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Posts Tagged ‘1944’

WWII Events Today, May 23

23 May

WWII Events Today, May 23

USS New Jersey (BB-62)

USS New Jersey (BB-62)

May 23, 1939 USS Squalus (SS-192) suffered a catastrophic main induction valve failure during a test dive off the New Hampshire coast and partially flooded. The submarine sank to the bottom and came to rest keel down in over 200 feet of water. 26 lives were lost.

May 23, 1942 Plan of attack on Midway and Aleutians known, extent of forces not known.

May 23, 1943 USS New Jersey (BB 62) was commissioned. During WWII, she participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Battle of the Leyte Gulf and supported the Iwo Jima and the Okinawa Campaigns in the Pacific theatre. Decommissioned in 1948, she was recommissioned for the Korean War and served until 1957. Recommissioned for the Vietnam War in April 1968, she provided gunfire support until decommissioned the following year. New Jersey was then recommissioned in 1982 and served until Sep 1991. New Jersey currently serves as a museum ship at Camden, New Jersey.

May 23, 1944 The tempo of the Allied air blitz is up with a record 1,045 heavy bombers striking targets across Western Europe. Escort is provided by 96 P-38s, 142 P-47 Thunderbolts and 324 P-51 Mustangs.

May 23, 1944 – May 26, 1944 USS Brooklyn (CL 40), USS Ericsson (DD 440) and USS Kearny (DD 432) shelled enemy positions in vicinity of Ardea, Italy, with good results. The three ships repeated bombardment of troop concentrations and supply dumps on 24 and 26 May with equal success.

May 23, 1944 While continuing to work down the “NA” cordon, USS England (DE 635) sank RO 104, 250 miles north-northwest of Kavieng, New Ireland.

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A Dark and Bloody Ground: the Hürtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams 1944-45

15 Sep

[Crossposted from CharlesMcCain.com]

A Dark and Bloody Ground: the Hürtgen Forest and the Roer River Dams, 1944-45 by Edward C. Miller is a scholarly history of the battle which is well worth reading (4 Stars). The author served in the US Army, retiring several years ago, and has an outstanding grip on how the US Army functioned in World War Two. (It didn’t function very well.)

He shows clearly and methodically how US commanders made blunder after blunder and how they threw away the three key advantages the US Army had over the Germans: mobility, artillery, and air superiority.

While stationed in Germany in the mid 1980s, the author took the time to explore the actual battlefield. He writes: “I found out firsthand that it is one thing to sit in the comfort of one’s office or home and study a terrain map; it is quite another to walk through the hilly forest in a chilling autumn rain.” His research and footnotes are impeccable. This book will stand for many, many years as standard work on the subject.

A few quotes from this work:

“During an attack on the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, a cook ‘discarded his meat cleaver for a bazooka’ and managed to knock out a German tank that had the entered the battalion trains area (supply area). ‘What a man!’ sighed members of the company. ‘If he could only cook.’”

 

“(German) Shells with fuses deigned to explode on contact hit the trees and burst above the infantrymen. To dive to the ground for cover, as the men had been trained to do, meant exposing much of the body to a rain of hot metal and wood splinters. The best way to survive, the Americans learned was to…literally hug a tree.” By adapting this technique the American GIs exposed only their heads, covered by their helmets, to the tree bursts. Sometimes the Germans fired for several hours. Imagine the terror a man must have felt.

 

Said an American GI, “The days were so terrible I would pray for darkness, and the nights were so bad I would pray for daylight.”

 

In the midst of one of the many German attacks, American wounded drifting back to an aid station set up in a dugout which eventually fell behind German lines. “…a German patrol stopped at the aid station and the patrol leader offered to share rations and any supplies the Americans might need. He told the American medical officer in charge that as long as the aidmen and assistants remained unarmed, the Germans would permit them to stay in the dugout.”

 

 
Another book on the subject, although focused just on one regiment, is Hell In Hürtgen Forest: The Ordeal And Triumph Of An American Infantry Regiment by Robert S. Rush. I haven’t read this book so I won’t rate it but I will point out that it is one of the many books in the series: Modern War Studies by the University Press of Kansas. They are the best and most outstanding university press in the US for books on World War Two. They only publish scholarly works. An author’s research and footnotes have to withstand their rigorous scrutiny because any book they print on World War Two usually becomes the history of record on that specific topic. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong by purchasing a book published by the University Press of Kansas.

[Image courtesy of Life.]

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World War II History for March 19

19 Mar

Today in WWII History

World War II History for March 19

Audio Clip: March 19, 1944 edition of CBS World News Today

19 Mar 1940 – The French government of Daladier fell.

19 Mar 1940 – 50 RAF bombers strike Hornum, the German seaplane base on the island of Sylt, but inflict no significant damage.

19 Mar 1941 – Admiral Raeder met with the Japanese ambassador in Berlin to discuss his desire for Japan to attack Singapore.

19 Mar 1945 – About 800 people were killed as Japanese kamikaze planes attacked the U.S. carrier Franklin off Japan.

19 Mar 1945 – Adolf Hitler issued his “Nero Decree” which ordered the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands as German forces were retreating.

19 Mar 1945 – General Fromm executed for plot against Hitler

On this day, the commander of the German Home Army, Gen. Friedrich Fromm, is shot by a firing squad for his part in the July plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, as portrayed in the movie Valkyrie. The fact that Fromm’s participation was half-hearted did not save him.

By 1945, many high-ranking German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and they believed that assassination was the only way to stop him. According to the plan, coup d’etat would follow the assassination, and a new government in Berlin would save Germany from complete destruction at the hands of the Allies. All did not go according to plan, however. Col. Claus von Stauffenberg was given the task of planting a bomb during a conference that was to be held at Hitler’s holiday retreat, Berchtesgaden (but was later moved to Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg). Stauffenberg was chief of staff to Gen. Friedrich Fromm. Fromm, chief of the Home Army (composed of reservists who remained behind the front lines to preserve order at home), was inclined to the conspirators’ plot, but agreed to cooperate actively in the coup only if the assassination was successful.

On the night of July 20, Stauffenberg planted an explosive-filled briefcase under a table in the conference room at Rastenburg. Hitler was studying a map of the Eastern Front as Colonel Heinz Brandt, trying to get a better look at the map, moved the briefcase out of place, farther away from where the Fuhrer was standing. At 12:42 p.m. the bomb went off. When the smoke cleared, Hitler was wounded, charred, and even suffered the temporary paralysis of one arm-but was very much alive.

Meanwhile, Stauffenberg had made his way to Berlin to meet with his co-conspirators to carry out Operation Valkyrie, the overthrow of the central government. Once in the capital, General Fromm, who had been informed by phone that Hitler was wounded but still alive, ordered Stauffenberg and his men arrested, but Fromm was located and locked in an office by Nazi police. Stauffenberg and Gen. Friedrich Olbricht began issuing orders for the commandeering of various government buildings. Then the news came through from Herman Goering that Hitler was alive. Fromm, released from confinement by officers still loyal to Hitler, and anxious to have his own association with the conspirators covered up quickly, ordered the conspirators, including two Stauffenberg aides, shot for high treason that same day. (Gen. Ludwig Beck, one of the conspiracy leaders and an older man, was allowed the “dignity” of committing suicide.)

Fromm’s last-ditch effort to distance himself from the plot failed. Within the next few days, on order of Heinrich Himmler, who was now the new head of the Home Army, Fromm was arrested. In February 1945, he was tried before the People’s Court and denigrated for his cowardice in refusing to stand up to the plotters. But because he went so far as to execute Stauffenberg and his partners on the night of July 20, he was spared the worst punishment afforded convicted conspirators-strangulation on a meat hook. He was shot by a firing squad on March 19.[1]

[1] “General Fromm executed for plot against Hitler,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6747 (accessed Mar 19, 2009).

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World War II History for January 18

18 Jan

Today in WWII History

World War II History for January 18

Podcast: 01.18.1940 – CBS Today In Europe

1942 - Russian forces under General Timoshenko launched a fresh offensive against the Germans on the central front. The southern front was marked by strong gains by the Red Army in the Ukraine.

1942 - Burma’s Premier U Saw was “detained” by the British for allegedly being in communication with the Japanese.

1942 - Germany, Italy, and Japan sign a military convention in Berlin, laying down “guidelines for common operations against the common enemies.”

1943 - U.S. commercial bakers stopped selling sliced bread. Only whole loaves were sold during the ban until the end of World War II.

1944 - Soviet forces began to arrive at Leningrad, effectively ending the three-year Siege of Leningrad, but fighting would continue for more than another week before German troops withdrew from the area. (from http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=125)

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World War II History for August 31

31 Aug

Audio Clip: 08.31.39 – BBC Alvar Liddell Reports On German 16 Point Plan

World War II History for August 31

08.31.39 The British fleet was mobilized.

08.31.39 In London, civilian evacuations began.

London Evacuations
London Evacuations

08.31.43 The USS Harmon, first U.S. Navy ship to be named for an African American, commissioned. [1]

Poster-USS Harmon
Poster – USS Harmon DE-678

USS Harmon
USS Harmon DE-678

08.31.44 The British 8th Army broke through the German’s “Gothic Line.” The defensive line was drawn across northern Italy.

Gothic Line, Sept 1944
Gothic Line – Sept 1943

[1] http://hollywoodatwar.blogspot.com, http://twitter.com/WWIIToday

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World War II History for August 10

10 Aug

Today in WWII History

World War II History for August 10

10 Aug 1944 - Hitler moves the entire 2,000-plane Luftwaffe force to Western Europe in a bid to challenge the power of the Allies’ collective air strength.

10 Aug 1944 - U.S. forces defeated the remaining Japanese resistance on Guam, leaving the U.S. with an additional solid forward base in the Marianas from which to bomb the Japanese mainland.

10 Aug 1945 - The day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan announced they would surrender. The only condition was that the status of Emperor Hirohito would remain unchanged.

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World War II History for July 13

13 Jul

Audio Clip: BBC Charles Gardner Reports On Convoy Attack & Dogfight (14 July 1940)

Today in WWII History

World War II History for July 13

13 July 1941 - Britain and the Soviet Union signed a mutual aid pact, that provided the means for Britain to send war material to the Soviet Union.

13 July 1944 - Soviet General Konev establishes a new western border for the USSR

On this day in 1944, General Ivan Konev, one of the Soviet Union’s most outstanding officers, pursues an offensive against 40,000 German soldiers to capture the East Galician city of Lvov. When the battle was over, 30,000 Germans were dead, and the USSR had a new western border.

The Red Army’s “Operation Bagration” was the westward thrust from June to August 1944, which included the First and Second Ukrainian Fronts, was moving swiftly across Ukraine and Poland.


Konev consults with 38th Army Commander Moskalenko

Joseph Stalin had declared that he wanted the western border of the Soviet Union to be pushed back across the River Bug, territory that was part of prewar Poland, but was now occupied German territory. General Konev, who had led the first offensive against the Germans when they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 (and who had created the “Konev ambush,” a strategy by which troops retreat from the center of a battle area, only to allow troops from the flanks to close into the breach, used to defeat German General Heinz Guderian’s tank offensive against Moscow), led the Red Army’s new attack westward. He encircled 40,000 German soldiers in the town of Brody. After seven days, 30,000 German soldiers were dead, and Lvov was Soviet-occupied territory and would remain a part of the new postwar Soviet map.

General Konev would go on to cross Poland into Germany and, meeting up with U.S. and other Soviet forces, enter Berlin to see the final downfall of the Axis power.

“Soviet General Konev establishes a new western border for the USSR,” History.com, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6518 (accessed Jul 13, 2009).

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World War II History for July 6

06 Jul

Today in WWII History

World War II History for July 6

1942 - Diarist Anne Frank and her family took refuge from the Nazis in Amsterdam.

1942 - Japanese forces landed on Guadalcanal Island and began constructing an airfield. On February 1, 1943 the Japanese forces began to withdraw.


Japanese Machine Gunners on Guadalcanal

1944 - Hartford Circus Fire

The Hartford Circus Fire was one of the worst fire disasters in US history. While thousands of spectators were enjoying an afternoon performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a fire broke out on the southwest sidewall of the tent. The big top, waterproofed with a coating of paraffin and gasoline, quickly collapsed in flames, trapping hundreds beneath it. Circus Bandleader Merle Evans is said to be the person who first spotted the flames, and immediately directed the band to play Stars and Stripes Forever, the tune that traditionally signaled distress to all circus personnel.

1944 - Georges Mandel, French patriot, is executed

On this day in 1944, Georges Mandel, France’s minister of colonies and vehement opponent of the armistice with Germany, is executed in a wood outside Paris by collaborationist French.

Born into a prosperous Jewish family (his given name was Louis-Georges Rothschild, though no relation to the banking family) in 1885, Mandel’s political career began at age 21 as a member of the personal staff of French Premier Georges Clemenceau. He went on to serve in the National Assembly from 1919 to 1924, and then again from 1928 to 1940. Although a political conservative, he fell into conflict with fellow conservatives over their too-often pro-German sympathies, especially during the two world wars.

In 1940, he was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior by then French Premier Paul Reynaud, with whom he shared the conviction that no armistice should be made with the German invaders, and that the battle should continue, even if only from France’s colonies in Africa. After the resignation of Reynaud and the establishment of the Petain/Vichy government, Mandel sailed to Morocco, where he was arrested and sent back to France and imprisoned. He was then handed over to the Germans, and put in concentration camps in Oranienburg and Buchenwald. On July 4, 1944, he was shipped back to Paris, where the French security police, the Milice, took him out to a wood and shot him. As he was being handed over to his countrymen by the German SS, he said: “To die is nothing. What is sad is to die without seeing the liberation of the country and the restoration of the Republic.” [1]

[1] “Georges Mandel, French patriot, is executed,” History.com, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6511 (accessed Jul 6, 2009).

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Operation A

19 Jun

Operation A

Operation A – Japanese naval counteroffensive (19/20 June 1944) planned after the US capture of the Marshall Islands between 20 November 1943 and 23 February 1944, the Japanese high command having appreciated that the next forward move would take the Americans to the Marianas Islands on the Japanese home islands’ strategic doorstep and this able to strike at Japan, Iwo Jima, the Ryukyus (Okinawa) and Formosa, so severing the Japanese maritime links to the Philippines, South-East Asia, and all their raw materials. Operation ‘A’ called for the American invasion force off the Marianas to be attacked by powerful surface forces moving in from the south-west, where they were based close to vital oil supplies.

Under the command of Vice Admiral Ozawa, the 1st Mobile Fleet from Tawitawi was supported by Vice Admiral Ugaki’s Southern Force from Batjan, the two forces rendezvousing east of the Philippines on 16 June 1944, one day after the US forces landed on Saipan in the Marianas. The rendezvous gave Ozawa a fleet of 5 fleet and 5 light aircraft carriers (carrying only very poor aircrew and obsolescent aircraft), 5 battleships, 11 heavy and 2 light cruisers, and 28 destroyers; Vice Admiral Mitscher’s TF58 comprised 7 heavy and 8 light aircraft carriers (with experienced aircrew and modern aircraft), 7 battleships, 8 heavy and 13 light cruisers, and 69 destroyers. The Japanese plan became apparent to Mitscher after the Japanese rendezvous was spotted by US patrol submarines, and the scene was thus set for the climactic Battle of the Philippine Sea (also known as The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot) on 19/20 June 1944, which resulted in the utter decimation of the Japanese carrier strength, especially in the Imperial Japanese Navy’s last reserve of combat-experiences aircrew.

Ozawa launched a first air strike early on 19 June, bu the radar-warned Americans intercepted this initial wave 50 miles short of the US force, shooting down more than 200 Japanese aircraft. US submarines had meanwhile attacked Ozawa’s force, torpedoing the carriers Taiho and Shokaku, both of which sank. The Japanese second strike, launched at 14:00, was intercepted on its way to Guam and again the Japanese aircraft were decimated, some 100 aircraft being lost. Thus Ozawa had by the end of the first day lost 2 carriers and more than 300 aircraft, whereas the Americans’ losses were come 35 aircraft and slight damage to one battleship.

Zuikaku 1941
Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers Zuikaku (foreground) and Kaga (background) head for Pearl Harbor in November 1941 prior to the initiation of the Pacific War.

It was now the turn of the Americans, and Mitscher launched his aircraft from 16:24 on 20 June as TF58 pursued the Japanese fleet that was withdrawing to the north-west to refuel. The American strike sank two tankers and the carrier Hiyo, damaged the carriers Zuikaku, Junyo and Chiyoda and the heavy cruiser Maya, and destroyed another 65 Japanese aircraft, for the lost of 20 of their own aircraft. It was night by the time the American aircraft headed for their parent carriers, which Mitscher ordered to turn on their lights as an aid to the pilots. Nevertheless some 80 US aircraft ran out of fuel and ditched, most of their crews being saved. Operation ‘A’ and the resultant Battle of the Philippine Sea or “Marianas Turkey Shoot” may thus be seen as marking the end of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s air arm as an effective weapon.

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World War II History for June 19

19 Jun

Today in WWII History

World War II History for June 19

19 June 1942 - British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington, DC, to discuss the invasion of North Africa with U.S. President Roosevelt.

19 June 1944 - The U.S. won the battle of the Philippine Sea against the Imperial Japanese fleet.

In what would become known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” U.S. carrier-based fighters decimate the Japanese Fleet with only a minimum of losses in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

USS Lexington during Battle of the Philippine Sea
An F6F-3 “Hellcat” fighter lands aboard USS Lexington (CV-16) during the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” phase of the battle, 19 June 1944. Note manned 40mm guns in the foreground, and 20mm guns along the starboard side of the flight deck.

The security of the Marianas Islands, in the western Pacific, were vital to Japan, which had air bases on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. U.S. troops were already battling the Japanese on Saipan, having landed there on the 15th. Any further intrusion would leave the Philippine Islands, and Japan itself, vulnerable to U.S. attack. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance, was on its way west from the Marshall Islands as backup for the invasion of Saipan and the rest of the Marianas.

IJN Zuikaku 1944
IJN Zuikaku in the Battle of the Philippine Sea 1944

Mobilized to repel the Allied invasions the Japanese launched Operation ‘A’ sending two task forces into the Marianas area. But Japanese Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo decided to challenge the American fleet, ordering 430 of his planes, launched from aircraft carriers, to attack. In what became the greatest carrier battle of the war, the United States, having already picked up the Japanese craft on radar, proceeded to shoot down more than 300 aircraft and sink two Japanese aircraft carriers, losing only 29 of their own planes in the process. It was a described in the aftermath as a “turkey shoot.”

Admiral Ozawa, believing his missing planes had landed at their Guam air base, maintained his position in the Philippine Sea, allowing for a second attack of U.S. carrier-based fighter planes, this time commanded by Admiral Mitscher, to shoot down an additional 65 Japanese planes and sink another carrier. In total, the Japanese lost 480 aircraft, three-quarters of its total, not to mention most of its crews. American domination of the Marianas was now a foregone conclusion.

Not long after this battle at sea, U.S. Marine divisions penetrated farther into the island of Saipan. Two Japanese commanders on the island, Admiral Nagumo and General Saito, both committed suicide in an attempt to rally the remaining Japanese forces. It succeeded: Those forces also committed a virtual suicide as they attacked the Americans’ lines, losing 26,000 men compared with 3,500 lost by the United States. Within another month, the islands of Tinian and Guam were also captured by the United States.

The Japanese government of Premier Hideki Tojo resigned in disgrace at this stunning defeat, in what many have described as the turning point of the war in the Pacific.[1]

[1] “United States scores major victory against Japanese in Battle of the Philippine Sea,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6491 (accessed Jun 19, 2009).

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