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January 30

Six weeks after the German offensive in the Ardennes began, the Allies regain all the ground they'd lost. It had been the biggest battle of the war on the Western Front. More than a million men took part; 19,000 Americans died; 60,000 more had been wounded or captured or listed as "missing." Hitler's enormous gamble ends in disaster. He had lost some 100,000 men and virtually all his tanks and aircraft.

February 7-12

At the Yalta Conference, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin pledge to hold free elections after the war in Eastern Europe and divide Germany and Austria into three zones of occupation.

February 13-14

Nine hundred British and American bombers hit Dresden in two waves, dropping incendiary bombs in hopes of setting off a firestorm. They succeeded. At least 35,000 civilians were burned or blown apart — or asphyxiated as they huddled in basements and bomb shelters.

February 19

After 72 days of shelling the island, Marines land on Iwo Jima to capture the Japanese airfield. The intense fighting lasted a month; 6,821 Americans died, five times the number killed on Guadalcanal or Saipan. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to those who fought on the island.

February 23

The flag is raised on Mt. Suribachi. Photographer Joe Rosenthal snaps one of the most famous photos of the 20th century.

March 19

Firebombing comes to the cities of Japan. Three hundred and thirty four American B-29s roared in low over Tokyo and dropped hundreds of thousands of 70-pound napalm bombs. Sixteen square miles of the city — built largely of pine and paper and bamboo — burst into flame. More than a million were left without homes. In the next ten days, the Americans hit Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya again. Some 50,000 more people were killed.

March 31

Kamikazes target the USS Indianapolis for destruction off Okinawa. Damaged, she would be sent to Ulithi to have her hull mended, and eventually dispatched all the way across the Pacific to Mare Island, near San Francisco for further repairs.

April 1

The battle to take Okinawa commences. Okinawa — 60 miles long and home to almost half a million civilians — was the gateway to Japan. The Allies had to take it before they could move on to the home islands. They gathered the largest invasion force since D-Day — almost 1500 ships and more than half a million men. In the end, 92,000 Japanese soldiers and as many as 100,000 Okinawan civilians would be dead. More than 12,000 Americans died, 60,000 were wounded — the worst losses of the Pacific War.

April 12

President Roosevelt dies. Harry S. Truman is sworn in as the 33rd President.

April 25

American and Soviet forces link up at Torgau on the Elbe River. Germany has been cut in half.

April 26

The Russians enter Berlin.

April 30

Russian troops fight their way into the Reichstag, the symbol of German power. Less than half a mile away, beneath the rubble, Adolf Hitler and his closest aides huddle in their bunker. That afternoon, Hitler names Admiral Karl Donitz to succeed him, then shoots himself in the mouth.

May 5

Advance patrols of the American 11th Armored Division come upon Mauthausen in Austria. There they find more than 110,000 desperate, so-called "enemies of the Reich" confined behind barbed wire. Many were too weak to stand.

May 7

Germany surrenders. The Reich that Hitler promised would last a thousand years had lasted less than a dozen.

May 9

V-E Day is proclaimed as Victory in Europe is celebrated.

July 15

The USS Indianapolis, her repairs now complete and ready to return to war, receives orders to retrieve special cargo at Hunters Point, California.

July 16

A successful test of the atomic bomb takes place at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

July 17-August 2

At the Potsdam Conference, the Big Three — U.S. President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin — decide the fate of Europe and that Japan must submit to unconditional surrender or face "utter destruction."

July 26

The USS Indianapolis delivers its mysterious cargo — the atomic bomb — to the B-29 base on Tinian.

July 30

A Japanese submarine sends two torpedoes hissing into the hull of the Indianapolis. They cut her nearly in half. Within the first few minutes, some 300 of the 1,196 men aboard are blown apart or burned to death. The ship sinks in 12 minutes.

July 31

Japan rejects the Potsdam ultimatum.

August 2

Awaiting rescue, 880 crewmen from the Indianapolis die. Only 321 are plucked from the sea.

August 6

Developed to drop on the Germans, the first atomic bomb tumbles through the bomb-bay doors of the Enola Gay. Forty-three seconds later, six miles below but still high above the city of Hiroshima, it detonates. With a single bomb, 40,000 men, women and children are obliterated in an instant. One hundred thousand more die within days of burns and radiation. Another hundred thousand would succumb to radiation poisoning over the next five years. Despite the devastation, the Japanese still would not accept the Allied surrender terms.

August 8

The Soviet Union declares war on Japan. The islands now face invasion on two fronts.

August 9

A second atomic bomb drops, this time on Nagasaki. Some 40,000 more civilians die instantly. In Tokyo, the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War remains split between those still determined to fight on and those willing finally to give up. That evening all six members of the Council call upon the Emperor, who breaks the deadlock.

August 10

Japan requests conditional surrender terms but is denied.

August 14

Japan accepts unconditional surrender terms.

August 30

The occupation of Japan begins.

September 2

The Japanese sign ceremonial surrender terms aboard the U.S.S. Missouri.

November 1

The Allies' planned invasion of the Japanese mainland was to begin this day with the island of Kyushu. More than 500,000 Japanese troops were already in position to repel them and another six million were either under arms or ready to be called up. Women and school children were drilling with sharpened bamboo spears.

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A graves registration officer identifies the American dead among the Germans killed in the Ardennes. January 11, 1945.
National Archives

A graves registration officer identifies the American dead among the Germans killed in the Ardennes. January 11, 1945.

A wounded Marine is rushed from an Okinawa battlefield.
National Archives

A wounded Marine is rushed from an Okinawa battlefield.

Emaciated prisoners at Mauthausen welcome their liberators, the 11th Armored Division, May 6.
National Archives

Emaciated prisoners at Mauthausen welcome their liberators, the 11th Armored Division, May 6.
Philadelphia Mayor Bernard Samuels strikes the Liberty Bell in celebration of Germany’s unconditional surrender, V-E Day.
National Archives

Philadelphia Mayor Bernard Samuels strikes the Liberty Bell in celebration of Germany’s unconditional surrender, V-E Day.
Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., waves from the cockpit of the Enola Gay  just before takeoff. The plane would drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
National Archives

Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., waves from the cockpit of the Enola Gay just before takeoff. The plane would drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
A Japanese soldier walks through the ruins of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.
National Archives

A Japanese soldier walks through the ruins of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.