Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Jun 08

World War II Today: June 8

1940 The British aircraft carrier Glorious is sunk by the German heavy battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Southwest of Narvik.

The evacuation of British and French troops (24,000 men) from Narvik and Harstad is completed. A Norwegian delegation negotiates with the Germans for a peace treaty.

Off Norway, German battlecruisers Gneisenau & Scharnhorst sink British carrier HMS Glorious and British destroyers Ardent and Acasta (1537 killed on 3 ships).

Discovery of neptunium (Np), element 93, by Edwin McMillan & Philip Adelson at the University of California, Berkeley.

1941 RAF launch biggest bombing raid yet on Germany with 360 aircraft.

British, Commonwealth and Free French forces invade Syria and the Lebanon (‘Operation Explorer’) with air and naval support. The British offer Syria independence in an effort to stimulate Syrian revolt against their Vichy rulers. Vichy France protests vigorously at these British proposals.

1942 Fifteen Poles, including 12 women are publicly hanged in Poznan. The bodies left hanging for 48 hours as a warning.

US Army, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) formed under Major General James Chaney, replacing USAFBI (US Army Forces in British Isles).

Due to victory at Midway, US cancels the invasion alert for the US West Coast.

1943 The United States begins the “V-Home” campaign to encourage rationing, scrap collection, and other patriotic wartime activities.The

The Los Angeles City Council bans wearing of zoot suits in effort to stop Zoot Suit Riots.

The Japanese battleship Mutsu explodes by accident at Hiroshima, Japan, 1121 killed.

1944 The U.S. Fifth Army continues its drive North in Italy, taking Civita Castellana.

The RAF uses 12,000-lb “Tallboy” bomb against train tunnel in Saumur, France.

On the Adriatic coast of Italy, British find Germans have retreated, and they advance.

1945 SHAEF reveal the details of the German plans to exterminate all Jews in Europe by the summer 1946.

The United States and Australian naval Task Group 74.3 bombards Brunei Bay on Borneo.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: February 14 WWII Today: April 2 WWII Today: April 7

Jun 07

The Battle of La Fière Bridge

Jumping on the night of D-Day, the 82nd Airborne had to capture the town of Sainte-Mère-Église. Holding the town, however, would have meant little without also holding the roads to and from it. One such route had a bottleneck:  the La Fière Bridge a small stone bridge at La Fière manor, 700 yards to the west of the outskirts. The manor itself was a small group of buildings a grenade-throw away from the bridge. On the far side of the bridge, the road led west, the small hamlet of Cauguigny standing by it two-thirds of a mile away.

Securing La Fière Bridge fell to the 505th PIR. The 1st Battalion was one of the few units that night to jump on time and land in its designated drop zone to the east of the bridge, between it and the town. They quickly learned that things were not as expected: the Germans have flooded large areas of Normandy and the tiny Merderet River running north-south under the bridge was now a marsh 1,000 yards across at its narrowest. The elevated road between the bridge and Cauguigny became a causeway surrounded by water, providing no cover.

An hour before dawn, 1st Lt. John “Red Dog” Nolan, nicknamed for his hair and his canine tenacity, led his company towards La Fière Bridge and manor. With visibility low due to hedgerows, stone walls and the darkness, Nolan told Lt. Dolan Coxon to send his scouts forward. Coxon didn’t have the heart to send his men alone into harm’s way and accompanied them. A few moments later, German machine gun fire barked up and killed Coxon and another man. With two platoons trying to flank the foxhole, a firefight developed and the Americans got pinned down. After about an hour, the Germans quietly withdrew without losses.

Unknown to Nolan and his men, they were not alone. Many of the airborne who were misdropped in the area honed in on the only landmark in the flooded plain: the causeway. They were now arriving piecemeal, but most of them have lost their radios in the water and couldn’t inform others of their presence. When these surprise reinforcements started showing up, Nolan drew up a plan to attack the manor from the north and the south simultaneously. Units were put in place, one of them wading through the neck-deep swamp with bullets ricocheting off the water around them. However, the runner who was supposed to give the message to attack got lost and coordination was broken. At 9 am, Brig. Gen. James Gavin arrived with 300 men from the northwest on the far side of the causeway. After being briefed on the situation, he decided it was in good hands and moved on south to capture another bottleneck along another road further away.

Despite the lack of coordination between units, the airborne finally reached the manor. Some 10 to 12 Germans fought back from inside but were suppressed in 10 minutes of fierce fighting. Seeing a white sheet being hung from a window, a paratrooper went forward to accept the surrender, only to get shot by a German who was standing by another window and didn’t know his comrades had already given up. After another round of furious firing, the defenders finally surrendered for good.

At 1:45 pm, with the manor in American hands, two men were sent to scout out the La Fière Bridge. German soldiers hiding on the far side tried to ambush them, but one of the men, Pvt. James Mattingly, shot the first man then wounded and captured the rest, later receiving the Silver Star for what one officer called “the best piece of individual soldiering I have ever seen.” The La Fière Bridge and the causeway were clear and a nine-man force was left on the west end in the half-dozen stone buildings of Cauguigny. The causeway was blocked by a truck, mines were laid and three anti-tank guns brought in by glider were set up.

The German counterattack came at 4 pm. Three German-driven French light tanks appeared with infantry in tow from the west, overrunning the force in Cauguigny and heading for the causeway. About a dozen US airborne were driven in front of the tanks as human shields, forced to pick up mines and throw them into the water. Once they were 40-50 yards from the defenders, American bazooka teams and anti-tank guns opened up while the captured paratropers dove for safety. The first tank was destroyed, followed by the other two, but at a high price: German infantrymen, using the tanks as cover, poured automatic weapons fire into the defenders, causing heavy casualties before retreating to the west end of the causeway. With depleted numbers and low ammo, but in a strong position and with additional reinforcements arriving, the American dug in at the manor while the Germans did the same on the far side of the swamp.

With the fight for Sainte-Mère -Église still going on, both sides started building up their numbers at La Fière Bridge, until June 9 brought a need to break the stalemate. By this point, the 4th Infantry Division had made its way up from Utah Beach and needed the road cleared to proceed. Twelve Shermans and an artillery battery were brought up for the final push with the airborne to spearhead the attack with a suicidal charge down the exposed, 1,000 yard long causeway into German machine gun and mortar fire. Lt. Col. Charles Carrell’s 2nd Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment was given the thankless task.

Carrell lost his nerve in the last moment and declined to attack and was replaced on the spot. At 10 am, rifles, machine guns, tanks and artillery all opened up, and G Company’s Cap. John Sauls was the first to jump onto the causeway with a shout of “Follow me!” Some men faltered in the face of certain death, other were cut down running and yet others fell down wounded or trying to scramble for some cover. Miraculously, Sauls himself made it across the corridor of fire and ran past the first line of German defense, shooting Germans with his Thompson SMG.

The causeway got quickly congested with the dead, the dying and the terrified; but the push got going. At one point, General Matthew Ridgway, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division was spotted on the causeway, trying to remove a cable from a knocked-out tank to make it easier to pass. He was soon joined by General Gavin. The sight of the division’s two highest-ranking officers in the middle of the killing zone has inspired the troops to push themselves beyond all limits and the Germans were forced to flee. A final, heavy counterattack was repulsed later that night and the battle for the La Fière causeway was won, allowing allied forced to move west and further into the Cotentin Peninsula.

Visiting La Fière in the 1980s, General Gavin recalled the aftermath of the battle: “When I came to this point […], I had no idea as to how hard this fight was. I looked back down the causeway. It was covered from the church to as far as I could see with bodies. I could have walked back to the bridge and never stepped on pavement. I just had no idea as to the strength of the position. It took airborne soldiers to do this.”

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: June 6 WWII Today: June 17 WWII Today: May 9 Brécourt Manor Assault

Jun 07

Dead Man’s Corner – Saint Côme-du-Mont – June 7, 1944

After landing on the beaches on D-Day, the Allied troops had to make their way further inland, capturing key locations to allow forces from the various beaches to link up. The road, known as causeway #2, leading inland from Utah beach passed through the villages of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Verville and Saint-Côme-du-Mont, leading into the town of Carentan, an important target. The junction of the roads from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and Saint-Côme-du-Mont would come to be known as Dead Man’s Corner.

The area was defended by the German 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, the “Green Devils” of Major von der Heydte (who, coincidentially, was cousin to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who tried to kill Hitler with a bomb on July 20, 1944 during Operation Valkyrie). Fate pitted the heavily dug-in Green Devils against their American counterparts, the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division.

On June 7, the paratroopers have linked up with a platoon of 6 Shermans and several M5 Stuart light tanks, and were approaching the outskirts of Carentan amidst heavy fighting in the hedgerows. Not far from the town, they came up on a crossroads dominated by a large building, its corner painted red and white: the headquarters and aid station for the 6thFallschirmjäger. The Stuart at the head of the line was knocked out right at the crossroads by a Panzerfaust fired by Bruno Hinz. The shot killed the tank commander 1st Lt. Walter T. Anderson, whose body was left hanging halfway out of the hatch.

In the first days following D-Day, priority lay with getting the troops and artillery off the Utah Beachhead and moving inland; there was no time to deal with the dead and wounded. The Stuart, with Lt. Anderson still hanging out of the turret, was moved to the side of the road to make way for the line of tanks to proceed towards Carentan. With D-Day being imminent, the Germans had removed all road signs in Normandy to make it as hard as possible for the Allied invasion troops to find their bearings. As a consequence, there was no road sign at this particular crossroads pointing the way to Carentan. The Stuart tank became a reference point for the troops moving inland and they soon started to refer to the crossroads as “the corner with the tank with the dead man in it,” which was later shortened to Dead Man’s Corner, the name by which it’s known today.

At least that is the best-known version of the story. Some historians, such as Mark Bando, a specialist on the 101st Airborne, suggests that it wasn’t the commander who died in the tank, but the driver, and that rather than hanging out through the hatch, he remained in his seat, only visible if someone walked up to the vehicle and peered inside from a specific angle. While the opinion might forever remain in contention, it’s a fact that there are no visible corpses on the two contemporary photographs of the tank.

Today the former headquarters is the heart of the D-Day Experience with a C-47 simulator as well as the Dead Man’s Corner Paratrooper Museum, which not only documents the incident, but also displays several unique historical artifacts, including items owned by Dick Winters and other notable members of Easy Company.

Take a look at these other D-Day Posts:June 6: D-Day The Battle of La Fière Bridge Exercise Tiger: The Slapton Sands Disaster

Jun 07

World War II Today: June 7

1940 Allied troops fall back on Bresles front, 60 miles north of Paris.

French bomb Berlin.

King Haakon of Norway, his family and government, evacuate from Norway to Britain as Germans advance.

1941 The first of five heavy night raids by the RAF begins on Brest as Prinz Eugen shelters there.

First US Lend-Lease planes flown to Maine and shoved over border into Canada, because neutrality laws forbid landing in Canada.

1942 General Erich von Manstein hurls his troops in the grand assault on the besieged port of Sevastopol in a two-pronged assault. The Soviets resist fanatically in excellent fortifications. The Germans gain ground but take heavy casualties, and have to bring in reinforcements to take the city. However, the continuous German attacks wear down the defenders ammunition supplies, which must be brought in by sea through a tight German blockade maintained by the Luftwaffe, E-boats, and Italian midget submarines.

All Jews over six are forced to wear the ‘Star of David’ in Occupied France.

The Japanese make landings on Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

In the Battle of Midway, carrier USS Yorktown sinks due to damage by Japanese submarine I-168 the previous day, but the US is victorious in the major turning point of the Pacific War; from now on, the Japanese will be on the defensive.

Maj. Gen. Clarence Tinker, commander of US Seventh Air Force, is killed when his plane is lost off Midway, the first Native American to reach rank of major general and the first US general killed in WWII.

1944 British troops liberate Bayeux, five miles inland from the Normandy coast. All beachheads are reported as established.

The British 2nd Division is now only 55 miles from Imphal.

Mokmer airfield on Biak is captured by U.S. troops.

The Americans take Civitavecchia on the western coast of Italy.

1945 King Haakon VII returns to Norway, on the fifth anniversary of his leaving the country.

The first allied cargo ship for three years enters Wewak Harbour, in New Guinea.

US Marines cut off Oroku Peninsula on Okinawa.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:Words at War: “Borrowed Night“ No Better Place to Die – La Fière Bridge Dead Man’s Corner

Jun 06

The Brécourt Manor Assault: Classic Small Unit Assault

Early on the morning of June 6, 1944, after the chaotic nighttime drops, Lt. Winters and some men of Easy Company, 506th PIR, arrived at the Command Post of the 3rd Bn 506th PIR in the hamlet of Le Grand Chemin. The command post at the hamlet was aware of a nearby German artillery position to the south, overlooked by the Brécourt manor house on the opposite side of the field.

Assault on Brécourt Manor – The ditch Winters and his men used to approach the guns

The guns, believed to be 88mm flak cannons, were firing at one of the causeways leading off Utah beach. A small groups of  soldiers had already attempted to take the guns but had been repulsed. Lt. Winters received curt instructions: “There’s fire along that hedgerow there. Take care of it.” After reconnoitering the battery alone at around 8:30 a.m., he gathered 12 men of Easy Company he had at that point, telling them to only carry their weapons, ammo and grenades.

Rather than the expected 88mms, the battery was comprised of four 105mm howitzers, three firing towards Utah beach and one facing the opposite direction. Descriptions usually state that the firing positions were connected by trenches, but in this case, these weren’t properly built-up and reinforced trenches like the ones used in World War I, but rather a drainage ditch running along the tree line, fortified by logs and sandbags. It was this hasty construction of the position and the cover of the hedgerow that protected the site from being discovered by air reconnaissance during the preparation for D-Day.

Brécourt Manor Assault – Overview of the site. Brécourt Manor is off the lower left corner of the picture, overlooking the field

Once near the site, Winters ordered four of his men to set up their machine guns and suppress the German MG-42 nest. Another two men were sent a bit further afield to give covering fire from yet another direction. Sgt. Lipton, one of these two, climbed up a tree, getting a good view of the enemy but exposing himself to fire.

Over looking the guns at Brécourt Manor Assault – Lipton climbing up into a tree to lay down covering fire in the series

Once the machine gun nest was suppressed, three men threw their grenades and charged in, knocking it out, allowing Winters and his men to run to the trench and dive in, quickly taking the first artillery position. They started preparing for an attack on the second gun and Winters peered down the trench – at the last moment, as the Germans were setting up a machine gun to fire down it, preventing any further American advance. By this point, other German machine guns were firing across the field, limiting safe movement to the trench.

Brécourt Manor Assault – Shot from Band of Brothers: Winters spotting the German machine gun being set up to prevent American advance beyond the first gun.

 

Winters quickly shot both men, preventing them from pouring lethal fire down the trench and trapping the Airborne at the first gun, unable to move in any direction. Moving further on, Winters led his men in an attack on the second gun. It was here that he located a radio and map room, finding a map of all German batteries on the Cotentin peninsula. After capturing the third gun, he ordered all the guns destroyed. The men placed C4 charges down the gun barrels and ignited them with looted German stick grenades.

Brécourt Manor Assault – Winters dropping a grenade down a gun barrel in the series. True to history, a C4 charge can also be seen being inserted shortly before.

Lt. Ronald Speirs arrived with 5 more men as reinforcements. Speirs, known as an extremely aggressive commander, led his men out of the trench and charged the final gun position by running through machine gun fire in the open. Once the last gun was destroyed, Winters ordered everyone to fall back, as crossing the field and assaulting Brécourt Manor itself was far beyond their abilities.

Brécourt Manor Assault – Speirs and his men outside the trenches, charging the last gun position (on the right, in the background) in the series

While Band of Brothers does a good job at depicting the assault and includes numerous historically accurate details, it does fail in getting across the scope of combat. Rather than the 10-15 minutes of furious fighting the viewer is lead to imagine, taking the 200 yard stretch of trenches and the four guns took 2-3 hours, including at least one mission back to the hamlet for ammunition.

Consolidating after the Brécourt Manor Assaulte – Scene from Band of Brothers, condensing the events into a much tighter timeframe.

Back at the hamlet of Le Grand Chemin, Winters handed over the captured German map to his friend, intelligence officer Lt. Lewis Nixon. Recognizing its importance, Nixon ran three miles to Utah beach to deliver it to his superiors immediately. Command on the beach was so impressed that they sent their first two tanks to Le Grande Chemin to support Easy Company. Once the tanks arrived, it was finally possible to assault and take the manor house.

After the Brécourt Manor Assault – Nixon arriving with the first two tanks off the beach in the series

During the fighting, a young French boy named Michel de Vallavieille, son of the manor’s owner, was mistaken for a German soldier and accidentally shot, becoming the first French civilian casualty of the invasion. Luckily, Michel survived and was evacuated to Britain. He went on to become the mayor of the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and founded the Utah Beach Museum. Several generations of the de Vallavieille family have devoted their lives to keeping the legacy of the Normandy invasion alive in the Utah Sector.

The assault on the Brécourt Manor guns is a textbook example of frontal assault on a fixed position and is taught West Point, as a case study. With 24 men, including reinforcements, Winters defeated approximately 60 Germans in a defensive position, killing about 20 and taking 12 prisoners, at the cost of only 6 American casualties: 4 dead and 2 wounded. Originally, the commander of the 506th PIR put him up for the Medal of Honor, but US Army policy at the time limited the highest award to one per division: the MOH was awarded to Col. Robert G. Cole for his bayonet charge and taking the last 4 bridges on the road to Carentan.  Lt. Richard D. Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Take a look at these other WW2 Posts:M4 Sherman Tank WWII Camel Cigarette Ad D-Day June 6, 1944

Jun 06

June 6 D-Day – World War II Today

Before dawn, the Allied Expeditionary Force of British, American, Canadian, Polish, and Free French troops begins Operation Overlord, the long-awaited invasion of France.→ Read more

Jun 05

World War II Today: June 5

1940 Home Defense commander Ironside announces the creation of the lronsides, small groups of highly mobile, armed men for defense against parachutists.

The Germans begin ‘Operation Red’, the Battle of France with 119 divisions, including 10 Panzer division’s. Army Group B, with 50 divisions, opens the offensive against the French left wing which is anchored along the Somme for 120 miles, in fortified positions known as the Weygand Line, just 100 miles from Paris. Charles de Gaulle is appointed as French Under Secretary of State for War.

Hauptmann. Molders, leader of III/JG 53 and Germany’s top air ace (25 kills) is shot down near Compiegne and taken prisoner.

1941 During Japanese air raid on Chongqing, China, 4000 civilians suffocate in a shelter.

US House Appropriations committee introduces largest Army expenditure bill since the First World War at S10,000 million.

Secret transfer of 4000 Marines to Iceland.

Over 100 German divisions have now been deployed along Germany’s frontier with the Soviet Union.

Germans say 15,000 prisoners taken in Crete. British later say 12,970 unaccounted for.

1942 USA declares war on Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania and warns Japan that she will retaliate in kind if gas is used.

Operation ‘Birdsong’ kicks off between Roslavl and Bryansk, as 5,000 German troops pursue 2,500 partisans. In four weeks, 1,198 partisans are killed, for the loss of 58 German dead. Even so, the Germans are not happy as “The partisans,” a German officer reports, “continued their old tactic of evading, withdrawing into the forests, or moving in larger groups into the areas South and Southwest of the Roslavl-Bryansk highway and into the Kletnya area.” Although no further partisan attacks are reported in the area, “mines continued to be planted” and several German vehicles damaged.

SS report 97,000 persons have been “processed” in mobile gas vans.

Germans besiege Sevastopol.

The Eighth Army launches a counter-attack against the Afrika Korps forces that are inside the ‘Cauldron. This is codenamed ‘Aberdeen’, but went disastrously wrong from the start, with an infantry tank brigade being destroyed in minefields and an Indian infantry brigade attacking the wrong positions. This left the remainder of the force, the 22nd Armoured Brigade to be repulsed easily by the untouched German defenses. British losses for this operation were 150 tanks, 133 guns and 6,000 troops. At this point in the battle, the British forces in the northern part of the Gazala line (1st South African and the remainder of the British 50th Division), were still in a strong position and so General Auchinleck and Lieutenant General Ritchie decide to hold the line facing south from the Knightsbridge defensive box to El Adem with the remainder of their infantry and tank forces and wait for Rommel’s next move.

During the early hours, Admiral Yamamoto orders the withdrawal of the Japanese invasion fleet and abandons his efforts to capture Midway. The US fleet loses contact with the Japanese later in the day. The US destroyer Hammam is torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine.

1943 Battle of Pantelleria-Island with airfield; 11,000 Italian troops; guns controlling access to Sicily. A six-day air bombardment forces the garrison to surrender without an invasion. This is also the first time the Tuskegee “Black Eagles” flew under Colonel Ben Davis.

U-513 (Kptlt. Sohler) sinks 4 ships off the coast of Brazil.

1944 Eisenhower gives the go ahead order for the D-Day landings in 24 hours when Stagg predicts a clearing of weather. 10:15 p.m.: “Wound my heart with a monotonous languor”- BBC radio cue for the French Resistance. 10:30 p.m.: 101st Screaming Eagles finish their takeoff (822 C-47’s). Ike visits airfield: “Good luck to you tonight soldier.”

The first mission by B-29 Superfortress bombers occurs as 77 planes bomb Japanese railway facilities at Bangkok, Thailand.

1945 Moscow Radio announces the award of the highest Russian honour, the ‘Order of Victory’, to Montgomery and Eisenhower.

The four allied powers sign a declaration on the defeat of Germany, which divides the country into four zones.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: March 14 Words At War: The White Brigade WWII Today: March 26

Jun 04

World War II Today: June 4

1940 Churchill tells Commons ‘We shall fight on the beaches, in the fields, in the streets and in the hills. We shall never surrender.’

Holiday camps are banned within 10 miles of east and south-east coasts of England and Isle of Wight.

German troops enter Dunkirk, taking 40,000 French prisoners and huge quantities of abandoned equipment, including 84,000 vehicles, 2,500 guns and 650,000 tons of supplies and ammunition.

French planes attack Munich and Frankfurt as reprisals for Paris bombing.

1941 Luftwaffe bombers carry out a night raid on the port of Alexandria in Egypt, killing 100 people. The Egyptian Cabinet resigns.

1942 Reinhard Heydrich dies of his wounds.

Hitler flies to Finland to meet with the Finnish head of state, Marshal Mannerheim.

At 4.30am aircraft of Admiral Nagumo’s 1st Carrier Striking Force makes strikes against Midway.

The American garrison received prior warning of this from a spotter aircraft. This raid fails to sufficiently neutralise US airpower on Midway and so Nagumo orders a second attack against Midway.

His aircraft are in the middle of being rearmed with torpedoes for a strike against the US carriers, should they be spotted. The Admirals orders mean that the Japanese aircraft must first replace their torpedoes with bombs, before another strike against Midway can take place. At 8.20am Japanese reconnaissance aircraft reported sighting the American carriers and at 8.55am warned that US torpedo aircraft had been launched and were on their way towards the Japanese fleet. While this is going on, the Japanese aircraft which had been sent out on the second strike against Midway, begin to return and by 9am had all been landed. Crews were now swarming round the aircraft with fuel hoses and bomb racks in a desperate attempt to get them ready for a strike against the American Carriers. At 9.30am the torpedo bombers from the Hornet and Enterprise found the the Japanese carriers, but by 9.36am they had all been shot down. The Hornet’s and Enterprise’s dive-bombers failed to find the Japanese carriers and so turned for home, although many ran out of fuel on the way. A similar fate was suffered by all the fighters on this mission. The torpedo bombers of the Yorktown now found and attacked the Japanese carriers, but with the same result as the previous attacks and by 10am it all seemed to be over and Admiral Nagumo could prepare for his counter strike in what seemed total safety. However, because his fighters had been drawn down to sea level to deal with the Yorktown’s torpedo-bombers, the sky above the Japanese carriers was left temporarily exposed to attack. At 10.25am a lost dive-bomber group from the Enterprise stumbled upon the undefended Japanese carriers. The 37 Dauntless dive-bombers plunged down in to the attack. With their decks cluttered with aircraft in the throws of being re-armed and refuelled, the Japanese carriers were in serious danger. Admiral Nagumo’s flagship, the Akagi was the first to be hit and a bomb started a fire in the torpedo store. This fire was so fierce that the Admiral had to abandon the Akagi and shift his flag to a destroyer. The carrier Kaga was hit next by four bombs, which set ablaze the ships aviation fuel and forced her also to be abandoned. The Soryu was hit as well, this time by 3 bombs. These started a fire on deck amongst the parked aircraft and also caused her engines to stop. In just five 5 minutes 3 Japanese carriers had been put out of action, but the agony was not yet over. At noon an American submarine found the stricken Soryu and sank her by torpedo. The Hiryu, which so far was undamaged, was ordered to withdraw at speed from the area in order to save herself. During her withdrawal the Hiryu managed to launch two strikes against the Yorktown at noon and 2.40pm, which caused severe damage to the Yorktown. At 3.30pm Admiral Yamamoto gave the order for the Akagi to be scuttled by torpedo as it had not been possible to save her. By 5pm the Kaga had also succumbed to her wounds and sank. At the same time the Hiryu’s luck ran out when she was spotted and attacked by dive-bombers from the Enterprise. Hit by four bombs, the Hiryu was set on fire from stem to stern and had to be scuttled by her crew. Farther north, aircraft from the Japanese 2nd Carrier Strike Force bomb Dutch harbor in the Aleutians as planned, damaging the islands fuel tanks and a US ship. US efforts to locate this force are unsuccessful.

1943 The House of Commons rejects any lifting of the economic blockade against occupied Europe.

A Military coup takes place in Argentina, with the army occupying Buenos Aires.

Luftwaffe bombers attack the massive Russian tank factory’s at Gorki.

1944 Eisenhower postpones ‘Operation Overlord’, the allied invasion of France, for 24 hours because of rough seas in the English Channel.

The RAF carries out heavy night raids against German coastal batteries and fortifications in Normandy.

U-505, patrolling off Cape Blanco on the West African coast is forced to the surface by depth-charges from the U.S. destroyer escort Chatelain and is captured intact and towed to Bermuda by the escort carrier Guadalcanal. (More Info)

The U.S. Fifth Army enters Rome.

The first B29 (Superfortress) combat mission is made against the Bangkok railway.

1945 U.S. troops land on the Oriko peninsula of Okinawa.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII – Pennsylvania Railroad Troop Train Ad WWII Today: May 30 WWII Today: May 13

Jun 03

World War II Today: June 3

1940 All aliens and stateless persons living in Britain are forbidden to leave home between 10:30 pm and 6 am.

Churchill orders the setting up of commando forces to be used for raiding occupied Europe.

The last night of the Dunkirk evacuation sees 26,700 French soldiers lifted from the beaches. This brings the total rescued to 224,686 British, 121,445 French and Belgian troops. Most of the French opt to return to France to continue the fight. During the evacuation, 177 aircraft were lost (Germans lost 140 aircraft).

Admiralty announce the loss of six destroyers, 24 small warships and participation of 222 British naval vessels and 665 other craft in Dunkirk operation. 226 vessels are sunk altogether.

300 German planes bomb Paris inflicting around 900 casualties.

British and French forces start to evacuate from Narvik in northern Norway.

1941 Attlee memorandum approved 2,430,000 to 19,000 at Labour Party conference: ‘A necessary prelude to a just peace is a total victory.’

Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm II, dies in exile in Holland.

New Iraqi government is formed.

1942 Task Force 16 (Spruance) and 17 (Fletcher) meet 350 miles north-east of Midway. Admiral Fletcher takes overall command of the joint task force, although the two would act separately. US land based aircraft from Midway spot the Japanese Transport Force about 600 miles from Midway. They launch attacks against this force, but without success. US reconnaissance aircraft spot the 2 carriers of the Japanese 2nd Carrier Striking Force, which were about 400 miles from Kiska in the Aleutians.

1943 The first fruits of victory reach British shops, Algerian wine.

1944 Hitler allows Kesselring to withdraw from Rome, which has now been declared an ‘Open City’.

The Japanese rearguard at Kohima retreats, ending a 64 day battle.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: October 24 WWII Today: September 22 WWII Today: April 12

Jun 02

World War II Today: June 2

1940 26,200 British and French troops are evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk. Virtually all British soldiers have now been evacuated and so the remaining French troops have taken over the defense of the perimeter.

1941 US statement of policy respecting French possessions in the Western Hemisphere.

Hitler and Mussolini meet at the Brenner Pass on the German-Italian border to discuss the progress of the war.

Goring tells the Luftwaffe ‘There is no unconquerable island’. The Ruhr industrial area bombed by RAF.

Vichy publishes anti-Semitic legislation based on German laws. Jews banned from public office.

A Greek government-in-exile is formed in Egypt.

1942 The RAF’ launches it’s second 1,000 bomber raid (although only 956 took off) and hits Essen, but due to the haze over the city, the results were minimal and the RAF lost 31 aircraft. Nevertheless, Churchill was highly impressed and sanctioned further raids on this scale.

The Germans begin a five day bombardment, using all the artillery at their disposal, including super heavy siege artillery, against Sevastopol in order to soften up the defenses ready for the main assault.

1943 Combat debut of the 99th Fighter Squadron (Tuskegee Airmen) with the US 12th Air Force in North Africa, the first African-American squadron.

The Red Air Force bombs Kiev and Roslavl, while the Luftwaffe bombs Kursk.

Japanese forces are reported to be in full retreat on Yangtze.

1944 U.S. troops are now only 20 miles from Rome.

The Bulgarian government seeks terms of surrender from the western allies.

The first shuttle raid, operation ‘Frantic’ is made by 130 B-17s of the US 15th Air Force based at Tripoli. The raid attacks rail yards at Debrecen in Hungary and then flies on to Soviet airfields at Poltava in the Ukraine.

Secret negotiations between the Romanian government of Marshal Antonescu and representatives of the Soviet Union begin in Stockholm, Sweden.

The British 2nd Division begins its advance to relieve Imphal as the Japanese renew attacks on Bishenpur. The Chinese besiege Myitkyina, near the Chinese border in northern Burma.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts:WWII Today: September 25 WWII Today: April 2 WWII Today: December 9