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January 21

Hoping to break the impasse near the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, Allied forces land at Anzio. Despite catching the enemy by surprise, General John P. Lucas takes nine days to strengthen his position rather than dash inland. His army would remain pinned down by the Germans for four miserable months.

February 15

Monte Cassino is bombed.

May 11

Polish troops, eager to avenge the Nazi invasion of their country, finally take the ruined Monte Cassino monastery and the positions around it. The Gustav Line has broken. The Germans began falling back. Monte Cassino is in Allied hands.

May 23

At Anzio, General Mark Clark takes the offensive. He is determined to break out of the beachhead and link up with the Allied Armies coming up from Cassino, to trap the enemy now retreating northward, finally taking the fiercely defended village of Cisterna they tried to take months earlier.

June 3

An Associated Press flash mistakenly announces Allied landings in France. The error stems from a British teletype operator practicing her typing.

June 6

D-Day arrives. The greatest invasion in history begins just after midnight as the first of 24,000 paratroopers -- flown over the Channel in more than 1,000 aircraft -- are dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy. More than 5,300 ships, carrying 176,000 men are streaming across the Channel. Allied commanders plan five coordinated landings along a 45-mile stretch of the Normandy coastline between the Cotentin Peninsula and the Orne River for Operation Overlord. It will be the bloodiest day in American history since the battle of Antietam in the Civil War. Some 2,500 American soldiers lay dead on French soil.

June 15

Saipan, 14 miles long but featuring all kinds of terrain, is defended by more than 30,000 Japanese troops. It is shelled for two days before the Marines of the Fourth Division go ashore.

June 19

Off Saipain's shore, the Battle of the Philippine Sea takes on a new name. As American carrier planes score over 270 kills at a loss of 29, and American submarines claim two carriers, the one-sided affair is forever known as the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."

June 20

Japanese Vice Admiral Jizaburo Ozawa's plan to destroy both the American land forces — still struggling their way inland on Saipan — and the American fleet off shore in order to reinforce the Japanese garrison on the island fails. He had said, "The fate of our Empire rests on this one battle. Everyone must give all he has." The Battle of the Philippine Sea would be the greatest carrier battle of the Pacific War, nearly four times as big as Midway.

July 7

The Japanese launch the largest, and last, Banzai charge of the Pacific War. Three thousand men charge into the American lines.

July 10

Saipan is officially declared "secured." In almost four weeks of fighting, 16,525 Americans are killed, wounded or reported missing, the costliest battle in the Pacific to date. Almost 30,000 Japanese soldiers are dead. In the final days of the battle, some 4,000 terrified Japanese civilians, mostly women and children, had fled to the island's northern tip, a high plateau called Marpi Point. Their government had convinced many of them that it was their duty to kill themselves rather than fall into the hands of the cruel Americans — and the handful of Japanese solders who had survived were prepared to shoot them if they hesitated. More than a thousand were either killed by Japanese troops or chose suicide.

July 18

St. Lo — or what was left of it after six weeks of Allied bombing — fell to the Americans. Lt. C.D. Lester of the 332nd Fighter Group scores three kills in a single day.

July 20

The German resistance group fails in its attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

July 25

Operation Cobra, designed to create a gap in the German lines, mistakenly strikes Allied forces in the worst friendly-fire incident of the war. Among the 111 killed is Lt. General Leslie J. McNair. The commanding general of the Army Ground Forces is the highest-ranking U.S. casualty of the war.

July 27

The First Army pours through the newly opened gap in the German lines and out into the countryside beyond the hedgerows. For weeks, the Americans on the ground had felt fortunate to gain 1,000 yards a day. Soon they would be covering up to 40 miles in the same amount of time. The Germans were reeling.

August 15

American and Free French forces land in the south of France and begin driving northward. The following day, Hitler reluctantly agrees to pull his battered Seventh Army out of Normandy. It begins a desperate retreat toward Germany. The Allies catch them near the town of Falaise. For three days, the Allies pour fire into the fleeing men from the ground and from the air: 80,000 Germans ran the terrible gauntlet. At least 10,000 died, so many that the pilots of the Allied spotter planes hundreds of feet above the battlefield were nauseated by the stench.

August 25

After four years of Nazi occupation, Paris, the City of Light, is liberated.

September 1

General Dwight Eisenhower is given command of the combined Allied forces in Europe.

September 11

Warner H. Holzinger, leading an advance of the U.S. First Army, wades across the Our River south of Aachen to become the first foreign soldier to step on German soil since the time of Napoleon.

September 17 Operation Market-Garden opens. Designed to drive into the industrial Ruhr valley by capturing bridges and end the war in weeks, it fails. Market-Garden would be the largest Allied airborne operation of the war and the most disastrous. Seventeen thousand Britons and Canadians, Americans and Poles are killed or wounded or captured before the operation is abandoned, more casualties than the Allies suffered on D-Day.
September 15

The Allies land on Peleliu. It is only 550 miles east of Mindanao, which is to be the first stop in General Douglas MacArthur's campaign to recapture the Philippines. MacArthur wants the Peleliu airfield put out of action to protect his flank. Securing Peleliu was supposed to take four days. It took more than two months. 10,000 Japanese were killed, nearly every man who had defended the island. More than 1,200 Americans perished; 5,274 more Americans were maimed or missing.

October

The fighting in the Hürtgen Forest takes weeks. More than 33,000 American soldiers would be lost.

October 20

MacArthur's forces land on the island of Leyte, the first foothold in the struggle to win back the Philippines. MacArthur's own landing craft gets stuck 75 yards offshore, forcing him to wade to the beach. His publicity machine makes the most of it. As the Battle of Leyte Gulf wages offshore the next two days, the greatest sea battle ever fought would signal the demise of the Japanese navy.

October 23

MacArthur returns. The general re-installs the legitimate government of the Philippines.

November 7

Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected to a fourth term as U.S. president.

November 13

Americans attack Japanese installations in Manila and other parts of the Philippines.

December 16

Out of the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge begins. Thousands of guns open up. Shells fall on and around the American positions for an hour. A few moments later, the enemy emerges out of the dense fog that shrouds the forest. Twenty German infantry divisions move forward along a 50-mile front — a quarter of a million men. Behind them roar 600 tanks. Surrounded by the enemy, cut off from one another, out of ammunition and unable to fight back, others are forced to surrender — more than 10,000 men.

December 17 An SS Panzer unit ambushes an American convoy near a tiny village called Malmedy, capturing and disarming 150 men before gunning down at least 86 of them. They also butcher scores of Belgian civilians. News of the killing spread fast among the embattled Americans.
December 22

German officers under a white flag approach the American commander at Bastogne, General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne. The Americans' situation is hopeless, they said. The town is surrounded. They demand the Americans surrender. McAuliffe has a one-word answer — "Nuts!"

December 25 Thirty miles west of Bastogne, the Americans stop the German advance. The following day, American tanks break through the German lines and link up with the 101st Airborne inside Bastogne.
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A dead German lies along a railroad track near a sign for Cisterna.  May 25, 1944.
National Archives

A dead German lies along a railroad track near a sign for Cisterna. May 25, 1944.

General Eisenhower addresses a paratrooper who is preparing for the D-Day invasion of France.  England, June 1944.
National Archives

General Eisenhower addresses a paratrooper who is preparing for the D-Day invasion of France. England, June 1944.

Allied Soldiers disembark from a landing craft and storm toward the Normandy shores during the D-Day invasion of France.  June 6, 1944
National Archives

Allied soldiers disembark from a landing craft and storm toward the Normandy shores during the D-Day invasion of France. June 6, 1944
An American tank rolls past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. August 1944.
National Archives

An American tank rolls past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. August 1944.
General MacArthur and soldiers walk through the water onto Leyte Island, Philippines, October 1944.
National Archives

General MacArthur and soldiers walk through the water onto Leyte Island, Philippines, October 1944.
A German soldier in Belgium implores his unit to advance during the Battle of the Bulge.
National Archives

A German soldier in Belgium implores his unit to advance during the Battle of the Bulge.