VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > K. World War II, 1939–1945 > 12. The Battle of Germany, 1945
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
12. The Battle of Germany, 1945
THE ROLE OF AIR POWER. In 20th-century warfare the assembly line became as important as the battle line and consequently an equally vital target for attack. The strategy of blockade adopted by the Allied governments was designed primarily to starve not the German population but German industrial and military machines, chiefly by cutting off fuel and essential raw materials. This aim could best be achieved by supplementing the naval blockade with a systematic bombing of German factories, power plants, and transportation centers.  1
At the commencement of the Second World War, in 1939, the Germans possessed the strongest air force in the world. By the close of 1943, however, their bombing squadrons were depleted, though they still had a peak force of 3,000 first-line fighters. In 1944 the Allied air offensive was sharply intensified and German air strength declined decisively. Over 1,000 Luftwaffe planes were destroyed in January and February, and vital machine plants in Essen and Schweinfurt were crippled. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the U.S. Army air forces, later characterized the week of Feb. 20–26, 1944, as “probably the most decisive of the war” because of the shattering damage inflicted upon German installations in six days of favorable flying weather. By the end of hostilities the Germans had received 315 tons of explosive in retaliation for every ton of aerial bombs they had launched against Britain. Their loss in planes, by Jan. 1, 1945, had passed 50,000, in comparison with a total loss of 17,790 suffered by the U.S. air forces on all fronts. During the last four months of fighting, Allied air squadrons roamed Germany almost at will, destroying communications, obliterating plants and stores, and wrecking many of the remaining German aircraft on the ground, where they lay helpless for lack of fuel and repairs.  2
The military collapse of Germany was consummated in four months by simultaneous drives launched by Soviet armies in the east and south and by American, French, and British imperial forces in the west. Concentration camps were liberated during the Allied invasion.  3
Jan. 12
Opening a powerful drive into Poland, the Russians took Warsaw (Jan. 17), swept into Tarnow, Cracow, and Lodz two days later (Jan. 19), and forced the Germans to abandon the whole Vistula defense line. By Feb. 20 Russian mechanized units, spearheads of the encroaching Soviet host that numbered 215 divisions, were within 30 miles of Berlin.  4
Feb. 4–12
Yalta Conference. While President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Marshal Stalin met at Yalta in the Crimea to plan the final defeat and occupation of Germany, the U.S. Third Army crossed the German frontier at ten points. British and Canadian divisions opened an offensive southeast of Nijmegen (Feb. 8).  5
Feb. 22
The Third Army continued its progress, crossing the Roer River. American advance forces drove toward the Ruhr Valley (Feb. 23) and entered Trier (March 2) and Köln (March 5). Supreme Headquarters announced that 954,377 German prisoners had been taken since D-Day (June 6, 1944).  6
March 7
The U.S. First Army crossed the Rhine at Remagen, and the German defense system on the east bank collapsed. By April 11 the U.S. Ninth Army had reached the Elbe River; eight days later the Russians fought their way into Berlin (April 20); and advance units of the American and Soviet armies met on the Elbe at Torgau (April 25).  7
April 28
German resistance in northern Italy broke as American and British forces swept into the Po Valley (See Aug. 12).  8
May 1
BATTLE OF BERLIN. Soviet forces continued to shell Berlin and fight their way into the capital. A German radio announcement from Hamburg declared that Adolf Hitler had died defending the Reichschancellery, and that Adm. Karl Doenitz had succeeded him.  9
One million German and Italian soldiers in Italy and Austria laid down their arms.  10
May 4
The dissolution of the German National Socialist regime continued, with local military commanders making their own offers of capitulation. German divisions in northwestern Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark surrendered.  11
May 7
A group of German army leaders sent envoys to Reims, where they signed terms of surrender.  12
May 8
President Truman for the United States and Prime Minister Churchill for Great Britain proclaimed the end of the war in Europe (V-E Day).  13
May 9
Marshal Stalin announced the end of the war to the Russian people. German army chiefs completed the formula of surrender in Berlin.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.