I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1944 in this post.
A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1944
April 5, 1944
Siegfried Lederer, a Jewish inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau, escaped to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in Terezin, Czechoslovakia where he warned the Elders of the Council about Auschwitz.
April 6, 1944
The Lyon (France) Gestapo, headed by Klaus Barbie, raided the Jewish children’s home at Izieu. The home was a refuge for children who had come to France to escape Nazi persecution. Fifty-one people were arrested during the raid and forty-four of them were children. They were all first sent to Drancy, and then were one of the last transports from France to Auschwitz. Only one survived.
April 7, 1944
Two days after Siegfried Lederer’s escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau, two more Jewish inmates, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, escaped and made it safely to Czechoslovakia. Vrba submitted a report to the Papal Nuncio in Slovakia which was forwarded to the Vatican, and received there in mid-June.
Paul Joseph Goebbels, German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda, took overall control of Berlin.
April 8, 1944
Soviet troops began an offensive to liberate Crimea.
April 14, 1944
A total of 5,200 Greek Jews were moved in the first transports of Jews from Athens, Greece to Auschwitz.
April 17, 1944
The Japanese began their last offensive in China, attacking U.S. air bases in eastern China.
April 22, 1944
In the Japanese theater, the Allies invaded Aitape and Hollandia in New Guinea.
April 28, 1944
German E-boats (the western Allies name for the fast German attack craft or fast boat, Schnellboot) attacked Allied forces training for D-Day at Slapton Sands, in Southwest England, killing more than 600 US Army and Navy personnel (1/3 the number killed on D-Day on Utah Beach).
Nazi SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler’s agents secretly proposed to trade Jews for trucks, other commodities, or money to the western Allies.
May 8, 1944
Rudolf Höss of the Nazi SS returned to Auschwitz to oversee the extermination of Hungarian Jews on the order of Heinrich Himmler.
May 9, 1944
Soviet troops recaptured Sevastopol.
May 11, 1944
The Allies attacked the Gustav Line south of Rome.
May 12, 1944
The Germans surrendered to the Soviets in the Crimea.
May 15, 1944
The Germans withdrew to the Adolf Hitler Line in central Italy.
The Nazis began the deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Eventually, 440,000 Hungarian Jews would be deported with two-thirds of those murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
May 16, 1944
Hungarian Jews arrived at Auschwitz. German-Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, arrived to personally oversee and hasten the extermination process. An estimated 100,000 Jews were gassed in the following eight days, by May 24. By the end of the month, May 31, the SS reported collecting 88 pounds of gold and white metal from the teeth of those gassed. By the end of June, half the Jews in Hungary (381,661 persons) had arrived at Auschwitz.
May 18, 1944
The Allies captured the town of Monte Cassino in the province of Frosinone, Italy after four months of battle and the cost of 20,000 lives.
May 19, 1944
Around fifty of the Stalag Luft III Allied POW underground tunnel escapees were executed. Almost all of those who escaped were recaptured, with about twenty returned to the camp to serve as a warning to other prisoners.
May 25, 1944
The Germans retreated from Anzio, on the coast of Italy, south of Rome.
May 26, 1944
Charles de Gaulle proclaimed his Free French movement to be the “Provisional Government of the French Republic.” The new government was recognized by Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia, and Norway, but an infuriated Roosevelt and Churchill refused to recognize it and retaliated by excluding de Gaulle from the final planning for Operation Overlord (codename for the Battle of Normandy, which was launched on June 6, 1944 with the Normandy landings).
May 27, 1944
The Allies invaded Biak Island, New Guinea.
The Nazis carefully prepared and “beautified” the Theresienstadt Ghetto (in Terezín located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) and its Jewish inmates for a Red Cross delegation visit which resulted in a favorable report.
June 4, 1944
Allied troops liberated Rome, the first Axis capital to be liberated.
June 5, 1944
The first B-29 Superfortress combat mission was flown as seventy-seven planes bombed the Japanese Makasan railway yards in Bangkok, Thailand.
June 6, 1944
D-Day (Operation Overlord), the long-awaited Allied (Allied Expeditionary Force of British, American, Canadian, Polish, and Free French troops) invasion of Normandy, on the northern coast of France, began before dawn with naval and aerial bombardments. The British 6th Airborne Division landed near Caen, and 12,000 U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Division troops were dropped on the Cotentin peninsula overnight June 5/6.
The first wave followed when five divisions (156,115 men) landed at the Normandy beaches code-named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.
Naval support for D-Day included 1,213 warships (including seven battleships and 23 cruisers), 1,600 auxiliary ships, and 4,126 landing craft. The British and American Air Forces flew 14,674 sorties that day.
Opposition included five German infantry divisions with about 50,000 men, 100 tanks, and assault guns in bunkers and on the beaches.
The Americans on Omaha Beach suffered especially heavy casualties, but the surprised Germans were overwhelmed and most of the allied objectives were reached and secured by nightfall. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and Navy Kriegsmarine provided very little opposition.
June 7, 1944
British troops liberated Bayeux, five miles inland from the Normandy coast. All beachheads were reported established.
June 9, 1944
The Soviet offensive against the Finnish front began.
June 10, 1944
The Nazis massacred the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, population 652, in France. A Nazi SS Division (Das Reich) surrounded the village and ordered everyone to gather in the town square. The Nazi commandant accused them of hiding explosives and announced a search and check of identity papers.
The men were locked in barns and the women and children were locked in the church. The men were executed with machine guns. The Nazis then set fire to the entire village, including the barns and church, to cover up the massacre, burning the few male survivors in the barn, and the women and children in the church, alive. A total of 642 townspeople – 245 women, 207 children, and 190 men – were slaughtered. A few men in the barn and a few townspeople who were not in the town at the time of the massacre survived.
The village of Oradour-sur-Glane was never rebuilt, and still stands as a silent monument to Nazi atrocities.
June 12, 1944
Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied Territories, ordered the kidnapping of 40,000 Polish children aged ten to fourteen during the “Heuaktion” (Hay Action). They were first imprisoned in a camp in Poland and then transferred to Germany to be used as slave laborers in the Reich.
June 13, 1944
One week after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the first German V-1 rocket (“buzz bomb”) raid on Great Britain was launched against London. The ‘V’ stood for the German word Vergeltungswaffen, meaning weapons of reprisal. The British nicknamed them “buzz bombs” due to the distinct buzzing sound made by the pulse-jet engines powering the bombs.
Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger directed the development of the V-1, which resembled a small aircraft, by German scientists at the Peenemünde research facility on the Baltic Sea.
After launch from a short-length catapult, the bomb then climbed to about 3,000 feet at speeds up to 350 miles per hour. As it approached its target, the buzzing of the V-1 could be heard on the ground. Then the engine would cut out and in a moment of silence, the bomb plunged toward the ground, ending with the explosion of the 1,870 pound warhead.
During this first V-1 bombing campaign, up to 100 V-1’s fell every hour on London. Over the next eighty days, more than 6,000 people were killed, over 17,000 injured, and a million buildings destroyed or damaged.
V-1 bombing raids occurred constantly at all times of day and night, and in all types of weather, terrorizing the populations of London and parts of Kent and Sussex.
According to German records, of the 8,564 V-1’s launched against England and the port of Antwerp, Belgium, about 57 percent hit their targets. Anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons, and fighter planes intercepted the remainder.
Using mainly slave labor at the huge underground V-1 factory near Nordhausen, the Germans built over 29,000 V-1 bombs. In Operation Crossbow, nearly 2,000 Allied airmen were killed in bombing raids against V-1 launch sites and factories.
June 15, 1944
The U.S. Marines invaded Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
June 15/16, 1944
The first bombing raid on Japan since the Doolittle raid of April 1942 was carried out with forty-seven B-29’s based in Bengel, India, targeting the steel works at Yawata, Japan.
June 18 – 22, 1944
The “Auschwitz Report,” written by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, the two Slovak Jewish prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944, went public worldwide through media channels in Switzerland.
June 19 – 20, 1944
American aircraft carrier-based fighters shot down 220 Japanese planes in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, nicknamed the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” by American aviators. Only twenty American planes were lost.
June 22, 1944
The Soviets launched a massive offensive in eastern Byelorussia (Belarus). They destroyed the German Army Group Center and by August 1, drove westward to the Vistula River across from Warsaw in central Poland.
Operation Bagration (the Soviet summer offensive) began.
June 27, 1944
U.S. troops liberated Cherbourg, France.
This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:
The History Place:
The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.
Most recent post from the series:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020