Sub-Saharan Africa 1944: From Africa to Paris
In July 1943 the Allies invaded Sicily from Tunisia, leading to the capitulation of Italy two months later. The following year the Allies landed in France, liberating Paris in August 1944. To this point, the heart of the Free French effort had been in Africa and the bulk of its forces were African. Recognizing this, the Free French leaders agreed to improve rights in the colonies after the war, but rejected any notions of future independence.
9 Jul-17 Aug 1943 Operation Husky▲
In Operation Husky, an Allied invasion fleet landed 160,000 troops of the US Seventh Army and the British Eighth Army on the southeast coast of Italy in the largest amphibious invasion to date. Despite facing some 300,000 Italian and German personnel, the invasion proceeded quickly. The British advanced through the eastern half of the island while the Americans swept through the west, with both forces meeting at Messina on 17 August.
3 Sep 1943 Armistice of Cassibile▲
Walter Bedell Smith, representing the Allies, and Giuseppe Castellano, representing the Kingdom of Italy, signed an armistice at a conference of generals from both sides in an Allied military camp at Cassibile in Sicily, which had recently been occupied by the Allies. The armistice was approved by both King Victor Emanuel III and Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio of Italy and made public on 8 September.
22-26 Nov 1943 Cairo Conference▲
President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China attended the Cairo Conference (codenamed ‘Sextant’) to discuss strategy against Japan. The Allies agreed to pursue the war until Japan’s unconditional surrender, to strip Japan of its conquests since 1914, to restore Manchuria and Taiwan to China, and to eventually recognize Korean independence.
27 Jan 1944 Liberia enters World War II▲
With the election of William Tubman as its president, Liberia declared war on Germany and Japan on 27 January 1944, officially entering World War II on the side of the Allies. Despite the late date of this declaration, however, the nation had in practice already been involved in the war for two years under the terms of a Defense Agreement with the United States. As Liberia possessed one of the few Allied sources of rubber -
including the world’s largest rubber plantation - it was vital to Allied interests, prompting the US to build roads, an airport, and a deepwater port in the country to facilitate transportation.
30 Jan-8 Feb 1944 Brazzaville Conference▲
Free French leader Charles de Gaulle, Commissioner for the Colonies René Pleven, and Free French representatives from the African territories met in Brazzaville, capital of French Equatorial Africa, to discuss the future of the French Empire after the liberation of France. The conference concluded with the Brazzaville Declaration, which stated that the empire would remain united but that citizens of French colonies would share equal rights with French citizens. However, de Gaulle firmly rejected any thought of autonomy or independence for the colonies.
6 Jun 1944 D-Day▲
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.
24-25 Aug 1944 Liberation of Paris▲
Free French forces entered Paris on the night of 24 August, followed by General Philippe Leclerc’s 2nd French Armored Division and the US 3rd Army on the morning of the 25th. Despite Hitler’s orders to destroy the city, the German garrison surrendered at 3:30 pm that day. From the outset, the Allies had decided that a French unit should play a leading role in the liberation of Paris; Leclerc’s division had been selected for this task as it was the only one available that was not predominantly composed of African troops.