Archive for the ‘WWII History’ Category

Nov 03

World War II Today: November 3

1940 U99 sinks armed merchant-cruiser Laurentic off Iceland.

Greek troops trap the Italian 3rd Alpine Division taking 5,000 prisoners. British troops arrive in Greece.

1941 Germans troops capture Kursk.

Off Greece, HMS Proteus makes first radar attack by a sub, damaging Italian tanker Tampico.

General Auchinleck is forced to postpone ‘Operation Crusader‘ for 1 week so as to enable the 1st South African Division, which had recently arrived from Abyssinia to under go more training.

Admiral Yamamoto’s plan to attack Pearl Harbor is approved.

1942 A British merchant seaman is hanged at Wandsworth for supplying the Germans with shipping information.

In an interview with American journalists, Stalin describes US military aid as of little effect.

Rejecting out of hand Field Marshal Rommel’s proposal to withdraw the Afrika Korps, now down to about 40 tanks, to the Fuka line, Hitler orders him to stand and fight.

On Guadalcanal, US Marines take Point Cruz and land at Koli Point.

1943 The USAAF launch a 400-bomber daylight raid on Wilhelmshaven with 600-fighter escort. At night the RAF drop over 2,000 tons of bombs on Dusseldorf in 27 minutes.

A massive Russian offensive from Dnieper bridgehead North of Kiev erupts.

Nazis carry out Operation Harvest Festival in occupied Poland, killing 42,000 Jews.

Heavy USAAF air attacks begin on Rabaul.

The Second Battle of Kiev began on the Eastern Front.

More than 18,000 Jewish prisoners were shot to death in a single day at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland, in the Aktion Erntefest. The Erntefest was the traditional German “Harvest Festival”, and dance music was played over loudspeakers “to drown out the sounds of the killing and the dying”. The extermination of the estimated 18,400 members of the camp was carried out by order of the new camp commandant, German Lt. Colonel Martin Weiss, as part of Operation Reinhard.

Adolf Hitler issued Führer Directive Number 51, anticipating an invasion of Nazi-occupied France by the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, in what Hitler described as “an Anglo-Saxon landing”. Troops and reinforcements were transferred to Western Europe, and the Anglo-Saxon landing would take place on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The Raid on Choiseul ended indecisively.

1944 The 20th Gebirgsjaeger Army evacuates the mineral rich Petsamo region of northern Finland.

Take a look at these other WWII posts: WWII Today: June 19 WWII Today: August 6 WWII Today: June 14

Nov 02

World War II Today: November 2

1939 The first transport of Polish women arrives at Ravensbruck concentration camp.

1942 Bitter street fighting continues in Stalingrad with neither side making much progress. Kleist’s final Caucasus advance ends as the 13th Panzer Division of III Panzer Corps approaches the outskirts of Ordshonikidse, the southeastern-most point in Russia to be reached by the Wehrmacht.

German Newsreel

Operation ‘Supercharge’, the breakout at El Alamein gets under way. Rommel has only 32 Panzer’s left intact.

Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrives in Gibraltar to set up an American command post for the invasion of North Africa.

In New Guinea, Australians reoccupy Kokoda and its airfield on way from Port Moresby to Buna, New Guinea.

At Bell Island, Newfoundland, torpedo from U-boat U-518 hits dock, the only direct German attack on North American land in the war; two ships are sunk.

1943 The Battle of Empress Augusta Bay in Bougainville ends in U.S. Navy victory over Japan.

1944 The Canadians take Zeebrugge, the last corner of occupied Belgium, on Channel coast. The Canadian 2nd Division withdraws from a 700 yard deep bridgehead in Walcheren. All eligible Germans are ordered to enroll in Volksturm on pain of court-martial.

The United States 28th Division is ordered to clear the Germans out of the Hurtgen Forest and is nearly destroyed in the attempt.

German forces manage to stop the Russians at Kraisevo, enabling the Second Panzer Army to establish a firm line west of Belgrade.

The Red Army enters the southeastern suburbs of Budapest.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 28 WWII Today: August 16 WWII Today: August 14

Nov 01

World War II Today: November 1

1936 In a speech in Milan, Benito Mussolini described the alliance between Italy and Nazi Germany as an “axis” running between Rome and Berlin.

1940 British mine Bay of Biscay.

Turkey declares itself neutral in Greco-Italian war.

RAF and Fleet Air Arm aircraft attack targets in Naples and Brindisi on the Italian mainland and Albanian ports.

1941 The German government issues a statement denying the charges made by President Roosevelt that the US destroyers Greer and Kearney were attacked by German submarines without any provocation; that the exact opposite was true in that the U-boats fired torpedoes only after they were tracked and depth-charged for hours by these US vessels.

German troops of the 11th Army take Simferopol, the capital of the Crimea and close in on Sevastopol.

1942 In their advance toward Ordshonikidse in the Caucasus, units of III Panzer Corps capture Alagir on the upper Terek river.

1943 The Red Army achieves a landing across the Strait of Kerch from the Taman peninsula and also severs all German land links with the Crimea.

The US 3rd Marine Division lands at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island in the Solomon’s. A confused naval battle follows.

1944 The first of 9,000 balloon bombs launched against US from Tokyo reach the U.S.A. One bomb kills six people near Lakeview in Oregon.

“Operation: Infatuate I” begins as the British Royal Marines and Army Commandos land on Dutch island of Walcheren off the Scheldt Estuary during the in an attempt to clear the German defenders from this strategic island. “Operation: Infatuate II” was the amphibious landing at Westkapelle, also conducted on the morning of 1 November.


British Intelligence reports that Hitler probably committed suicide on the 30th April in Berlin after marrying his mistress, Eva Braun.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: April 25 WWII Today: April 17 WWII Today: April 11

Oct 31

World War II Today: October 31 – Happy Halloween

1939 Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov boasts: “One swift blow to Poland, first by the German Army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left of this ugly offspring of the Versailles Treaty!”. He also accuses the British of aggression.

1940 The Battle of Britain is now considered as over by the British Air Ministry.

British civilian casualty figures announced for October: 6,334 killed and 8,695 seriously injured.

British troops occupy Canea in Crete. Italians claim advance towards Salonika in Greece.

RAF bomb Naples for the first time.

1941 The US destroyer Reuben James escorting Convoy HX-156 is sunk by U-552 (Kapitainleutnant Erich Topp) with the loss of 100 of her crew. The destroyer is the first US naval casualty in the hitherto undeclared war between Germany and the United States that existed after President Roosevelt authorized the use of American naval vessels to escort Lend-Lease convoys bound for Britain.

British air raid casualties in October remain low at 262 killed. RAF raid occupied Europe on all but six days with Hamburg and Cologne bombed three times. Dover the only serious British casualty.

The RAF’s Mediterranean raids continue, with Benghazi being bombed 14 times and Tripoli 10 times.

1943 The U.S. Fifth Army resumes its offensive to the North of the Volturno.

1944 The British reach the river Mass, south of Rotterdam and establish a bridgehead. The Canadians reach Walcheren.

25 Mosquitoes make a highly successful low-level attack on the Gestapo HQ in Aarhus, Denmark, killing 200 Gestapo officials and destroying all records on the Dutch resistance movement.

On the orders of Prime Minister Churchill, British troops occupy Saloniki in Greece to assist the new government in its efforts to prevent a take-over by Communist insurgents in the wake of the recent withdrawal of German troops from Greece.

Tale a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: June 13 WWII Today: September 2 WWII Today: July 26

Oct 30

World War II Today: October 30

1939 German U boat U-56 fails in attack on battleship HMS Nelson with Winston Churchill, Dudley Pound, and Charles Forbes aboard.

1940 RAF Bomber Command is given its first directive sanctioning area-bombing.

Lt. Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold named as US Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for air (combat).

1941 The worsening weather and seas of mud bring the German offensive against Moscow almost to a standstill. This gives the Red Army precious time to reinforce their defenses in front of Moscow.

German siege of Sevastopol begins.

USO Camp Shows established to entertain troops overseas

1942 The completion of the Alcan Highway is announced–1,671 miles of road connecting Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and Fairbanks, Alaska. The road will be used to transport supplies and troops to U.S. military bases in Alaska.

In Allied convoy SL-125 off West Africa, U-boat wolf-pack sinks six ships; this convoy distracts the U-boats from the approaching convoys for Operation Torch.

At El Alamein, Australians push north to the sea, trapping enemy force, most of which escapes west.

Germans remove 100 Jewish children from a children’s home in Brussels, Belgium for deportation, but public outcry leads to their return.

1944 In the Vosges mountains in France, US 442nd Infantry Regiment (Nisei—Japanese-Americans) rescues the Lost Battalion with heavy losses.

The Debrecen counter attacks end with the Germans claiming that they have inflicted 25,000 casualties and destroyed 600 tanks. However, this doesn’t hinder the Red Army begins a major offensive in to Hungary.

The gas chambers at Auschwitz are used for the last time.

1945 Final Liberty Ship is delivered, the Albert M. Boe; 2711 produced during the war.

US ends shoe rationing, effective at midnight.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: March 8 WWII Today: May 12 WWII Today: June 28 Words at War: My Country: A Poem of America

Oct 29

World War II Today: October 29

1940 A blindfolded secretary of war draws the first number – 158 – in the Selective Service draft. (Not all men are willing to register. In one case, a man goes to his draft board posing as his own widow to announce his death.)

British troops set sail for Crete. Italians claim to have made some advances but Greeks hold most positions.

RAF bomb Berlin for 25th time.

Conscription begins in the U.S. It is the first military draft to occur during peacetime in American history.

1941 Germans troops advance in strength, down in to the Crimea, forcing the Russians to fall back in to Sevastopol.

1942 The Germans capture Nalchik in the Caucasus, only 50 miles from the Grozny oil fields.

The US retains control of all their positions on Guadalcanal. An Australian force completes the evacuation of the Templeton Crossing positions in New Guinea.

The Japanese fleet forced to retreat in the Solomons.

German troops under Rommel make a heavy attack against Australians on the northern flank.

US completes construction of Alcan Highway, connecting Alaska to the “Lower Forty-Eight” , officially opened on November 26, 1942

In the United Kingdom, leading clergymen and political figures hold a public meeting to register outrage over Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews.

United States 1st Armored Division moves from Northern Ireland to England.

1943 Troops replace striking London dockworkers.

1944 RAF Lancaster’s attack the Battleship Tirpitz again with 12,000lb. ‘Tallboy’ bombs, this time off Tromso.

Soviets withdraw from Norway and northern Finland.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 12 WWII Today: August 13 WWII Today: September 8

Oct 28

World War II Today: October 28

1939 On the 21st anniversary of Czech independence, celebrations become mass protests. A young medical student, Jan Opletal, is fatally wounded.

1940 Ministry of Health announces evacuation of 489,000 more children from London area.

Laval becomes Foreign Minister of Vichy government.

Italy attacks Greece after Greek rejection of three-hour ultimatum; Churchill promises ‘all the help in our power’. Hitler and Mussolini meet at Florence.

Cameron is replaced by Fadden as leader of the Australian Country Party.

1941 President Roosevelt approves the appropriation by Congress of an additional $6 billion in Lend-Lease aid to Britain and the Soviet Union.

Bolekhiv first aktion massacre – 1,000 of the leading Jews rounded up by list, tortured, and on the following day 800 of the surviving Jews, were shot or buried alive at a nearby forest. The re-discovered atrocities and testimony in 1996 lead to Patrick Desbois’s research on the German method of “One Bullet, One Jew” extermination in 1941 and 1942.

1942 The first transport from Theresienstadt arrives at Auschwitz.

1944 The Germans begin to withdraw into Walcheren.

Orders are given by the Germans and Quisling regime to evacuate the entire population of Finnmark east of Lyngen, and all houses and installations are to be destroyed. More than 10,000 houses are burnt, and 40-45,000 people are forced southwards. About 25,000 manage to hide, or escape during the operation.

The Germans begin to evacuate Albania.

The Red Army’s advance into the Goldap area of East Prussia is brought to a standstill by the tenacious resistance of 4th Army.

The last train transport of Jews to Auschwitz are gassed. These are 2,000 Jews from Theresienstad.

The first B-29 Superfortress bomber mission flies from the airfields in the Mariana Islands in a strike against the Japanese base at Truk.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 30 WWII Today: September 18 WWII Today: September 21

Oct 27

World War II Today: October 27

1941 In a broadcast to the nation on Navy Day, President Franklin Roosevelt declares: “America has been attacked, the shooting has started.” He does not ask for full-scale war yet, realizing that many Americans are not yet ready for such a step.

The Russians launch numerous counter-attacks around Moscow in an attempt to halt the German advance. 11th Army forces a breakthrough at Perekop, thus opening the gate to the Crimean peninsula.

German Army Group South forces reach Sevastopol in the Crimea, but the tanks of the “Northern” forces are slowed or stopped entirely by mud.

1942 Wolfpack ‘Battleaxe’ attacks Convoy SL-125 (37 ships) which is sailing from Sierra Leone to the UK. The attack begins off the northwest coast of  Africa, not far from Gibraltar and continues until the 31st October 1942. During this time 12 merchants (80,005 gross tons) are sunk and 7 damaged. While the battle rages, the allies re-route all convoys associated with the ‘Torch’ landings in North Africa.

The Soviet 37th Army is defeated in Caucasus.

During the Second Battle of El Alamein, a counter-attack by the 21st Panzer-Division to push the attacking British forces back into the German minefields fails, costing them 50 Panzer’s. This leaves the axis forces with just 81 operational tanks.

United States destroyers sink the damaged carrier USS Hornet to prevent her from falling into the hands of approaching Japanese ships. The Hornet has been in operation for only 371 days.

1943 Montgomery resumes the offensive operations in Italy.

Field Marshal Von Kluge is invalided from command of Army Group Centre as result of a car crash.

1944 The Battle of Hürtgen Forest is developing. It will continue through October and November and have its last attacks in December.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 18 WWII Today: September 25 Rita Hayworth – WWII Pin Up

Oct 26

World War II Today: October 26

1939 Germany annexes former Polish areas of Upper Silesia, West Prussia, Pomerania, Poznan, Ciechanow, Danzig, and part of Lodz; all the rest of German-occupied Poland to come under the “General Government.” Forced labor decree issued for Polish Jews aged 14 to 60.

1940 London has longest air raid to date as a Catholic orphanage is among the buildings hit. British claim 41 German planes shot down in the past week against 21 British. The total German losses over Britain since the war began are put at a staggering 2,762 against Britain’s 780.

Ministry of Food subsidises fish and chip shops to encourage potato consumption.

The Italians protest to the Greeks about their ‘non-neutral’ attitude towards Italy.

1942 850 Jews are arrested in Norway.

The Eighth Army begins re-grouping its divisions at El Alamein for the final breakout, and take Kidney Ridge.

Center and Eastern Task Forces depart Britain for Torch landings in Oran and Algiers, Algeria.

Battle of Santa Cruz, with US forces attacking the large Japanese supporting fleet near Guadalcanal and shooting down 100 aircraft, damaging two carriers, a battleship and three cruisers. U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Hornet is heavily damaged during the Battle of Santa Cruz.

The USS South Dakota knocks down twenty-six Japanese planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz, setting the record for the most enemy planes downed in one day.

The First American Red Cross Clubmobiles begin service to US troops in Britain.

1943 The RAF launches a heavy night raid against Stuttgart, while the US 8th Air Force, in its greatest effort to date, delivers a devastating daylight attack on Bremen.

A hospital ship arrives in Liverpool with 790 wounded POW’s aboard, repatriated from Germany.

A feint landing on Choisseul in the Solomon’s is conducted by US forces. Meanwhile Treasury Island is occupied.

Emperor Hirohito states his country’s situation is now “truly grave.”

1944 The Battle of Leyte Gulf concludes with a decisive US victory, despite heavy Japanese kamikaze attacks; this battle marks the virtual collapse of the Japanese Navy.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 16 WWII Today: September 21 WWII Today: September 22

Oct 25

Clark Gable – WWII B-17 Aerial Gunner

William Clark Gable (1901-1960) was born to a protestant father working as an oil well driller and a catholic mother who died when he was 10 months old. As a young man, he worked at oil fields and as a horse manager until he gradually broke into the world of theater and screen acting. By the time of America’s entry into World War II he was already a highly acclaimed actor and the star of such movies as It Happened One Night (which earned him an Academy Award), Mutiny on the Bounty and, of course, Gone With the Wind.

In 1939, he married actress Carole Lombard, his third wife. The following years were the happiest in Gable’s life, but the idyll was cut short by tragedy. On January 16, 1942, Lombard was flying home from a war bond promotion tour when her plane crashed, killing everyone on board. Gable was emotionally and physically shattered, losing 20 pounds in a month. He enlisted in the U.S. Army later that year, almost certainly as a way to cope with the personal loss. Before her death, Lombard encouraged him to do so. After a public announcement of his intention, Commanding General of the USAAF Henry “Hap” Arnold offered him a special assignment in aerial gunnery.

Gable, already 41 years old, considered enrolling in officer candidate school, but eventually enlisted in August 1942 as a gunner on a bomber. His studio, MGM, arranged for Andrew McIntyre, a cinematographer and personal friend, to accompany him during training. Once enlisted, he was sent to officer training anyway. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and was as the graduation speaker of his class. It was after his commission that General Arnold explained the nature of his special assignment. The USAAF was facing a shortage of aerial gunners and he wanted Gable to shoot a propaganda film to increase enlistment rates.

Gable was promoted to captain and sent to England with the 351st Bomb Group of the 8th USAAF as head of a six-man film crew. He took his duties seriously and shot a wealth of material interviewing air crew members. He was also willing to party when appropriate and became popular with the enlisted men. In order to acquire aerial footage, he also went on combat missions on several B-17 Flying Fortresses (he was attached to the group, but not to any specific crew). Official papers record five missions flown by him as an observer-gunner, though some veterans who served with him claimed he went on more.

Of the five recorded flights, one, an attack on a chemical plant in Norway, was the longest mission flown by the 8th Air Force up to that point. Another, a large raid on Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley, was the 8th’s most dangerous flight to date, with 25 planes out of 330 shot down by the enemy. During an attack on his plane, Gable was wedged behind the gunner in the cramped top turret, shooting footage of German planes making five passes at the bomber formation. As he was handling his camera, a 20mm shell penetrated the bomber from below. Gable and the gunner dodged death: the shell cut off the heel of Gable’s boot, flew past him and exited the plane a foot from his head, all without exploding. When later pressed by reporters, Gable said he didn’t even notice the shell at the time and only saw the exit hole later.

Gable probably didn’t know that his actions over Europe earned him the attention of an unlikely fan: Adolf Hitler himself. He was Hitler’s favorite actor, probably in part due to his Rhinelander and Bavarian ancestry and the Führer offered a significant bounty to whoever captured the actor unscathed.

In November, Gable returned to America with 50,000 feet of film, ready to go into the editing room, only to find that the gunner shortage had already been rectified. Nevertheless, he was allowed to finish the 62-minute film and Combat America premiered in movie theaters in 1945.

In 1944 Gable was promoted to major. He wanted to fly more combat missions but was not assigned to any combat units during the invasion of Normandy. Realizing he wasn’t going to be allowed on missions any more due to his age, he requested his relief from active duty, which was granted. By coincidence, his discharge papers were signed by a later U.S. President: then-Captain Ronald Reagan. Shortly after his retirement from military service, he put his personal experience to good use in Command Decision, a 1948 film about the politics of and the emotional toll on commanders, in which he played a fictional brigadier general supervising raids on Germany.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: Combat America: by Clark Gable Rosie the Riveter Photographs B-17 Survival Story Clark Gable Reproduction Dog Tags