Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Oct 14

World War II Today: October 14

1939 U47 (Kapitanleutnant Prien) sinks HMS Royal Oak at anchor in Scapa Flow, killing 883. U47 then escapes undetected and returns home to Germany.

The press in Germany declare Prien a hero.

Polish submarine Orzel arrives in Britain having escaped internment in Estonia.

1940 Luftwaffe bomb falls on Balham Tube station in London, killing 66.

1941 Army Group Centre wipes out the Russian pocket at Bryansk, but only capture about 50,000 prisoners. The rain and mud begins to impede the German advance, but German troops manage to capture Rzhev. Hitler orders that Moscow is to be enveloped, rather that assaulted directly.

Russian troops fall back in the southern Ukraine as the Germans make for the port of Rostov.

1942 Japanese bombard Henderson Field at night from warships then send troops ashore onto Guadalcanal in the morning as U.S. planes attack.

In the northern part of Stalingrad, units of the 6th Army advance in bitter fighting and surround the heavily defended Tractor Factory, following a series of devastating attacks (over 3,000 sorties) by bombers of Luftflotte 4.

Hitler orders halt in east except in Stalingrad and the Caucasus to prepare for winter defense.

Australians and Japanese battle for Templeton’s Crossing on Kokoda Trail, New Guinea.

Off Newfoundland, German sub U-69 sinks British railway ferry SS Caribou; 136 killed, mostly civilians, including Naval Nursing Sister Agnes Wilkie, the only Canadian nurse killed in action in WWII.

1943 The US 8th Air Force delivers a heavy attack against the ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt. However, of the original force of 291 B-17’s, 198 are either shot down or damaged beyond repair, while the Luftwaffe has lost only about 40 fighter planes.

1943 German forces evacuate the Zaporozhe bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnieper river.

Massive escape from Sobibor as Jews and Soviet POWs break out, with 300 making it safely into nearby woods. Of those 300, fifty will survive.

Exterminations then cease at Sobibor, after over 250,000 deaths. All traces of the death camp are then removed and trees are planted.

Jose P. Laurel, a distinguished pre-war Filipino statesman, takes office as “president” of the Philippines after being elected by a Japanese puppet “National Assembly” on Sept. 25. Surviving two assassination attempts by Filipino guerrillas, Laurel’s government enjoyed little popularity. A general amnesty after the war spared him a treason trial.

1944 The British liberate Athens and Piraeus and also land on Corfu.

Russian troops and Yugoslav Partisans force their way in to Belgrade.

German Field Marshal Rommel, suspected of complicity in the July 20th plot against Hitler, is visited at home by two of Hitler’s staff and given the choice of public trial or suicide by poison. He chooses suicide and it is announced that he died of wounds suffered earlier from a strafing attack.

Ann Baumgartner becomes first Wasp to fly an experimental jet aircraft.

1945 Indonesian People’s Army declares war on the Netherlands.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: June 28 WWII Today: May 8 WWII Today: August 16

Oct 13

World War II Today: October 13

1939 In skirmishes along Maginot Line, French destroy 3 bridges over Rhine.

1940 14-year old Princess Elizabeth made her first public speech, a radio address to the children of the British Commonwealth. Her ten-year-old sister Princess Margaret joined in at the end.

1941 German forces of Army Group Centre capture Kalinin, just 100 miles to the West of Moscow.

1942 In the first of four attacks, two Japanese battleships sail down the slot and shell Henderson field on Guadalcanal, in an unsuccessful effort to destroy the American Cactus Air Force.

First US Army troops land on Guadalcanal, the 164thInfantry Regiment, joining the US Marines.

Japanese submarine I-30 struck a mine near Singapore and sank.

The Russians regain some ground in Stalingrad, but at heavy cost.

First flight of the North American Mustang X with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, in Hucknall, England; the engine transforms the Mustang into a high-altitude, long-distance fighter.

1943 The new Italian government of Marshal Badoglio declares war on Germany, with little effect. Nearly half a million Italian troops have been taken prisoner by the Germans, who predict the Italians will switch sides after their surrender.

The U.S. Fifth Army crosses the Volturno River.

The Russians reach Melitopol in southern Ukraine.

The whole of the New Georgia group of islands in the Solomon’s are reported in allied hands.

The American destroyer Bristol was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean Sea off Algiers by German submarine U-371.

The German submarine U-402 was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean by an American Grumman TBF Avenger from the escort carrier USS Card.

1944 Russian troops capture Riga, the capital of Latvia as Army Group North withdraws in to the Kurland pocket.

The US secures Palau Islands in the Pacific.

The Australian Liberal Party is formed.

Allied forces liberated Athens from German occupation.

The Germans launched V-1 and V-2 flying bombs at Antwerp in an attempt to deny use of its crucial port to the Allies.

The Battle of Rovaniemi in Finland ended in German retreat.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 8 WWII Today: September 18 WWII Today: May 19

Oct 12

Desmond Doss, the Pacifist Who Went to War

The real life Desmond Doss.

Desmond Thomas Doss was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1919. During the Great Depression, he stopped attending school after the ninth grade to help out his family, working in a shipyard when WWII broke out. He could have gotten a deferment due to his employment, but he wanted to serve his country and answered the draft. As a deeply religious Seventh-day Adventist, he always did whatever he could to help other people. On one occasion, he heard on the radio that a women suffered a traffic accident nearby and urgently needed blood. Doss walked three miles to the hospital to donate some of his, then walked another three miles back home once he was done. He did the same thing again two days later after another call went out on the radio.

He met Richmond native fellow Adventist nurse Dorothy Schutte at church when she was travelling through Lynchburg selling Adventist books. In her own words, she married him because “He was a good Christian and I figured he would help me go to Heaven. … He appreciated me because I’ve never kissed any other men. He was the first one I ever kissed.” They married four months after he was drafted, before going on active duty. Contrarily to the film, Doss did not miss his wedding because he was denied a pass.

During training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina with the 77th Infantry Division, Doss made heavy waves by refusing to kill enemy soldiers, to work on Saturdays or to use a weapon. He wouldn’t even carry one, since, as he said, “I knew if I ever once compromised, I was gonna be in trouble, because if you can compromise once, you can compromise again.” Like it is shown in the movie, this made him the target of his comrades and superiors. He became a medic assigned to 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.

Doss was eventually deployed to the Pacific and saw combat on Guam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for aiding soldiers under fire, and at Leyte in the Philippines, before finding himself on Okinawa. The film depicts his heroism in 1945 at the Maeda Escarpment, nicknamed Hacksaw Ridge as soldiers would be literally cut in two by machinegun fire from numerous fortified Japanese positions. Here Doss single-handedly dragged 75 wounded soldiers to the edge of the cliff and lowered them to safety with a cargo net. What the movie doesn’t show is that Doss was one of the three volunteers who climbed up the cliff first and lowered the nets for the others.

His heroic actions didn’t stop at the ridge. A few days later, on the same escarpment, he crawled through heavy fire to rescue a wounded man 200 yards ahead of the American lines. Then two days after that, he advanced within eight yards of a Japanese-occupied cave to treat and evacuate four others. On May 21, 1945 he was seriously wounded in the leg by an exploding grenade that embedded 17 pieces of shrapnel in him. He attended his own wounds and waited 5 hours for litter bearers to reach him. On the way back, he saw a man with more serious wounds than him, so he instructed the bearers to take the other soldier in his place. While he was waiting for the men to come back – another element not shown in the film – a Japanese sniper shot him, shattering his left arm. Desmond Doss became the first and only conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty” in World War II.

Because of his injuries, Doss was evacuated on May 21, 1945. A year later, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis that he contracted while serving on Leyte. The disease cost him a lung and five ribs, which, along with his wounds, left him 90% disabled. After his honorable discharge in August of 1951, he spent the rest of his life farming and working various part-time jobs such as cabinetmaking, door-to-door sales and maintenance as his health allowed. By 1976 he was entirely deaf, possibly due to an antibiotic overdose during his TB treatment. Desmond Doss passed away at his home in Alabama in 2006.

Take a look at these other WW2 Posts: Desmond Doss Reproduction Dog Tags WWII Today: October 8 WWII Points

Oct 12

World War II Today: October 12

1939 Hans Frank appointed Nazi Gauleiter (governor) of Poland.

Jews evacuate Vienna.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain rejects Hitler’s “peace offer.”

1940 President Roosevelt in a fireside chat suggests the drafting of 18 and 19 year old men.

Night raids on London continue.

Hitler postpones invasion of Britain until the spring 1941.

U-101 torpedoes and sinks the merchant ship Saint-Malo south of Iceland. The ship was a former French vessel requisitioned by the Canadian government. 28 are killed.

A German military mission is set up in Bucharest, Romania, for the purpose of aiding in the training of the Romanian Army.

1941 Army Group Centre captures Kaluga and Bryansk. Women and children evacuated from Moscow.

1942 Attorney General Francis Biddle announced that Italian nationals in the United States would no longer be considered enemy aliens.

1943 The Heaviest RAF attack so far on northern Italy, with more than 1,000 tons dropped on Milan in under 30 minutes.

350 allied bombers hit the Japanese base at Rabaul in New Britain. The damage reported includes 120 planes destroyed and three destroyers sunk.

The U.S. Fifth Army begins an offensive along the Volturno river in Italy.

1944 The Germans fall back across the Lower Rhine, west of Arnhem.

The Germans evacuate Athens.

The Germans manage to hold line of the Niemen to cover East Prussia.

First B-29 Superfortress arrives in the Marianas, Joltin’ Josie, flown by 21st Bomber Command CO, General Haywood Hansell.

In Italy, Buffalo Soldiers of US 92nd Infantry Division breach Gothic Line, the only black unit to see combat in Europe.

Greek Resistance and British glider troops/paratroopers enter Athens, Greece.

Lt. Chuck Yeager (US 363rd Fighter Group) shoots down 5 German Me 109s in a single engagement over Holland.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 15 WWII Winchester M1 Rifle Ad. WWII Today: June 11

Oct 11

World War II Today: October 11

1939 British Expeditionary Force on continent reaches strength of 158,000 in five weeks.

The Soviet Union and Finland begin negotiations concerning the establishment of Soviet air bases on Finnish soil. The Soviet Union also requires Finland to cede territory around lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland, plus the Petsamo area in northern Finland. In return the Soviet Union offers to give Finland a chunk of desolate land in central Karelia. The Finns reject the Soviet demands fearing that to accept will only encourage further Soviet demands.

1941 Rumours of an impending capture of Moscow by the German Army cause thousands of civilians to flee the city.

Erich Koch, Reich commisar in Ukraine, announces the closing of all schools there. According to Koch, “Ukraine children need no schools. What they’ll have to learn will be taught to them later by their German masters.”

1942 The first night raid on Britain by Luftwaffe for 15 days.

The US Navy surprises a Japanese naval squadron in the night ‘Battle of Cape Esperance’, off Savo Island in the Solomons. The Japanese lose one cruiser and a destroyer, while the US Navy loses just a single destroyer.

1944 The RAF complete the flooding of Walcheren with a 102-bomber raid near Veete.

US First Army begins battle for Aachen, Germany.

The Red Army captures Klausenburg in Romania as Hungary and the Soviet Union begin negotiations for a ceasefire.

U.S. air raids against Okinawa begin.

1945 Negotiations between Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and Communist leader Mao Tse-tung break down.

Nationalist and Communist troops are soon engaged in a civil war.

US Marines land at Tsingtao, China to slow Communist advances; Japanese troops in Tsingtao surrender to US.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: April 27 WWII Today: March 12 WWII Today: June 2

Oct 10

World War II Today: October 10

1938 The Hungarian army, with the sanction of its German allies, retakes territory in Czechoslovakia that was stripped from the Austro-Hungarian Empire after WWI.

1939 The Soviet Union signs and agreement with Lithuania that allows the Soviets to establish military bases in the country.

Hitler forms Winter Relief, forced charitable contributions from German civilians.

Chinese troops recapture all territory in Hubei, Hunan, and Jiangxi Provinces.

1940 German children 10-18 required to join Hitler Youth or Nazi League of German girls.

Hitler meets with Franco at Hendaye, France, but fails to convince him to lead Spain into the war.

1941 The 250th ‘Blue’ Division, made up of Spanish volunteers and formed within days of the German attack on the Soviet Union, goes into action against the Russians for the first time in the sector between Lake Illmen and the west bank of the Volkhov river. General Zhukov is put in charge of the West Front for the defence of Moscow. Army Group South concludes the battle along the Sea of Azov and takes 100,000 prisoners.

1942 German and Italian bomber forces begin a major offensive against the British island of Malta in the Mediterranean.

1943 With the war’s tide turning, the Franco government orders the Spanish 250th ‘Blue’ Division home. A few thousand volunteers, however, refuse to abandon the struggle against Communism and enlist in a so-called “Blue Legion” that is attached to the German 121st Infantry Division.

Chiang Kai-shek took the oath of office as president of China.

1944 The American 24-hour surrender ultimatum to Germans at Aachen is rejected. The Canadians enter the Breskens Pocket along the Scheldt with amphibians.

The British take Corinth as Army Group E begins its final retreat from Greece.

The Red Army breaks through the German lines in Serbia as it moves towards Belgrade.

The Russians reach the Baltic at Memel and cut off Army Group North (26 divisions) in the Kurland for the rest of the war. The rebellion against the Tiso government in Slovakia is put down by the German Army.

U.S. B-29 Superfortresses pound Formosa and Okinawa. The Formosa bombardment lasts seven days, during which over 650 Japanese planes are reported as destroyed.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: July 19 WWII Today: September 6 WWII Today: August 15

Oct 09

World War II Today: October 9

1939 Chamberlain announces committee of ministers to co-ordinate the economy.

Hitler issues orders for the invasion of France and the Low Countries. This first plan called for the German Army to wheel through Belgium as they had done during World War One, although this time they were to invade Holland as well. Only the start date wasn’t specified, although Hitler was thinking of November. However, bad weather and demands by his generals for more preparation time caused postponement until the following year.

1940 Churchill is unanimously elected leader of the Conservative Party.

Dutch decree, bans Jews and ‘half-Jews’ from public employment.

Luftwaffe bomb pierces dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, destroying the high altar.

The Germans begin occupying Romanian oil fields.

President Roosevelt releases policy allowing blacks to serve as officers for black units; Army begins to recruit black nurses and doctors to care for black patients only.

1941 President Roosevelt in a message to Congress urges the repeal of Section 6 of the Neutrality Act which would allow the arming of U.S. merchant ships against “the modern pirates of the sea”, the U-boats.

Hitler announces that the war in the East, for all intents and purposes, has already been decided in favour of the Reich.

1942 The Red Army ends its system of dual leadership by abolishing the position of the Communist political commissar in favor of a single military commander in its various units.

Nazi leader Martin Bormann rules that “the permanent elimination of the Jews….can no longer be carried out by emigration” but must proceed “by the use of ruthless force in the special camps of the east”.

1943 The Russians now control the Kuban peninsula on the Black Sea, after the successful evacuation of all German and Romanian troops into the Crimea.

1944 The 1st Bulgarian Army attacks towards Nis in Yugoslavia.

Admiral Nimitz decides to invade the island of Iwo Jima, 700 miles to the South of Japan.

The Fourth Moscow Conference opens between Churchill and Stalin.

1945 Typhoon Louise hits Okinawa, killing 36 and destroying hundreds of US ships, the most damaging storm encountered by the US Navy.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: July 31 WWII Today: September 6 Words at War: White Brigade

Oct 08

World War II Today: October 8

1939 RAF reconnaissance planes shoots down a German flying boat over the North Sea.

The American cargo ship “City of Flint” and its crew are captured by a German warship, despite the fact that the United States and Germany are not at war. The American sailors are eventually freed when the Germans are forced to dock in Norway.

An SS unit executes 20 Poles in the Jewish cemetery in Swiecie.

1940 The RAF attacks Berlin. Churchill makes statement to Commons claiming that bombing casualties are falling.

RAF forms Eagle Squadrons for volunteer American fighter pilots.

RAF ace, Czech pilot Jozef Frantizek (28 kills), killed in crash in Surrey.

First Indian Air Force pilots arrive in UK.

Churchill makes statement to Commons and claims that the Germans have the capability to ‘throw 500,000 men onto salt water or into it’.

Another heavily escorted supply convoy sets sail for Malta from Alexandria. However, bad weather stops the Italian fleet from putting to sea and the convoy arrives safely. Only the escorts return trip to Alexandria, they are attacked by a force of Italian Destroyers and Torpedo boats.

No casualties are suffered by the Royal Navy, but the Italians lose 2 destroyers and 2 Torpedo boats sunk and 1 Destroyer damaged.

Churchill makes statement to Commons that the Burma Road is to be reopened.

1941 In a letter to Stalin, President Roosevelt promises U.S. military aid to the Soviet Union.

1942 The final plans for the invasion of Northwest Africa (‘Operation Torch’) are issued.

Strong Japanese rearguard action against the Australians at Templeton Crossing on the Kokoda Trail in New Guinea.

1944 Units of the U.S. Ninth Army reach the outskirts of Aachen on the German border.

1945 Rudolph Hess is flown from England to Germany to stand trial.

President Harry S. Truman announced that the secret of the atomic bomb would be shared only with Britain and Canada.

1945 Nazi Rudolf Hess (who stole plane May 10, 1941 and flew to Scotland in unauthorized attempt to negotiate peace with Britain) is flown from England for Nuremberg Trials.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: July 1 WWII Yank Magazine Pin Up: Irene Manning WWII Today: August 8

Oct 07

World War II Today: October 7

1939 Heinrich Himmler made Commissioner for Consolidation of the German Race—to eliminate “inferior” people from the German Reich.

1940 German troops enter Romania, at the request of Fascist Gen. Ion Antonescu, to ‘help restrain the Army’.

Beaverbrook announces gifts received for aircraft purchases now total £6,098,826.

Finland rejects a British demand to cease fighting the Soviet Union.

German advance on Moscow continues with the capture of Vyasma. Stalin lifts ban on religion in Russia to boost morale.

Curtin becomes the Prime Minister of Australia.

Japanese protest US embargo on vital materials as “unfriendly act.”

1943 The RAF bombs Stuttgart making use of the Airborne ‘Cigar’ jamming device, killing 1,700 and making 18,000 homeless.

The U.S. Fifth Army is halted by German defenses along River Volturno, 20 miles North of Naples.

Japanese execute approximately 100 American POWs on Wake Island.

1944 The 20th Gebirgsjeager Army retreats towards northern Norway in the face of strong Soviet attacks.

A revolt by Jewish slave laborers at Auschwitz-Birkenau results in complete destruction of Crematory IV.

The Eighth Army resumes its attacks on the Gothic Line. The British reach Corinth, land at Nauplion and take the island of Samos.

The US Third Army completes liberation of Luxembourg. First German V-2 rocket hits Antwerp, Belgium.

1945 General Lucian Truscott assumes command of US Third Army, replacing Gen. George Patton, who has been transferred to command US Fifteenth Army due to his criticism of US “de-Nazification” program for German officers.

1949 Iva Toguri D’Aquino, better known as Tokyo Rose, is sentenced to 10 years in prison for treason.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 9 WWII Today: July 27 WWII Today: May 2

Oct 06

World War II Today: October 6

1939 After a 2 day battle against Soviet tanks and planes and then a 5-day fight against the Germans.

The last remaining Polish troops (17,000 men) surrender to German forces at Kock and Lublin.

Hitler in a speech to the Reichstag announces the victorious conclusion of the Polish campaign and calls upon Britain and France to cease hostilities and come to terms with Germany. This is rejected by both the British and French government’s.

The Japanese abandon Changsha after stiff Chinese defense.

Proclamation by Hitler on the isolation of Jews.

1941 Churchill gives a personal undertaking to Stalin to send a convoy every ten days to Russia’s northern ports.

1942 The setting up of a UN commission to investigate war crimes is announced in Washington.

The III Panzer Corps captures Malgobek at the bend of the Terek river in the Caucasus.

Montgomery issues the final plan to senior commanders for the Second battle of El Alamein.

1943 The U.S. Fifth Army takes Capua and Caserta.

Two Russian armies take Nevel on the boundary between Army Groups North and Centre.

1944 The Canadian 3rd Division attacks the Breskena Pocket, South of the Scheldt.

A Russian offensive by 64 divisions, 750 tanks and 1,100 aircraft commences near Arad in Hungary, with the aim of destroying Army Group South.

US General Joseph Stilwell recalled from position as Chiang Kai-shek’s chief of staff, maintains command over troops in Burma.

1945 General George Patton prepares to turn over command of the Third Army to General Lucian K. Truscott. Patton is relieved of the command because he is believed to be favorably inclined toward the Germans, as well as anti-Semitic. Patton later claims he was “done to death by slanderous tongues”.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: March 30 WWII Today: July 10 WWII Today: June 5