of plans by Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Kállay to agree to an armistice with the Allies, Germany occupied Hungary, removed Kállay from office, and deported the country's 500,000 Jews to concentration camps. Though the Wehrmacht had planned to disband the Hungarian Army, they merely assumed command in order to defend against the Soviet advance through Ukraine and Romania.
After liberating Kiev, the Soviet Union focused the bulk of its efforts on crossing through left-bank Ukraine and neutralizing Axis-aligned Romania. Vastly outnumbered and crippled by the Soviet winter, the Germans largely retreated to Poland. By April 2, the Soviets entered Romania itself, prompting Romania to enter secret peace talks with Moscow.
Allies enter Rome
While breaking the Italian stalemate at Anzio, the Allies fought repeatedly to open the road to Rome by capturing the hilltop monastery of Monte Cassino. After four attempts and heavy casualties, the Allies were victorious, linking with the beachhead at Anzio and entering Rome on 4 June, but failing to capture the German 10th Army.
After extensive aerial and naval bombardment, including the landing of 24,000 airborne troops, 156,000 US, British, and other Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, German-occupied France, in the largest seaborne invasion in history. The landings began at 06:30 and met heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, along with numerous mines and obstacles. Over the day, the Allies suffered at least 10,000 casualties vs about 1,000 for the Germans, but secured their beachhead.
Supported by an aerial and artillery assault beginning on 9 June 1944, the Soviet Leningrad Front launched an all-out offensive on Finnish defensive lines near Leningrad. Overwhelming the Finns, the Soviets pushed forward to capture Vyborg on 20 June.
After years of development, Germany began launching its secret "Vergeltungswaffen" ("retaliatory weapons") against London from launching sites in the Netherlands and northern France; the first-ever use of ballistic missiles. As the allies progressed, additional launches were made against Allied positions in France, Belgium, and Germany, with the final rocket hitting suburban London in March 1945.