Here is the ultimate synchronisation of details and events which signalled the last six months of the greatest conflict the world has ever known. It involved over 100 countries, it killed 50 million people and absorbed six years of struggle and bloodshed for the peoples of half the globe.
It started with the thirst for revenge by a Germany humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles. Humiliation which turned into a need for national reconstruction and respect, urged on by the nationalistic rantings of the most evil dictator world history has ever produced.
The fact that Britain stood alone in 1940, with its empire and commonwealth, was not by itself sufficient to defeat the tyrant and his Allies and it was only when America joined the struggle that its factories, raw materials and shipyards, eventually produced a numerical superiority of aircraft, ships and tanks that the Third Reich’s days were numbered.
The great war leaders, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin committed the largest forces ever assembled in order to defeat the combined might of Germany, Italy and Japan. Forcing Hitler to die by his own hand, was the only way to rid the world of his particular brand of genocidal fascism. The series commences in mid-February 1945 with the Allies already victorious on D-Day and pursuing the Germans back from whence they came, through France, through Belgium, through the Netherlands, through the Ruhr to Berlin, to the very heart of Hitler’s evil empire.
The Russians expended the lives of millions of men in their last desperate attempt to reach Berlin first and Germany was split into two by an Iron Curtain.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the Allies, mainly with American air and seapower, captured the islands which gave them the springboard into the very home islands of Japan itself. Each bloody island encounter demonstrated the fanatical tenacity of the Japanese defenders and the Allies were left with no alternative but to develop an ultimate weapon system, so terrible that it would render major wars obsolete for another 60 years.
Even when America freed the Philippines in barbaric hand to hand fighting, the Japanese would still not surrender and rather than lose over 1 million Allied soldiers in landing on Japan itself, the Allies gave warning to the Japanese war leaders that they were prepared to use the ultimate weapon. In fact, the Atomic bomb had to be used twice in order to secure eventual Japanese surrender.
Each week is minutely examined with high technology maps, rare archive film, the recollections of servicemen and state of the art 3D computer graphics which bring alive for today’s viewer, the tactics and strategy employed to free the world by August 1945 from those who sought to destroy it. Week by week the series builds to the inevitable and exciting climax which culminates in the final Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in August 1945.
Produced by Nugus/Martin Productions Ltd. for The History Channel
Part 1: February 18-24
The Battle for Iwo Jima
The battle for Iwo Jima begins – one of the bloodiest of World War II. Follow the action in this series that details, week by week, the last six months of World War II and explores the high and low points of the march to war’s end. During Operation Detachment, fighting becomes a brutal frontal attack of hand-to-hand combat. Both the portable and mechanized flamethrowers as well as LVTs (Landing Vehicle, Tracked) were vital during the intense battles on the volcanic island. Meanwhile in the Philippines, U.S. forces completely surround the center of Manila, as the tempo of the Japanese atrocities increases. Before long, General MacArthur will make an emotional return to Corregidor Island.
Part 2: February 25-March 3
The Allies Advance
In this episode of our series that details, week by week, the last six months of WWII, American daytime bombing and British night raids have devastated Berlin. In the Battle for the Rhineland, an estimated 8.5 million people are on the move in Germany. The backbone of the Luftwaffe, Germany’s once mighty Air Force, has been broken. Hitler is now visibly shaken. On the Eastern Front, Allied leaders – British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin meet at Yalta, in the Russian Crimea. They agree that Germany will be conquered by summer, and begin to divide up post-war Europe.
Part 3: March 4-10
Firestorm Over Tokyo
In this episode, Operation Lumberjack, the assault into the Rhineland by General Bradley’s U.S. 12th Army Group, is in full swing. In Berlin, Hitler announces that all males born in 1929 must be conscripted for military service. To the south, Patton’s lead armored division has progressed over 40 miles and taken 5,000 German prisoners. And as Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower deliberates on where to make his main crossing of the Rhine, U.S. forces in the Pacific torch Japan’s capital city in a horrific assault from above. Join us for a week-by-week account of activities in both theaters of war as the Second World War nears its end in Europe and continues to rage across the Pacific.
Part 4: March 11-17
Hitler’s Last Offensive
The B-29s blitz and the U.S. Air Force’s new low-level bombing tactics using incendiary bombs prove deadly for the Japanese. General Curtis LeMay hopes to force a Japanese surrender before American ground forces are scheduled to invade the mainland. Meanwhile in Europe, the Allies are closing in. With the Rhine breached, most Nazis realize their days are numbered and the end is inevitable. Hitler leaves the Reich Chancellory for the last time, and 16-year-old Anne Frank succumbs to typhus in the Belsen concentration camp.
Part 5: March 18-24
The Race for Berlin
In this episode, Allied forces commanded by generals Montgomery, Bradley, and Devers are poised to make their way across the Rhine and head for Berlin. In the East, German-occupied territories are collapsing under the Red Army. It is a race of armies and egos and the U.S. and the Soviets try to reach Berlin first. Meanwhile, in occupied Denmark, Mosquito fighter-bombers from the RAF’s Number 140 Wing head for the Danish Gestapo headquarters, where many innocent civilians have been killed. And in the Pacific, fighting continues and U.S. forces invade the Philippine Island of Panay.
Part 6: March 25-31
War in the Pacific
As March of ’45 drew to a close, even the most steadfast Germans could see the inevitable end, and thousands of troops surrendered to the Allied forces as they raced from the Rhine to Berlin. Beneath the city, Hitler lived out his final days in delusion while Allied commanders tried to claim as much of the capital for themselves as possible. And in the Pacific, Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest and most brutal battles of the war, and set the stage for Okinawa.
Part 7: April 1-7
The Invasion of Okinawa
By the first week of April, 1945, tensions among the Allies were heating up. General Eisenhower has decided to halt the Allied advance at the Elbe River–just 60 miles west of Berlin. When Eisenhower decided to stop his advance, it let the Soviets take Berlin. In Bavaria, forces headed toward what they thought would be a Nazi final stand. And half a world away, men and machinery geared up for “Operation Iceberg,” the Battle for Okinawa. 172,000 troops would meet staunch opposition from the island’s fanatical Japanese defenders.
Part 8: April 8-14
Nazi Death Camps
Berlin lies in ruins. Nearly 120,000 people are homeless. FDR’s sudden death stuns the world. Tension among the Allies builds as the gulf of distrust between Stalin and Churchill widens. The Ruhr industrial area west of Berlin is now nearly conquered. But away from the German heartland, fighting continues. In Italy, the Allies launch an offensive aimed at clearing the Nazi troops from the country. In the Pacific, the Army’s 96th Division launches an attack on Okinawa’s Mount Shuri, while Tokyo is hit by more massive bombing raids as US troops continue to forge ahead.
Part 9: April 15-21
Assault on Berlin
The Red Army launches its assault on the German capital and Ernie Pyle is fatally wounded at Okinawa. As the Red Army’s assault on Berlin begins, Hitler passes his 56th birthday in a bunker deep below the city. The Seventh Army captures Nuremburg while the Soviet government starts laying the groundwork for the Cold War in a treaty with Poland. Halfway around the world, the brutal battle for Okinawa rages, and among the victims is Ernie Pyle, one of the War’s most distinguished and revered correspondents.
Part 10: April 22-28
Bloody Stalemate on Okinawa
Berlin has been reduced to rubble, setting the stage for the Red Army’s entry. Benito Mussolini’s brutal murder forces Hitler to consider that his “Thousand Year Reich” is at an end, even though prisoners are still being marched to the death camps. And in the Pacific, the action at Okinawa comes to a boil as the Americans gradually infiltrate the forbidding Shuri region.
Part 11: April 29-May 5
The Fall of Berlin
After weeks of battles and political squabbles among the Allies, Berlin finally falls. But Hitler does not live to see his capital overrun, choosing instead to commit suicide in his bunker. While some Nazi forces still fight, the real battle rages in the Pacific, where the Japanese launch a massive counter-offensive at Okinawa. And in a move which shocks residents of the west coast, a balloon bomb kills six people in Oregon.
Part 12: May 6-12
In London, Paris, New York, and Moscow, people take to the streets celebrating victory. Denmark, Norway, and the Channel Islands are liberated. However, in the Pacific Theater there is still heavy fighting on Okinawa and in the Philippines. It’s a matter of honor for the Japanese who cannot contemplate the shame of defeat and surrender. U.S. General Simon Buckner is determined to keep up the pressure.
Part 13: May 13-19
The Bloodshed Continues
As the last remnants of the Nazi regime are dismantled, the “Big 3” nations set about the daunting task of rebuilding a continent shattered by nearly six years of war. In the Pacific, while the battle for the Philippines is turning in their favor, U.S. troops have come to a brutal stalemate in Okinawa. The US also continues to soften the enemy’s defenses on mainland Japan. In the US, shocking evidence of a Japanese/German bomb making alliance ends up on the shores of New Hampshire–a timely and valuable discovery for the United States government and its atomic bomb project.
Part 14: May 20-26
Victory in Europe
In Europe, several high-ranking Nazi officials are arrested, including Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s most notorious and brutal henchmen. Soon after, Himmler commits suicide. Okinawa–the last stepping stone on the way to mainland Japan. The Allied High Command deems the island’s capture absolutely vital, but the already difficult fight is complicated when the region is hit by torrential rain and the battlefield becomes a quagmire. Meanwhile, U.S. bombers continue to pound mainland Japan and submarines have isolated the country from the outside world. And in the Philippines, Japanese troops try desperately trying to hold the Wawa Dam on the Marikina River, following the successful US assault on the Ipo Dam on Luzon a few days earlier.
Part 15: May 27-June 2
Japan Fights to the Death
Fighting on Okinawa intensifies as the Japanese begin their retreat. Enemy forces on the island of Borneo send hundreds of Australian and British soldiers on a death march across the island, while US forces continue to wipe out scattered opposition on the Philippines. In Europe, British troops oversee the transfer of thousands of Nazi sympathizers from Russia to Yugoslavia. And the continent’s food shortage is now a top priority in Washington.
Part 16: June 3-9
U.S. forces make further advances in the Philippines while fanatical Japanese troops continue to hold out on the Pacific Island of Okinawa. With the War in Europe over, King Haakon of Norway triumphantly returns to his country after five years of exile and the Big Four meet to discuss the division of Germany into four main occupation zones. Meanwhile, Allied troops make several startling discoveries, and the Soviets announce they’ve found the charred remains of Hitler’s body.
Part 17: June 10-16
Closer to Victory
On Okinawa, a U.S. victory is now in sight, while in the Philippines, the Japanese are holed up in the Sierra Madre Mountains. In Germany, Marshal Zhukov confers the Soviet Order of Victory – made of diamond-encrusted platinum – on Eisenhower and Montgomery. Eisenhower is also awarded the Order of Merit–Britain’s most prestigious honor–and the Freedom of the City of London. After Churchill warns of the “Iron Curtain” falling over Europe and Truman fails to reconsider the tripartite division of Germany, Soviet authorities start the forcible expulsion of ethnic Germans from the Sudetanland.
Part 18: June 17-23
Victory on Okinawa
In the Philippines, Appari, the last port held by the Japanese, falls to U.S. forces, who now make contact with Filipino guerrillas. After three months of some of the most bitter fighting of the entire war, the Japanese finally cease trying to defend Okinawa against U.S. forces. At dawn the Japanese commander, Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima emerges from his bunker in a cave and commits ritual suicide in front of his shocked and demoralized staff officers. Victory at Okinawa places U.S. forces just 400 miles from mainland Japan. Lt. General Simon B. Buckner, commander-in-chief of the U.S. 10th Army, is killed by shrapnel as he visits front line troops.
Part 19: June 24-30
The End in Sight
In Moscow, more than 200 captured Nazi banners are ceremonially dragged across a rain-soaked Red Square and thrown to the ground in front of Lenin’s tomb to the rumble of hundreds of drums. British bombers destroy the bridge over the River Kwai that the Japanese had forced weak and suffering Allied POWs to build. A Chinese envoy is the first of 50 delegates to sign the charter of the newly-formed United Nations. And as the bitter campaign in the Philippines drags on, President Truman approves a plan to invade mainland Japan. Five million troops, mainly American, will take part.
Part 20: July 1-7
Victory in the Phillippines
33,000 Australian troops land in the Great Sundra Islands and win control of Asia’s richest oil regions. In Manila, General Douglas MacArthur declares the Philippines free from Japanese occupation. In Berlin, the first U.S. occupation troops arrive as Allied forces hold a victory parade. But another hero of the war suffers a crushing defeat when Churchill loses the General Election. This episode also features a profile of “Old Leather Face” and the campaign against the Japanese in China.
Part 21: July 8-14
In Indochina, Chinese forces advance rapidly eastwards and cut the last link between the Japanese army and its garrison, while the U.S. 3rd Fleet joins the attack on Tokyo for the first time. In Berlin, U.S. and British troops take control of their allotted sectors from the Red Army. In turn, the two countries agree to share some control with the French. And General Eisenhower issues a farewell message to all Allied troops in Europe. Finally, this episode profiles the F-6 Hellcat as the “Weapon of the Week.”
Part 22: July 15-21
The Manhattan Project
In Europe, the war’s aftermath is gaining steam: the Municipal Council in Berlin confiscates the property of former Nazi party members while President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill arrive in Potsdam for the “Big Three” conference. But in the Pacific, the fighting rages on: U.S. navy ships launch an attack on Japan’s second biggest steelworks, while 1,000 carrier-based planes bomb six of the island’s main towns. And in New Mexico, the U.S. tests the first atomic bomb at the Alamogordo Bombing Range.
Part 23: July 22-28
The Final Ultimatum
As the last vestiges of Japanese resistance crumble, Truman announces his intention to drop the atomic bomb. In Burma, 5,000 Japanese troops, trapped in the Pegu Hills, attempt to make a break east towards the Sittang River. In the Philippines, all organized Japanese resistance in the Sarangani Bay area ends. At the Potsdam Conference, President Truman announces that the atom bomb will be used against the Japanese as soon after August 3rd as is possible. And in New York, a freak accident leaves a B-25 bomber implanted into the side of the Empire State Building. This episode of LAST DAYS OF WWII also chronicles the wartime career of Winston Churchill, who became Britain’s Prime Minister on the day Germany attacked France and the Low Countries.
Part 24: July 29-August 4
American forces attack Japanese aircraft factories at Hamamutsu and southern Honshu. Allied mines are dropped in China to stop Japanese shipping on the Yangtze Rive. The U.S. heavy cruiser Indianapolis is sunk by the Japanese in the Philippines. The Allied forces decide to suppress the growth of the German economy. The Potsdam Conference comes to a close, and Soviet Union joins the war against Japan.
Part 25: August 5-11
The War Comes to an End
The final stage of WW2 saw American forces drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagaski in August 1945, killing at least 129,000 people. The Soviet government declares war on Japan for its refusal to respond to demands to surrender, and the U.S. Army arrives at Luzon and prepares for the invasion of Japan.
Part 26: August 12-18
In Tokyo, the Japanese government at last accepts the inevitable and surrenders to the Allies unconditionally. President Truman declares that “this is the day we’ve been waiting for since Pearl Harbor.” Emperor Hirohito makes an emotional broadcast to the Japanese nation saying that they had to surrender to keep the country from being destroyed by “a new and most cruel bomb.” The surrender is formally made to General MacArthur at a ceremony aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.