Lesson 3: Victory in Europe, 1944–1945

Although the campaign in the Mediterranean was successful in forcing Italy out of the war, Allied military planners by late 1943 had concluded that it would not be enough to defeat Nazi Germany. As a result, priorities were shifted to an invasion of France across the English Channel. That invasion took place on the famous D-Day—June 6, 1944. Thereafter the Germans had to face not only the relentless onslaught of the Soviet Army from the East, but from British, American, and other allied forces from the West. During the same time, cities both in Germany and in German-occupied lands were subjected to intense aerial bombardment by U.S. and British aircraft. These bombing raids were designed to disrupt production of war materiel, divert German fighters from the Eastern and Western fronts, and undermine civilian morale.

This lesson plan will focus on the overall strategy pursued by the Allies in the final months of World War II in Europe. By examining military documents and consulting an interactive map of the European theater, students will learn why they chose to land at Normandy, and how the Allied offensive in the West contributed to Germany's defeat. Also, students will study the summary report of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey for Europe, allowing them to gauge the effectiveness of the bombing campaign against German cities.

Guiding Questions

How did the Allies manage to defeat and occupy Germany in 1944 and 1945?

Learning Objectives

Articulate the overall Allied strategy for 1944–1945, and to assess how successful it was.

Understand the importance of the Normandy invasion to the overall strategy.

Assess the effectiveness of the strategic bombing campaign against German cities.

Identify on a map locations that were important to the war in northern Europe.

Identify and explain the significance of the most important military engagements.