December 2013

Dec

31

1943

Polish resistance turns against the ‘German’ occupiers

From the very earliest days of their invasion of Poland, and then Russia, the Germans had adopted the most ruthless methods of dealing with anyone suspected of aiding the resistance.

We were in for a surprise: these German soldiers weren’t German. They had Asian features and black, silky hair. They were Russian—speaking Muslims, former Red Army soldiers who, after being captured on the Russian front, had volunteered to fight with the Germans rather than remain in POW camps. When we searched them, We found maps of our area and evidence that, the day before, they had carried out a raid on partisans not far from where we were.

Dec

30

1943

Monte Cassino appears in view

Men of 9 Commando enjoy a 'cuppa' on the morning after a night raid on enemy positions on the River Garigliano, 30 December 1943.

That night we were introduced to our mules, one per post. What staunch friends these gallant hybrids have turned out to be, never flinching come what may, and never hesitating in any weather. ‘Heads, he bites you; tails, he kicks you!’ was a libel invented by field artillery drivers. In the same class of faithfulness we must put the muleteers, too. They all came from North Italy and were of the best type. If they were afraid of anything on this earth, they never mentioned it to anybody.

Dec

29

1943

The smell of death in the paradise of Bougainville

ROUTE STEP…MUD – Marines moving up to the Bougainville front lines ran afoul of General Mud.  Here some of the Marines demonstrate carious forms of footwork for muddy going.  The leader (right) is recovering his balance after a misstep, the third Marine from the end lifts his feet high, while the other Leathernecks just plow right through.

I always hated the feeling that we were destroying something really beautiful. Sometimes, when I was resting, I’d see monkeys come down from the trees. We men would feed them. During quiet periods, I often thought about those wonderful animals and flowers and wondered how they were going to survive the war. As a Navajo, I’d been taught to respect the earth, and the devastation made me feel sick.

Dec

28

1943

Disaster on Vicenza ‘milk run’ for a B-24 Liberator

An air-to-air left side view of four B-24 Liberator aircraft in formation.

As Jefferies pulled the red handle to salvo the bombs, I banked the plane to the right and left the formation, at the same time giving the order on interphone to the crew to bail out, and ringing the alarm bell. There was another fire under the co-pilot and one in the nose wheel cornpartnent and the cock pit was fast filling with smoke. The number three engine was smashed and there was another fire in the rear of the ship forward of the ball turret

Dec

27

1943

Commandos killed in Operation Hard Tack 7

Commandos use fighting knives during close-quarter combat practice in Scotland, 9 January 1943.

In view of the fact that my force had sustained such casualties. I decided to leave the two bodies, retrace my steps and return to the boat. No sooner had we started to move, however than more mines went up all around us. I cannot say how many there were but at the time we had the impression of being under fire from a heavy calibre machine gun. We continued our withdrawal to the dory.

Dec

26

1943

The Scharnhorst is sunk in ‘Battle of the North Cape’

The Sinking of the 'Scharnhorst', 26 December 1943
by Charles David Cobb

We were thus able to watch as Duke of York came up, reducing speed and at 1901 fired a broadside at an easy target. It was an awe-inspiring sight. At five miles, the trajectory was comparatively flat and the 14 inch ‘tracer’ shells leaped across the sea and all of them appeared to smash into her in a colossal explosion. Some of them may have gone over and hit the sea some miles further on, but they were not visible.

Dec

25

1943

A war barely interrupted by Christmas

Men of the 2/6th Queen's Regiment celebrate Christmas, 25 December 1943.

Next, we were moved into a long low building which contained individual cells. I now saw the truth behind the news about each officer having his own room! No explanation was given as to why or for how long one was being given such personal attention, but by now, since capture, we were becoming used to the devious methods of the “detaining power”. It dawned on me that I was in solitary confinement and that this was a novel way to celebrate Christmas.

Dec

24

1943

Irish Guards celebrate Christmas Eve in a brothel

Portrait of Sergeant J P Kenneally, VC, by Henry Carr, 1943.

The bastards opened up on us — .45 slugs slammed into the rear doors they even fired at us from the upstairs windows of the brothel. Monty rounded the corner and we were away with no harm done; there were bullet holes in the roof but no one was hit so we proceeded on our merry way back to Canosa. We parked the wagon about half a mile from the granaries and walked back just in time to join midnight mass in the chapel attached to the farm house. It had been a good night out.

Dec

23

1943

Galeazzo Ciano’s last reflections before execution

From left Goring, Ciano, Hitler and Mussolini in 1938.

There was no reason whatever, in my opinion, for us to be bound in life and death to the destiny of Nazi Germany. Instead, I favored a policy of collaboration, because given our geographic position we can and must detest the 80 million Germans, brutally set in the heart of Europe, but we cannot ignore them. The decision to enter the alliance was taken by Mussolini, suddenly, while I was in Milan with von Ribbentrop.

Dec

22

1943

Canadians confront Fallschirmjager in Ortona

Italy! 'I lived here.' An Italian man stands amid the wreckage of what once was his home in a war-ruined region of San Pietro. Retreating Germans dynamited houses to create street blocks.  Signal Corps Photo .

It is no wonder that they are the ’picked troops’ and sent to whichever sector of the front needs strengthening. It is also interesting to note the condescending way in which the parachutists talk about the inf, ’they always mess things up, and we, the parachutists have to straighten them out again.’ This, then, is the better type and the type which does not talk – irrespective of their knowledge. And they too are the troops which have been put into the line to stem the adv of our Div.