July 2013

Jul

31

1943

Troublesome British POWs in Germany

Taking exercise in the U.S. section of Stalag Luft III, 'walking the circuit', a path beaten around the perimeter of the compound, just inside the warning rail placed ten yards inside the barbed-wire fence.

But the General, brimming with self-confidence, said, ‘No, no. The driver will keep watch.’ Like his boss the general, the driver didn’t know much about POWs; he was far too polite, fielding a constant stream of questions from two German-speakers while the rest of the rabble scrambled over the car, in evident awe and admiration. After giving the driver some cigarettes the crowd dispersed, together with the general’s gloves, torch, maps and tool-kit, and a handbook optimistically marked ‘Secret’.

Jul

30

1943

The covert supply mission of the Casabianca is discovered

The French submarine Casabianca was one of the few vessels that had successfully escaped at Toulon, and was now working to supply the French resistance on Corsica.

At 2300, the enemy opens fire on us. Shots seem to come from all sides. Auto- matic arms open fire. Rounds whistle overhead, others striking near at hand. Everyone went down below in the greatest calm. Meanwhile I put both engines fast astern. By a miracle nobody is wounded. But the two dories dragged on their painters, which unshipped. The rubber dinghies are still on the casing, so we waited until we were clear of the bay before securing them.

Jul

29

1943

Germany is stunned by the impact of the Hamburg raids

Men search amid debris for survivors in Hamburg following RAF raids of July to October 1943.

A city of a million inhabitants has been destroyed in a manner unparalleled in history. We are faced with problems that are almost impossible of solution. Food must be found for this population of a million. Shelter must be secured. The people must be evacuated as far as possible. They must be given clothing. In short, we are facing problems there of which we had no conception even a few weeks ago.

Jul

28

1943

Hamburg is devastated by a firestorm

Buildings on fire in Hamburg following the RAF Bomber Command raids in July 1943.

We were all deeply shocked by this.Our situation at this point was almost hopeless. We were surrounded by fire and would probably die from hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning. Gradually despair spread around us, and we had to give some thought to our position. Apart from the firestorm stemming from incendiary bombs, phosphorous, and liquid canisters (Flüssigkeitskanister), and the hurricane that raged through the streets, there stood opposite our apartment building a big timber business that would provide additional violence in the hell of fire.

Jul

27

1943

French Spitfire pilot Pierre Closterman opens his score

Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vs banking over Tunisia during a sortie to provide top cover for Allied bombers.

I climbed steeply, did a half-roll and, before they could complete the 180° of their turn, there I was — within easy range this time – behind the second one. A slight pressure on the rudder and I had him in my sights. I could scarcely believe my eyes, only a simple deflection necessary, at less than 200 yards range. Quickly I squeezed the ring-button. Whoopee! Flashes all over his fuselage. My first burst had struck home and no mistake.

Jul

26

1943

A short sharp engagement with a Tiger in Sicily

Infantry attacking along a railway cutting, 25 July 1943.

We could hear the rustling and moving of men not very far away, but there remained this sense of suspension in time, of living outside the army, outside the real war, of being in a dream-like village where people fired rifles into fields. Our only support was a three-inch mortar. It was brought up and from behind one of the houses it lobbed shells into the field. But its range was too great and we could not get the shells to fall close enough. The two-inch mortar was with us and it would have done the job, but the ammunition carriers were lost.

Jul

25

1943

Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini is deposed

Mussolini in Tripoli during a visit to Libya. He is pictured on horseback brandishing the "Sword of Islam" which was presented to him by an Arab delegation. His plans to grab Egypt from the British had been a humiliating failure - now Italy faced war on home soil.

Mussolini went in the direction indicated when he suddenly he found himself surrounded by secret police who asked him to get into a motor ambulance which was standing a little distance away. ‘Can’t I use my car ?’ he asked, ‘and where are you taking me to’ ‘To a place where you will be quite safe,’ answered the oicer. Without saying anything more, Mussolini got into the motor ambulance and was taken to a Carabinieri barracks.

Jul

24

1943

Operation Gomorrah – German night-fighters are duped

hamburg bombing

What was to be done? The uncertainty of the ground stations was communicated to the crews. Since this game of hide-and-seek went on for some time I thought: To hell with them all, and flew straight to Amsterdam. By the time I arrived over the capital the air position was still in a complete muddle. No one knew where the British were, but all the pilots were reporting pictures on their screens. I was no exception.

Jul

23

1943

Patton marches into Palermo, Sicily

All smiles for the camera, Montgomery and Patton drive through Palermo.

We met some of the most ingenious tank traps I have ever seen. The Germans would dig a hole about eighteen feet long and ten feet deep halfway across the right side of the road and cover it with chicken wire and dust to make it look like the road. Then, about thirty feet beyond, on the left-hand side of the road, they would make a similar pit. In front of each pit they would put a wire entanglement with the hope that our tanks would disregard the wire and crash into the holes. Fortunately we did not do so.

Jul

22

1943

The Red Army goes on to the offensive after Kursk

Soviet infantry go on the attack with T-34 tanks.

A grayish yellow cloud arose in front of us, as if created by a hurricane. Heavy rounds whistled overhead and crashed into the artillery positions behind us. It sounded like a frog concert, except with a lot of horrible tones. Shrapnel, tree limbs and clumps of earth hissed through our fruit orchard. Wounded cried out in a way that went to the marrow of your bones: “Meddicccc!” During all of this, we were only on the outskirts, better said, we were between two storms of iron and gunpowder.