January 2014

Jan

21

January 1944

US troops’ suicidal assault across the Rapido

The bridge was about a foot under water most of the way, and stacked with bodies from upstream. A lot of the men drowned from the flow of the river with all their equipment still on. I looked at some, that is when I noticed most died with that look of surprise on their face, like “what happened?” and “why me to die this way?”

Jan

20

January 1944

Lieutenant Horwood draws Japanese fire – earns VC

Throughout that day he lay in an exposed position which had been completely bared of cover by concentrated air bombing and effectively shot his own mortars and those of a half troop of another unit while the company was manoeuvring to locate the exact position of the enemy bunkers and machine-gun nests

Jan

19

January 1944

Captured by a German raiding party

The section leaders who had not been wounded were crawling back from the tent towards their trenches; my sergeant and I had a small slit trench outside the tent which was where we were to go in an emergency. My wounded sergeant had slithered to this and was lying at the bottom so that there was no room for me to get under cover except by kneeling on top of him.

Jan

18

January 1944

Disaster as shell hits Royal Artillery battery

I helped beat the flames out. His face and hands were badly burnt, I helped him up the ladder to the command post and I blurted out to those within, “there’s been a direct hit on the guns.” I realised then I was late with the news, wounded gunners were already being attended to. Everybody looked very tense, behind me flames were leaping twenty feet in the air,

Jan

17

January 1944

Canadian infantry assault behind artillery barrage

This time, we were directly under the flight paths of the shells at the point in the trajectory where they were on their downward journey. It was ten minutes of listening with awe and fearful doubts as they whirred over our heads and plunged into the target area with a drumbeat roll. And then we were on our way for what we thought would be the decisive thrust that would end the agony our regiment was going through.

Jan

16

January 1944

Arctic cold freezes men on the Eastern front battlefield

Some men fainted as the cold struck them, paralysed before they even had a chance to scream. Survival seemed almost impossible. Our hands and faces were coated with engine grease, and when our worn gloves were pulled over this gluey mixture, every gesture became extremely difficult.

Jan

15

January 1944

Germans crack down as Red Army gets closer

The overall feeling is that this time the Germans are unable to stop the Russian offensive. In the German administration and also the German military you can see complete chaos. Germany is already finished. Their might is breaking apart and the time for the end is near. This is an all-embracing feeling, but the people who are more realistic are still counting on very difficult days.

Jan

14

January 1944

Hitler rejects a defensive strategy in the East

Only his sheepdog bitch, Blondi, was there. Hitler fed her from time to time with pieces of dry bread. Linge, the servant who waited on us, came and went silently. The rare occasion had arisen on which it would be possible to tackle and perhaps to solve thorny problems. After a few opening remarks the conversation turned on the military situation.

Jan

13

January 1944

Morgenthau argues for direct action to help the Jews

Despite the fact that time is most precious in this matter, State Department officials have been kicking the matter around for over a year without producing results; giving all sorts of excuses for delays upon delays; advancing no specific proposals designed to rescue Jews, at the same time proposing that the whole refugee problem be “explored” by this Government and Intergovernmental Committees.

Jan

12

January 1944

A German soldier on the Eastern front reflects on life

There was no end in sight. Yearning plunged into the distance; frost caught in my hair. Rushing passage, as on a sleigh in space. An intoxicating feeling came over me: a burgeoning sense of life, the limitless, exuberant pleasure of being in the world. The freedom of an hour in the Russian winterland. I loved life.