Allies gain momentum

Following the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Allies initiated several operations against Japan in the Pacific. In May 1943, Allied forces were sent to eliminate Japanese forces from the Aleutians,[179] and soon after began major operations to isolate Rabaul by capturing surrounding islands, and to breach the Japanese Central Pacific perimeter at the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.[180] By the end of March 1944, the Allies had completed both of these objectives, and additionally neutralised the major Japanese base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. In April, the Allies then launched an operation to retake Western New Guinea.[181] In the Soviet Union, both the Germans and the Soviets spent the spring and early summer of 1943 making preparations for large offensives in Central Russia. On 4 July 1943, Germany attacked Soviet forces around the Kursk Bulge. Within a week, German forces had exhausted themselves against the Soviets' deeply echeloned and well-constructed defences[182][183] and, for the first time in the war, Hitler cancelled the operation before it had achieved tactical or operational success.[184] This decision was partially affected by the Western Allies' invasion of Sicily launched on 9 July which, combined with previous Italian failures, resulted in the ousting and arrest of Mussolini later that month.[185] On 12 July 1943, the Soviets launched their own counter-offensives, thereby dispelling any hopes of the German Army for victory or even stalemate in the east. The Soviet victory at Kursk heralded the downfall of German superiority,[186] giving the Soviet Union the initiative on the Eastern Front.[187][188] The Germans attempted to stabilise their eastern front along the hastily fortified Panther-Wotan line, however, the Soviets broke through it at Smolensk and by the Lower Dnieper Offensives.[189] In early September 1943, the Western Allies invaded the Italian mainland, following an Italian armistice with the Allies.[190] Germany responded by disarming Italian forces, seizing military control of Italian areas,[191] and creating a series of defensive lines.[192] German special forces then rescued Mussolini, who then soon established a new client state in German occupied Italy named the Italian Social Republic.[193] The Western Allies fought through several lines until reaching the main German defensive line in mid-November.[194] German operations in the Atlantic also suffered. By May 1943, as Allied coun er-measures became increasingly effective, the resulting sizable German submarine losses forced a temporary halt of the German Atlantic naval campaign.[195] In November 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met with Chiang Kai-shek in Cairo[196] and then with Joseph Stalin in Tehran.[197] The former conference determined the post-war return of Japanese territory,[196] while the latter included agreement that the Western Allies would invade Europe in 1944 and that the Soviet Union would declare war on Japan within three months of Germany's defeat.[197] British troops firing a mortar during the Battle of Imphal, North East India, 1944. From November 1943, during the seven-week Battle of Changde, the Chinese forced Japan to fight a costly war of attrition, while awaiting Allied relief.[198][199] In January 1944, the Allies launched a series of attacks in Italy against the line at Monte Cassino and attempted to outflank it with landings at Anzio.[200] By the end of January, a major Soviet offensive expelled German forces from the Leningrad region,[201] ending the longest and most lethal siege in history. The following Soviet offensive was halted on the pre-war Estonian border by the German Army Group North aided by Estonians hoping to re-establish national independence. This delay slowed subsequent Soviet operations in the Baltic Sea region.[202] By late May 1944, the Soviets had liberated Crimea, largely expelled Axis forces from Ukraine, and made incursions into Romania, which were repulsed by the Axis troops.[203] The Allied offensives in Italy had succeeded and, at the expense of allowing several German divisions to retreat, on 4 June Rome was captured.[204] The Allies experienced mixed fortunes in mainland Asia. In March 1944, the Japanese launched the first of two invasions, an operation against British positions in Assam, India,[205] and soon besieged Commonwealth positions at Imphal and Kohima.[206] In May 1944, British forces mounted a counter-offensive that drove Japanese troops back to Burma,[206] and Chinese forces that had invaded northern Burma in late 1943 besieged Japanese troops in Myitkyina.[207] The second Japanese invasion attempted to destroy China's main fighting forces, secure railways between Japanese-held territory and capture Allied airfields.[208] By June, the Japanese had conquered the province of Henan and begun a renewed attack against Changsha in the Hunan province.