Murders continue as Auschwitz lies in limbo

The Auschwitz II-Birkenau main guard house and rail entrance.
The Auschwitz II-Birkenau main guard house and rail entrance.

Startled by the speed of the Soviet advance the Nazis had finally abandoned Auschwitz on the 18th January. Before then most of the prisoners had been forced out into the freezing weather to endure one last murderous ordeal – most would die in the forced death march to other concentration camps in the west.

Left in the camp were still thousands of prisoners who were too ill to move. It is very likely that the SS intended to kill them all off, certainly that seemed to be the intention for the remaining Jews. But the last flight of the Germans had been very abrupt, they had not had time to complete their killings before they left in a panic.

Primo Levi, an inmate of Auschwitz for almost a year, was struck down by Scarlet Fever on 11th January, and had been moved to an isolation ‘ward’. He had watched the Germans disappear and then seen the long columns of German troops retreating westwards past the camp. Then as his strength gradually recovered he found himself caring for the other very sick men in his ward, then he began to gradually explore the unguarded camp:

January 22nd

If it is courageous to face a grave danger with a light heart, Charles and I were courageous that morning. We extended our explorations to the SS camp, immediately outside the electric wire-fence. The camp guards must have left in a great hurry.

On the tables we found plates half-full of a by-now frozen soup which we devoured with an intense pleasure, mugs full of beer, transformed into a yellowish ice, a chess board with an unfinished game. In the dormitories, piles of valuable things.

We loaded ourselves with a bottle of vodka, various medicines, newspapers and magazines and four first-rate eiderdowns, one of which is today in my house in Turin. Cheerful and irresponsible, we carried the fruits of our expedition back to the dormitory, leaving them in Arthur’s care.

Only that evening did we learn what happened perhaps only half an hour later. Some SS men, perhaps dispersed, but still armed, penetrated into the abandoned camp. They found that eighteen Frenchmen had settled in the dining-hall of the SS-Waffe.

They killed them all methodically, with a shot in the nape of the neck, lining up their twisted bodies in the snow on the road; then they left. The eighteen corpses remained exposed until the arrival of the Russians; nobody had the strength to bury them.

But by now there were beds in all the huts occupied by corpses as rigid as wood, whom nobody troubled to remove. The ground was too frozen to dig graves; many bodies were piled up in a trench, but already early on the heap showed out of the hole and was shamefully visible from our window.

Only a wooden wall separated us from the ward of the dysentery patients, where many were dying and many dead. The floor was covered by a layer of frozen excrement. None of the patients had strength enough to climb out of their blankets to search for food, and those who had done it at the beginning had not returned to help their comrades.

In one bed, clasping each other to resist the cold better, there were two Italians. I often heard them talking, but as I spoke only French, for a long time they were not aware of my presence. That day they heard my name by chance, pronounced with an Italian accent by Charles, and from then on they never ceased groaning and imploring.

Naturally I would have liked to have helped them, given the means and the strength, if for no other reason than to stop their crying. In the evening when all the work was finished, conquering my tiredness and disgust, I dragged myself gropingly along the dark, filthy corridor to their ward with a bowl of water and the remainder of our day’s soup.

The result was that from then on, through the thin wall, the whole diarrhoea ward shouted my name day and night with the accents of all the languages of Europe, accompanied by incomprehensible prayers, without my being able to do anything about it. I felt like crying, I could have cursed them.

See Primo Levi: Survival In Auschwitz

One man’s lucky escape as kamikazes hit Ticonderoga

USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) afire off Formosa, January 21, 1945, just after her initial kamikaze hit on the forward flight deck. Photographed from USS Miami (CL-89). A Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane is on the cruiser's starboard catapult, in the foreground.
USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) afire off Formosa, January 21, 1945, just after her initial kamikaze hit on the forward flight deck. Photographed from USS Miami (CL-89). A Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane is on the cruiser’s starboard catapult, in the foreground.
Fighting fire from flight deck showing smoke from #1 elevator.
Fighting fire from flight deck showing smoke from #1 elevator.

The Japanese military aim in attacking Pearl Harbor had been to neutralise the major components of the US Navy, enabling to them to win swift territorial victories relatively unopposed. In December 1941 they had failed to sink all the carriers they had hoped to hit. But just three year later they were facing an incomparably greater American Naval force, far stronger than the force that they had hoped to knock out.

The extraordinary expansion of the US Fleet now not only enabled them to deploy huge numbers of ships for their amphibious attacks on Japanese held territories – but also to deploy the roving Fast Carrier Task Force. Within this were four Task Groups each based on four aircraft carriers, defended by numerous support ships – each Task Group had up 24 destroyers screening it.

Operation Gratitude had begun with the conventional support of the landings on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. But the carriers had then moved into the South China Sea and their planes had successfully attacked a wide range of Japanese targets in French Indo-China (now Vietnam), crippling the Japanese mercantile fleet. Now they moved back for an attack on Formosa (Taiwan). The weather was good for flying – which meant it was also good for kamikazes.

Edgar Newlin was part of the aircraft maintenance crew on the USS Ticonderoga:

As I remember, it was a nice calm day, which influenced a later decision. I was a plane captain. For anyone that doesn’t know what that is. I took care of an airplane, a fighter to be exact. I was suppose to keep it fueled, tied down, cleaned etc. We were suppose to stay with the plane anytime we were at flight quarters if it wasn’t tied down.

At this time we were at flight quarters, but for some reason the lunch had been delayed so my plane was just sitting there. I would have been the third plane launched, one on each catapult, and then mine.

It was past noon and we hadn’t had chow when another plane captain came along and talked me into going. Remember, we were not suppose to leave our plane in that condition, but we did and it probably saved my life. We had just reached the mess hall when the fantail 40s started firing, maybe three or four rounds. Then they started General Quarters, maybe two or three boings, when a suicide plane hit and blew up on the hangar deck. It sounded like a bucket with rocks in it;more of a rattle than an explosion.

I dropped my tray and started back up the flight deck, but by then smoke was everywhere and some of the hatches had been closed so I had an awful time getting back to my battle station, which was my plane, and when I got there it was gone! Thats was where the jap had hit. He must have aimed for my plane; it went through the flight deck and blew up on the hangar deck. That was what I heard when I was in the mess hall.

I didn’t have a battle station so I just wandered around kind of in a daze. I had no idea what to do. I tried to help others, but I seemed to be in the road. I don’t know how much later it was, it seemed like hours but was probably not over 30 minutes, when I found myself standing on the flight deck, forward of the five-inch guns, watching a second Jap plane heading straight for the island. I just stood there watching because I was sure he would go down. I could see the tracer shells, going through the plane and the pilot.

It soon became clear that he was going to hit us. About then I realized where I was standing. I looked around;all I could do was jump down to the catwalk and head for the port side under the flight deck. When I was about halfway across I heard the plane hit the island.

From then on I remembered only flashes of what happened. I remember wandering around, trying to find where I was needed but I don’t recall doing anything specific. I still feel the hopeless feeling of not being able to do anything for my friends. I don’t remember many names – Selbe walking around holding a big wad of cotton on what was left of his arm. blown off just above his elbow. He died about 2:00 the next morning – shock they said. There was a little boy named Menard, blown in half. He always wore his dog tags on his belt loop, so we could identify him from that. I don’t think he was much over fifteen at the time.

I remember they used our compartment as part of Sick Bay that night so we slept wherever we could. The next day the hospital ship took the wounded and we had burials at sea all afternoon. I have never had any doubt that I was saved by divine intervention. If I had been where I was supposed to be, I would surely have been killed. If we started two minutes later we would have been caught on the hangar deck where all the casualties of the first plne were. If we had gone sooner we might have been back to my plaane and I would have been killed then.

Read Edgar Newlin’s account and those of others aboard the USS Ticonderoga on that fateful day at CV-14

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) lists to port in the aftermath of a kamikaze attack in which four suicide planes hit the ship, 21 January 1945. Note her camouflage scheme measure 33/10A and the Fletcher-class destroyer in the background.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) lists to port in the aftermath of a kamikaze attack in which four suicide planes hit the ship, 21 January 1945. Note her camouflage scheme measure 33/10A and the Fletcher-class destroyer in the background.
It was also a hard day on the USS Hancock. The scene moments after bombs fell off an Avenger and exploded, killing 62 men.
It was also a hard day on the USS Hancock. The scene moments after bombs fell off an Avenger and exploded, killing 62 men.

From the Deck Log of the USS Hancock, 21 January 1945:

1328: VT 124, Bu #23539 [a General Motors TBM-3 Avenger], pilot, LT(JG) C.R. Dean, 298954, and crewmen F.J. Blake, ARM3c, and D.E. Zima, AOM2c, made a normal landing and taxied forward. As the plane reached a point abreast the island a violent explosion occurred, believed to have been caused by the detonation of two (2) 500 lb. bombs adrift in the plane’s bomb bay. The immediate results of the explosion were: casualties: killed – 62; critically injured – 46; seriously injured – 25; slightly injured – 20. A 10×16 foot hole in the flight deck, gallery deck area in the vicinity demolished, inboard side signal bridge wrecked. Three airplanes demolished. Numerous shrapnel holes throughout the island structure. Fires broke out on the flight, gallery, and hangar decks. Hauled clear of the formation and commenced maneuvering at various courses and speeds in an attempt to control the winds over the deck, and with high speed turns, to wash flooding water out of the hangar deck.

Another day, another infantry attack

A soldier 'firing on German positions' from a ruined house in the village of Bakenhoven, Holland, during 12th Corp's offensive in the Dieteren area, north of Sittard, 16 January 1945.
A soldier ‘firing on German positions’ from a ruined house in the village of Bakenhoven, Holland, during 12th Corp’s offensive in the Dieteren area, north of Sittard, 16 January 1945.
Troops from 4/5 Royal Scots Fusiliers, 52nd Infantry Division, in the ruins of the village of Stein, Holland, 19 January 1945.
Troops from 4/5 Royal Scots Fusiliers, 52nd Infantry Division, in the ruins of the village of Stein, Holland, 19 January 1945.

In Holland the British Army were trying to keep the pressure on the Germans with continued attacks. The 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division found itself in a particularly wet and uncomfortable spot near Nijmegen, where it was often impossible to dig trenches because the water table was so high.

Kasteel Hemmen or Castle Hemmen was not a castle at all but a fine country house. It had already been captured by the Allies some six weeks before, but they had to abandon it when the Germans flooded the the surrounding area, leaving it in a very exposed position. Now another attack was to be made.

The plan was for the infantry to advance supported by tanks, with an artillery barrage to support them as they made the final attack. Of course things did not go according to plan, the tanks were unable to traverse the icy ground – but the attack went ahead anyway. Corporal John Oakley’s platoon was to make the a frontal assault up a tree lined avenue, while two other platoons advanced through the woods.

A pre war postcard of Kasteel Hemmen
A pre war postcard of Kasteel Hemmen.

Oakley, eighteen years old at the time, describes the attack on the 20th January 1945:

However, our progress up the tree-lined road continued. Lieutenant Kernick was leading the Platoon up the right side of the road, with two sections. I was leading the remainder, my section on the left using the trees as cover, darting from one tree-trunk to the next, exposing ourselves as little as possible to the small-arms fire, which was increasing as we got nearer.

At this stage we would have welcomed the artillery and mortar barrage on the enemy positions to keep their heads down as the German defenders, now about 200 yards away, were able to fire at us and the rest of our Company on the left, almost with impunity, apart from a few bursts of fire from our bren-gunners. The German defensive positions were in front of ‘The Castle’ and appeared to be comprised of low mounds of stone and rubble from the ruined building protecting their trenches, which could not be dug very deeply because they would have flooded from the general surrounding water-level.

The final advance, over about 100 yards to the objective would have been suicidal without an artillery barrage and we had been suffering casualties on both sides of the road as we were nearing the end of the avenue. At this stage, Lieutenant Kernick shouted across the road “how many of you are over there Corporal Davies?” Up until then I had been too busy to note who I had with me while bullets were cracking past me or thudding into the tree trunks which I was using as my cover. I was surprised to find that I was on my own and reported accordingly. He shouted “We are not going to get much further, give us some covering fire and we will get ourselves out of here”. I poked my head round the base of the tree-trunk protecting me and popped away with my sten-gun at the German positions. My efforts were probably completely ineffective as this crude little submachine gun was very much a close range weapon.

I then had a better idea. In my left hand ammunition pouch I had the spare magazines for my sten-gun but in the right hand pouch I had a Mills grenade which is a high-explosive and also a phosphorous grenade. I had never used either in combat but had done so in training and from that experience I knew that the phosphorous grenade created a lot of smoke. I threw it into the road and it made ideal cover for our withdrawal.

The first man I passed on the way back was Private Brown – “Brownie” to everybody in the Company – I don’t think anybody ever knew his Christian name!. He was courageous, almost to the point of recklessness sometimes. He was the comedian of the Platoon and one of his regular remarks was “No bloody German is ever going to kill me”. He had a terrible wound in his head and was dead. “Brownie” always wore his steel helmet on the back of his head and it appeared to me that from the position and severity of the wound, a bullet had hit the under rim of his helmet and ricocheted down into his skull, whereas if he had worn his helmet in the proper manner the bullet probably would have hit the crown of his helmet and been deflected upwards, leaving him unharmed and no doubt he would have regaled us with some amusing remarks about the incident later.

I was relieved to find Ellis and Bryson, our Bren-gun team both uninjured a little further behind, told them we were abandoning our advance for now and to get back to somewhere safer with the rest of the Company while we still had the smoke cover, through which the occasional burst of small arms fire was coming.

I then came upon “Hughsie”, Private Hughes. He was the veteran of our Platoon – 26 years of age and he seemed like an old man compared with the rest of us. He often grumbled that he was a trained driver/mechanic and he had no business in a Rifle Company. Hughes had a bullet wound in the chest, together with some lesser wounds in his arm and he was in a bad way. With that, two of our stretcher bearers arrived on the other side of the wide water-filled ditch at our side of the road.

Hughes was a smallish man and I managed to lift him to pass him over to the stretcher bearers but had to do so via the icy cold water which was about three feet deep. Hughes was groaning and was weakly muttering something incoherent in between his groans but was being comforted in a rather rough sort of way during the handover to the stretcher bearers who were saying something like “come on Hughsie, stop your moaning and don’t be such a cissie, we’ll soon put you right.” He died some minutes later.

I got out of the water on the ‘safe’ side of the ditch where the remainder of the Company , (including the rest of our Platoon who had got back across the road safely, bringing their wounded), had taken up defensive positions – the ground was rather too hard to dig in and in any case the water table would have flooded our slit trenches once we were down a couple of feet at the most.

The next morning, with ample artillery support, and our own bren-gun carriers (light armoured vehicles) equipped with flame-throwers, ‘The Castle’ was captured with comparative ease and few casualties on our side

Private Thomas Vernon Brown, service nr. 14719016, died 20 January 1945 at age 21.

Private Albert Hughes, service nr. 4198168, died 20 January 1945 at age 26.

Read the whole of John Oakley’s account at secondworldwar.nl, a site with a number of recollections by Allied soldiers including men from the US Rangers and other American units.

Carriers and other vehicles including ambulances near a ruined windmill during the advance in Holland, January 1945.
Carriers and other vehicles including ambulances near a ruined windmill during the advance in Holland, January 1945.

Burma – the Fourteenth Army get across the Irrawaddy

Troops crossing the Irrawaddy River at Katha by boat, January 1945.
Troops crossing the Irrawaddy River at Katha by boat, January 1945.
A lorry of 36th Infantry Division enters the town of Tigyiang during the advance down the Irrawaddy Valley towards Mandalay, 22 December 1944.
A lorry of 36th Infantry Division enters the town of Tigyiang during the advance down the Irrawaddy Valley towards Mandalay, 22 December 1944.

In Burma the tables had turned. After the desperate battles at Kohima and Imphal to prevent the Japanese mounting an invasion of India, the Japanese had pulled back into Burma. The British Fourteenth Army was now advancing south through Burma. There were tremendous transportation problems, and in many areas they were forced to build their own roads. To add to the difficulties the bulk of their air transport was suddenly and unexpectedly transferred to the Chinese front, to shore up positions there. However the largest natural obstacle was the great Irrawaddy River. There was virtually no specialised transport available and the Engineers had to build a range of relatively crude rafts in short order.

On the 14th January the Indian 19th Division had begun crossing at one of the river’s narrower points, where it was only some 500 yards across in the low season of January. General Sir William Slim describes the importance of securing the bridgehead on the other side:

A third battalion crossed on the night of the 16th/17th and, for the first time, on the 17th, the enemy, realizing that a serious attempt at crossing was in progress, collected his rather scattered troops and attacked heavily. This he continued at intervals throughout the day, but all these attacks were beaten off.

By the 19th, the whole of 64 Brigade was in the Kyaukmyaung bridgehead, and was steadily expanding it against increasing opposition. On the night of the 20th/21st, after heavy artillery preparation, the Japanese put in several determined attacks, which were again repulsed with heavy loss after hand-to-hand fighting.

In spite of mounting resistance and growing casualties, the brigade pressed outwards and seized a ridge of scrub-covered rock, eight hundred feet high, parallel to the river, three miles inland, and a bare peak rising abruptly from the river bank, two and a half miles south of the original crossing. These successes deprived the Japanese of direct observation over the bridgehead, blinded their artillery and thus, in fact, ensured its retention.

Farther north, the bridgehead at Thabeikkyin had been reinforced just in time to throw back a series of savage counter-attacks. The Japanese, confused by numerous feints and patrol crossings elsewhere, had not been quick to decide which were the real crossings, and even then the took some time to concentrate against them.

Every hour of this delay was invaluable to the sweating 19th Division, ceaselessly ferrying men and supplies across the river on almost anything that would float.

See William Slim: Defeat Into Victory

The men in the vanguard could have little doubt about the importance of their role. One man was to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his ‘selfless devotion to duty’ in fighting off the Japanese counter-attacks:

In Burma, on the night of 19th / 20th January 1945, Lance Naik Sher Shah commanded the left forward section of his platoon. At 19:30 hours a Japanese platoon attacked his post. Realizing that overwhelming numbers would probably destroy his section, he, by himself, stalked the enemy from their rear and broke up their attack by firing into their midst. He killed the platoon commander and six other Japanese and, after their withdrawal, crawled back to his section post.

At 00:15 hours the Japanese, who were now reinforced with a company, started to form up for another attack. Sher Shah heard their officers giving orders and bayonets being fixed prior to the assault. Again he left his section post and, in spite of Japanese covering from small arms and mortars, crawled forward and saw Japanese officers and men grouped together. He fired into this group and they again broke up and started to withdraw in disorder.

Whilst on his way back for the second time he was hit by a mortar bomb, which shattered his right leg. He regained his position and propping himself against the side of the trench, continued firing and encouraging his men. When asked whether he was hurt, he replied that it was only slight. Some time afterwards it was discovered his right leg was missing.

The Japanese again started forming up for another attack. In spite of his severe wounds and considerable loss of blood, and very heavy Japanese supporting fire, Lance Naik Sher Shah again left his section post and crawled forward, firing into their midst at point blank range. He continued firing until for the third time the Japanese attack was broken up and until he was shot through the head, from which he subsequently died. Twenty-three dead and four wounded Japanese, including an officer, were found in daylight immediately in front of his position.

His initiative and indomitable courage throughout this very critical situation undoubtedly averted the over-running of his platoon, and was the deciding factor in defeating the Japanese attacks. His supreme self-sacrifice, disregard of danger and selfless devotion to duty, were an inspiration to all his comrades throughout the Battalion.

Sher Shah was born on 14 February 1917 in Chakrala Village, near Mianwali, North Punjab, India ( now North West Frontier, Pakistan ). Sher Shah’s Battalion 7/16 Punjab Regiment, affectionately known as “Saat Solah Punjab” is now a part of the Pakistan Army, proudly known as the “Sher Shah Battalion”.

Indian troops coax mules into the water for the 500 yard swim across the Irrawaddy River, January 1945.
Indian troops coax mules into the water for the 500 yard swim across the Irrawaddy River, January 1945.
Gurkhas hold onto their mules as they swim across the Irrawaddy River in Burma during the advance towards Mandalay, January 1945.
Gurkhas hold onto their mules as they swim across the Irrawaddy River in Burma during the advance towards Mandalay, January 1945.

Youngest Victoria Cross in the war is posthumous

5.5-inch howitzers of 236 Battery, 59th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, firing at dawn, before 12 Corps' attack in the Sittard area of Holland, 16 January 1945.
5.5-inch howitzers of 236 Battery, 59th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, firing at dawn, before 12 Corps’ attack in the Sittard area of Holland, 16 January 1945.
Infantry of 6th Cameronians, 52nd (Lowland) Division, passing Sherman tanks near Havert in Germany, 18 January 1945.
Infantry of 6th Cameronians, 52nd (Lowland) Division, passing Sherman tanks near Havert in Germany, 18 January 1945.
Men of 4/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers pass between a Sherman and a Churchill tank during 52nd (Lowland) Division's attack towards Stein from Tuddern, 18 January 1945
Men of 4/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers pass between a Sherman and a Churchill tank during 52nd (Lowland) Division’s attack towards Stein from Tuddern, 18 January 1945

While the US Army were fighting against determined German resistance in the ‘Saar Triangle’, further north the British were encountering similar difficulties in the Roer Triangle, on the border of Holland and Germany, between the Maas and the Roer rivers. Operation Blackcock had been launched on the 14th and also sought to breach the Siegfried Line and push into Germany.

Nineteen year old Dennis Donnini was from Easington Colliery, County Durham, the son of an Italian immigrant father, Alfredo Donnini, and English mother, Catherine Brown. He had two older brothers, Alfred had been captured at Dunkirk in 1940 and was a prisoner of war, and Louis had been killed in May 1944. His two sisters served in the ATS in Britain. There was little doubting the family’s loyalty to the Crown, yet his father Alfredo had been interned as an ‘Enemy Alien’ because he had been born in Italy, even though he had lived in Britain for over 40 years.

Dennis Donnini
Dennis Donnini

At just 4ft 10ins tall Dennis Donnini would only just have made it into the British Army. He seems to have been full of determination, he told his mother when he left home for the last time “When I get there, I’ll finish the war”:

In North-West Europe, on 18th January 1945, a Battalion of The Royal Scots Fusiliers supported by tanks was the leading Battalion in the assault of the German positions between the rivers Roer and Maas. This consisted of a broad belt of minefields and wire on the other side of a stream.

As the result of a thaw the armour was unable to cross the stream and the infantry had to continue the assault without the support of the tanks. Fusilier Donnini’s platoon was ordered to attack a small village.

As they left their trenches the platoon came under concentrated machine gun and rifle fire from the houses and Fusilier Donnini was hit by a bullet in the head. After a few minutes he recovered consciousness, charged down thirty yards of open road and threw a grenade into the nearest window.

The enemy fled through the gardens of four houses, closely pursued by Fusilier Donnini and the survivors of his platoon. Under heavy fire at seventy yards range Fusilier Donnini and two companions crossed an open space and reached the cover of a wooden barn, thirty yards from the enemy trenches.

Fusilier Donnini, still bleeding profusely from his wound, went into the open under intense close range fire and carried one of his companions, who had been wounded, into the barn. Taking a Bren gun he again went into the open, firing as he went.

He was wounded a second time but recovered and went on firing until a third bullet hit a grenade which he was carrying and killed him.

The superb gallantry and self-sacrifice of Fusilier Donnini drew the enemy fire away from his companions on to himself. As the result of this, the platoon were able to capture the position, accounting for thirty Germans and two machine guns.

Throughout this action, fought from beginning to end at point blank range, the dash, determination and magnificent courage of Fusilier Donnini enabled his comrades to overcome an enemy more than twice their own number.

Men of 4/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers interrogate German prisoners during 52nd (Lowland) Division's attack towards Stein from Tuddern, Germany, 18 January 1945
Men of 4/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers interrogate German prisoners during 52nd (Lowland) Division’s attack towards Stein from Tuddern, Germany, 18 January 1945
Men of 7th Armoured Division stand over the corpse of one of the defenders of Schilberg, 19 January 1945.
Men of 7th Armoured Division stand over the corpse of one of the defenders of Schilberg, 19 January 1945.

Cut off in Butzdorf, surrounded by Germans

The sketch map that Morton completed just after the Battle of Butzdorf.
The sketch map that Morton D. Elevitch completed just after the Battle of Butzdorf.

The closing stages of the Battle of the Bulge were fought just as ferociously as the beginning, if the Allies were winning it was at a price. In many places the gains that were made were subjected to immediate and repeated German counter-attacks. For example the US 90th Division seized the town of Oberwampach and then spent 36 hours facing down nine counter-attacks.

With the Germans on the back foot the US Army tried to exploit the situation with another push into the Saar ‘triangle’, between the Moselle and Saar rivers, a move which would take them over the Siegfried line. German resistance was galvanised against any such breakthrough.

For the infantry men of the 94th Division who found themselves at the spearhead of the attack, nearly a week would be spent virtually cut off in the town of Butzdorf. Private Morton D. Elevitch found himself and part of his platoon cut off in a ruined house by themselves. On the 17th they found themselves facing a combined Panzer and infantry attack:

Walters is popping away at the heads. I tell him don’t, we’ll only draw direct 88 fire. I was right. The room was quivering. Our ears were ringing. Our chests were throbbing. We shook like wet washing — a cold, creepy uncontrollable shaking. Only our minds remained clear. The rubble was piling high in the center of the room… our ceiling was ready to bury us beneath it.

Solemnly we discussed our procedure when the Germans, expected momentarily, entered the house. “Walters,” I say, “it seems we are in a position not particularly desirable to our state of welfare. Our careers are jeopardized. I strongly urge that we prepare for the worst.” We agree to hide in wine barrels, hoping for an eventual American victory. Someone is pounding on the wall.

Chandler is hit… a slug caught him in the head… he plunged head first down the cellar stairs… Walter’s eyes are big and brown and expectant. For the first time in our lives we know the feeling of utter hopelessness, the dread sensation of approaching doom. The turmoil within us almost gives way, but we are listening for our artillary. When it comes, it is right on top of us.

Luckily the patterns had been drawn in on us, keeping the Germans at a reasonable distance. This factor alone, saved us.

Walters has his hands in his pockets, looking out the window. A shell bursts outside the window to my right rear. Shrapnel wirrs across the room, cuts through Tom like a sewing needle, slicing a path from head to stomach. He explodes apart in a torrent of blood. “Get out the door!” I shout. With his hands still in his pockets, he turns halfway, starts to jerk forward, choking, gasping, sputtering, then settles face down to the floor, gurgling away his life.

At the head of the stairs I collapse in a pool of Chandler’s blood, tell them Walters is hit. Kettler and Doc take off and return with something still. Jenkins and I force our eyes away. We know Walters is dead.

We give up our guard posts altogether, leave one man atop the stairs, and slump down in the basement. Chandler is groaning. Boomer is shaken to tears at the sight of Tom. He tells us to pull out. The machine gunners had long ago departed. We’re to try to reach Tittengen under smoke.

At the door Chandler breaks down: “I can’t make it.” “You’ve got to try.” One by one we make our suicide dashes, passing pleading men. I sail through a doorway of beckoning hands ahead of a whistling 88. Now that we’re gathered in this place and the CP next door, the Germans can concentrate their fire. They do.

Men keep toppling over my shoulders. I struggle up for air. A wild-eyed kid holds up his hand. “Look, my thumb’s blown off!” The ragged stump is maroon like our basement floor at home. We’re all bunched up on a stairway. Guys are lying on the floor and propped in corners. I look around . . . what is going on? I see the drawn, bearded faces, torn clothes, staring eyes, yards of dirty bandages. Men are muttering, babbling. No, I decide, it isn’t possible. The shell—shocked stand up and look at us. “Can’t you see I’m bleeding?” they whimper. No one answers…

We finally crowd into a tiny room beneath some stairs … still the men on the outside keep getting hit. For four hours we stand shoulder to shoulder, softly talking, sweating, shaking. The smoke had failed us — lifted before it hit the ground. We’re to try to make a run for freedom when it gets dark. Meanwhile we’re ordered to return to our positions.

Some men go back, find Germans, kill them, rip open ten in one boxes, urinate on the food [to deny it to the Germans who were often relying on capturing Allied supplies], return to us. Others go after the wounded. Sgt. Flynn lugs in a box of ten in ones. Courteously we divide up the cold food and pass it around. From a can of corn I get needed water.

This is just a small part of the vivid description that Morton D. Elevitch jotted down immediately after that battle and later developed into a more coherent piece. His letters home served as an outlet for him, containing not only contemporaneous accounts but cartoons and sketches, they were finally published in 2003 Dog Tags Yapping: The World War II Letters of a Combat GI.

Prisoners of War were used extensively by the 94th Division to carry their many casualties to the rear.
Prisoners of War were used extensively by the 94th Division to carry their many casualties to the rear.

Norwegian Resistance sinks troopship with timed mines

Norway had been under German occupation since 1940.
Norway had been under German occupation since 1940.
British deception plans had forced Hitler to keep many troops in Norway, waiting for an invasion that never came.
British deception plans had forced Hitler to keep many troops in Norway, waiting for an invasion that never came.

Way back in 1940 Churchill had sought to ‘set Europe ablaze’ withe the establishment of the Special Operations Executive which supported resistance groups throughout Europe. A series of very significant sabotage operations against the German nuclear programme had been mounted in Norway. Even though Norway now appeared to be something of a backwater, which the Germans surely would wish to evacuate at some point, there were some very determined members of the Resistance who wanted to carry on the fight. Attacks on German troops meant fewer men who might be transferred back to Germany to carry on the main battle.

One man who had already been involved in a number of successful sabotage operations, as well as escaping from Gestapo custody when he was arrested in 1941, was Max Manus. On the 16th January he would successfully carry out an audacious attack on German shipping, carrying his explosives into Oslo harbour right under the noses of the Wehrmacht. He did so at a time when the Germans were on high alert for sabotage attempts, with soldiers positioned around the docks with orders to fire at anything floating in the water in case it might be a frogman.

The following report reads like it might be fiction, perhaps from an episode of Mission Impossible, but comes from the Special Operations Executive’s file recommending Max Manus for the Distinguished Service Order:

Manus planned and carried out the operation which saw the sinking of the ship ‘Donau’ approx 9,000 tons and the damaging of the ‘Rolandseck’ of approx 2000 tons.

It was not a straight forward operation as the limpet mines, the rubber boat and other equipment had to be concealed first on a wharf in Oslo harbour that was used for the embarkation of German troops. This in itself was a hazardous operation, but the shear audacity of Manus’ methods saw him through.

Brazen use was made of a well of a lift which led from the deck of the wharf to the lower platform whereby the equipment could be stowed. To get through the guard entrance at the dock a decoy vehicle was used with the occupant creating a nuisance of himself with the guards.

The second vehicle, with Manus and packed with all the equipment was then waved through … the ruse had worked. But to Manus’ chagrin the wharf was full of Germans. However, fortune favours the brave and with great daring, and in full view of the Germans, the equipment was unloaded close to the lift. The car was then driven out of the dock.

Later, when the wharf was clear of Germans, the equipment was stowed away in the lift and taken down to the lower section. Manus was aided by two loyal Norwegian workers.

The plan was to attack a large, heavy transport ship, but Manus had to wait some days until a suitable target presented itself. On the 15th January the ‘Donau’ arrived from Aarhus and Manus made the decision to attack her (NB. The ‘Donau’ had previously been used to transport Jews from Norway to Germany whereby many of them were taken to Auschwitz where their lives were sadly and cruelly taken).

Early next morning, Manus, with a helper met with his dock contact, but the man was not at all optimistic. The water surrounding the wharf was full of floating ice, a German soldier had recently fallen in and a search was in progress and finally a number of horses had been tied off to the door entrance which led to the lift. Manus decided to carry on.

Manus and his companion, Roy Nielsen dressed in full British battle-dress with over 100 metres of cordtex tied around their waists, but all concealed under boiler suits, approached the dock guard and proceeded to take part in a comic sketch to aid them through the gate…

Nielsen ‘slipped’ on the icy ground, much to the amusement of the guard … it worked, though, and they were through, despite a cursory inspection of their papers.

Once again the sheer audacity and bravery of the Norwegians had come to the fore. However, the atmosphere was still tense as the guards that were posted on the wharf to protect the ‘Donau’ regularly aimed their rifles and shot in to the water at anything that was suspicious.

Fortunately, the horses had been embarked and the door was clear to enter. The lift was positioned so that the two men could slip underneath it. Looking through a small chink they could see Germans approaching, but all the Germans wanted to do was to get out off the wind. There was at least 8 degrees of frost and it was exceptionally cold in the biting wind. After a while the Germans moved on and Manus’ contact on the docks carefully locked the door.

A rope ladder was let down amongst the wharf timbers but soon the rungs were full of ice: the rubber dingy was also lowered and blown up to the covering tune of a German sergeant drilling an unfortunate squad.

Eleven limpet mines were care fully loaded in to the dingy along with two Sten guns, ammunition and grenades in case they had to fight their way out of any trouble. The two men removed their boiler suits and stepped into the dingy in preparation to pushing off. However, a German patrol boat pulled up alongside the wharf and began a searching amongst the timbers.

Manus and Nielsen laid low in their boat daring not to breathe, but the Germans were not the most observant and soon left. After a suitable period waiting for the all clear the intrepid duo pushed off.

The going was tough as they inched their way forward through the ice using oars and an axe. Navigating carefully alongside the ‘Donau’ they placed their limpets aft of the engine room. With all the limpet mines in place they made their way back to the wharf, but then noticed the ‘Rolandseck’ arriving on the other side of the wharf.

Manus knew this was too good an opportunity to miss. Despite both men being soaked through and very cold, they fetched the one remaining limpet from their improvised store. The German patrol boat returned once again, but as before it failed to spot the armed Norwegians and once it had moved off the duo paddled their way alongside the ‘Rolandseck’ and planted their limpet on its side.

During this operation the ‘Donau’ left its mooring moving into open water with two tugs attending alongside. This meant that light now streamed under the wharf making it even more hazardous for the men as they returned, but to their relief nothing untoward happened and they made it safely back to their timbered shelter.

The dingy was disposed off by knifing and the men once more donned their boiler suits. Suddenly, the sound heavy steps approached the door way and then men stood ready with their Sten guns cocked for action, but to their immense relief it was their contact who had come to open the door. The men stepped out on to the wharf and made their way past the guard at the dock entrance who again laughed at Nielsen’s unfortunate earlier ‘accident’. Manus and Nielsen stepped aboard a tram and made their way home.

At 22:00hrs the ‘Donau’ was in the sound just off Drøbak having just dropped off her pilot. The Captain had just increased speed when the explosion occurred. The Captain attempted to beach the ship and ran her ashore at full speed with crew jumping off in all directions. Despite the beaching the ship settled at the stern and sunk in 25 metre of water’.

It is not known how many casualties there were aboard the Donau, although a large amount of equipment was lost, as well as many unfortunate horses. Roy Nielsen was to die in a Gestapo round up of resistance fighters on 4th April but Max Manus managed to evade the same series of raids. He went on to be awarded Norway’s highest military honour the War Cross, for the second time, for his part in this raid. Read more about his career at Nuav.net.

Max Manus, a leading member of the Norwegian Independent Company, a group within the British SOE.
Max Manus, a leading member of the Norwegian Independent Company, a group within the British SOE.
The SS Donau which was being used by the Germans as a troopship. Earlier in the war she had been used to transport Norway's small Jewish population to Germany - almost every one of them was subsequently murdered in Auschwitz.
The SS Donau which was being used by the Germans as a troopship. Earlier in the war she had been used to transport Norway’s small Jewish population to Germany – almost every one of them was subsequently murdered in Auschwitz.

The beginning of the POWs 1000 mile march west

The destroyed city of Warsaw, January 1945.
The destroyed city of Warsaw, January 1945.

With the new Soviet offensive under way the German pretence that the Eastern front could be held quickly evaporated. After all the years of tyranny and murder, from the first Jewish ghettoes in 1940 through to the wanton destruction of the city following the 1944 Uprising, the Germans finally left Warsaw without a fight on the 15th January. One of the few men left in the city to greet the Soviets was Wladyslaw Szpilman who had miraculously survived alone in a wrecked building.

Suddenly hundreds of thousands of people, and very soon, millions of people were on the move. After denying the situation for so long the Nazis finally began to evacuate westward. Nazi propaganda had painted a fearful picture of how the Red Army would treat civilians, so almost anyone with German connections joined the retreat. Alongside them were the inmates of concentration camps, where the merciless ‘death marches’ would prove to be a new method of mass murder. In scarcely better circumstances thousands of prisoners of war also began the trek westward.

Henry Owens had been captured in France in 1940 after the Highland Division was forced to surrender at St Valery. A new ordeal now began for him as he began the ‘1000 Mile’ forced march to the west:

In early January 1945, as the Russians made advances from the Vistula, the Germans decided to withdraw the POWs from the camps. The allies were destroying communications, and the Germans decided to force us out on the march again.

It was pitch dark when we assembled outside the gas works at Elbing, after our guard had warned us that “You are now back in the Front Line, any attempt to escape and you will be shot!” Snow had been falling all day; it must have been at least six inches deep. It was still snowing, and there was a bitterly cold wind, the temperature was well below freezing, around minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Over the years as POWs, we had accumulated extra clothing etc. from parcels sent to us through the Red Cross. We had hurriedly to decide what to leave and what to take, as everything had to be carried by hand. Preference was of course given to the small, built up stock of tinned food and powdered milk. I still had my army kitbag, so I put as much in this as I could carry. As we entered the main road in Elbing, there was evidence of the Russians‟ penetration, bodies lay about in the snow, and German troops dressed in all-white uniforms and heavily armed were moving east past us. It would appear that the Russians had attacked under cover of darkness, shot up the town, and retreated again.

We rendezvoused with other British POWs who had been in prison camps in the Elbing area, and were marched out, apparently making for the Baltic Coast. After marching for some time, we came across a long column of civilian refugees, who had been travelling in high-sided horse drawn wagons loaded with all theirworldly possessions. The column was at a standstill. Apparently they were held up because the crossing over the river Vistula was for the use of military traffic only. How long they had been there I do not know, but many had frozen to death still in their wagons, other bodies lay at the side of the road. They looked like wax dummies. We helped ourselves to any food we could find in these wagons, and marched on and crossed the Vistula towards Danzig.

It was on this section of the march that I faltered. I felt terribly tired, with a sinking feeling, as if the cold had affected my stomach. I sat on one of the abandoned carts and rested. Darky Bryant and other comrades pleaded with me to carry on, otherwise I would freeze to death or be shot. After a short while I recovered my strength, and from that moment, I did not falter for the rest of the march.

We marched nearly all of the first night, eventually stopping at a barn, where we lit fires and melted snow in our dixies, adding milk (klim) to provide a hot drink (no rations were provided by the Germans). The next day we marched on again, with the sound of Russian artillery in the background. As the packs on our backs were too heavy, most of us used makeshift sledges to pull our possessions along. As the days went by we got weaker; the built-up stock of food reserves had gone, we were plagued with lice and dysentery, and frostbitten limbs turned gangrenous. We were sometimes bundled into barns at night, but on at least one occasion we spent the night in an open field with no food at all.

It was not only British POWs on the march. It seemed that the whole of the civilian population of the Baltic States and East Prussia were fleeing from the Russians, some no doubt collaborators who feared for their lives. There were also Russian, French, and POWs of other nationalities. This all added to the food problem. Rationing had obviously broken down, and the Germans could not provide for themselves, even less for the refugees and POWs, these were low priorities. It was tragic to see POWs who had survived the horrific march into captivity from Dunkirk and St. Valery four and a half years previously, going down with dysentery, gangrene, and frostbite, and having to be left behind to die or be shot. There was no backup transport to take away the sick; you just left them behind, hoping they would survive, perhaps in a Russian hospital.

We marched twenty to thirty kilometres a day, with the sound of Russian artillery to our rear. Sometimes we rested for a whole day, and tried to tend our feet and other problems, but there was no remedy for worn out boots. Many carried on the march with rags bound around their feet, and my pal Darky ended the march with a pair of rope sandals.

When we rested for the night in barns etc., we never took off our boots, because we would get them stolen, or our feet would have swollen that much, we would not get them on again.

As far as food went, we only received one hot meal in the four months of our journey. That was beans, which gave most of us the runs. The Germans did, infrequently, give us some black bread and ersatz coffee, but most of the time we lived off our wits, stealing from farms, begging, or offering to supply a note saying that the donor had helped an allied POW with food so that the Russians would not harm them. It worked sometimes.

Read the whole of Henry Owens account of life as a POW at 51st Highland Division. Members of the same Scottish regiments were now fully engaged in the bitter cold of the Battle of the Bulge.

A POWs map of the 'death march' from eastern Poland to the west.
A POWs map of one of the ‘death marches’, from Stalag Luft IV in eastern Poland to the west.

Joy as Germans begin to fall back again in Poland

Soviets soldiers advance on a village - the officer in the foreground is armed with captured German submachine gun MP-40.
Soviets soldiers advance on a village – the officer in the foreground is armed with captured German submachine gun MP-40.

On the 12th the Red Army began its final offensive to push the Germans out of Poland and pursue them into Germany itself. German intelligence had been warning about an impending assault but Hitlers response had been ‘the Eastern front will have to make do with what it has got’. There were no reserves left to divert there. When the final assault began the Soviets made dramatic breakthroughs that created panic evacuations amongst the occupying Germans in the rear.

After over five years of Nazi occupation the sight of the Germans in retreat was scarcely believable for those who had survived. Francisco Grunberg had led a precarious existence, as a Jew living in Warsaw undercover, then her family were evicted from Warsaw along with the rest of the population. Since October she had been living in a filthy hovel in rural Poland, living off little more than half-rotten potatoes, living in fear that one day they might be discovered as Jews:

It was 14 January 1945, I think, when we saw some German soldiers driving wagons loaded down with suitcases and bags. Trudging behind the wagons came the German officers – dirty, without their belts, with drooping heads and downcast eyes, which they would only lift now and then to see what lay ahead. We didn’t know what it meant; we thought some German unit was intending to put up here.

We were worried; the idea of having Germans right under our noses was no cause for joy. All of a sudden there was a knock at the door. I opened and two officers stepped in, as dirty as the others, with no weapons or any insignia. They sat down and asked for some coffee. Katarzyna lit a fire. They asked me if I was from Warsaw. I nodded my head.

They offered me a little roll of candy drops. The idea of taking anything from them disgusted me, so I placed the candy on the stove behind the pots, and there it sat until it melted into a smoking red magma that seemed to me a kind of symbol for the bloody martyrdom of the jewish nation.

I looked those two representatives of German culture right in the eye; I studied them closely and could not fathom how these people, who were created in the likeness of other people on earth, could commit the kind of bestial deeds we all knew so well, of which the mere recollection causes us to shudder.

One of them was a real chatterbox. He started to tell me he had walked all the way from Stalingrad, where the Germans had disgraced themselves by losing the battle. Now he was probably going to continue escaping on foot all the way to Berlin, because Ivan (the Soviet army) was already in Nowe Miasto.

That bit of news took me completely aback. I stared at him so wide-eyed I must have looked half crazed, because he tugged his comrade by the sleeve and said, “Look at the impression my bit of news has made on this woman, Is she scared or what?”

Impression? Who knows how it feels to be condemned to death and placed in front of the firing squad when suddenly a messenger comes racing up at the last moment carrying a pardon? Truly the Germans words were like a pardon for those of us who had been condemned to die. Now I no longer cared about him. I understood what the wagons loaded with suitcases meant: They were running away, they had been beaten. For us this meant the first spark of freedom.

Freedom! The word had lost all meaning for me. I turned away from the German and joined my husband and son in the corner. Their faces, too, showed unbounded astonishment and joy that the long-awaited moment had finally arrived – and calmly with no more slaughter or battles or similar horrors.

The Germans left. I was overcome by a nervous trembling; I was shivering as with fever. Maybe the moment wasn’t so close after all. Maybe something unexpected would happen. Maybe tragic moments were still in store for us.

Should we go to Nowe Miasto? Or were the Germans killing people on the road? Maybe they’re going to burn down the village without letting anybody out. What should we do? How should we proceed? It was too much for me to handle, I just kept going in circles doing nothing.

Meanwhile my son and husband were laughing, and saying that the Germans wouldn’t hurt us; they just wanted to get away as quickly as possible. We were crazy, utterly intoxicated with the news, to the point of being delirious. Nobody gave a thought to peat or potatoes, although we didn’t have anything; we just stood by the window and watched the fleeing Germans.

Michal Grynberg (ed) Words to Outlive Us: Voices from the Warsaw Ghetto

German newsreel from 25th January purporting to show determined resistance by the German armed forces to the Soviet attack:

German troops carrying ammunition on a sled take cover from Soviet fire.
German troops carrying ammunition on a sled take cover from Soviet fire.

Battle of the Bulge – Germans attempt to escape

"Dead German lies in ditch along route of Third Army Division advance near Langlir, Belgium." 13 January 1945.
“Dead German lies in ditch along route of Third Army Division advance near Langlir, Belgium.” 13 January 1945.

In the face of all the evidence Hitler had clung to the hope that something might be achieved by his Ardennes offensive, even after the German attacks had been halted. Only on the 8th had he authorised a withdrawal from the tip of the attack and it would not be until the 15th that he finally accepted that nothing would be achieved. By the end of the month the Germans would be back virtually where they started.

It had always been a gamble, a gamble that depended on Germans breaking through very quickly and seizing Allied supply dumps, particularly for fuel. That had failed, the Allies had been able to stiffen their lines very quickly. Now the Allies were able bring up strong counter-attacks, fully supported by their great material advantage.

For the German soldiers in retreat the Ardennes were now becoming a trap, a killing zone that in places would be worse than the retreat from Normandy.

Gunther Holz:

While our batteries had to cadge for a couple of shells, the enemy supply units drove to their vast supply depots and woe betide the depot commander if he failed to make the required quantities available at once. Where our gunners fired 100 shells, 2,000 shells were fired back from the other side and what we called co-ordinated fire was normal harassing fire in the eyes of our opponents.

From morning till evening American fighter-bombers dominate the sky, firing at anything that moved, no matter whether a vehicle or a single man. Only full cover and not the slightest movement ensured survival. In addition bomb carpets are dropped by small units of 20 to 30 four-engined aircraft on recognized troop concentrations.

'Thousands of cans of gasoline are stacked ready at the side of a Belgian road. It was such fuel dumps that were to prove so vital to the German offensive.'
‘Thousands of cans of gasoline are stacked ready at the side of a Belgian road. It was such fuel dumps that were to prove so vital to the German offensive.’

Obergrenadier Freund:

During the night before 13 January 1945, the Americans shot as much as they can. The shells fell within the German lines. There was a hell of a noise. The soldiers were lying underneath the tanks or have found shelter elsewhere. The Americans want to fire a lane into the German front in order to get east faster.

Someone screams: ‘Enemy tanks.’ Everyone shoots as much as they can The night is as light as day because of the exploding shells. Everybody is nervous. A German tank drives over a poor soldier.

Some soldiers lie in the trench and lower their heads. Though all the rattling and cracking, Paul suddenly hears a scream. He turns around and sees one of our own tanks standing in front of him. It had driven right over the legs of some poor fellow.

Half an hour later the uproar is over. It gets quiet again. Carefully, everybody who is still alive crawls out of the foxholes. The wounded are bandaged and carried off. The other soldiers inspect the whole area.

Behind a hedge eight killed Americans are lying The dead are searched for something to eat. The soldiers are always hungry and the supply does not work at all. Regular meals have been a thing of the past for some time. Whoever finds anything eats it. The Americans had enough on them. Dry bread, tins of all kinds and even toilet paper are in the combatants’ packages.

A direct hit struck the command and reconnaissance vehicle. Three men were killed at once. Private First Class Kessler was alive, but shaken. He stood there white as a sheet. Death can pass you by so fast.

The command and reconnaissance car was at the crossroads. The three dead soldiers were lying next to it. Han said, after he saw his killed comrades: ‘They have had an easy death. Nobody had to suffer.’ Shell splinters had cut offthe head of Master Sergeant Preiss He was a good guy, but that does not count in a war.

Corporal Wachter’s head was smashed and there were lots of holes in his coat. The man had a foreboding about his fate On the night before, he had said: ‘I will not see my family again, nor my Saxon home.’ ‘Why should you not survive the war? We all still have this hope at least,’ Paul interposed. ‘No, I can feel it.’ ‘It will turn out all right,’ said another soldier. ‘No, not for me,’ was his point of view. He survived this discussion by a few hours.

There was no time to mourn. The very next moment shell fire may start and then there would be even more dead and wounded .. In a small village graveyard the three soldiers dig a grave. They put the dead into it and have a short memorial. More ceremonies are not foreseen for front-line soldiers. The soldiers shovel earth back into the grave and the war continues One less day at the front. But how much is one day?

These accounts appear in Nigel Cawthorne (ed): Reaping the Whirlwind: The German and Japanese Experience of World War II

"We were getting our second wind now and started flattening out that bulge. We took 50,000 prisoners in December alone."
“We were getting our second wind now and started flattening out that bulge.
We took 50,000 prisoners in December alone.”