February 2013

Feb

18

1943

Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels calls for ‘Total War’

The packed Berlin Sports palace as Joseph Goebbels calls for 'Total War'.

We promise you, we promise the front, we promise the Führer, that we will mold together the homeland into a force on which the Führer and his fighting soldiers can rely on absolutely and blindly. We pledge to do all in our life and work that is necessary for victory. We will fill our hearts with the political passion, with the ever-burning fire that blazed during the great struggles of the party and the state.

Feb

17

1943

American 168th Infantry’s last stand at Kasserine Pass

Another view of the terrain in the area. A Medium Tank M3 "Lee" from the U.S. 1st Armored Division during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, Tunisia.

The Germans brought up several, tanks, all of them with yellow tigers painted on their sides and opened fire. They also set up machine gun positions and supplemented that with rifle fire. While they were doing this their infantry completely encircled the small American force. After three and one-half hours of fighting the American fire power diminished and then practically ceased as the men were out of ammunition or had become casualties. Finally an armored car bearing a white flag came dashing into the American circle.

Feb

16

1943

German retreat continues on Eastern Front

German soldiers burning down a house near Charkow/Kharkov. Increasingly the Germans adopted a policy of laying waste to areas they had to abandon.

It is -40° C; the snow level is as high as our bodies. The steaming, agitated and exhausted horses can’t even pull the empty sleds anymore. Our small group becomes smaller and smaller, only half of them are still able to fight. Injured soldiers, many with frostbite, load their carbines and shoot. They lumber through the snow; their faces are contorted with pain. In the midst of the blizzard, some fall behind and lose their group, which was supposed to support them.

Feb

15

1943

Bombed by own aircraft as RAF attack Milan

Lancasters awaiting takeoff at Scampton.

At that point my job was to stand on the step ahead of the main spar and put my head up into the astro hatch to assist the gunners in keeping a look out for fighters. For some inexplicable reason, I did something I had never done before; I looked directly above and got the shock of my life. In the glow from the searchlights and target I saw another Lancaster 30 feet above us on exactly the same heading and, like us, his bomb doors were open! The 4,000lb bomb looked enormous and I knew it could be released at any second.

Feb

14

1943

U.S. Forces confront Germans at Kasserine Pass

The Tiger tank was only just making its appearance on the battlefield and there were only limited numbers of them.

In their northern thrust the Germans met with initial success. By 0715 hours, 20 of their tanks had reached a point five miles north-east of Sidi Bouzid while the village itself was subjected to dive-bombing. By noon 50 enemy tanks with infantry and artillery had, in spite of a small U.S. counter-attack, reached the north-west slopes of Djebel Lessouda and were advancing south-west to the Faid-Sbeitla road.

Feb

13

1943

Working on the Railway of Death – Hellfire Pass

Prisoners of War Working on Thai-Burma Railway at Kanu Camp, Thailand 1943.  The John Mennie can be viewed online.

It was the beginning for us of what would become the most notorious railway construction that the world had ever seen. The japanese engineer came over to inspect our work. He studied the clearing from several angles, using various surveying instruments, before declaring, ‘No gooda! Do again! Deeper!’

Feb

12

1943

A Soviet officer cadet endures training in Siberia

The Soviet army was usually well equipped for combat in the coldest conditions.

We fell down on this soft soil and rested for fifteen minutes. But within this short time, the soil began to freeze, and we had to take up our pick-axes again. We repeated this operation several times before the depth of the dugout reached about 2 metres. Then we sawed logs, planned the location of the observation post, built a roof for it and placed a field artillery periscope inside. At dawn we covered the roof with soil, fir branches, and snow. Exhausted but satisfied with the work we had done, we dropped to the floor of the post and fell asleep.

Feb

11

1943

Following Stalingrad, doubt begins to grow in Germany

German graves somewhere in Russia. Few who died at Stalingrad got a decent burial.

While I was searching desperately for the right words, Edith spoke again. ‘There is one thing that haunts me. I have heard a rumour that they could have escaped, but that Hitler forbade it!’ I was frightened. I had not heard that rumour myself at the time. ‘No! Impossible!’ I said. ‘It would be plain murder. Hitler would never do such a thing. You know that, surely ?’

Feb

10

1943

Churchill declares that the U-Boat war is top priority

A tanker explodes after being torpedoed by a U-boat in the Caribbean.

Even if the U-boats increase in number, there is no doubt that a superior proportionate increase in the naval and air escort will be a remedy. A ship not sunk is better than a new ship built. Therefore, in order to reduce the waste in the merchant shipping convoys, we have decided, by successive steps during the last six months, to throw the emphasis rather more on the production of escort vessels, even though it means some impingement on new building.

Feb

9

1943

The Japanese leave Guadalcanal

USS PT-105 running at high speed, during exercises off the U.S. East Coast with other units of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Five, 12 July 1942.

The destroyers were all gone. They’d had to leave in a hurry as it got light, because they were worried about getting attacked and sunk by our airplanes. As we got there, we saw many Japanese in the water. The destroyers just left them behind, left them floating there in the water. I picked up thirteen of them and sat them up on the bow of my boat, and we took them back to Tulagi. I thought it was sensible, that maybe we’d be successful in getting information from them, but the Marines were mad as hell when I got them there.