Click Here For Your FREE
WWII Special Report
Archive | Battle Briefings RSS feed for this section

German and Soviet Invasion of Poland 1939

The Preparation for Invasion

The Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I, had decimated Germany, reducing its military to a small military ground presence. When Adolf Hitler decided he would take back much of what was taken from Germany as part of that treaty, he began the covert buildup of forces and building in secret, of planes, submarines, and vehicles in other countries in Europe. When his forces could no longer be hidden, Hitler made his first step into France, meeting little local resistance. Then, he took over control of Austria (annexed), Czechoslovakia, and after the Soviet Union, ruled by the brutal dictator, Joseph Stalin, signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, secretly giving the Soviet Union a portion of Poland in return, Hitler moved on Poland. Hitler falsely claimed that Poland had attacked first, but it was set up as an attack by Germans in Polish military clothing. On September 3rd, 1939, after the Polish invasion had begun, England and France declared war on Germany.

The Invasion

On the morning of September 1st, 1939, nearly 1.5 million German troops invaded Poland from the Polish-German’s 1,750-mile border, moving from the north, south, and west, towards Warsaw. At the same time, German warships and U-boats attacked as many Polish military vessels as they could find, and air strikes from the German Luftwaffe destroyed Polish airfields and planes, and bombed numerous towns. The sudden fast-paced assault would be known as a “blitzkrieg”, when adding in panzer tanks and other motorized infantry groups, which quickly barreled through any defenses put up by the Polish people. The Polish armed forces had mustered one million soldiers but there was a lack of strategy in attacking the Germans, who were far more heavily armed and organized than the Polish were. Even horse cavalry groups were sent against German tank units, and were promptly annihilated.

The Soviet Union, meanwhile, was caught by surprise at the suddenness of the attack, and scrambled to make the best of the situation, by immediately demanding its portion of Poland be turned over to them, as per the non-aggression pact. The public joint country statement was that this invasion was part of restoring peace and stability in the region, along with preparing for a new political oversight situation.

On September 17th, the Soviet Union entered Poland from the Russian-Polish border and took over its promised section, which was nearly half of Poland, including the stored resources of Ukrainian wheat and Romanian oil, which Hitler had wanted. Russia now also had control over the Baltic states as well, and all was given to them without the Russians firing a shot.

The French and the British also bore some responsibility for the devastation of Poland, in that it had not moved soon enough to stop the Germans from advancing. England and France had even advised the Polish not to mobilize it forces, thinking there could be some agreement reached with the Germans. The French, for their part, were tired of war, its fighting forces devastated in the first World War. Both countries had promised in writing that they would protect Poland from any invading forces, yet when it came, the British and the French were already too late to do anything about saving the Polish people. Both countries gave Hitler an ultimatum to get out of Poland, but when the deadline passed, all they could do then was to declare war on Germany. However, this would also prove to be the beginning of the end of France, as Hitler turned his next actions towards France and Norway in 1940.


Facts to Know:

The Forces Involved in the Invasion of Poland

The Germans

North Assault: Colonel-Gen. Fedor von Bock

South Assault: Colonel-Gen. Gerd von Rundstedt

The Polish

Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz

  • 62 divisions

-50,000 Slovakian soldiers included

-1.5 million German soldiers

  • 1,300 aircraft

-Junkers Ju-87 dive-bombers

  • 3,200 Panzer tanks
  • 18 divisions

-1 million Polish soldiers

  • 12 cavalry divisions
  • 600 tanks (Polish Single turret 71TP)
  • No airplanes left after overhead bombing 
The Russians invaded with over a half-million troops, surrounding the remaining Polish soldiers and people who had escaped to the border.

Photo Gallery

Caption: German Panzer I, Panzer II, and SdKfz. 251 vehicles in Poland, circa 3 Sep 1939; the officer in the SdKfz. 251 halftrack vehicle might be Heinz Guderian
Source: German Federal Archive
Identification Code: Bild 146-1976-071-36

Caption: Aerial view of a Polish city through the gunner’s station aboard a German He 111 bomber, Sep 1939
Source: United States Library of Congress

Caption: German troops engaging in street fighting in a Polish town, Sep 1939
Photographer: Wagner
Source: German Federal Archive

Caption: A girl holding her dog in a devastated neighborhood in Warsaw, Poland, 5 Sep 1939
Photographer: Julien Bryan
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Caption: German General Blaskowitz accepting the surrender of Polish troops at the Skoda factory building in Warsaw, Poland, 28 Sep 1939
Source: German Federal Archive
Identification Code: Bild 146-1976-032-19

Battle of Taierzhuang 1938

Battle of Taierzhuang
March 24, 1938 – April 7, 1938

While most countries were gearing for war with Hitler, Mussolini, and other axis powers, China was already in a war against the aggression of Japan. In 1937, there occurred the Marco Polo Bridge incident on July 7th, which started the first small battle between the Chinese and the Japanese over a missing Japanese soldier, who was found to have been shot and killed. Up to this point, there had been only minor skirmishes, although Japan had already infiltrated Manchuria, starting in 1931.

Under various agreements conducted at the beginning of the century, any country with an operating legation, could keep a small number of soldiers handy for protection and travel. But Japan had over-extended itself in its quest for taking over land with vital natural resources. There were also hidden political agendas at work between the Communist and Kuomintang (KMT) parties in China, and with the KMT Party involved with the Japanese, the Communists would have an easier time making its own moves, although this was never said outright. The Marco Polo Bridge incident, however, escalated hostilities between the two countries, with the next two battles exacting a horrific toll on life.

The Battle of Shanghai occurred between August and November of 1937, with Chiang Kai-shek as the leader of the KMT Party, trying to push the Japanese garrison out of Shanghai and into the river. But Chiang’s forces suffered terrible losses, especially when Japanese reinforcements arrived, both from the Yangtze River and from foot troops. The final Shanghai battle at the Sihung Warehouse (October 27th-November 1st), while a loss for the Chinese, was also shown to a global audience to garner support and help from the Western Powers against Japan. But that never happened.

The following Battle for Nanjing (Rape of Nanking) was a brutal battle, with an estimated 100,000 Chinese slaughtered, with women raped before being killed, and others buried, dismembered, or drowned alive. It seemed there was no hope for the people of China against the Japanese invader. But then came a battle at a small town that would change everything for the Chinese people, and break the global perception that Japan was undefeatable.

The Battle of Taierzhuang occurred during the Japanese’s effort to merge and tighten up the areas around Shanghai and Nanking after those two battles were won. The larger engagement was known as the Battle of Xuzhou. Taierzhuang was located on a strategically-placed system of railroad and canal junctions, including the Grand Canal of China, and was logistically important for the Japanese to take over and remove the Chinese forces that had built up there over time. It would then be easier for Japan to bring in more supplies and reinforcements.

However, KMT Generals Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, along with Commanders Yu Xuezhong and Wei Yunsong, planned on surrounding the Japanese in the area, and with the help of thousands of fighters, dressed as local farmers, began sabotaging Japanese resupply lines, making it very difficult for the Japanese to stay supplied.

The battle took two weeks of intense skirmishes, including an attempt by the Japanese to tunnel under the walls of Taiuerzhuang, to take the town from the inside. But the infiltrators were caught and executed. When the Japanese then made a direct-on attack into the town, Chinese fighters surrounded them, forcing the Japanese to make a hasty retreat.

This first win for the Chinese people was celebrated in many cities, and showed everyone that the Japanese were not totally invincible. They could be defeated and this win at Taiuerzhuang, built up the morale of the Chinese people and its fighters.


Participants at the Battle of Taierzhuang
Chinese Japanese
  • General Li Zongren
  • General Bai Chongxi
  • Commander Yu Xuezhong
  • Commander Wei Yunsong
  • Rensuke Isogai (10th Division)
  • Itagaki Seishiro (5th Division)
31st Division with 91st and 93rd Brigades:

  • From the 93rd Brigade, the 186th Regiment guarded the town’s center, while the 185th guarded Beilou and Nanlou, north of the town.
  • From the 91st Brigade, the 181st Regiment guarded the northside railroad station, while the 182nd guarded the canal’s south bank.
  • 10th Imperial Division
  • 5th Imperial Division
100,000 to 400,000 (10 divisions)
  • 40,000 to 70,000 (3 divisions)
  • 80 plus tanks
  • 19 plus armored vehicles
  • Planes
20,000 killed 11,198 killed (according to Japan)

Kokoda Track Campaign 1942

(July 1942 – November 1942)

            Shortly before World War II began, Japan had already begun a campaign of invading and conquering valuable territory, both in Asia and the Pacific, particularly if such territories either helped replenish needed resources, or to fortify strategic positions to stave off attacks from other world powers. Australia was one such country that if the Japanese could take it over, then the Allies would lose a very valuable source of supplies and soldiers.

By 1941, Japan was close enough to New Guinea off the northern tip of Australia, to begin implementing her plan to take Port Moresby on the south side of Papua New Guinea, just across from Australia. While the Japanese landed soldiers on the northern side at Gona, the Japanese sent another landing group around the island towards Port Moresby, but it was stopped during the battle of the Coral Sea.

Consequently, the Japanese changed tactics and decided to land more troops at Gona and other areas along the northern coast. Then, they planned to travel through the country’s mountainous jungles on the 60-mile-long Kokoda Track that ran across the island, from the northeast point at Kokoda Village, to the southwest point at Owers’ Corner. From there, it would be a short trek towards Port Moresby on the southern coastline. The Kokoda Track Campaign began officially on July 21-22, 1942, with Japanese landings at both Gona and Buna on the northern coastline. From there, the Japanese forces began moving on Kokoda, pushing back on the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion and the local Papuan Infantry Battalion, which put up a fierce fight, but who had to retreat along the trail into the jungle. The two Allied groups would become known as the Maroubra Force.

Into the Jungle

            Once the Japanese had possession of the village of Kokoda, then they also had control of the only airfield in the island’s northern section. Meanwhile, Maroubra Force had retreated to Deniki, some four miles into the trail, and once there, launched a counterattack to regain control of Kokoda on August 8th, but failed. The Japanese forces continued to move along the trail, while the Maroubra Force had to retreat further along the trail, fighting every step of the way.

A valiant battle was fought at Isurava, after which the Allies retreated to Brigade Hill, where another battle was fought, proving to be disastrous for the Australians, and losing nearly the whole 27th Regiment reinforcement group on the adjoining Mission Ridge. Brigadier Arnold Potts of the Maroubra Force was later replaced by Brigadier Ken Eather, who was the commander at the next battle at Ioribaiwa Ridge. While there were far less losses in that battle, the Australians made a final retreat, and regrouped with new reinforcements for a last battle at Imita Ridge, some 30 miles from Port Moresby. Eather had already been informed by Allied Command, that he would have to hold Imita Ridge at all costs, to keep the Japanese from taking Port Moresby. There were to be no further retreats.

            As the battle at Imita Ridge began, the Japanese had already begun to run out of supplies and reinforcements, so when the Australians fought back, the Japanese had to retreat from where they had just come from. The Australians followed them, hounding them each mile down the track until they were finally pushed all the way back to Gona and Buna, and the Allies retook Kokoda in the process on November 2, 1942.

The Kokoda Track Campaign would be one of the most important decisive battles for the Australians during WW II, that is still remembered and honored today by Australians, even though the battle itself is not well-known internationally.



Australians Japanese
  • General Douglas MacArthur
  • General Sir Thomas Blamey
  • Arthur Allen
  • George Allen
  • Brigadier Arnold Potts
  • Brigadier Ken Eather
  • Major General Tomitarō Horii
  • Colonel Yokoyama Yosuke
  • 39th Battalion (4 platoons)
  • Papuan Infantry Battalion
  • Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) 21st Brigade
  • 25th Brigade (Eather)
  • 12,000 total men involved with the Track
  • 144th Infantry Regiment (three battalions),
  • 41st Infantry Regiment (2nd and 3rd Battalions, with 1st Battalion to join later,
  • 1st Battalion, 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment
  • 6,000 total men involved with the Track
Australian Losses Japanese Losses
  • 625 Australians killed
  • 1,600 wounded
  • 4,000 ill
  • 150 New Guinean locals (PIB and porters)
  • 2,000 killed in battle
  • 3,000 died from disease and illness

Battle of Stalingrad 1942-1943

The Battle of Stalingrad (July 17, 1942-February 2, 1943)

Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia by the Germans, began on June 22, 1941, with a sweeping onslaught over the Russian border, using 150 divisions (three million German soldiers). In the first month, the Germans covered between 200 to 400 miles, and then began the three-prong division of forces. One section headed northeast to Leningrad, commanded by Field Marshall Wilhelm von Leeb; the central part moved towards Moscow, commanded by Field Marshall Fedor von Bock; and the third part headed southeast, first to Kiev, then Rostov, close to Stalingrad, commanded by Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt. Unfortunately for the German command, Adolf Hitler then decided he wanted to split up groups to reinforce the drive, both north and south, instead of moving decisively straight to Moscow. It was during this delayed time of bickering between generals and Hitler about the best direction to advance, that the Russians began to regroup and fortify towns in preparation for fighting back.

Division of Forces

German Field Marshall Rundstedt had initially taken Kiev before the stalemate at the German Command offices. Then he took Rostov, but due to bad weather, could not hold it, so lost it again. Once the summer weather came in, the Germans pushed back, re-taking Rostov, and then Sevastopol, Novorossisk, and finally, the oil fields of Maikop. When the German forces took Sevastopol, the German army was split into two groups, with Group B heading north towards Stalingrad, commanded by General Friedrich Paulus, while Group A headed towards Maikop. On August 23, 1942, the first arrival of Group B, one panzer division and the 3rd Motorized Division, arrived at the northern and southern outskirts of Stalingrad, and waited on the edge of the Volga River for the rest of the forces to pull up.

The Battle Begins

Early on, there was very little resistance, and a massive bombing raid was conducted first, reducing much of Stalingrad into rubble. The Sixth German Army under Paulus, formed of five army corps, 13 infantries, three panzers, three motorized divisions, and one antiaircraft division, began moving into the city. However, the rubble and multitude of dead bodies in the streets, created numerous obstructions in moving forward quickly. As the Germans moved slowly through the city, with Hitler badgering Paulus to make a quick end of things, Russian command was sending in more soldiers. With German forces fully committed inside the city, the battle became bloody, with desperate Russian soldiers and armed civilians fighting hand-to-hand combat with equally desperate German soldiers.

General V.I. Chuikov oversaw the Russian 62nd Army, which was defending the city, while Marshal Georgii K. Zhukov planned a counteroffensive from outside the city. In November 1942, Zhukov surrounded Stalingrad in the event known as Operation Uranus, using six armies of one million soldiers, while Hitler demanded his soldiers stay and fight, with no thought of retreat or surrender. A rescue attempt was made for the German soldiers in Stalingrad, by the 57th Panzer division under General Hermann Hoth, but it only got as far as the Askay River, before it was taken completely out.

Hitler promoted General Paulus to Field Marshall on January 30th, but Paulus, who was captured by the Russians along with his staff on January 31st, and realizing that there was no hope for supplies and reinforcements, surrendered his 91,000 remaining soldiers on February 2, 1943.

The ramifications from this battle was that the Germans suffered a serious defeat, and it was a turning point in World War II, where it was seen that Germany could be defeated. Part of the problem was Hitler’s inability to strategize properly, including understanding the weather problems, and how delays would change the battle plan layout.

It is also said that Hitler wanted Stalingrad destroyed because it carried the name of Russia’s leader, while Stalin refused to give up Stalingrad for the very same reason. With this massive loss of German soldiers, it also weakened Germany to a point, that when the Russians invaded Germany, there were not enough German forces to stave off the attack effectively.

The number of German dead soldiers was about 150,000 picked up from the field, while nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers and civilians died in the battle at Stalingrad.


The Germans The Russians
  • General Friedrich Paulus – Group B, 6th
  • German Army General Hermann Hoth – 57th Panzer Group
  • General Schreck
  • 1,011,500 soldiers
  • 10,290 artillery guns
  • 675 tanks
  • 1,216 planes
  • General V.I. Chuikov – 62nd Army
  • Marshal Georgii K. Zhukov
  • General Konstantin Fokossovsky (initiated surrender terms twice to Paulus) (under Zhukov)
  • 1,000,500 soldiers
  • 13,541 artillery guns
  • 894 tanks
  • 1,115 planes

Photo Gallery

Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber over Stalingrad, Russia, Sep 1942
Source: German Federal Archive

German troops riding on a StuG III assault gun, Stalingrad, Russia, Oct 1942
Photographer: Heine
Source:German Federal Archive

Wrecked Soviet T-34 tank in Stalingrad, Russia, 8 Oct 1942
Photographer: Herber
Source: German Federal Archive

Soviet troops fighting in the ruins of Stalingrad, Russia, late 1942 or early 1943
Source: German Federal Archive

Two Russian women in the ruins of Stalingrad, Russia, Aug 1942
Photographer: Jakov Rjumkin
Source: German Federal Archive

Russian soldiers firing from a rooftop in Stalingrad, Russia, 2 Feb 1943
Source: German Federal Archive

Soviet troops in Stalingrad, Russia, Feb 1943
Photographer: Georgi Zelma
Source: Russian International News Agency

Soviet soldier waving a red flag at a building off the central square in Stalingrad, Russia, Jan-Feb 1943
Photographer: Georgi Zelma
Source: German Federal Archive

Battle of Iwo Jima 1945

Operation Detachment, the attack on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, was just the first step towards an attack on the island of Japan. Both Iwo Jima and Okinawa were important because the Americans needed a base from which to launch that final attack. Iwo Jima also had a radar warning system, with several small airports from which Japanese planes easily could target marine vessels. Therefore, it was vital that the island be captured. For the Americans, these airports would be a haven for any damaged B-29 “Superfortresses” bombers, who needed somewhere close by to land, or else be lost at sea. Three days before the invasion began, naval and air bombardments began on the island, in hopes of reducing the Japanese presence.

The Invasion

When the first Marine divisions landed on the beaches on February 19th, 1945, there was little resistance from the Japanese. But Iwo Jima was an unforgiving terrain of volcanic hardened ash and fine black cinder particles, that hindered both men and amphibious tractor vehicles (amtracs), trying to wade, or roll through it. Many amtracs got stuck on the edge of the beaches, where no traction was available and, eventually, the landing points began to back up with struggling soldiers and immobilized vehicles. The Japanese chose to wait until there was a large enough presence of American troops on the beaches, along with their immovable armored vehicles, and then they opened fire, creating a blood bath on the beaches.

There were over 21,000 Japanese soldiers hidden in a centralized cobweb of caves and corridors, similar to those at Peleliu, leading from one position to another, where attacks could take place at a moment’s notice. Led by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Japanese soldiers were told that before they died on that island, they had to kill at least 10 Americans each, and they did their best to obey that order. Mount Suribachi was located at the southern end, where Japanese soldiers could see out and radio in positions to the northern end, thus setting up the concentrated firing line against those on the beaches. Once assault signal companies arrived on the scene, they were able to pinpoint where the firing was coming from, and American naval bombing became more accurate and effective. The persistent Americans continued landing on the beaches, and moving forward, until it finally became clear to the Japanese that they were outmanned and the Americans were there to take them down.

One Marine regiment headed south to strike at Mount Suribachi, and as they moved over the terrain towards their goal, they bombed and burned pillboxes, caves, and sealed up any connecting tunnels they could find. It was a brutal hard path they made with their flamethrowers, grenades, rockets, and whatever else they could use, to destroy the enemy.

After this battle, a Marine group of soldiers climbed their way up Mount Suribachi, meeting little resistance by then. They finally reached the summit on February 23rd, whereupon the Marines raised the American flag, immortalized in a famous photograph by Joseph John Rosenthal, seen in newspapers around the world. The Marine Corps War Memorial statue that is located close to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is modeled after this picture. When the flag went up, the Marines below cheered loudly and the navy vessel commanders and sailors, who had been watching the journey up the hill through binoculars, had the ship horns blown. It boosted the morale of the fighters on the field of battle and they renewed the fight to capture the island.

Another Marine group had already moved north into what was known as the ‘meatgrinder’, fighting in gullies, caverns, and on ledges, to defeat the enemy. They used flamethrowers and, when possible, tanks. They were also assisted by warship and aircraft bombings, pulverizing the terrain wherever needed, but it was mainly a battlefield conducted on foot. With the addition of another Marine division, as well as a surprise attack at night, the Japanese defenses finally fell apart, and Iwo Jima was officially won by the Americans on March 26th, 1945. The battle had been fought, inch by inch, with many lives lost.


Facts to know:

Americans Japanese
  • Marine casualties at Iwo Jima represented one-third of all Marine casualties in WW II.
  • 70,000 soldiers landed on the island

Fifth Marine Amphibious Corps

  • 3rd Marine Division
  • 4th Marine Division
  • 5th Marine Division
  • 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division with 3,400 that landed, had only 600 survivors
  • Total American casualties: 26,000, larger than the standing Japan army on the island (22,000)
  • Total Americans KIA: 6,800
  • 22,000 soldiers were in place on the island when the Marines began their assault.
  • Zero air fighters on the airfields
  • 750 defense installations were built to cover and hide guns, hospitals, and blockhouses.
  • 13,000 yards of tunnels.
  • Mount Suribachi had 1,000 cave entrances and pillboxes.
  • Less than 1,000 survived (there are differing accounts on this number)
NOTE: There were two flags planted on the summit. The first flag was much smaller, 54 inches by 28 inches, and after it was set in place, there was an attack on the flag setters by the Japanese. There were still several active caves in place with Japanese soldiers determined to remove the flag, who had not been caught before in previous fighting. But, the threat was finally eliminated. This flag was immediately claimed by the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who was watching from a ship. Colonel Chandler Johnson, who had sent up the first flag, then decided to send up another flag, a much bigger one (See C. Peter Chen). First flag raisers were: Lt. Schrier, Platoon Sgt. Ernest Thomas, Sgt. Hansen, Corp. Lindberg, and Louis Charlo.

The second flag, 4 feet by 8 feet, was sent up the hill, and it is this flag setting that Rosenthal took a picture of. There were five Marines and one Navy corpsman. Their names were: Cpl. Harlon block, Navy Pharmacist’s Mate John Bradley, Cpl. Rene Gagnon, PFC Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Michael Strank, and Cpl. Ira Hayes. It was finally learned that this flag had been retrieved from a sinking ship at Pearl Harbor.

Three were later killed in the continued battle on Iwo Jima: Strank, Sousley, and Block.

Battle of Shanghai 1937

The Events Leading to Full-Scale War with Japan

Before World War II began, Japan had already begun incursions into China around 1931, with occasional localized resistance from the Chinese people. Japan, a small island with its own limited resources, planned on taking over China’s raw material resources that Japan needed, to survive. Internally, China was still in a state of disarray from the dissolution of the Qing Dynasty and abdication of its last emperor, and later, the installation of the new Republic of China government in 1912, which faced opposition from warlords. Therefore, China was vulnerable to any outside attacks.

Sun Yat-sen founded the Chinese National Party in 1912, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), which lasted one year, and was then disbanded. After seven years of failed rule, the KMT was brought back to life in 1919 and it became the ruling party. After Sun passed away in 1925, Chiang Kai-shek took over as leader, and set about unifying China, including fighting against the newly formed Communist Party of China (CPC). Between fighting the CPC and the occasional pocket skirmishes with the encroaching aggressive Japanese military forces, it was only a matter of time before a full-scale war would break out.

The War Begins with the Shooting of a Japanese Officer on August 9, 1937

It took one small event, the shooting of a Japanese officer at Hungchiao Airport, and the incident blew wide open, leading Chiang Kai-shek to finally take on a full-out stand. The Japanese navy in Shanghai, with only 300 troops, occupied a small garrison close to the Huangpu River, which fed into the nearby Yangtze River at the Wusong Estuary. Chiang decided he would push the garrison occupants right out into the river. But, he did not take into consideration the naval and air support the fortified garrison would receive from the Japanese navy coming up the Yangtze River from the Yellow Sea close by, or the Japanese troops marching south from Beiping (later known as Beijing after 1949).

Chiang’s army of German-trained Chinese soldiers began their frontal attacks on August 11th, but did not have the larger weapons necessary to bombard the garrison, causing the KMT to suffer heavy casualties in the hundreds of thousands. The entrenched Japanese fighters also suffered heavy losses, but refused to give up.

On August 13th, 10,000 Japanese troops entered Shanghai, and fighting broke out in several districts. At the same time, the 3rd Fleet of the Japanese navy began bombarding Shanghai. On August 14th, Japanese planes from Taiwan began bombing the city as well. Many citizens began leaving the city in droves, creating chaos in the streets. Nearly 10,000 died from these bombings.

The Japanese conducted an amphibious landing, northeast of Shanghai, and fought their way towards inner Shanghai and the garrison. Both sides held as best as they could, but the losses kept rising on both sides as well.

Over the next few months, there were several notable battles in various Shanghai areas, such as the Battle of Jiangyin (August 16th to October 30th) and the Chinese blockade on the Yangtze River to obstruct any Japanese vessels from coming up the river, but it was finally destroyed by aerial bombardment and from navy ships. During the Battle of Luodian (September 11th -15th), the Chinese held the suburban town, as it was a major transportation center, but finally lost it to the Japanese. The Battle for Dachang (October 1st – 25th) was to protect the Chinese center of communications, but was also finally lost to the Japanese.

The Battle for the Sihang Warehouse (October 27th – November 1st ) was one of the most notable small battles in Shanghai, where 414 members of the 524th Regiment, 88th Division under Xie Jinyuan, holed up and planned to fight to the end, as the international community watched from afar. The warehouse stored an abundance of food, medical supplies, and light arms and ammunition, and it would be a last stand situation, geared to garner the sympathies of the west, particularly the Americans.

The Chinese defenders received intelligence from local civilians who held up signs with information, while standing on a nearby bank. Meanwhile, the Japanese cut the electricity and water lines, and attacked any vehicles bringing in supplies, donated by civilians, to the warehouse. Finally, after a very heavy Japanese bombardment, the Chinese defenders, at Chiang’s and western powers’ insistence, left the warehouse, although the Japanese shot several on the way out. This battle was the most public visual picture of the Battle for Shanghai that the western powers saw, and was an inspiration for the Chinese country.

On November 5th, the end of the Battle for Shanghai came, when a second amphibious landing took place south of the city around November, and this time, Chiang realized that they would have to retreat. By November 12th, all Chinese soldiers had exited the city, and the Japanese took over. This would be the first large battle of the Japanese against the Chinese, and took three months instead of three days, as the Japanese originally claimed it would take.


Leaders and Troops at The Battle of Shanghai

The Chinese Leaders The Japanese Leaders
  • General Chiang Kai-shek
  • General Zhang Zhizhong, Commander (Russian double agent)
  • Captain Gao Zhihang, 4th Flying Group
  • General Li Zongren
  • Commander Sun Yuanliang
  • Commander Liu Xing (Jiangyin)
  • Commander Xie Jinyuan
  • Emperor Hirohito, (ruled 1926-1989, known as Showa after his death)
  • General Iwane Matsui, 3rd, 8th, 11th Divisions
  • Admiral Kiyoshi Hasegawa, 3rd Fleet
Military groups Military groups
  • Chinese regulars, 88th Division
  • 36th Division
  • 98th Division (only 1 survived)
  • 4th Flying Group
  • 524th Regiment, 88th Division
  • Japanese 3rd Fleet
  • 3rd Division
  • 8th Division
  • 11th Division
Losses Losses
  • 250,000 (out of 700,000)
  • 10,000+ civilians
  • 40,000 casualties (out of 300,000)

Battle of Kursk 1943

After the Germans defeated the Soviet Union’s 6th Army at Stalingrad, plans were made to attack Kursk, recommended by Field Marshall Erich von Manstein. Adolf Hitler agreed but delayed the plans for a month or so, because he wanted to deliver new tanks to the German forces. The Russians had intercepted messages regarding these plans, and the delay of the attack, allowed them to make defensive plans, and fortify themselves. The objective for the Germans, was to totally destroy the Russian army, and break the people’s resistance. They also wanted to separate the Russians away from the rest of the Allied group, as there was already Russian discontent with the Allies in their not pushing forward with opening up a second western front.

The Attack Begins

As the Russians already knew about the upcoming attack, they began their own attack with an artillery barrage at 2 a.m., on July 5th, 1943. The Germans, now knowing that their plans had been uncovered, began their attack at 4:30 a.m. with their own artillery barrage. Then, they began moving forward, with the 9th Army attacking from both the northern and southern points, heading towards the city. Both sides came to the battle heavily armed with tanks, with the Germans and their Tiger and Panther tanks. They also had the new Ferdinand self-propelled gun, which was very sturdy and accurate. However, set on Tiger tanks, the new cannon proved to be very vulnerable to Russian tank shots from off center positions. The cannon could only fire in a forward position, as it was installed on a fixed turret, making it difficult to adjust to different positions. The tank also had to stop in order to fire.

Once the Tiger with the Ferdinand was at 500 yards, the Russians, who had camouflaged their tanks in most locations, could begin firing back with their own 45-mm cannons, and by 300 yards, they were able to pierce the frontal sections of the German tanks. The Ferdinand mount design also required a large hole at the back, to allow space for the cannon recoil and ejections of the shells. This made it vulnerable to Russian soldiers rushing in from behind, and tossing in grenades and Molotov cocktails (glass bottles with flammable liquids with a lit cloth wick).

While the Germans came well-armed, the Russians had built better defenses, and were able to hold off and, eventually, begin pushing back the Germans. The German army had lost 25,000 soldiers in the first 24 hours, along with 200 aircraft and 200 tanks. As of July 10th, they had lost over two-thirds of the Tiger tanks.

On July 12th, a 1,500 tanks were involved at a battle, that took place, 50 miles southest of Kursk, at Prokhorovka. The Germans from the northern attack group, failed in this battle as well, losing 10,000 men and 350 tanks. The Russians began pushing them back from this point, and by July 19th, having retreated some 45 miles already, Hitler agreed to a further retreat back to Orel, where the army could reorganize again. Every step of the way, the Germans were bombarded by Russian air fighters, and also contended with local partisan groups, who destroyed much of the rail tracks as well.

The southern German attack forces were having similar problems. Having started out with 300,000 men and 600 tanks, against 1 million Russian soldiers and their tanks groups, not including the reserves they also had in place, the Germans had to retreat. Rail lines had also been damaged in this area, including the derailment of over 1,000 train loads of German troops, who were to be reinforcements. When the Russians took back and liberated the city of Kharkov, then for all intents and purposes, the battle of Kursk was considered over. The Germans had lost 500,000 men in casualties, either killed, lost, or injured, including massive amounts of armor, particularly in tanks, and this battle was considered the death knell of German invasion goals in Russia.

 Things to Know at Kursk

Soviet Union

Marshall Georgy Zhukov

Lt. General Konstantin Rokossovsky

Marshall Nikolai Vatutin

Lt. General Ivan Konev (backup)


Field Marshall Erich von Manstein

Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge

Commander Hermann Hoth

General Werner Kempf

Field Marshal Walther Model 

  • 1.3 million soldiers
  • 20,000 artillery guns
  • 3,600 tanks
  • 2,400 planes
  • 300,000 citizens who helped with building defenses, road work, and digging trenches
  • 900,000 soldiers
  • 10,000 artillery guns
  • 2,700 tanks (new T-34 with 85mm gun & the JS-II with 122mmm gun)
  • 2,000 aircraft (Shturmovik ground-attack aircraft)
 Note: Defensive zones in the Kursk battle, laid down by Russians (and civilians), amounted to 500,000 anti-tank mines, 440,000 anti-personnel mines, and barbed wire fences, including electrified.

Battle of Okinawa 1945

The Battle of Okinawa

On the Sea

The battle of Okinawa, code name Operation Iceberg, intended as the last step before the planned invasion of Japan, was fought on both land and sea. It became the last major battle in the Pacific in World War II. While Americans were slugging it out with entrenched well-armed Japanese on the island, a picket line of destroyers (DDs) and destroyer escort (DEs) vessels, kept open the lifeline of sea lanes needed to keep reinforcements coming in on a continuous basis. Kamikaze pilots, who volunteered for the honor to drive their planes into the vessels, carried roughly 3,000 to 4,700 pounds of explosives, strapped to the plane’s belly, which was then aimed at the target vessel. Added to this, were several mini submarines and speed boats, which sped to the vessels, to accomplish the same end result from sea level, aiming into the sides of the American vessels.

The Strategy at Sea

A ring of DDs and DEs were set for surrounding the island to protect the lanes and landing points on the island. A picket line point was set at 20 miles out, with a second at 40 miles out, and a third at 70 miles out. Each point had rings of picket groups, and all were named Task Flotilla 5. Each ring was assigned a fighter-director team, which connected with a specified fighter squadron, that could be called in for help. Starting out with one destroyer for each ring, more were added on over the following days, because of the fierce attacks made by planes and small vessels.

Of note was the destroyer, the U.S.S. Hadley, which joined Station 15 on the picket line. In joint operations with the destroyer Evans on April 11th, the two ships took out 50 planes and rockets in the air, in just one day. The Hadley took many hits during this battle and almost sank, continuing to fire its guns, but was finally saved by its crew before it could sink. Twenty-eight sailors were lost, and 67 wounded onboard the Hadley.

Of 98 destroyers and 52 destroyer escorts sent out, 61 were hit during these attacks. Over 5,000 sailors and crew died, while 4,800 were wounded, with 13 destroyers and one destroyer escort sunk. Vessels severely damaged were 10 battleships, 13 carriers, and five cruisers, while 47 destroyers and escorts had also been damaged. It is unknown just how many kamikaze planes and boats, including their operators were lost.

On the Island

The Japanese soldiers were holed up in defense lines across the island, within pillboxes, caves, and several old castles, making it hard for the Americans to get to them without incurring casualties. The Allied objective was to capture the island’s airports, Yontan and Kadena, utilizing the 111 Amphibious Corps and the XXIV Army Corps under Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. The 6th Marine Division landed on the northern beaches to the west, while the 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions landed in the southern half. Marine air groups of fighters and light bombers gave support from overhead.

Opposition, initially, was very light, and Yontan Airfield was easily captured, with Kadena captured by nightfall. As parts of the island were taken, it wasn’t until April 6th, that the first major resistance came from the embedded Japanese soldiers. The Americans had to strengthen its forces before moving further. On May 3rd, Japanese troop reinforcements landed on the wrong beach where Company B, fronted the XXIV Corps, and the two sides engaged in fierce battle, which the Americans finally won.

Alerted by this one attempt for Japanese soldiers landing on the island, the rest of the coastlines were protected from any further landings and Japanese reinforcements. The Americans, however, were still getting reinforcements. The American troops began moving throughout the island to flush out the enemy troops, engaging in bloody battles along the way. As the Americans had better training than the majority of Japanese soldiers, it was only a matter of time, until their downfall. But that still came at a cost to both sides, more so for the Japanese. On June 19th, Japanese soldiers began surrendering to the Americans by the hundreds, and on June 22nd, Marine Maj. Gen. Roy Geiger declared the island as won.

Six weeks later, two atomic bombs were dropped over Japan, one on Hiroshima, and one on Nagasaki, thus ending the war. The invasion of Japan never occurred as originally planned.


Facts to know:

Participants in the Battle at Okinawa: Operation Iceberg (82 days)
  • Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (sea)
  • Commander General Simon B. Buckner (KIA) (land)
  • Marine Maj. Gen. Roy Geiger (replaced Buckner)
  • US 10th Army
  • General Ushijima Mitsuru (suicide)
  • 32nd Army
  • 1,500 ships
  • 1,200 transport and supply ships
  • 500,000 sailors and crew
  • 182,000 soldiers (on Okinawa)
  • 300 attack boats to assist the ground troops during battle
  • 155,000 defenders (100,000 soldiers under Mitsuru, 32nd Army)
Losses During the Battle
At sea:

  • Over 5,000 sailors and crew died
  • 4,800 wounded
  • 13 destroyers and 1 cruiser sunk
  • 10 battleships, 13 carriers, and 5 cruisers severely damaged
  • 47 destroyers and cruisers also hit and damaged 

On land:

  • 14,000 soldiers KIA
  • 50,000 casualties
At sea:

  • 2,800 aircraft
  • 1 battleship (Yamato)
  • 1 light cruiser
  • 4 destroyers
  • 10,000 killed (roughly)

On land:

  • 100,000 civilians
  • 77,000 soldiers KIA

Battle of Berlin 1945

When the End Began

The Battle to take Berlin began on April 16th, 1945, with the Soviet Union marching towards the city, while the rest of the Allied forces waited out to the west, 60 miles away. By prior arrangement, the Soviets would have the right to take the city. Fifty miles east of Berlin, Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov waited at Küstrin on the Oder with 768,100 soldiers, ready to roll forward with mortars, tanks, light and heavy artillery, and multi-barreled rockets launchers (Katyushas). He had brought everything he could get his hands on, and was ready to hit at the German troops located close by. Zhokov counted down the minutes until 4 a.m., and when it arrived, an inferno of bombs, artillery, and all the revenge of the Russians, rained down on the German countryside and troops. It was the beginning of pure revenge from those who had suffered during the Germans’ previous invasion into the Soviet Union, and there would be no quarter given. Germans soldiers’ bodies were piled high, including some of the Russians who got caught by Russian bombs.

From the south, when 6 a.m. came, Marshall Ivan Konev, of the 1st Ukrainian Army Group, attacked from across the Neisse River, with nearly as heavy a bombardment as Zukov’s attack. Both Marshalls wanted the glory of entering Berlin first, so when Zukov was having difficulty breaking through the Seelow Heights, Konev quickly asked permission of Stalin to move into Berlin, as he was ready to go. Yet, as permission came, and he broke through the city’s southern defenses, Stalin gave him orders to cover the western part of the city, while Zhukov got the other side, including the prize location for the Soviet Union flag to be raised – The Reichstag.

Inside Berlin

Both Russian armies moved in, battling from street to street against any soldiers still there, along with any citizens, who could fight, while services and transportation came to a standstill, including the telegraph office. Most Germans left in Berlin, feared the retributions of the Russians for the 23 million Russian soldiers and citizens who had died at the hands of German soldiers during the invasion of Russia that started in 1941. The German defense units left to fight the Russians in the city, with no plans drawn up for the city’s defense, were close to 300,00, but mainly old men and young boys, sent to the slaughter, some against their will by death threats from the SS. , Many SS soldiers hanged any boys and others, who would not fight. As the Russians moved through the streets, they looted stores and homes, assaulted women, and destroyed everything in their path.

In the midst of the fighting in his city, Adolf Hitler was huddled in his bunker with his mistress, Eva Braun, whom he married in the last hours of their lives, on April 28th, 1945. After writing out his will early the next morning, with Martin Bormann, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, and Colonel Nicholas von Below as witnesses, Hitler later had his last staff conference, and then retired with Eva into their room. While both took poison, Hitler also shot himself in the head. Both were later found by their valet, who wrapped them in blankets, and, with the help of others, put them outside in the garden. With gasoline poured over them, they were then burned, and later covered, as per Hitler’s wishes.

The fighting continued on for several days, with Russians battling against Germans on foot with portable anti-tank weapons, along with hit-and-run attacks, particularly by boys, who were made to run under the tanks and detonate a grenade.

The End of the German Nazi Regime

Finally, on May 2nd, Berlin surrendered to the Russians, with the whole of Germany, surrendering on May 7th, 1945. The Russians had 275,000 wounded or missing, with about 80,000 killed in action. During this battle, 150,000 Germans were killed. It was after the fall of Berlin, that the truth of the Jewish extinction program was finally uncovered for everyone to see.
Stalin had asked for the right to enter Berlin first, publically, because he wanted revenge on the Germans. But there was also another lesser known reason, and that was the desire to get his hands on the Germans’ nuclear research center. The NKVD special troops, assigned to carry out this task, found three tons of uranium oxide, which they took control of, and shipped it all back to Russia. This helped shore up Russia’s own nuclear program, initiating Operation Borodino, which had been slow to start.

Participants in the Battle
  • General Lt. A.D. Reymann-Commander of the Berlin Defense Area (until April 22 1945)
  • Five Commanders over 3 months
  • Army Group Vistula
  • Marshall Georgi K. Zhukov-1st Belorussian Army Group
  • Marshall Ivan Konev-1st Ukrainian Army Group
  •  1,000,000 (300,000 inside Berlin)
  • (45,000 boys and old men)
  • 10,400 artillery
  • 1,500 tanks (Panzerfaust)
  • aircraft
  • 2,500,000 soldiers (1,000.000 into the city)
  • 41,000 artillery
  • 6,250 tanks (T-34)
  • 7,500 aircraft (1st day, 15,000 sorties)
According to hospital reports in Berlin, 100,000 German women were raped by the Russians during the taking of Berlin. As despicable, was the report in Russian files, of Russian soldiers raping Russian women released from Nazi labor camps in Germany.

Allied Invasion of Southern France 1944

The original plans for Operation Dragoon (formerly called Anvil), the invasion of southern France, was to coincide with the landings at Normandy (Operation Sledgehammer), on the northern coastline. Due to the Allied invasion of Italy, which was taking longer than expected, the southern France invasion plan was put back until August, 1944. Both Sledgehammer and Anvil were then renamed Operation Overlord and Operation Dragoon, respectively. The landing groups consisted of the 3rd, 45th, and 36th Infantry Divisions of the 6th Corps on three beaches of the Var coastline, close to Toulon. These beaches were at Cavalaire-sur-Mer, Saint-Tropez, and Saint-Raphaël (codename Alpha, Delta, and Camel respectively). The 1st Airborne Task Force, meanwhile, would drop in at Le Muy, to engage the Germans, and prevent them from attacking the beach landings, while Task Force 88 at sea, would provide gunfire and air support. The Le Muy area was vital for capturing because it would help secure the beach landings, as well as provide a pathway into the Argens valley corridor. German defenses, during this time, consisted of one tank battalion of the 11th Panzer Division, and 11 divisions of Army Group G, thinly stretched over 56 miles on the coast. Many of the German forces had been moved north by then, to fight against the northern invasion at Normandy and surrounding areas.

The Invasion

On August 14th, the first landings began, starting with taking over the islands of Port-Cros and Levant, of the Îles d’Hyères, by the 1st Special Service Force. Much of the communications and transportation systems had already been taken out by French resistance fighters on land, while any battery unit installations on Cap Nègre were destroyed by French commandos, providing a fairly easy landing for those on Alpha and Delta beaches. Those landing on Camel, however, had far more resistance, and had to readjust to a different landing point. While some German troops surrendered to the Allies, as they moved inland the rest retreated north, with skirmishes along the way. Of importance, was the fact that when the railroads were destroyed in order to cut off supplies to the Germans before the invasion started, the Allies had to wait until they were re-established enough, including the opening of nearby ports, to get their own supplies rolling in again.

While Allied troops were attempting to cut off the escape route of the retreating Germans, French troops headed along the coast to Toulon and Marseille, engaged the enemy, and liberated both cities on August 27th. Mobile forces, along with the 36th Infantry Division, met up with the retreating Germans, who turned to take a stand at Montélimar. While both sides battled each other, neither could move one way or another until, finally, the Germans turned and escaped north. The Allies, now refortified with VI Corps and the French II Corps, captured Montelimar first, then liberated Lyon, as they gave chase to the retreating Germans, who finally escaped through the Vosges Mountains.

The invasion from the south, greatly assisted operations in the north in freeing France from the German occupation. This invasion and subsequent battle occurred between two larger events, the Battle of Normandy and the Invasion (Liberation) of Italy, and, therefore, is not discussed as much, yet has great importance to the success of the northern Allied endeavors in France. The Allied retaking of the railroads and sea ports, Marseilles in particular, allowed for reinforcements and supplies to be brought in and transported quickly to the front lines. With the Allies now controlling the Mediterranean, it was open waters for the Allies to push back the Germans into their homeland, and have enough supplies to do it. It should also be noted that the combined Franco-American forces were at their best during this time, mainly because the French were finally ridding themselves of the German fascist regime. The assistance from French resistance groups also helped immeasurably to get supplies from the locals, along with other assistance, which kept the forces going.

 Participants in Operation Dragoon
 Allied Commanders Axis (German) Commanders
  • General Jacob Devers – 6th Army Group
  • Major General Alexander Patch-US 7th Army
  • General Jean de Lattre d Tassigny-French Army B
  • Major General Lucian Truscott-VI Corps
  • Major General Robert T. Frederick-1st Airborne Task Force
  • General George S. Patton-US 3rd Army
  • Vice Adm. Henry K. Hewitt-Western Naval Task Force
  • General John E. Dahlquist-36th Division
  • Colonel General Johannes Blaskowitz -Army Group G
  • General Wend von Wietersheim-11th Panzer Division
  • General Richard von Schwerin-189th Infantry Division
  • General Friedrich Wiese-19th Army
 Losses During the Invasion
  •  17,000 killed and wounded
  • 43,000 taken prisoner (rough count)
  • 45,000 cut off (unknown ending)
  • 7,000 killed, 21,000 wounded
 Opening Counts of Soldiers in the Field
 175,000-200,000 soldiers  85,000-100,000 at attack site

285,000-300,000 in region