I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1944 in this post.
A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1944
Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews by moving them from the Plaszow labor camp in the southern suburb of Kraków, Poland to his hometown of Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia.
October 2 – 5, 1944
The Polish Home Army surrendered to the Nazis ending the Warsaw Uprising.
October 7, 1944
After learning that they were going to be killed, the Sonderkommando (special work units who were made up of Nazi death camp prisoners, usually Jews, and were forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims) revolted at Auschwitz-Birkenau resulting in the complete destruction of Crematory IV.
Soviet troops captured Riga, the capital of Latvia on the Baltic Sea.
October 11, 1944
The U.S. began air raids against Okinawa.
October 14, 1944
German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel committed forced suicide by cyanide poisoning after being implicated in the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. His death was announced to be due to battle wounds suffered on July 17, 1944.
The Allies liberated Athens, Greece.
October 15, 1944
As the Hungarian government was pursuing negotiations for surrendering to the Soviets, the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross movement, with German support, carried out a coup d’état (a revolt performed through violence), allowing the Nazis to seize control of the Hungarian puppet government. The deportation of Jews, which had been temporarily halted due to international political pressure, resumed.
October 17, 1944
SS leader Adolf Eichmann arrived in Hungary.
October 18, 1944
Fourteen American B-29 Superfortress aircraft based on the Mariana Islands attacked the Japanese base at Truk.
October 20, 1944
The U.S. Sixth Army invaded Leyte in the Philippines.
Soviet forces captured Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia, from the Germans.
October 21, 1944
The Germans surrendered at Aachen, Germany in the Battle of Aachen. It was the first German city to fall to the Allies.
October 23-26, 1944
The three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history, resulted in a decisive U.S. Naval victory over Japan.
George Edwin Farrar’s younger brother Robert (my Uncle Bob) Burnham Farrar served aboard the USS Intrepid, which was involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
October 25, 1944
In World War II, a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target was known as a Kamikaze (meaning “Divine Wind”) attack. Fleet Admiral William Halsey called it the “only weapon I feared in the war.” The first recorded Kamikaze attack occurred against U.S. warships during the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf.
October 28, 1944
Two thousand Jews in the last transport from Theresienstadt (a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto in the town of Terezín, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), arrived at Auschwitz.
October 29, 1944
A Japanese Kamikaze hit Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, on one of her port side gun positions. Damage to the ship was minimal, but ten men were killed and six were wounded.
October 30, 1944
The last transport of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz and the gas chambers there were used for the last time.
November 8, 1944
The Nazis forced 25,000 Jews to walk over 100 miles in rain and snow from Budapest to the Austrian border. A second forced march of 50,000 persons followed, ending at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
For the first time since 1933, Adolf Hitler failed to appear in Munich on the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.
November 7, 1944
Franklin Roosevelt won his fourth consecutive term as U.S. President.
November 11, 1944
The U.S. navy bombed Iwo Jima.
November 18, 1944
The U.S. Third Army crossed the German frontier.
November 20, 1944
French troops drove through the ‘Beffort Gap’ in southwestern France to reach the Rhine.
November 23, 1944
American troops liberated the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, located in the Vosges Mountains close to the Alsatian village of Natzwiller in France.
November 24, 1944
The French captured Strasbourg, France.
Twenty-four B-29 Superfortresses bombed the Nakajima aircraft factory near Tokyo.
November 25, 1944
SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the crematories at Auschwitz. Crematory IV had already been destroyed by inmates during a revolt on October 7, 1944.
Shortly after noon, two Japanese Kamikazes crashed into Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, killing sixty-six men and causing a serious fire. Bob Farrar was injured in the attack, mainly due to smoke inhalation. The ship remained on station, however, and the fires were extinguished within two hours. She was detached for repairs the following day.
December 4, 1944
Athens, Greece was placed under martial law during a Civil War.
December 11, 1944
At Hartheim Castle, near Linz Austria, German authorities carried out the last gassing of inmates, and under SS guard, Mauthausen (Austria) concentration camp prisoners dismantled the killing facility. Hartheim was one of six gassing installations for adults, the majority of them mentally and physically disabled patients, established as part of the Nazi’s “euthanasia” program.
December 15, 1944
U.S. Troops invaded Mindoro in the Philippines.
In the summer of 1944, bandleader Glenn Miller (a member of the U.S. Army since late 1942 and later Army Air Forces) formed a fifty-piece USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) band and departed for England where he gave hundreds of performances to Allied troops over the next six months. On this date, he left England to entertain American troops in France in a UC-64 Norseman (a Canadian single-engine bush plane), traveling over the English Channel, but never arrived. The wreckage of his plane was never found and his official military status remains Missing in Action.
December 16, 1944
The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg’s Ardennes Forest began as the Germans launched a final offensive in the west known as Operation Wacht am Rhein. The objectives were to re-conquer Belgium, split the allied forces along the German border, and capture the strategic port of Antwerp. Three German Armies conducted a surprise attack along a 70-miles front and quickly overtook the American line.
December 17, 1944
On the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazi Waffen-SS (the military branch of the Nazi Party’s SS organization) murdered eighty-one American POW’s in the Malmedy Massacre.
A regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division of the Leibstandarte-SS, commanded by SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, intercepted a truck convoy of the U.S. 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion’s Battery B southeast of Malmedy. Peiper’s troops, called the Blowtorch Battalion, had burned their way across Russia and had slaughtered civilians in two separate villages.
The Panzer tanks fired upon and destroyed the lead vehicles in the truck convoy. The convoy halted while the tank fire continued. The Americans were forced to abandon their vehicles and surrendered.
The captured American Battery B soldiers were herded into a nearby field where an SS tank commander ordered an SS private to shoot into the prisoners. The SS opened fire on the unarmed Americans with machine guns.
When the machine gunfire ceased, an English speaking SS man walked among the victims on the ground asking if anyone was injured or needed help. Those survivors who responded were killed by a pistol shot to the head. In what was the single worst atrocity against American troops during World War II in Europe, a total of eighty-one Americans were killed.
Three American survivors reported the massacre to a U.S. Army Colonel stationed at Malmedy. Because the news spread quickly that Germans were shooting POW’s, the American troops became determined to hold the lines against the German advance.
The same day, in the Pacific Theater of Operations, the U.S. Army Air Forces established the 509th Composite Group to operate the B-29 Superfortresses that would drop the atomic bombs.
December 20, 1944
Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, reached San Francisco for repairs.
December 21, 1944
The Germans besieged U.S. paratroopers in Bastogne, Belgium. Units of Germany’s 5th Panzer Army captured St. Vith, Belgium.
December 22, 1944
Surrounded in the Battle of the Bulge, American Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne Division received a surrender ultimatum from the Germans. His immortal reply: NUTS! [Use the link in Sources below to read the fascinating story.]
December 26, 1944
The 4th Armored Division, leading the attack by General George S. Patton’s Third Army, attacked the Germans at Bastogne and was the first unit to break through to relieve the besieged 101st Airborne Division of paratroopers. While American troops held the town, refugees were able to evacuate.
December 27, 1944
Soviet troops besieged Budapest.
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.
The Forced Suicide of Erwin Rommel
The Story of Anthony McAuliffe’s NUTS! Reply
Most recent post from the series:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020