World War II

Miep Gies, who hid Anne Frank, dies at 100

On this day in 2010, Miep Gies, the last survivor of a small group of people who helped hide a Jewish girl, Anne Frank, and her family from the Nazis during World War II, dies at age 100 in the Netherlands. After the Franks were discovered in 1944 and sent to concentration camps, ...read more

The Battle of Britain escalates

On this day in 1940, German aircraft begin the bombing of southern England, and the Battle of Britain, which will last until October 31, escalates.The Germans called it “the Day of the Eagle,” the first day of the Luftwaffe’s campaign to destroy the RAF, the British Royal Air ...read more

Himmler commits suicide

On this day in 1945, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, assistant chief of the Gestapo, and architect of Hitler’s program to exterminate European Jews, commits suicide one day after being arrested by the British.As head of the Waffen-Schutzstaffel (“Armed Black Shirts”), the ...read more

Polish Corps takes Monte Cassino

On this day in 1944, the Polish Corps, part of a multinational Allied Eighth Army offensive in southern Italy, finally pushes into Monte Cassino as the battle to break German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring’s defensive Gustav Line nears its end.The Allied push northward to Rome ...read more

Yugoslavia joins the Axis

On this day, Yugoslavia, despite an early declaration of neutrality, signs the Tripartite Pact, forming an alliance with Axis powers Germany, Italy, and Japan.A unified nation of Yugoslavia, an uneasy federation of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, was a response to the collapse of ...read more

Warsaw ghetto uprising put down

On this day in 1943, Waffen SS attacks Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto.Shortly after the German invasion of Poland, in September 1939, nearly 400,000 Polish Jews were confined to a 3.5-square-mile area that normally housed about 250,000. The “ghetto” was sealed off with a ...read more

Von Paulus to Hitler: Let us surrender!

On this day, German Gen. Friedrich von Paulus, commander in chief of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, urgently requests permission from Adolf Hitler to surrender his position there, but Hitler refuses.The Battle of Stalingrad began in the summer of 1942, as German forces ...read more

Victory in Europe

On this day in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrate Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.The eighth of May spelled the ...read more

Allies celebrate V-J Day

On this day in 1945, the USS Missouri hosts the formal surrender of the Japanese government to the Allies. Victory over Japan was celebrated back in the States.As Japanese troops finally surrendered to Americans on the Caroline, Mariana, and Palau islands, representatives of ...read more

United States freezes Japanese assets

On this day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt seizes all Japanese assets in the United States in retaliation for the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China.On July 24, Tokyo decided to strengthen its position in terms of its invasion of China by moving through Southeast ...read more

U.S. troops liberate Cherbourg, France

On this day in 1944, the Allies capture the fortified town and port of Cherbourg, in northwest France, freeing it from German occupation. Hitler had for all intents and purposes anticipated his own defeat when, in contrast with the analysis of his advisers, he accurately ...read more

U.S. troops land on Okinawa

On this day in 1945, after suffering the loss of 116 planes and damage to three aircraft carriers, 50,000 U.S. combat troops of the 10th Army, under the command of Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner Jr., land on the southwest coast of the Japanese island of Okinawa, 350 miles ...read more

U.S. troops capture the Marshall Islands

On this day, American forces invade and take control of the Marshall Islands, long occupied by the Japanese and used by them as a base for military operations.The Marshalls, east of the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean, had been in Japanese hands since World War I. ...read more

U.S. forces seize more of New Guinea

On this day in 1943, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s 503rd Parachute Regiment land and occupy Nazdab, just east of Lae, a port city in northeastern Papua New Guinea, situating them perfectly for future operations on the islands.New Guinea had been occupied by the Japanese since March ...read more

U.S. forces invade Guadalcanal

On this day in 1942, the U.S. 1st Marine Division begins Operation Watchtower, the first U.S. offensive of the war, by landing on Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands.On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island and began constructing an airfield there. Operation ...read more

U.S. aircraft carrier Langley is sunk

On this day, the U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Langley, is sunk by Japanese warplanes (with a little help from U.S. destroyers), and all of its 32 aircraft are lost.The Langley was launched in 1912 as the naval collier (coal transport ship) Jupiter. After World War I, ...read more

USS Astoria attempts pre-war reconnaissance

On this day, the USS Astoria arrives in Japan under the command of Richmond Kelly Turner in an attempt to photograph the Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi.U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Turner, whose motto was “If you don’t have losses, you’re not doing enough,” saw the cruiser ...read more

U.S. Fifth Army joins in Italian offensive

On this day in 1945, the U.S. Fifth Army joins its British allies in the assault on the German occupiers of Italy.The Fifth Army, now under Lucian K. Truscott (General Mark Clark, former commander of the Fifth, was made commander of the Allied armies in Italy), began pushing its ...read more

Turkey declares nonbelligerency

On this day in 1940, Turkey announces neutrality in the widening world war.Turkey was precariously positioned, prime real estate for both the Soviet Union to the north and the Axis Powers to the west. For the Soviets, an occupied or “satellite” Turkey could be yet another buffer ...read more

U.N. Charter is signed

On this day in 1945, the Charter for the United Nations is signed in San Francisco.The United Nations was born of perceived necessity, as a means of better arbitrating international conflict and negotiating peace than was provided for by the old League of Nations. The growing ...read more

Tojo is born

On this day, Hideki Tojo, prime minister of Japan during the war, is born in Tokyo.After graduating from the Imperial Military Academy and the Military Staff College, Tojo was sent to Berlin as Japan’s military attache after World War I. Having already earned a reputation for ...read more

The order is given: Bomb Pearl Harbor

On this day in 1941, the Combine Japanese Fleet receive Top-Secret Order No. 1: In 34 days time, Pearl Harbor is to be bombed, along with Mayala, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines.Relations between the United States and Japan had been deteriorating quickly since Japan’s ...read more

The execution of Pvt. Slovik

On this day, Pvt. Eddie Slovik becomes the first American soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion-and the only one who suffered such a fate during World War II.Pvt. Eddie Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because of a prison record (grand theft ...read more

The Yalta Conference commences

On this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin meet at Yalta, in the Crimea, to discuss and plan the postwar world—namely, to address the redistribution of power and influence. It is at Yalta that many place the birth of ...read more

The Wannsee Conference

On this day, Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.”In July 1941, Herman Goering, writing under instructions from Hitler, had ordered Reinhard Heydrich, SS general and Heinrich Himmler’s number-two man, to submit “as soon as ...read more

The United States declares war on Japan

On this day, as America’s Pacific fleet lay in ruins at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt requests, and receives, a declaration of war against Japan.Leaning heavily on the arm of his son James, a Marine captain, FDR walked haltingly into the House of Representatives at ...read more

The United Nations is born

On this day in 1945, the United Nations Charter, which was adopted and signed on June 26, 1945, is now effective and ready to be enforced.The United Nations was born of perceived necessity, as a means of better arbitrating international conflict and negotiating peace than was ...read more

The USS Greer is fired upon

On this day in 1940, the American destroyer Greer becomes the first U.S. vessel fired on in the war when a German sub aims a few torpedoes at it, sparking heightened tensions between Germany and the United States.It was a case of mistaken identity. As the ...read more