September 2013

Sep

20

1943

U-Boat Wolfpack returns to Atlantic with a vengeance

A German U-Boat commander tracking a British merchant ship through his periscope during an attack on a convoy.

After circling around we were called back to the ship’s side. A signalman got into the motor boat and passed us some papers and a signal lamp. As we were leaving the ship we were called back again to hook onto two Carley floats that were filled with men, we took them from the ship’s side and around to the stern. As we came around the other side there was a man in the water. One of the boys from the motor boat dove over the side, swam to him and brought him back to the motor boat. When we got them both back in the boat the lad was almost gone.

Sep

19

1943

Discovering the end of German occupation in the East

An elderly resident of a village burned down by Germans sitting by the ruins of his house. Ukraine, Region Tschernigow

Germans who had been withdrawn to the rear villages were searching for food from morning till night. They ate, drank alcohol and played cards. According to what prisoners said and [what was written in] letters found on dead German soldiers, the Germans considered themselves the representatives of a higher race forced to live in savage villages. They thought that in the wild eastern steppes one could throw culture aside.

Sep

18

1943

Assassination on the streets of Warsaw

German troops on the streets of Warsaw had been a fact of life for the past four years.

We ran quickly down the stairway and sheltered in the tunnel under the viaduct, ahead of the crowd. What we intended to do would take us only a few seconds, but every one of them counted. We knew we had to disarm the sergeant before the other three Germans descended the stairway. We barely had time enough to take our guns out of our pockets before the sergeant appeared, with a crowd of people behind him. When he was about two meters from us we faced him and said, “Arms up quickly, or we will shoot.”

Sep

17

1943

Red Army attack on the retreating German army

A Red Army 45mm gun crew firing under cover of a smokescreen.

Then the mortar men kicked into action and laid down a sheaf of fire, up to three shells per tube. The field of battle began to darken. After the mortar attack, five to seven minutes passed, and then the Germans once again rushed forward, although their numbers were now fewer. One German constantly kept turning back to the advancing line, waving his pistol and shouting something. Nishchakov took careful aim, and the leader fell. The others dropped to the ground again.

Sep

16

1943

Navigating a first combat mission in a B-17 over France

B-17s in formation whilst on their bomb run.

Finally, the target was reached, bomb-bay doors were opened, the lead bombardier released his bombs, and the other planes toggled their bombs on that signal. The formation headed out to sea, reducing altitude again, so as to fly back to England out of view of German radar on the French coast. The fighters deserted the formation, and headed back to their home bases. I navigated primarily by flight plan, calculating occasional dead-reckoning fixes for practice, and was pleased to find that these fixes agreed closely with the flight plan.

Sep

15

1943

Wehrmacht “scorched earth” retreat in Russia

A Russian village burns during the German retreat, August 1943.

Although the war caused these people a great deal of misfortune and hardship, the latter bore no comparison to the terror-bombing suffered by the civil population in Germany or what happened later on in Germany’s eastem territories. In any case, all the measures taken on the German side were conditioned by military necessity. One or two figures may serve to show what an immense technical achievement this withdrawal operation was. To begin with, there were 100,000 wounded to evacuate. About 2,500 trains were needed to shift German equipment and stores and requisitioned Soviet property. And the Russian civilians who had attached themselves to us alone numbered many hundreds of thousands.

Sep

14

1943

Auschwitz: selected to work by Mengele

Hoess the commandant of Auschwitz tours Buna with Himmler.

Then a number of civilians came to the block. They were accompanied by Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz. The consensus of our block supervisors indicated that they were from I.G. Farben, a large German pharmaceutical company that already employed prisoners in the nearby Buna camp. At Buna, the I.G. Farben Company was making synthetic rubber. There, we were told, the inmate death rate was very high, and they had a continuous need for replacement workers. We believed that it could only be better than our present situation. We just wanted to get out of here.

Sep

13

1943

Australian 7th Division close in on Japanese

Richard Kelliher V.C. in 1946

I wanted to bring [wounded] Cpl Richards back, because he was my cobber, so I jumped out from the stump where I was sheltering and threw a few grenades over into the position where the Japanese were dug in. I did not kill them all, so went back, got a Bren gun and emptied the magazine in the post. That settled the Japanese. Another position opened up when I went on to get Cpl Richards, but we got a bit of covering fire and I brought him back to our lines.

Sep

12

1943

Mussolini is rescued in daring Fallschirmjäger raid

One of the gliders on the mountainside, illustrating the tight landing area.

Liberation in the Apennines was undertaken with gliders. One of these landed fifty feet in front of the hostelry in which the Duce was staying. Within a few minutes he was free. He was of course deeply touched at being rescued from captivity by German soldiers. Our soldiers proceeded pretty brutally and thereby kept the Italian Carabinieri guards in check. A few hours later the Duce was in Vienna. Just before calling me the Fuehrer had had a telephone conversation with him.

Sep

11

1943

USS Savannah hit by German glider bomb

USS Savannah (CL-42) is hit by a German radio-controlled glider bomb, while supporting Allied forces ashore during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943. The bomb hit the top of the ship's number three 6"/47 gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before exploding. The photograph shows the explosion venting through the top of the turret and also through Savannah's hull below the waterline. A motor torpedo boat (PT) is passing by in the foreground.

The explosion blew open both the #2 and #1 magazines forward, and killed most everyone in the bow forward of the #3 turret. There were a few exceptions, and there were some guys that were trapped in compartments that we couldn’t get to because they were surrounded by water on 3 or 4 sides. Once the #3 magazine exploded, the blast continued to travel towards the bow. Almost everyone forward of the boiler room that were below deck were killed.