Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Mar 02

World War II Today: March 2

1940 British India liner Domala bombed in English Channel, killing 100 people.

1941 The German Twelfth Army moves into Bulgaria.

Great Britain breaks off diplomatic relations with Bulgaria.

Germans occupy Bulgaria on way to invade Greece.

The RAF launches a heavy raid against Cologne.

1942 Churchill declares that the Tirpitz is ‘the most important naval vessel in the situation today’ and believes her destruction would ‘profoundly affect the course of the war’.

General Wavell reassumes post as C-in-C India and Burma. Burma is now cut off from the Southwest Pacific.

The Dutch take supreme command of all allied forces in Southwest Pacific.

In Australia, all adult civilians are liable for compulsory war service.

US Army reorganizes into three autonomous commands—Ground Forces, Army Air Forces, and Services of Supply.

The Stage Door Canteen opens on Broadway in 44th St. Theater, where stars entertain and serve servicemen.

1943 The battle of the Bismarck Sea opens Northeast of New Guinea.

US Fifth Air Force (SW Pacific) B-25s use skip-bombing to attack a Japanese convoy sinking 12 ships.

Germans begin a withdrawal from Tunisia, Africa.

The center of Berlin is bombed by the RAF. Some 900 tons of bombs are dropped in a half hour.

1945 US Ninth Army crosses into Germany and reaches the Rhine near Düsseldorf.

The U.S. Third Army captures Trier on the Moselle.

The RAF launches a heavy attack (300 bombers) against Mannheim, causing a devastating firestorm.

After 14 days of fierce fighting, the 503rd Regimental Combat Team – the “Rock Force” – raised the American Flag in the presence of General MacArthur at the Topside Barracks on Corregidor in the Philippines.

In the United States, strikes close ten Chrysler and Briggs plants

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: December 3 Words at War: Headquarters Budapest WWII Today: November 22

Mar 01

World War II Today: March 1

1940 The US Under Secretary of State, Sumner Welles arrives in Berlin at the start of a peace tour of the belligerent countries.

The Soviet Unions peace ultimatum to Finland expires.

1941 Bulgaria finally joins the Tripartite pact after the discovery of a planned pro-British coup.

Italian civilian rations are halved in order to allow food exports to Germany.

Himmler makes his first visit to Auschwitz, during which he orders Kommandant Höss to begin massive expansion, including a new compound to be built at nearby Birkenau that can hold 100,000 prisoners.

The 11th African Division begins a lighting pursuit of the retreating Italian forces north from Mogadishu, towards the Ogaden Plateau.

1942 A US Hudson of squadron VP-82 which is based at Argentia, Newfoundland sinks U-656 off Cape Race.

The heavy cruiser USS Houston and light cruiser HMAS Perth, along with 1 British, 1 Dutch and 2 US destroyers, fleeing from the debacle at the Battle of Java Sea, surprise an IJN landing force at Bantam Bay near the Sundra Strait, and are sunk by torpedoes and gunfire. The Japanese force, comprising 2 heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, 9 destroyers, and various transports, manage to sink a minesweeper and a transport of their own, and seriously damage 3 more transports, through the unprecedented firing of 87 torpedoes.

1943 The British RAF conducts strategic bombing raids on all European railway lines.

The Russians announce that new offensive to the South of Leningrad and led by Timoshenko, ‘has made considerable gains’. German troops begin the evacuation of the Rzhev area.

In New York, American Jews hold a mass rally at Madison Square Garden to pressure the U.S. government into helping the Jews of Europe.

1944 Wing Commander John Cunningham, now on 20 ‘kills’, gets the 2nd bar to his DSO, the first pilot to receive this triple honour.

Both German and Russian forces in the Baltic region go on the defensive.

The ‘Chindits’ cross the Chindwin in Burma.

1945 The US Ninth Army captures München-Gladbach and Rheydt west of the Rhine.

Units of Army group Centre recapture Lauban in lower Silesia.

A U.S. submarine sinks a Japanese merchant ship loaded with supplies for Allied POWs, resulting in a court martial for the captain of the submarine, since the ship had been granted safe passage by the U.S. government.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: April 27 WWII Today: April 10 WWII Today: March 21

Feb 28

World War II Today: February 28

1936 The Japanese Army restores order in Tokyo and arrests officers involved in a coup.

1940 Russian forces overrun the second line of Finnish defenses on the Karelian Isthmus.

First group of British volunteers arrive in Finland, under command of Lt. Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy.

1941 Vichy France reduces bread ration from 350g to 280g.

British February ’41 civilian casualty figures tally at 789 killed and 1068 injured.

British Commando’s, having been left to hold Castelorizzo without out Naval support or reinforcement, are forced to evacuate when the Italians land troops on the Island.

1942 Japanese are only 50 miles north of Rangoon.

The Japanese land on Java in East Indies.

Off Delaware coast, German U-boat U-578 sinks US destroyer Jacob Jones—138/149 killed.

1943 Nine Norwegian commandos successfully climb down the steep gorge on one side of the German ‘heavy water’ plant at Telemark and work their way up a 500 foot, almost sheer rock face to reach the plant on the other side of the gorge. Undetected, they gain entrance and successfully set and detonate their explosives, ruining the plant. All the commandos escaped safely, without taking or inflicting any casualties.

A group of German wives of Jewish men begin to gather and protest in Berlin in order to try and stop the deportation of their husbands to concentrations camps.

1944 The Arabs protest to the U.S. over Senate statements about the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine.

1945 The US Ninth Army achieves a breakthrough near Erkelenz 30 miles to the West of Cologne, but loses 100 tanks in the process.

The 2nd Belorussian Front captures Neustettin. The Red Army suspends all further offensive operations against the lines of Army Group Courland.

The British Indian 4th Corps take Meiktila airfield in central Burma after an eight-day push from the Irrawaddy.

U.S. Marines take Motoyama on Iwo Jima after a bloody battle.

Corregidor is reported as clear of Japanese troops.

US Eighth Army lands unopposed on Palawan in Philippines, takes Puerto Princesa and its airfields.

In the US a midnight curfew is placed on nightclubs, sports arenas, theaters, and bars to conserve coal—restaurants and USO clubs are exempt if alcohol is not served.

1946 The U.S. Army declares that it will use V-2 rocket to test radar as an atomic rocket defense system.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Medical WWII Today: September 29 WWII Today: September 5


Feb 27

World War II Today: February 27

1933 The burning down of the Reichstag building in Berlin gives the Nazis the opportunity to suspend personal liberty with increased power.

1940 The Soviets launch offensive toward Viipuri, Finland.

1941 The first encounter of the Afrika Korps and the British forces.

1942 The Battle of the Java Sea begins and continues for three days, during which the Allies, under the command of the Dutch Admiral, Karel  Doorman lose five cruisers and six destroyers, while the Japanese lose just 4 transports.

British Commandos raid a German radar station at Bruneval on the French coast.

Nazis order construction of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

The Seattle school board accepts forced resignation of Japanese-American teachers.

1943 Jews working in Berlin armaments industry are sent to Auschwitz.

The Rosenstrasse Protests begin in Germany: Gentile women married to Jews protest treatment of Jews

USAAF bomber aircraft make their first raid on Germany.

The United States Mint begins production of steel pennies to conserve copper.

1944 About 60,000 Japanese are reported to be trapped in New Britain and New Ireland, in the South West Pacific.

The United States issues plastic tokens to make change for ration stamps—blue for processed foods, red for meats and fats.

1945 SHAEF reports that spectacular gains by the U.S. First and Ninth Armies on the Cologne Plain have been made.

Under Russian pressure, the Romanian King, Michael I is forced to appoint a Communist government.

The US 8th Air Force launches another heavy attack against Berlin which devastates the center of the city.

Army Group Courland repulses heavy Red Army attacks in the area of Prekuln.

U.S. Marines land on Verde Island, to the Southeast of Manila.

Tje US Sixth Army secures Corregidor in Philippines.

Syria and Lebanon join many other nations in last-minute declarations of war on Germany and Japan—all who join Allies before March 1 will be invited to the upcoming United Nations conference.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: April 28 WWII Winchester Advertisement WWII Today: October 29

Feb 26

World War II Today: February 26

1936 Japanese military troops march into Tokyo to conduct a coup and assassinate political leaders.

1940 US War Department activates Air Defense Command under Brig. Gen. James Chaney.

1941 Franco, in response to Hitler’s appeal to enter the war, says ‘I stand today already at your side, entirely and decidedly at your disposal,’ but refuses to enter the war.

British take the Somali capital in East Africa.

Dutch protest Nazi measures against the Jews, German soldiers fire on protesters in Amsterdam, 9 killed, hundreds arrested.

1942 The RAF launches an attack against the battleship Gneisenau, which is being repaired at Kiel’s floating dock. The damage caused is severe and the battleship is never again put to sea under her own power.

Churchill exhorts General Auchinleck to launch an offensive against the German and Italian forces that are gathering in front of the Gazala line. He reminds Auchinleck that the longer he waits, the more time Rommel will have to rebuild his strength. To this General Auchinleck reply’s that his intention is to first build up an armoured striking force as quickly as possible and strengthen the defenses of the Gazala line. Only then would he mount a major offensive, which he advised Churchill would be in early June.

While carrying Army fighters to the Netherlands East Indies, the first U.S. carrier, the USS Langley, is sunk by Japanese bombers.

1943 Von Arnim launches a five-day counter attack in northern Tunisia, gaining some ground. Montgomery issues the plan Operation ‘Pugilist’, which is to smash the Mareth defensive Line in southern Tunisia.

U.S. B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators pound German docks and U-boat lairs at Wilhelmshaven.

1944 Bad weather ends ‘Big Week’, during which 26 German aircraft production related factories are hit putting German monthly production down by 20%.

Japanese retreat from Sinzweya, Burma, ending “Battle of the Admin Box,” as British troops relieve trapped Indian troops.

1945 The attacks by the US Ninth Army into the Hurtgen Forest make little progress.

US Ninth Army reaches Rhine south of Düsseldorf.

Army Group Courland repulses heavy Red Army attacks in the area of Prekuln.

Syria declares war on Germany and Japan.

U.S. Marines land on Verde Island, to the Southeast of Manila.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 12 WWII Today: December 27 WWII Today: February 7

Feb 25

World War II Today: February 25

1941 British Commando’s land on the Italian held Island of Castelorizzo in the Dodecanese.

The British submarine, HMS Upholder, sinks the Italian Cruiser Armando Diaz to the southwest of Malta.

British Nigerian troops of the 11th African Division occupy Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland, having advanced up the coast.

The 12th African Division pushes up the river Juba in Italian Somaliland towards the Abyssinian border town of Dolo.

First delivery of Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers to US Army Air Force.

1942 After the withdrawal of ABDA HQ from Java, Wavell himself now leaves for Australia.

The debate in the House of Commons comes to a close with many speakers being sharply critical of government policy, with the bombing of Germany being called in to question.

1943 The RAF begins a round the clock bombing campaign in Tunisia, with 2,000 raids in the next 48 hours.

First time US Eighth Air Force (based in England) and US Fifteenth Air Force (based in Italy) bomb the same target—Regensburg, Germany.

U-boats break off attack on Allied North Atlantic convoy ON-166; 15 of 49 ships have been lost since February 21.

US reoccupies abandoned Kasserine Pass.

In New Zealand, Japanese POWs attempt escape; 48 POWs and one guard killed.

1944 Convoy JW-57 (43 ships and 19 escorts) sailing the Loch Ewe to the Kola Peninsula, is attacked on 25 February off Norway. One destroyer, HMS Mahratta, is sunk by U-990 for 1,920 tons.

U.S. forces destroy 135 Japanese planes in Marianas and Guam.

1945 Turkey declares war against Germany.

400 RAF bombers carry out attacks against Dortmund and Rheine.

US Fifth Fleet carrier aircraft and B-29 bombers strike Tokyo in devastating raid.

US M26 Pershing tanks are first used in combat in Europe, by the US 3rd Armored Division near the Roer River.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 22 WWII Today: October 8 WWII Today: May 9

Feb 24

World War II Today: February 24

1941 The 2-engine Manchester bomber is used for the first time during an RAF raid against Brest.

Reconnaissance elements of the German 5th Light Division clash with British forces for the first time in Africa, at Nofilia near El Agheila.

US Navy survey ship Bear and motor ship North Star arrive in Antarctica to evacuate remaining US personnel from Byrd’s 1939-40 expedition.

1942 Parliament begins a two day debate on the conduct of the war.

USS Enterprise attacks the Japanese garrison on Wake Island.

1944 Hitler speaks to a closed door meeting of Nazi Party leaders and activists at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich on the occasion of the anniversary of the proclamation of the Party Program in 1920. Hitler refuses Goebbels requests that the speech be broadcast and even prohibits any mention of it in the newspapers.

‘Big Week’ continues with a co-ordinated RAF and USAAF attacks on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing factory.

1945 A haggard and aged-looking Hitler addresses his Gauleiters and Reichsleiters for what proves to be the last time in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the proclamation of the Nazi Party program. Perhaps sensitive to the likelihood of public scepticism and derision, he refuses to allow the speech to be broadcast or even reported to the public at large.

A German counter attack wipes out the Russian Hron bridgehead over the Danube to the northwest of Budapest.

German U-boats sink 8 ships and 2 destroyers from a convoy bound for the Russian port of Murmansk.

U.S. Marines capture a second airfield on Iwo Jima.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Maher Pasha declares war on the Axis and is immediately assassinated in the parliament chamber.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: November 17 Barbara Bates: Yank Magazine Pin Up WWII Today: July 9

Feb 23

World War II Today: February 23

1938 Twelve Chinese fighter planes drop bombs on Japan.

1940 Sweden announces that she will not permit British or French troops to cross through her territory on their way to Finland.

The Soviet Union announces its final conditions for peace. Finland must hand over the Karelia Isthmus and the shores of Lake Ladoga. It must also grant a 30 year lease on the Hangö Peninsula and sign a mutual assistance treaty, guaranteeing the security of the Gulf of Finland against external threats. In return for all this, the Russians will withdraw from the Petsamo area.

Crews of Exeter and Ajax cheered through London after return from South America.

1941 Alexandros Korizis, the Greek premier formally accepts Britain’s offer of troops to help defend against the Italians.

Stuka’s sink a British Destroyer and the Monitor Terror off the North African coast, near Tobruk.

Free French forces land in Eritrea.

Dr. Glenn Seaborg & Dr. Arthur Wahl chemically identify new element of plutonium at University of California, Berkeley; discovery kept secret until after the war.

1942 US Fifth Air Force B-17s, based in Townsville, Australia make first attack on Rabaul; 1 crash-lands inNew Guinea swamp—Swamp Ghost now in Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. Japanese sub I-17 fires at Bankline Oil Refinery at Ellwood near Santa Barbara CA; little damage; first attack on US mainland in war.

US Army Air Forces approve “winged star” emblem in shape of a V for victory.

The British submarine HMS Trident, torpedo’s the cruiser Prinz Eugen which is sailing to Norway from Kiel, forcing its return to Germany for substantial repairs.

While the 17th Indian Division is withdrawing across the river Sittang, the Japanese launch an attack to capture the Bridge. Lieutenant General Smyth, orders the bridge to be blown, even though more than half his division has still to cross. The remnants of the 17th Indian Division, withdraw to Pegu, where they are joined by the 7th Armoured Brigade, which had recently arrived from the Middle East. For prematurely blowing up the bridge on the river Sittang, Lieutenant General Smyth is removed from command of the 17th Indian Division by General Wavell.

Wavells ABDA HQ leaves Java for Australia, where upon its arrival it is disbanded. Against the wishes of Churchill, the Australian Prime Minister, Curtin orders all Australian Divisions to return home.

A Japanese submarine shells an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, the first Axis bombs to hit American soil.

1944 U.S. carrier-based planes attack the Mariana Islands. Only 1,300 miles from Tokyo.

General Lucas is sacked from the Anzio command and is replaced by Major General Truscott. German counter-attacks drives the Anzio beachhead back further.

Merrill’s ‘Marauders’ (US 5307th Composite Unit) begins Stilwell’s Sino-American advance into northern Burma.

1945 The US Ninth Army begins an offensive from its bridgeheads on the Roer river leading to the bloody battle of the Hurtgen Forest.

The Russians capture the fortress of Posen after a month-long siege.

US paratroops spring 2,146 detainees from a Japanese camp South of Manila in surprise attack, during which 243 Japanese are killed for loss of just two U.S. killed and two injured.

U.S. Marines storm Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and raise the U.S. flag.

1946 Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita is hanged in Manila, the Philippines, for war crimes.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: December 20 WWII Today: Christmas Eve WWII Today: November 17

Feb 22

General James Gavin: the Jumping General

James Gavin (1907-1990) was raised adopted from an orphanage in Brooklyn by a struggling coal miner. Inspired by his school readings on the American Civil War, Gavin decided to seek a better future by joining the army.

He was 17 when he enlisted as a private, lying about his age as he knew his adoptive parents wouldn’t give their consent. He was posted in Panama, where a sergeant took him under his wings and made him his assistant. Gavin’s basic education was sorely lacking as he had to work as a child to help support his family but his mentor persuaded him to join a local army school. He graduated as one of the best, which earned him the chance to attend West Point, where he studied hard. His lack of education was a great disadvantage and every day he got up before dawn to take his school books to the bathroom, the only place with enough light to read.

James Gavin

After graduating from West Point, he was posted at the Mexican border for three years, then attended the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. The school’s manager, then-Colonel George C. Marshall, and Joseph Stilwell, head of the Tactics department, taught him lessons that went against accepted American military thinking of the time. He adopted their philosophy of avoiding micromanaging subordinates and giving them rough guidelines and the freedom to make tactical decisions on their own.

Gavin also became fascinated by the writings of British officer J.F.C. Fuller, one of the early theoreticians of armored warfare. A 1936 posting to the Philippines also made him wary of Japanese military might and aware of how the U.S. was falling behind other countries in weapons development.

When World War II broke out, Gavin returned to West Point as a highly popular instructor and researcher into German tactics and equipment. He became a proponent of airborne forces and wrote the U.S. Army’s field manual on airborne tactics: Tactics and Technique of Air-Borne Troops.

He helped transform the 82nd Infantry Division into the 82nd Airborne, and became commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, leading training marches in person, and telling his officers to always be “the first out of the airplane door and last in the chow line”, a tradition preserved by the airborne to this day. Gavin’s hands-on leadership style made him the only American general in the war to make four parachute jumps with his troops.

During the Allied invasion of Sicily, the 505th PIR became the first ever American unit to perform a regiment-sized airborne landing. Strong winds scattered the group and Gavin landed far away from his zone, spraining his ankle during landing. His small group started making their way back towards their objective in the dark, harassing the much larger Axis forces with guerilla tactics. After one particular skirmish, he had to leave the wounded behind, going on with his last six men. “This is a hell of a place for a regimental commander to be” – he exclaimed.

Gathering scattered paratroopers, infantrymen and later clerks, cooks and truck drivers, he captured and held the vital Biazza Ridge against an overwhelming German force which threatened to attack the exposed flanks of two divisions. Turning two pack howitzers into direct-fire weapons, the group managed to knock out a Tiger and hold the ridge until relief arrived.

General James Gavin jumped again with his troops the night before D-Day, this time into Normandy. The jumps were scattered over a wide area and he was willing to put himself at risk in the chaotic fighting of the first couple of days. During the final push for the La Fière causeway, both he and his superior, General Matthew Ridgway, participated in a charge down an exposed path into heavy enemy resistance, stopping in the killing zone to remove an obstacle.

He jumped once more during Operation Market Garden, suffering another injury on landing. A few days later a doctor told him he was fine but a more thorough check-up five years later revealed he fractured two spinal disks. Not much later, the 82nd was deployed to the Ardennes to defend against Hitler’s last major counterattack in the West. The division fought in the northern sector of the battle, facing Kampfgruppe Peiper , the German unit which earned infamy with its massacres committed against captured U.S. soldiers and local civilians.

After the war, James Gavin became one of the early actors in the racial integration of the U.S. military, when he oversaw the incorporation of the all-black 555th PIR into the 82nd Airborne. He assisted his fellow airborne general, Maxwell Taylor, in the creation of Cold War-era Pentomic Divisions. As Army Chief of Research and Development he called for the use of airborne mechanized infantry as a sort of modern cavalry, his intention eventually culminating in the heavy use of helicopter-borne troops during the Vietnam War.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: Battle of La Fière Bridge D-Day: June 6

Feb 22

World War II Today: February 22

1940 Two IRA bombs explode in London; 12 people injured.

n North Sea, Luftwaffe accidentally sinks German destroyer Leberecht Maass; during rescue,German destroyer Max Schultz is sunk by mine.

1941 The first mass round-up of Jews in Amsterdam; 430 deported in reprisal for murder of Dutch Nazi party member.

Bread ration in Jewish ghetto in Warsaw reduced to 3 oz per day.

The Afrika Korps, newly arrived in Libya, launch their first probing attacks against the unpleasantly surprised British Army at El Agheila.

1942 Air Marshal A. T. (Bomber) Harris is appointed C-in-C of Bomber Command.

British forces in retreat less than 100 miles from Rangoon, the capital of Burma.

President Franklin Roosevelt orders General Douglas MacArthur to leave the Philippines.

New car sales in the United States end for the duration of the war

1943 Churchill is said to be ‘on the mend’ after a severe fever.

Army Group Centre begins a counterattack in the area between the Dnieper and Donets.

Allied commando raid on Myebon, South of Akyab in the Arakan, western Burma.

Norway, Nazi collaborationist Quisling orders conscription of 35,000 Norwegian men for military construction.

Battleship USS Iowa is commissioned, New York Naval Yard, first of four Iowa class battleships, the last US battleships.

1944 Malinovsky completes the capture of the mining area around Krivoi Rog.

Heavy Japanese losses as the U.S. Navy bombards the Marianas in the Pacific.

1945 Allied Air Forces launch Operation Clarion, a concerted effort to wipe out all forms of transport available to the Germans in 24 hours. Nearly 9,000 aircraft, operating from bases in England, France, Holland, Belgium and Italy attack over 250,00 square miles of territory, targeting railways, bridges, ports and roads.

After a heavy four-day battle, the U.S.Fifth Army takes the Upper Reno Valley in northern Italy between Bologna and Florence.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: January 2 WWII Today: November 19 WWII Today: December 16