Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Oct 27

World War II Today: October 27

1941 In a broadcast to the nation on Navy Day, President Franklin Roosevelt declares: “America has been attacked, the shooting has started.” He does not ask for full-scale war yet, realizing that many Americans are not yet ready for such a step.

The Russians launch numerous counter-attacks around Moscow in an attempt to halt the German advance. 11th Army forces a breakthrough at Perekop, thus opening the gate to the Crimean peninsula.

German Army Group South forces reach Sevastopol in the Crimea, but the tanks of the “Northern” forces are slowed or stopped entirely by mud.

1942 Wolfpack ‘Battleaxe’ attacks Convoy SL-125 (37 ships) which is sailing from Sierra Leone to the UK. The attack begins off the northwest coast of  Africa, not far from Gibraltar and continues until the 31st October 1942. During this time 12 merchants (80,005 gross tons) are sunk and 7 damaged. While the battle rages, the allies re-route all convoys associated with the ‘Torch’ landings in North Africa.

The Soviet 37th Army is defeated in Caucasus.

During the Second Battle of El Alamein, a counter-attack by the 21st Panzer-Division to push the attacking British forces back into the German minefields fails, costing them 50 Panzer’s. This leaves the axis forces with just 81 operational tanks.

United States destroyers sink the damaged carrier USS Hornet to prevent her from falling into the hands of approaching Japanese ships. The Hornet has been in operation for only 371 days.

1943 Montgomery resumes the offensive operations in Italy.

Field Marshal Von Kluge is invalided from command of Army Group Centre as result of a car crash.

1944 The Battle of Hürtgen Forest is developing. It will continue through October and November and have its last attacks in December.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 18 WWII Today: September 25 Rita Hayworth – WWII Pin Up

Oct 26

World War II Today: October 26

1939 Germany annexes former Polish areas of Upper Silesia, West Prussia, Pomerania, Poznan, Ciechanow, Danzig, and part of Lodz; all the rest of German-occupied Poland to come under the “General Government.” Forced labor decree issued for Polish Jews aged 14 to 60.

1940 London has longest air raid to date as a Catholic orphanage is among the buildings hit. British claim 41 German planes shot down in the past week against 21 British. The total German losses over Britain since the war began are put at a staggering 2,762 against Britain’s 780.

Ministry of Food subsidises fish and chip shops to encourage potato consumption.

The Italians protest to the Greeks about their ‘non-neutral’ attitude towards Italy.

1942 850 Jews are arrested in Norway.

The Eighth Army begins re-grouping its divisions at El Alamein for the final breakout, and take Kidney Ridge.

Center and Eastern Task Forces depart Britain for Torch landings in Oran and Algiers, Algeria.

Battle of Santa Cruz, with US forces attacking the large Japanese supporting fleet near Guadalcanal and shooting down 100 aircraft, damaging two carriers, a battleship and three cruisers. U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Hornet is heavily damaged during the Battle of Santa Cruz.

The USS South Dakota knocks down twenty-six Japanese planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz, setting the record for the most enemy planes downed in one day.

The First American Red Cross Clubmobiles begin service to US troops in Britain.

1943 The RAF launches a heavy night raid against Stuttgart, while the US 8th Air Force, in its greatest effort to date, delivers a devastating daylight attack on Bremen.

A hospital ship arrives in Liverpool with 790 wounded POW’s aboard, repatriated from Germany.

A feint landing on Choisseul in the Solomon’s is conducted by US forces. Meanwhile Treasury Island is occupied.

Emperor Hirohito states his country’s situation is now “truly grave.”

1944 The Battle of Leyte Gulf concludes with a decisive US victory, despite heavy Japanese kamikaze attacks; this battle marks the virtual collapse of the Japanese Navy.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 16 WWII Today: September 21 WWII Today: September 22

Oct 25

Clark Gable – WWII B-17 Aerial Gunner

William Clark Gable (1901-1960) was born to a protestant father working as an oil well driller and a catholic mother who died when he was 10 months old. As a young man, he worked at oil fields and as a horse manager until he gradually broke into the world of theater and screen acting. By the time of America’s entry into World War II he was already a highly acclaimed actor and the star of such movies as It Happened One Night (which earned him an Academy Award), Mutiny on the Bounty and, of course, Gone With the Wind.

In 1939, he married actress Carole Lombard, his third wife. The following years were the happiest in Gable’s life, but the idyll was cut short by tragedy. On January 16, 1942, Lombard was flying home from a war bond promotion tour when her plane crashed, killing everyone on board. Gable was emotionally and physically shattered, losing 20 pounds in a month. He enlisted in the U.S. Army later that year, almost certainly as a way to cope with the personal loss. Before her death, Lombard encouraged him to do so. After a public announcement of his intention, Commanding General of the USAAF Henry “Hap” Arnold offered him a special assignment in aerial gunnery.

Gable, already 41 years old, considered enrolling in officer candidate school, but eventually enlisted in August 1942 as a gunner on a bomber. His studio, MGM, arranged for Andrew McIntyre, a cinematographer and personal friend, to accompany him during training. Once enlisted, he was sent to officer training anyway. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and was as the graduation speaker of his class. It was after his commission that General Arnold explained the nature of his special assignment. The USAAF was facing a shortage of aerial gunners and he wanted Gable to shoot a propaganda film to increase enlistment rates.

Gable was promoted to captain and sent to England with the 351st Bomb Group of the 8th USAAF as head of a six-man film crew. He took his duties seriously and shot a wealth of material interviewing air crew members. He was also willing to party when appropriate and became popular with the enlisted men. In order to acquire aerial footage, he also went on combat missions on several B-17 Flying Fortresses (he was attached to the group, but not to any specific crew). Official papers record five missions flown by him as an observer-gunner, though some veterans who served with him claimed he went on more.

Of the five recorded flights, one, an attack on a chemical plant in Norway, was the longest mission flown by the 8th Air Force up to that point. Another, a large raid on Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley, was the 8th’s most dangerous flight to date, with 25 planes out of 330 shot down by the enemy. During an attack on his plane, Gable was wedged behind the gunner in the cramped top turret, shooting footage of German planes making five passes at the bomber formation. As he was handling his camera, a 20mm shell penetrated the bomber from below. Gable and the gunner dodged death: the shell cut off the heel of Gable’s boot, flew past him and exited the plane a foot from his head, all without exploding. When later pressed by reporters, Gable said he didn’t even notice the shell at the time and only saw the exit hole later.

Gable probably didn’t know that his actions over Europe earned him the attention of an unlikely fan: Adolf Hitler himself. He was Hitler’s favorite actor, probably in part due to his Rhinelander and Bavarian ancestry and the Führer offered a significant bounty to whoever captured the actor unscathed.

In November, Gable returned to America with 50,000 feet of film, ready to go into the editing room, only to find that the gunner shortage had already been rectified. Nevertheless, he was allowed to finish the 62-minute film and Combat America premiered in movie theaters in 1945.

In 1944 Gable was promoted to major. He wanted to fly more combat missions but was not assigned to any combat units during the invasion of Normandy. Realizing he wasn’t going to be allowed on missions any more due to his age, he requested his relief from active duty, which was granted. By coincidence, his discharge papers were signed by a later U.S. President: then-Captain Ronald Reagan. Shortly after his retirement from military service, he put his personal experience to good use in Command Decision, a 1948 film about the politics of and the emotional toll on commanders, in which he played a fictional brigadier general supervising raids on Germany.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: Combat America: by Clark Gable Rosie the Riveter Photographs B-17 Survival Story Clark Gable Reproduction Dog Tags


Oct 25

World War II Today: October 25

1939 U-boats sink four more British ships.

1940 While bombing Chungking, China, Japanese bombs accidentally almost hit US embassy and US gunboat Tutuila, causing an international incident.

Benjamin O. Davis Sr. becomes the first black general in the US Army.

1941 US condemns Nazi practice of killing innocent civilians in reprisal for partisan activities.

1942 Germans capture two more streets in Stalingrad with severe losses. The last German offensive in the Caucasus begins.

Montgomery switches the attack to the North. Rommel breaks off his sick leave to take charge of the critical situation in which the axis forces now find themselves.

German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel returns to Battle of El Alamein in Egypt after medical treatment in Germany.

On Guadalcanal, Japanese attack Lunga perimeter and at the Matanikau River, but are repulsed.

1943 Burma-Siam “Death Railway” completed by Allied POWs and natives (93,000 killed in its construction).

Japanese withdraw from Finschhafen area of New Guinea.

1944 Russians troops take the German base of Kirkenes in Norway.

The Red Army completes its capture of Transylvania in northwestern Romania.

The Japanese are defeated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the world’s largest sea engagement. From this point on, the depleted Japanese Navy increasingly resorts to the suicidal attacks of Kamikaze fighters. By the end of the war, Japan will have sent an estimated 2,257 aircraft. “The only weapon I feared in the war,” Adm. Halsey will say later.

1945 Japanese forces on Formosa (Taiwan) surrender to Chiang Kai-shek at Taipei City. Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 31 WWII Today: September 14 WWII Today: September 18

Oct 24

World War II Today: October 24

1938 In a move that increases tensions between the United States and Japan, the USS President Coolidge is forced to unload nearly $3 million worth of gold and silver before it is allowed to leave the Japanese controlled port of Shanghai.

1940 British Summer Time to be continued throughout winter.

Hitler meets Petain at Montoire, which leads ‘to agreement in principle of collaboration’, but Petain rejects the idea of a Franco-German military alliance.

RAF night raids on Berlin and Hamburg inflict serious civilian casualties for the first time.

1941 The Ukrainian city of Kharkov falls to the German 6th and 17th Armies of Army Group South.

1942 U-boat control in France creates wolfpack ‘Battleaxe’. This will operate in the North Atlantic until it is disbanded on the 1st November 1942 and will include at one time or another U-134, U-203, U-409, U-509, U-510, U-572, U-604 and U-659.

RAF bombs Turin, the first bombing of Italy from British bases.

The land battle begins in earnest around Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, with the elite Japanese 2nd Division being wiped out.

Main detachment of Western Naval Task Force leaves Hampton Roads, VA & Casco Bay, ME for Operation Torch landings in Morocco, under Rear Adm. Kent Hewitt.

1943 An E-boat attack on a convoy off the Norfolk coast result in four E-boats being sunk and one British trawler.

The Red Army achieves a breakthrough on the Dnieper river and captures Melitopol.

1944 The aircraft carrier USS Princeton is sunk by a single Japanese plane during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Fifty black sailors are convicted of mutiny in the controversial Port Chicago case; after only 80 minutes deliberation, all 50 men given 15-year sentences

Australians secure Goodenough Island off New Guinea.

1945 Vidkun Quisling, Norway’s wartime minister president, is executed by firing squad for collaboration with the Nazis.

The United Nations formally comes into being with twenty-nine ratifications having been received.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 16 Carole Landis: Yank Magazine Pin Up WWII Today: August 18

Oct 23

World War II Today: October 23

1940 Hitler meets Franco, the Spanish head of state at Hendaye near the French-Spanish border. Franco declares ‘Spain will gladly fight at Germany’s side’, but remains non-committal regarding Spain’s entry into the war.

The RAF continue its attacks on Berlin.

1941 De Gaulle meets French Resistance and asks to spare the innocent and bide their time.

It is decided that British forces should make their main approach on Gondar in Abyssinia, from the direction of Adowa due to the better road conditions.

Nazis forbid emigration of Jews from the Reich.

1942 Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt arrives in London for a three-week visit as guest of the King.

The battleship Tirpitz leaves Bogenfjord and moves south to Lofjord near Trondheim, where it is to be refitted.

The Western Task Force, destined for North Africa, departs from Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The Second Battle of El Alamein begins with a 1,000-gun bombardment. The Eighth Army gains ground on a 6-mile front and repulses Axis counter-attacks.

The RAF launches bombing raids against the Italian cities of Genoa and Turin.

The previously undefeated Sandai division of the Japanese army suffers its first loss of the war whe it fails to capture Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal.

1943 A German torpedo boat flotilla sinks the Royal Navy cruiser Charybdis and the destroyer Limborne in a Channel duel.

Russians take Melitopol after 10-days of fighting; Dnepropetrovsk falls to Malinovsky, while a tank army reaches Krivoi Rog.

1944 The 3rd Panzer Corps begin a six day counter attack around Debrecen.

The decisive three-day battle of Leyte Gulf begins. The Japanese lose four carriers, three battleships, six heavy and four light cruisers, 11 destroyers, one submarine and some 500 planes, with approximately 10,000 sailors killed. The first organised use of Kamikaze’s by the Japanese are reported.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: October 14 WWII Today: October 18 Words at War: Assignment USA

Oct 22

World War II Today: October 22

1939 “Elections” are held in Soviet-occupied Poland now called “Western Byelorussia” and “Western Ukraine.” The USSR confiscates all property including bank accounts, and replaces Polish currency with the ruble. Poles are fired from their jobs and thrown into jail as the NKVD compiles lists for deportation. Factories, hospitals, schools, are dismantled and shipped to the USSR. Polish education and language is phased out; libraries are closed and books burned. Churches are destroyed and priests arrested. Even the wearing of crosses is forbidden. Owning a typewriter is now a crime.

1940 On a convoy in the North Atlantic, Royal Canadian Navy destroyer Margaree collides with freighter Port Fairy in poor visibility, 400 miles west of Ireland. It is the first convoy mission for the destroyer, and 140 lives are lost.

British Ambassador in Moscow Sir Stafford Cripps tries to woo Russians with three-point co-operation plan.

Deportation of 29,000 German Jews from Baden, the Saar, and Alsace-Lorraine into Vichy France.

1941 50 hostages shot in Nantes, France as reprisal for assassination of the German military commander. 50 more to die if the assassin isn’t caught.

German Major shot in Bordeaux 100 arrested, 50 shot immediately.

Russian partisans explode a bomb at Odessa, killing several Romanian and German officers and soldiers. Romanian Dictator Ion Antonescu orders two hundred Russians executed for every officer killed and one hundred Russians executed for every enlisted man killed.

1942 A Royal Proclamation is signed that reduces the British call-up age to 18.

Against fierce Soviet resistance, the 6th Army capture most of the Red October Steelworks and Barricades factories in the northern part of Stalingrad.

SS put down a revolt at Sachsenhausen by a group of Jews about to be sent to Auschwitz.

First transports for Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa, depart Britain (cargo ships).

1943 The Germans publish a plan to kidnap Hitler, which was allegedly drawn up by the Italians.

Operation ‘Corona’ (the jamming of German night-fighter communications) begins during an RAF raid on Kassel.

1944 The Red Army continues its drive west and captures several towns near the Russian German border.

First use of napalm in the Pacific Theater—US fighters drop napalm on oil storage tanks on Ceram Island.

Capt. Alexander Patch III, son of the commanding general of the US Seventh Army, killed in action in France.

1945 In Hawaii, final performance of Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army; Berlin donated all proceeds to the Army Emergency Relief Fund. Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: October 17 WWII Today: October 15 WWII Today: October 11

Oct 21

World War II Today: October 21

1939 The Luftwaffe starts attacks against North Atlantic convoys.

As war heats up with Germany, the British war cabinet holds its first meeting in the underground war room in London.

The Germans start deporting Poles from Posen (Poznan), largest city of western Poland (250,000 people), in their attempt at establishing “pure and Germanic provinces” in Poland.

President Roosevelt establishes an advisory committee on the use of uranium.

1940 Churchill broadcasts to France, ‘Frenchmen rearm your spirits before it is too late.’

1941 Units of 6th Army capture Stalino in the industrial Donets Basin.

1942 The South Africa Premier, Field-Marshal Smuts, makes a historic speech to both Houses of Parliament saying, ‘The stage is set for the last, the offensive stage’.

General Mark Clark lands by sub at Cherchel, Algeria for clandestine meeting with Vichy French in preparation for the upcoming Allied invasion.

WWI ace Eddie Rickenbacker’s B-17 ditches in the central Pacific; crew afloat for 24 days.

Congress passes Revenue Act of 1942, which raises $7 billion in new income taxes and reduces deductions, adding 13 million new taxpayers into the system.

1944 Aachen finally falls to the U.S. First Army, earning the distinction of being the first German city to be captured. 12,000 German prisoners have been taken since the 2nd October. Breskens is captured by the Canadians, but fighting continues for 10 more days in the pocket.

Lt. Frances Slanger killed by German shell in her tent, the first American nurse killed in France.

1945 The U-boat pens in Hamburg are blown up by British Engineers using German explosives.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: January 18 WWII Today: December 11 WWII Today: October 14

Oct 20

World War II Today: October 20

1939 Pope Pius XII publishes his first encyclical, Summi pontificatus,decrying racism, dictators, and treaty violations.

1940 Italian planes bomb Cairo for the first time, also bomb US-run oil facilities in Bahrain.

1941 The Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) commissioned under Capt. Marc Mitscher.

Germans massacre 2300 Serbians in Kragujevac in response to partisan killing of 10 Germans.

1942 US War Production Board orders stop to all non-essential civil construction projects.

Southern Conference on Race Relations issues Durham Manifesto urging voting rights and equal educational and job opportunities.

1943 An allied agreement to set up UN commission on war crimes is announced in London.

A delayed-detonation bomb explodes at the central post office in Naples, Italy, injuring seventy-two people. When they retreated three weeks earlier, the Germans left behind scores of booby traps.

The Russian attacks from Bukrin bridgehead are bloodily repulsed.

A U.S. Navy PBY Catalina and an Japanese Navy Mitsubishi G4M (Betty) bomber exchanged fire off Attu. As the last air combat action in the Alaska Territory’s Aleutian Islands, the incident also marked the last combat fought in any of the fifty United States

1944 The Red Army captures Belgrade, while Yugoslav partisans capture Dubrovnik.

The Belgrade Offensive ended in Partisan/Soviet victory when the capture of Belgrade itself was completed.

The Greek government-in-exile returned to Athens

The U.S. Sixth Army landings in the Philippines begin on the East Coast of Leyte, but the 60,000 men sent ashore encounter stiff Japanese resistance.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur stepped ashore at Leyte in the Philippines, 2 1/2 years after he’d said, “I shall return.”


Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: February 17 WWII Today: September 14 WWII Today: March 11

Oct 19

World War II Today: October 19

1939 Germany officially incorporates western Poland into the Reich.

1940 Convoy HX-79 (49 ships), sailing from Halifax in Canada to Britain, is attacked by 5 U-boats between the 19th and 20th October in the North Atlantic. The British lost 12 ships for 75,063 gross tons, while not a single U-boat was lost. The destroyer Venetia sinks after hitting mine in Thames Estuary.

The Australian 7th Division sets sail for the Middle East.

1941 Army Group Centre finally clears the Vyazma pocket capturing 670,000 Russians, 1,000 tanks and 4,000 guns. Stalin announces he will stay in Moscow and declares state of siege in Moscow and orders its defense to the last.

U.S. freighter “Lehigh” sunk in South Atlantic.

1942 General Friedrich von Paulus pleads with the Fuhrer and the German High Command for supplies and reinforcements for his army, under seige at Stalingrad. He receives nothing but the order to fight to the last man.

The Japanese submarine I-36 launches a floatplane for a reconnaissance flight over Pearl Harbor. The pilot and crew report on the ships in the harbor, after which the aircraft is lost at sea.

German Jews no longer allowed meat, wheat products, milk, or eggs.

US War Production Board mandates tin can collection in cities with a population greater than 25,000.

1943 The offensive by the US 5th Army along the Volturno river bogs down due to bad weather and a skillful German defense.

1944 Field Marshal Model gives up the attempts to relieve Aachen.

The Germans evacuate Belgrade.

Hitler orders the total destruction of Warsaw. The German 4th Army withdraws from the Tilsit area.

The British capture an important Japanese supply depot at Mohnyin in Burma.

The U.S. Navy announced that black women would be allowed into the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

The first two black WAVES officers, Harriet Ida Pikens and Frances Wills, were sworn in December 22 of that year. Of the 80,000 WAVES in the World War II, 72 Black women served, normally under integrated conditions.

Japanese Vice-Admiral Onishi Takijino orders the formation of Special Attack Group of kamikazes to attack Allied ships around the Philippines.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: Captain Ben Dix – October 3, 1943 Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941 WWII Today: April 25