Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Mar 14

World War II Today: March 14

1936 Adolf Hitler tells a crowd of 300,000 that Germany’s only judge is God and itself.

1939 The Nazis dissolve the republic of Czechoslovakia.

1941 Japanese fighters raid Chengtu, China in longest range for fighter operation of war to date.

1942 US troops arrive in Australia in force.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur arrives in Mindanao, after evacuating from Corregidor on Roosevelt’s orders.

1943 Gen. Henri Giraud restores representative government in French North Africa, suppresses Vichy organizations.

The Germans armoured forces recapture Kharkov.

The Krakow Ghetto is liquidated.

The Royal Navy Submarine Thetis, now renamed Thunderbolt is sunk by the Italian corvette Cicogna, off Sicily.

1944 The British are forced to withdraw towards Imphal in Assam, while fighting a bitter rearguard action.

In Burma, Japanese cut road from Tiddim north to Imphal; Indian troops are unable to retreat.

1945 The U.S. Third Army crosses the Moselle, Southwest of Koblenz.

Germans counterattack to recapture the oilfields near Lake Balaton come to an end. The Red Army cuts all communications between Koenigsberg and the German forces fighting in the Braunsberg pocket.

RAF Bomber Command makes its first use of the 22,000lb ‘Grand Slam’ bomb, wrecking the Bielefeld viaduct.

The US 15th Air Force, taking off from Italian airfields, launches a heavy raid (500 bombers) against Regensburg, while the RAF attacks Wuppertal with 400 aircraft.

On Luzon, a force of Filipinos led by US Col. Russell Volckmann, who refused to surrender to the Japanese in 1942, takes San Fernando.

First US infantry arrive in China, the Mars Task Force, ferried by the Air Transport Command.

U.S. troops begin mopping up on Iwo Jima and launch heavy attacks in the North of the island.

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Mar 13

World War II Today: March 13

1940 Finland capitulates conditionally to Soviet terms, but maintains its independence. The Finns have lost 25,000 killed and 45,000 wounded, while the Russians have lost an estimated 200,000 killed and an unknown number of wounded.

1941 President Franklin Roosevelt establishes President’s Committee on War Relief Agencies.

The Luftwaffe carries out a heavy raid against Clydebank, near Glasgow. 35,000 of the town’s population of 47,000 are made homeless.

Hitler issues an edict calling for an invasion of the Soviet Union.

1942 The Red Army launches a major attack against Army Group B from the Kerch peninsula in the eastern Crimea.

Three German spies in New York get a total of 117 years imprisonment.

Julia Flikke of the Nurse Corps becomes the first woman colonel in the U.S. Army.

Fifty aircraft equipped with Gee receivers attack Cologne. This is the most successful attack to date with the device; estimates put it is being five times more effective than non-Gee equipped aircraft.

1943 An assassination attempt is made on Hitler.

A Chinese counter-attack throws the Japanese back across the Yangtze River.

Japanese forces end their attack on the American troops on Hill 700 in Bougainville.

1944 British troops take the ‘Golden Fortress’ (Razabil) in Arakan, Burma.

A U.S. submarine, Sandlance sinks a Japanese troopship convoy en route to the Marianas.

The Russians announce the capture of Kherson in the southern Ukraine.

1945 The 2nd Belorussian Front launches an offensive against the Braunsberg pocket to the South of Koenigsberg.

Following a 600-bomber raid by the US 8th Air Force, the RAF with 800 bombers attack Swinemünde North of Stettin, a major port of embarkation for German refugees from eastern Germany, causing heavy damage to the docks and killing hundreds of civilians.

A surprise armored thrust by the British in central Burma, cuts off 3,000 Japanese in Mandalay.

US B-29s launch fire raid on Osaka, killing 4000 and destroying 119 factories.

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Mar 12

World War II Today: March 12

1938 German troops enter Austria without firing a shot, forming the anschluss (union) of Austria and Germany.

1940 A peace treaty is concluded between Finland and Russia, which formally ends the “Winter War”. The terms of this treaty are harsh for Finland, who is forced to cede the entire Karelia Isthmus, and the city of Viipuri, which is renamed Vyborg. They also lose parts of eastern Karelia, Lake Ladoga, the Rybachiy Peninsula and the Petsamo area. They also have to grant the Russian a 30 year lease of the Hang Peninsula. However, the ever ‘generous’ Russians drop their recognition of the Kuusinen puppet government in Moscow.

The British finalize their plans for the invasion of Norway. Landings are to be made at Narvik and Trondheim in order to secure the rail line to Sweden and the large iron-ore fields.

1941 Churchill thanks America for ‘a new Magna Carta’.

Luftwaffe bombs Clydebank, Scotland, leaving 75% of the population homeless.

1942 Convoy PQ-12 arrives unscathed at Murmansk, earning the distinction of being the last PQ convoy to sail without losses.

The British evacuate their garrison from the Andaman Islands, just off the Burmese coast south of Rangoon.

US troops occupy New Caledonia.

1943 German troops evacuate Vyazma.

In North Africa, the US 802ndMedical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron flies first medical air evacuation flight with flight nurses.

George Patton promoted to Lieutenant general.

The first labor strike in a totalitarian regime: 50,000 Italian workers strike against Mussolini and delay war production.

1944 The Swedes announce an investigation of the ‘mysterious object which crashed out of the sky’ (a ‘flying torpedo’ V1) from a German research station, 40 miles away.

1945 RAF Bomber Command sets another new record for single target, when 4,851 tons are dropped on Dortmund.

Anne Frank dies in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp of typhus, age 15.

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Mar 11

World War II Today: March 11

1940 A coal strike in New South Wales begins.

1941 Japanese Foreign Minister to visit Rome and Berlin.The US House of Representatives passes the ‘Lend Lease’ Bill by 317 votes to 71, where upon it is immediately signed by President Roosevelt. Initial priority for war supplies was to be given to Britain and Greece.

British diplomats from Bulgaria reach Istanbul, although 2 people are killed when a bomb in their luggage explodes.

The German 5th Light Division has now completely arrived in Libya and is ordered to prepare for an attack on El Agheila. Meanwhile, Rommel has flown back to Germany for further orders and has been told that when the 15th Panzer Division has arrived in Libya at the end of May he is to recapture Benghazi.

1942 General MacArthur leaves Corregidor and the Philippines for Australia, after being ordered to assume command of the new South-West Pacific area, which in effect meant all Allied forces in the Pacific. MacArthur’s last words before leaving were “I shall return!” General M. Wainwright takes over command in the Philippines.

1943 The north Atlantic convoy ONS-169 is attacked by wolfpack ‘Raubgraf’ between the 11th and 12th March losing 2 ships for 10,531 gross tons. Atlantic convoys SC121 and HX228 are also attacked by other wolfpacks and lose 17 ships for the loss of just U-444 and U-432.

1944 Zhukov is stopped on River Bug after a 60-mile advance.

Some 12,000 Chindits are now behind Japanese lines in Burma. British forces capture Buthiduang on the Arakan front.

1945 The US third Army captures Kochem on the lower Moselle river.

The Red Army advances towards Gotenhafen, a vital port of embarkation for tens of thousands of refugees from East Prussia.

An RAF Bomber Command record for the largest tonnage dropped on a single target in single day is achieved at Essen when 4,661 tons are dropped.

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Mar 10

World War II Today: March 10

1941 Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews assumes command of US Navy’s new North Atlantic Naval Coast Frontier (Eastern Sea Frontier)

The RAF attacks Le Havre and at the same time gives the new 4-engine Halifax bomber it debut, although one of the six Halifax’s involved is shot down on its return flight by an RAF night fighter.

Vichy France threatens to use its navy unless Britain allows food to reach France.

1942 Japanese troops make landings at Finschhafen in New Guinea. They also occupy Buka in the Solomon Islands. Japanese aircraft attack Port Moresby in Papua.

Aircraft from the American Aircraft Carriers Lexington and Yorktown make attacks against the Japanese at Lae and Salamaua.

Britain reports that spending for WWII has surpassed spending for WWI.

Based on FBI intercepts the Brazilian police arrest a German spy whose message to Hamburg contained sailing information for the Queen Mary, carrying 10,000 US troops.

1943 P-47 Thunderbolts fly first mission with US Eighth Air Force.

The United States retakes Sbeïtla, Tunisia.

The United States Fourteenth Air Force activated under Maj. Gen. Claire Chennault, based in Kunming, China

1944 Uman is taken as the Russians drive towards the Bug and Dnieper rivers.

The Irish refuse to oust all Axis envoys and deny the accusation of spying on Allied troops.

1945 The 2nd Belorussian Front captures Zoppot, during its attack towards Danzig. The Kriegsmarine evacuates 25,000 civilian refugees from the besieged Baltic fortress of Kolberg in Pomerania.

Field Marshal Kesselring replaces Field Marshal von Rundstedt as C-in-C of German forces in the West. German troops evacuate Wesel on the lower Rhine. The US Third Army captures Bonn.

U.S. Eighth Army invades Zamboanga Peninsula on Mindanao in the Philippines.

1949 Nazi wartime broadcaster Mildred E. Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally,” was convicted in Washington D.C. of treason. She served 12 years in prison.

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Mar 09

World War II Today: March 9

1936 The German press warns that all Jews who vote in the upcoming elections will be arrested.

1939 Czech President Emil Hacha ousts pro-German Joseph Tiso as the Premier of Slovakia in order to preserve Czech unity.

1940 Italian-Anglo agreement on coal, Britain to release Italian collier ships, Italy to import no more German coal.

1941 The Italians launch another offensive against the Greek 1st Army in Albania, but it makes very little progress.

1942 The RAF returns to bomb Essen once more, but again are unable to inflict much damage due to the constant industrial haze over the city and the lack of landmarks, which made the city notoriously difficult to find.

US General Stilwell becomes Chiang Kai-shek’s Chief of Staff.

The Government of the Dutch East Indies reaches Adelaide in Australia as all resistance on Java ceases and the island surrenders to the Japanese.

1943

U-510 torpedoes eight ships in three hours off the coast of Brazil, in what is the most successful single U-boat action of the war.

Von Arnim replaces Field Marshal Rommel as C-in-C of the Axis forces in Tunisia and Rommel is ordered by Hitler to leave Africa, never to return.

1945 The U.S. First Army widens the Remagen bridgehead. The US Third Army captures Andernach on the Rhine.

German light naval vessels from the still German-occupied British Channel Islands enter the allied supply port of Granville in Bretagne, sinking five ships.

USAAF B29’s begin the firebombing of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe. 16 and a half acres of Tokyo is burnt out in attacks which continue for 10 days.

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Mar 08

World War II Today: March 8

1940 Heavy fighting is reported at the outskirts to Viipuri, as the Red Army continues its attempt to capture the city. This prompts the Finns to seek an immediate armistice, which the Russians refuse. Therefore the Finnish delegation in Moscow is instructed to sue for peace.

1941 The US Senate passes the ‘Lend Lease’ bill by 60 votes to 31.

Martial law is proclaimed in Holland in order to extinguish any anti-Nazi protests.

1942 The RAF use GEE for the first time for target marking during a raid on Essen. The technique was known as ‘Shaker’ and consisted of aircraft marking the target with flares, allowing aircraft further behind to see the target more clearly. However the results of the raid were disappointing.

Rangoon falls to the Japanese as the British forces escape to the north. The 17th Indian Division was now holding the Irrawaddy area and the 1st Burma Division the upper Sittang valley. The Chinese Expeditionary Force were farther north, with the Fifth Chinese Army defending Mandalay and the 6th Chinese Army was at Toungoo and defending the Burmese province of Shan.

Japanese make unopposed landings at Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea.

The Dutch on Java surrender to Japanese.

1943 Over 1,000 Germans wives of Jewish men deported to concentrations camps are now protesting in Berlin. To prevent this kind of protest from spreading, Joseph Goebbels orders the release of the 1,500 Jewish men.

Japanese forces attack American troops on Hill 700 in Bougainville. The battle will last five days.

1944 The US 8th Air Force carries out a heavy attack against Berlin. The primary target is the ball bearing plant at Erkner, a suburb of Berlin; enemy opposition is fierce and 37 bombers and 16 fighters are lost.

1945 British and Canadian troops involved in Operation ‘Blockbuster’ enter Xanten on the Rhine after several days of heavy fighting further to the South U.S. troops enter Bonn.

Beginning of secret negotiations at Bern, Switzerland, between representatives of the American OSS (Allan Dulles) and the German High Command in Italy (General von Vietinghoff and SS General Wolff) for an early surrender of German forces in Italy.

The Red Army penetrates into the ssouthern suburbs of Breslau.

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Mar 07

World War II Today: March 7

1936 Hitler sends German troops into the Rhineland, breaking the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact.

1941 British and Commonwealth troops begin to arrive in Greece.

German Jews ordered into forced labour.

U-47, commanded by top ace Gunther Prien, hero of Scapa Flow, is sunk by the British Destroyer HMS Wolverine.

In convoy OB-293 off Iceland, U-99 and U-47 sink British whaling factory ship Terje Viken, one of the largest ships sunk in war at 20,000 tons.

Actor James Stewart is inducted into US Army.

1942 Force H, consisting of HMS Argus and HMS Eagle and supported by a number of destroyers, sets sail for Malta with a number of Spitfires on board. Fifteen Spitfires were flown off when Force H came within range of the Island.

The Government of the Dutch East Indies flees Java for Australia.

The Japanese occupy Rangoon, Burma.

1943 A new wolfpack, codenamed ‘Raubgraf’ (Robber Baron), is created in the central North Atlantic. It will operate between the 7th and 20th March 1943 and includes U-84, U-89, U-91, U-435, U-468, U-600, U-603, U-615, U-621, U-638, U-653, U-664, U-758. Immediately the wolfpack attacks convoy ON-168 which is traveling between North America and the UK. One ship is damaged and abandoned on the 7th March, to be finally sunk on the 12th March for 6,537 gross tons.

1944 The Japanese begin the Imphal-Kohima offensive from northern Burma into Assam, India.

U.S. Marines secure Los Negros.

In reply to Arab protests, the U.S. says that the idea of a Jewish state has no official sanction.

1945 The U.S. 9th Armored Division makes a surprise dash across the undestroyed Rhine bridge at Remagen, establishing a crucial bridgehead on the East bank.

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Mar 06

World War II Today: March 6

1940 Hitler changes his plans for the invasion of the west. At a military conference in Berlin, he decides to adopt the plan put forward by Gerd von Rundstedt and his former chief of staff, Erich von Manstein, for the Ardennes option. Code-named ‘Fall Sichelschnitt’, it called for the attack against the Low Countries to go ahead, but with slightly fewer forces, in order to draw the allies forward, while the decisive thrust would be mounted through the Ardennes. Holding attacks would be made against the Maginot line.

1941 German aircraft mine the Suez canal, blocking it for 3 weeks.

1942 Having received permission from Hitler, the Battleship Tirpitz and 3 destroyers set sail from Trondheim to intercept convoy PQ-12, but is spotted by a British submarine which relays the information onto the British Admiralty. However, bad weather means that the Tirpitz is unable to locate PQ-12 and so heads back to base. Enroute to Trondheim the Tirpitz is spotted and attacked by aircraft from HMS Victorious, but is not damaged.

Japanese cut all roads north of Rangoon, trapping the British at Pegu.

Japanese occupy Batavia in Java.

1944 Bomber Command begins a large-scale offensive over northern France in preparation for D-Day.

The USAAF send 730 bombers and 796 fighters to Berlin, during which 69 bombers and 11 escorts are shot down.

Another ‘Chindit’ stronghold is established South of the Irrawaddy

U.S. Marines land at Talasea in New Britain.

1945 The U.S. Third Army reaches the Rhine Northwest of Koblenz, as Cologne falls to U.S. First Army.

The 2nd Panzer and 6th SS Panzer Armies launch a major counter-attack from Lake Balaton towards Budapest.

The US 8th Air Force launches a heavy attack against Chemnitz in Saxony.

The new Chinese First Army takes Lashio in north-eastern Burma.

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Mar 05

The M4 Sherman Tank – From World War 2 to Present Day

Approximately  50,000 Sherman’s were produced, the M4 Sherman is one of the most iconic WW2 tanks, and of  all military history. The design stemmed from a need to fit a 75mm dual purpose cannon, capable of engaging both other tanks and dug-in infantry, inside a fully traversing turret. Its predecessor, the M3 Lee, had a cannon of the same caliber in a sponson (limited traverse), restricting its ability to engage the enemy.

The M4 Sherman was not the best tank of the war but a balance between speed and armor. The ease of manufacture, transport on train and ease of shipping overseas in large numbers, as well as large production numbers were the advantages of the Sherman. Although an American tank, the first Shermans to see combat actual did so with the British army in North Africa.  At the time, its armor and armament were suitable against the German Panzer IIIs and early Panzer IVs it came up against and its mechanical reliability proved to be outstanding.

The M4 Sherman was a balance of  strength and weakness. At close to 10ft tall, necessary to fit the suspension system and the engine, it was a large target for a medium tank. Its narrow tracks were liable to bog down in sand, mud and snow. In early models, the infantry weren’t able to communicate with the tank crew. In later variants of the M4 this was solved by installing a phone on the outside of the tank that was connected to the intercom system.

Early versions also earned a reputation for burning when getting hit, since much of the ammo was stored along the tank’s side inside. This problem earned the tank the nickname Ronson (after the popular cigarette lighter from the 40’s) and Tommy cooker among both Allied and German troops. This problem was solved by the addition of wet stowage: the rounds were moved elsewhere and surrounded by small containers of a liquid dousing agent, which when a long way in preventing fires.

By early 1944, the Sherman was getting a bit long in the tooth, with neither its gun nor its armor a match for late Panzer IVs, Panthers and Tigers. After D-Day, the thick hedgerows of Normandy offered the Germans plenty of cover and concealment  to ambush armor with anti-tank guns and the Panzerfaust. Tank crews started tacking on extra armor in the form of plates scavenged from destroyed vehicles, sand bags, concrete, spare track links and wood. The extra weight strained and overheated the engine and a study found the makeshift defenses didn’t provide enough extra protection. As a consequence, General Patton had the practice banned in the 3rd Army.

The M4A3E2 “Jumbo,”  was the upgrade that was fielded in the spring of ’44 to address the Sherman’s short commings. The Jumbo had additional armor plates welded on and was used to assault fortified enemy positions and to stay at the front of a formation and attract German fire. Arriving in Europe in the fall of 1944, it was considered a successful design, even though the extra weight could cause the front suspension to fail on rough terrain if the tank’s nose dipped down too sharply.

Close on the heals of the M4A3E2 “Jumbo”  the M4A3E8, the “Easy Eight,” was fielded. The “Easy Eight” had improved suspension and was equipped with a new hight velocity 76 mm gun,  giving  them much better penetrating power. The Easy Eight could finally penetrate the frontal armor of Panthers and Tigers from a reasonable range, but the same range still allowed the German heavy tanks to still take out the Easy Eights.

A British modification  of the Sherman enabling it to fight Panther’s and Tigers on a more even foot, was the Sherman “Firefly.” The British designers converted the turret to be able to house the superb but large Quick-Firing 17-pounder anti-tank gun. The flash from this gun alone was so strong that the gunner and the commander had to blink during firing to avoid getting blinded. Additionally, the flash would sometimes set vegetation in front of the tank on fire. The Firefly was a terror of German heavy tanks, but its long barrel made it conspicuous and a prime target for the enemy. Many tank crews put camouflage paint on the muzzle to make it look as shorter and appear as an old 75 mm.

The Sherman became the base for many modifications. Some were armed with a 105 mm howitzers, which was better at taking out defensive fortifications than the anti-tank  76 mm cannon. Such Shermans were often paired up with flamethrower versions in the Pacific and used to devastating effect against Japanese fortifications.

 

Other Sherman versions were used for D-Day. These included the Duplex Drive amphibious Sherman, which “wore” a canvas skirt that gave it buoyancy, and various bridge-layer, mine-clearer and other engineering-oriented variations, many of which the creation of Hobart’s Funnies.

Of the Sherman’s various rocket launcher-equipped versions, the one carrying the T34 Calliope is the most famous. Capable of firing 60 rockets in a very short span of time, it could saturate an area with explosions and shrapnel, while the screaming sound of the incoming barrage was often enough to send the enemy running.

The basic chassis of the Sherman was also used for a variety of tank destroyers and self-propelled guns. A fully modernized version, the M51 Super Sherman, even saw service with the Israeli army, where it acquitted itself well in the 1967 and 1973 wars.

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