Skip to comments.1943 - THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Posted on 12/31/2013 10:18:46 PM PST by CougarGA7
December 7th, 1943 was not another day that would live in infamy. There was no sudden shift on any single war front. There were no surprise attacks. There was no significant shift on any of the front lines. The New York Times that day did report something of extreme significant. Six days prior, the Allied leaders, Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt completed and signed the 3-Power Declaration. This was the outcome of the Tehran Conference in Iran in which these leaders decided how they would complete the war as well as conduct the peace after the war was over. There was no longer any debate over whether or not the Nazis could be defeated. This was now a forgone conclusion.
This was a significant shift from how things were just two years prior. 730 days earlier the American base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan and the United States was thrust into the war. As 1942 progressed things did not initially go the Allies way either. Most of the Pacific Rim fell to Japan. The Nazis had pressed into southern Russia all the way to Stalingrad. Even with the first signs that things were going to turn for the Allies, victory seemed like a distant vision; perhaps even an impossibility. 1943 would be different. The advantages created by end of 1942 would continue to be exploited and victory became a tangible reality.
On the eastern front, the Soviets continued to put pressure on the Wehrmacht in the south. Stalingrad was surrounded. The 6th Army had no orders, and by now no means to break out of the city to escape the closing noose. Hitler, who still doggedly clung to the idea of the German Army finding a way to salvage the situation refused to allow his surrounded soldiers to attempt to escape, or surrender. In fact he went as far as to promote commanding general Friedrich Paulus to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall. Hitlers reasoning was simple. A German field marshal had never surrendered in the entire history of Germany. Paulus received the new rank and after careful consideration came to the conclusion that there is a first time for everything. In February, the 6th Army lay down its arms in Stalingrad. Paulus surrender was the first in what would be a continuous collapse of the lines on the eastern front.
By the end of the year, the Soviets had taken back a large portion of Germanys advances in the east. Major city after major city would fall back into the Soviets hands. Kursk, Rostov, Stalino, Smolensk, Dniepropetrovsk, Kiev; all of these cities would again be rejoined to the Soviet Union. In the trail of this advance, German forces were being worn to the barest of threads. The only offensive strike attempted by the Germans, OPERATION ZITADELLE, would result in the largest tank engagement in history. This would take place around the city of Kursk. The 50 day long battle would ultimately involve over four million troops, 70,000 artillery pieces, 12,000 aircraft, and 23,000 tanks. The largest ever single day engagement would take place on July 12th and would involve around 1,500 tanks. The result would be a sound defeat for the Germans and would mark the last German offensive on the eastern front. 1944 would open with the Soviets within a stones throw of entering the former country of Poland.
Meanwhile, the western Allies were making some noise of their own. The American forces that had landed in North Africa the previous year had advanced all the way to Tunisia. These forces would get their first taste of hard combat in February when they were soundly defeated in what is more commonly known as the Kasserine Pass. This was the blooding that was needed though and when they had recovered from this drubbing, they went on to support the ousting of the Germans and Italians from North Africa. American troops would enter the port town of Bizerte as the British took the city of Tunis. The Axis was finally expelled from the African continent.
U. S. troops would better show their mettle when the next target in the Mediterranean was struck. OPERATION HUSKEY, the battle for Sicily, would put generals Bernard Montgomery of the British and George S. Patton in direct competition for which troops would play the most significant role in the capture of the island. Patton would show is value as a commander as he quickly moved his units up the west side of the island and capture the town of Palermo. The race was not on to be the first to Messina. Montgomerys Eighth Army headed up the east coast of the island but got held up at the town of Catania. Patton and the Seventh Army was set significantly far to the west when he hit the north coast due to his orders to take Palermo first. He would go on to use a series of coastal landings to spur his advance and would arrive in Messina a full 18 hours before the first of Montgomerys forces could get into the town. This still was not fast enough though since at 6:30 am on the day Patton arrived in Messina, Generaloberst Hans-Valentin Hube telegraphed Field Marshal Al Kesselring that he had successfully ferried 40,000 German and 70,000 Italian troops across to Italy along with 10,000 vehicles, 200 guns, 47 tanks, and 1000 tons of ammunition. The Nazis had escaped.
The British Eighth quickly follow up with landings on the toe of Italy. The Americans, now under the command of General Mark Wayne Clark would follow up later by landing south of Naples and Salerno. The fall of Sicily would prove to be too much for the Italian government to handle. King Victory Emmanuel III would step in and remove Mussolini from power. He would be replaced by Pietro Badoglio. Badoglio was better known for his role in the 1935 invasion of Abyssinia when he was charged by Mussolini to use mustard gas to complete the victory over the Ethiopian forces. Badoglio would sue for peace and even go so far as to declare war on Germany. Hitler would step in though. In September, OPERATION EICHE would rescue the incarcerated Mussolini, and he would be installed as the puppet head of a northern Italian country that was in reality just the land occupied by German troops.
As Hitler was coming to realize that he was in trouble things were also going awry in the Pacific. The true turning point of the Pacific war had happened in 1942. The defeat of Midway in June, 1942, was a sound defeat and would be the last offensive operation of the Japanese in the war. By August, U. S. Marines had landed on Guadalcanal and had started the slow process of removing the Japanese from the plethora of islands they had occupied. At the start of 1943, Guadalcanal was in a mop up mode. The last Japanese troops finally escaped the island in February. The operation in the Pacific continued with its limited resources, and a commitment to a two prong strategy.
Douglas MacArthur would continue his work on liberating New Guinea from the Japanese and by the end of the year had made significant progress up the coast of this large island. Chester Nimitz on the other hand would begin the process of liberating many of the small islands that would serve as a stepping stone to the islands of Japan itself.
One of these islands that would be liberated in 1943 was Tarawa. This island and this invasion would be very telling as to what the U. S. forces would have to face in the process of defeating Japan. Marines would land on this fortified island and would defeat the Japanese forces on it in a manner of days. But this would come at a terrible cost. A small island that was hardly even large enough to build an airstrip on would cost the American forces 3,797 casualties. 1696 of these men were killed in action. At the same time, the Japanese would absorb terrible casualties before submitting. There were over 4700 Japanese forces on this little island. By the time they capitulated, there were only 17 soldiers left to take as prisoner. Of all the Japanese forces on the island, 4,690 soldiers would have to fall before the remainder would finally give up the fight. And this was just for a small strip of land in the middle of the Gilbert Islands. What would the Americans face when they began to hit islands closer to the mainland of Japan?
Back home, support for the war was strong among most of the population. But there were those who it seemed at least, were more concerned with their own agenda, rather than the importance of winning the war. John L. Lewis was the most prominent figure of these people. Certainly, he was not an open objector, or agitator against the war, but his efforts as president of the United Mine Workers placed him in the position where he was constantly at odds with the President of the United States and the war effort. On more than one occasion Roosevelt had to use his authority that was given in an amendment in the original draft bill to take over the coal mines so that war production could continue. The commotion created by this conflict between Lewis and Roosevelt even overshadowed the largest race riot of the Second World War. In June, Detroit had a large riot that was spurned from a combination of the creation of a Negro housing project called Sojourn Truth, and promotion of 6 African Americans at the Packard Auto factory that placed them on the line with other whites. The final death toll reached 34 and over 600 were injured. It was the worse of the more than 200 race riots that took place in the United States during the war.
Overall, the Allies had taken control of the war. As you look at the different articles presented this year we see a continuous stream of Allied advances and victories. The next year will show more of the same as we have reached the point in which the Axis is on its heels, and are only in the process of trying to hold on to what they have left.
After six years this is still an incredible project.
This year I didn't have the time to devote to this that I wish I could, but I am always glad to be able to contribute at least the end of year article.
One of the pictures I put in this thread this year has a very interesting aspect. In one picture you see evidence of something that was deliberately downplayed and even hushed up by one of the Allied partners. Lets see who notices it first. If no one even gets close, I'll provide hints on the 2nd.
What kind of vehicle is that?
“Thank you Homer for another fantastic year of war reporting”
let me second that..
It has become my favorite way to start the day checking to see the war news.
Happy New Year
what a marvelous resource!
You tell me.
I found that photo when I was preparing a lecture on the domestic events in America during the Second World War. I found it amusing that the problem with rioting in Detroit was so severe that they needed to have a Riot Information Bureau. I spent a lot of time on this riot and the Zoot Suit riot in Los Angeles.
Soviet Lend Lease Churchill Mk IV passes German SdKfz232 with “bedstead” antenna.
Homer has created a fantastic historical resource for us all to enjoy.
Damn, I thought that would take longer. Freepers always amaze me.
The Soviets spent a great deal of time and resources to underplay the effectiveness of Lend-Lease to the success of the Soviet war effort. In fact, they may not have been able to achieve what they did without it.
There are two major things that were provided to the Soviets besides the occasional Churchill or Matilda tank that really made the difference for the Russians.
So as a follow up question I will ask what these two things were. One was large, one was not. Both were not war machines.
Large - Studebaker truck.
Small - Can o' spam.
You would think that someone would toss a brick through the big glass window of the Riot Bureau.
pinging the list which I forgot to do last night.
I’ll give you the first one. The 2-1/2 Ton Truck. Most of them were manufactured by GM, but all the motor companies pitched in on them.
The small item is machine tools.
That would be my inclination, and I’m not even a riotous type of person.
Thanks again, Cougar. I don’t know how you find time to do this with your schedule, but I sure do appreciate it. I will add this thread to the index on my profile later today.
It’s the least I can do. Thanks again for this fantastic resource you have created.
The occasional tank or airplane didn’t make much impact for the Soviets. Soviet weapons were pretty high quality and obviously high quantity. The trucks were a huge difference, but there were a lot of little things we provided. Food, cloth fabric for uniforms, boots, radios, and waterproof telephone cable were all things the Soviets needed but couldn’t make. It wasn’t so much a lack of know-how as much as the destruction and dislocation from the German invasion limited what the Soviets could make. They chose to make weapons, we supplied the rest. It was a sensible arrangement.
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