The World War II invasion of Europe by British and American forces took place in mid-1944. The Allies (those nations fighting against the Germans during World War II) sought to free the German-occupied countries of Europe from German leader Adolf Hitler's grasp. Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944—D-Day. Voices of D-Day: The Story of the Allied Invasion Told by Those Who Were There, edited by Ronald J. Drez, is a collection of survivors' accounts of the Normandy landing.
From Normandy, the Allies began their march eastward through France and Belgium toward Germany. In December 1944 the Germans launched a counterattack in the Ardennes Forest of southeastern Belgium, entangling Allied forces in a costly conflict known as the Battle of the Bulge. (The battle was so-named because the advancing German army created a "bulge" in the American line of defense.) Excerpts from Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, edited by Stephen Ambrose, reveal how American troops were taken by surprise in the Ardennes but managed to recover their strength, rally their forces, and push the Germans out of Belgium by the end of December.
While the last leg of the European war was being fought in France, in Belgium, and finally in Germany, another war was being waged in the Pacific. The bitter realities of the war against the Japanese are depicted with honesty and simplicity in Eugene B. Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa . Young Sledge and his fellow marines endured the incredible misery of Pacific island fighting between 1944 and 1945. The excerpt from With the Old Breed sheds light on the brutal but historically neglected battle for the island of Peleliu.
While Sledge and his comrades were clashing with the Japanese in the Pacific, the war in Europe was drawing to a close. With Soviet troops approaching from the east and American and British forces closing in from the west, the fate of Germany was sealed. Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker on April 30, 1945. Germany surrendered to Allied forces a week later.
On May 8, 1945, when President Harry S. Truman spoke to the American people on the surrender of Germany, he claimed the war was only half won. His statement to the nation on the surrender of the Japanese—delivered less than four months later—came on the heels of his controversial decision to unleash the power of a nuclear weapon on the Japanese home islands.
Veterans of D-Day …173
Stephen E. Ambrose …187
E. B. Sledge …197
Harry S. Truman …211
break·through / ˈbrākˌ[unvoicedth]roō/ • n. a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development, esp. in science: a major breakthrough in DNA research. ∎ a significant and dramatic overcoming of a perceived obstacle, allowing the completion of a process: the union's agreement was the key breakthrough on pay and conditions.