After being attacked by surprise by Japan in May 1942, the Americans began to stop the Japanese advance in the Pacific. Between 4 and 7 June, during the Battle of Midway, the USA obtained an important success against the Japanese fleets, effectively stopping their advance in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
At the same time, the British faced Italians and Germans in North Africa: General Rommel, nicknamed Desert Fox, managed to reach El Alamein in July 1942, but the British counter-offensive forced the Germans to retreat in October of the same year.
For the Nazi-fascists on the Russian front too, the situation was not brilliant. Although in the same year Germany reached its maximum territorial expansion, the Nazi attack ran aground in the spring of 1942 at the gates of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad.
On 17 July the Battle of Stalingrad – one of the bloodiest battles of the whole world conflict – began, leading to the Soviet victory, the worst defeat ever suffered by the Germans so far, which marked the beginning of the German military defeat. Losing Stalingrad would have involved a fatal consequence for Russia, because the city was not only a supply base on Russia’s main waterway, but also a strategic location that would have allowed the Germans to surround Moscow. The battle had been devastating for both the Germans and the Soviets, particularly for the inhabitants of Stalingrad, who had not been previously evacuated.
While the German front had been defeated in Stalingrad, on 16 December the Soviet offensive also broke out against the Italian front. At first, the Italian fleets succeeded in repelling the enemy attack, but then the Soviets responded with all the weapons at their disposal, involving the air fleets as well: on 19 December 1942, the retreat began, during which many died, not only because they were shot dead by either the enemies or the partisans, but also – lacking any means and resources – due to the hunger and cold they had to endure.
13 January – Henry Ford patents the first truly eco-friendly car. The project involves a frame made of a plastic derived from hemp and soybean, lighter and more resistant than a metal frame, and the use of fuel also derived from hemp. After Ford’s death, the project will fall into oblivion.
20 January – Holocaust: the final solution to the Jewish Question is put forward at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin.
10 February – USA: Glenn Miller receives the first gold record in history.
27 February – first transport of French Jews to Nazi Germany.
16 March: in Italy, the new Civil Code is approved by Royal Decree Law no. 262, superseding the previous one of 1865.
27 April: Belgian Jews are forced to wear the distinctive star.
12 June: Anne Frank turns 13 and receives a diary as a gift.
14 June: by beating the Modena team 2-0 at the Flaminio stadium, the Roma football club wins the first championship in its history. It is also the first championship shield for a south-central team; to relive such an event, we will have to wait quite a long time, namely 28 years, with the amazing championship shield won by the Cagliari team.
18 June: birth of Paul McCartney, bass player of the Beatles.
16 July – Holocaust: by order of Pierre Laval, the prime minister of the government of Vichy France, the French police arrest 13,000 to 20,000 Jews.
22 July – Holocaust: the systematic deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto begins.
9 August – Gandhi and all the leaders of the Congress are arrested in Bombay following the numerous clashes between separatists and the police.
13 August: start of the Manhattan Project, a military research and development programme that led to the creation of the first atomic bombs.
21 August – Disney’s cartoon film “Bambi” is released in the US (released in Italy in 1948)
22 August: Brazil declares war on Germany and Italy.
22 October: the city of Genoa is hit hard by 85 British Lancaster heavy bombers. It is the beginning of a series of devastating bombings on Italian cities.
26 November: premiere of the film “Casablanca”, directed by Micheal Curtiz, in Hollywood.
27 November: birth in Seattle of Jimi Hendrix, one of the most influential musicians in history.
2 December: the first controlled chain reaction in an atomic pile is achieved at the University of Chicago under the direction of Enrico Fermi. (Chicago Pile-1)
The Second World War
In the course of the two decades from 1920 to 1939, Europe saw the development of all the preconditions that would soon trigger the Second World War.
A devastating conflict, fought with modern weapons, which involved for the first time the entire civilian population.
World War II was fought from 1 September 1939 to 8 May 1945 in Europe, and from 7 December 1941 to 2 September 1945 in Asia. Germany, Italy and Japan, united in the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, were destroyed by the conflict, while the United States, the USSR and Great Britain would thereafter define the new world order.
During the conflict, Hitler maintained a ferocious conduct, claiming that the Aryan race was superior to all other races. Millions of people were interned in concentration camps, the most famous of which being Auschwitz. Italy was the theatre of war starting in 1943, when it was virtually divided in two, namely: the Kingdom of the South to the south, and Mussolini’s Republic of Salò to the north. The line that separated the peninsula was called the Gustav Line, which was completely broken down when the city of Cassino suffered heavy bombing.
Following numerous battles fought over seven years of war, the latter came to an end with the Japanese massacre: the USA actually dropped the first terrible atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.