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A brief guide to the Second World War 1943

Updated on November 5, 2012
German medal for service on the Russian Front
German medal for service on the Russian Front | Source

This is part of a series of articles charting the history of the second world war. It is not meant to be comprehensive but will give the reader a general understanding of what happenned when nearly the whole world was at war.

The surrender of the German 6th army - 1943

The army, near Stalingrad had been cut off since early November and it eventually surrendered in early February but only 6000 of the 91,000 men survived the Russian captivity. However during this surrender the rest of Hitler’s forces were able to withdraw to safer areas and to regroup.

The Russians started to advance breaking the German forces and taking Kharkov but they then became victim to supply difficulties and the Germans recaptured Kharkov on March 13th 1943. The Germans were still able to fit and there was still a fighting morale amongst the troops, although the armies of the Romanians, Hungarians and Italians had been broken in the East and would not return

The conference at Casablanca- January 1943

Roosevelt and Churchill met at Casablanca, without Stalin who could not leave owing to the siege of Stalingrad, to plan the direction of the war. Roosevelt announced that “unconditional surrender” was the only terms on which they would end the war. This soon became official Allied policy.

German attack in North Africa

In February 1943 Rommell attacked the American and British forces in North Africa, driving them back in disarray. Rommell turned to attack Montgomery’s forces on 6th March at Medecenine but he was too late, Montgomery’s superior forces conducted a firm defensive battle and turned Rommell away after three days. He never returned to Africa. Montgomery’s forces continued to attack with his superior number of men and machinery. By the beginning of May the Axis forces were practically out of fuel and food and had surrendered by the 13th May. Over 130,000 prisoners of war were taken and the Allies controlled North Africa.

The Invasion of Sicily.

The landings in Sicily began on 10th July 1943, with 150,000 men landing on the first day alone. Over half a million men were to land before the campaign was over. Montgomery and his forces became stuck but General Patton made his way along the west and north coast of Sicily., taking Palermo and then Messina on 16th August with the British arriving a day later. The German forces managed to flee for safety taking the majority of their equipment with them.

The Italian leader Mussolini with Hitler
The Italian leader Mussolini with Hitler | Source

The overthrow of Mussolini

The Italian economy was weakened unable to sustain the war effort with strikes occurring in Industrial cities of Turin and Milan. The final meeting of the two leaders took place between Hitler and Mussolini on 19th July at Feltre where the two dictators paraded in their pomp and finery, Mussolini knew he was on borrowed time and was voted from power on 25th July 1943 being replaced by General Badoglio and imprisoned on the island of Lipari, the fascists left Italy as quickly as they could as there was no support for fascism within the country. Whilst attempting a show of solidarity with the Germans, the Italian leader was trying to negotiate a surrender with the Allied governments. Mussolini was “rescued” by German airborne troops on 12th September where he was flown to Germany to meet with Hitler. He was established at Salo on Lake Garda as leader of the Fascist Socialist Republic but like the Vichy government before it, there was no reality of power; everything had to be done through the German authorities.

The Italian surrender

The surrender of Italy was announced on 8th September 1943, Montgomery’s troops having already landed in the “Toe of Italy” on some five days earlier. In Italy there was chaos; the Italians were disarmed by German troops who immediately took occupation of Rome forcing the King and General Badoglio to flee the capital and in Greece and Yugoslavia, Italian troops were also disarmed by the Germans. The Italian fleet did manage to escape and found anchorage near Malta.

The Landing at Salerno

The main allied landing took place at Salerno on 9th September 1943 but instead of an unopposed landing the Germans defended with fierce fighting. It was only the arrival of the 8th army from Calabria on the 16th September that forced the Germans to fall back. Progress through Italy was not as quick as the Allies had estimated it would be, by December 1943 the Allies had only advanced 70 miles beyond Salerno and were still 60 miles short of relieving Rome.

Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia- believed to have been taken in the 1940's
Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia- believed to have been taken in the 1940's | Source

Partisan action in the Balkans

The Yugoslav communist leader Marshall Tito aimed to promote a united Communist Yugoslavia. When Italy surrendered his partisans disarmed the Italian troops and confiscated their equipment before the Germans could get it; an army of 250,000 partisans was tying down eight German divisions often in guerrilla type warfare.

Area and Indiscriminate bombing -1943

British Bomber command continued night attacks on an ever increasing scale and the Americans began daylight bombing in their flying fortresses. Targets in 1943 included from March to June the Industrial complexes of the Ruhr and in July to November the city of Hamburg. Berlin was attacked by air from November 1943 to March 1944 receiving 50,000 tons of bombs.

Ariel view of Hamburg after the bombing in 1943
Ariel view of Hamburg after the bombing in 1943 | Source

The Battle of Kursk on the Russian Front- 1943

The Battle of Kursk is sometimes viewed as the most decisive battle of the War. After the fighting in early 1943 had ceased the Russians established their front at Kursk. The battle took place between 5th and 12th July, but the Russians had used the intervening time well and had far more guns; more men and better tanks. The Americans had supplied the Russians with trucks and with tinned food which enriched the diet of the men and enabled them to travel quickly. By the time the battle took place the Russian lines of defence, including mine fields had a depth of some fifty miles. The battle started with a German offensive which became bogged down with little movement. A week later the Russians began their counter offensive, a huge battle with approximately 3000 tanks between the two armies. The Germans broke off the offensive that night, perhaps believing that they had exhausted the Russian army but the Russian offensive began that day would not falter until it reached Berlin. Between August and December 1943 the Russians advance on a broad front, crossing the Dnieper and retaking Smolensk.

The Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference
The Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference | Source

The conference at Tehran – November 1943

For the first time the three leaders, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met in Tehran. At this meeting the three leaders agreed that the only way to defeat Germany was a landing in Northern France by the Allies. A second topic of discussion was what would happen to Poland after an Allied victory. The leaders agreed that the Russian borderlands seized by the Poles in 1921 should be returned to Russia as the population were non poles of White Russian and Ukrainians descent. At this meeting the three great world powers pledged to hold together until the defeat of Germany.


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    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      OLD ALBION - thanks for your visit- I am glad you enjoyed this, and I hope that you will read further and investigate now that everything is just about in context!

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hello Just History. A really informative hub giving us the big picture, leaving us with so much to look into and explore. Very interesting.

      Voted up and more. Following.


    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      Kathleen Cochrane- Thanks for your visit-I guess that this was an attempt to may history easy and as a result, more enjoyable- hopefully I succeeded

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Much more informative than Cliff Notes for fiction. Great effort to make history easy for the rest of us.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      UnamedHarad- Thanks for your visit- It is comments like yours which show me this series is on the right track- the idea is to provide a potted version which throws up ideas and information for either mysef or readers to explore.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I'm enjoying this series; it paints a nice big picture of the major events so you get the context of what happened without lots of details getting in the way-- not that details aren't important, but big pictures are important, too. Speaking of detail :) didn't Hitler make General Paulus (Stalingrad commander) a Field Marshall because no Field Marshal had ever surrendered?

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      Seeker7- Thank you for your visit thank you for the kind remarks; I appreciate the support

      joanveronica- thank you for your visit - I am hoping this series will put the war in perspective for some readers and perhaps stimulate them to find out more about events

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Well written! I enjoyed reading this Hub, I am a WW1 and WW2 enthusiast, so I like reading these topics! keep it up, please. Voted up and interesting.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      I love history from all eras and the war years are always of great interest. This hub is one of the best I've read on this period of the war - voted up!!

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 5 years ago from England

      JKenny- thanks for your visit-I have really enjoyed putting this series of articles together and at least now when the war time films come on the TV I know where and when they are placed!

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Another great article, and we've now reached the turning point, with the Germans capitulating at Stalingrad, and the Italians overthrowing their leader, and eventually crossing over to the Allies. Its amazing to think that the man who invented the concept of Fascism back in the 20's ended up as another puppet of Hitler.