After the successful Allied invasions of western France, Germany gathered reserve
forces and launched a massive counter-offensive in the Ardennes.
At the same time, Soviet forces were closing in from the east, invading Poland and
East Prussia. By March, Western Allied forces were crossing the Rhine River,
capturing hundreds of thousands of troops from Germany's Army Group B.
The Red Army had meanwhile entered Austria, and both fronts quickly approached
Berlin. Strategic bombing campaigns by Allied aircraft were pounding German
territory, sometimes destroying entire cities in a night. In the first several months of
1945, Germany put up a fierce defense, but rapidly lost territory, ran out of supplies,
and exhausted its options.
East met West on the River Elbe on April 25, 1945, when Soviet and American
troops met near Torgau, Germany. Then came the end of the Third Reich, as the
Soviets took Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, and Germany
surrendered unconditionally on all fronts on May 8. Hitler's planned "Thousand-Year
Reich" lasted only 12 incredibly destructive years.
A group of Hitler youth receive instruction in the use of a
machine-gun, somewhere in Germany, on December 27, 1944.
A formation of B-24s thunder over the railway yards of
Salzburg, Austria, on December 27, 1944.
A heavily armed German soldier during the German counter-offensive
in the Belgium-Luxembourg salient, on January 2, 1945.
A US infantryman from the 82nd Airborne Division goes out on a one-man
sortie while covered by a comrade in the background, December 24, 1944.
Low flying C-47 transport planes roar overhead as they carry supplies to
the besieged American Forces at Bastogne, January 6, 1945 in Belgium.
The bodies of seven American soldiers that had been shot in the face by
an SS trooper are recovered from the snow January 25, 1945.
Captured German soldiers stand in the debris strewn street of
Bastogne, Belgium, on January 9, 1945.
A dead German soldier, is left behind on a street corner in
Stavelot, Belgium, on January 2, 1945.
From left, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin sit on
the patio of Livadia Palace, Yalta, Crimea, in this February 4, 1945 photo.
Soviet troops in Budapest, Hungary on February 5, 1945.
Across the Channel, Britain was being struck by continual bombardment by
thousands of V-1 and V-2 bombs launched from German-controlled territory.
This photo, shows a V-1 flying bomb plunging toward central London.
Three U.S. soldiers look over the bodies of dead German soldiers
arranged in rows in Echternach, Luxembourg, on February 21, 1945.
This combination of three photographs shows the reaction of a 16-year
old German soldier after he was captured by U.S. forces in 1945.
Flak bursts through the vapor trails from B-17 flying fortresses during
the attack on the rail yards at Graz, Austria, on March 3, 1945.
A large stack of corpses is cremated in Dresden, Germany, after the
British-American air attack between February 13 and 15, 1945.
Soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Army storm into Coblenz, Germany, as
a dead comrade lies against the wall, on March 18, 1945.
The American 7th Army pours through a breach in the Siegfried Line
on their way to Karlsruhe, Germany on March 27, 1945.
American soldiers aboard an assault boat huddle together as they cross the
Rhine river while under heavy fire from German forces, in March of 1945.
An unidentified American soldier, shot dead by a German sniper, clutches
his rifle and hand grenade in March of 1945 in Coblenz, Germany.
With a torn picture of his "Führer" beside his clenched fist, a general of the
Volkssturm lies dead on the floor of city hall in Leipzig, April 19, 1945. He
committed suicide rather than face the U.S. troops capturing the city.
An American soldier of the 12th Armored Division stands guard
over a group of German soldiers, captured in April 1945.
Adolf Hitler decorates members of his Nazi youth organization in a
photo taken in front of his Bunker in Berlin, on April 25, 1945.
That was just four days before Hitler committed suicide.
Soviet officers and U.S. soldiers during a friendly
meeting on the Elbe River in April of 1945.
Compounds erected by the Allies for their collections of prisoners never
seem to be big enough, here is an over-crowded cage of Germans rounded
up by the Seventh Army during its drive to Heidelberg, on April 4, 1945.
A U.S. soldier stands in the middle of rubble in the Monument of the Battle of
the Nations in Leipzig after they attacked the city on April 18, 1945. The huge
monument commemorating the defeat of Napoleon in 1813 was one of the last
strongholds in the city to surrender.
Soviet soldiers lead house-to-house fighting in the outskirts
of Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany, in April of 1945.
Overwhelmed with emotion, this Czech mother kisses a Russian soldier in
Prague, Czech Republic on May 5, 1945, thanking him for her freedom.
Soviet soldiers raising the flag of the Soviet Union on top of the
Reichstag building following the Battle of Berlin. May 2, 1945
The subway rush hour is brought to a standstill in New York City,
May 1, 1945 as the report of Hitler's death was received.
Field Marshal Montgomery, right, reads over the surrender pact, while senior
German officers, look on, in a tent at Montgomery's headquarters May 4, 1945.
A mass of humanity jammed into central London on VE-Day, May 8, 1945, to
hear Churchill officially announce Germany's unconditional surrender. More
than one million people celebrated in the streets of London.
Times Square is packed Monday, May 7, 1945, with crowds celebrating
the news of Germany's unconditional surrender in World War II.
Soviet aircraft fly in the skies above Berlin, Germany in 1945.