In 1943, the Allies broke through Axis lines and even knocked the Italians out of the war. Despite this, Japan and Germany still enjoyed the ability to field an impressive military force and established strong defensive lines. However, those lines bent under Allied assault and their ability to field their forces came under immense strain. In 1944, the Allies continued to breakthrough. By the end of the year, German defeat was imminent, but the Japanese continued to hold out.
The Allies knocked Italy out of the Axis. The Italian people wanted nothing to do with Nazi Germany to begin with. However, the Nazis refused to surrender Italy, put up fierce resistance, and the Allied war effort bogged down. In January 1944, the Allies launched a new Italian offensive at Anzio. It took six months for the Allies to break out. Many blame General John Lucas for delaying the offensive and causing the delay. This seems to be the case. He wanted to consolidate his forces before advancing giving the Germans time to react. Had he moved from the outset, Lucas could have achieved a swift victory. Instead, the Allies entered Rome on June 4. However, Italy as a whole remained stalemated until 1945.
As Lucas slugged it out in Italy, the Soviets rolled back German gains on the Eastern Front. The Soviets cleared Germany out of Leningrad. By the beginning of June, the Soviets expelled the Axis out of the Crimea and most of the Ukraine. Then, Stalin’s forces began initial assaults on Hitler’s ally, Romania.
While Rome fell and the Soviets invaded Romania, the Allies launched the invasion of Europe. Dwight Eisenhower led the Allied armed forces in an all out attack on Fortress Europe. On June 6, 1944, the Americans, British, Canadians, and others assaulted five Normandy beaches. They successfully penetrated Hitler’s Atlantic wall and pushed to Paris. The Free French under Charles De Gaulle entered the capital on August 25.
In coordination with the D-Day attack, Stalin launched a major offensive. Soviet forces destroyed an entire German army group, finished off German resistance in the Ukraine, and pushed into Poland sparking Polish uprisings against the Nazis. They also cut Romania off from Germany. Pro-Soviet coups followed in Romania and Bulgaria. The Soviet offensives swept into Yugoslavia and liberated Belgrade in October. Then, the Soviets turned on Hungary. The Hungarians fell to Stalin in 1945.
As the Nazis collapsed, the Japanese dug in. The Allies began slowly pushing Japan back on the Asian continent. Meanwhile, MacArthur and Nimitz continued to breach Japanese Pacific defenses. Around the D-Day invasion, the Americans struck at the Marianas and Palau. After a complete victory, they struck Leyte. The Americans crushed the Japanese at Leyte Gulf in one of the largest naval battles in history. In 1941, MacArthur promised to return to the Philippines to liberate the islands. He fulfilled that promise in 1945 and began planning for the invasion of Japan.
By the end of 1944, neither Japan nor Germany could afford losses in men or equipment. Their industrial capacities had been decimated by Allied bombing campaigns. The Axis could no longer replace their dead and wounded. Both began arming children. The Japanese decided to fight to the death and adopted a defensive strategy. On the other hand, Hitler went on the offensive.
On December 16, 1944, Hitler launched an offensive in the west. He hoped to split the allies, capture Antwerp, and destroy the enemy armies in an encirclement. The Nazis achieved complete surprise. The Allied lines bulged under the weight of the attack. Despite initial gains in the Battle of the Bulge, the German attack sputtered out. When the weather cleared, Allied air superiority finished the Nazis. The Germans suffered egregious losses. American casualties reached 90,000 including 19,000 dead. The Americans could replace the dead while Germany could not. This assault finished Hitler on the Western Front. He could have used the forces to defend Germany proper. Instead, he decided to gamble as he had done his entire life.
The Allies continued to hammer away at Axis defenses throughout 1944. The Soviets broke Germany in the east and conquered their neighbors in the name of liberation. The Americans bogged down in Italy. The Allies broke Germany in the west and pushed toward Berlin when Hitler launched a suicidal offensive. The United States continued to decimate the Japanese in the Pacific. By 1945, Japan created a deadly defensive network. Meanwhile, the German Wehrmacht crumbled.