A brief guide to the Second World War 1943
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 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.
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.
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 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.