October 2013

Oct

21

1943

Audie Murphy watches the ambush of a German patrol

A U.S. soldier north of the Volturno disables a mine, which has been discovered by the engineer holding his metal detector. “All roads lead to Rome,” quipped General Harold Alexander, the commander-in-chief of Allied forces in Italy, “but all the roads are mined.”

The Germans labor up a draw that cuts the slope like a wrinkle in a fat man’s stomach. Despite all care, their boots slip on the stony soil; and at each small sound the men start nervously. The leader is obviously an old-timer. I can see from his actions that he does not like the situation at all. The route he has chosen is dangerous indeed, but is the best that the area offers. On two sides, he has at least partial concealment.

Oct

20

1943

Bomber on fire and under attack over Leipzig

Two Avro Lancaster B Mk Is, R5509 'EM-G' and R5570 'EM-F', of No. 207 Squadron RAF based at Bottesford, Linclonshire, in flight. Both aircraft were eventually lost on operations, R5509 while minelaying in the Baltic on 17 August 1942, and R5570 which crashed near Milan while on a night bombing raid to Turin on 9 December 1942.

I was hit. lt came through the fuselage and hit me low, down through the top of my legs, and lifted me up and smashed me right across the soft edge of the structure. I fell down onto the floor, ending up underneath the navigator’s table which was only a short distance away. Afterwards I pulled myself up, because everything below my waist was in a hell of a pain. Because it was dark I didn’t know how it had happened or really where I was.

Oct

19

1943

Disabled PoWs repatriated in Prisoner Exchange

Wounded German POWs being checked aboard the hospital ship SS TAIREA at Port Said, from where they were to sail to Barcelona for repatriation, 18 October 1943.

Three hours spent among the 1,200 new passengers in the Drottningholm on Monday morning furnished a stimulating and indeed an inspiring experience. Most of them had been prisoners for well over three years; all had endured long and severe hardships; some were maimed and many more had less obvious injuries, yet all of them displayed a buoyant spirit. It became apparent, after on had talked with the men in different parts of the ship, that theirs was not merely the natural cheerfulness of men who were going home. These were men whose confident spirit had remained high and intact through the darkest period.

Oct

18

1943

Carrier Pigeon “GI Joe” wins medal

G.I. JOE's Dicken Medal citation reads,

"For prompt delivery of a message to XII Air Support Command, thereby preventing the bombing of advanced elements 56th (London) Division.

The message contained information that the British 169th Infantry Brigade, of the 56th Infantry Division, had captured the village of Colvi Vecchia at 10:45 hours just a few minutes before a unit of the Allied XII Air Support Command was due to bomb the town. The pigeon made the trip of some twenty odd miles, from the 10th Corps Headquarters, in the same number of minutes.

Oct

17

1943

Joy and tragedy as Canadians liberate Italy

17-pdr anti-tank gun of 44/13th Anti-Tank Regiment, 10th Indian Division, in action, 18 October 1944

Early the following morning Gerry Swayle and his platoon were told to occupy San Stefano. It was assumed the enemy rear guards had all withdrawn across the Biferno overnight and Gerry would meet with no resistance. I saw him just before he started off and told him about the joys of liberating Ripalimosani.

Oct

16

1943

The Germans hold the Dnieper Line

Panzer IV on the move on the Eastern Front

Suddenly Russian infantry in solid serried ranks attacked behind a barrage on a narrow front, with tanks in support, and one wave following the other. Numerous low-flying planes attacked those strong-points which were still firing. A Russian infantry attack is an awe-inspiring spectacle; the long grey waves come pounding on, uttering fierce cries, and the defending troops require nerves of steel.

Oct

15

1943

A suicidal German counter-attack

A Panzer III on the Eastern Front, early Autumn 1943

Minutes passed. It seemed like an eternity, although it was not long after mid-night. The seriously wounded Obergefreiter had become still and his breath was coming in gasps. I saw the white of his eyes glistening and felt his sound hand feeling for mine. Then a sigh was wrung out of the dying man. ‘Ah, Herr Leutnant’, he said. His head fell to one side. Again, I was shaken by a feeling of horror. Finally, I made off from crater to crater.

Oct

14

1943

The Sobibor Death Camp revolt

Outside view of the Sobibor Death Camp

At 4:l5, Oberscharfuehrer Graetschus, the German in charge of the Ukrainian guards, arrived at the cobblers’ shop to pick up his order. While Yitzhak held the Nazi’s leg in a firm grip, pretending to pull the boots, Arcady Wajspaper and Siemion Rosenfeld slipped out from the back room and split the skull of the Nazi with the ax. Then his deputy, the Ukrainian Klatt, entered, calling his boss to the telephone. He too was attacked and killed.

Oct

13

1943

Infantry attack across the Volturno River

An infantry section from 'B' Company, 1/6th Queen's Regiment try out their collapsible boats in a farmyard in preparation for crossing the Volturno river, 8 October 1943.

We had orders to keep our rifles dry but they trailed over our shoulders. The three 2 inch mortars in their case were under water as I struggled to keep hold of the rope. Completely soaked we reached the enemy side where our pioneers and many helping hands pulled us up the bank. Sodden but relieved we formed up in a soaked, shivering long line. The enemy had left us alone.

Oct

12

1943

Poor quality recruits to the Soviet army

The Soviet soldier had to be tough and resilient - and needed luck to survive the battlefield.

We had to teach them how to handle themselves on the battlefield and on the defense, how to rise from the ground at the start of an attack, and how to understand and always remember their responsibility to the oath they had taken. Finally, they had to learn the elementary things — an understanding of which flank was the right flank, and which the left.