In 1944, World War II entered its third year, and the liberation of Europe by Allied troops began. Axis-held Rome fell to Allied troops on June 4, and two days later, 155,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. Allied forces reclaimed Athens, Guam, Paris and the Philippines during the following six months.
In April of 1944, two prisoners escaped from Auschwitz concentration camp. Their story confirmed rumours about the Holocaust and Nazi death camps, and details of such were reported by the BBC and The New York Times in July. As Soviet forces moved across Poland, several concentration camps were either dismantled by the Nazis or liberated by invading forces. Access to rail transportation was limited, and the weak and malnourished prisoners of Nazi-dismantled camps were forced to walk during relocation. Those who fell behind during these death marches were shot.
Two major natural disasters disrupted wartime efforts in 1944. On March 18, 1944, Mount Vesuvius erupted in Naples, Italy. The volcanic explosion destroyed four villages, killed 26 people and destroyed 78 to 88 U.S. B-25 Bomber aircraft. In December, Typhoon Cobra slammed a U.S. Naval fleet in the western Pacific Ocean, killing over 700 soldiers. The storm sank three ships and damaged 27 others.