World War II

World War II History Walls

Wall 1: World War II Starts

World War II History Wall 1

On September 1, 1939 World War II began in Europe when German military forces invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced America’s intention of remaining neutral but soon the U.S. was providing supplies to the British government through the U.S. Merchant Marine fleet.

During this period the Japanese government expanded its power and influence in Asia. On September 27, 1940, Germany, Japan, and Italy signed the Tripartite Pact and became known as the Axis Powers. On October 16, 1940, the U.S. announced an embargo of scrap iron and steel to Japan. The U.S. later added oil to the embargo list.

On January 30, 1941, Germany announced that any ships carrying materials to Britain were subject to submarine attacks. By December 7, 1941, the United States had lost one destroyer and six merchant ships to German submarines, killing 39 Merchant Marines and 100 seamen.

Attack at Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, at 7:55am the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise air attack on U.S. forces stationed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. They used a total of 360 airplanes to attack U.S. airfields on Oahu and the ships at Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese lost 29 aircraft and 63 dead in the attack.

U.S. Losses

Ships Sunk:

  • USS Arizona USS California
  • USS Oklahoma USS West Virginia
  • USS Utah USS Oglala
  • Ships Heavily Damaged:
  • USS Nevada USS Honolulu
  • USS Pennsylvania USS Helena
  • USS Tennessee USS Cassin
  • USS Maryland USS Shaw
  • USS Raleigh USS Downes
  • USS Curtiss USS Vestal
  • Personnel Losses
  • Marines killed in action (KIA) 108
  • Army KIA 202
  • Navy KIA 2,004
  • Wounded in action (WIA) 1,347

Aircraft lost: 188

On December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt and the Congress of the United States declared, “a state of war existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.” On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. bringing the U.S. into the war on the side of the Allies which included Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, Australia, and Canada.

Wall 2: The Philippine Islands Fall

World War II History Wall 2

On December 8, 1941, Japanese forces bombed U.S. installations in the Philippine Islands. By January 2, 1942, the Japanese seized Manila with U.S. and Philippine forces retiring to the Bataan Peninsula.

General Douglas MacArthur, commander of all forces in the Philippines, was ordered to Australia. General Jonathan Wainwright assumed command of U.S. and Filipino forces in the Philippines on March 11, 1942.

On April 9, 1942, all forces on Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. On May 6, 1942, the remaining troops on Corregidor Island surrendered, giving the Japanese control of the Philippines.

U.S. Prisoners of War (POWs) 11,500

Filipino POWs 65,500

Approximately 22,000 American and Filipino POWs died on the “ Bataan Death March” to internment camps.

Pacific Offensive

On May 7-8, 1942, U.S. Naval forces fought the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of the Coral Seas. Aircraft from both navies attacked their enemy without the ships of either side firing at the other. American aircraft sank one Japanese carrier and damaged two others. Japanese aircraft heavily damaged the USS Lexington, killing 543 sailors and 21 Marines.

A second and decisive naval battle was fought off Midway Island on June 3, 1942. Aircraft from U.S. carriers attacked and sank four Japanese carriers, resulting in the loss of 254 Japanese airplanes.

American losses totaled 150 aircraft, 40 Marines, and 349 sailors.

The Solomon Islands

On August 7, 1942, the 1st U.S. Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal. The 25th, 43rd, and Americal Army Divisions later joined this battle. After heavy fighting U.S. forces seized the island on February 9, 1943. Between February andAugust of 1943 the 1st Marine Division took Russell, New Georgia, and Rendova Islands. The seizure of Bougainville on March 24, 1944, completed the campaign for the Solomon Islands.

The U.S. Navy fought several fierce battles around the Solomon Islands. The Navy lost 24 ships including the aircraft carriers Hornet and Wasp, six heavy cruisers, and 14 destroyers.

U.S. Losses in the Solomons

  • Marines KIA 1,042 WIA 2,894v
  • Army KIA 650 WIA 1,289
  • Navy KIA 3,816 WIA 1,817

Wall 3: U.S. Fights in North Africa

World War II History Wall 3

On November 8, 1942, U.S. and British forces made the first landings in North Africa at Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. U.S. troops included the 1st, 3rd, 9th, 34th, and 78th Infantry Divisions And the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions.

American forces advanced across North Africa and were stopped on February 14, 1943 at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. U.S. losses included 192 KIA, 624 WIA and 2,450 POWs.

The Americans regrouped and with British forces continued the attack across North Africa and on May 8, 1943, they took Tunis and Bizerte, ending the war in Africa. Total casualties for the Allied forces in the North African campaign were 66,000. The conquest of North Africa freed the Allied forces to support the invasion of Southern Europe.

Allies Invade the Island of Sicily

On July 10, 1943, American and British forces totaling 80,000 men invaded the Italian island of Sicily in “Operation Husky”. The American 7th Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, included the 1st, 3rd and 45th Infantry Divisions, 82nd Airborne Division and 2nd Armored Division.

By August 17, 1943, American and British forces entered Messina, seizing Sicily and over 100,000 prisoners. This completed the conquest of Sicily.

U.S. Casualties in Sicily

  • Army KIA 2,062 WIA 7,137
  • Navy KIA 546 WIA 484

Allies Invade Italian Mainland

On September 3, 1943, British forces landed at Reggio and Taranto. On September 8, 1943, the Italian government surrendered to the Allies. German forces established a battle line in central Italy and were joined by some rebel Italian forces.

On September 9, 1943, American forces of the 5th Army landed near Salerno. This was “ Operation Avalanche”. It included forces from the 1st, 3rd, 34th, 36th, and 45th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Armored Division.

The drive to take Rome was briefly stalled at Monte Cassino by German forces on January 15, 1944.

On January 22, 1944, American forces from the 1st, 3rd and 45th Infantry Divisions landed behind enemy lines at the port of Anzio in response to German resistance at Monte Cassino.

After heavy fighting, Anzio invasion forces linked up with the 34th, 36th, 88th, and 89th Infantry Divisions, opening the road to Rome. Troops of the 88th Infantry Division entered Rome on June 4, 1944. From the Salerno and Anzio landings, to the capture of Rome, U.S. forces suffered 107,144 casualties.

Wall 4: U.S. in the South Pacific

World War II History Wall 4

While American forces fought in the Central Pacific, the 32nd Infantry Division joined Australian troops on the island of New Guinea, in the South Pacific, clashing with the Imperial Japanese Army. By January 23, 1944, they had seized the cities of Buna and Gona.

On April 22, 1944, Americans took Hollandia, trapping the remaining Japanese forces between the Americans and the Australians. This effectively ended the war in New Guinea. American Army and Navy casualties in these battles were over 3,000.

By November 20, 1943, U.S. forces in the Pacific made landings at Tarawa and Makin Islands, part of the Gilbert Islands.

General J.C. Smith commanded the 2nd Marine Division at Tarawa, and the 27th Infantry Division at Makin. Later, forces freed from the conquest of Tarawa moved on to take Betio. On November 23, 1943, the American forces seized Tarawa.

U.S. Casualties in the Gilberts

  • Marine KIA 950 WIA 2,292
  • Navy KIA 724 WIA 735
  • Army KIA 66 WIA 152

Attack on the Marshall Islands

On January 31, 1944, American forces landed in the Marshall Islands on the islands of Kwajalein, Roi, Namur, and Eniwetok. Roi and Namur were seized by the 4th Marine Division on February 2, 1944.

On February 5, 1944, the 7th Infantry Division seized the island of Kwajalein. Marine and Army forces combined to take Eniwetok Island.

On February 20, 1944, the U.S. forces secured the Marshall Islands.

U.S. Casualties in Marshalls

  • Marine KIA 567 WIA 1,057
  • Navy KIA 267 WIA 1,104
  • Army KIA 200 WIA 793

Wall 5: South Asian Front

World War II History Wall 5

While combat continued in the Pacific and Europe, American forces were fighting in Burma under Lt. General Joseph Stillwell. His forces built the Ledo Road to transport war supplies to their Chinese allies in the fight against Japanese forces. American, British, and Chinese forces participated in this campaign from 1942 to the end of the war.

Invasion of Western Europe

On June 6, 1944, American, British, Canadian and Allied forces crossed the English Channel by ship from Great Britain in “ Operation Overlord”. They landed on five beaches in France.

American forces landed at beaches code named “Omaha” and “Utah”. American forces included the First Army (1st, 4th, and 29th Infantry Divisions). The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and the 91st Infantry Division, using glider planes and parachutes, landed behind enemy lines just prior to the beach landings.

British and Canadian forces landed at the other three beaches in France code names “Gold”, “Sword”, and “Juno”.

By the end of June, the 5th, 8th, 9th, 28th, 30th, 35th, 79th, and 83rd Infantry Divisions, and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Armored Divisions, with supporting units, were joined in combat against German forces in France.

U.S. Landing Casualties

  • KIA 2,811
  • WIA 13,564

Within the first 30 days of the landings, Allied forces suffered 62,000 casualties.

On July 13, 1944, Americans attacked the key defense point of St. Lo, France and seized it on July 17. The U.S. suffered 10,076 casualties between the landing at Normandy to St. Lo’s capture.

U.S. forces, under Gen. Omar Bradley, with the 12th Army Group, fought major battles at Falaise, Le Mans, and Argentan, in France. Free French forces occupied Paris on August 23, 1944, with Americans arriving a day later.

American Allies and the 12th U.S. Army Group advanced into Belgium with fierce fighting at Arnhem. The Allies suffered 30,000 casualties in battles from St. Lo to Arnhem.

Wall 6: Fighting in the Pacific

World War II History Wall 6

The Americans advance continued in the Pacific with the invasion of the Mariana Islands.

On June 15, 1944, following heavy bombardment by air and sea forces, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Marine Divisions and the 27th Infantry Division landed on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Chain. U.S. forces were under the command of the 5th U.S. Fleet. The island was captured on July 9, 1944. American forces suffered 7,000 casualties in this invasion.

On July 21, 1944, the 3rd Marine Division and the 77th Infantry Division landed on the island of Guam. Guam and the Mariana Islands were secured by the Americans on August 10, 1944.

Attacking the Palau Islands

On September 15, 1944, American forces landed on the islands of Peleliu and Anguar with the 1st Marine Division and 85th Infantry Division these islands were captured on October 14, 1944.

U.S. Casualties in Palau

  • Marines KIA 1,252 WIA 5,274
  • Army KIA 540 WIA 3,275
  • Navy KIA 158 WIA 663

Retaking the Philippines

On October 20, 1944, Americans landed on Leyte Island with the 1st Cavalry, 7th, 24th, and 96th Infantry Divisions on December 25, 1944, Japanese resistance ended on Leyte.

On January 9, 1945, the 6th, 37th, 40th, and 43rd Infantry Divisions landed on the island of Luzon. By May of 1945 all serious resistance to American forces ended in the Philippines.

U.S. Naval forces fought a series of engagements off the coast of the Philippine Islands at the same time of the land battles. Total casualties for Americans in the retaking of the Philippines were 3,508 KIA and 10,000 WIA.

Victory in Europe

By December of 1944 the Western Front extended from Antwerp, Belgium and Aachen, Germany South through Luxemburg to Metz, France.

On December 16, 1944, using 25 divisions in a surprise attack. German forces penetrated between the American and British forces in the Ardennes Forest. They surrounded Bastogne and St. Vith, France and pushed the battle line back another 50 miles before the Allied counter-attacks stopped their advance. This German attack was called “the Battle of the Bulge”. The German offensive stalled and a month later the Germans began withdrawing. The battle cost the Americans 4,138 KIA, 20,321 WIA, and 15,946 MIA.

Wall 7: Germany

World War II History Wall 7

By March 6, 1945, U.S. and Allied troops pushed German forces back to the Rhine River in Germany. Fierce battles occurred at Echternacht, Trier, and Rumagen in Germany. Allied troops continued to gain ground in Western Europe.

By March 1945, German forces became trapped between the Americans and Allies in the West and the Soviet Allies in the East.

The Air War

The air war over Europe was one of the most extensive in history involving over 4 million sorties of American fighters and bombers.

The U.S. Army Air Corps lost 79,265 men and 18,000 airplanes in Europe. Over 2,700,00 tons of explosives were dropped on Europe by 28,000 aircraft. These bombings destroyed approximately 3,600,000 buildings and killed 300,000 Germans, hastening the end of the war.

Germany Surrenders

By April 25, 1945, the Soviets had entered the Eastern parts of Berlin.

Adolph Hitler, the Fuhrer (leader) of German forces and the German state, committed suicide on May 1, 1945. Admiral Karl Doenitz assumed command of German forces.

American troops stopped at the Elbe River in Germany on May 1, 1945, waiting for the Soviet occupation of Berlin on May 2, 1945.

On May 7, 1945, Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg agreed to Germany’s unconditional surrender. General Dwight D. Eisenhower accepted for the Allies as Supreme Allied Commander. At 11:01 p;m., May 8, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced “Victory in Europe” of “V-E Day”.

Pacific War Continues

On February 19, 1945, American forces attacked Japanese forces on the island of Iwo Jima. The 4th and 5th Marine Divisions conducted the main assault. By March 6, 1945, after heavy fighting, the Americans captured Iwo Jima. In this battle 27 men received the Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for bravery. This number was the most awarded in any battle fought by U.S. forces.

U.S. Casualties on Iwo Jima

  • Marines KIA 5,423 WIA 4,668
  • Navy KIA 982 WIA 17,200

On April 1, 1945, U.S. forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Simon Buckner, landed on Okinawa Island with the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions and the 7th, 96th, and 77th Infantry Divisions.

Japanese “Kamikaze” aircraft designed to crash into U.S. ships, caused serious destruction to American ships. Fierce fighting lasted on the island until the Japanese surrendered on June 21, 1945.

In lives and Naval damage, this was the costliest battle for Americans during the war. Americans had 16,278 KIA and another 14,607 WIA in this battle. The U.S. Navy had 30 ships sunk and 223 damaged.

Japan Surrenders

From June 5, 1945 to August 15, 1945, U.S. forces bombed the Japanese home islands. Marine, Navy, and Army Air Corps aircraft played a critical role in attacking Japanese bases and cities. Bombing attacks on the Japanese home islands caused approximately 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, and 3,000,000 buildings damaged.

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on the city of Hiroshima. This killed 80,000 people, injured 37,000 and left 10,000 missing. Ten years later the number of deaths due to side effects from the bomb climbed to approximately 140,000.

On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped by the U.S. on Nagasaki, Japan with approximately 40,000 killed, 6,000 injured, and 5,000 missing.

On August 14, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s intention to surrender. On August 27, 1945, Japan formally surrendered to Gen. Douglas MacArthur aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

Wall 8: World War II Ends

World War II History Wall 8

During World War II, 50 million people served in arms, including 16 million Americans. Over 400,000 U.S. women served, including 76,000 nurses. Approximately 220 U.S. women were killed in action.

U.S. Casualties by Service During World War II


  • Army 234,874 565,861*
  • Navy 36,950 37,778
  • Marines 19,733 67,207
  • Coast Guard 574 955
  • Merchant Marines 8,651 11,000
  • *includes Army Air Corps
  • Total War Deaths for all Countries During World War II:
  • From 50 Allied armies 13,000,000
  • From 9 Axis armies 4,000,000
  • Civilians 20,000,000

Over 55 million people were injured and 3 million disappeared in the war thus ending the deadliest conflict in history with a hope for world peace.