World War Two - End Game
In the tenth and final chapter of Lost Films, this landmark series of life on the frontlines during World War 2, the Allies begin their final offensive into Germany. But before the Nazis surrender, the Allies encounter the horrors of the concentration camps.
April 14th, 1945
After leading his country for 13 years, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's funeral precession wends it's way through the Capital.
Four the last four years he has guided America through the war. In the Pacific, American forces have forced the Japanese out of the central Pacific and are now within striking range of Tokyo.
However, there are still battles being fiercely contested both in the Pacific and in Europe.
It is now on the shoulders of new President Harry Truman to lead the country to ultimate victory even though he was only Roosevelt's Vice-President for 82 days before Roosevelt's death and is still considered relatively inexperienced.
May 8th, 1945
The 13th Combat Engineer Battalion is on Okinawa after landing with the second assault wave on April 1st. The platoon have aided in securing one of the island's main airfields. Now the soldiers of the 10th Army along with two Marine divisions are pushing south where the fighting has intensified.
For five weeks now, American forces have struggled to advance towards the Shuri Line, the main line of Japanese resistance on Okinawa. Along it's heavily fortified ridges, thousands of Japanese troops are dug in to well concealed caves and bunkers and are now unleashing a relentless barrage of artillery fire unlike anything seen since in the entire Pacific war.
Between Kochi Ridge and Zebra Hill, 600 yards from the Shuri Line, American forces are anticipating a Japanese counter-attack. Suddenly artillery and mortar fire explodes all around, within minutes the men of the 13th Combat Engineers have lost 2 men and 13 men have been wounded by exploding mortar fragments.
As Japanese Kamikaze's continue to attack the American fleet off Okinawa the men on the island battle on for more than a month. At the end of May the U.S. forces manage to secure the Shuri Line, and weeks later take Kunichi Ridge after a week-long battle, days later Okinawa falls to the Americans and is officially declared secured.
Over 12,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines were killed or missing in action during the battle for Okinawa, and another 36,000 were wounded. It was the costliest battle of the entire Pacific war, but despite this, the U.S. military still have every intention of invading Japan's home islands.
Codenamed 'Operation Downfall' , the first phase of the invasion of Japan is planned for November. Estimated to take over a year and involve five million Allied troops, some, estimate casualties to be in excess of one million. After the staggering loss of life on Okinawa, the White House fear that the American people may not be able to accept these numbers.
The men of the 84th Infantry Division, after crossing the Rhine a month earlier, are pushing eastward into Nazi Germany. Their destination is the Elbe River, the last natural defence before the capital Berlin. Days earlier, the Soviet Army had encircled Berlin and began devastating attacks on the capital....Hitler's days are almost at an end.
Ohrdruf, Germany - April 1945
The 84th have just entered part of the Buchenwald concentration camp complex. Since rising to power in 1933, Hitler has been systematically rounding up and exterminating Jews and minority groups such as Gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled whom he considers inferior and undesirable. This was part of his masterplan to build a true Arian race which he called the 'Final Solution'.
Between 1939 and 1945, Hitler had built 15,000 camps. beginning in April 1945, the western Allies have been liberating these camps and their survivors. In these six years of war, the Nazis have murdered approximately 14 million people, of which nearly half were Jews. After liberation, nearly 1 million people did not return to their homes for fear of another holocaust.
Torgau, Germany - April 1945
The 84th Infantry Division and other American forces are closing in on Torgau near the Elbe River where they are to meet up with the Soviet Army. The meeting of east and west is a triumph, but for some American soldiers the joy of the moment is short-lived as General Eisenhower decides to halt his forces at the Elbe River and pummel the Germans to the southwest. This decision effectively means that the capital Berlin will be left to the Soviets to claim.
Berlin - April 30th, 1945
Soviet forces advance through the streets of Berlin, Hitler decides to marry his long-time mistress Eve Braun before descending down into his bunker. He waits until the Soviet troops are only blocks away and shoots himself in the head. With Hitler dead and Berlin in burning ruins, the men of the Allied forces know that the end is nigh.
V.E. Day - 8th May 1945
After six long years, the war in Europe is finally at an end, spontaineous celebrations erupt around the world, but for the Americans, the job is only half complete. The war with Japan rages on.
The Enola Gay
The Allies Ultimatum
Germany - July 26th, 1945
During a two week long conference, Allied leaders Churchill, Truman and Stalin offer an ultimatum to the Japanese. It calls for unconditional surrender, but the Japanese reject the declaration.
August 6th, 1945 - 0245 Tokyo Time
A lone B-29 bomber named the 'Enola Gay' sets off from North Field on Tinian Island. On board is the world's first atomic bomb. It's taget is the the city of Hiroshima, Japan - population 380,000. Once over the city the aircraft drops it's deadly cargo. An estimated 70,000 people are killed instantly, tens of thousands more are maimed or wounded. Ultimately, more than 100,000 people are killed.
With Hiroshima in smouldering ruins, Truman once again warns the Japanese to surrender, he receives no reply. Three days later a second atomic bomb is dropped, this time on the city of Nagasaki, but still the Japanese will not surrender to the Allies. A third atomic strike is planned, meanwhile more than 2,000 planes take to the skies, targeting Tokyo. The fate of the Pacific war remains unresolved.
V.J. Day - August 14th, 1945
Six days after America drops the second atomic bomb on Japan and a day after a heavy bombing raid on Tokyo, the Japanese government informs America that it accepts the Allies declaration on condition that the Imperial Emperor Hirohito retains sovereign status. President Truman acceps and the end of the Pacific war is finally declared. Three weeks later, representatives of the Allied forces and Japan meet on board the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the formal declaration of surrender.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended, a great victory has been won. The skies no longer rain death, men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. The entire world lies quietly peaced"
General Douglas MacArthur
Over the following weeks and months, millions of Americans who served in the armed forces begin their journey home. In the nearly four years that the United States fought in World War Two, about 16 million Americans served their country. Over 415,000 never returned home, most were killed in combat, many remain missing in action. For those who survived, the mental scars of that dark period of humanity, linger on today.
During the second world war, an estimated 70 million people were killed, more than half were civilians. Only 10 percent of Americans who served in World War 2 are still alive today.