Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Mar 04

World War II Today: March 4

1941 Hitler increases the pressure on Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite pact by inviting Prince Paul, the regent, to Berchtesgaden. Hitler demands that he allows German troops to pass through Yugoslavia for an attack on Greece. In return, the port of Salonika and part of Macedonia will be ceded to Yugoslavia.

On the northern Norwegian coast,British & Norwegian commandos raid Lofoten Islands, Norway; destroy oil plants, sink 8 ships (confiscating two Enigma machines and code books), take 314 Norwegian volunteers to England and take 285 German prisoners.

The British start to transfer the first contingent of troops from Egypt to Greece. These are to be under the command of General Maitland Wilson.

1942 Two Japanese flying boats bomb Pearl Harbor—no damage. Aircraft from USS Enterprise group strike Marcus Island.

Aircraft from USS Enterprise group strike Marcus Island in South Pacific.

1944 Zhukov renews his attacks against the forces of Manstein’s Army Group South in the Ukraine.

The USAAF launch, but then cancel the first daylight heavy bomber raid on Berlin. However 29 aircraft fail to receive the counter-order and bomb the capital.

Convoy RA-57 (31 ships) sailing the Arctic route from the Kola Peninsula to Loch Ewe, is attacked off Norway. The steam merchant Empire Tourist is sunk by U-703 for 7,062 gross tons lost. However, the convoy’s escorts sink 3 U-boats en-route.

Merrill’s ‘Marauders’ fight their first major action in Burma.

1945 The First Belorussian Front breaks through at Stargard and drives towards Stettin and also establishes a new bridgehead across the Oder to the South of Frankfurt.

US B-29 Superfortresses first land on Iwo Jima as an emergency field.

The British Fourteenth Army takes Meiktila, Burma.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: December 7: Attack on Pearl Harbor WWII Today: December 20 WWII Today: December 30

Mar 03

World War II Today: March 3

1940 The Russian launch a massive offensive and bring Viipuri under direct attack. This brings home to the Finns the fact that they cannot resist for must longer against the overwhelming force that the Russians are now deploying.

Italy protests to Britain over proposed ban on Italian imports of German coal.

1941 Moscow denounces the Axis rule in Bulgaria.

1942 RAF Bomber Command, under its new C-in-C, Air Vice Marshal Harris, attacks the Renault plant in the Paris suburb of Billancourt. Of the 235 RAF planes that took off, only 1 failed to return. The new navigation device, GEE wasn’t used, although the target was marked with flares for the first time and serious damage done to production facilities with many French workers killed. This successful raid was a much needed morale boost for the bomber crews.

The Lancaster bomber makes its operational debut, laying mines of the French port of Brest.

Vichy announces that ‘official’ German figures put the number of French arrested in 1941 at 5,390 and executions at more than 250.

General Chiang Kai-shek meets General Wavell in Burma.

1943 173 Londoners are killed in panic crush at Bethnal Green tube station when a new Anti-Aircraft weapon noise is heard for the first time.

Russians take Rzhev, over 100 miles to the west of Moscow.

1944 German attacks cease at Anzio after losing 3,500 men and 30 Panzer’s in four days.

For the war to date British civilian casualties total 50,324 dead, with military deaths at 50,103.

Under pressure from the Western Allies to withdraw all remaining Spanish troops from the Eastern front, the Franco government orders members of the so-called “Blue Legion,” attached to the German 121st Infantry Division, to return home and outlaws service by Spanish citizens with the Axis forces. Nevertheless, a handful of fanatically anti-Communist Spaniards defy orders and volunteer for service with the Waffen SS, some of them fighting suicidally to the end in the ruins of Berlin.

The allies announce that Russia is to get a third of Italian fleet, or equivalent in British and American warships.

Japanese counter-attacks on Los Negros fail.

1945 Units of the Canadian First Army capture Xanten on the lower Rhine in the battle of the Reichswald.

The US First Army captures Krefeld.

100 Luftwaffe night-fighters attack 27 RAF airfields, in what is the last night intrusion raid of the war. 22 RAF aircraft were destroyed for 6 German.

The fighting ends in Manila. Japanese resistance ends in Meiktila.

Finland declares war on the Axis.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: February 18 WWII Today: February 14 Words at War: The Curtain Rises

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

The Other D-Days in WW2

Where does the name “D-Day” come from, and how D-Days were there?.

What is the actual meaning of the D in D-Day?.  A popular view in France is that it stands for disembarkation or debarkation, referring to the invading Allied troops disembarking from their landing craft. Another, more romantic, explanation is decision, deliverance or doom. None of these are the true meaning of “D-Day.”

In 1964 the former Supreme Allied Commander and President Eisenhower was asked what “D-Day” meant. President Eisenhower’s executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schulz,  responded, writing  “General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date;’ therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”

“Departed date” comes from a rather authoritative source but it still doesn’t paint a complete picture. Schulz’s statement might have reflected how the phrase was understood specifically during the planning of amphibious operations, however, the historical use doesn’t seem to fully support the claim.  It appears, the U.S. military first used the term D-Day on September 7, 1918, during the World War I, referring to a planned attack: “The First Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient.” The attack on the German-held area protruding into French lines started on September 12 and was the first and only offensive of the war launched entirely by American troops. Catching the Germans mid-retreat and with their artillery out of position, the battle saw the First Army victorious, thanks in part to the exploits of then-Lieutenant Colonel George Patton.

A brief anecdote about this first D-Day is in order. During the battle, Patton happened to meet Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, another officer who reached the apex of his fame in World War II, on a hilltop. While the two were talking, a German creeping artillery barrage started up, each barrage landing closer and closer to the hill. Both officers had a reputation for fearlessness and neither wanted to flinch in front of the other, so they ignored the approaching peril and carried on their chat until the barrage passed over them, leaving both men unharmed.

The battle, however, was not an amphibious attack, so Schulz’s post-World War II explanation is incorrect. The version accepted by the military today is that D simply stands for “day””and H for “hour.” While the phrases sound generic, their use, however, is pretty specific. Large, complex operations that take multiple days must be planned in great detail and comprise numerous dates and times for various actions and deadlines. If an operation starts early or late, as the Normandy invasion did due to bad weather, all of these times must be changed as well. Rather than setting every date and time in the traditional way and then possibly having to scramble to change it, the starting day and hour of the operation are simply designated D-Day and H-hour regardless of when exactly they would occur. All preceding and subsequent times are given relative to them. For example, D-3 means three days before and H+75 means 75 minutes after the operation commences. Numbers added to or subtracted from H-Hour could also represent hours. This way, last-minute changes in the schedule of the operation don’t force planners to rewrite every single document, nor others to use outdated texts with incorrect times.

The terms D-Day and H-hour saw use numerous times until the most famous example, Operation Overlord. The invasion of Normandy, however, was such a major effort that its very existence caused a decline in the use of the phrases elsewhere. With so much effort, supplies, transport capacity and personnel tied up in the landing in Western Europe, other major operations in the same year received different codes for their starting times to avoid confusion. Thus, the October 20, 1944 invasion of the Island of Leyte in the Philippines started on A-Day, while the first day of the landing on Okinawa, on April 1, 1945, was L-Day, for “landing.”

X-Day was planned to be the invasion of Japan on November 1, 1945, and Y-Day the invasion of Tokyo Plains on March 1, 1946 but these attacks never manifested due to the war ending. J-Day was used as a general term for the date of a specific assault in both world wars. Z-Day was the landing of Australian forces to liberate Brunei in North Borneo on June 10, 1945 and Q-Day was June 23, 1945 rehearsal for Trinity, the first atomic bomb test.

Check out these other WW2 Posts: Dead Man’s Corner – Normandy WW2 American Slang D-Day: June 6, 1944 The Sherman Tank

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