By BARBARA BRYANT
Nearly a half century later, one need only listen to the words and phrases coined during World War II to gauge the breadth of its influence on our lives.
Such terms as "the blitz," "GI," "loose lips sink ships," "snafu," "Dear John letter," "Pearl Harbor" and "D-Day" need no explanation, eben to those who have no firsthand memory of the war.
British historian John Keegan, in The Second World War, called it "the largest single event in human history."
In his introduction to a new resoource guide to World War II material in the Lirbary of Congress, author Peter Rohrbach wrote: "Lasting six dark years from 1939-1945, it was fought across six of the world's seven continents, on all of its oceans, and it involved millions of people worldwide. Some 50 millions people were killed in this truly global conflict and hundreds of millions were wounded."
Mr. Rohrbach has written 15 books and numerous magazine articles on a variety of topics for the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations.
This book is the third in a series of resource guides that are designed to help researchers navigate the Library's 105 million-item collection to find the many books, recordings, manuscripts, films, photographs and illustrations on a selected topic. The first volume, Keys to the Encounter: A Guide to the Age of Discovery, was published in 1992, followed by The African-American mosaic, a study of black history and culture, released earlier this year. Other guides are planned, including one on Native American studies. Each contains numerousillustrations and sampe descriptions of relevant items and collections to be found throughout the Library.
Although no guide could do justice to the Library's wealth of material on World War II--a computer search in 1992 revealed 52,000 bibliographic titles on the topic--this book offers a tantilizing glimpse of these holdings. For example, researchers will learn about the Rare Book and Special COllections Division's original editions of Mein Kampf, Japanese diplomatic and military documents captured by the Allies, now housed in the Asian Division, the papers of Gen. George Patton, Adm. William Halsey and Gen. Carl Sapptz in the Manuscript Division. ALso cited are the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division's recordings of speeches by Winston Churchill, the French surrender to Germany at Compiègne in 1940, and even a report from a foxhole on Guam during the American invasion in 1944.
The author also directs researchers to musical scores, newspaper accounts, propaganda films, recorded interviews about life in America and photographs.
The Argest Event describes World War II chronologically beginning with "The Seeds of Conflict, 1919-1939." Mr. Rohrbach pointed out that Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle), published in 1925, and the second volume in 1926, offered both an explanation of Hitler's philosophy and his plan for European domination.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler, an embittered World War I veteran, rejected the terms of the 1919 Versailles Treaty. He referred to Germans as "a master race" and "the highest species of humanity on this earth." He wrote the book in prison, where he was incarcerated for planning a (failed) revolution through his National Socialistic German Wokers' (Nazi) Party. "This was surely one of the least rehabilitative prison sentences in history," Mr. Rohrbach observed dryly. Once freed, Hitler pursued ihs campaign and began winning adherants, eventually gaining enough power--not through violence, but through votes--to become chancellor of Germany on Jan. 30, 1933.
Hitler believed that "what Germany needed was lebensraum, living space, which meant the occupation of other countries," Mr. Rohrbach explained. "Germany, [Hitler] said quite explicitly, must expand to the east--largely at the expense of Russia."
Mr. Rohrbach describes the rise of two other key dictators on the scene: Joseph Stalin, a longtime revolutionary who conducted a series of purges in the 1920s and 1930s to win control of the Soviet Union, and Benito Mussolini, whos Fascist Part's "Blackshirts" militia stormed the government in October 1922.
"While Mussolini grabbed power through mob rule and Hitler achieved it by the ballot box, Joseph Stalin gained control of Russia through the intricate and often dangerous workings of the new Communist government in the 1920s," Mr. Rohrbach wrote.
Despite their misgivings about Hitler (based in part on Germany's incursions into Russia and Italy during World Wai I), Stalin and Mussolini signed pacts with Hitler that, as Mr. Rohrbach said, "wouild five him the indispensible green light to begin his saga of conquest and war."
While Hitler worked from 1933 to 1936 to revive Germany's economy, in 1935 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, taking its capital, Addis Ababa, in 1936. After fruitless appeals for help from an impotent League of Nations, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie warned, "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow."
Hitler and Mussolini both sent troops to support Gen. Francisco Franco's struggle against the Spanish government in Spanish Morocco. Russia sent armaments to help the government's forces. "The Germans developed the famed Condor Legion, an air and ground force, which was to test with alarming effectiveness the new German military might, such as the stuka aircraft and the panzer divisions with the German 88mm gun, which was to earn a reputation as perhaps the most effective field weapon on World War II," Mr. Rohrbach wrote. He pointed out that the introduction of new weapons that would soon be used against many other countries and the characterization of the two opposing sides as Fascist (Franco's rebels) and Communist (the Spanish loyalists) has led historians to characterize the Spanish Civil War "as a dress rehearsal for the coming conflict."
On March 7, 1936, Hitler's troops crossed the Rhine into France and, relatively unopposed, occupied the demilitarized West Bank. Besides violating the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany learned that the Europeans were not yet ready to retaliate against Hitler's aggression. Mr. Rohrbach quotes German Gen. Alfred Jodl, who said in retrospect, " 'Considering the situation we were in, the French covering army could have blown us to pieces.' Had that happened," Mr. Rohrbach added, "Hitler would have been dealt a devastating blow." And he would have lost the already tenuous support he had from the German High Command for any future incursions. But all of that did not happen in 1936 and Hitler was free to move on to his next objectives for German domination of Europe."
By 1937 Hitler had signed cooperation pacts with Italy and Japan -- the latter directed against the Soviet Union -- but Germany's partnership with these two nations often proved troublesome. "He had to divert troops from the Russian front to send them to North Africa to help bail out the Italian troops, which were being beaten by the British. And, despite Hitler's entreaties, the Japanese never did attack Russia when Hitler wanted to force it into fighting on two fronts; rather, Japan attacked the United States, drawing Hitler into that conflict and creating another enemy for him at a time when he did not need one."
Despite these acts of aggression, Neville Chamberlain, who became British prime minister in 1937, viewed Hitler as "appeasable." By this time, Hitler had begun his conquest of Czechoslovakia, beginning with Sudentenland, which contained a large German population. During a meeting in Europe with Hitler, Mussolini and others in September 1938, Chamberlain conceded Germany's occupation of Sudentenland to ward off additional occupation in the area. "Churchill [then a member of Chamberlain's Conservative Party] grumbled while Chamberlain proudly waved a document called the Anglo-German Peace Declaration which he and Hitler had signed," Mr. Rohrbach wrote. "The document proved worthless."
But Hitler's incursions continued, and by 1939 his troops had marched into Czechoslovakia's capital city, Prague. Although Britain threatened military action, Hitler ignored the warning and set his sights on Poland. Both Britain and France offered to protect Poland against German invasion; they attempted to include Russia in this agreement but Poland refused to accept a deal with its historical enemy. This gave Germany an opportunity to forge a nonaggression pact with Russia, signing secret protocols that later allowed Russia to take over eastern Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Mr. Rohrbach recounted an interesting story in connection with Hitler's invasion of Poland. "On the evening of Aug. 31, , Berlin radio announced that Polish troops had attacked a German installation near the Silesian border town of Gleiwitz and had been repulsed and killed. In fact, it was an elaborate ruse set up by the German SS in which hapless German prisoners from a concentration camp had been dressed in Polish uniforms and had then been shot in order to simulate a Polish incursion.
"Using this as a pretext, Hitler ordered the attack, and at 4:45 in the morning of Sept. 1, 1939, German tanks crossed the Polish border. Using the pretext of the fictitious Polish attack, Hitler never did declare war on Poland; rather he justified the coming brutal invasion as a defensive action."
Among the historical items Mr. Rohrbach cites in his resource notes for this chapter are the Rare Book and Special Collections Division's Third Reich Collection, an assortment of books, albums and printed documents about the early days of the Nazi Party. A set of Die Alte Garde Spricht (The Old Guard Speaks) for example, contains biographical sketches of Nazi Party members. The Geography and Map Division has maps that reflect the changing balance of power in Europe, and the Music Division has recordings of "Deutschland über Alles" ("Germany Above All"), the official anthem of the Reich, and the "Horst Wessel Lied," the official Nazi party anthem. Mr. Rohrbach explained,
"Horst Wessel was a young Nazi party member, later accused of being a pimp and consort of prostitutes, who was killed in a street fight with Communists in 1930. The skillful propagandist Joseph Goebbels manipulated the legend and made Wessel the great early martyr of the Nazi party, commemorating him in stirring song."
In Chapter 2, "The Conflagration Erupts, 1939-1941," the author describes the "blitzkrieg" (lightning war), Germany first employed in Poland. The attack combined rapid air and ground attacks by plane, tanks and infantry. After defeating Poland in 1939, Hitler attacked Belgium and prepared to invade France. Meanwhile, Stalin attacked Finland.
This chapter focuses on military strategy, describing Hitler's successful plan to capture Belgium by luring allied troops north to face troops in northern France while deploying a larger fighting force in the south through the Ardennes forest. Caught between two major German forces, the Allies collapsed.
Mr. Rohrbach mentioned Hitler's miscalculations as well, including his inexplicable decision after the Allies' failure to save Belgium to allow the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) of General Lord Gort to evacuate at Dunkirk. Although several reasons have been cited for Hitler's decision to halt the British pursuit 12 miles short of the beach -- ranging from a victor's noblesse oblige to the exhaustion of German troops -- many still wonder why Hitler failed to press his advantage.
The BEF took full advantage of the lull, filling 41 destroyers, escorts and numerous civilian craft that were hastily pressed into service. Many troops escaped on barges and fishing trawlers. "From May 26 to June 4, 1940, under constant fire all the time from German artillery on the shore and stuka bombers from above, this melange of seacraft was able to evacuate 337,000 Allied soldiers. ... It was a remarkable accomplishment, and when the beaten BEF disembarked in England it was greeted by cheering crowds, hardly the historical reception for a defeated army."
Soon thereafter, Hitler conquered France, followed by Mussolini's ill-fated attack on the French Riviera. The invasion was a rout; four French divisions faced 28 from Italy. But only eight French were killed while the Italians sustained nearly 5,000 casualties. Mussolini's pleas to Hitler for help went unheeded as the German leader conducted his march on Paris. On June 14, the French capital fell. Hitler's entire campaign against Western Europe ended in six weeks.
While setting the stage for the Battle of Britain, Mr. Rohrbach pointed out that Hitler had always envisioned uniting with Britain against Russia, but his offer to establish relations with the British after his invasion of France were rejected. He prepared to cross the English Channel, relying on his Luftwaffe to outnumber Britain's smaller Royal Air Force (RAF) and thus diminish the effectiveness of the superior British navy.
The Battle of Britain, waged in the summer and fall of 1940, became an air war. Despite its smaller numbers, the RAF, which was flying over its own (familiar) territory and was not hampered by fuel shortages, dominated the air. Great Britain's ability to manufacture more planes than its adversaries, its use of radar to intercept and shoot down planes sent to bomb airfields, and Hitler's decision to bomb London rather than military sites, turned the tide in England's favor.
According to Mr. Rohrbach, one of Germany's most effective threats was the U-boat (submarine). By 1942 Germany had 300, up from 50 at the beginning of the war. By 1941 German subs had sunk 328 merchant ships. Later that year, however, the British developed technology that helped to detect and destroy the submarines. They formed convoys of large, armed naval escorts around merchant ships and equipped them with radar and echo- sounding "asdic" equipment (called sonar in the United States), to track the U-boats' movement above and below the water. Finally, the British managed to break the code Germans used to communicate by radio, a breakthrough based on their successful capture of a German ciphering device called "Enigma."
Mussolini was also busy in 1940, expanding his conquest of North Africa by attempting to take over Cairo, Egypt, and the Suez Canal. He ordered attacks in Ethiopia and took British Somaliland as well. A British force a third the size of the Italians' in Egypt defeated the invaders in December 1941. In response, Hitler sent Gen. Erwin Rommel to Tripoli to take over the campaign. For the next two years he would fight it out with the British in a stalemate.
In preparation for an eventual invasion of Russia, Hitler had occupied Romania in October 1940. Hungary and Bulgaria signed pacts to become Axis members. Yugoslavia did so as well, but was conquered by Hitler after changing its mind. Meanwhile, Mussolini tried and failed to conquer Greece. After conquering Yugoslavia, Hitler established some fateful priorities, deciding to invade Greece in April 1941 and then Crete in May before moving on Russia, delaying his advance on that nation until June. Although the attack began successfully, with huge Soviet losses in aircraft (1,200 in the first few days) and men (300,000 prisoners taken), the Russians fought fiercely, and Stalin's "scorched earth" policy denied advancing troops food and other supplies. By October Hitler prepared for "Operation Typhoon," the direct attack on Moscow.
As Mr. Rohrbach noted, however, the Germans would be no match for "that same Russian general who had defeated Napoleon -- 'General Winter,'" Marshal Georgy Zhukov.
Hobbled by a lack of proper clothing or supplies, the German force slowed its advance, giving the Russians time to build a brutal assault by troops who were accustomed to the harsh conditions. By Christmas they had retaken most of the ground the Germans had won. Mr. Rohrbach concluded by quoting historian John Lukas, who called the failed "Operation Typhoon" "the turning point of the war," marked both by the Germans' defeat in Russia and the United States' imminent entrance into the war.
Library of Congress resources cited in this chapter include voice recordings of Churchill's "We Shall Never Surrender" speech during the Battle of Britain and of the negotiations for the signing of the Franco-German armistice. The Manuscript Division has the complete papers of radio correspondent Eric Sevareid, and the Science and Technology Division has numerous books on weapons and technology developed during the war.
Chapter Three, "The War in the Pacific, 1941-1942," begins with a discussion of the "deteriorating relations" between the United States and Japan. During the late 1930s the United States responded to Japan's expansionist ambitions -- which lay behind its undeclared war with China -- by extending $25 million of credit to China and slapping an embargo on shipments of American aircraft to Japan.
"After Japan occupied Indochina in 1940, the United States stopped shipping gasoline, iron, steel and rubber to Japan, and it also froze all Japanese assets in the United States," Mr. Rohrbach wrote. Gen. Hideki Tojo, soon to become Japan's next premier, "regarded these as hostile acts, worthy of military retaliation." In 1941 he began to target the United States.
Not everyone was as sanguine about victory as Tojo, however. When put in charge of the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Fleet, predicted, "In the first six to 12 months of a war with the United States and Britain, I will run wild and win victory after victory. After that, I have no expectation of success." Mr. Rohrbach added, "Seldom in history has a military commander been more honest or more accurate."
His doubts notwithstanding, on Dec. 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., Yamamoto's carrier strike force flew over Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,000 American troops, destroying two battleships and two destroyers, sinking four ships, damaging eight others and decimating more than 180 aircraft. Japan declared war on the United States immediately thereafter and on Dec. 8, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan.
Within a few hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese bombers flew to the Philippines and destroyed half the air force commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. Army forces in the Far East. All U.S. possessions in the Pacific were targeted, as were British ships near Singapore.
Japan conquered many U.S. territories in the region in 1941 and 1942. On Christmas Day 1941, the British ended a three-week siege by surrendering Hong Kong. The United States suffered one of its most devastating defeats in losing the Philippines, first by retreating from the capital, Manila, to the jungles of Bataan. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to escape in the face of supply shortages and poorly trained Filipino troops.
After holding the Japanese at bay for almost a month, the 11,000-man force at Corregidor on Manila Bay was surrounded. A total of 40,000 prisoners were force-marched 40 miles to prison camps; more than half died of starvation or abuse. "Thus, in the first six months of the Pacific War, Tojo had achieved the same kind of success that Hitler had accomplished in Europe and Russia in 1940 and 1941," Mr. Rohrbach summed up.
In the spring of 1942, however, American cryptologists broke the Japanese communications code. Using this new information source, an American aircraft carrier, American Task Force 17, intercepted a Japanese carrier resulting in "the world's first battle between aircraft carriers and the first major sea engagement that was done entirely by aircraft without the ships coming into direct contact." Two Japanese carriers, the Shokaku and the Zuikaku, were severely damaged and were tied up at port at a crucial time: during the June 1942 Battle of Midway.
The Battle of Midway is viewed as a turning point of the war in the Pacific because of the island's strategic importance. Its location would allow an occupying Japanese force to launch attacks against Hawaii and the American fleet based there, as well as Alaska.
Yamamoto brought more than 150 ships to the site, including eight carriers bearing 650 planes. He faced Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific fleet, who, through the U.S. force's ability to penetrate Japanese code, knew his enemy's plan of attack. Although the Japanese forces outnumbered the Americans' four to one, Nimitz moved his ships well away from Midway as the Japanese flotilla advanced, letting the Japanese attack Midway, and wreak serious damage to the base there on June 4.
Rather than seek the out-of-sight American fleet, the Japanese commander, Adm. Chuichi Nagumo, decided to refuel his aircraft on the decks of his carriers in preparation for a second strike at Midway. Then American torpedo-bombers struck the immobile aircraft, sustaining heavy casualties but destroying the Japanese fleet. The Japanese lost twice as many planes and 3,500 men to the Americans' 307 casualties.
"The Empire's fleet was crippled and it would never again control the Pacific," Mr. Rohrbach wrote. "Yamamoto's 'wild' run was over -- but then the Battle of Midway was almost exactly six months after Pearl Harbor, just as he had predicted."
In spite of a series of American victories in the Pacific, heavy weapons production stateside, a fear of Japanese invasion on the West Coast (that lay behind the internment of Japanese Americans) and mounting war casualties prevented most citizens from taking the conflict lightly. "By the end of 1942 Americans had come to the reluctant and inescapable conclusion that this global war would be a long one -- two and a half more years of it as it turned out."
Thereafter, Gen. MacArthur's forces fought bitter but ultimately triumphant battles to recapture Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where a Japanese base under construction was within striking range of Australia. Allied forces battled fiercely to recapture New Guinea as well; all part of a steady drive toward Japan.
Resource Notes for this chapter direct the reader to the Manuscript Division's collection of Henry Stimson, secretary of war from 1940 to 1945. It includes letters to Roosevelt, Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek, MacArthur, Truman, Marshall and Patton. The Asian Division's South Manchuria Railway Collection documents Japan's prewar expansion and 2,100 reels of microfilm of Foreign Office Archives that cover Japan's policies in 1868- 1945. The Music Division has collections of songs that capture the spirit of America during the period, including "Good-bye Momma, I'm Off to Yokohama, released in early 1942 "with a verse stating that American troops would be in Japan only a few months," Mr. Rohrbach noted wryly.
Others include the derisive "Der Fuhrer's Face," "Rosie the Riveter" and the wistful "When the Lights Go on Again All over the World."
Chapter Four, "The Turning Tide: 1942-1944," describes the struggle in the spring of 1942 between German Gen. Erwin Rommel and Great Britain's Gen. Bernard Law "Monty" Montgomery in Africa. In November of that year, more than 100,000 American troops landed in North Africa. The Allies' interdiction of German supply ships caused Hitler to lose faith in his Afrika Korps and to recall Rommel -- a national hero he could not afford to lose -- back to Germany in March 1943. During that month Patton assumed command of the 2nd U.S. Army Corps in the region, and by May the Axis forces had surrendered.
Also discussed are the Allies' invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and Hitler's rescue of Mussolini, who was being held captive in the Apennines by the Fascist Party he had created. Fed up with his military disasters, the party dismissed him from office and imprisoned him. He was sent to serve as Hitler's puppet leader in Northern Italy.
The Allies' failure to catch German forces retreating from Sicily to Italy resulted in a series of long, grueling battles in Italy that ended in an Allied victory in the spring of 1945. Despite his forces' ultimate defeat in this theater, Mr. Rohrbach pointed out that Hitler's real goal had been achieved. "He had kept the Allied divisions engaged in a slow and costly war on the Italian peninsula, thus preventing them from being used in Britain as part of the buildup for a Cross-channel invasion."
Mr. Rohrbach also describes the Russians' victory against German forces advancing on Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943. Fighting on their own ground in white combat suits in the snow, against a depleted and supply-poor German force, the Russian army used its ready supply of newly manufactured weapons and the weather to defeat the Germans on Jan. 31. Later battles, most notably, the Battle of Kursk and others at Kiev, Leningrad and the Crimean Peninsula, solidified Russia's initial victories.
Researchers may learn more about these Pacific campaigns by studying the papers of Joseph Alsop in the Library's Manuscript's Division. Alsop was a staff aide to Claire Chennault, who formed the Flying Tigers squadron. The Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division contains several Russian films of the period, including "Moscow Strikes Back," an English-language version of a Russian film about the defeat of the German army near Moscow. It contains footage of the Red Army stopping German troops in front of Moscow in December 1941. The Music Division has the score of "Lilli Marlene," which was originally written and performed for German troops in North Africa and was later adapted by the British to serve as a marching song for its 8th Army.
In Chapter Five, "The Final Western Struggles, 1944-1945," Mr. Rohrbach recounts the escalating bombing war between Germany and Great Britain that had begun several years before. It deviated from the original focus on tactical military targets to strategic (civilian) ones, a change spawned by Hitler's attack of London.
"During that Blitz Winter of 1940-1941," Mr. Rohrbach wrote, "the Luftwaffe attacked London and other British cities, causing widespread destruction; on the night of Dec. 29, 1940, they started 1,500 fires in the city of London alone."
Although the Germans were initially more successful, in the spring of 1942, the Americans arrived to add their daytime bombing raids to Britain's flights at night. The newcomers added their B-17 "Flying Fortress," with its highly accurate Norden bombsight optical device, to the fight and the P-51 Mustang and other highly effective fighter planes. The Allies weakened the German supply lines by bombing the French railway system in 1944, and Patton created an imaginary strike force in southeastern England, leading the Germans to anticipate an attack at Calais.
The Allied troops surprised the Germans by storming the beaches at Normandy on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), with 5,000 ships, 170,000 men and 10,500 aircraft. Although heavy fighting ensued, the British, American and Canadian forces sustained not 10,000 casualties as predicted but 2,500. The Allies were also taking command of the air as, back in Germany, senior officers, disillusioned with their leader and growing Axis losses, failed in their famous July 1944 attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb.
On Aug. 15, 1944, the Allies invaded France along the French Riviera, moved south and then north to Paris, allowing French Gen. Jacques Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division to liberate the city on Aug. 25 after a day of fighting. Meanwhile, Canadian forces were taking Le Havre, Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. By early September, British forces had entered Belgium, captured Brussels and the port of Antwerp. In the fall, they took all of Belgium, Luxembourg and part of Holland.
Meanwhile, Hitler was organizing one last desperate -- and secretly organized -- assault on the German side of the Ardennes. On Dec. 16, he sent more than 250,000 troops against an unprepared 83,000-man American force that was stretched out across the 85-mile Ardennes front, "the same weak deployment in which the French had been caught in 1940," Mr. Rohrbach pointed out.
The attack included German soldiers in American uniforms who spoke convincing English and who committed sabotage behind American lines and mass executions of captured prisoners in the field -- in one case, 120 were killed by panzer weapons in the Malmédy Massacre. The assault became known as the "Battle of the Bulge" reflecting its distended shape on military maps.
Although Allied aircraft began attacking, the German troops crashed through Luxembourg in mid-December. The forces of Gen. Montgomery and Gen. Patton made headway, but on Jan. 1, 1945, Hitler launched a brutal but overly ambitious air war.
He destroyed several air bases and more than 200 allied planes but lost 300 Luftwaffe planes and 235 pilots, effectively crippling his air force for the remainder of the war.
"The Battle of the Bulge was a costly one for both sides," Mr. Rohrbach summarized. "The Americans had suffered 80,987 casualties ... but the Germans had 100,000 casualties and the back of the German army in the west had been broken." The Allies could now continue into Germany.
On Feb. 4-11, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin held the now historic conference in Yalta to plan the division of Germany and other geopolitical moves.
On Feb. 8 seven allied armies, led by Montgomery and Patton, spread out along 400 miles of the German border. Despite fierce fighting, in April the Allies came within 50 miles of Berlin, bringing American and French troops south into Bavaria and through northern Germany. The Russian army, moving from the East, would take Berlin after moving along the front at Belorussia and capturing Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and then Lvov on July 27. The Red Army captured Poland in January 1945 but only after reneging on an earlier promise to help the city's Polish Resistance and then refusing to save them as the Germans killed 200,000 Resistance fighters and destroyed Warsaw.
During the fall of 1944 the Russians had captured Romania and Bulgaria and had signed a treaty with Finland, which was a reluctant ally of Germany. Stalin sent troops to help Marshal Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia and on Oct. 20 took Belgrade from the Germans. On Feb. 13, 1945, after fierce fighting, the Russians conquered Hungary, occupying Budapest.
On Jan. 12 Stalin launched his planned offensive against Berlin from five separate bridgeheads. During this advance, on Feb. 13, the British launched a massive -- and highly questionable raid - - against the southeastern German city of Dresden.
"The Allied justification for this brutal raid was that it was done in support of the Russian advance, but that is a specious argument because Dresden posed no military obstacle," Mr. Rohrbach observed. "The real reason seems to be that late in the war this was a final retaliatory blow for the equally savage raid on Coventry in England in November of 1940."
During their drive toward Berlin, in January 1945, Russian troops also found Auschwitz, one of many concentration camps that the German government had set up to annihilate Jews and others.
On April 12, Franklin Roosevelt died, leaving the relatively unknown Harry Truman to take the reins. Hitler's reaction to the news was described as gleeful.
It was to be Hitler's final joy, for that same month the Third Reich collapsed as Hitler hid in his 19-room underground compound, the Fuhrerbunker, where he had been living since January 16, after German soldiers lost the Battle of the Bulge. He would spend the remaining 105 days of his life there.
On April 16 the Russians began advancing on two fronts toward Berlin. On April 20, Hitler's birthday, Marshal Zhukov began bombarding Berlin. The next day, Zhukov's tanks entered the city from the north; elsewhere, another Russian force was advancing on the area as well. On April 30 Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, took cyanide pills and Hitler shot himself. On May 2 the Russian forces officially conquered Berlin. Although sporadic fighting continued elsewhere, by May 11 all of Germany had surrendered.
Researchers will find a folio of "Plans for Berlin" in the Library of Congress's Geography and Map Division. Drawn up by Albert Speer, an architect Hitler had sponsored, it contains maps, drawings and diagrams for the new capital city Hitler planned to build after the war. The Manuscript Division's collection of General Patton's papers includes documents about the Battle of the Bulge that show his reluctance to discontinue his march into Germany to take part in the assault.
The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division has the captured German film "Der Ewige Jude" ("The Eternal Jew"), an antisemitic propaganda film. The division also has recordings of wartime broadcasts of Lord Haw Haw and Axis Sally, who broadcast Nazi propaganda from Germany to the Allies.
In the book's final chapter, "The Last Pacific Battles, 1944- 1945," the author begins with MacArthur's fulfillment of his promise before leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands in March 1942 to return to the archipelago. In the fall of 1944 he landed, not on Luzon, where Manila is located, but the smaller island of Leyte in the middle of the Philippines archipelago with Halsey's 3rd Fleet, Adm. Thomas Kinkaid's 7th fleet and, on Oct. 7, the 6th Army.
"The ensuing battle -- which would be known as the Battle for Leyte Gulf -- would involve 282 warships and would be the largest naval battle in history. It would also be the last major naval engagement of the war," Mr. Rohrbach wrote.
During this battle, the Japanese air force introduced kamikaze (divine wind) air attacks by reckless young men flying Zero fighters, which they flew directly into the Allied ships. "The kamikazes were extremely difficult to defend against because these minimally trained pilots took no evasive actions, and for the remaining 10 months of the war they would exact a heavy toll on Allied vessels."
The battle that began Oct. 23 lasted only three days and was characterized by the Allies' early success in launching submarine attacks on Adm. Takeo Kurita's 1st Attack Force sailing toward Leyte. This was followed by a combination of torpedo strikes and air attacks launched by U.S. carrier ships, which sunk the flagship Zuikaku and two light carriers. Meanwhile, the 6th Army conducted a slow but ultimately successful campaign on the island of Leyte itself.
This was followed by the bloody fight to capture Iwo Jima (Sulfur Island). "Iwo Jima was only eight square miles of rock, but it was located 660 miles southeast of Tokyo on the direct invasion route to Japan." Mr. Rohrbach said.
Preceded by heavy U.S. bombing raids, on Feb. 19 allied forces began landing more than 70,000 Marines from the 485 ships headed for the island for a brutal 35-day battle against 21,000 troops. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi (who had attended a U.S. Army cavalry school in Texas) planned to put his men in a system of underground caves and bunkers connected by 16 miles of tunnels. Marines poured gasoline into the fortifications and used grenades and flamethrowers to kill the hidden Japanese soldiers. By Feb. 23, 1945, all had died.
On top of Mount Suribachi, where the underground system was concentrated, a photographer shot the now famous photo of six marines planting the American flag in victory. (As Mr. Rohrbach pointed out, three of those soldiers were later killed in the ensuing warfare and a fourth was severely wounded.)
Six days later, the Americans launched an attack against Okinawa, a large island that, 350 miles from Japan, was a potential strategic asset to both sides. The Japanese allowed the Americans to land in the north and attacked them as they moved to the south of the island. Advancing only 6,000 yards in seven days, the Americans suffered more than 1,120 casualties.
Meanwhile, American naval forces were using radar to detect and torpedo the battleship Yamato and the cruiser and four destroyers that accompanied it. Kamikaze planes took their toll, however; 300 of them attacked the U.S. fleet on April 6, sinking a battleship, a carrier and two destroyers. Over the next several months, many ships were destroyed and more than 5,000 soldiers were killed by kamikaze attacks.
On July 15, 1945, the first atom bomb was detonated at the Army Air Force Bombing Range near Los Alamos, N.M.
President Truman, who had served as Vice President for only a few months before Roosevelt's death, knew nothing about the atom bomb when he took office in April of that year. On July 25, however, he authorized the 20th Air Force to drop the bomb sometime after Aug. 3. On August 6, the first bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on the main island of Honshu; it destroyed buildings up to two miles away and killed approximately 78,000 people.
After the explosion, Truman called for Japan's surrender, a move still too humiliating for many in the government to accept. Mr. Rohrbach pointed out that the enormous casualty rate from the bomb did not compare to the 250,000 people killed by American incendiary raids of previous months "and in fact more people were killed in the March 9 raid on Tokyo than were killed in Hiroshima. ... Indeed, over 3 million Japanese had been killed in the years between Japan's invasion of China in 1937 and the dropping of the atom bomb in August 1945."
On August 9, President Truman ordered the U.S. Air Force to drop a second bomb, on the city of Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyushu. The day before, Russia declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria, using 1.6 million troops to drive Japanese troops into northern Korea. On Aug. 9, the Japanese government, led by Emperor Hirohito, accepted the Potsdam Proclamation calling for unconditional surrender, provided the Emperor was not deposed.
The allies agreed, and on Aug. 14 the country officially surrendered and submitted to Allied occupation.
Library holdings covering this period include the papers of Adm. William "Bull" Halsey, commander of the 3rd Fleet at the Battle for Leyte Gulf. The Science and Technology Division has Atomic Energy Commission Reports beginning in 1943 that document the development of the atom bomb. Microfilm copies of the Japanese Foreign Office Archives may be found in the Asian Division. They reveal the Japanese government's last-ditch attempts to achieve a cease-fire while saving face. And the Recorded Sound collection has approximately 2,500 Marine Corps combat recordings of interviews with troops at Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and eyewitness descriptions of battles in the Pacific.
The collections listed in these end-of-chapter resource notes, and the resource guide at the end of The Largest Event are not intended to provide a full or detailed list of the Library's holdings on World War II. They offer a brief glimpse of the many items available, and researchers are encouraged to explore the Library's vast collections in more detail to discover additional material of interest.
The Largest Event: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of World War II may be purchased at the Library of Congress Sales Shop in the Madison Building. Copies are also available from Superintendent of Documents, New Orders, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954 or by calling (202) 783-3238. Specify Stock Order S/N (TO BE ANNOUNCED) when ordering.
Barbara Byrant is on the staff of the Public Affairs Office.