March 1944

Apr

5

1944

USAAF return to bomb the oil refinery at Ploesti

Smoke rises from the Astra Romana refinery in Ploesti Romania following low level bombing attack by B-24 Liberators, Aug 1 1943.

One hour and ten minutes before target time 2 FW 190′s were seen flying in from the south and they stayed with our formation until the first attack was made acting as observers and, without doubt, radioing information as to strength and heading to attacking units. The first attack come 25 minutes from the target by 10/12 ME 109′s who, using cloud cover, made a surprise attack from 12 o’clock high.

Mar

31

1944

Heavy losses as RAF Bomber Command targets Nuremberg

Halifax B Mark III, LV857, in flight shortly after completion by the Handley Page Ltd works at Radlett, Hertfordshire. In its brief service life, this aircraft served with Nos. 35, 10 and 51 Squadrons RAF before crashing at Schwarzbad while returning from a raid on Nuremberg on 31 May 1944.

Pilot Officer Barton faced a situation of dire peril. His aircraft was damaged, his navigational team had gone and he could not communicate with the remainder of the crew. If he continued his mission, he would be at the mercy of hostile fighters when silhouetted against the fires in the target area, and if he survived he would have to make a 4 1/2 hours journey home on three engines across heavily-defended territory.

Mar

30

1944

The miserable experience of a D-Day rehearsal

Troops coming ashore from a landing craft under a smoke screen during Combined Operations training at Inveraray, Scotland, 9 October 1941.

In the morning we got away, and although it was still choppy we completed our sea mileage (the equivalent I suppose of Newhaven to Normandy) and at 1615 hours we approached the coast. There had been some kind of real bombardment earlier and this had set fire to some pine woods and marram grass on the sandhills. By the time we landed there were squads of Land Army girls beating out the fires, which tended to spoil the realism.

Mar

29

1944

Destroyer HMS Laforey sunk as she closes for the kill

The destroyer HMS Laforey, a veteran of the war in the Mediterranean.

After what appeared to be an eternity, I spotted the darker shape of an approaching vessel. Suddenly there were cries of, “ Swim you German bastards, swim!” Our would be rescuers, were convinced that we were German survivors from the U-boat, which Tumult and Blencathra had eventually sunk. They were unaware of the fact that Laforey had gone too.

Mar

28

1944

‘Fight to the last man’ as Japanese enter India

View of the Burmese landscape from the Dimapur-Kohima road near Imphal.

In Dimapur I had asked the brigadier commanding the base what his ration strength was. ‘Forty-five thousand, near enough,’ he replied. ‘And how many soldiers can you scrape up out of that lot?’ I inquired. He smiled wryly. ‘I might get five hundred who know how to fire a rifle!’ . But, as at Kohima, everything that could be done to put the sprawling base into a state of defence was being done.

Mar

27

1944

The ‘Kinder Aktion’ in the Kovno ghetto

Two children in the ghetto in February 1944.  Any Jew could be summarily shot for not wearing a yellow star - the parents of these two obviously took the threat seriously. It would have made no difference when they  became targets of the Nazi 'Kinder Aktion' on 27th March.

But those figures did not add up. From the available to them data Germans knew that a large number of old people and children had not been found yet. The next day round-ups had resumed. Every suspicious place was carefully searched, hand grenades were thrown into basements and lofts. All newly discovered people were put into lorries and sent to the 9th Fort.

Mar

26

1944

OSS troops executed at dawn on Dostler’s orders

German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad in the Aversa stockade. The General was convicted and sentenced to death by an American military tribunal. Aversa, Italy., 
US Army photograph colourized by Mads Madsen.

During the night from Saturday 25th to Sunday, 26th March, two attempts were made by officers of the 135th Fortress Brigade and by the Naval Officers to bring about a change in the decision by telephoning to the accused Dostler. All these attempts having been unsuccessful, the 15 Americans were executed on the 26th March, early in the morning. They were neither tried, nor given any hearing.

Mar

25

1944

A burning plane 18,000′ over Germany and no parachute

Flight -Sergeant J Morgan, the rear gunner of an Avro Lancaster of No. 630 Squadron RAF at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire, checks his guns in the Nash & Thompson FN20 tail turret before taking off on a night raid on the marshalling yards at Juvisy-sur-Orge, France.

I leaned back, pushed open the turret doors, and reached into the fuselage to grab my parachute from its rack. The whole length of the fuselage was blazing. The flames reached right down to the door of my turret. And there, in a fierce little fire of its own, my parachute was blazing, too. For a brief moment I stared while it dissolved before my eyes.

Mar

24

1944

The ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III

The entrance to 'Harry',

There were about 200 of us spread evenly in the rooms throughout the hut. I can’t honestly remember if we had been allocated rooms according to our escape numbers, but that was probably the case. Everyone was nervous, checking constantly papers, escape rations, appearance — all the small details your life might depend upon later.

Mar

23

1944

Japanese held at the Battle of Sangshak

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: British 3-inch mortar detachments support the 19th Indian Division's advance along the Mawchi Road, east of Toungoo, Burma. The mortar proved the most effective weapon in jungle warfare.

In the late afternoon, I had to visit company commanders to convey orders for the coming night attack. I went by way of a communication trench and saw five soldiers crouching in it. On the battlefield soldiers feel forlorn and tend to stick together. Just as I told them to disperse, a shell exploded between me and them and all five were killed. I was facing the enemy so my face was injured. I could not see…