Warsaw Uprisng - Stuka dive bombers over the Old town, August 1944

Warsaw Uprisng – Stuka dive bombers over the Old town, August 1944

After a month of fighting the Polish Home Army continued to hold out in their desperate battle against the Nazi occupiers. There was still no prospect of Stalin’s troops advancing any further to assist them – and Britain and the U.S. struggled to find the means by which to offer substantial support.

For the Nazis the whole city was regarded as simply a battlefield to be be smashed apart with no regard to occupants, be they Polish Home Army soldiers or ordinary civilians. Julian E. Kulski had grown up with the war, now still only 15 years old, he was one of hundreds of teenagers fighting with the Home Army. He kept a journal of events during the uprising, including 31st August:

Zoliborz is under unrelenting bombardment. On this sunny afternoon, countless enemy Stuka dive-bombers flew over our positions and over Wilson Square. As they were not fired upon, they swooped low over the roofs of the apartment houses, and one could easily see the huge bombs attached to their fuselages. I saw them dive over the lower part of Mickiewicz Street.

After a few minutes, a dreadful explosion shook Zoliborz, and a terrible sight met my eyes. Wall after wall of the enormous apartment building at 34- 36 Mickiewicz Street began to fall down. The front wall of the building slipped out at the base, as a result of the well-aimed bombs, exposing all the interior floors.

After a while, a curtain of dust began to descend over the whole building. My heart sank – it was the building in which Marysia lived. My first thought was to run over there to help. But I was not allowed to leave our quarters. Later, though, an order from our commandant sent us off: “Detachment to dig up the ruins, at the double.”

He did not have to tell us twice!

I started first, and forgetting military discipline, I left my detachment behind. Fear of what might have happened to my friend made my heart thump even faster than the exertion did.

Fortunately, the wing of the building where Marysia lived was still reasonably intact, but the entire middle part had collapsed onto the cellar in which the inhabitants of the building were gathered. The bombs had been dropped aslant and exploded nearly at the foot of the building.

Some rescue squads were already at the place, together with Colonel ‘Zywiciel’ and our Company Commander Lieutenant ‘Szeliga.’ Along with the others, I began to dig under the rubble. We could hear the groans of the victims buried under the broken bricks and glass.

After an hour, we succeeded in digging out a middle-aged woman whose legs were smashed and twisted. Before she lost consciousness, she whispered through pale, blood-covered lips that about ten other people had been with her before the bombs fell.

Now we began to notice a head, a leg, or an arm under the debris — a sign that we were coming to more bodies. The next to be uncovered was a man, but he was already dead, his body damaged almost beyond recognition.

After three hours of intense digging, we found a woman holding a baby in her arms. The baby wailed like a wounded bird, and its mother, though injured herself, clasped her child tightly. She lay in a very difficult position, so it took a long time to free her.

Soon after that we had to stop, and went round to what had been the back of the building to have a breather. The whole garden was full of corpses — there they all lay — men, women, children, and infants. Then, among the civilians standing in a dazed huddle, I noticed Marysia — miraculously, she was not even scratched. The scene made many of us who had never cried before, do so now — particularly because the dead were mostly women and children.

See Julian Engeniusz Kulski: Dying, we live: The personal chronicle of a young freedom fighter in Warsaw (1939-1945). YouTube has a short interview with Julian E. Kulski, now a U.S. citizen, on his views on the importance of the Uprising.

Young members of the Polish Home Army in Warsaw during the uprising.

Young members of the Polish Home Army in Warsaw during the uprising.

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Aug

30

1944

Heavy casualties as assault on Gothic Line begins

An M10 tank destroyer of 93rd Anti-Tank Regiment passes infantry of the 5th Sherwood Foresters during the advance to the Gothic Line, 27-28 August 1944.

At that time we had to count the cost. I had lost one platoon officer, I didn’t know I’d lost the other one. I got the chaps in some sort of defensive positions. Getting behind these brick walls in the ruins, just to protect ourselves from this machine gun fire. There was certainly more than one machine gun. But they had us in their sights.

Aug

29

1944

US reconnaissance patrol holds off Panzer troops

US Army Pfc. Edward J. Foley of the 143rd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division cleaning his Springfield M1903A4 sniper rifle, near Valletri, Italy, 29 May 1944

The Germans poured in the barn but didn’t harm the tank driver and didn’t spot me. They didn’t take the wounded man because of his leg wound. Two hours went by before the forward advanced troops of the 3rd Division came into the barn. Paul Blackmer, Louis Weiner and David Pritchet were captured. Koch died of his wounds.

Aug

28

1944

Over the Seine and “push on”

Sherman tanks crossing a pontoon bridge over the River Seine at Vernon, 28 August 1944.

The first few yards were not too bad, but then, as the pontoons sagged under the weight of the tanks, water sloshed over the tracks so that the roadway in front temporarily disappeared from view. It was a nightmare drive and it was with huge relief that we found ourselves safely on dry land on the opposite bank of the river at Vernonnet, a small, pleasant riverside settlement, now completely deserted.

Aug

27

1944

‘Friendly Fire’ disaster for Royal Navy off Le Havre

The Hawker Typhoon's devastating rocket armament was effective against tanks, gun emplacements, buildings and railways. Coastal shipping was another target, including this unfortunate tug caught in the Scheldt estuary in September 1944. In this case the shell splashes from the aircraft's four 20mm cannon assist the pilot in correcting his aim before unleashing a salvo of RPs.

The ship lurched over to starboard and rolled back to settle with a ten degree list to port, the officers’ cabins and alleyways having flooded instantly. Luckily in the wardroom we were all sitting either on the bulkhead settees or in low armchairs, not at the table, for at this moment cannon fire raked the wardroom just above table level, smashing right through the ship.

Aug

26

1944

No 4 Commando finally rest out of the line

Sherman DD tanks of 'B' Squadron, 13th/18th Royal Hussars support commandos of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, as they advance into Ouistreham, Sword area, 6 June 1944.

About three miles beyond the town we marched along dusty lanes, the hedges of which were already full of ripe hazel-nuts. On either side were orchards in which rosy apples hung heavy on the trees. Here we halted. Each troop was given an area, an orchard with a barn filled with sweet-smelling straw. It was just like heaven. The date was 26 August.

Aug

25

1944

‘Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!’

Brimming with anger, a French man attacks a German soldier being marched through the streets of Paris following his capture by members of the French Resistance. After the entry of the French 2nd Armored Division of the Free French Forces and the U.S. Third Army (United States Army Central), numerous pockets of German snipers who refused to surrender had to be rooted out in street fighting. Paris, Île-de-France, France. 25 August 1944. Image taken by Robert Capa.

Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the help of the French armies, with the support and the help of all France, of the France that fights, of the only France, of the real France, of the eternal France!

Aug

24

1944

Paris in turmoil as liberation approaches

Members of the Free French Forces fight from inside the Paris Prefecture (police headquarters)(Getty)

Tomorrow morning will be the dawn of a new day for the capital. Tomorrow morning, Paris will be liberated, Paris will have finally rediscovered its true face. Four years of struggle, four years that have been, for many people, years of prison, years of pain, of torture and, for many more, a slow death in the Nazi concentration camps, murder; but that’s all over…

Aug

23

1944

Normandy: the British breakout begins

Cromwell OP tanks and Humber scout cars of 5th RHA, 7th Armoured Division, climb the hill into Lisieux, 23 August 1944. On the right is a Royal Artillery battery commander's half-track of 51st Highland Division, and in the centre a wounded Highlander shot by a sniper is carried to safety.

This was the real thing. This was the Breakthrough. We saw the remains of a retreating army. Burnt-out vehicles that the RAF had caught, abandoned vehicles that had broken down, derelict vehicles that had run out of petrol, dead horses, broken wagons, scattered kit and equipment.

Aug

22

1944

The French rise up in Paris

The French enthusiastically took to the barricades again.

This morning, a peasant said to me as he watched massive lorries full of ammunition thunder past his door: “I think the liberation of Paris will affect me even more than the liberation of my own village, because France will once again have a capital.