Archive for the ‘October’ Category

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


Oct 25

World War II Today: October 25

1939 U-boats sink four more British ships.

1940 While bombing Chungking, China, Japanese bombs accidentally almost hit US embassy and US gunboat Tutuila, causing an international incident.

Benjamin O. Davis Sr. becomes the first black general in the US Army.

1941 US condemns Nazi practice of killing innocent civilians in reprisal for partisan activities.

1942 Germans capture two more streets in Stalingrad with severe losses. The last German offensive in the Caucasus begins.

Montgomery switches the attack to the North. Rommel breaks off his sick leave to take charge of the critical situation in which the axis forces now find themselves.

German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel returns to Battle of El Alamein in Egypt after medical treatment in Germany.

On Guadalcanal, Japanese attack Lunga perimeter and at the Matanikau River, but are repulsed.

1943 Burma-Siam “Death Railway” completed by Allied POWs and natives (93,000 killed in its construction).

Japanese withdraw from Finschhafen area of New Guinea.

1944 Russians troops take the German base of Kirkenes in Norway.

The Red Army completes its capture of Transylvania in northwestern Romania.

The Japanese are defeated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the world’s largest sea engagement. From this point on, the depleted Japanese Navy increasingly resorts to the suicidal attacks of Kamikaze fighters. By the end of the war, Japan will have sent an estimated 2,257 aircraft. “The only weapon I feared in the war,” Adm. Halsey will say later.

1945 Japanese forces on Formosa (Taiwan) surrender to Chiang Kai-shek at Taipei City. Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: August 31 WWII Today: September 14 WWII Today: September 18

Oct 24

World War II Today: October 24

1938 In a move that increases tensions between the United States and Japan, the USS President Coolidge is forced to unload nearly $3 million worth of gold and silver before it is allowed to leave the Japanese controlled port of Shanghai.

1940 British Summer Time to be continued throughout winter.

Hitler meets Petain at Montoire, which leads ‘to agreement in principle of collaboration’, but Petain rejects the idea of a Franco-German military alliance.

RAF night raids on Berlin and Hamburg inflict serious civilian casualties for the first time.

1941 The Ukrainian city of Kharkov falls to the German 6th and 17th Armies of Army Group South.

1942 U-boat control in France creates wolfpack ‘Battleaxe’. This will operate in the North Atlantic until it is disbanded on the 1st November 1942 and will include at one time or another U-134, U-203, U-409, U-509, U-510, U-572, U-604 and U-659.

RAF bombs Turin, the first bombing of Italy from British bases.

The land battle begins in earnest around Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, with the elite Japanese 2nd Division being wiped out.

Main detachment of Western Naval Task Force leaves Hampton Roads, VA & Casco Bay, ME for Operation Torch landings in Morocco, under Rear Adm. Kent Hewitt.

1943 An E-boat attack on a convoy off the Norfolk coast result in four E-boats being sunk and one British trawler.

The Red Army achieves a breakthrough on the Dnieper river and captures Melitopol.

1944 The aircraft carrier USS Princeton is sunk by a single Japanese plane during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Fifty black sailors are convicted of mutiny in the controversial Port Chicago case; after only 80 minutes deliberation, all 50 men given 15-year sentences

Australians secure Goodenough Island off New Guinea.

1945 Vidkun Quisling, Norway’s wartime minister president, is executed by firing squad for collaboration with the Nazis.

The United Nations formally comes into being with twenty-nine ratifications having been received.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 16 Carole Landis: Yank Magazine Pin Up WWII Today: August 18

Oct 23

World War II Today: October 23

1940 Hitler meets Franco, the Spanish head of state at Hendaye near the French-Spanish border. Franco declares ‘Spain will gladly fight at Germany’s side’, but remains non-committal regarding Spain’s entry into the war.

The RAF continue its attacks on Berlin.

1941 De Gaulle meets French Resistance and asks to spare the innocent and bide their time.

It is decided that British forces should make their main approach on Gondar in Abyssinia, from the direction of Adowa due to the better road conditions.

Nazis forbid emigration of Jews from the Reich.

1942 Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt arrives in London for a three-week visit as guest of the King.

The battleship Tirpitz leaves Bogenfjord and moves south to Lofjord near Trondheim, where it is to be refitted.

The Western Task Force, destined for North Africa, departs from Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The Second Battle of El Alamein begins with a 1,000-gun bombardment. The Eighth Army gains ground on a 6-mile front and repulses Axis counter-attacks.

The RAF launches bombing raids against the Italian cities of Genoa and Turin.

The previously undefeated Sandai division of the Japanese army suffers its first loss of the war whe it fails to capture Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal.

1943 A German torpedo boat flotilla sinks the Royal Navy cruiser Charybdis and the destroyer Limborne in a Channel duel.

Russians take Melitopol after 10-days of fighting; Dnepropetrovsk falls to Malinovsky, while a tank army reaches Krivoi Rog.

1944 The 3rd Panzer Corps begin a six day counter attack around Debrecen.

The decisive three-day battle of Leyte Gulf begins. The Japanese lose four carriers, three battleships, six heavy and four light cruisers, 11 destroyers, one submarine and some 500 planes, with approximately 10,000 sailors killed. The first organised use of Kamikaze’s by the Japanese are reported.

Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: October 14 WWII Today: October 18 Words at War: Assignment USA