July 1944

Aug

16

July 1944

Tasker Watkins – First Welsh VC of the war

Lieutenant Watkin’s company now had only some 30 men left and was counterattacked by 50 enemy infantry. Lieutenant Watkins directed the fire of his men and then led a bayonet charge, which resulted in the almost complete destruction of the enemy. It was now dusk and orders were given for the battalion to withdraw. These orders were not received by Lieutenant Watkin’s company as the wireless set had been destroyed.

Jul

31

July 1944

USS Parche’s surface attack on Japanese convoy

In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed in to ram, Comdr. Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead.

Jul

30

July 1944

Operation Bluecoat – the final push in Normandy begins

I wondered what the pilot thinks of the infantryman. Several bomber pilots have told me subsequently that their most interesting missions were in direct support of land fighting and usually on those occasions they came away with light losses. One pilot has told me that from the sky the explosion of bombs looks the least terrible part of a battle. ‘Your artillery,’ he said, ‘looks as if it is creating great havoc. It gives a continuous line of flashes and it looks to us as if nothing could live down below.’

Jul

29

July 1944

B-17 Bomber encounters Nazi rocket fighter Me 163

I soon realized the situation was hopeless and told John to exit the top hatch. As I climbed out the top hatch, Bernie, half covered with water, called out my name. What a feeling! From the top hatch I could see that the B-17 was at about a forty-five degree angle to the sea and the wings were half covered with water. As I dove into the sea and started swimming towards the two dinghies, something touched my feet. Looking back I saw it had been the tip of the B-17’s rudder that had touched my feet and the aircraft disappeared from sight. Eight of us survived the ditching and Bernie went down with the B-17.

Jul

27

July 1944

RAF pilot lies low with the French

To my great satisfaction, they got their wish. Four miles down the road, this two wagon convoy was strafed by Spitfires and the vehicles were turned into wizard flamers. The two drivers, however, escaped since they abandoned their lorries at the first sign of the Spitfires. This incident was seen by several Frenchmen, who expressed their pleasure later that evening.

Jul

26

July 1944

Marines fight off Japanese ‘Banzai’ charge on Guam

A moment later another band of Japs appeared. Again, several paused at the gun and tried to swing the heavy weapon around. They had almost succeeded, when from the darkness a lone, drunken Jap raced headlong at them, tripped several feet away over a body, and flew through the air. There was a blinding flash as he literally blew apart. He had been a human bomb, carrying a land mine and a blast charge on his waist.

Jul

25

July 1944

French Resistance hunted down by the Germans

Realising the futility of sitting where we were, getting nowhere and gradually growing weaker besides the fact no one had contacted us which was the primary object, we decided to move across the valley. Desmond, Boise, who said he’d like to come, and I. We realised the risks entailed, but saw in it the only hope of making contact with Andre, possibly Cmdt H, who, by now, must have sought hiding on the opposite side of the valley. At 3.30pm we said “good-bye” to the rest, who didn’t appear to take our leaving them particularly well, took a few rations and left.

Jul

24

July 1944

US bombers prepare the ground for Operation Cobra

It was impossible to give help as long as the air raid lasted. Several companies of the 5th Para Division who tried to withdraw to the north in the direction of Marigny were entirely destroyed by Lightnings, pursuit planes and bombers. On that day my company lost one officer, and 34 non-commissioned officers and enlisted men. The attack lasted approximately three hours.

Jul

23

July 1944

The SS murder the remaining prisoners at Treblinka

We know about incredible orgies of the Germans, about how they raped girls and shot their forced lovers immediately afterwards, how a drunken German cut off a woman’s breast with a knife, how they threw people down from a top-floor window six metres from the ground, how a drunken company would take ten to fifteen prisoners from the barracks during the night and practise different methods of killing, without haste, shooting the doomed men in the heart, back of the head, eye, mouth, temple…

Jul

22

July 1944

Polish partisans watch the German retreat

It took hours for the tank columns to pass our positions. Our men later said that some of the Germans riding on the tanks must have spotted us, but just looked the other way. To this day, I can’t imagine how we managed to keep cool in a situation like this, when we could all have been killed and our only defense was in lying low and waiting it out. We had become a tightly disciplined group. Nobody made a false move. About half an hour after the last tank passed, we heard a huge explosion and saw flames and smoke maybe a thousand feet behind us. We later learned that one of the German tanks had broken down; the Germans blew it up, not wanting to leave it behind for the Russians.