Young Americans, like the high school cadets above, had every reason to feel bullish in 1943. The Allies spent much of the year capitalizing on their successful resistance of German and Japanese forces in the Pacific, North Africa and Russia during the previous year.

In fact, Churchill was so confident that the threat of German invasion was all but extinguished that the Prime Minister declared that the ringing of church bells, since1939 the first warning of imminent invasion, could now resume their peacetime role of summoning worshippers to Church.

The seige of Stalingrad finally concluded with defeat for the German commander, Field Marshal Von Paulus and his exhausted, starving and frozen troops, 200,000 of whom perished in one of the war's most horrific battles. Hitler, however, believed that his troops hadn't earned the right to surrender and ordered that the Sixth Army fight to the last man. On the other hand the heavily armed SS troops entrusted with the "defeat" of the Warsaw ghetto's 50,000 or so remaining Jews were promised campaign honours by Heinrich Himmler for the efficient extermination of those hiding in the ghetto's maze of crumbling buildings. The German commander Stroop found that the "enemy", consisting of, by his own reckoning, 'sub-humans and natural cowards', put up far stiffer resistance than expected. The extreme ruthlessness with which Stroop therefore had to discharge his responsibilities prompted even Goebbels to comment on "a truly grotesque situation" in the Polish city.

The unconditional surrender of Italy swiftly followed the Allied recapture of Sicily and in Germany, the aerial bombardment of the country's industrial heartland continued apace. The "Dambusters" raid was the most spectacular incident in a campaign which brought sustained devastation to the Ruhr region. In just over one August week, for instance, Allied bombers dropped a greater weight of bombs on Hamburg than had been dropped during the entire 1940-1 Blitz.

Mike Higgins