Little Known Facts Regarding World War 2
THE FIRST SHOT OF WWII was fired from the German battleship Schleswig Holstein which was on an official visit to Poland and berthed in Danzig harbour. At 4.30 am on September 1, 1939, the ship moved slowly down the Port Canal and took up position opposite the WESTERPLATTE (An area containing Polish troop barracks and workshops) and at 4.47 am, the order to 'Fire' was given. World War II had begun. Seven days later the Westerplatte Garrison surrendered.
THE INCIDENT which triggered the Second World War was the simulated attack by the Germans on their own radio station near Gleiwitz on the Polish border. To make it appear that the attacking force consisted of Poles, prisoners from a nearby concentration (protective custody) camp were dressed in Polish uniforms then shot and their bodies placed in strategic positions around the radio station. A Polish-speaking German then did a broadcast from the station to make it appear that Poland had attacked first. This was the excuse Hitler needed to invade Poland on September 1st 1939.
The first Allied shot of the war was fired over the bows of the Australian coaster Woniora from a 6-inch gun emplacement guarding the entrance to Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay. The 823 ton coaster had entered the bay at 9.15 p.m. on September 3, 1939 after a trip from Tasmania. Ordered to heave to for inspection the coaster gave her identity but continued on without stopping. A 100 pound shell, fired across her bow, soon changed her captains mind. (By a remarkable coincidence this was the same gun that had fired the first shot of World War I when, hours after war was declared, it fired on the German steamer Pfalz while it attempted to leave Australian waters on August 5, 1914. The Platz was captured and served out the rest of World War I as the Australian troopship Boorara).
GERMAN WORKERS PARTY. In 1919, over forty different political parties existed in and around Munich. The German Workers Party was founded by 35 year old railway locksmith, Anton Drexler. In all, its membership was around fifty. To give the impression that the number was higher, membership cards started at number 500. When Hitler joined the party he was given number 555. This was on September 12, 1919, when he attended a meeting in the Sterneckerbrau Tavern in Munich. In February, 1920, the party expanded its name to the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party. (Popular name at the time was Nazi Party) On September 15, 1935, the Swastika was officially incorporated into the German national flag.
NAZI PARTY. In 1930 there were 129,583 members of the Nazi Party (NAtionalsoZIalstische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) The word 'Nazi' is an acronym formed from the first syllable of NAtional and the second syllable of SoZIalstische. By 1933 membership had jumped to 849,009 and in the early war years this had reached to more than five million.
THE SWASTIKA SYMBOL. A very old symbol from pre-historic times and referred to in Germany as the Hakenkreuz. Traditionally a sign of good fortune and well being it is derived from the Sanskrit 'su' meaning 'well' and 'asti' meaning 'being'. It is well known in Hindu and Buddist cultures. Hitler displayed the symbol on a red background 'to win over the worker' and it had an hypnotic effect on all those who supported the Nazi movement.
WHY THE THIRD REICH? This was the official name for the Nazi period of government from January,1933, to May, 1945. The First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire period of the German Nation begun in A.D. 962 when Otto the Great was crowned in Rome. The Second Reich (or Empire) was founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871. When the Hohenzollern dynasty collapsed in 1918 with the abdication of Emperor William II, the Second Reich came to an end. This was followed by the Weimar Republic which lasted from 1918 to 1933. In turn it was followed by Hitler's Third Reich which he regarded as an empire that would last a thousand years. Hitler adopted the term 'Third Reich' in the early 1920s after the German writer Arthur Moeller von der Bruck used it as a title for one of his books. (Hitler's Third Reich lasted 12 years, 4 months and 8 days).
ARYAN RACE. A group of people whose language is derived from a common source. They came from Eastern Europe and Central Asia but their parent tongue is now extinct. However , it gave rise to Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Hindus, who called themselves Aryans meaning 'Noble'. This form of speech is allied to Persian, Greek, Latin, and the languages spoken by the Germanic, Celtic and Slavonic races who are now called Aryans but they are not a race. An 'Aryan' race does not exist!
BIG BROTHER? Early in Hitler's career, Germany was divided into 42 districts called Gaue. Each Gau was supervised by a District Leader (Gauleiter) i.e., the Gauleiter for Berlin was Dr Joeseph Geobbels. Each Gau was divided into circuits (Kreise) led by a Kreisleiter (Circuit Leader) Berlin had 10 Kreise and each Kreise was then divided into Local Groups (Ortsgruppe) headed by an Ortsgruppenleiter of which Berlin had 269. This was further subdivided into Street Cells (Zellen) supervised by the Zellenleiter, whose duty was to report on all anti-government activities within the families living in that street. German civilians living abroad were regarded as the 43rd Gau. All Leaders were required to swear unconditional allegiance to their Führer.
HORST WESSEL. An early convert to the Nazi party was 19 year old Bielefeld born Horst Wessel who gave up his law studies to join the SA (Storm Troopers). Working as a taxi driver and builders labourer he soon became a leading orator at SA rallies. In 1929, he married Erna Jaenicke, an 18 year old prostitute. On the evening of January 14, 1930, a group of thugs, led by Jaenicke's former boyfriend and pimp, Albrecht Höhler, called at their lodgings at 62 Grosse Frankfurter Strasse, Berlin and in a fit of jealous anger Höhler drew a pistol from his pocket and shot Wessel in the mouth. He died five weeks later on February 23. Before his murder he had composed a poem 'Die Fahne Hoch' (Fly the Flag High) which later was changed to 'The Horst Wessel Song' and introduced into Nazi Party ritual. It soon became Nazi Germany's second anthem and played after 'Deutschland Uber Alles' (Germany Before All). Horst Wessel was buried in the Nikolaifriedhof cemetery in Berlin but after the war, in common with all other Nazi graves, the headstone was removed.
AWARD. On his 78th birthday, The German 'Grand Service Cross of the Golden Eagle' was presented to Henry Ford, the American car manufacturer, by a German diplomat in the USA on July 30, 1938, on behalf of Adolf Hitler. Ford is the only American that Hitler mentions in his book Mein Kampf. In his book, 'Entnazifizierung in Bayern' the German author, Niethammer, suggests that the failure of the Americans to bomb the Ford car plant outside Cologne, was all a part of a capitalist plot. In that same year, the senior executive of the General Motors German branch also received the award. Both firms had invested heavily in Germany. In 1929, General Motors had bought up 80% of the German automobile firm of Opel. The same award was presented by Herman Göring to American aviation hero Charles Lingbergh in October, 1938, during his third visit to Germany.
SUPPORT. Before Hitler was appointed to lead the nation, massive unemployment fuelled the need for social change. Over seven million were without jobs and support for the Communist Party continued to grow. The introduction of conscription in 1935 reduced the labour market considerably and by the end of 1936 there were reports of labour shortages. Marriage loans were introduced to encourage young couples to marry and have children, the repayments were reduced by one quarter on the birth of every child. When Hitler withdrew Germany from the United Nations in 1933, he had the support of over 90% of the population. With the return to full employment, and with drunks, beggars, vagrants and prostitutes cleared off the streets, vast work programs were introduced such as the building of super highways (Autobahns). Even the opponents of the Nazi Party were impressed with the accomplishments of the regime. The widely published news of arrests and protective custody camps did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the populace for the Hitler movement who in 1933 cast 40 million votes for the party. They could hardly do anything else as all other parties were outlawed. Nevertheless, around three and a half million voters cast an invalid vote, presumably to show their opposition.
SWASTIKA TREES. In 1937, a local businessman, an ardent follower of Adolf Hitler, planted a 60 by 60 metre area of Larch trees in a forest near the town of Zernikow, about 110 km north of Berlin. The trees were planted in the shape and format of a Swastika and could only be seen from the air. During Autumn, when the Larch trees changed their colour to orange and yellow they stood out strikingly against a green forest of surrounding pine trees. Discovered many years after the war, this long forgotten symbol of the Nazi era was finally removed by cutting down 27 of the 57 trees that made up the Swastika design. This was done in 2001 by the Brandenburg State Forest authorities. Local farmer, Joachim Schultz remarked "It was quite embarrassing. We were afraid that it could become a pilgrimage site". Displaying the Swastika symbol is forbidden in Germany today as is owning a copy of Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf'.
ESCAPE. On the 17th September, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded the eastern part of Poland while Polish forces were fully engaged against the German onslaught in the West. After the fall of Poland, remnants of the Polish Army (over 70,000 men) those not taken prisoner by the Soviets, made their way through Romania and Hungary to France where they regrouped as the Polish 1st Division under General Duch. When Germany invaded that country, around 24,300 Polish soldiers escaped to France and finally to Britain and reformed in Scotland as the 1st Polish Army Corps. It was while in Scotland, in 1941, that Polish signals officer, Lt. Jozef Kozacki, designed the first practical electronic mine-detector called the Mine Detector Polish Mark 1. It was soon mass-produced and 500 were issued to the British Army in time for use prior to the Battle of El Alamein in October, 1942.
GUESTS. At the outbreak of war, around 70,000 Germans and Austrians were living in Great Britain. Most were refugees from the Nazis and considered 'safe'. Others, about 11,000, were restricted in their movements around the country and ordered to report to their local police daily and to obey an 8pm to 8am curfew. Some 230 from the eastern counties of England and Scotland were interned in special camps set up throughout the country.
NON BRITISH. A total of 52,000 non-British persons were registered in Australia during the war, 22,000 of them regarded as 'Enemies of the State', i.e. Germans and Italians, many of whom were interned for the duration. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese residents were interned solely on the basis of their nationality and many were deported back to Japan at war's end. When Italy capitulated in 1943, most Italians were released including the 17,000 prisoners of war captured in North Africa and shipped to camps in Australia.
AUSTRIAN JEWS. Before the war there were around 206,000 Jews living in Austria. Only 5,500 survived the Nazi occupation. Many who had converted to Judaism through marriage were forced by the Nazis to renounce their faith and be reclassified as non-Jews. Over 24,000, who had renounced Judaism but had Jewish ancestry, were again classified as Jews.
TRAGEDY. On August 14, 1937, during the Japanese invasion of China, the Japanese battleship Isuma (10,000 tons) was tied up at the dock in Shanghai off what was called the Shanghai Bund. In an attempt to sink the Isuma, Chinese planes bombed the harbour but mistakenly the bombs hit crowded city streets, a department store and other adjacent buildings along the Bund killing over 1,900 people.
FROM 1933 ONWARDS. The music of German Jewish composer, Felix Mendelssohn, was banned in Germany. Soon after, all Jews were dismissed from symphony orchestras and from the Opera. Books published by Jewish authors were burned in April, 1934, and one of the leading newspapers, the 'Vossische Zeitung' was forced out of business because it was owned by the 'House of Ullstein' a Jewish firm. The same thing happened to the German Jewish newspaper, the 'Judische Rundschau'.
THE FIRST RAF RAID OF THE WAR ended in near disaster. The day after war was declared, RAF Wellington and Blenheim bombers attacked the German naval ports of Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbuttel. Ten bombers returned to base after failing to find the target. Seven were shot down by German anti-aircraft batteries. Three of the planes prepared to attack British warships in the North Sea until they discovered their mistake then went home. Eight bombers found the target and attacked the battleships Scheer and Hipper, and the cruiser Emden one of the Blenheim bombers crashing on the ships' deck. In this raid occurred the first British casualties of the war. Seventeen Royal Air Force men were killed. (The Emden was the only Axis ship to attack the continent of India. It reached the shores of Madras on the Bay of Bengal and fired its guns at Fort St. George).
FIRST PLANE SHOT DOWN IN BRITAIN. The first plane shot down over the British Isles was a Heinkel 111, built at the Heinkel-Werke in Oranienburg in October,1938. It crash-landed at Dumbie, near Dalkeith, in south eastern Scotland on October 28, 1939. Two of the crew survived while two others were killed during the attack, which is credited to Spitfires of 602 and 603 Squadrons.
AIR STRIKE. The first air strike of the war from carrier-borne aircraft was from the British carrier HMS Furious. On April 11, 1940, 18 Swordfish from 816 and 818 Squadrons took off from the deck of the carrier to bomb enemy ships in Trondheimsfjord, Norway. All returned safely.
THE "V FOR VICTORY" SIGN was the idea of a Belgian refugee in London, Victor De Laveleye. In a short-wave broadcast from London, he urged his countrymen to chalk the letter "V" on all public places as a sign of confidence in ultimate victory. This was plugged in all BBC foreign language programs and later supported by the two finger "V" sign of the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
RAF BLUNDER. Due to the fact that British fighter planes were not fitted with IFF equipment (Identification Friend or Foe) at this time of the war and the ground radar operator believing he was coordinating an attack on enemy machines, RAF Spitfires from No.74 Squadron shot down two Hurricanes of 56 Squadron by mistake on September 6, 1939. At about the same time, ground anti-aircraft fire brought down a Blenheim of 64 Squadron. One pilot was killed. There were no German aircraft in the area at the time. This was the first time that Spitfires had fired their guns in anger. The Spitfire pilots were subsequently exonerated from any blame at a court martial and from then on the highest priority was given to the production of Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) equipment.
THAT WAS NOT THE ENEMY! During the period 1939 to 1942, twenty Blenheim fighter-bombers were shot down through mis-identification by RAF pilots and anti-aircraft fire (Seven were shot down by Hurricanes). This resulted in the deaths of thirty-two aircrew with seven others injured. Nineteen other aircraft were damaged by being fired upon by mistake.
THE RAFs FIRST KILL. On October 16, 1939, German JU 88s from the island of Sylt, attacked naval ships in the harbour at Rosyth, Scotland. About to enter dry dock for repairs was the battle cruiser HMS Hood, but the pilots had strict orders not to attack. A personal order from Hitler stated "Should the Hood already be in dock, no attack is to be made, I won't have a single civilian killed". After the raid, in which the 9,100 ton cruiser HMS Southampton was damaged, Spitfires from RAF Turnhouse near Edinburgh, attacked the departing JUs and one was shot down, hitting the sea off Port Seton. This was the first enemy plane to be brought down by RAF Fighter Command.
ON NOVEMBER 5, 1939, Colonel Hans Oster, Chief of Staff in the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) under Admiral Canaris, warns Colonel Jacobus Sas, the Dutch military attaché in Berlin, that Hitler plans to invade Holland and Belgium within the next few days. In fact the attack did not take place until the 10th of May, 1940. Both Oster and Canaris were arrested after the July Plot and hanged on April 9, 1945, at the Flossenburg concentration camp.
ON DECEMBER 27, 1939, two German Army officers were killed by Poles during a scuffle in a Warsaw bar. The bar owner was immediately hanged and 120 Polish men and boys were selected at random and shot.
YOUTH ALIYAH. In 1936, the 'Youth Aliyah' (Movement of Children) organization concerned itself with the emigration of Jewish children from Germany and Austria, to stay with British families who had agreed to care for them. The British Home Office had given permission for them to come to Britain, and many of them lived with families in Kent and in Scotland. They attended the special Youth Aliyah schools where they learned about their future lives in Palestine.
LEBENSBORN SOCIETY was one of the most bizarre experiments of the SS. Sponsored by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, his idea was to breed a race of super pure blooded Nordics. Tall, fair haired and blue eyed men and women, who were near perfect physical specimens, were chosen. Nursing homes were set up (mostly properties confiscated from Jews and maintained with the money from their bank accounts) to accommodate the mothers until their babies were born. They could then keep their SS babies or put the child up for adoption in a one hundred per cent Nazi non-Catholic family. The first home opened was at STEINHORING near Munich, on December 12, 1935. Later, others were established at WERNIGERODE, at ACHERN (Baden) at KLOSTERHEIDE (Berlin) at BAD POLZIN (Pomerania) at WEINERWALD (Vienna) at VEGIMONT (Belgium) and in February, 1944, the home at LAMORLAYE, near Paris, was opened and reserved for the children of German officers and French mothers. The number of children born in these homes is not known, as records were destroyed at the end of the war. However, one set of registers was found intact and showed that more than 2,000 births were registered at STEINHORING.
THE KIDNAPPINGS. Initiated as early as 1940, a number of Nazi agencies became responsible for the selection of children in occupied countries whom they thought could be 'Germanized' by placing them in German homes. In Poland ,these children were simply kidnapped from their homes or torn from the arms of their mothers on the street, their only crime being that they had fair hair, blue eyes, or they just 'looked Aryan'. The main reception centres for selection and racial testing of these children were set up at POZNAN, PUSHKAU, BROCKAU, POTULICE and the special home in the monastery at KALISZ in Poland, and in the Lebensborn home at BAD POLZIN. Once in these homes the children were forbidden to speak Polish. In Poland, over 200,000 children were kidnapped by the SS and the NSV (the female counterpart of the SA, known as the Brown Sisters). Between 40 and 50 thousand children were kidnapped in Russia, and in the Hungarian Ukraine, another 50,000 were kidnapped. Children under six years of age were adopted out to German families who were told that their parents were killed in air raids. Children from seven to twelve were placed in special institutions such as State Boarding Schools, Reich Schools, in Napolas Schools (Nazi Political Training Schools) or put in the B.D.M. (League of German Girls). Children who failed to pass the selection tests were simply put on trains leaving for Kalisz or Auschwitz, to disappear without trace. After the war, the International Refugee Organization, searched for these children who were put up for adoption. Only between 15 and 20 per cent, about 25,000, were traced and returned to their families.
PETROL, PAY & WHISKY. In July, 1939 petrol in Britain was rationed to 200 miles per month. Brand names disappeared, only 'Pool' petrol was available at four shillings and two pence a gallon. In 1940, the manufacture of new cars was stopped, and in 1942, petrol for private use was not allowed. The average wage in Britain in 1939 was £3 and nine shillings for men and £1 and twelve shillings for women. For newly enlisted servicemen, the pay was two shillings a day! A bottle of whisky cost 13 shillings and sixpence. The price of gold was £8 an ounce. To conserve wood the government requested all women to wear flat-heeled shoes.
HERMANN'S QUOTE. On August 9, 1939, Hermann Göring boasted about the strength of the German Luftwaffe. He said "Not a single bomb will fall on the Ruhr. If an enemy plane reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring, you can call me Meier". He even boasted that Berlin would never be subjected to air attack from the enemy.
OSTRACIZED. In Norway there were around 10,000 children born of parents who were members of Vidkum Quisling's pro-Nazi party, and of love affairs between Norwegian girls and German soldiers. After the war, these children were rejected as so-called 'German kids', maltreated and despised, treated with contempt, in fact refugees in their own country. Considered social misfits, few have received a proper education. To relieve Norway of this embarrassing problem, Sweden adopted a few hundred of these children and around 250 were sent to homes in Germany. Since the war, many have tried to get their Norwegian citizenship back but in each case their application has been refused. Up until 1963, any German male who wanted to visit Norway had first to prove that he had not been in the country between 1940 and 1945. In 1986, The League of Norwegian War Children Lebensborn was established. Through its efforts, many of these children have found their unknown fathers. Now, 50 years later, these war children only wish 'integration and acceptance with following freedom from anguish'. Today, the League maintains contact with around two hundred former NS children. About ten Lebensborn homes were in use in Norway during the German occupation and today these former homes are among the best tourist hotels.
In 1940, work began in Britain on biological weapons. One idea put forward was for cattle-cake to be impregnated with Anthrax and dropped by RAF planes to infect Germany's livestock. (Tests with a powdered form of Anthrax were carried out on flocks of sheep with devastating results.) This idea was adopted and about five million such cakes were made but were never used operationally.
AIR RAID SHELTERS. During the war, a total of 2,250,000 Anderson air raid shelters were erected in Britain. Named after its designer, Dr David A. Anderson, they cost seven pounds for those earning over 250 Pounds Sterling per year, free for those earning less. The Ministry of Home Security ordered that these shelters must be up by June 11, 1940, and that they be covered by earth to a depth of 15 inches on top and 30 inches on sides and back. In the spring of 1941, the Morison shelter was introduced, a low steel cage for use indoors. Cost was the same as for the Anderson shelter. When the sides were folded down the steel top could be used as a table. A total of 38 million gas-masks were also distributed. Stacked in warehouses were millions of cardboard coffins in expectations of many dead from air raids.
BOMB SHELTERS. After the German Luftwaffe was defeated in the Battle of Britain and the cancellation of 'Operation Seelowe' - the planed invasion of Britain - in late 1940, Germany set about protecting its own citizens from attack by enemy bombers. In October 1940, Hitler ordered the construction of bomb shelters and flak towers in all the major cities. The cost was enormous. Around 120 thousand million Reichsmarks and 200 million cubic metres of reinforced concrete was the estimate given prior to the work proceeding. Thirty major cities were included in the programme which employed some 80,000 workers and aimed at 3,000 shelters being built. In addition to this, thousands of smaller shelters were built into tunnels, caves and mines. In late 1941, construction was somewhat delayed by the building of the Atlantic Wall and construction of U-boat pens in France. After the war many of these shelters and bunkers were blown up by the Allied authorities but were used first as emergency accommodation for displaced persons.
CAUGHT! During a routine inspection of the Japanese merchant vessel Asama Maru on January 21, 1940, in the Indian Ocean, officers of the British cruiser HMS Gloucester discovered twenty-one German civilians on board. All were highly qualified technicians being sent to Japan to service German surface raiders and U-boats soon to be operating in the Pacific area. The technicians were removed and interned as prisoners-of-war but as Britain was not at war with Japan at this time the Asama Maru was allowed to proceed to her destination.
PROPOSAL. In a last desperate attempt to save France from capitulating and to keep her army fighting, Churchill and General De Gaule proposed that Britain and France become one united nation. In a telephone call from London on June 16, 1940, to the French Premier, Paul Reynaud, the message stated: "The two Governments of the United Kingdom and the French Republic make the declaration of indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in their common defence of justice and freedom against subjection to a system which reduces mankind to a life of robots and slaves. The two Governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations but one Franco-British Union. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France. All the armed forces of Great Britain and France will be placed under the direction of a single War Cabinet". The proposal caused an uproar in the French Cabinet of which Churchill wrote "Rarely has so generous a proposal encountered such a hostile reception". Without Cabinet support, Reynaud resigned and a new government was formed under Marshal Pétain at 11.30pm on June 16. Pétain immediately negotiated an armistice with Germany. (World War I hero of Verdun, Pétain was later tried and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. He died in 1951).
BOMBING BY THE RAF. The first of the 4,000 lb bombs dropped on German soil was on the city of Emden on March 31, 1940, when two Wellington bombers raided the city. Each bomb carried a parachute to retard its descent. In 1940, 14,369 tons of bombs were dropped on Germany by the RAF. In 1941, 34,954 tons and in 1944, 579,384 tons were dropped.
HOME TO THE REICH. This was the motto on the party badge of the Luxembourg VDB party formed in July, 1940, after the German occupation. The VDB (Volksdeutsche Bewegung) was a movement whose avowed aim was to bring Luxembourg into partnership with Hitler's Third Reich. Founded by 62 year old Professor Damian Kratzenberg, son of a German father and Luxembourg mother, its membership grew to around 69,000 by the end of 1942. Most members were blackmailed into joining with the threat of losing their jobs if they refused. After the war, hundreds of Luxembourgers were brought before the courts on charges of collaboration with the enemy. Eight death sentences were actually carried out, among them Professor Kratzenberg.
THE FIRST BOMBING RAID ON BERLIN was on August 25/26, 1940, just two days after the German Luftwaffe had mistakenly bombed London. Of the 81 RAF bombers taking part, 27 failed to locate the target and five were shot down. A year later, on August 8, 1941, the Russians bombed the city for the first time. In all, Berlin suffered 363 air raids during the war.
DRESS SENSE. The bombing of German cities had a curious effect on how people dressed. Afraid that their best clothes could be lost or burned, German women preferred to wear them on all occasions. In the air-raid shelters particularly, it seemed that every women owned a fur coat!.
AIR RAID CASUALTIES. In the six months from May to November, 1940, the RAF had killed 975 German civilians in air raids over Germany. At the same time, road accidents in Germany had killed 1,845 persons. German air raids on Britain for the same period killed around 15,000 people.
CZECH BRIBERY. At the time of the Munich crises, Czechoslovakia was paying senior British politicians and journalists, the sum of 2,000 Pounds Sterling per year in return for a promise to topple Neville Chamberlain and his Government.
GERMAN IMPORTS? Up till 1933, the German S.A. (Brownshirts) were equipped with revolvers and machine guns 'Made in USA'.
BRITAIN'S FIRST CIVILIAN CASUALTIES REMEMBERED. On April 30, 1940, anti-aircraft fire shot down a German Heinkel 111 bomber while on a mine laying sortie off the east coast of England. The bomber crashed on to a house in Upper Victoria Road in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex killing the occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Gill. They became the first civilians, of more than 60,000 killed in England during the war. Frederick and Dorothy Gill were buried in an unmarked grave in the Burrs Road Cemetery. In 1994, the grave site was discovered and a proper Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone was erected and dedicated on the 59th anniversary of their deaths. The German aircraft was actually on a mine laying operation over the North Sea, but the crew became disorientated due to heavy fog. Flying blindly until just before midnight the Heinkel crossed the coast near the radar station at Bawdsey in Suffolk. Anti-aircraft batteries along the coast at Bawdsey, Felixstowe and Harwich opened fire on the bomber. Ironically the Heinkel did not receive a direct hit, but it is thought that exploding shells underneath the aircraft caused considerable damage to the aircraft controls. Eyewitnesses have said that it does appear that the pilot tried desperately to find a landing area because the pilot released flares as it circled Clacton and Holland-on-Sea before flying out to sea again, then returning at a considerable lower altitude. The German bomber hit the chimney's of a number of houses before crashing in the house occupied by the Gill family. After the bomber crashed, the live mine that it was carrying exploded and this is what caused the widespread damage as shown below.
BRITAIN'S NEXT CASUALTY. The third civilian killed in an air raid on Britain was twenty seven year old James Isbister, during a German raid on Scapa Flow in the Orkney's on July 24, 1940. On a previous raid on November 13, 1939 during an attack on the Shetland's, all that resulted was a large bomb crater in the countryside and the only fatality was a rabbit, which gave rise to the marching song 'Run Rabbit, Run' . There is some speculation that the 'Rabbit' was actually purchased from a local butcher and placed in the crater for effect ... or a laugh! But this must be the world's most famous dead rabbit.
ON SEPTEMBER 24/25, 1940 the Vichy controlled French Air Force attacked British military installations at Gibraltar, dropping 600 tons of bombs on the fortress. This was in reprisal for the British naval attack on French warships at Mers-el-Kabir on July 3, 1940 and for the attempted occupation of Dakar on September 23rd. In 1940, a total of 1,400 Gibraltarian women and children were evacuated to England.
TURNCOATS. After the debacle at Mers-el-Kabir and Dakar, the Vichy Foreign Minister, Pierre Laval, declared that the French WW1 air ace, Colonel Rene Fonck, had organized some 200 French pilots prepared to join Germany in the fight against Britain.
TRAITORS? Some 8,000 Frenchmen donned the Wehrmacht uniform and formed the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen SS. They fought so well on the Eastern Front that many were awarded the Iron Cross for their bravery. After the war, when the survivors of the Charlemagne Division returned to their homeland, they were treated in a most brutal and inhumane fashion when the French Resistance extracted their revenge on all collaborators.
CHURCHILL'S INCOME. Churchill's gross income from his writings alone were: 1933 - £13,981; 1934 - £6,572; 1935 - £13,505; 1936 - £16,321; 1937 - £12,914. As Prime Minister he received £10,000 per annum.
FOR SALE. In March of 1938, Churchill was broke, his share account with his stockbrokers was £18,000 in the red. He asked The Times to advertise his home 'Chartwell' for sale, inviting offers of £20,000. A few days before the ad was to appear, Sir Henry Skrakosch, a South African gold mining millionaire, agreed to pay off his debts and Chartwell was withdrawn from the market. Skrakosch was a Jew, born in Czechoslovakia.
CLOSE CALL. On December17, 1939, five ocean liners carrying 7,450 men of the First Canadian Division, arrived at Liverpool. Unknown to them, they had narrowly escaped what could have been a major sea disaster. The passenger liner Samaria, showing no lights, had passed right through the convoy unaware of the convoy's position. It struck the wireless masts of the escorting carrier HMS Furious on her port side, struck a glancing blow on the port side of the next ship astern, the liner Aquitania, then passed close down the starboard side of the third and fourth ships sailing in line ahead.. If the Samaria had collided head on with the Furious, the ships following would have all crashed into her. During the last three years of war, the Cunard liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth carried a total of 1,243,538 American and Canadian soldiers across the Atlantic.
THE ALTMARK INCIDENT. The Altmark was a 13,580 ton tanker and supply ship serving the German battleship Graf Spee. Survivors from the nine ships sunk by the Graf Spee were now Prisoners of War on the Altmark. On 16th of February, 1940, after a hectic search by The Royal Navy, the Altmark was located in the Jossing Fjord on the southern tip of Norway where she had taken refuge from the pursuing British destroyers. In violation of international law, the British destroyer HMS Cossak entered the Fjord and with an armed party boarded the Altmark. After a brief skirmish, in which four German sailors were killed, the crew was overpowered and 299 British prisoners freed. Members of the Altmark’s crew were machine-gunned as they fled across the ice during the boarding. It was this incident that caused Hitler to accelerate his plans for his occupation of Norway, believing that the British would not respect Norwegian neutrality. (The Altmark was later converted back to a tanker under the name Uckermark and while anchored in the harbour at Yokohama, Japan, sank after a huge explosion ripped the vessel apart while the crew were having lunch. Cause of the explosion was thought to be a spark from tools used by a repair gang working near the fuel tanks. Forty-three crewmen from the Uckermark died).
IN ONE OF HIS FAMOUS SPEECHES Churchill asked America 'Give us the tools and we will finish the job'. But America wouldn't 'give' anything without payment. After two years of war, Roosevelt had drained Britain dry, stripping her of all her assets in the USA, including real estate and property. The British owned Viscose Company, worth £125 million was liquidated, Britain receiving only £87 million. Britain's £1,924 million investments in Canada were sold off to pay for raw materials bought in the United States. To make sure that Roosevelt got his money, he dispatched the American cruiser, Louisville to the South African naval base of Simonstown to pick up £42 million worth of British gold, Britain's last negotiable asset, to help pay for American guns and ammunition. Not content with stripping Britain of her gold and assets, in return for 50 old World War I destroyers, (desperately needed by Britain as escort vessels) he demanded that Britain transfer all her scientific and technological secrets to the USA. Also, he demanded 99 year leases on the islands of Newfoundland, Jamaica, Trinidad and Bermuda for the setting up of American military and naval bases in case Britain should fall. (Of the 50 lend-lease destroyers supplied to Britain, 7 were lost during the war. After 1943, when no longer useful, eight were sent to Russia, while the others were manned by French, Polish and Norwegian crews).
QUOTE. Lord Beaverbrook was later to exclaim "The Japanese are our relentless enemies, and the Americans our un-relenting creditors".
LORD HAW HAW. Born in New York of an Irish father and an English mother, William Joyce lived in England from 1921. In 1933 he joined the British Union of Fascists led by Sir Oswald Mosley. Joyce made no effort to hide his admiration for Adolf Hitler and attracted by Hitler's ideology he moved to Germany in 1939 and began broadcasting Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda from a Berlin radio station in Charlottenburg. British troops dubbed him Lord Haw Haw after a statement by Professor Arthur Lloyd James of London University, an authority on English language pronunciation, who said that he thought some BBC announcers were too 'haw, haw' in their diction. William Joyce was convicted of treason at the Old Bailey in London and hanged in Wandsworth Prison on January 3, 1946.
SALON KITTY. Although brothels were officially outlawed in Hitler's Third Reich, Berlin's top brothel the 'Pension Schmidt' was allowed to flourish. Situated on the third floor of No 11, Giesebrecht Strasse, in Charlottenburg, right next door to the apartment of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of the Reich Security Service, it employed sixteen hand picked girls from all over Europe, specially trained in the art of seduction and intelligence gathering and inducted into the SD. All were forbidden on pain of death to reveal what their duties were. After renovations, the new Pension Schmidt was open for business in April, 1940. Visitors to this high class brothel were mostly foreign diplomats, high ranking military officers and Nazi party big-wigs. Cameras and microphones were carefully concealed in walls and bedheads and every whisper was recorded through a monitoring system set up in the basement of No 10, Meinecke Strasse just a short distance away. In January, 1941, the whole monitoring system was transferred to the Gestapo headquarters in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse. When the Pension Schmidt was damaged during an air-raid on 17 July, 1942, it was moved down to the first floor of the building and renamed 'Salon Kitty' after its owner, Kitty Schmidt. (In 1988, the former Salon Kitty was in use as a guitar studio! Kitty Schmidt, born in 1882, died in Berlin in 1954).
AMERICANS COME HOME. In May, 1940, the US Ambassador to London, Joseph Kennedy, urged the 4,000 or so Americans living in Britain to pack up and go home. Over seventy responded to this plea by joining the British Home Guard. Called the 1st American Squadron of the Home Guard, it was led by General Wade H. Heyes. Kennedy was hostile to the whole idea, fearing that all would be shot as 'francs-tireurs' when the Germans occupied London.
SANCTUARY. At the beginning of the war, many government and crowned heads of Europe sought refuge in Britain. By 1941, those that set up residence in the capital included Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Poland's former Prime Minister, Wladyslaw Sikorski, King Haakon of Norway, King Peter of Yugoslavia, King George 11 of Greece, President Benes of Czechoslovakia, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, Prime Minister Pierlot of Belgium and Charles de Gaulle of France. Through the services of the BBC they were able to speak and encourage their people at home.
S.O.E. Special Operations Executive, formed in July, 1940, on Churchill's orders to 'Set Europe Ablaze'. With headquarters at 64, Baker Street, London, its first recruits were originally from the armed forces but later both men and women were recruited from the civilian sector. Speaking a foreign language, especially French, was essential before being passed on to Military Intelligence for a security check. Training courses included Parachute and First Aid training at Ringwood airfield near Manchester followed by four weeks radio and cipher training. Physical fitness, small arms and map reading, were conducted in the Western Highlands of Scotland where all forms of Commando and clandestine warfare were also taught. Among many of its famous secret agents were Violet Szabo and Odette Sansom. The average survival time in the field was just three months. Of the 418 SOE agents sent to Europe, 118 failed to return. Only one plane, a Lysander of 161 squadron and its pilot, Newzealander F/O James Bathgate, were lost.
EDDIE CHAPMAN. A deserter from the Coldstream Guards in the 1930s he then turned to crime. A safecracker by profession and serving fourteen years in jail on Jersey in the Channel Islands, at that time under German occupation, he volunteered to spy for the Germans in England. He was trained at the Abwehr sabotage school at Nantes in France and then was parachuted into England on December 20, 1942, with a mission to blow up the De Havilland aircraft factory at Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, which was producing the new fighter-bomber, the Mosquito. After landing, he contacted British Intelligence who contrived a plan to blow up part of the factory not in use, giving the Germans the impression that the mission had succeeded. On returning to Jersey for more work, Eddie Chapman (Code Name 'ZigZag') was decorated with the German Iron Cross. After the war, Chapman was also given a British decoration, the only Englishman thus awarded! Later he set up a health farm and died aged 83 in 1997 leaving a wife and daughter.
QUOTE. On hearing of a proposal to fire-bomb the Black Forest, Britain's cabinet minister, Kingsley-Wood, said in September, 1938, "Oh, we can't do that, that's private property, next you will be insisting that we bomb the Rhur!"
THE FIRST U-BOAT CAPTURED. The first German U-Boat captured was the U-39 (September 14, 1939). The British destroyers Firedrake, Faulkner, and the Foxhound , forced the U-39 to the surface with depth charges after the U-boat had fired two torpedoes at the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. The U-39 was damaged and sank after the crew was removed.
MEIN KAMPF. The original title of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' was ''4 & 1/2 Year Struggle, against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice''. The first part was written while he was incarcerated in Landsberg prison after the 1923 Beerhall Putsch. His publisher, Max Amann, later changed the title to Mein Kampf (My Struggle). By 1939, the book had sold over 5 million copies, making Hitler a millionaire. Up to 1945, the book had a total printing of just over 10,000,000 copies. His official salary was 60,000 Marks per annum. In 1934, Hitler declared his income for 1933 as 1,232,355 Marks. Most of this was from royalties from his book. He also received a fraction of a cent for every postage stamp sold bearing his image.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. There were 6,034 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany when Hitler assumed power in 1933. Between 1933 and 1935, a total of 5,911 Witnesses were arrested as 'Enemies of the State'. Forced to wear a purple armband they were considered traitors because they refused to sign a pledge of loyalty to the Third Reich. Over 2,000 died of ill treatment in the concentration camps. Of these, around 200 were executed. Under the Nazi dictatorship, Jehovah's Witnesses were among the first to be persecuted. On September 15, 1939, the first conscientious objector, August Dickman, a Jehova's Witness, who had refused military service, was publicly shot. This execution was supposed to set an example to others who would refuse to serve in the German armed forces. In May of that year, the first transport of prisoners to the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp was made up of female Jehovah's Witnesses.
HERMANN HOMMEL, uncle of Albert Speer, Hitler's personal architect, was once engaged to Anneliesse Henkell of the famous Champagne family. She later married Joachim von Ribbentrop who became German Ambassador to London.
QUOTE BY HITLER. In 1939, Hitler said "Whoever succeeds me must be sure to have an opening for a new war. In future peace treaties, we must therefore always leave open a few questions that will provide a pretext. That's Statesmanship!"
FIRST BOMB DROPPED. The first bomb of the war to land on German soil was dropped on December 3, 1939. A Wellington bomber of 115 Squadron, attacking German shipping in the North Sea, suffered a 'hang up' when one of its bombs failed to drop. It fell off on the return trip over the island of Heligoland.
BOMBING BY THE RAF. The first of the 4,000 lb bombs dropped on German soil was on the city of Emden on March 31, 1940, when two Wellington bombers raided the city. Each bomb carried a parachute to retard its descent. In 1940, 14,369 tons of bombs were dropped on Germany by the RAF. In 1941, 34,954 tons and in 1944, 579,384 tons were dropped.
RAF KILLS BRITISH WOMAN IN GERMANY. In the first British air attack on a mainland population center, 36 RAF planes bombed the rail-yards of Monchen Gladbach on May 10, 1940. The raid killed one person ... an Englishwoman.
ON AUGUST 16, 1940, two German JU 88 bombers dropped their bombs on the RAF airfield at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, setting fire to 46 fully fueled parked Oxford trainers of No 2 Service Flying Training School. Six others were badly damaged as were 11 Hurricanes parked nearby.
BOMBLOAD WAS 13 TONS OF LEAFLETS. The first night of the war (September 3, 1939) a force of ten Whitley bombers dropped thirteen tons of propaganda leaflets over Hamburg, Bremen and the Ruhr. On September 30, leaflet carrying balloons were launched from France by Britain's No 1 Balloon Unit.
I.S.K. (Internationalen Sozialistischen Kampfbundes) Composed of ex-members of the German Socialist Party who were expelled from the Party and fled to England in 1928. In England, they formed their own Party, the ISK. It was led by Willi Eicher and from its ranks came many volunteers for secret service work in the Reich.
GERMANS IN CUSTODY. In 1939, there were 302,535 Germans in protective custody in Germany for their political views. By the end of the war, over 800,000 Germans had spent time in prison or in a concentration camp.
DEATH SENTENCES. Between 1933 and 1944, a total of 13,405 death sentences were passed in Germany. Of these, 11,881 were carried out. In the first few months of 1945 another 800 were executed, over half of them German nationals. By the end of the war there were 46 offences that were punishable by death.
THE MOTHERHOOD CROSS was awarded each year on the 12th of August (the birthday of Hitler's mother) to all German mothers of large families. The Motherhood Cross of Iron was given to women with four children, the Silver Cross to mothers of six, and the Gold Cross to a mother of eight. Hitler always acted as honorary godfather to the tenth child born to any German mother ( Mothers Cross in Gold and Diamonds) This was a continuation of the practice initiated by President Hindenburg. Hitler Youth organizations were expected to salute mothers wearing the Cross. By 1939 around three million German mothers had been so decorated by what the ordinary man in the street called the 'Order of the Rabbit' (Kaninchenorden).
C.O.R.B. The Children's Overseas Reception Board, established in June, 1940, successfully organized the evacuation of 1,530 children to Canada, 353 to South Africa, 577 to Australia, 202 to New Zealand and 838 to the USA. Within ten days of its opening, CORB received 211,000 applications. Disaster overtook them on September 17, 1940, when the ship, the City of Benares was torpedoed while on its way to Canada. Seventy seven children died in the lifeboats from exposure while awaiting rescue.
VOLUNTEERS. When the Soviet Union attacked Finland on November 30, 1939, over 8,000 men and women in Britain offered their services to fight the Soviets. Around 228 men of the British section of the International Volunteer Force was on its way to Finland when the armistice was signed on the 12th of March, 1940. They arrived at Lap on the 19th of March and by June, 1942, the last of the volunteers had left Finland for home. Thirteen men were left behind and became prisoners of war in Germany. Following the British ultimatum to end their conflict with Soviet Union, the governments of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and India declared war on Finland, Hungary and Rumania. In Britain, 150 Finnish nationals were arrested, and in the USA six Finnish ships were seized and placed under protected custody. In their battle with the Soviets in 1939/40 the Finns suffered 24,923 killed, the Soviet forces, around 48,000 killed.
THE ADOLF HITLER FUND. Steel Baron Gustav Krupp, proposed that all employers contribute a quarterly sum based on their payroll. Called the 'German Industry's Adolf Hitler Fund', it added many millions to Hitler's coffers. In the twelve years of his dictatorship Hitler disposed of over 305 million Reichsmarks. Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was unable to stand trial for war crimes because of his senility and died at Blühnbach near Salzburg on January 16, 1950. However, his son Alfred was tried as a war criminal because large numbers of concentration camp inmates were used as slave labourers in the Krupp factories. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison but was released three years later in 1951 and allowed to return to his position as head of the Krupp Steel Works.
THE BERGHOF. Three thousand two hundred and eighty one feet above Berchtesgaden, a lawyer named Winter from Buxtehude near Hamburg built the Bavarian style house called 'Haus Wachenfeld' (the maiden name of his wife was Wachenfeld). The house was rented to Hitler in 1928 for 100 marks per month. When he finally bought the property, after becoming Chancellor, it was shown on picture postcards as 'The little cottage of the People's Chancellor'. The architect Alois Delgado was called in to rebuild and enlarge the house which was then renamed 'The Berghof'.
THE DEMISE OF THE BERGHOF. In the vicinity of Hitler's chalet, houses were built for Göring, Goebbels and Bormann, and a special road was constructed from Berchtesgaden to the Berghof. On April 25, 1945, a force of 318 RAF Lancaster bombers unloaded a total of 1,232 tons of bombs on the area scoring three direct hits on one wing of the Berghof and damaged nearly every other building. Of the hundreds of workers and residents who had taken shelter in the underground bunkers only six were killed. A magnetic attraction for vandals, looters, souvenir hunters and the thousands of servicemen searching for personal mementos, they moved in to ransack the place. Even the badly damaged carpets were cut up into strips and carried away. Shortly before the American troops arrived on May 4, the SS set fire to the house with gasoline. At 5.05 PM on 30th of April, 1952, the ruins of the Berghof were blown sky-high on orders of the Bavarian government. The ruins were removed and the area reforested. The former site is now a level sports field and golf course with a new ultra modern hotel built on the former site of Göring's house.
THE EAGLE'S NEST. This masterpiece of construction was built on the summit of the 6,017 ft wooded Kehlstein mountain high above Berchtesgaden. Officially known as the Kehlsteinhaus, the hexagon-shaped building was built as a conference and entertainment centre for visiting diplomats at the request of Martin Bormann and presented to Hitler on his 50th birthday. The name 'Eagle's Nest' was coined by Francois Poncet the French ambassador after a visit there in 1938. It was never known as a Teahouse but today gets confused with the actual teahouse Hitler used, the Mooslahnerkopf Teehaus, situated not far from his residence, the Berghof.
HITLER'S FATHER, ALIOS SCHICKELGRUBER (1837-1903) was born in Strones, Austria. He was the illegitimate son of a Johann Georg Hiedler and his peasant girl friend, Anna Marie Schickelgruber. In May 1842, they became man and wife but Alois continued to use his mother's name. He was brought up by his father's brother Johann Hiedler who, in 1876, took steps to legitimize Alois who then started to use the name Hitler. A witness at Alois's legitimization was a relative by the name of Johann Hüttler and it is possible that Alois used the name after the parish priest confused the two names Hiedler and Hüttler and wrote Hitler in the registry. By this time Alios was thirty-nine years old. After his mother died his father married for the third time on January 7, 1885, to his second cousin, Klara Poelzl (1860-1908) twenty-three years younger than he. Alios and Klara Hitler became the parents of Adolf Hitler. Klara bore her husband five children, three of whom died young: Gustav (1885-1887), Ida (1886-1888), Adolf (1889-1945), Edmund (1894-1900) and Paula (1896-1960).
POLAND. After the fall of Poland, Himmler issued a top secret document to all eastern Gauleiters. In it he proposed that "racially valuable people from Poland be removed and Germanized". The masses were to become a "leaderless nation of common labour". They were not to be taught anything more than simple arithmetic and how to write their own name. They could earn enough for simple living needs but the lowest German peasant must still be ten percent better off than any Pole. They could keep their Catholic priests so they would for ever remain "dull and stupid". All intellectuals were to be exterminated. It was Hitler's intention to obliterate all traces of Polish history and culture. Even towns and villages were renamed in German.
MERCY KILLINGS. The first discussion on 'mercy killing' took place in the Kasino Hotel in Zoppot, near Danzig, where Hitler was celebrating his victory over Poland. At this time about a quarter of a million hospital beds were being used in Germany's mental institutions, beds that were more urgently needed for the treatment of wounded soldiers. Hitler confided to his personal surgeon, Dr. Karl Brandt, that half of the permanently hospitalized insane patients could be put away, adding that "under no circumstances was the real cause of death to be divulged to the next of kin".
DEPORTEES. Around 400,000 Polish women were deported to Germany to work in factories or placed in German households as servants. Holland and Belgium hold the sad distinction in Western Europe of having the smallest percentage of deportees to return to their homeland. Out of 126,000 Dutch deportees only 11,000 were repatriated. Of the 25,631 Jews deported from Belgium only 1,244 survived the war. One hundred and forty died fighting with the partisans.
GYPSIES. Another group singled out for deportation were the Gypsies. Defined as non-Aryan, as were the Jews, both groups were forbidden to marry Germans. Those already married to Germans were exempted from deportation but were sterilized as were their children when they reached the age of twelve. Before the war, 1,500 Gypsies were rounded up in Germany and sent to Dachau, another 440 Gypsy women were sent to Ravensbruck. In 1940, around 30,000 Gypsies were deported to Poland and in Austria, around 4,300 were transported to the death camp at Chelmno and gassed. In 1942, a special camp for Gypsies was constructed in Auschwitz called Section B11e. During World War II about 231,800 Gypsies were put to death.
W.A.S.P. (WOMEN'S AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOT). Originally named 'Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron', an organization responsible for ferrying planes from the factories to airfields across the USA and Canada. Disbanded on 20th December,1944, after having delivered 12,650 planes of 77 different types. Of the 1,074 women who graduated, thirty eight lost their lives during the war (this was equal to one fatality in every 16,000 hours of flying) and eleven were killed while training. These brave women, who gave their lives for their country, were deemed ineligible for burial with military honours. They were given a second class funeral without the American flag.
W.A.A.F. (WOMEN'S AUXILIARY AIR FORCE). The women's branch of the RAF was formed on June 28, 1939. Their tasks were; general duties, office clerks, operation room plotters, radar operators, telephonists etc. To the control room they became known as 'Boarding School Girls' while many pilots referred to them as the 'Beauty Chorus'. In September of that year it comprised 230 officers and 7,460 airwomen. By 1945 its ranks numbered 170,000. During the war 187 WAAFS were killed and 4 listed as missing.
HIDING BRITAIN'S TREASURES. Between August 23 and September 2, 1939, Britain's art treasures and other historical artifacts were removed from the National Gallery and from Hampton Court and transported to Wales for safe keeping. They were eventually housed, 1,750 feet above sea level, in the tunnels of the slate quarry at Manod, near Ffestiniog in North Wales. Atmosphere was maintained at a steady 65 degrees F. with 40 degrees of humidity. All were returned safely to London in 1945. But the best kept secret of all, was the destination of the Crown Jewels. To this day, the hiding place has never been revealed. In the biggest financial traction in history, part of Britain's gold reserves, valued at 7 billion US dollars, were shipped to Canada on the British cruiser HMS Emerald. Other ships followed with their cargo of 'fish' as it was then called. This consignment of 'fish' was stored in the vaults of Montreal's banks till the end of the war.
LUFTWAFFE BOMBS ITS OWN COUNTRY. On the 10th of May, 1940, three Luftwaffe planes, HE 111s, bombed the German town of Freiburg by mistake, killing 57 people. The crews thought they were over a French town. The fragments of the bombs found later, confirmed the bombs as German, but German propaganda claimed the raid to be a terror attack by the French Air Force, justifying subsequent bombing of French towns.
JEWISH REFUGEES FOR CUBA? On May 13, 1939 the 16,732 ton German luxury liner St. Louis set sail from Hamburg with 937 Jewish refugees on board. They believed they had bought visas to enter Cuba. Arriving in Havana they were told that their visas were worthless, in fact, a confidence trick of some Cuban politicians out to make money. Not allowed to disembark, quite a few passengers committed suicide rather than return to Germany. The ship then set sail for Miami in the hope that the US would accept them. This was not to be, the opposition too great as the country already had two million unemployed. Negotiations then took place between Britain, France, Holland and Belgium. England agreed to take 287, France 224, Holland 181 and Belgium 214. On June 17, the St. Louis docked in Antwerp and disembarkation began. It marked not the end of their journey but the beginning of an even more tragic episode in their lives. Those accepted by Britain survived the war but those who settled in France, Holland and Belgium, were overtaken by the Holocaust when Germany invaded these countries. By the summer of 1941 only 167,245 Jews remained in Germany. (The St. Louis survived the war and in 1946 was converted to a floating hospital ship at Hamburg).
JEWISH REFUGEES FOR JAPAN. After the German takeover of Poland, close to 15,000 Polish Jews trudged the wet and muddy roads of Poland in an attempt to escape the Nazi holocaust and reach the relative safety of Vilna in the Baltic state of Lithuania. When Russia formally annexed Lithuania in June, these desperate refugees were once again trapped. Russia didn't want its Jews, Britain was unwilling to let them into Palestine, in fact the rest of the world turned its back on these unfortunate people. In Lithuania the Soviets tried to create a communist utopia and anyone wanting to leave was considered mad or a traitor to the cause. Those who applied for permission to leave ended up in the slave labour camps of Siberia. Finally, when exit permits were issued the Intourist Office demanded 200 American dollars from each for their trip across Russia to Japan. The first group of 72 Jews were then on their way to the Russian port of Vladivostok. From there it would be a short hop, skip and jump to Japan where it was hoped a visa for the USA would be issued. After crossing the Sea of Japan their ship docked at Tsuruga in Japan, the only country willing to welcome them. As more refugees began to arrive they found accommodation in Kobe and in Japanese controlled Shanghai where a one square mile area was set aside for them. This in effect was the creation of the first Jewish Ghetto in Asia. Before the harsh winter of 1943/44 ended around 300 Jews had died from Typhus and other diseases. Worse was to come. A Japanese radio station within the camp was targeted by by US bombers. The raid killed 250 people including 31 Jews.
THE FUGU PLAN. As the war situation for Japan grew more hopeless, the big fear was what would the Japanese response be to losing the war. Japan had signed a pact of neutrality with Germany and Italy and Germany was demanding that Japan stop treating the Jews with kid gloves. Would they all be executed as a final show of loyalty to Nazi Germany? It was then decided to reincarnate the Fugu Plan formulated in 1939 to settle the Jews in a new Jewish state in Manchukuo in Manchuria where the Japanese would co-operate with the Jews to build a better society after the war. With Japan's surrender, the Shanghai Jews were lucky to survive the war. In 1948, the state of Israel was created and here the last remaining Jews of Shanghai were resettled.
KIDNAP PLANS Believing that the Duke of Windsor was pro-German, Hitler sent his SS Intelligence Chief, Walter Schellenberg, to Spain where the Duke was on holiday. His mission, to lure the Duke back to Germany with a promise of 50 million Swiss francs. If this failed, he was to be kidnapped. Schellenberg, thinking that the whole operation was too difficult, hesitated. In the meantime, Britain got wind of the plot and had the Duke removed to a more secure haven in the Bahamas, where he spent the rest of the war.
LILI MARLENE. The famous tune was composed by Norbert Schultz in only twenty minutes in 1938. Originally called 'Song of the Sentry' it was first sung by Lale Andersen, a little known Swedish singer, and then forgotten until 1941. German troops had taken over Belgrade radio station and found they had only a few records to play to their troops in the Balkans. One was 'Lili Marlene' and it was played twice nightly for the next eighteen months. The broadcasts were picked up by Rommel's troops in North Africa and also by the British 8th Army. A British lyric writer, Tommy O'Connor, then gave the song a more sentimental wording for the British troops. Norbert Schultz survived the war and was congratulated by Montgomery at an El Alemein reunion. He died on October 16, 2002, age 91, at Bad Tölz, Bavaria. Poor Lale Andersen spent much of the war in a concentration camp because she was overheard to say 'All I want is to get out of this horrible country'. The poem 'Song of the Sentry' was first written by Hans Leip of Hamburg in 1923. In the latter part of the war the Germans had their own version ...
An der Laterne, vor der Reichskanzlie,
Hängen unsere Bonzen, der Führer ist dabai ,
Da wollen wir bieeinander stehn, Wir wollen unsern Führer sehen,
Wie einst am ersten Mai, Wie einst am ersten Mai.
MARRIAGE LOAN (Ehestanddarlehen). In Germany, financial aid was given to encourage young couples to marry and set up house and help raise the birth-rate. Between August 1933 and the end of 1936, a total of 694,367 marriages were financed. From these marriages, 485,285 children were born.
THE CAPTURE OF "THE SEAL". The only British submarine to be captured at sea was the HMS Seal. On May 5, 1940, she was damaged while laying mines in the Kattegat (between Denmark and Sweden). Attempting to reach Sweden the badly damaged HMS Seal was spotted by two Arado seaplanes which proceeded to drop bombs around the wallowing submarine. Realizing that the ship would inevitably be sunk, the captain, Lt. Cmdr. Lonsdale, surrendered by waving a white sheet from the conning tower. One of the Arados then landed on the water and took the captain on board. A radio message to a nearby German fishing trawler on submarine patrol , the Franken, soon had the entire crew of HMS Seal on board as POWs.
INTERNED. When the French 45th Army Corps was encircled by General Guderian's armour in France in 1940, the Corps, consisting of 45,000 men was forced to seek refuge in neutral Switzerland. The 12,000 Poles who had enlisted in the Corps, remained interned until the end of the war. All the others, including 29,000 Frenchmen and Moroccans were repatriated in 1941 under an agreement between Germany and Vichy France.
SECOND CHANCE. Just before the 'Fall of France' around 400 German Air Force personnel were held in French POW camps. The majority were pilots who had been shot down by British fighters. Churchill was concerned at the prospect of their being liberated by the German armies as they advanced through northern France. He requested that they be sent immediately to a POW camp in England. The transfer was never carried out owing to the speed of German advance, and so the Luftwaffe pilots were liberated to become available once more, this time for the forthcoming 'Battle of Britain'. Later, Churchill remarked "We had to shoot them down a second time".
GERMAN AIRCRAFT CARRIER. The building of the first German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin was begun in the Deutsche Werk shipyard at Kiel on Dec 28, 1936. With a displacement of 28,000 tons, it was launched on Dec. 8, 1938 by Countess Hella von Brandenstein-Zeppelin in honour of her father. Further construction of the ship was suspended in 1939 and again in 1942 because of the failure to produce an acceptable combat aircraft to operate from its deck. Work on the ship progressed slowly throughout the war but it never saw action. At the end of the war the ship was scuttled in the Baltic Sea to prevent it falling into the hands of the Russians. However, the Russians raised the ship and loaded it with war booty. It was being towed to a Russian port in 1947 when it capsized and sank because of an overloaded flight deck!
THE FIRST MAJOR WARSHIP sunk by air attack during wartime was the German light cruiser Konigsberg. Skuas from HMS Ark Royal flew 330 miles on April 9, 1940, from the Naval Air Station at Hatston in the Orkney's to dive bomb the ship lying at Bergen.
SNOWBOUND (April, 1940). Norwegian pilots faced a dilemma when over two feet of snow fell on their airstrip near Trondheim. The advancing Germans were only hours away and here they were stuck, impossible to take off and escape. Nearby, a large herd of Reindeer was being driven to their spring pastures in the mountains by their Lapp keepers. Bribed by a bottle or two of alcohol, the herdsmen agreed to drive the Reindeer down the airstrip thus trampling the snow into a hard compact surface, enough to enable the planes to take off.
FORT BREENDONK. Situated some twelve miles south of Antwerp, the fort was part of an six mile long belt of defence fortifications protecting Belgian's largest port. Built before the outbreak of World War I it became a notorious Gestapo prison and torture chamber when taken over by the Germans after they invaded the Netherlands in May, 1940. Prisoners included Resistance fighters, civilian criminals, Jews and anti-Fascists as well as hostages. For every German soldier killed, ten prisoners were executed tied to posts embedded before a mound of earth. The old powder magazine in the cellar was transformed into a torture chamber where interrogations took place in the most cruellest way. Altogether, 187 prisoners have been identified as having been murdered at Breendonk. Another sixty prisoners died from hardship and malnutrition just weeks before liberation. The commandant at Breendonk, SS Sturmbannführer Philip Johann-Adolf Schmitt, was arrested and tried for inhuman behaviour at the fort. He was found guilty and received the death sentence. He was the only German war criminal to be executed by the Belgians. (Today, Fort Breendonk remains practically unchanged. In 1947, the fort was renamed the Fort Breendonk National Memorial in memory of all those who suffered and lost their lives there.)
LOSSES. The Norwegian Campaign cost Britain 4,400 killed. Norway lost 1,335 men and the French and Polish troops together lost 530. German casualties were 1,317 killed.
GUN ACCIDENTS. Copenhagen, in German occupied Denmark, was a favourite spot for German officers on R & R. In an effort to 'get their own back' members of a Danish resistance group opened up an Arts and Craft shop specializing in scroll work. They offered to personalize the officers side weapons by fitting ivory handles to their Lugers and cover the gun with artful designs and scroll work. Some were customized as gifts for fellow officers serving on other fronts. Trade was brisk, but what was not explained was that the barrels were being modified by reducing the diameter inside and weakening the breach of the gun, which, when fired for the first time would blow up in the officers face. Of course these guns were never fired while the officer was on leave and any 'accidents' at the front were put down to 'casualties of war'. According to Harry Jensen, the only survivor of the resistance group, hundreds of these Lugers were modified this way before they closed shop.
CODENAME 'FELIX'. The German code name for the capture of Gibraltar , the Canary Island s and the Cape Verde Islands. Issued on Directive No.18 by Hitler on November 12, 1940, it was never put into operation, partly because of the refusal of Spain to join the Axis. Spain was in no position to fight another war, the civil war of 1936-39 had left the country a shambles, her cities in ruins.
CASUALTIES. During the month of November, 1940, a total of 4,588 British civilians were killed in air raids by the German Luftwaffe. Another 6,202 were injured. This was a decrease of the previous month, October, when 6,334 civilians lost their lives and 8,695 were injured. In December, 1940, this had decreased to 3,793 killed and 5,244 injured. In the last three month period of 1940, 44,717 men, women and children had been killed in Luftwaffe bombing raids.
NEUTRAL IRELAND. Although a member of the British Commonwealth, Ireland (Eire) remained neutral throughout the war. The Prime Minister, Eamonn De Valera, refused repeated requests by Britain for the use of port facilities at Cobh, Berehaven and Lough Swilly on the west coast of Ireland during the Battle of the Atlantic, ports that Britain considered essential to her survival. (These ports were closed to the Royal Navy in 1939 just as Britain was preparing to go to war). In December, 1941, Hitler had considered invading Ireland and using it as a platform for the assault on the British mainland. If this had proceeded it would have marked the end for Britain. It was Admiral Raeder who changed Hitler's mind, pointing out that in the face of Britain's huge naval superiority it was quite out of the question. The help De Valera gave the Germans was to refuse Britain the use of airfields and submarine bases in Ireland which would have set back the U-boat operations in the Atlantic. The use of the Berehaven port for instance would have enabled our anti-submarine escorts to operate a further 180 miles out into the Atlantic. How many ships and seamen's lives this would have saved is a matter of conjecture. Enlistment in the British Army however, was popular and around 42,000 Irishmen joined the armed forces or went to sea in the Merchant Navy. Eight won the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award. These servicemen, when returning home on leave had to wear civilian clothes to avoid any political embarrassment should they come home in a British uniform. Thousands more went to England to work in British munitions factories during the war. Whenever an Irishman died in battle he was reported in De Valera's press as having died while working in Britain.
THE BOMBING OF BELFAST. Northern Ireland was totally unprepared for enemy air attack during the initial stages of the war. Who on earth would want to bomb Belfast? was the thought running through the minds of its citizens at the time. However, this complacency was shattered when late on April 15, 1941, over 150 German bombers rained bombs, incendiaries and parachute mines onto the streets of the city. Panic reigned as thousands of people fled to the surrounding countryside inundating small towns and villages with terrified refugees. At 1.30AM on the 16th, John MacDermott, Northern Ireland's Minister of Public Security, then did something that no government minister had ever done before nor would ever do again, he telephoned Dublin in neutral Ireland and pleaded for help. Fifteen minutes later the city's central telephone exchange received a direct hit which served all local and trunk lines out of Belfast. Back in Dublin, in a technical breach of neutrality, de Valera immediately ordered thirteen fire trucks to be sent north to help fight the devastating fires that spread around the city. Dead animals and human corpses lay sprawled all over the place. It is doubtful whether the Luftwaffe intended to target the civilian population. The first target flares were dropped to illuminate the harbour and factory areas but had drifted in a light wind across the city and away from the intended targets. This seems to have been the case when on Sunday May 4/5 a total of 204 enemy bombers returned to finish the job on the docks and industrial area. In the first raid 745 persons were killed, in the second raid 164 persons lost their lives. This was worse than the much publicized raid on Coventry where 554 lives were lost.
COOL WELCOME. When British troops occupied Iceland on May 10, 1940, to deny the use of the island to the Germans after their occupation of Denmark, the islanders gave the 'Tommies' a cool and icy welcome. Later, Canadian troops joined the British forces and in 1942, when the Americans arrived to relieve the British and Canadians, their welcome was no less frigid. In fact everything was done to prevent them meeting the local girls. When a black sailor from one of the visiting ships was seen strolling around Reykjavik, headlines in the local newspaper screamed 'Black Icelander?'. Does this mean, the report asked, 'that one of our girls will bring forth a black Icelander, despoiling our traditions?'. The Americans took the hint and from then on, no black American was ever seen again on Icelandic soil during the war. At the other side of the world, Australia had a similar problem when at the end of January 1942, an American troopship arrived in Melbourne to face the ludicrous situation of its black troops being refused permission to come ashore. At this time Australia was zealously enforcing its White Australia Policy. It took another decision of the Australian War Cabinet to have this officious ban overturned. (After the capitulation of Italy, the Pope, Pius 12th, asked that black US soldiers were not to guard the Vatican).
DUNKIRK (May 26, 1940). The seven day evacuation from Dunkirk begins. A fleet of 861 ships and small boats set sail from Britain in a desperate attempt to save the troops trapped on the beach. Within ten days a total of 224,585 British soldiers were picked up and brought home. At the same time, 112,546 French and Belgian troops were also saved. Unfortunately, about 40,000 French soldiers had to be left behind, causing a certain amount of bitterness among the troops. A total of 231 rescue boats and six destroyers were sunk during the operation. The RAF Fighter Command lost 106 planes. During the evacuation from Dunkirk, the big mistake the Germans made was the use of the Stuka dive bomber. If the Luftwaffe had used horizontal bombing instead of dive bombing, the losses to the British Expeditionary Force would have been far greater.
CHURCHILL SPEECH? After the Dunkirk evacuation, Churchill delivered his memorable speech to the House of Commons. Later in the day the speech was broadcast by the BBC to the rest of the world. What the listeners didn't know was that the speech was read by Norman Shelley who impersonated Churchill's voice. Winston had said "I am rather busy, get an actor to do it".
WORLD RECORD. Owing to a navigational error, on October 17, 1940, two British destroyers, HMS Fame and HMS Ashanti, ran aground in fog and drizzle at Whilburn on the river Tyne. HMS Fame caught fire as fuel pipes in the engine room ruptured. Thinking that the invasion had started, defence lookout posts on shore raised the alarm and at 5am National Fire Service crews and Volunteer Life Brigade units from South Shields and Sunderland arrived at the scene. In about five hours a total of 272 crewmen from the two ships were brought ashore by Breeches Buoy thus establishing an all-time world life-saving record for a rescue of this type. The two destroyers were eventually refloated, repaired and returned to service.
GRAND THEFT. The loot the Germans transported back to the Reich from Holland was staggering.....13,786 metal working machines..... 2,729 textile machines.....18,098 electric motors.....358 printing presses.....31 dredgers.....over 7,000 barges.....90,000 lengths of railway line and a half million sleepers.....over 60,000 motor cars.....40,000 trucks and 25,000 motor bikes. 154,647 kilos of Dutch gold disappeared into the Reichsbank's safes in Berlin. On top of this, 320,000 cows, 472,036 pigs and 114,220 horses were stolen. A total of 346 works of art were stolen including 27 Rembrandts, 12 Hals, 47 Steens, 40 Rubens and 12 Van Goghs. Most of these paintings were recovered after the war.
GREED FOR GOLD. Just prior to the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, the National Bank of Belgium transferred part of its gold reserves to the Bank of France in Bordeaux for safe keeping. When France was attacked, Belgium asked the French bank to transfer the gold to London. The gold was transferred, but not to London, instead it was forwarded on to a French bank in Dakar. On October 29, 1940, the French bank promised to return the the gold to Belgium but Pierre Laval, Foreign Minister in the Vichy government of Marshal Pétain, sent it on to Berlin. There it was melted down, supplied with false seals and documentation and transferred to the National Bank of Switzerland by the Germans. The value of this gold was 378.6 million Swiss francs. Around 218 million francs worth of this treasure was resold by the Swiss to fund its banking operations. In 1945, France restored the gold that was entrusted to her in 1940 but Switzerland claimed that only 160 million francs worth was held in its Banks.
ZONDERWATER P.O.W. CAMP. In February, 1941, Italian prisoners-of-war began arriving in South Africa where the Zonderwater Camp had been established in the Transvaal, twenty-three miles from Pretoria. These prisoners were captured during the Somaliland and Ethiopian campaigns. Thousands more were brought in from the campaigns in Egypt, Libya and Tripolitania during the years up till 1943. Around 9,000 of these prisoners were illiterate and among the greatest and most lasting achievements at Zonderwater was that before the camp closed in February, 1947, all had learned to read and write their mother tongue during their six years confinement. Some 5,000 learned a trade before returning home and another 4,000 were allowed to work outside the camp on neighbouring farms. A symphony orchestra of 86 musicians was formed and a brass band of 65 instrumentalists was welded together from the prisoners. Fifteen schools were established teaching a variety of subjects. At its peak, on December 31, 1941, there were 63,000 prisoners in the camp. A total of 233 prisoners died from illness and 76 lost their lives through accidents. What was done at Zonderwater represents a great achievement in the field of human relations in the treatment of prisoners-of-war. Their efforts were recognized by the post-war Italian Government when the Camp Commandant, Colonel Hendrik Prinsloo and three of his officers were invested with the 'Order of the Star of Italy'. Colonel Prinsloo was further recognized by the award of the 'Order of Good Merit' by His Holiness, the Pope.
THE LAST EXECUTION in the Tower of London was on August 14, 1941. German spy, Josef Jakobs, was executed while seated tied to a chair, by an eight man firing squad from the Scots Guards. The white lint target patch placed over the area of his heart bore five bullet holes from the eight shots fired. Jakobs had parachuted into Britain on January 31, 1941, and broke his leg on landing. He lay all night in a field until his cries for help were heard next morning. He is buried in an unmarked grave in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery at Kinsal Green, London.
FIRE BRIGADE TRAGEDY. April 20th, 1941, was Hitler's birthday and the Luftwaffe celebrated the event by dropping 1,000 tons of bombs on London. Many schools in the city were standing empty, the children already evacuated to the country. The Old Palace School in St. Leonards Street, Poplar, was now sub-station 24U of the London Auxiliary Fire Service. The playground was ideal for training and the parking of fire appliances. On the night of April 20, fire service crews were standing by in anticipation of a heavy raid on the Capital. At precisely 1.53am, a land mine, dropped from a Luftwaffe bomber, scored a direct hit on the school. Thirty two firemen and two fire women were killed. The bodies of the two firewomen, mother of three Winifred Peters and twenty one year old Hilda Dupree, on duty in the watch room, were never found. This was the largest loss of Fire Brigade personnel ever suffered in the history of the service in Britain.
SURPRISE! SURPRISE! Australia's 'invasion' of Portuguese East Timor (now Timor Luru Sae) on December 16, 1941, was the first time in history that Australia violated another country's neutrality. Aussie troops (Sparrow Force) invaded Dutch West Timor and the 2/2nd Independent Company landed on the shore near Dili, the capital of Portuguese East Timor and so pre-empt a Japanese takeover. They proceeded immediately to surround the airport. Well armed, and expecting to do battle with the Portuguese military, they approached the administration building, guns at the ready. Suddenly the main door opened and out stepped a civilian Portuguese official who tipped his hat and in perfect English said "Good afternoon". Dumbfounded, the troops stared at each other in disbelief. Not a shot had been fired. Unknown to Sparrow Force , the Australian and Portuguese governments had previously agreed to a peaceful 'invasion' of the island to help protect the inhabitants from a possible Japanese invasion which did in fact take place two months later, on February 20th,1942.
ISOLATIONISTS. Members of the 'America First Committee' held a rally on the 28th of April, 1941, in Chicago. In the speeches, mention of Winston Churchill's name drew boos from the 10,000 person audience. A speech by Colonel Charles Lindbergh, the respected US isolationist, was interrupted by applause when he said that England was in a desperate situation, her shipping losses serious, 'her cities devastated by bombs'. Two months later, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina, changed the name of Lindbergh Drive to Avon Terrace.
DOCUMENTS. For his 50th birthday, several leading industrialists presented Hitler with a case containing the original scores of some of Richard Wagner's music. They had paid nearly a million marks for the collection. Towards the end of the war, Frau Winifred Wagner asked Hitler to transfer these manuscripts to Bayreuth. Hitler refused, saying he had placed them in a far safer place. The manuscripts involved included the scores of 'Die Feen', 'Die Liebesverbot', 'Reinzi', 'Das Reingold', 'Die Valkure' and the orchestral sketch of 'Der Fliegende Hollander'. These lost documents have never been found.
JEWS IN GERMANY. When Frederick William von Hohenzollern (1620-1688) was elected Margrave of Brandenburg, he found no Jewish permanent settlement in his state. In 1650, he invited some Polish Jews to conduct trade in Berlin, and in 1671, he welcomed fifty wealthy Jews from Vienna to settle in the capital. So began the Berlin Jewish community. In 1933, the Jewish population of Germany was 503,000. Of these, 170,000 lived in Berlin, 25% were living on charity. At the war's end, only 23,000 were living in Germany. About 100,000 German Jews perished in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Names and last known addresses of around 128,000 German Jews, victims of the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, are listed in the German Gedenkbuch (Memorial Book) in the Federal Archives in Berlin. (previously the Bundesarchives at Koblenz).
Sources differ as to the exact number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. The latest statistics put the number at 5,433,900 (about 41 %) of which just over 1.2 million died in Auschwitz. Official estimates are, year by year, gradually being revised downwards. (The World Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Paris now states that only 1,485,292 Jews died from all causes during WW II and that there were not even six million Jews in Europe at that time. Professor Paul Rassinier, the French historian, who spent some time in concentration camps, utterly refutes the myth of six million dead and says that Jewish casualties could not have exceeded 1.2 million. Raul Hilberg, the Jewish historian, estimates an even lower figure of 896,892). The country that suffered most, was Poland, it had a pre-war Jewish population of around 3.2 million, some 2.9 million of whom were annihilated (88%). Of Europe's Jewish children, alive in 1939, only 11 percent survived the war, an estimated one and a half million being murdered. Of all the Nazi occupied countries in WW II, the percentage of Jews saved in Poland was the smallest. The attitude of the vast majority of the Polish population towards Jews was violently anti-Semitic, surpassed only by their vehemently anti-German hatred. Even the Polish police joined the Nazis in rounding up Jews for deportation to the death camps. It must be said however that around 50,000 Jews were saved by Poles who helped hide them at the risk of their own lives. The 'Council for Aid to Jews' provided false Aryan documents and gave refuge to many of the persecuted Jews. Unfortunetly, many of these 'aid workers' along with their entire families, paid with their lives. (In all, Poland suffered 4,900,000 dead in WW II).
CONCENTRATION CAMPS. The term was first used by the Spanish to describe their camps set up in Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The first Concentration Camp, for the sole purpose of the physical destruction of prisoners was set up in Holmogor by the Bolsheviks in 1921. The idea in German minds that the British invented concentration camps was fostered by Dr Joseph Goebbels during the 1930s. Propaganda picture postcards in 1938 of genuine Russian camps, were re-labeled for issue as 'Genuine British Concentration Camps in South Africa'. The British camps in South Africa, set up during the two and a half year long Boer War, were for internment purposes only, but the lack of proper supervision, negligence and poor hygiene, gave the camps a bad name and caused the deaths of over 30,000 inmates, mostly from outbreaks of typhoid and measles.
EXTERMINATION CAMPS. The first camp in which Jews had been gassed was Chelmno in Poland. The first gassings took place in December, 1941. This was the first camp mentioned by name in the West. A train had left Holland on November 20 carrying 726 deportees, on the 24th, another train with 709 Jews departed and on November 30 a total of 826 Jews were deported. All the Dutch people knew was that the trains were heading east for Poland. The word 'Auschwitz' was unheard of in the West until April 18, 1943 when an eye-witness report reached London. However this report was never made public. In 1942, the Allies knew of the wholesale massacres taking place in camps such as Chelmno, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Majdanek but the horror of Auschwitz was still to emerge. Conferences were arranged, telephone calls and telegrams exchanged, discussions took place and notes were passed back and forth but nothing was actually done and all this time the deportations and killings went on and on. Even in December, 1943, when the airfield at Foggia in Southern Italy was captured, thus bringing the camps within range of Allied bombers (a round trip of just under1,300 miles) the camp at Auschwitz was still not identified as the destination of the deportee transports. On May 31, 1944, the complex at Monovitz was photographed for the second time and Auschwitz itself was photographed but the row upon row of prisoners huts, which was holding around 52,000 prisoners, failed to register as an extermination camp in the minds of Allied intelligence services. On April 7, 1944, two Jewish prisoners, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, escaped from the camp and headed for Slovakia where they reached the village of Skalite on Friday, April 21st. Next morning they travelled to Zilina where they contacted the Jewish Agency. Their report, together with the report of two other escapees, Peter Mordowicz and Arnost Rosin, eventually reached London and on June 18 brief details were heard on the radio during a broadcast from the BBC. This alerted the outside world to the reality of Auschwitz. The first photographs to reach the west was of corpses scattered around the Majdanek camp. These were taken by the Red Army on January 3, 1945. Auschwitz had still to be liberated.
MASS MURDERER. SS Brigadier Odilo Globocnik established the four extermination camps of Treblinka, Belzec, Maidanek and Sobidor and is responsible for the murder of over one million people, mostly Jews, who died in these camps. He also played a leading role in General Plan Ost (East) which involved the relocation of around eighty million people, Poles, Jews, Russians, Czechs, Ukrainians and Balts, to areas in western Siberia. The plan was to be implemented after the defeat of the Red Army and Communism. These deportees were to be replaced with German settlers in the hope of creating a racially pure Nazi Utopia, a fulfilment of Hitler's racial version of a Thousand Year Reich. Arrested in Austria by British agents, Odilo Globocnik, the greatest ethnic-cleanser of the Nazi era, committed suicide by biting on a cyanide capsule as soon as his identity was revealed.
CHUNGKING DISASTER. The worst tragedy to hit this Chinese town was in June, 1941. Situated at the junction of the Kialing and Yangtze rivers, the town of Chungking was repeatedly bombed by the Japanese. To shelter the inhabitants the local authorities built under the city the world's largest dugout shelter (estimated capacity: 30,000). During one air-raid, lasting over four hours, the ventilation system broke down and hundreds of people rushed outside to catch a breath of fresh air between raiding waves. A sudden alarm sent them rushing back clogging the shelter's narrow entrance. Those inside clawed and tore at each other in a mad frenzy as they tried to get out. The guards lost their heads and locked the milling mass inside and then fled. With the air cut off, those inside slowly suffocated. The first official count of the dead was put at 461. A week later the death toll finally amounted to around 4,000.
I. G. FARBIN. This German company built its own camp next to the main Auschwitz Camp. Called I. G. Farben, Auschwitz, it was built to produce synthetic rubber. At least 50,000 prisoners died during its construction from starvation and exposure to the cold. In its foundations lie the bodies of many prisoners who were buried where they fell, in the cement.
SAVED. Many Jewish lives were saved by an anti-circumcision operation performed by some caring doctors. Dr. Josef Jaksy, a Czechoslovakian urologist, made a small incision on the patients penis and then issued a certificate that stated that they had recently been circumcised for purely medical reasons. Dr. Feliks Kanabus, a Polish surgeon, with the help of two other doctors, pooled their knowledge and performed around 140 operations by attaching skin from other parts of the body to the penis in order to hide the circumcision.
LEGAL RESIDENTS. By 1942 there were only 9,150 foreign Jews legally resident in Switzerland, 980 more than in 1931. Many of these were the richer Jews who had fled Germany leaving behind their shops, factories and other properties. These were quickly snapped up, dirt cheap, by unscrupulous Swiss businessmen who made their fortunes out of Jewish miseries.
THE CABINET WAR ROOMS. The nerve centre of British planning and conduct of the war was the War Cabinet Rooms. Situated at Storey's Gate in London, close to the houses of Parliament, the Foreign Office and Downing Street. Its location was one of the best kept secrets of the war. The War Rooms were once the cellars of the Board of Education building and covered an area of six acres with around 150 rooms including sleeping quarters, canteens and dining rooms. The roof was reinforced with tram lines and a six foot thick layer of cement. Churchill had doubts that it could withstand a direct hit from a 500 lb bomb. At the height of the war, over 600 people worked in the War Rooms which were abandoned on August 15, 1945 as no longer required. Only six rooms were kept, preserved exactly as they were, as a memorial to those dark days of 1939/45. They are now open to the public.
ICE CREAM SHIP. The war's most unusual ship was commissioned in 1945 at a cost of around one million dollars. It was the US Navy's 'Ice Cream Barge' the world's first floating ice cream parlor. It's sole responsibility was to produce ice cream for US sailors in the Pacific region. The barge crew pumped out around 1,500 gallons every hour! The concrete hulled vessel had no engine of its own but was towed around by tugs and other ships. A second barge, also in the ice cream business, and under the command of a Major Charles Zeigler, was anchored off Naha.
U.S. PILOTS. Seven American volunteer pilots fought alongside the RAF pilots during the Battle of Britain. One, P/O William Fiske, died of wounds on August 17, 1940. (Could P/O Fiske have been the first American casualty of World War II?) Only one of the other six, P/O Haviland, survived the war. During the Battle of Britain, the German Luftwaffe lost 1,882 planes, the RAF lost 1,265 planes. In all, 537 pilots were lost to Fighter Command, 718 pilots to Bomber Command and 280 pilots were lost to Coastal Command.
EAGLE SQUADRONS. Many American pilots served in the Royal Air Force and in order to circumvent the US Neutrality Act they assumed Canadian or South African nationality. They formed the Eagle Squadrons, approved by the British Air Ministry in September, 1940, and operated within the RAF Fighter Command. The first Eagle Squadron was No. 71 Squadron, formed with Hurricanes at RAF Station Kirton-in-Lindsay, Lincolnshire. The ultimate total of US pilots thus serving numbered 243 with additional squadrons Nos.121 and 133 operating from Kirton-in-Lindsay and Coltishall respectively. After the US entry into the war the Eagle Squadrons were transferred into the US 8th Air Force.
INVASION. As of Sept.16, 1940, in spite of RAF bombing, the build-up of invasion barges in the German held Channel ports continued to increase. Reconnaissance photos showed 600 barges at Antwerp, 230 at Boulogne, 266 at Calais, 220 at Dunkirk, 205 at Le Havre and 200 at Ostend. This was in anticipation of a second attempt at an invasion of Great Britain in 1941 after the winter had subsided.
SPITFIRE vs HURRICANE. Contrary to popular belief, it was the Hurricane, not the Spitfire that saved Britain during the dark days of 1940. The turn-around time (re-arm, refuel etc.) for the Spitfire was 26 minutes. That of the Hurricane, only 9 minutes from down to up again. During the Battle of Britain the time spent on the ground was crucial and as one fitter/mechanic of No.145 Squadron quipped: "If we had nothing but Spits we would have lost the fight in 1940". The Spitfire was an all metal fighter, slightly faster, had a faster rate of climb and had a higher ceiling, while the Hurricane had a fabric covered fuselage, was quicker to repair and withstood more punishment. With the for's and against's of both fighters they came out about even. The majority of German planes shot down during the four month period were destroyed by Hurricanes. For much of the Battle of Britain, the Spitfires went after the German BF 109s at the higher altitudes, while the Hurricanes attacked the bomber formations flying at lower altitudes. This cost the enemy a total of 551 pilots killed or taken prisoner. During the war a total of 14,231 Hurricanes and 20,334 Spitfires were produced. The famous Rolls-Royce 'Merlin' engine evolved through 88 separate marks and was fitted in around 70,000 Allied aircraft during the six years of war.
FEUDING. During the Battle of Britain, a bitter feud developed between 12 Group Commander Leigh-Mallory and the New Zealand Commander of 11 Fighter Group, Keith Park. At the height of the battle, Leigh-Mallory failed to send his forces to the aid of Park. Park never forgave him for this. When Leigh-Mallory was made Commander of Allied Forces after D-Day the American Air Force Commander General Spatz, made it clear that under no circumstances would he serve under him.
SPONSORED FIGHTERS. Many Spitfires used in the Battle of Britain were sponsored by private companies and individuals. Money raised in cities, towns and villages was used to buy a Spitfire at a cost of £5,000 each. They bore names such as Dogfighter bought by a well known Kennel Club, Dorothy was bought by women whose name was Dorothy, Gingerbread by red-haired men and women, Unshackled by donations from POWs and so on. The largest donation received came from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands who donated £215,000 to purchase an entire squadron of 43 Spitfires.
INTO THE FIRE. In February, 1941, men of the Australian 22nd Brigade (8th Division) boarded the liner Queen Mary anchored off Toronga Park Zoo in Sydney. Embarking more troops when the ship called at Fremantle in Western Australia, the ship left harbour and turned north. It was then that the troops were told that their destination was Singapore, not Europe where all the action was. To be used as garrison troops in this outpost of Empire was a bitter disappointment for the 5,750 soldiers on board. Two weeks later Japanese forces attacked Singapore and the garrison was forced to surrender. In the defence of the city, 1,789 Australian soldiers died. The fighting in Malaya and including Singapore, cost the Australians 2,178 killed and 1,306 wounded. Two days after the surrender 14,792 Australians and some 35,000 British troops found themselves behind the walls of Changi Prison as prisoners of war.
SHELTER TRAGEDIES. At 11.12pm on Saturday, May 3rd 1941, the air raid sirens sounded in North Shields, a town on England's north-east coast. A lone German bomber dropped four bombs on the town, two exploding harmlessly, the third hitting a private house killing the two occupants. The fourth bomb made a direct hit on the three-storey Wilkinson's Lemonade Factory, the basement of which was used as a communal air raid shelter and on this night was crammed with 192 men, women and children. The top three storeys, filled with heavy factory machinery, collapsed onto the basement trapping the occupants and killing 102 persons including 36 children under the age of 16. Three others died later in hospital bringing the final death toll in the shelter to 105. On September 8, 1940, a direct hit on an air-raid shelter in the Peabody Housing Estate in Whitechapel, London, killed 78 persons. In Germany, up to March, 1945, over 120 direct hits on shelters were recorded. On July 26, 1943, an underground shelter in Hannover (Attacked 125 times) was hit killing 110 persons. On September 23, 1944, another shelter in Hannover received a direct hit killing 172 people. On March 15, 1945, a shelter on Kornerstrasse in Hagen was destroyed by a high explosive bomb. The remains of nearly 400 people were recovered from the ruins.
SHOPPING CENTER TRAGEDY. During the siege of Leningrad, a German bomb struck the city's largest shopping bazaar, Gostiny Dvor, on the main thoroughfare Nevsky Prospect. Hundreds of people had ran from the street into the store to shelter from the air-raid on September 19, 1941. A total of 98 persons were killed and another 148 wounded.
THE FIRST AMERICAN MERCHANT SHIP to be sunk by the Japanese was the 2,140 ton steamship Cnythea Olson on passage from Tacoma to Honolulu. Sunk on December 7, 1941. The crew of 33 and two military men were all lost.
LUCKY HIT. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Hawaiian DC-3 airliner, coming in to land, was hit by a Japanese tracer bullet and set on fire. A minute later, the plane was hit by another bullet which hit the valve of a fire extinguisher, thus putting out the fire!
PEARL HARBOR. The unprovoked attack on the American naval base in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, launched the Pacific War. Casualties were 2,403 Americans killed, 1,178 wounded. Two battleships, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, were sunk and five others damaged, 188 planes were destroyed and 162 damaged at the two US Air Force bases. The Japanese attacking force consisted of 31 ships with 253 aircraft. Japanese losses were 29 planes with 55 airmen killed and 5 midget submarines lost. In total, 64 deaths. (The first American casualty of the Pacific War was seaman Julius Ellsberry from Birmingham, Alabama, who was killed during the attack) On January 26, 1942, a Board of Inquiry found the Commander-in-Chief US Fleet, Admiral Kimmel and the Commander-in-Chief Hawaiian Department, General Short, guilty of dereliction of duty. Both were dismissed.
PLANE CRASH. The son of Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini, was killed in an air crash on August 7, 1941. Twenty-three year old Bruno, second son of the Fascist leader, died when the four-engined bomber he was testing, crashed near San Guisto Airport at Pisa. Mussolini flew at once to the Santa Chiara Hospital and sat beside his son's body for hours before talking to the five wounded survivors.
ALIENS IN THE U.S.A. The US Department of Justice reported in August, 1941, that of all non-Americans citizens who registered under the Alien Registration Act, 694,971 were from Italy, 449,022 from Canada, 442,551 from Poland, 416,892 from Mexico, 366,834 from The Soviet Union, 315,004 from Germany, 291,451 from Great Britain and 91,843 from Japan.(a total of 4,921,439) On January 1, 1942, US Attorney General Francis Biddle, issues orders to all German, Italian and Japanese aliens to hand in their short-wave radios, cameras and firearms to their local police stations. They are also forbidden to change their address without permission and, if living on the east coast, to obey a 9pm to 6am curfew.
GERMAN/AMERICANS. The US Government viewed persons of 'enemy ancestry' as potentially dangerous. This included American born and naturalized citizens and those with permanent residence. The latter had come to the US seeking freedom and opportunity. They simply could not fathom the government's behavior when their civil liberties were completely ignored, their families torn apart and sent to different internment camps, their assets frozen for the duration of the war. American civilians held prisoner in Germany were exchanged for German-American internees. On arrival in Germany some men were arrested by the Gestapo as spies and put in camps, leaving their families destitute again. In January, 1945, the liner SS Gripsholm carried 1,000 exchangees to Germany. The last German/American was released from Ellis Island in August, 1948. Upon release, all internees (31,280) were sworn to secrecy and threatened with deportation if ever they spoke of their ordeal. Many returned to their former homes only to find the houses vandalized, the contents stolen or damaged. Confronted with feelings of anger, confusion, resentment, bitterness, guilt and shame, they desperately tried to mend their broken lives. Personal justice was denied to these German/Americans while the government acknowledged mistreatment of Japanese internees and granted them financial compensation.
JAPANESE/AMERICANS. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 16,849 Americans of Japanese ancestry were relocated in ten specially built War Relocation Authority Camps in the USA. Most of these camps were located in California. Opened in March, 1942, all were closed by 1946 most internees being released well before the end of the war. In Latin America, around 2,000 Japanese were rounded up so the US would have prisoners to exchange with Japan. During their internment, 5,918 babies were born. A total of 2,355 internees joined the US armed forces and around 150 were killed in combat. The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed after its members petitioned Congress for the privilege to serve in the war. It became the most decorated unit in US military history earning 21 Medals of Honor as well as 9,486 Purple Hearts. After the war, 4,724 US citizens of Japanese ancestry, angered by this terrible injustice, renounced their American citizenship and returned to Japan. It is strange that in Hawaii, the ethnic Japanese, over 30% of the Hawaiian population, were not interned after Pearl Harbor. There were no renunciants among the German or Italian/Americans. The US Government later agreed that the nation had acted hastily in its treatment of aliens and that the vast majority of them were loyal to America. Deaths from natural causes in the camps accounted for another 1,862. (During the war, a total of 51,156 Italian nationals were also interned in the USA. In 1942 there were around 600,000 Italian residents in the USA. All were branded 'enemy aliens' by the US Government).
INTERNED. After Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government interned around 22,000 Japanese Canadians. The Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, later apologized for this unjust treatment, stating "No amount of money can right the wrong, undo the harm or heal the wounds". A tax-free lump sum of $21,000 was paid to each internee.
THE WORKERS PARADISE. After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, German soldiers wrote home to their families describing the conditions they found there. "The poverty, misery and filth we have seen in the past few weeks is indescribable. Wherever we look there is filth, decay, desolation, misery, death and suffering. People here know nothing about electric lights, radio, newspapers and the like. The houses they live in are just shanties with rotten straw roofs. Not even the farmers have enough to eat, all they have is a cow and perhaps a pig. There is lice and filth everywhere, they sit in their hovels and remove lice from each other. We look in vain for some sign of construction, for a trace of progress or a bit of culture. Only the Jews and party functionaries live well. It is worse than we imagined. One has to see it to realize how beautiful Germany is".
LENINGRAD. The 900 day siege of Russia's second largest city cost the lives of around one and a half million civilians and soldiers. Food was so scarce that thousands were dying each day from hunger, disease and cold. With temperatures reaching minus 40˚C, around 53,000 people died in the month of November. On Christmas Day, 1941, an estimated 3,700 inhabitants died from starvation. Many just collapsed in the street, their bodies soon covered by snow and their whereabouts not known until the spring thaw. Cannibalism was resorted to on a number of occasions the main victims being young boys and girls who were waylaid on the streets and murdered, in many cases by women driven to desperation to get food for their hungry children. In January, 1944, the Russian winter offensive pushed the surrounding German troops fifty miles back from the city's perimeter, allowing railway links with Moscow to reopen and relief supplies to reach the city. (Leningrad has now reverted to its pre-war name, St Petersburg).
'D-DOG' B-17 FLYING FORTRESS. The first B-17 'Flying Fortress' to be shot down in WW II was 525 D-Dog based at Kinloss, Scotland. Delivered to No. 90 Squadron of the RAF and flown by a British crew, D-Dog was shot down on September 8, 1941, by Lt. Alfred Jakobi's Bf109 of 13/JG77 based at Stavanger-Sola near Oslo. The B-17, piloted by Canadian F/O. David Romans and his co-pilot P/O F. G. Hart, plummeted to the ground in a near vertical dive and exploded just before hitting the mountainside at Bygland killing all seven crew members. The bodies were buried in the local Church Cemetery at Bygland by a Luftwaffe unit. In spite of its huge publicity the B-17 was no match for German fighters and drastic changes in armaments and other equipment were undertaken before the B-17 became the true backbone of USAAF units stationed in Britain.
LIBERTY SHIP. The first Liberty ship built was the SS Patrick Henry, launched in 1941. President F. D. Roosevelt delivered a speech using 'Liberty' as the theme. He referred to Patrick Henry's quote "Give me liberty...or give me death". Stating that these ships would bring liberty to Europe the name stuck, thence 'Liberty Ships'.
POW ESCAPE ATTEMPT FROM BRITAIN. During the war, no German prisoner of war escaped from Britain. Many believe that Franz von Werra was the most notable escapee but von Werra made his escape in Canada, where he was sent as a POW. The most audacious attempt was made by Lt. Heinz Schnabel and Oblt. Harry Wappler on November 24, 1941. The two Luftwaffe officers were prisoners in Camp No.15 near Penrith, Northumbria (formally the Shap Wells Hotel). Forging papers that identified them as two Dutch officers serving in the RAF, they made their way to the RAF airfield at Kingstown near Carlisle. Without difficulty they entered the station and with the help of a ground mechanic started the engine of a Miles Magister, of which there were fifty parked around the airfield. Taking off, they headed for the sea and Holland, a distance of some 365 miles. Over the North Sea they realized they could not make it (the maximum range of a Magister was 367 miles on full tanks) Rather reluctantly they decided to turn back and landed in a field about five miles north of Great Yarmouth. Back at Camp No.15 again, the two daring escapees were sentenced to 28 days solitary confinement.
P.W.E. (Political Warfare Executive). Concerned with the 'black' propaganda broadcasts to Germany and enemy occupied Europe. All who tuned into the wavelength believed that the station was operating inside Germany. The personalities mostly concerned with the P.W.E were, Sefton Delmer, Richard Crossman, Ian Fleming, Robert Bruce-Lockhart and David Bowes-Lyon. The headquarters of P.W.E. was at Woburn Abbey, the home of the Duke of Bedford. In 1941 the station employed a staff of 213 people.
KILLED ON WAY TO FUNERAL. On November 21, 1941, one of Germany's leading air aces, Oberst Werner Moelders, 1913-1941, was killed when the plane, an HE-111 bomber in which he was a passenger, hit a factory chimney in fog and rain near Breslau, while on his way to the state funeral of General Ernst Udet (1896-1941) Chief Air Inspector General of the Luftwaffe who committed suicide on November 17, 1941. Moelders, who had achieved 115 kills, 68 of which were achieved in the western theatre, was replaced by the fighter ace Adolf Galland (103 kills) who retained the post until January, 1945.
ULTIMATUM. Following the British ultimatum to end their conflict with Russia, the Governments of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and India declare war on Finland, Hungary and Rumania (December 6, 1941). In Britain, 150 Finnish nationals are arrested and in the US, 6 Finnish ships are seized in US ports and placed under protected custody.
THE FIRST AMERICAN NAVAL CASUALTY of the war was when the US destroyer Kearney was torpedoed and damaged off Iceland while on convoy escort duty. Eleven men were killed. The first US Navy loss was the destroyer Reuben James torpedoed and sunk off Iceland while escorting a British convoy from Halifax (October 31, 1941) 115 men were lost.
REQUEST. After Pearl Harbor, the Department of Conservation in Nashville, Tennessee, handed in a request for six million licenses to hunt Japs at a fee of $2 each. Back came a note "Open season on Japs - no license required".
DECLARATION. On December 11, 1941, the US Senate declared war on Germany and Italy. With only one short speech, the Senate voted 88-to-0 for war against Germany, 90-to-0 for war with Italy. There was one abstention, Republican Pacifist Jeannette Rankin called out 'Present' - a refusal to vote. The House of Representatives voted war with Germany, 393-to-0. After the vote was taken the chamber was filled with the noise of stamping feet from the galleries as the public stomped out. It seems that the war with Italy vote (399-to-0) wasn't worth waiting around for.
AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN AUSTRALIA. The first US troops arrived in Australia at Brisbane, Queensland, on Christmas Eve, 1941. Almost one million American servicemen passed through Australia during the war. About 7,000 Australian women married their American boy friends and travelled to the USA as war brides.
CASUALTIES. In the first five months of 1941, British civilian casualties from German bombing raids amounted to 18,007 killed and 20,744 injured. April and May, 1941, saw the heaviest death toll with 11,459 killed and 12,107 injured. In the next seven months, till the end of December, 1941, 1,637 deaths were reported and 1,829 injured.
AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN BRITAIN. In Britain, the Yanks were said to be "overpaid, oversexed, overfed and over here". The Americans countered this by saying the Brits were "underpaid, undersexed, underfed and under Eisenhower".
DOUBLE AGENTS. In January, 1942, Britain had a total of 19 German spies working as double agents. These had been 'turned' under threat of execution and agreed to work against their homeland. Others, who were of the more fanatical type, were hanged at Wandsworth Prison.
THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE. At the request of Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi Reich Main Security Office, heads of various organizations assembled in a villa on the shores of the Wannsee Lake in Berlin on January 20, 1942. Here they discussed the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question', in other words, the ways and means to kill off the Jews of Europe, a total of around six million! In the event, the Nazi's succeeded in disposing of just under five million Jews in the concentration camps of Europe. (The Villa, at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, was built in 1914 and in January, 1992, the 50th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, the Villa was opened to the public as a memorial and education center).
MARKED FOR EXTERMINATION. On a list of countries drawn up by Adolf Eichmann and presented to the Wannsee Conference, England is mentioned with its 330,000 Jews and political figures, all marked for deportation to the Nazi extermination camps in Poland after the proposed German takeover of the British Isles. On top of the list is the name, Winston Churchill.
ASPIDASTRA. The codename given to the powerful 500 KW transmitter which was purchased from America for use in broadcasting propaganda on the German controlled wave-lengths. It cost Britain £111,801, 4 shillings and 10 pence to buy the apparatus from the RCA factory in Camden, New Jersey. Another sum of £16,000 was spent to prepare the site and erect the masts near Crowborough in Essex. The transmitter first became operational on November 8, 1942.
DEPORTED. Between 1942 and 1944, a total of 25,257 Jews were shipped out of Belgium on twenty eight train convoys. Among them were 5,430 children under the age of sixteen, the youngest only thirty-nine days old. At the end of the war only 1,207 were still alive when the concentration camps in Poland were liberated. A further 5,034 managed to escape across the border to seek refuge in France. Unfortunately these were rounded up after the fall of France in 1940 and deported, via Drancy, to Auschwitz. Of these, only 317 survived.
CAVALRY CHARGE. The last Cavalry charge in history took place on August 23, 1942, at Izbushensky on the River Don. The Italian Savoia Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Bettoni, and consisting of 600 mounted Italian troops, charged against 2,000 Soviet troops who had opened a breach between the German 6th Army and the Italian Army. The Italian Lancers destroyed two Soviet Infantry armoured vehicles before being forced to withdraw with slight losses, about thirty-two casualties.
GOOD IDEA? An attempt by the Americans to cause a volcano to re-erupt ended in failure. In 1942, the Tavorvur volcano on Matupi Island, Rabaul, erupted and caused great concern for the Japanese occupation troops. To cause greater concern, the Americans purchased from the British Government two 'earthquake' bombs of the type invented by Barnes Wallis for the Ruhr Dams raid. The two bombs, together with a number of 2000 pounders, were dropped on the gaping mouth of the still smoking volcano. Both bombs missed the target and buried themselves in the sand near the end of the runway on the nearby Lukunai airstrip. In 1970, the two bombs were discovered unexploded. The Australian Navy was informed and the bombs were detonated.
LIQUIDATED. Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS, had his nephew, SS 1st Lieutenant Hans Himmler, demoted and sentenced to death for revealing SS secrets while drunk. The sentence was commuted and he was sent to the front as a parachutist. He was again charged with making derogatory remarks about the regime and sent to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich where he was finally 'liquidated' as a homosexual.
TRAGEDY. On March 3, 1942, Royal Air Force bombers attacked the Renault car factory in Paris which was manufacturing engines for the German Panzer Divisions' tanks. Poor bomb aiming caused many of the bombs to land on the workers' homes nearby. A total 367 French workers died in this tragedy and around 1,500 were wounded.
DESERTERS? On March 3, 1942, the FBI was ordered to round up about 8,000 foreign seamen who had deserted their ships while in US ports. They included around 3,000 Norwegians and 3,000 Greeks. The rest were Swedes, Dutch, Danes and British. They were asked to return to their ships or face deportation or internment.
SORRY NO REQUESTS. American disc jockeys were banned from playing listeners requests in 1942. The War Department explained that enemy agents might use the format as codes to pass military information on to their superiors.
OPERATION 'CHARIOT'. Code name for the British commando raid on the French port of Saint Nazaire on March 28, 1942. The 356 metre long Normandy Dry Dock and surrounding installations was the target for the 257 Army Commandos and 345 Royal Navy men who took part. The plan was to blow up the lock gates by ramming a ship, packed with explosives, straight into the gates themselves. The ship chosen for this task was an old lend-lease 1919-built American destroyer, USS Buchanan, renamed HMS Cambeltown. Internally she was stripped of all unnecessary equipment to accommodate four and a half tons of explosives made up of 24 depth-charges timed to explode at a certain time. At 1.30am, and racing full speed ahead, the Cambeltown ploughed through the anti-torpedo nets and crashed into the lock gates with such force that her bows were peeled back some forty feet. Firmly wedged on the gate, her bows projecting over the top, crew and commandos made a hasty departure to wreck havoc on electrical and pumping installations around the dock. As daylight broke, scores of enemy officers and men swarmed all over the ship but failed to find the explosives. At 10.35am a terrific explosion rocked the dockside as the Cambeltown exploded, ripping the ship and the lock gates apart and killing most of the Germen officers and men on deck. The Normandy Dock was not brought back into operation until 1948. Of the 611 Commandos who went into action, 169 lost their lives. Some 200 were captured and made prisoner, the rest made it safely back to England. Five men were awarded the Victoria Cross, one posthumously, for outstanding heroism during Operation Chariot.
TRAGEDY AT IMBER. The area around Imber on the Salisbury Plain in England, comprising of around 91,000 acres, is the traditional training ground for the British Army. On April 13, 1942, during a demonstration of fire-power from a squadron of Hurricanes, the pilot of the 6th plane to make the attack inadvertently fired into the crowd of invited military spectators. He had mistaken the spectators for the rows of dummy soldiers placed on the ground as if in marching order. The demonstration was immediately cancelled and all aircraft ordered to return to base. Fifteen minutes later some thirty military and civilian ambulances arrived to convey the dead and injured to hospitals. Twenty five officers and men were killed and seventy one injured. The Hurricane pilot, just approaching his 21st birthday, was found guilty of an error of judgement by the Court of Inquiry. (On June 28, 1942, seventy-six days after the tragic incident, he was shot down and reported missing in a sortie over Cherbourg).
THE BRAVEST. A total of 64 American nurses were captured when Bataan and Corrigidor fell to the Japanese on May 7, 1942. None took part in the Bataan Death March but were sent to the big civilian internment camp at Santo Tomas University on Rizal Avenue and the Los Banos Internment Camp in Manila. In the camps, 3,768 American and Allied male and female civilians, including survivors of US merchant ships, were interned during the war. Around 390 of these prisoners died from starvation and disease. They were liberated on February 3, 1945, by elements of the US 44th Tank Battalion whose lead tank crashed through the locked gates of the compound and accepted the surrender of the camp from the Commandant, Colonel Hayashi. The Los Banos Internment Camp, containing 2,147 prisoners, was liberated on February 23, 1945, by troops of the US 11th Airborne Division supported by Filipino guerrillas. All the nurses survived the war. Altogether eighty-three US Army and Navy nurses became prisoners of war while serving in the Pacific area. Throughout World War II over 59,000 American nurses, including 479 black nurses, served in all theatres. A total of 201 nurses died, sixteen died as a direct result of enemy fire.
TARGET COLOGNE. On the night of May 30/31, 1942, the Royal Air Force launched its first 1,000 bomber raid of the war. The cathedral city of Cologne was attacked by a force of 1,046 bombers that took off from 52 airfields in England. A total of 1,455 tons of bombs was dropped by the 898 planes which actually attacked the city. Forty-two British planes were lost and twelve badly damaged never to fly again. In the blazing city 486 people had died and 5,027 injured, 18,432 buildings of all kinds were destroyed resulting in 59,100 citizens being made homeless. Next day, RAF Mosquito fighter/bombers flew over the still burning city on their first operational mission to photograph the damage.
OPERATION PASTORIOUS. Between June 12 and 16, 1942, eight German secret agents were landed on the US east coast. Four were sent ashore from the German submarine U-202 near Amagansert on Long Island. Another four were landed on Florida's Atlantic coast from the U-boat U-584. Their mission, to destroy a cryolite factory in Philadelphia. All had arranged to meet on July 4th in Cincinnati. A number of these agents were German-Americans trained by the Abwehr at their sabotage training school near Berlin. However, one of the team, a greedy unscrupulous ex-waiter named George Dasch, and his team-mate Ernest Burger, betrayed the whole operation to the FBI. Dasch carried on his person the sum of $160,000 which was to be used for expenses during their stay in the US. He was determined that the cash would stay in his own pocket. Soon after contacting the FBI, all eight agents were arrested. At their secret military trial, Dasch and Burger received lengthy jail sentences but the money was taken off Dasch and deposited in the US Treasury Department vaults. The other six agents met their date with destiny in the electric chair at Washington's District Jail. In 1948, after serving six years of their sentence, Dasch and Burger were deported back to Germany.
UNDERWATER GIANTS. In 1942, Japan commenced building the world's biggest submarines. The 400 foot long I-400 series had a displacement of 3,530 tons and were intended to destroy the Pacific exit of the Panama Canal. They could cruise 37,500 miles and dive to a depth of 325 feet. Each of the I-400s could carry three specially designed seaplane bombers which were dismantled and stored in a watertight hanger inside the submarine. Only three were completed before the end of the Pacific war. All three were captured and destroyed by the Americans in 1946.
CAPTURED. On July 12, 1942, one of Stalin's favourite generals, General Andrey Vlasov, was captured by the Germans. He was decorated with the 'Order of the Soviet Union' for his defence of Moscow. In the POW camps, while a prisoner of war, Vlasov, seeing a great future for himself only in the event of a German victory, began to raise an army of volunteers from other Russian prisoners who were willing to fight alongside the Germans against Stalin. It was called 'The Russian Army of Liberation'. Many of these volunteers were forced by the Germans to join, it was either a case of join the Vlasov army or starve to death. Many of Vlasov's troops, while fighting in Czechoslovakia, deserted their German masters and joined up with the Czech Resistance movement. After the war, General Vlasov was returned to the USSR where he was tried for treason, sentenced to death, and hanged.
WOMAN FIGHTER PILOT, Olga Yamschchikova of the Red Air Force, became the first woman night fighter pilot to score a kill. On September 24, 1942, she shot down a JU-88 bomber over Stalingrad. Olga was a member of the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, an all women unit which during the war flew 4,419 combat missions and shot down 38 enemy aircraft.
OPERATION JUBILEE. Code name for the seaborne assault on the town and port of Dieppe on the French coast on August 19, 1942. The plan was to test the German defences, destroy certain military targets and to occupy the town and surrounding area for one day and then re-embark and return to England. The troops chosen for this action were around 5,000 Canadians from the Canadian 2nd Division who were becoming bored and wanted to see some real action. Some hundreds of British and fifty American commandos were to accompany them and land on eight different points on the enemy held coast. Landing on the shingle covered Puys beach at daylight, with no smoke cover, men of the Royal Regiment of Canada were cut to pieces by machine gun fire from pillboxes manned by the German defenders. Out of 27 officers and 516 men, only 3 officers and 57 men survived to get back to England. Twenty-eight Churchill tanks, intended to support the infantry, were all lost in the sea or bogged down on the shingle beach. By 9am, realising that the assault was a failure, the Army Commanders decided that the only alternative was to withdraw. By the afternoon, after nine long terrible hours, the survivors were on their way home leaving behind 215 officers and 3,164 men, some 2,000 being taken prisoner including 570 wounded. The commandos lost 24 officers and 223 other ranks. In the air the Royal Air Force lost 106 aircraft, the Luftwaffe 48 planes. The lessons learned at Dieppe were put to good use during the coming Allied invasion of North Africa in November and later at Salerno. (On September 1, 1944, the 2nd Canadian Division returned to Dieppe to take over the town after the Germans had given up without a fight. Survivors of the 1942 raid staged a victory march-past over the ground they had once fought for. The wheel had turned full circle).
OCCUPATION. On November 5, 1942, Troops of the British East African Command completed their occupation of the French colony island of Madagascar. Fearing that Vichy might hand over the island to the Japanese in case Ceylon fell, Churchill ordered 'Operation Ironclad' to proceed on May 5th when the naval base at Diego Suarez was secured. Hostilities against French Vichy forces on the island ceased at 1400hrs. Madagascar was loyal the the Vichy French.
PETROL SPILL. On December 5th 1942, three naval trawlers, the Canna, Bengali and the Spaniard were berthed in the harbour at Lagos when a petrol spill caught fire engulfing the three ships. One by one they exploded and in the process killed around 200 people. Fishing trawlers were used extensively during the war on escort duties and mine sweeping.
ULTRA. Code name for the Bletchley Park operation in which coded messages from the German secret military cipher machine Enigma were decoded and read. (Codes were first read by the Polish cryptologists Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski as early as 1934). The military version was adopted by the German Army in 1929 and the Luftwaffe in 1934. Any reference to Ultra in the press was officially banned until 1974. Would our great commanders in the field have been so successful without the influence of Ultra? It is not generally accepted that at the same time the Germans were reading the British naval code and had been doing so since 1936! Up till late 1942, neither side knew that their naval codes were being read. When it finally dawned on them, new ciphers were introduced. A veil of secrecy still hangs over Ultra. Until the official records in the Public Records Office are opened the many hidden secrets of the Enigma story must remain just that ... an enigma!
CASUALTIES. For the first five months of 1942, air raid casualties in Britain were 1,526 killed and 1,572 injured. The next seven months till the end of December the casualties were 1,754 killed and 2,531 injured.
EMERGENCY LANDINGS. In 1943, when an increasing number of British and American planes were returning crippled and low on fuel, Britain built a special Emergency Landing Ground (abbreviated to E.L.G.) in the county of Suffolk. Named RAF Woodbridge E.L.G. it handled a total of 4,115 emergency landings by the end of the war.
PROTEST IN BERLIN. For one whole week starting on 27th of February, 1943, German women in Berlin staged the only public protest against the deportation of its Jews. This was something unheard of in Hitler's Germany. During the 'final roundup' of Berlin's Jews, around 10,000 were arrested and within days transported east to the death camps in Poland. Among those arrested were about 1,700 male Jews who were married to non-Jewish German women. They were separated from the others and incarcerated in the Jewish Community Center at 2-4 Rosenstrasse in the Berlin suburb of Mitte. When the wives of these Jews realized what was happening they gathered in force in front of the Center shouting 'Give us back our husbands'. Each day the crowd grew larger and even in the face of SS thugs armed with machine-guns they refused to give up. Exasperated at the turn of events, Joseph Geobbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, realized he was facing a public relations nightmare and ordered the release of all intermarried Jews in the Center. These unsung heroes, German women married to Jews, won an astonishing victory over the deportation of their Jewish husbands. Almost all of the released Rosenstrasse Jews survived the war. Over 90 percent of German Jews still alive after the war were married to non-Jewish Germans.
THE BAUM GROUP. This Berlin group was composed mainly of young Communist Jews and operated in Central Berlin and the districts of Kreuzberg and Neuköln. Their main activity was the distribution of anti-Nazi posters and helping the slave workers who worked in the Siemens factory. In May, 1942, Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, had organized an anti-Russian exhibition called 'The Soviet Paradise'. As an act of protest, the group decided to set the buildings on fire. However, the resulting fire was soon put out by firemen and a few days later the Gestapo succeeded in arresting 27 of the participants. Brought before the Peoples Court on the Potsdamer Strasse, they were found guilty of treason and on May 27, 1943, were executed. Three women members of the group received prison sentences and sent to Auschwitz from where the never returned. Herbert Baum, the leader of the group died after being tortured by the Gestapo but never betrayed his comrades. A monument, bearing the names of all twenty-seven members stands at the western entrance of Berlin's Weissensee Jewish Cemetery where some of the group lie buried.
SUICIDE? Stalin's son, Jakov Dzhugashvili, a 2nd Lieutenant in the artillery corps, was captured on May 16th, 1942 and interned in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where he was later shot while trying to escape. (Some sources say he committed suicide). In 1943, an attempt was made by the Germans to exchange Jakov for Field Marshal Paulus who was captured after the fall of Stalingrad. The request was refused by Stalin. Although he grieved for his son he is quoted as saying 'I will not exchange a private for a Field Marshal'. Over two million Soviet prisoners of war were liberated by the Red Army. All were to suffer at the hands of Stalin who always maintained that Russia had no POWs, all were considered traitors to the Motherland for allowing themselves to be captured.
WILHELM KUBE, Gauleiter of Brandenburg, anti-Semite and deputy in the Prussian State Assembly, was removed from office in 1936 for suggesting that Frau Buch, Martin Borman's mother-in-law, was half Jewish. During the war he became District Commissioner in the Occupied Eastern Territories where, in 1943, he was murdered by his White Russian housekeeper, Yelena Mazanik, who had placed a bomb under his bed. Mazanik was a member of the Belorussian partisan movement. The reprisals were swift and horrific, whole villages being wiped out and around 1,000 males were rounded up and either shot or hanged.
STARVATION. Nearly three million people died of starvation in the Honan province of China during 1942 and 1943. Due to drought, the crops of 1942 failed. Another factor was the war with Japan and the uneasy alliance between the Chinese Nationalists and the Chinese Communist forces. Hungry peasants raided the homes of the wealthy seizing anything they could eat in an effort to stay alive.
CATASTROPHE. On March 3, 1943 near the Bethnal Green underground station in London, an army defence unit was using a new type of rocket launcher. The whining noise they made sounded like falling bombs. Hearing this, many families in the area rushed to the underground tube shelter for safety. A woman carrying a baby tripped and fell at the bottom of the stairs. The rushing crowd behind was unable to stop and fell in a heap on top of her and the baby, suffocating each other. In all, 178 persons died.
BOMBING ERROR. The bombing of the MINERVA car factory in Antwerp on April 15, 1943, turned out to be one of the major tragedies of WWII. The factory was converted to repair workshops for Luftwaffe planes and therefore on the priority list for attention by the US Eighth Air Force. The bombing run was poor, due to evasive action being taken to avoid German fighters. The bombs were released too late and fell on the residential part of Mortsel, a suburb of Antwerp, over a mile away from the target. In all, 936 civilians were killed including 209 schoolchildren. A total of 1,342 people were injured and 220 houses destroyed.
SABOTAGE ATTEMPT. On April 21, 1943, a Wellington bomber took off from Hendon enroute to Glasgow. On board was 6ft 4in General Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle. On the runway, the plane failed to respond to the elevator control. The pilot, Flt. Lt. Peter Loat, DFC, brought the plane to a halt. It was then found that the control rod had been burned through with acid. Another plane was selected and De Gaulle arrived safe in Glasgow. He returned to London by train and never flew in Britain again.
OPERATION 'MINCEMEAT' (April, 1943). One of the war's great deception schemes, launched to convince the German High Command that the Allied landings would take place on Sardinia and not on Sicily, the obvious choice. The body of an unknown man who had died recently was dressed in the uniform of a major of the Royal Marines and given the name of Major William Martin. A briefcase was attached to the body containing highly confidential documents that foretold future Allied war plans in the Mediterranean. Major Martin's body was transported from Loch Ewe in Scotland by the submarine HMS Seraph to a point just off the coast of Spain and there committed to the sea. It eventually washed ashore and into the hands of German intelligence agents. Within days the contents of the briefcase was being analyzed in Berlin. Winston Churchill, then in the United States, received the coded message 'Mincemeat Swallowed Whole'. The body of 'Major Martin' lies buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Huelua, Spain. Official files on Operation Mincemeat are not searchable until 2043 but in November 1995, some of the top secret files were released to reveal for the first time in 52 years, the true identity of 'Major Martin'. He was a Glyndwr Michael, born February 4, 1909, in Aberbargoed, a small mining village in Wales. He had committed suicide by taking rat poison containing phosphorus when sleeping rough in a disused London warehouse. (The real Major Martin, whose name and identity was used for the deception, moved to the USA after the war and settled in Virginia. He died there on December 10, 1988, his ashes scattered over the Gulf Stream so that eventually they would arrive in his country of birth, Scotland).
SAD LOSS. General Wladyslaw Sikorski (1881-1943), Poland's former Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, set up the Polish Provisional Government in London. When the Soviet Union was invaded he tried to persuade Stalin to release the thousands of Polish officers captured by the Soviets in 1939. (their bodies were later found at Katyn) Stalin remained silent on their fate and broke off all dealings with Sikorski. The Soviets then set up their own puppet government in Poland. Weeks later, General Sikorski and some of his staff, including his daughter, were killed when their plane, a Liberator, crashed seconds after take off from Gibralter, enroute to England, on July 4, 1943. The body of the General was laid to rest in the newly established Polish Cemetery at Newark, Nottinghamshire. The pilot, Flt. Lt. Edward Prchal of the Czechoslovakian Air Force, was the only survivor. The body of General Sikorski's daughter, Zofia, Chief of the Polish Women's Auxiliary, was never found. The remains of General Sikorski were returned to his beloved Poland in 1993. His cap and uniform, recovered from the sea at the site of the crash, is displayed in the Sikorski Museum, in the Polish Institute at 20, Princess Gate, Londo. ( Flt. Lt. Edward Prchal died in 1984 in Calistoga, California and his ashes interred in the Czechoslovak plot in the Brookwood Cemetery in England.
RUHR RAID (May 16, 1943). On this day in 1943, nineteen Lancaster's of RAF Squadron 617, bombed the Mohne, Eder, and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr. The main attack on Mohne was led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, his aircraft carrying the new 'bouncing bomb' invented by Dr. Barnes Wallis. The breach in the wall caused flooding which drowned 1,200 people, including 700 Russian prisoners of war whose camp was washed away in the flood. At the Eder Dam, 68 people were drowned. Eight aircraft crashed or were shot down. Seventy seven crew members died, fifty six survived. Thirty three decorations were awarded including the Victoria Cross to Guy Gibson.
GOMORRAH. The code name for the bombing of Hamburg during the ten days of July 24 to August 3, 1943. Around 3,000 British and American bombers dropped 9,000 tons of bombs on the city destroying some 277,330 dwellings. It produced a fire-storm, the first in history, in which the flames reached a height of three miles above the city. Temperatures in the center of the conflagration reached 1,400 degrees F (800 degrees C) and as the inferno sucked in more oxygen, winds reached an incredible 150 miles an hour. Thousands were caught in this heat, their bodies exploding in a ball of flame. After the war, the terrible toll was revealed, 30,482 people died but the most regrettable fact was that 5,586 children also died in the flames.(During the war around 63,000 men from Hamburg died while serving in the German armed forces).
DEPORTATION. On January 21, 1943, a train carrying 1,000 Jewish adults from a mental institution in Apeldoorn, departed Holland for the east. Also on the train were 74 boys and 24 girls from a nearby home for the physically handicapped. Fifty Jewish nurses accompanied the transport under a promise they would be returning to Holland after the delivery of their patients. The promise was never kept. Every single one on the train met their death at Auschwitz.
STALINGRAD. (February 2, 1943). The German Army, under the command of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, surrenders to the Soviet Union's superior forces.
147,200 German and Romanian soldiers were killed.
91,000 were taken prisoner, including 24 Generals and 2,500 officers.
(Only about 5,000 of these prisoners survived the war)
24,000 sick and wounded escaped by airlift.
1,000 crewmen and 488 transport planes were lost in the supply and evacuation.
After the surrender, Germany began a 3 day period of national mourning.
GENERAL HANS CRAMER. Last German Commander of the Afrika Korps, was captured in May 1943. Imprisoned in a POW camp in Wales, his deteriorating health caused him to be repatriated to Germany through the Swedish Red Cross. He was brought from Wales to the London Cage, the route taken brought him through the south and south-western England. He was allowed to see the massive build up of tanks, planes and ships getting ready for the D-Day invasion. What he didn't know was the exact area of England he was being driven through. He was told it was southern and eastern England and this is what he reported to his seniors in Berlin when he arrived there on May 23, 1944, adding emphasis to the Allied propaganda that the invasion would take place in the Calais area.
FORBIDDEN. On January 20, 1943, a young Polish farm worker from Ebersbach, near Wurttemberg, Germany, was hanged because of sexual relations he had with the farmers daughter. All slave workers from five kilometres around, were rounded up and brought in to witness the penalty for such a crime. About the same time, ten German women in Augsburg were jailed for terms of four to ten months for having sexual relations with French prisoners of war. In Duisburg, a twenty-two year old woman was sent to a concentration camp for the same crime, her twenty-six year old Polish friend was sent to the camp at Neuengamme and hanged on June 18, 1942. Between May and August, 1942, the Gestapo dealt with 4,960 cases of forbidden relations between Germans and foreign slave workers.
OPERATION 'GUNNERSIDE.' On the night of February 27/28, 1943, one of the most daring undercover operations of WW II took place in southern Norway. The destruction of the heavy water plant at the Norsk Hydro Electrisk factory at Vermork was given highest priority at headquarters of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The first attempt (Operation Freshman) ended in failure when two Halifax bombers, both towing gliders with thirty-four commandos on board, crashed in bad weather over Norway. Forty-five men lost their lives, some in the crash, the others were shot in cold blood after capture by German forces. Another attempt (Gunnerside) was made by SOE, this time by parachuting a commando force of volunteers, trained in Scotland, on to the frozen surface of one of the lakes on the 3,500 square mile Hardanger Plateau. A fourteen man Norwegian Army Commando group eventually reached Vermork and forced entry into the seven storey factory building through windows on the first floor and placed explosives near the eighteen electrolysis cells in the basement. Mission accomplished, the saboteurs retreated back the way they had come. At 1.15 am, the explosion did not destroy the building but about a ton of heavy water was released to pour down the drains. Two months production was lost. On 17th of April the plant started production again. It was now the turn of the US 8th Air Force when 140 bombers attacked the plant causing immense damage and killing twenty-two Norwegian and German workers. Production at the plant stopped for a second time. In February, 1944, the heavy water apparatus was then to be dismantled and transported to Germany by the railway ferry Hydro. This included 157 electrolysis tubes containing 607 kilos of heavy water packed into thirty-nine large drums. Members of the Gunnerside team, which had been hiding in the snow covered mountains throughout the past year, and with help from local partisans, placed explosives on board the ferry which was docked at Meal ready to sail next morning. At 10.30 the ferry blew up half way across Lake Tinnsjö. Fourteen Norwegian civilians and four Germans went down with the vessel. Twenty-seven persons were rescued. (Four drums of the heavy water were salvaged). The destruction of the most important military target in Europe was the cause of Hitler's failure in his most ambitious war project, the production of an atomic weapon.
TREASON? When the SS announced on March 3, 1943 that an SS Division was to be formed in Latvia to fight the Russians, around 32,000 Latvians volunteered. They formed the 'Waffen Grenadier Division der SS (No.1) During the winter offensive they fought bravely against the Soviets. Pulled out of the battle zone to avoid encirclement, they were sent back into Prussia. Gradually pushed westward by the advancing Red Army they eventually surrendered to the British. Not so lucky was the 2nd 'Waffen Grenadier Division der SS' formed soon after the first. It failed to escape to the west and was overtaken by the Red Army. As Latvia was annexed by the USSR, they were classed as Soviet citizens and therefore guilty of treason and being guilty of treason, they were all executed.
ASSASINATION ATTEMPT. On the 13th of March, 1943, General Henning von Tresckow and his ADC, Fabian von Schlabrendorf, placed a bomb on board Hitler's plane (after his visit to the Russian front). Disguised as two gift wrapped bottles of Cointreau liquor, they were intended as a gift for General Helmuth Stieff at Hitler's HQ. When news of Hitler's safe arrival reached the plotters, Schlabrendorf immediately flew to the HQ and retrieved the package and exchanged it for two genuine bottles. It was found that the detonator became defective in the high altitude cold air. From September 1938 to July 1944, there were seventeen assassination attempts plotted against the German Führer.
RESISTANCE IN GERMANY. The anti-Hitler movement inside Germany, which included German communists and Jehovah's Witnesses, was the largest indigenous resistance movement of any country during the whole war. Only in Germany was an attempt made to assassinate their leader. Around 800,000 were sent to prison at one time or another for active resistance to the regime. While the western allies did all in their power to help other resistance movements, ie in France and the Netherlands, they did nothing to help or encourage the movement in Germany which in all probability could have ended the war sooner. But the Allies were intent on unconditional surrender and refused to make any deals at all with Germans. Accordingly the Allies viewed all Germans as bad, not only Nazis.
PALM SUNDAY. Fifty one Luftwaffe tri-motor air-transport planes and sixteen escorting fighters, were shot down in a little over ten minutes by a group of seventy US and British fighters. The pilots were guided to their flight path by messages received from the German enigma codes (Ultra). The slow Junker 52 transports were on their way with supplies to the German Army in North Africa. This disaster became known as the Palm Sunday massacre. Seven Allied planes were also lost.
COINCIDENCE. On July 30, 1943, a Sunderland flying boat, U for Uncle, from the Australian 461 Squadron, spotted and attacked a German U-boat in the Bay of Biscay. The U-boat, commanded by Korvkpt. Wolf-Harro Stiebler, sank taking the lives of 53 of her crew. There were fifteen survivors. By a strange coincidence, the submarine was the U-461.
TRAITORS. About 25,000 Dutchmen were pro-nazi and fought for Germany. Around 10,000 of them were killed during the war and although many fought bravely on the Allied side, it is a sad fact that more went into battle wearing the field grey uniform of the enemy than in the British khaki.
DISASTER AT PORT MORESBY. In September, 1943, three battalions of US paratroops and some Australian gunners were dropped near Lae on the Huon Peninsula and secured the airfield at Nadzab. Back at Port Moresby, a US Liberator bomber crashed and exploded among troops of the Australian 7th Division waiting to be airlifted to Nadzab. This disaster took the lives of 59 soldiers and wounded 92.
BRITISH FREE CORPS. Also known as The Legion of St. George. The idea that British POWs be recruited to form an infantry SS unit was first put forward by the self-styled fascist, John Amery, son of a minister in Churchill's war cabinet. In 1943 the SS expressed interest in the idea and created the Legion of St. George. Despite promises of an easy life of luxury, only about thirty prisoners responded. Lieutenant William Shearer was the only officer to volunteer but was soon diagnosed as a schizophrenic and repatriated to England on medical grounds. The unit included three Canadians, three South Africans, three Australians and one New Zealander. Many changed their minds and were returned to their POW camps. By March, 1943, only six remained as part of the 11 SS Panzergrenadier Division 'Nordland'. After the war, John Emery was tried for treason and received the death penalty. The remaining members received periods of imprisonment.
TOP SECRET. Fifteen kilometres north-west of Frankfurt-am-Oder in the former East Germany, lie the remains of a massive underground factory built by the Ordnance Department of the German Wehrmacht in the late 1930s for the manufacture of the nerve gas Tabun. In 1943 the manufacture of a later generation of nerve gas, Sarin, was started and during its operational life about 25 tons of chlortifloride for the gas was produced. The five storied underground factory, which also produced the deadly V-weapons, was captured by the Red Army in February, 1945 as they advanced through the thickly wooded Falkenhagener Heide. In the 1970s, the Soviets converted the whole complex, installing steel doors one metre thick, for use as a command bunker in the event of a nuclear or biological war. (In 1946 and 47, the British military dumped around 40,000 tons of poison gasses, including Tabun, into the Baltic Sea. These gasses were discovered in Germany after the war).
THE BIGGEST LOSS to the US 8th Air Force was when 229 B17s and B24s raided the German ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt for the second time on October 14, 1943. A total of 60 planes were shot down or crashed on returning to base. A total of 599 airmen were killed and 40 wounded in the largest and most sustained air battle of the European war. The bomber crews claimed to have shot down 288 German aircraft. The actual figure, obtained after the war, was ... 27. In Schweinfurt, 276 civilians were killed.
THE BIGGEST LOSS for the Royal Air Force was on the Nuremberg raid of March 30, 1944, when, of the 795 aircraft taking part, 62 were shot down by German fighters, 14 shot down by flak, 2 were lost in collisions and 16 listed as missing. Of the total aircraft lost, 64 were Lancasters and 30 were Halifaxes. In the city itself, 74 people were killed and 122 injured. Of the RAF crew members, 545 were lost.
DEATH BEFORE DISHONOUR (November 10, 1943). A macabre incident involving the American destroyer USS Spence occurred just south of Bougainville. The crew spotted a raft with four live Japanese on board. As the Spence drew along side to attempt a rescue, the Japanese opened fire with a machine-gun. Rather than face the shame of surrender the Japanese officer in charge of the raft then put his pistol in each man's mouth and blew out the back of each man's skull. He then turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger. All four bodies fell into the water to be devoured by sharks. The Japanese Bushido creed dictated that surrender was shameful and instilled in the soldier that self-destruction was preferable to capitulation.
DEATH RAILWAY. By the end of 1943, the 15,000 Australians imprisoned in Changi had left for slave labour on the Burma-Siam Railway. The first group, 'A' Force, consisting of some 3,000 men, boarded the Japanese hell-ships Tohohashi Maru and Celebes Maru. Packed like sardines they could neither stand nor lie. Soon most were suffering from diarrhea and the smell and conditions can only be imagined. The prisoners were unloaded at Margui and Tavoy in Burma. Ahead lay a 35 km walk to the base camp at Thanbyuzayat many prisoners dying on the way. Within weeks around 61,000 Allied prisoners, Dutch, British, Australian and Americans (700 from the USS Houston) were scattered in camps throughout Burma and Siam (Thailand) near the 265 mile long railway they were about to construct. It was completed in October, 1943, after 14 murderous months. For every mile of track, 393 men died. Also in the workforce were around 200,000 Asian labourers. Work on the railway took its toll, estimates putting the Asian death toll as high as 80,000. The Allied death toll was nearly 13,000. Today, three beautifully laid out cemeteries lie along the route of the railway line. At Kanchanaburi lie the remains of 6,982 POWs including 1,362 Australians. At Thanbyuzayat there are 3,771 graves and at Chungkai 1,329 graves. The names of those with no known grave are commemorated on memorials in Rangoon, Hong Kong and Singapore.
PUBLIC EXECUTION ( December 19, 1943). Three German Gestapo officers and a Russian accomplice, were hanged in the market square of KHARKOV in the USSR. Captain Wilhelm Langheld, Hans Ritz, Reinhardt Retelav and Mikhail Bulanov were found guilty of war crimes by a Russian Military Court. A crowd of around 40,000 watched as lorries on which they stood were driven away, leaving them hanging from the scaffold. The Nazis themselves often used this method for executions in the Soviet Union as in the case of Kieper and Kogan, two members of the Russian Regional Court who were hanged on August 17, 1941, at Zhitomir. Forced to watch the hangings, 400 Jews were rounded up in the city. After the executions, the Jews were taken outside the town and shot into a pit ten to fifteen metres wide and four metres deep.
THE LONDON CAGE. The name given to the headquarters of the War Crimes Investigation Unit and the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Center located in a mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A. P. Scotland, all high ranking German prisoners were interrogated here after their capture.
GRATEFUL. After the Italian armistice on September 3, 1943, around 100,000 Italians volunteered to help the Allied cause. After a slow transition period, from being a defeated enemy to being a willing ally, some 150 Italians actually enlisted in the US Army landing force at Anzio as ammunition carriers and interpreters. On April 18, the Italian Liberation Corps was formed. Consisting of 25,000 men, the Corps occupied such important towns as Chieti, L'Aquila, Teramo and Ascoli Piceno . The eastern side of the Italian Peninsula, including cities such as Bologna and Venice , were freed by Italian troops under Allied command. About 600,000 disbanded Italian soldiers from the German occupied north of Italy were crammed into cattle cars and transported to Germany for forced slave labour. In 1944, the Italian Co-belligerant Air Force was formed and equipped with US and British built planes. Its primary function was to support the Italian troops fighting in Greece and Yugoslavia and to attack German ships sailing in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. By April, 1945, around one million Italian soldiers, sailors, airmen and partisans were taking a direct role in the Allied war effort. Around 480,000 Italians died from all causes during the war.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT. By the middle of 1943 approximately 90,000 British and Allied soldiers were incarcerated in POW camps throughout Italy. When the Allies invaded the south of Italy, members of the Italian underground took this opportunity to arrest the fascist dictator, Mussolini (whom Italy's King Victor Emmanuel had dismissed on July 25, 1943) whom they found living at the Hotel Albergo-Rifugio on the Gran Sasso mountain. A new government, headed by Marshall Badoglio was formed and immediately sued for peace with the Allies. In POW camps all over Italy cries of 'finito, finito, viva Badoglio' could be heard loud and clear. Prisoners now prepared to await their imminent release. On September 12, SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny and his soldiers rescued Mussolini from his mountain retreat and by the end of the month had re-established his authority in Northern Italy. Allied authorities ordered all prisoners to 'stay put' for the time being. A few days later the POWs awoke to find German soldiers everywhere. Marched to various train stations they were soon on their way to Germany to undergo a further eighteen months, in some cases, under appalling conditions, in POW camps and in concentration camps in Germany and Poland. There can be few examples of utter disappointment on such a massive scale as that of the Allied POWs in Italy.
ITALIAN POWs. The Italian soldiers transported to Germany after the armistice, were treated abominably and had to survive on starvation rations. Hundreds died of hunger and overwork, tuberculosis and pneumonia. Their living quarters were primitive, 250 men in barracks designed for 100. Those still loyal to the Fascist government of Mussolini were treated far better in the camps. The worst cases of TB were sent back to Italy but when the Italian mothers saw their sons, living skeletons and dying, their hatred for the Germans knew no bounds. Back in the internment camps volunteers were asked for to form an SS Division and thousands volunteered encouraged by the promise of better food and clothing. When the Italian SS Division finished its training it was sent to Italy to try and stem the Allied advance. Once in Italy, the volunteer soldiers deserted in their thousands and joined the partisans.
THE JEWS OF ITALY. At 5.30 am on October 16, 1943, a forty-four man SS unit under the command of SS Captain Theodor Dannecker, rounded up 1,259 Jews in Rome. Many of these were baptized Christians and following a protest from Pope Pius X11 some 218 were released. The other 1,041 were put on a train to Auschwitz and at war's end only fifteen survived to return home to the Holy City. To protect other Jews from the same fate, the Vatican opened its doors and gave shelter to 477 men, women and children. Another 4,238 were sheltered in over 100 monasteries, convents and private homes in and around Rome. In the whole of Italy some 32,000 Italian Jews and about 12,500 foreign Jews lived in fear of their lives. Before the Italian surrender a total of 8,369 of these had been arrested and deported. Only 979 survived the death camps. The majority of Jews who survived in Italy were saved by the Italian people themselves who risked their own lives in helping them hide or flee across the border into Switzerland.
MUTINY AT SALERNO. On September 20, 1943, one of the saddest episodes in British military history took place: a mutiny by some 300 replacement troops from the 51st Highland Division and the 50th Northunbrian Division. These veterans of the North African campaign had been convalescing in a hospital in Tripoli while their parent Divisions were returned to the UK. Sent to Salerno as replacements they believed that their officers had broken a promise to them that they would be sent to Britain to rejoin their own regiments. Disembarking at Salerno they sat down on the beach and three times refused to report to their assigned units. The Corps Commander, General Richard McCreery, addressed the men and some agreed to join their assigned units but 192 men still persisted on disobeying. They were put under arrest and sent back to Constantine where they were court martialled. The three leaders of the mutiny, all sergeants, were sentenced to death, the others to jail sentences ranging from 7 to 10 years. In the Official British History of 1943, the Salerno Mutiny is not even mentioned but is reported in Hugh Bonds' book 'Salerno' published in 1961.
THE BARI DISASTER. The port of Bari, on Italy's east coast, suffered the most devastating air raid of the war since Pearl Harbor. On December 2nd, 1943, scores of German JU-88s blasted the harbour to smithereens and in the process sank seventeen ships and damaged six others. About thirty ships were in the harbour waiting to unload war supplies. One American ship, the USS John Harvey, whose cargo included 2,000 M47-A1 mustard gas bombs (intended for retaliatory use in case the enemy started using it) exploded, killing all 74 persons on board. A total of 628 military personnel were hospitalized in the 98th British General Hospital and the 3rd New Zealand Hospital. Within a month, sixty-nine patients had died from the effects of the gas. In the town of Bari (pop.200,000) hundreds of civilians became casualties but the number of deaths is not known. The harbour was closed for a full three weeks after the bombing.
CASUALTIES. Air raid victims for the first three months of 1943 were 973 killed and 1,191 injured. For April, May, June and July, 1,237 killed and 1,607 injured. The next five months, till the end of December, 1943, casualties were 247 killed and 561 injured. The month of September saw the lowest casualty list since the bombing began, only 5 killed and 11 injured.
BLUNDER. On the 15th of February, 1944, US bombers dropped 427 tons of bombs on the mountain top monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy. The Allied ground forces had requested the strike believing the monastery to be a German stronghold. No enemy troops were there at the time but over 300 women and children from the town of Cassino, who had fled the fighting and taken refuge in the monastery, were killed.
HUNGARY. After Hitler's armies occupied Hungary on March 27, 1944, (Operation Margarethe) its government actively supported the Nazis in the deportation of its Jews. Up till 1944, the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Horthy, had steadfastly refused Hitler's offer to resettle the Hungarian Jews. But after the occupation, and after Eichmann and his SS units moved in, the deportations began on May 15, 1944, the first train reaching Auschwitz on the 17th. The pro-German Government co-operated by ordering its policemen to escort their deportees to Auschwitz. When their uniforms were seen by the Hungarian prisoners already in the camp, scenes of 'unbelievable jubilation were witnessed as the prisoners ran to the wire cheering and sobbing' in the belief that their policemen had come to rescue them. Around 365,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to their deaths after the occupation of their country. The majority of women and children were murdered within hours of their arrival. Fit and healthy men were spared for a while for slave labour. Over 300,000 were still in Hungary awaiting their doom. This included just over 70,000 in the Budapest ghetto. (Fortunately all these survived the war) French Vichy police also collaborated in the rounding up of Jews. Starting on August 27, 1942, they arrested 9,872 Jews in Vichy controlled Lyon and transported them to Drancy, near Paris, prior to deportation to Auschwitz. (Between 1933 and 1938 a total of 453,721 Jewish refugees from Europe were settled in 27 different countries. The Jewish population of Europe in 1939 was 7,870,700).
BIG MISTAKE. On a bombing raid on German military installations near the German/Swiss border on April 1st, 1944, a force of 23 B-24 bombers from the USAF 392nd Bombardment Group, on its 59th mission, inadvertently entered Swiss air-space and owing to a navigational error mistakenly bombed the Swiss town of SCHAFFHAUSEN. Fifty Swiss civilians were killed. The real target was to have been the chemical works at Ludwigshafen, 120 miles away. In 1949, the US agreed to pay $64 million in compensation. This was an attempt to secure Switzerland as an ally in the 'Cold War'. The greedy Swiss demanded that interest be paid on the $64 million, claiming that the damaged property had not been able to earn any money since the bombing. This demand was rejected. The British Royal Air Force also flouted Swiss neutrality a couple of times and attempted to bomb a ball-bearing factory in Basel suspected of producing ball bearings for the German Army but both times the bombs missed the target. During the war a total of 167 American bombers and 12 British bombers made emergency-landings in Switzerland. Severely damaged in combat over Germany and unable to return to their bases in England their only alternative was to head for neutral Switzerland. In one day, on March 18, 1944, no less than eleven American bombers made emergency landings at the Dubendorf airfield. The crews were interned by the Swiss authorities in camps at Adelboden, Grippen, Les Diablerets and in the notorious punishment camp at Wauwilermoos (for escapees). They were supposed to be treated like POWs under the rules of war but in many cases living conditions were little better than German concentration camps. In all, around 1,500 American servicemen were interned in neutral Switzerland.
NIGHT PHOTO. The highest night photograph of the war was taken on April 18, 1944, over Osnabruck. The RAF Mosquito crew used a target indicator flash and took the picture from 36, 000 feet.
OPERATION 'TIGER' (APRIL 23-30, 1944). In preparation for the D-Day landings on Utah beach, the US Forces were conducting a series of exercises on a stretch of beach called Slapton Sands, near Plymouth. In an area comprising around 30,000 acres a total of 3,000 people (750 families) 180 farms with livestock were evacuated. This enormous task had to be completed in six weeks. During the actual exercise, while maneuvering for position in Lyme Bay on the night of April 27th the landing ships were attacked by nine German motor torpedo boats, E-boats, from Cherbourg in France. Two of the landing craft, LST 507 and LST 531 were sunk and others damaged. On board the two landing ships the casualties were severe, 638 men killed (197 sailors and 441 soldiers) and hundreds injured. This was more than ten times greater than the casualties sustained in the real assault on Utah Beach on June 6 (43 Americans killed, 63 wounded). Altogether, including casualties from other ships and those killed by friendly fire on shore, a total of 946 Americans gave their lives during Operation Tiger. News of this disaster was kept a closely guarded secret for many months. For the full tragic story go to http://members.lycos.co.uk/worldwartwo/slapton.html.
CARELESS TALK. In spite of all precautions taken to protect the secrets of D-day, some officers still engaged in 'Careless Talk'. One such case was that of US Major General Henry Miller, chief supply officer of the US 9th Air Force, who, during a cocktail party at London's elegant Claridges Hotel, talked freely about the difficulties he was having in obtaining supplies. He added that things would ease after D-day declaring that would be before June 15. When Eisenhower learned of this discretion he ordered that Miller be reduced to the rank of colonel and sent back to the US where shortly after, he retired from the service.
MILLION TO ONE. Around midnight on June 5, 1944, Private C. Hillman, of Manchester, Connecticut, serving with the US 101st Airborne Division, was winging his way to Normandy in a C-47 transport. Just before the jump, Pte. Hillman carried out a final inspection of his parachute. He was surprised to see that the chute had been packed by the Pioneer Parachute Company of Connecticut where his mother worked part time as an inspector. He was further surprised when he saw on the inspection tag, the initials of his own mother!
D-DAY. D stands for Day, H for Hour. This expression was first used on September 20, 1918, during World War I. The US First Army issued Field Order No 8 which read, "The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient". After the landings on June 6, 1944, many believed that the D stood for 'Deliverance'.
NAPALM. This was first used on July 17, 1944, when US P-38s attacked a fuel depot at Coutances, near St.Lo, France. The next use of napalm was in the Pacific when US forces invaded the island of Tinian in the Marianas. It was also used in the bombing of Tokyo. This jellied fuel became the standard fuel explosive used widely during the Vietnam War.
GOERING'S VERMEER. In 1944, Hermann Goering paid £165,000 for the painting "Woman Taken in Adultery" by the Dutch artist Vermeer. It was later proved to be a forgery by Hans Van Meegeren. In 1945, Van Meegeren was arrested by Dutch authorities and sentenced to one year in jail. He died just nineteen days after his jail sentence began. Today, Goering's Vermeer is stored in the cellars of a Dutch Art Gallery.
FIRST CASUALTY. Lt. Den Brotheridge of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment, British 6th Airborne Division, became the first Allied soldier to be killed in the invasion of Europe (D-Day, June 6, 1944). While he led his platoon of twenty one men on the attack on the Orne Canal bridge at Benouville, he was hit in the neck by a bullet fired from the guns of the German sentries defending the bridge. Seconds before, a burst of fire from Brotheridge's Sten-gun killed one of the sentries, seventeen year old Private Helmut Romer, who became the first German to die in the defence of Hitler's 'Fortress Europe'. Meanwhile, over the town of St-Mare-Eglise, twenty eight year old Lt Robert Mason Mathias of the 508th. Parachute regiment, US 82nd Airborne Division, was preparing to jump from his C-47 Dakota, when he was wounded by a shell burst. In spite of the wounds in his chest he commanded his men to 'Follow me' and hurled himself from the aircraft. Some time later, his men found his dead body, still strapped in his chute. Lt. Mathias was the first American soldier killed on D-day.
CASUALTY RATE. The 957 men of the US 82nd Airborne Division suffered a 16% casualty rate on landing among the Normandy hedgerows. Twenty five men were killed, fourteen missing and 118 wounded. Everything depended on a quick dispersal after landing and to get to the nearest cover. The delay caused by the difficulty of getting out of their chute harness proved fatal to many. In later drops, the buckles were dispensed with and the British quick-release mechanism was adopted.
JOKE OF THE DAY. The failure of the German Luftwaffe to appear over the D-day beaches caused the Wehrmacht soldiers to quip "If the plane in the sky is silver, its American, if its blue, its British, if its invisible, its ours!"
DEATH SENTENCE. The first Allied soldier to be hanged after D-Day was Private Clarence Whitfield, a black US soldier of the 494th Port Battalion. He was convicted of the brutal rape of Aniela Skrzyniarz, a Polish farm girl working on a farm at Vierville Sur Mer, just behind Omaha Beach, on June 14, 1944. On August 14, Private Whitfield was hanged on a gallows that was erected in the garden of the Chateau at Canisy, five kilometres south of St. Lo.
MASS SUICIDE. On July 8, 1944, American troops were stunned by the discovery of some 8,000 Japanese troops and civilians who had committed mass suicide in the final battle during the invasion of the island of Saipan in the Pacific. Pushed back into Marpi Point at the northern tip of the island, they were told by the Japanese commander, Lt. General Saito, that they would be tortured and killed by the Americans. Hundreds of women then threw their children over the cliffs before jumping themselves. Thousands of bodies were found floating in the pounding surf, and thousands more piled up on the jagged rocks. Lt. General Saito committed ritual suicide (hara-kiri) his body was then burned by his aides. His ashes, when found by the Americans, were given a military funeral.
BATTLE CASUALTIES. Allied losses in Italy amounted to 31,886 killed, 19,471 of them were Americans. US losses for Italy and Sicily combined were 36,169 dead.
FREE FROM COMMUNISM. As Hitler's armies advanced on Stalingrad they overran the Cossack regions of the Don, Terek and Kuban. Hundreds of thousands of Russians willingly enrolled in the German army to form a Cossack Army under the Russian General Krasnoff. Hitler promised that they would be settled in "lands and everything necessary for their livelihood in Western Europe". Their new homeland was to be in north-east Italy in the valley of Carnia and the plain of Undine where they would live their national life free from the confines of Bolshevism. Italian families in the area were ejected from their homes which were then used to house the Cossack soldiers and their families who had arrived in fifty trains during July and August 1944. To the Cossacks this was paradise far removed from their dreary life in the Ukraine. Hitler had named this new independent state 'Kosakenland'. Many atrocities were committed by these Russians against the Italian civilians, particularly the women, causing one Archbishop to write to Mussolini "It is terrible to think that Friuli will be governed by these illiterate savages". Discipline was soon restored when General Krasnoff himself arrived. Cossack officers were under no delusions, they knew they were there to shed blood for the Nazi cause. With the Allied armies approaching from the south and Tito's 1X Yugoslav Corps approaching from the east, the 'Free Republic of Carnia' soon disintegrated and the Cossacks and their followers forced to trundle north towards Austria and internment by the British.
OCTOBER 4, 1944. The US War Department discloses that a total of 11,000 men of the US Airforce have been killed in 5,600 fatal air accidents since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
FLYING BOMBS. The V1 rocket attack on Britain started on the night of 13/14 June, 1944 and ended on March 29, 1945. A total of 10,500 missiles were launched and 3,957 were destroyed by defences, 3,531 reached England and 2,353 fell on London. The death toll from these missiles was 6,184 killed in Britain and 17,981 persons were seriously injured. The V2 attack saw a total of 1,115 rockets arrive over England. 517 fell on London, killing 2,754 people, 6,523 were injured. The V2 attack lasted seven months. The first V2 rocket to land in England destroyed the home of Mr and Mrs Clarke at No 1, Staveley Road, London. On November 25th, 164 people were killed when another V2 rocket hit the Woolworth's store in South London. In charge of the entire missile project was Dr Hans Kammler (promoted to SS Major General). On September 8, 1944, at 6.48 pm, the first of Kammler's V2s exploded on London. In the closing days of the war, a search for Dr Kammler was launched but he was never found. To this day, he remains perhaps, the only German general to have disappeared without trace.
ANTWERP. The city to suffer most from Hitler's vengeance weapons, the V1s and V2s was the Belgian port of Antwerp. After four years of German occupation the city was now to suffer the agonies that London had endured, only this time much worse. The first V2 rocket struck the city at 9.45am on Friday. October 13, 1944, killing 32 people. On October 28, a V1 killed 71 persons and destroyed forty homes. On November 27, a V2 impacted on Teniers Square as an Allied military convoy was passing through. The explosion killed 157 persons including 29 Allied soldiers. The worst disaster of all was on December 12, 1944, when a V2 rocket hit the REX cinema in Antwerp killing 492 people, mostly British troops. Another 500 were injured. Over a period of 175 days and nights a total of 106 V1s and 107 V2s hit the city killing 3,752 civilians and 731 Allied soldiers. Some 3,613 properties were destroyed.
COINCIDENCE. On July 20, 1944, a flight of Heinkel 177s, commanded by Obstlt. Horst von Riesen , was circling the Masury Lakes near Hitler's HQ in East Prussia, when the engine of one plane caught fire. An order to jettison the bomb load was given. By pure coincidence the bombs exploded at exactly the same time as Stauffenberg's bomb went off in the Führers conference room. On landing, Von Riesen was arrested and faced a court martial but was released some hours later when the bomb plot was confirmed.
LOSSES. During the eleven month campaign, from Normandy to the Baltic, Scotland's 51st Highland Division's battalion the Gay Gordons had suffered 986 casualties among its ranks. On top of this, seventy five officers had been killed or wounded. This amounts to almost a complete turn round of the famous battalion.
COWRA BREAKOUT. (Aug. 5, 1944) The greatest prison break in history took place from the Prisoner of War camp at Cowra in New South Wales, Australia. The compound contained Japanese and Italian POWs. On the night of 4/5th August, 1,104 Japanese prisoners broke out, believing that dying while attempting to escape would wipe out the shame of capture. In the wholesale indiscriminate shooting that took place during the breakout, 231 Japanese prisoners were killed and 107 wounded. Only four Australian soldiers were killed and four wounded. 18 of the 20 odd huts were set on fire in which 20 prisoners had already committed suicide. In all, 334 Japanese escaped from the camp and in the hunt that followed, 25 died by shooting and suicide. Fearing reprisals against Australian POWs in Japanese prison camps, the whole incident was kept top secret for over six years. The Japanese Cemetery at Cowra contains the graves of 522 Japanese nationals who died in Australia during World War II. A similar incident happened at the Japanese POW camp at Featherstone, New Zealand, when during a stand off between prisoners and guards the prisoners rushed the guards, who opened fire with machine guns killing 48 Japanese and wounding 74 more.
TUNNEL TRAGEDY. A freight train carrying hundreds of civilians, who had jumped on board because no other transport was available, stalled in a tunnel near Salerno, Italy, on December18, 1944. Toxic fumes from the engine filled the tunnel and within a short time a total of 426 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
AIR CRASH. A US 8th Army Airforce bomber crashes into a school in Freckelton, Lancashire, on August 23, 1944, killing 51 children. Twenty five others, including teachers, civilians and the bomber crew, also died.
EXPLOSION. On November 27, 1944, the large underground gypsum mines at RAF Station Fauld in Staffordshire, was being used as storage for three and a half thousand tons of high explosive bombs. Within were 22 miles of railway track. At 11.10am on the morning of Nov. 27, the bombs exploded en masse claiming 70 lives, including 7 Italian POWs who were brought in to help, and injuring another 22. It left a crater 80 feet deep and covered an area of twelve acres on which lay 200 dead cattle. An official explanation has never been issued as to the cause of this, the greatest explosion ever in the United Kingdom. A memorial, erected in 1990 lists the names of all seventy dead, and states that eighteen of the bodies were never recovered.
NO TRACE. On December 15, 1944, an American Dodge staff car, driven by Staff Sergeant Edward McCulloch of Oceanside, California, entered the small grass airfield at RAF Twinwood Farm near London and deposited his two passengers near a waiting plane piloted by a 25-mission pilot, Flight Officer Johnny Morgan. His passengers were a Lieutenant Colonel Norman Baessell (General Goodrich's Executive Officer) 2nd Lieutenant Don Haynes, the bands executive officer (there only to see the plane off) and the American band leader, Glenn Miller. At 13.55 PM, the small C-64 Norseman plane with its three occupants took off on a flight to Paris. Nothing was ever heard of the plane again. On the same day, a force of 138 RAF Lancaster bombers was returning from an aborted raid on Siege (east of Cologne). Carrying a full bomb load, the Lancaster was a difficult plane to land, and in such circumstances all bombers had to jettison their load over the Channel in an area designated as the 'Southern Jettison Area'. While jettisoning their bomb loads, the crew of a Lancaster from 149 Squadron saw a small plane crash into the sea below them. 42 years later, when the Lancaster crew were contacted in New Zealand, they swore that the plane they had seen was a Norseman. The mystery remains to this day. Did the Norseman stray off course into the prohibited area only to be downed by bombs falling from the Lancasters above? The chances of finding the plane on the bed of the Channel are a million to one against. Glenn Miller gave his last concert at the Queensbury All Services Club in Soho, London, on December 12, 1944. Today, the control tower at Twinwood Farm has been completely refurbished and dedicated to Major Glen Miller and the American Band of the AEF. For full details of the Glen Miller Band during their six months stay in Britain, see Chris Way's book "Glen Miller in Britain Then and Now".
D-DAY LANDINGS (June 6, 1944)
Utah Beach - 23,250 troops were landed.
Omaha Beach - 34,250 troops were landed.
Gold Beach - 24,970 troops were landed.
Sword Beach - 28,845 troops were landed.
By the 12th of June, 326,000 troops were on the beaches, plus 54,000 vechicles. By the 2nd July, another 929,000 men and 177,000 vehicles were put ashore. The ship armada at Normandy totaled 6,939 vessels of all kinds. In the 10 days after D-day (June 6 to June 16) a total of 5,287 Allied soldiers were killed. From D-Day till the end of the war, British casualties were 30,280 dead and 96,670 wounded.
The German surrender was signed 337 days after the D-Day landings.
BRITISH CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN 1944. In the first four months 1,493 persons were killed and 2,871 injured in air raids. In April, for the first time in four years, there were no casualties reported. In June, Hitler's V1 flying bombs killed 1,935 persons and wounded 5,906. In July the V2 rockets killed 2,441 and injured 7,107. In the next five months, casualties amounted to 1,548 deaths and 6,055 wounded.
BERGEN-BELSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP. On April 15, 1945, the camp was liberated by British troops. Scattered around the grounds were around 10,000 decaying corpses which the troops had to bury using bulldozers. Some of the survivors who had been transferred to Belsen from Auschwitz, stated that living conditions here were far superior to those in Auschwitz. But this was soon to change as trains bringing thousands of inmates from camps in the east began to arrive in Belsen. Conditions became catastrophic during the final months of the war as transports bringing food supplies to the camp were increasingly being destroyed on the roads and railways by Allied bombers. Gross overcrowding, inadequate supplies of food, water and medicines and an uncontrollable outbreak of typhus caused the deaths of about 37,000 inmates up to the day of liberation. In the few weeks after the British takeover another 13,000 died in spite of all the care taken to preserve life. But in striking contrast to the distorted press coverage at the time the Belsen Concentration Camp was not an extermination facility. There was no deliberate intention by the Germans to starve the prisoners to death at Belsen (officially designated as a convalescence camp). No gas chambers were discovered and the crematorium consisted of only one furnace in which to cremate the dead. The Camp's Commandant, Josef Kramer, along with his chief physician Dr Fritz Cline, quarantined the camp and did everything in their power to prevent the catastrophe, even appealing to higher authority for more transport to fetch vegetables and other foodstuffs from the countryside. In spite of their efforts both Kramer and Cline were executed after being found guilty at the Belsen War Crimes Trial. (In June, 1945, the whole camp had to be burned down).
Crematory Oven At Belsen Entrance at Belsen Today
FIRST HELICOPTER RESCUE. In April, 1945, Captain James Green of the US Army Air Force, became the first person in history to be rescued by a helicopter. While searching for a downed transport plane in the Naga Hills in Burma, the light plane which he was flying, ran out of fuel and crashed in the jungle. A week later a search team reached the crash site to find Green barely alive. Badly injured, he could not be carried out. Back at the airfield at Shinbwiyang a small Sikorsky helicopter was available and the pilot, Lieutenant R. Murdock, decided to attempt a rescue. Barley clearing the mountains, the helicopter managed to land and airlifted Captain Green to safety. It was not until the Korean war that the helicopter fully came into its own.
LIGHT UP. On May 28th, 1945, all British and American ships on the Atlantic and Indian oceans were now allowed to show their full navigation lights and need no longer darken ship. Convoys were abolished. These conditions did not apply to the Pacific theatre.
KAMIKAZES. By the end of the Pacific war on September 2, 1945, a grand total of 1,228 Japanese suicide pilots had given their lives for their Emperor. Their score was 34 US ships sunk and 288 damaged. These included three escort carriers and fourteen destroyers. No battleships or cruisers were sunk.
ANTI-RED. On the 27th of March, 1945, sixteen prominent anti-communist Poles were invited to a conference with Russian officials to discus political matters. All were arrested on arrival, sent to Moscow and imprisoned. Thus, the mighty Soviet Union eliminated the last vestige of anti-communist leadership in Poland.
CASUALTIES. In the first four months of 1945, 1,275 persons were killed and 2,578 injured from V1 and V2 attacks on Britain. On the 27th of March the last V2 rocket fell on London killing 127 people and wounding 423.
TOKYO RAID. The most destructive air raid of the war was against Japan's capital city, Tokyo. During the night of March 9/10, 1945, 1,665 tons of napalm-filled bombs was dropped on the city from 279 US B-29 bombers. The death toll was greater than that at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the official count being 83,793 Japanese killed. Another 41, 000 were severely injured or burned. The Allied air attacks on Tokyo destroyed 15.8 square miles of the city.
WAFFEN SS. At the beginning of 1945, the feared Waffen SS consisted mostly of non-Germans. Attracted to the ideology of these elite units were around 72,000 Dutch and Belgians, and 20,000 Frenchmen. Other nationalities who opted to join were 6,300 Norwegian and Swedish, 800 Swiss and 6,000 Danish. By far, the largest numbers of recruits were from the Ukraine. About 100,000 of them had volunteered while prisoners of war. Another large number of volunteers were from the Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
INCIDENTS OF FRIENDLY FIRE
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Disaster Off Norway). Only a week after the war broke out, the British submarine Oxley was patrolling off the coast of Norway along with her sister ship Triton. Somehow the Oxley had sailed into the sector patrolled by Triton. The Commander of the Triton, Lt. Cdmr. Steel, sighted an unidentified submarine on the surface and when challenged received no reply. Assuming the other submarine to be hostile, he ordered two torpedoes to be fired. The unidentified submarine disappeared, leaving three survivors swimming towards the Triton but one of the swimmers was seen to sink below the water and disappear. One can only imagine the shock the Triton's crew experienced when they pulled the Oxley's Commander, Lt. Cdmr. Bowerman and one other survivor, Able Seaman Gluckes, out of the water. They happened to be standing on the bridge when the torpedo hit. Fifty-three of Oxley's crew perished. Apparently the Oxley's signal answering apparatus had malfunctioned and failed to answer in time. Families were notified that the Oxley was accidentally rammed by the Triton and it was not until the 1950s that they were informed that the loss was due to friendly fire. The Oxley was the first submarine to be lost in the war.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Greenock, Scotland). On April 28, 1940, the 2,400 ton French destroyer Maillé Brézé, became a victim of its own weaponry when one of its own torpedoes accidentally fired and slithered along the main deck exploding under the bridge structure and completely wrecking the forepart of the ship. The British destroyer HMS Firedrake, rushed to the scene and rescued fifteen men who had slid down the hawse pipe. Other mangled bodies were recovered but those on the mess deck were doomed as the ship slowly sank taking with her 38 of her crew still trapped below.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Pearl Harbor). After the attack on Pearl Harbor, US army personnel started digging trenches along the beaches in anticipation of a seaborne invasion. Every fifty feet or so along the beach, a gun crew with 30 caliber machine guns took up their positions. At around 8pm on December 7th, seven planes were seen trying to land on an airstrip on Ford Island. Misjudging the length of the runway the pilots decided to go around again for a second try. As the planes came around again the gunners, thinking they were Japanese, opened fire and shot down all seven. The planes were their own aircraft from the US carrier Enterprise out at sea.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (D Day-June 6, 1944). At sunset on D-Day, forty DC3s from 233 Squadron RAF, crossed the English Channel carrying 116 tons of ammunition, spares and petrol for the 6th Airborne Division. As the planes passed over the warships off the mouth of the Orne river, trigger happy gunners on the ships opened fire. Two planes were forced to turn back with severe damage, one ditched in the sea and five went missing believed shot down. Fourteen others were damaged. The end result was that only twenty-five tons of supplies were recovered. In future, all operations of this nature were carried out only during daylight hours.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Sicily). On July 11, 1943, on the American held airfield at Farello, three miles east of Gela in Sicily, preparations were under way for the reception of reinforcements from Colonel Reuben H. Tucker's 504th Parachute Regiment. As the C-47 transports approached the bridgehead and headed for the drop zone, an American machine-gun down below fired a stream of tracers upward at the C-47s. A second machine-gun opened up followed by another and still another. Directly into this storm of 'friendly fire' flew the C-47s. As plane after plane was hit, the paratroopers jumped only to be shot in mid-air or just before they landed. The trigger happy machine-gunners, thinking they were German paratroops, kept up their deadly fire while General George Patton and General Matthew Ridgeway, the 82nd Airborne commander, awaiting to greet the paratroopers, could only look on with shocked disbelief as the tragedy unfolded before their eyes. Altogether, twenty three of the original 144 troop carrying planes were shot down and thirty-seven others badly damaged. Ninety-seven men were killed and around 400 were wounded in this, the greatest tragedy to befall the US invasion forces. A total of 2,440 US soldiers died in the battle for Sicily and are now buried in the American Cemetery on the Gulf of Salerno. The battle for Sicily (Operation Husky) involved a total of 467,000 men. The Allied forces lost 5,532 men killed and 2,869 missing. German dead amounted to 4,325 and the Italian dead, 4,278.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Solomon Islands). When out on a pre-dawn patrol on April 29, 1944, off the island of New Britain in the Solomons, the Patrol Boat P-347, commanded by Lt. Robert J. Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, runs up onto a reef in Lassul Bay. Patrol Boat P-350 attempts to tow the P-347 off the reef but while doing so both boats were strafed by US Corsairs whose pilots mistook them for enemy gun boats. Soon, another Patrol Boat, P-346 appeared on the scene to assist in the tow but more planes made their appearance and began their strafing run in spite of the crew of the 346 waving the Stars and Stripes. The Patrol Boats opened fire and shot down two of the planes. One bomb made a direct hit on the P-347 just after the crew had abandoned ship. The planes continued strafing the men in the water before heading back to base. On the boats involved in this tragic incident, fourteen men were killed, another fourteen wounded and two pilots lost.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Anzio). On May 26, 1944, the beachhead at Anzio/Nettuno ceased to exist. It had now become a bridgehead. British and American troops had broken out and were pushing forward to cut the retreat of Kesselring's forces on Route 6, the main highway leading to Rome. A few minutes after noon on the 26th on the outskirts of Cori, a squadron of five American P-40 fighter/bombers of the 99th Fighter Group, US 12th Air Force, flew over the Anzio/Nettuno area, turned back and prepared for a strafing run. Soldiers of the US 15th Infantry froze in terror as bombs started falling in their midst. Within seconds, 120 men were either dead or wounded. The 2nd Battalion of the 15th Infantry, US 3rd Division, suffered seventy-two casualties. A number of bombs hit their jeeps which were loaded with ammunition and the exploding 37mm anti-tank shells caused additional casualties, some of the bodies were never found. This held up the advance to Giuglianello for five to six hours. A week later, headlines in the 'Stars and Stripes' proclaimed "American troops at Anzio bombed by Germans flying American planes". This incident has been covered up for over fifty years, the 12th Airforce never having admitted its error. One of the many witnesses to this tragedy was ex Corporal Robert Steele, of Cannon Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, who now lives in Columbus, Georgia.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Italy). On April 29, 1944, a group of American P-47 Thunderbolt fighters mistakenly strafed the airstrip at Cutella on Italy's Adriatic coast, the pilots thinking that it was a Luftwaffe airfield. The airstrip was a base for the Royal Australian Airforce 239 Wing which included 3 and 450 Squadrons. One 3 Squadron Kittyhawk fighter was destroyed and three more damaged. Human casualties were one pilot of an Air Sea Rescue Walrus float plane killed and a few other ground personnel wounded. Tragedy was to strike again next day when a pilot of one of the attacking Thunderbolts, realizing a mistake had been made, flew to the airstrip to apologize. Unfortunately he was killed when his plane crashed when taking off to return home.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Normandy). On July 24, 1944, three hundred US planes dropped a total of 550 tons of bombs on the St. Lo front. Some of the bombs fell upon the 30th Infantry Division (Old Hickory) killing 25 men and wounding 131. Next day, the Americans flung in 140,000 shells while 2,730 planes dropped 3,300 tons of bombs and napalm canisters into an area 7,000 long by 2,500 yards wide. The bomb loads of 35 heavy bombers and 42 medium bombers again fell upon the 30th Infantry Division. In this second disaster in two days, the bombing killed a further 111 men and wounded 490. Among the casualties in this second disaster was General Lesley J. McNair, Commanding General of US Army Ground Forces. He had flown over from England as an observer to the raid taking place. He was the most senior American General to be killed in the Second World War. His grave can be found in the US Military Cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy. This is one of the fourteen permanent WWII military cemeteries that the USA built on foreign soil. In the 172 acre site lie the remains of four women and buried side by side are a father and son as well as thirty-three pairs of brothers. The cemetery contains a total of 9,386 graves.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Germany). In July, 1944, prisoners from the concentration camps in Poland were being transported to labour camps in the Reich. German munitions factories were crying out for slave labour. To fill this need around 2,000 Jewish women from the women's camp at Birkenau were being sent by train to camps near Essen. As fate would have it, the train was caught up in an Allied bombing raid as it crossed central Germany. Of the two thousand women passengers on the train, 266 were killed.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Germany). On August 24, 1944, the RAF bombed the industrial complex at the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar. A total of 384 prisoners were killed and around six hundred were injured. Among the casualties were the wife and daughter of the Camp Commandant, SS Colonel Herman Pister. Again, on February 9, 1945, the complex was bombed for the second time, the target being the Gustloff Works, an SS run munitions factory. In this raid 316 prisoners lost their lives out of about two thousand employed in the works. Prisoners were forbidden to leave their workbenches during raids. Over 80 SS guards were killed and 238 wounded. Hospitals in nearby Weimar refused to receive the wounded Buchenwald prisoners so they had to be transported back to the camp where many died through lack of first aid. Colonel Pister was later arrested and tried at the Camp Guards Trial and was sentenced to death. While awaiting execution in Landsberg Prison he died of a heart attack on September 28, 1948.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Pacific). On September 29, 1944, the American submarine USS Seawolf (SS-197) set sail from Manus with 62 crew, some stores and 17 military personnel on board. On October 3rd an attack was made by the Japanese submarine RO-41 on the US destroyer USS Shelton in the area through which the Seawolf was passing. The Shelton was sunk. An American aircraft on patrol, spotted a submarine in the vicinity of the sinking and notified the destroyer USS Rowell which immediately attacked what was thought to be the RO-41. As the RO-41 made it safely back to Japan and no attack was listed in Japanese reports of the day, it is now assumed that the Rowell mistakenly sank the Seawolf. In all, 79 men were lost.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Pacific). On October 25, 1944, the American submarine Tang, commanded by Commander Richard O'Kane , was chasing a damaged Japanese warship that had fallen behind the convoy it had been escorting. During an engagement the day before, the Tang had fired all her torpedoes except one, at the convoy. Now its commander was determined to finish off the damaged warship using the last torpedo. Catching up with the limping ship, the Tang surfaced and fired its torpedo. From the bridge, Commander O'Kane and eight of his officers, looked on in amazement as the wake of the torpedo made a complete circle around their ship. The circle got smaller and smaller until a terrific explosion blew them all from the bridge and into the water. The Tang sank fast as tons of water poured into her hull. Seventy-eight officers and men of the Tang lost their lives. When Japanese destroyers arrived on the scene only nine men had survived to be picked up and taken prisoner. They all survived the war.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Germany). In the first week of April, 1945, a column of American POWs from the Hammelburg camp were being evacuated through the city of Nuremberg. Stopping for a rest near some railyards on the south-west of the city, they were caught up in a bombing raid by their own fighter-bombers. Around forty men were killed and nearly one hundred wounded leaving some 110 survivors to continue the march towards their destination, Austria.
FRIENDLY FIRE. (Germany). During April, 1945, a column of 2,000 Allied airmen were being evacuated from their prisoner-of-war camp at Fallingbostal in face of the advancing Russian army. Near the village of Gresse they stopped for a rest in a country lane. Six RAF Typhoons appeared and began strafing the helpless prisoners. Eight of their German guards were killed as were thirty of the airmen. There were over sixty injured. The injured were taken to the town of Boizemburg where they were operated on by German doctors and then transported to an airfield near Luneburg to await air-lifting to the UK. It is not known why the RAF pilots mistook the prisoners for Germans.
Very interesting! Thanks for posting this!
I'd rather be historically accurate than politically correct.
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