Archive for the ‘March’ Category
James Gavin (1907-1990) was raised adopted from an orphanage in Brooklyn by a struggling coal miner. Inspired by his school readings on the American Civil War, Gavin decided to seek a better future by joining the army.
He was 17 when he enlisted as a private, lying about his age as he knew his adoptive parents wouldn’t give their consent. He was posted in Panama, where a sergeant took him under his wings and made him his assistant. Gavin’s basic education was sorely lacking as he had to work as a child to help support his family but his mentor persuaded him to join a local army school. He graduated as one of the best, which earned him the chance to attend West Point, where he studied hard. His lack of education was a great disadvantage and every day he got up before dawn to take his school books to the bathroom, the only place with enough light to read.James Gavin
After graduating from West Point, he was posted at the Mexican border for three years, then attended the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. The school’s manager, then-Colonel George C. Marshall, and Joseph Stilwell, head of the Tactics department, taught him lessons that went against accepted American military thinking of the time. He adopted their philosophy of avoiding micromanaging subordinates and giving them rough guidelines and the freedom to make tactical decisions on their own.
Gavin also became fascinated by the writings of British officer J.F.C. Fuller, one of the early theoreticians of armored warfare. A 1936 posting to the Philippines also made him wary of Japanese military might and aware of how the U.S. was falling behind other countries in weapons development.
When World War II broke out, Gavin returned to West Point as a highly popular instructor and researcher into German tactics and equipment. He became a proponent of airborne forces and wrote the U.S. Army’s field manual on airborne tactics: Tactics and Technique of Air-Borne Troops.
He helped transform the 82nd Infantry Division into the 82nd Airborne, and became commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, leading training marches in person, and telling his officers to always be “the first out of the airplane door and last in the chow line”, a tradition preserved by the airborne to this day. Gavin’s hands-on leadership style made him the only American general in the war to make four parachute jumps with his troops.
During the Allied invasion of Sicily, the 505th PIR became the first ever American unit to perform a regiment-sized airborne landing. Strong winds scattered the group and Gavin landed far away from his zone, spraining his ankle during landing. His small group started making their way back towards their objective in the dark, harassing the much larger Axis forces with guerilla tactics. After one particular skirmish, he had to leave the wounded behind, going on with his last six men. “This is a hell of a place for a regimental commander to be” – he exclaimed.
Gathering scattered paratroopers, infantrymen and later clerks, cooks and truck drivers, he captured and held the vital Biazza Ridge against an overwhelming German force which threatened to attack the exposed flanks of two divisions. Turning two pack howitzers into direct-fire weapons, the group managed to knock out a Tiger and hold the ridge until relief arrived.
General James Gavin jumped again with his troops the night before D-Day, this time into Normandy. The jumps were scattered over a wide area and he was willing to put himself at risk in the chaotic fighting of the first couple of days. During the final push for the La Fière causeway, both he and his superior, General Matthew Ridgway, participated in a charge down an exposed path into heavy enemy resistance, stopping in the killing zone to remove an obstacle.
He jumped once more during Operation Market Garden, suffering another injury on landing. A few days later a doctor told him he was fine but a more thorough check-up five years later revealed he fractured two spinal disks. Not much later, the 82nd was deployed to the Ardennes to defend against Hitler’s last major counterattack in the West. The division fought in the northern sector of the battle, facing Kampfgruppe Peiper , the German unit which earned infamy with its massacres committed against captured U.S. soldiers and local civilians.
After the war, James Gavin became one of the early actors in the racial integration of the U.S. military, when he oversaw the incorporation of the all-black 555th PIR into the 82nd Airborne. He assisted his fellow airborne general, Maxwell Taylor, in the creation of Cold War-era Pentomic Divisions. As Army Chief of Research and Development he called for the use of airborne mechanized infantry as a sort of modern cavalry, his intention eventually culminating in the heavy use of helicopter-borne troops during the Vietnam War.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: Battle of La Fière Bridge D-Day: June 6
1939 Britain and France agree to support Poland if Germany threatens to invade.
1940 German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis sets sail, will sink 22 ships before being sunk November 22, 1941.
1941 British civilian casualties for March are 4,259 killed and 5,557 injured.
Italian naval forces sink the British Cruiser, HMS Bonaventure off Crete.
The 5th Light Division engages the British 2nd Armoured Division near Mersa Brega, as it attempts to capture the town. The battle rages all day and results in the British withdrawing towards Agedabia.
A US scientific/military team arrives in the Danish colony of Greenland, to consider the establishment of military bases there.
The RAF first uses 4000-lb “Cookie” bomb in raid on Emden, Germany.
109 RAF bombers attack the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest, France, but were unable to score any hits.
Erwin Rommel’s forces attack Ajdabiya and expelled the 2nd Armoured Division.
Crown Prince and Regent of Iraq ‘Abd al-Ilah flees to Jordan after learning of a plot to assassinate him.
Germany and Yugoslavia severs diplomatic relations.
1943 Newly built gas chamber/crematory II opens at Auschwitz.
The Australian 9th Division marches through Melbourne watched by more than half a million people.
In North Africa, Axis forces withdrew from Cap Serrat while 5th Corps of the 1st British Army captured El Aouana.
1944 RAF losses after 35 major attacks on German cities since the 18th November 1943 are 1,047 aircraft destroyed and 1,682 damaged.
Vice Admiral Mineichi Koga, Commander-in-Chief of Japanese Combined Fleet, is killed in a plane crash on Mindanao in the Philippines.
1945 The Germans start pulling out of Holland. The French First Army crosses the Rhine for first time since Napoleon. The US Third Army reaches Siegen 20 miles East of the Rhine.
The Russians enters German territory near Sopron in Hungary. The Russian capture Ratibor in Upper Silesia.
British 26th Division reaches the Burma Road, which ends eight months of fighting.
Free French Army crosses Rhine near Speyer, Germany, the first French troops to cross the Rhine since Napoleon.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: Words at War: Since You Went Away WWII Today: April 28 WWII Today: November 20
1940 The Japanese set up a puppet government called Manchuko in Nanking, China.
1941 Claiming their crews are engaged in sabotage, President Roosevelt orders the government to seize sixty ships belonging to Axis countries that are currently docked in American ports.
1942 First trainloads of Jews from Paris arrive at Auschwitz.
The RAF makes a second unsuccessful attempt to sink the Tirpitz while in port at Trondheim.
The 6th Chinese Army abandons Toungoo, and fails to destroy the bridge over the river Sittang as well. This leaves the way to the Chinese border wide open for the Japanese Army. The abandonment of Toungoo also exposed 1st Burma Corps left flank, whose attacks in the Prome area had been turned back by the Japanese. and forced to withdraw towards the Yenangyuang oilfields.
The Allies formally divide the Pacific theatre into two commands. General MacArthur takes control of the South-West Pacific Command based in AustraliaÂ and covering the Philippines, new Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Dutch East Indies. The second command covered the remainder of the Pacific and came under the control of Admiral Nimitz, who was based at Pearl Harbor. His Pacific Ocean Command was then sub divided in to three, which were theÂ North, Central and South Pacific Areas.
The Pacific War Council is set up in Washington, with representatives from Britain, Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, Netherlands, Philippines and the US.
1943 Elements of the Eighth Army break through at the Gabes Pass, over 100 miles into Tunisia and heads North.
1944 Kleist and Manstein are sacked by Hitler and replaced by Schorner and Model.
In a raid on Nuremberg the RAF suffers its heaviest losses in single raid, losing 96 (600 aircrew) out of 795 bombers.
The siege of Imphal begins, as the Japanese cut the road to the North.
1945 The U.S. First Army begins a 3 day battle for Paderborn.
Russians troops finally capture Danzig, along with 45 U-boats and 10,000 prisoners. Breslau and Glogau are surrounded, 180 miles South East of Berlin. Russian troops cross the Austrian border to the North of Koszeg. German troops of Army Group Weichsel evacuate their last remaining bridgehead at Wollin to the North of Stettin.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 30 WWII Today: July 27 Yank Magazine Pin Up: Lizabeth Scott
1936 Italy firebombs the Ethiopian city of Harar.
1940 In German-occupied territories, only Jewish doctors are now allowed to treat Jews.
1941 A ‘Commissariat’ for Jewish Affairs is set up in Vichy France.
The Italians spot a British convoy escorted by 4 Cruisers and 4 Destroyers and close in. The British ships lure the Italians towards the main body of the Mediterranean Fleet which includes 3 battleships and the Aircraft Carrier HMS Formidable. HMS Formidable launches aircraft which attack and hit the Italian Battleship Vittorio Veneto with a torpedo, although it manages to limp back to Taranto. Later, they also hit the Cruiser Pola which is seriously damaged. The Italians decide to withdraw and detach 2 cruisers and 4 Destroyers to assist the damaged Cruiser Pola. However, the British intercept them and sink the Cruiser Pola and its 2 escort Cruisers Zara and Fiume as well as 2 of the escorting Destroyers. British losses total just 2 aircraft.
After 2 months and 14 separate meetings, the US and British staff conference ends with a basic framework for US-British co-operation should the USA be drawn in to the war. Most importantly an agreement was made that Germany should be defeated first.
1942 Escorts of the Arctic convoy PQ13, beat off a German destroyer attack, sinking Z26.
Another sixteen Spitfires are delivered to Malta by Force H.
The Australian War Cabinet implements a ‘Total Denial’ policy in northern Australia should the Japanese invade. This would involve the conduct of a fighting withdrawal, with the evacuation or destruction of anything left behind. Already underway was a vast migration of sheep and cattle southwards, with those taking part are nicknamed ‘Overlanders’.
1943 British and Indian troops begin to withdraw from Arakan in western Burma, under heavy Japanese pressure.
Meat rationing begins in the USA and is set at 28oz per week.
1944 The U.S. Navy bombards the Palau Islands to the East of the Philippines, destroying 150 planes, six naval vessels and 100,000 tons of shipping.
1945 In Germany, US Seventh Army takes Mannheim and Heidelberg. In retreat from Heidelberg, Germans destroy historic Alte Brücke over Neckar River.
Troops of the 1st Belorussian Front finally capture the fortress town of Kastrin against desperate German resistance. The Russians seize the oilfields South of Komorn in Hungary, the last source of petroleum for the German war effort.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: November 11 WWII Today: February 10 WWII Today: January 6
1933 Nazis order a ban on all Jews in businesses, professions and schools.
1940 Dutch fighters shoot down a British bomber near Rotterdam by mistake, killing one flier.
The British and French decide to start mining neutral Norwegian waters from the 8th April 1940.
1941 In an attempt to intercept British convoys sailing to Greece, the Italian navy puts a force of 1 Battleship, 8 Cruisers and 9 Destroyers out to sea. However, they are spotted by an RAF flying boat which alerts Admiral Cunningham who orders the Mediterranean fleet to slip anchor and intercept the Italians the next day.
Anti-Axis demonstrations in Yugoslavia.
1942 Naval and Commando raid against St. Nazaire. A British ship, the HMS Campbeltown, a Lend-Lease American destroyer, which was specifically rammed into a German occupied dry-dock in France, explodes, knocking the area out of action for the German battleship Tirpitz.
Under the new tactical doctrine of area saturation bombing, introduced by Air Vice Marshal Harris, the RAF launches a heavy incendiary attack (234 bombers) against LÃ¼beck on the Baltic that devastates 265 acres of the old city. The RAF lost 13 aircraft and from one of these the Germans were able to obtain their first specimen of the GEE equipment. In retaliation for the raid on LÃ¼beck, Hitler orders the Luftwaffe to bomb historic British towns and cities.
Fritz Sauckel named Chief of Manpower to expedite recruitment of slave labour.
In response to General Stilwell’s request for a British counter-attack to relieve the pressure on Chinese forces around Toungoo, Alexander orders the 1st Burma Corps to attack at Paungde and Prome in the Irrawaddy valley.
The British First Army goes onto the offensive in northern Tunisia.
1944 The Russians recapture Nikolaev on the Black Sea and enter Romanian territory.
Merrill’s ‘Marauders’ begin a 10-day defensive action against 1,300 Japanese at Nhpum Ga Ridge.
1945 Argentina declares war against Germany.
The British Second Army begins its drive towards the Elbe as the U.S. First Army captures Marburg, 60 miles Northeast of Koblenz. The US Third Army captures Limburg on the Lahn.
The Russians capture Gdynia, along with 9,000 prisoners, after a long struggle. The 1st Belorussian Front captures Gotenhafen north of Danzig. Hitler replaces General Guderian with General Krebs as chief of OKH.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: December 7 – Pearl Harbor WWII Today: December 6 WWII Today: March 10
1941 A coup in Yugoslavia by General Simonic and other army officers overthrows the pro-German government. King Peter takes control and a newÂ cabinet is formed. This upsets Hitler, who decides to delay his surprise attack on the Soviet Union in order to launch “Operation Union”, whose intent is the destruction of Yugoslavia.
British troops finally take Keren, although they suffer nearly 4,000 casualties in the process, while the Italians lose some 3,000 men. The Italians are forced to withdraw towards Asmara. The 11th African Division captures Harar in Abyssinia after the Italians have declared it an Â ‘open town’.
Tokeo Yoshikawa arrives in Oahu, Hawaii, to begin spying for Japan on the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Under the Lend-Lease Act, US signs 99-year lease on British bases in the western hemisphere and approves $7 billion in aid to Britain.
1942 The British raid the Nazi submarine base at St. Nazaire, France
Filippino President and Government arrive in Australia.
The start of deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz.
One thousand Jews leave Drancy, France for the Auschwitz concentration camp.
1943 Germans delay British/New Zealanders at Tebaga Gap and retreat to Wadi Akarit, Tunisia.
The United Stages Navy defeats the Japanese in thebattle of Komondorski Islands in Aleutians, the longest continuous gun battle in history of US Navy.
1944 Thousands of Jews are murdered in Kaunas, Lithuania. The Gestapo shoots forty Jewish policemen in the Riga, Latvia ghetto.
1945 General Dwight Eisenhower declares that the German defenses on the Western Front have been broken.
The allied bridgehead north of Ruhr is now 700 square miles. 16,257 POW’s are taken for 6,781 allied casualties in four days. The U.S. Third Army captures Aschaffenburg.
The 1,115th and last V2 to reach England lands in Kynaston Rd., Orpington, Kent, England.
Bitter street fighting in Danzig as the Russians force their way into the City defences. A German counterattack from the Frankfurt bridgehead toward Kastrin bogs down after only a few miles.
B-29s lay mines in Japan’s Shimonoseki Strait to interrupt shipping.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: December 2 WWII Today: January 12 WWII Today: April 7
1938 Herman Goering warns all Jews to leave Austria.
1940 Canadian election returns Mackenzie King as prime minister.
First flight of Curtiss C-46 Commando cargo plane in St. Louis MO.
1941 The German Army High Command gives approval to RSHA and Heydrich on the tasks of SS murder squads (Einsatzgruppen) in occupied Poland.
The British Cruiser York is severely damaged and then beached at Suda Bay in Crete, when it is hit by an Italian motor boat loaded with explosives.
1942 Two of the freighters from the recent relief convoy are sunk in port by the Luftwaffe. These two ships were still almost fully loaded as damage to the docks at Valletta has prevented their swift unloading. Of the 26,000 tons of supply that had been sent from Egypt on this latest convoy, only 5,000 tons were eventually unloaded.
General Blamey becomes the Commander-in-Chief of Australian Military Forces.
Churchill tells the conservatives, ‘It now seems very likely that we and our allies cannot lose this war, except through our own fault’.
1943 The Eighth Army wins the battle of the Mareth line, forcing the axis troops to retreat to the North.
1944 Koniev’s armies reach the River Pruth on a 50-miles front. The Russians recapture Kamenets-Podolsk. in the Ukraine.
1945 The U.S. Third Army reaches Main and establishes contact with U.S. Seventh Army on the East side of Rhine, near Worms. The US Third Army captures Darmstadt.
The Russians take Papa and Devecser, both German strong points covering the approaches to the Austrian border. The ReichsfÃ¼hrer-SS is replaced by General Heinrici as Commander in Chief of Army Group Weichsel.
The last organized Japanese troops on Iwo Jima make a suicide attack. Total U.S. killed on Iwo Jima is 6,891, with more than 20,000 Japanese being killed and only 216 captured.
US Eighth Army lands on Cebu in Philippines.
US Tenth Army lands on Kerama Islands 15 miles west of Okinawa to build artillery base; seizes 350 kamikaze torpedo boats.
David Lloyd George, British prime minister during WWI, dies at age 83Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: December 3 WWII Today: December 4 WWII Today: November 4
1940 US allows sale of military aircraft to the Allies.
Britain doubles butter ration to ½ pound per week.
1941 Under heavy pressure Yugoslavia signs Tripartite Pact, joining the Axis powers.
Anti-Axis protests break out in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
1942 US troops occupy the Society Islands.
Standard Oil president William Stamps Farish II pleads no contest for conspiring with Nazis and hiding patents for synthetic rubber from US government.
US Naval Task Force 39 leaves Maine for Britain to protect convoys to Russia, relieving the Royal Navy to protect the Mediterranean and to invade Madagascar.
First Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers arrive in a combat theater, at Brisbane/Archerfield AF, Australia.
1943 Greek partisans temporarily take over Samos Island from the Italian garrison.
Neutral Spain closes its border with Nazi-occupied France.
Battle for convoy HX-231 begins; first time convoy beats off U-boats without loss.
1944 Manstein persuades Hitler to allow the First Panzer Army to break out to the west of Lvov, not south.
In New Guinea, heavy US Fifth Air Force bombing on Wewak causes Japanese to move air headquarters to Hollandia.
1945 The U.S. First Army breaks out of the Remagen bridgehead. The British Second Army captures Wesel which has been nearly 100% destroyed by Allied bombing.
The U.S. Navy begins the pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa firing more than half a million shells and rockets in a week.
US Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy flies its last strategic mission of war: 650 bombers hit Prague and Cheb, Czechoslovakia.
German SS troops behind US lines assassinate Allied-backed mayor of Aachen, Germany.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: November 19 WWII Today: September 21 WWII Today: October 8
1941 Berlin suffers its first raid of the year by the RAF.
German troops on parade in the city of Cherbourg have their show spoiled when British bombers hit the parade ground in the middle of the event.
Rommel conducts a limited offensive to recapture El Agheila from the British, which succeeds with startling ease. This encourages Rommel to push forward towards Mersa Brega. British Somaliland is now clear of Italians.
1942 The British Government refuses to hold an inquiry into the loss of Singapore during a Lords debate.
The start of deportation of Slovak Jews to Auschwitz.
The Japanese begin an intensive bombing campaign of Bataan and Corregidor. General Homma’s 14th Army receives reinforcement ready for its final offensive against the Bataan and Corregidor. This takes the form of the Japanese 4th Division, which has been shipped from Shanghai.
1943 In the Yellow Sea near Port Arthur, US sub Wahoo sinks 3 Japanese cargo ships.
The first Chindit Raid ends (British/Indian raids in Japanese-occupied Burma); although one-third of men were lost, raid raised morale.
1944 The US Fifth Army’s bridgehead at Anzio is bombarded by German heavy long-range guns and Luftwaffe aircraft using guided bombs, causing severe casualties in men, ships and equipment. Persistent US and British attacks against the Gustav Line at Cassino are repulsed by the German defenders. In response to the killing of 35 German soldiers in Rome by the Italian resistance, SS Colonel Herbert Kappler orders the execution of 335 Italians, at least 255 of whom are civilians in reprisal. All are shot by German troops in the Fosse Ardeantine caves outside of Rome.
A Russian tank army crosses the Dnieper near Czech border. Malinovsky makes crossings of the Bug near the Black Sea.
The Luftwaffe attacks London with 90 medium bombers (He-111s and Ju-88s), while the RAF bombs Berlin with 810 heavy Lancaster bombers. The RAF loses 72 bombers in this, the 16th and heaviest raid of war on Berlin. The ‘Battle of Berlin’ is now over.
Wingate, leader of the Chindits is killed in plane crash.
The Japanese counter-attack on Bougainville is decisively beaten.
President Roosevelt issues a statement condemning German and Japanese ongoing “crimes against humanity.”
In response to the killing of 35 German soldiers in Rome by the Italian resistance, SS Colonel Herbert Kappler orders the execution of 335 Italians, at least 255 of whom are civilians in reprisal. All are shot by German troops in the Fosse Ardeantine caves outside of Rome.
1945 Montgomery’s 21st Army Group attacks across the Rhine, 15 miles North of Duisberg in the Wesel area, after 3,500-gun barrage. 16,870 paratroops land across the river Rhine in Operation ‘Plunder’ and succeed in linking up with advancing British troops and establishing four bridgeheads. The US Third Army captures Speyer and Ludwigshafen on the upper Rhine.
US Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy sends 660 bombers to Berlin for first time as a diversion for Rhine crossings. The escorting 332nd Fighter Group (the African-American Tuskegee Airmen), shoots down 3 German Me 262 jets and earns Distinguished Unit Citation.
The 1st Ukrainian Front captures Neisse in Upper Silesia.
U.S. Marines seize islands off coast of Okinawa in Pacific.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: May 22 WWII Today: March 9 WWII Today: April 18
1940 Germany requires car owners to donate batteries and requires church bells to be melted down.
1941 Heavy Luftwaffe attack on Malta leads RAF to withdraw bombers and flying boats.
1942 During World War II, the U.S. government began moving Japanese-Americans from their West Coast homes to detention centers.
The British convoy, have escaped serious damage are approaching Malta. However, it is here that they come under concentrated air attack which sinks 1 freighter and damages another, although the other two freighters make it safely in to the port of Valleta. However, air attacks Â against the docks at Valletta made it very difficult to unload.
The Japanese occupy the Anadaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Port Moresby is again attacked by Japanese aircraft.
1943 In the heaviest air raid to date, RAF drops 2000 tons of bombs on Dortmund, Germany.
In the Battle of El Guettar in Tunisia, US infantry manages to defeat German armor.
1944 Italian partisan bombing decimates a German SS police unit in Rome, 33 Germans & 10 Italian civilians are killed.
1945 The RAF launches a devastating raid (300 bombers) against Hildesheim near Hannover, a small city of little military and industrial importance.
General Montgomery’s British Second Army crosses Rhine at Wesel, Germany.
French General Charles de Gaulle grants limited self-government to French Indochina.
The U.S. Third Army crosses the Rhine North of Worms, as the British Second and Canadian First Armies begin their assault across the Rhine above the Ruhr.
The Russian reach the outskirts of Danzig and Gotenhafen.
Colonel Benjamin O. Davis prepares to fly cover with the 332nd Fighter Group on a bombing mission over Berlin. Davis will later become the first African-American to be promoted to the rank of Major GeneralWWII Today: October 8 WWII Today: May 6 WWII Today: November 16