On this day in 1944, French resistance troops arrested and summarily executed Vichy puppet ruler Pierre Laval for treason. Legend has it that Charles de Gaulle, longtime head of the Free French movement and future president of postwar France, reacted to the news by telling one of his aides: "I wish I'd shot the worthless dog myself".
|Charles de Gaulle|
On this day in 1944, Adolf Hitler was mortally wounded when a bomb exploded in the map room of his field headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia during his daily military conference with the Wehrmacht general staff. Despite the best efforts of a team of doctors, including his personal surgeon Dr. Theo Morell, Hitler died from his injuries three hours after the blast. That evening Luftwaffe commander-in-chief Hermann Goering, invoking a succession decree signed by Hitler just after the Nazi invasion of Russia in June of 1941, declared himself the new chancellor of the Third Reich.
|Stars & Stripes Newspaper|
|21st July 1944 Issue|
On this day in 1944, Allied supreme commander General Dwight Eisenhower, seeking to capitalize on the blow Hitler's assassination had inflicted on Wehrmacht morale, authorized his field commanders in northern France to begin an immediate all-out drive on Paris.
The next day Soviet troops on the Eastern Front would launch a four-pronged offensive to eject German occupation forces from Poland's capital Warsaw.
One Wehrmacht officer was already dead when these campaigns began: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, architect of the Hitler assassination plot, had been arrested and executed by firing squad on Goering's orders shortly after Hitler's death was confirmed.
On this day in 1944, Adolf Hitler was buried in Munich in the most grandiose funeral of the Nazi era in Germany. During his eulogy for Hitler, Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels lashed out at the entire Wehrmacht general staff in a tirade vitriolic even by Goebbels' own infamous standards; he accused them of being, as he put it, "silent accomplices in the Fuhrer's murder".
On this day in 1944, German occupation forces in Rouen surrendered to the Allies.
On this day in 1944, Wehrmacht field marshal Erwin Rommel, the famed "Desert Fox", was warned by one of his senior aides that the Gestapo was preparing to arrest him when he was released from the hospital where he'd been recovering from wounds sustained in an Allied strafing attack three days before Hitler's death. The news drove him to make the previously unthinkable decision to defect to the Allies.
On this day in 1944, a team of OSS agents disguised as Wehrmacht field medics smuggled Erwin Rommel to the Allied lines in an ambulance; a second team, posing as Gestapo officers, helped Rommel's family escape to Switzerland.
That same day in Poland, Soviet artillery began shelling German positions inside Warsaw.
On this day in 1944, Allied troops in France reached outskirts of Versailles and Allied ground forces in Italy liberated Florence and encircled Bologna; in Poland, the Red Army entered Warsaw amid heavy German resistance.
|King of Romania|
On this day in 1944, Romania's King Michael had his prime minister, fascist Iron Guard chief Ion Antonescu, placed under arrest and cabled Allied diplomats in Stockholm that the Romanian goverment was ready to agree to peace terms with the Allies. Romania's defection from the Axis cause not only further damaged already shaky German morale, it also robbed the Nazis of access to the oil wells at Ploesti, which were a critical source of fuel for the German war machine.
On this day in 1944, Romanian and Allied diplomats met in Bucharest to sign the peace accord officially ending hostilities between Romania and the Allies.
On this day in 1944, the citizens of Paris celebrated the French capital's liberation by Allied troops after four years of Nazi occupation; General Dietrich von Choltitz, commandant for all German forces in Paris, surrendered to American and British advance units at 12 noon in disregard of prior instructions by Berlin to demolish the French city. An enraged Heinrich Himmler accused Cholitz of "desecrating our Fuhrer's memory just as surely as if vandals had taken hammers and smashed his tombstone to pieces".
On this day in 1944, American troops in France liberated Orleans.
On this day in 1944, Soviet troops in Lithuania trying to take the town of Ukmerge ran into unexpectedly heavy resistance when they encountered a pro-Nazi volunteer militia on the outskirts of the town; the battle to drive them out would last four days. In Estonia Soviet forces wiped out the last pockets of Nazi resistance in Tallinn; in Poland anti-Nazi partisans launched a guerrilla campaign to liberate the Polish capital, Warsaw.
On this day in 1944, President Roosevelt met with Soviet ambassador to the US Anatoly Dobrynin to remind him of the USSR's obligation to let Poland freely choose its own postwar government; that same day Prime Minister Churchill held a similar meeting with Soviet ambassador to Britain Fedor Gusev.
The Soviet government's only response to these messages was that it would take Washington's and London's concerns under advisement.
On this day in 1944, Polish Home Army leader Thadeusz Bor-Komorowski sent Polish Communist Party chief Wladislaw Gomulka a message warning that any attempt to impose Marxist rule on Poland would be sternly resisted-- by armed force if necessary.
This touched off a diplomatic crisis among the Allied powers that only protacted and delicate closed-door negotiations managed to defuse; even then, there remained noticeable tension between the Communist and non-Communist elements of the Polish anti-Nazi resistance movement.
|Polish Home Army Leader |
|Thadeusz Bor-Komorowski |
On this day in 1944, Joseph Stalin announced that Red Army troops had liquidated the last pockets of German resistance in Warsaw.
On this day in 1944, the U.S. 5th Army engaged two German divisions and a battalion of Mussolini's Salo Republic puppet militia southeast of the Italian town of Siena, trapping the Axis units in a steadily shrinking pocket. The resulting clash would last five weeks and be dubbed "the Battle of the Bulge" by the Western press; total Axis casualties would later be estimated at 60,000 killed and 200,000 wounded or captured.
The defeat at Siena crushed Mussolini's last flickering hope for restoring Fascist rule in Italy; by the end of the Second World War he would incarcerated as a war criminal at a U.S. military prison near Milan.
On this day in 1944, the Western Allies launched Operation Toadstool, an airborne offensive aimed at liberating Belgium and Luxembourg from Nazi occupation.
On this day in 1944, the Germany began Fall Nibelung("Case Nibelung"), its last major offensive on the Eastern Front.
On this day in 1944, Soviet troops liberated the Latvian capital, Riga.
On this day in 1944, the Western Allies launched Operation Anvil, their amphibious campaign to liberate southern France.
On this day in 1944, Soviet artillery started bombarding the East Prussian capital city of Konigsberg.
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.