Despite heavy losses, the Allied troops clawed their way inland from the beaches of Normandy. In early August, a massive armored division under American General George S. Patton helped the joint British and American forces break through German defenses and advance toward Paris.
Meanwhile, other Allied forces sailed from Italy to land in southern France. In Paris, French resistance forces rose up against the occupying Germans. Under pressure from all sides, the Germans retreated. On August 25, the Allies entered Paris. Within a month, all of France was free.
After freeing France, Allied forces battled toward Germany. As their armies advanced into Belgium in December 1944, Germany launched a massive counterattack. At the bloody Battle of the Bulge, which lasted more than a month, both sides took terrible losses. The Germans drove the Allies back in several places, but were unable to break through. The battle delayed the Allied advance from the west, but only for six weeks. The Battle of the Bulge was Germany's last major offensive attack.
By this time, Germany was reeling under round-the-clock bombing. For two years, Allied bombers had hammered military bases, factories, railroads, oil depots, and cities. The goal of the bombing was to cripple Germany's industries and destroy the morale of its civilians.
By 1945, Germany could no longer defend itself in the air. In one 10-day period, bombing almost erased the huge industrial city of Hamburg, killing 40,000 civilians and forcing one million to flee their homes. In February 1945, Allied raids on Dresden killed as many as 135,000 people. The attack on Dresden later stirred controversy because the city was not an industrial center and had long been seen as one of Europe's most beautiful cities.
Meanwhile, the Soviet army battled through Germany and advanced on Berlin from the east. Hitler's support within Germany was declining, and he had already survived one assassination attempt by senior officers in the German military. By early 1945, the defeat of Germany seemed inevitable.
After the Allies had encircled Germany, they continued to bomb German industrial and military centers. German defenses were eliminated, and the European war came to an end.
From which direction did the Allies come when they launched the D-Day invasion?
As the Allies advanced on Germany, the Big Three met in the Soviet city of Yalta. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin planned for the final stages of the war and for post-war Europe. The meeting took place in an atmosphere of distrust. Stalin insisted that the Soviet Union needed to maintain control of Eastern Europe to be able to protect itself from future aggression.