History Read Along – Inferno: The World at War, Chapters 21-22

It’s time for the notes from Chapters 21-22 from Max Hasting’s Inferno. We’re in the final chapters of World War II and these notes include D-Day and more battle details from the Pacific Theater.

Kids – wait a few years before reading the full text, but these chapter notes will give you the fast-facts version of the history.

Chapter 21: Europe Becomes A Battlefield 

  • In November 1943 Hitler declared that Germany would not send more troops to the Eastern Front, planning keep troops to defend Italy and France where the Allies were or might attack.
  • Through the early winter months of 1944, the Soviets practiced encirclement tactics and retook or conquered vast areas of land.
  • Dogged fighting continued in Italy, but the Allies captured Rome on June 4, 1944.
  • Both Axis and Allies were aware of the stakes involved in an invasion of France.
  • Many of the Allied leaders and commanders were not in favor of the invasion of France; others argued it was a necessity, especially to keep promises to Russia to open another major front.
  • Operation Overload – code name for the invasion of Normandy – pitted 5,300 ships, 150,000 troops, 1,500 tanks, and 12,000 aircraft against the German sea defenses, beginning on June 6, 1944 (D-day).

Approaching Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944

  • Critical bridges in Normandy had to be secured for the Allies to advance, and other advances went lane by lane and hedge by hedge.
  • Allied air superiority helped secure the advance; however, the German.tanks were significantly better, causing devastating losses and difficult to destroy.
  • The Americans and British used their artillery extensively, calling the coordinates to wipe out German defenders. This differed from Russian tactics which tended to focus on a massive charge, resulting in more infantry losses.
  • On the eastern front 2.4 million Russians attacked alongside 5,000 tanks. Soon they had retake the Baltic region
  • The Red Army accepted massive casualties and lived off the land, a contrast to how Britain and American fought.
  • Poland was “liberated”, Ukraine and Finland heavily invaded, and Germany was unable to stop the advances.
  • Germany held on to Hungary through a sneaky coup, but started evacuating Greece.
  • Lack of German attempts to dispose of Hitler and the Nazi leadership either from the Civilian or military sections are puzzling and suggest greater involvemebt in Nazi politics than the participates would admit to in later years.
  • In the midst of these invasions, the German military continued to execute their deserters and unwilling soldiers. During the 6 years of Germany at war, 15,000 military executions were recorded.
  • By the end of August Germany had left Paris and pulled back though eastern France, fighting and counterattackinf along the way.

Quote of the chapter: “On the morning of 6 June, we saw the full might of the English and Americans. At sea close inshore the fleet was drawn up, limitless ships small and great assembled as if for a parade, a grandiose spectacle. No one who did not see it could have believed it. The whistling shells and shattering explosions arou d us created the worst kind of music. Our unit has suffered terribly – you and the children will be glad I survived. Only a tiny, tiny handful of our company remains.” German soldier, Normandy (page 517-518)

Chapter 22: Japan: Defying Fate

  • By 1944 the U. S. Navy decisively controlled the Pacific, reducing Japan’s imports 40%, destroying hundreds of thousands tons of shipping, and only using 1.6 of the US sea power strength. Surprisingly, Japan had not prepared for this type of warfare, lagging in submarine, radar, and anti mine technology .
  • By blockade and air bombardment, the U.S. might have won the war, eventually. But commanders wanted for decisive and faster victories.
  • The British were unenthusiastic about reclaiming Burma, leaving much of the decisions and fighting to America or other allies.
  • Amphibious operations characterized the Pacific War.

Contrails from the fighter planes

  • In 1944 the Americans seized the Marianas Islands, an important stepping stone toward Japan’s final outer defenses.
  • While the attacks on the Islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam began, the largest aircraft carrier engagement also began, and became know as the “great Marianas turkey shoot” and ending with a decisive American victory and airpower.
  • Despite regular air raids on the islands of Japan, the leaders determined to fight on and win a negotiated settlement in their favor.
  • General MacArthur was personally determined to fight in the Phillipines and comitted many men to those fights; thousands of troops and civilians died in the battles which moved across the Philippine Islands.
  • The Battle of Leyte Gulf resulted in hr largest battle in all naval history and another American victory.

Quote of the chapter: “Out here the war life was all there was; no history was visible, no monuments of the past, no cities remembered from books. There was nothing here to remind a soldier of his other life; no towns, no bars, nowhere to go, nowhere even to desert to.” Samuel Hynes, u. S. Marine Pilot (page 546)


The comparison of tactics used by the British, Americans, and Soviets was really fascinating. Stemming from different cultures and in some cases even different world views, these powers responded differently to casualties which factor into their battlefield planning and attacks in 1944. The Russians tended to attack, attack, attack – not waiting for artillery or other battlefield support. The other Allies tended to call in artillery or air support to try knocking out an enemy position when it was too dangerous for their infantry. Lots to think about in those scenario.

I thought the question if Japan could have been defeated by blockade and air raids, rather than continuous island attack, opened a lot of interesting ideas. Also the debate if MacArthur really had to attack the Philippines brings quite a few ideas to the discussion table for those who like to play with “what-ifs.”

Your Opinion?

What stood out to you in this chapter? Ideas or quotes?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Don’t forget to read Chapters 23-24 for next week…

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