Nov

13

1944

A US Army patrol sets out to get prisoners

An American patrol in the Hurtgen Forest in late 1944.

As the squad leader, I was next, a buck or staff sergeant, carrying an M1 rifle, bandoliers, grenades, and a knife. At this period during World War II, there was little chance that today’s infantry squad leader had come off the boat with the same grade. A squad leader directed and led eleven men. He was combat experienced and had come up through the ranks, by attrition.

Nov

12

1944

Operation Catechism – the Tirpitz is finally sunk

Low-level oblique photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken from De Havilland Mosquito PR Mark XVI, NS637, of No. 544 Squadron RAF, showing the capsized German battleship TIRPITZ, lying in in Tromso fjord, attended by salvage vessels.

Dodd F L (Sqn Ldr), and Hill A (Plt Off): No. 544 Squadron RAF

Just then Flying Officer Eric Giersch the rear gunner called out, ‘I think she is turning over.’ I turned back to port to have a look and sure enough she was, so back we went again. This time we flew in at 50 feet and watched with baited breath as Tirpitz heeled over to port, ever so slowly and gracefully.

Nov

11

1944

Hitler faces the collapse of German industry

Verical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing a damaged section of the Dortmund-Ems canal near Ladbergen, north of Munster, Germany, following a raid by aircraft of No. 5 Group, Bomber Command, on the night of 23/24 September 1944. Breaches have been made in the banks of two parallel branches of the canal, causing a six-mile stretch to be drained. Most of the damage was caused by two direct hits by 12,000-lb 'Tallboy' deep penetration bombs dropped by No. 617 Squadron RAF.

An extensive search showed that high production of armaments could in fact be continued, but only for a few months more. Hitler accepted a last “emergency or supplementary program,” as we called it, with a calm that seemed truly uncanny. He did not waste a word on the obvious implications, although there could be no doubt what these were.

Nov

10

1944

USS Mount Hood and crew lost in massive explosion

USS Mount Hood (AE-11), smoke cloud expanding, just after she exploded in Seeadler Harbor, Manus, Admiralty Islands, 10 November 1944. Photographed by a photographer of the 57th Construction Battalion, who had set up his camera to take pictures of the Battalion's camp.

I was coming up the ladder from below decks when a tremendous blast threw me against the bulkhead and partially down the ladder… my first thought was that we had been hit by a torpedo. Got topside in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds, just in time to see the initial smoke and flame of the Hood’s explosion. I was mesmerized by what I saw next… the column of smoke rose straight up, and “mushroomed” at the top… a complete preview of how the A-bomb looked a year later. Within one or two minutes a terrific wave rocked the ship.

Nov

9

1944

An improvised method of clearing the German ‘Schu’ mine

A mine-detecting part of 3rd Division at work, 25 November 1944. The leading man is wearing special protective clothing and 'skis' to spread his weight on the ground.

During this battle we had to deal with a quarter of a million mines, the worst of these was the Schu mine which was made of wood and could not be detected. These mines were causing a continuous stream of casualties with horrific injuries. The accepted way to find these mines was to crawl along on hands and knees prodding the ground in front with bayonets. Under heavy fire, an unpleasant task, coupled with the loss of those of us, who unfortunately, prodded them in the wrong place and paid with our lives.

Nov

8

1944

Patton’s Third Army resumes the attack – towards Metz

Eisenhower and Patton confer together in October 1944.

I woke up at 0300 on the morning of November 8, 1944, and it was raining very hard. I tried to go to sleep, but finding it impossible, got up and started to read Rommel’s book, Infantry Attacks. By chance I turned to a chapter describing a fight in the rain in September, 1914. This was very reassuring because I felt that if the Germans could do it I could, so went to sleep and was awakened at 0515 by the artillery preparation.

Nov

7

1944

USAAF Lightnings vs Soviet Yaks over Yugoslavia

Soviet Yak-9s in flight. 'The pilots who flew it regarded its performance as comparable to or better than that of the Messerschmitt Bf 109G and Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-3/A-4.'

I rushed to the airfield. I was running as six American planes swept low over the ground and attacked our Yak-9s, which were taking off. Before reaching the operations office I saw duty aircraft squadron commander, Hero of the Soviet Union, Captain Alexander Koldunov (subsequently twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Air Chief Marshal, Chief of the Air Defense Forces – Deputy Minister of Defense of the USSR), soar aloft with two others.

Nov

6

1944

‘Black Monday’ in Gelsenkirchen – ‘Hell on Earth’

The synthetic oil plant near Gelsenkirchen, probably photographed at the end of the war.

Only 3 or 4 days after the two major attacks on November 6, 1944 rescue teams entered the basement of the collapsed drugstore Schmitz (Kaiser street corner and street Grillo, left two houses from the fire brigade museum) and brought out a woman. She lay in front of the ruined house and was totally black, burnt, charred, sooty, her face unrecognizable: But I noticed, as I bent over her, that she – stinking of burnt flesh and feces – still breathed weakly.

Nov

5

1944

Flooded Walcheren – reconnaissance by Buffalo

LVT Buffalo amphibians during the invasion of Walcheren Island, 1 November 1944.

On the way back we ran into difficulties at about 1750 hours when the Buffalo, manoeuvring to avoid ‘Rommel asparagus’, got one of its tracks jammed on a concrete bridge that was totally submerged and unseen under the grubby flood water. A motor-cycle was jettisoned along with other heavy ‘non-essentials’ but this did not help to dislodge and re-float the Buffalo and we remained stuck on the bridge. The Dutch Resistance had contacted our patrol when it first entered Kouderkirke and now they came to our assistance, rowing out to rescue both the Brigade L.O. and myself.

Nov

4

1944

RAF Bomber Command’s last major raid on Bochum

An image taken from one of the bombers over Bochum on the 4th-5th November 1944.

What happened then was that as I was dropping the bombs the crew left their stations and went to the exits. Sok stayed at the controls but didn’t open his escape hatch but put the plane into a steep diveto put out the fire. I was in the nose trying to untangle my intercom cord from my parachute wondering if I would ever get them apart. I was about to give up when John signaled to me. He yelled into my ear, “Hang onto me and we’ll go together.” John knew as well as I did that this was crazy.