April 15

This Day in History

World War II

Apr 15, 1944:

Soviets capture Tarnopol in Poland

On this day in 1944, the Soviet Red Army occupies Tarnopol, one of the principal cities of Eastern Galicia, across the former Polish border.

Tarnopol, traditionally a part of Poland, then part of the Soviet Union, had become German-occupied territory in the great German offensive eastward in June 1941. One hundred and eighty Jews were shot in Tarnopol early in the German occupation; tens of thousands of Polish Jews would be slaughtered as German forces occupied larger swaths of the former eastern Poland. The Red Army naturally represented liberation for the Jewish survivors of German totalitarianism—although, Jews would eventually find their communist liberators to represent a totalitarianism of another stripe.

Also on this day in 1944, the U.S. plans Operation Wedlock, an invasion of the Kurile Islands of northern Japan. American and Canadian troops, aided by the Ninth Fleet and American bombers ordered to bomb the islands every day, prepare to occupy the islands long disputed between Japan and Russia.

The plan was a fiction. There was no invasion—or a Ninth Fleet. It was all a ruse to divert Japanese attention away from the Marianas Islands, the Allies' true target. Operation Forager, the real thing, was launched on June 15, 1944, with a landing on Saipan, one of the three Marianas Islands. It was a U.S. success, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Japanese—both from combat and ritual suicide—including that of the Japanese commander, Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.

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