Feb

21

1945

Fatal error at 18,000 feet over Germany

Vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing water pouring through a breach in the western channel of the Dortmund-Ems Canal at Ladbergen, Germany, following a daylight attack by aircraft of No. 5 Group, Bomber Command. This was the fourth time that Bomber Command had put the canal out of action, following repairs by the Germans.

He had made the fatal mistake of picking up his parachute pack by the shiny handle, the ripcord, and it had opened in the aircraft. He had, however clipped it to his harness and gathered the canopy in his arms. I watched him jump and saw the canopy which was torn from his grasp by the slipstream pass over the top of the tail-plane and his body beneath. His body was found later on the ground, still attached to his parachute: he had been killed by the impact when dragged back into the tail by his entangled canopy.

Feb

20

1945

Nazi propaganda continues in face of desperate reality

German troops in Breslau in February 1945

Criminally caused by our regime, it is the worst crime not only against our people, but the entire world. Every day the senseless continuation of this war devours countless human lives, destroys our cities and villages, makes an entire nation homeless and poor. How terribly has God’s judgment been unleashed against our nation, whose leadership has committed outrages against everything which God stands for these past dozen years.

Feb

19

1945

US Marines invade beaches of Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima – Amphibious tractors, jammed with Fourth Division Marines, churn toward Iwo Jima at H-hour. These troops were the initial assault force.

At first I did not understand why they were so afraid but as our tank turned right on the beach I began to realize why. The beach was littered with Jeeps, trucks, amphibious tractors, Higgins Boats, men and equipment in various degrees of destruction. We were able to go only a short distance before we had to stop because of a Jeep stuck in the narrow stretch of beach between the terrace and the surf. We were contemplating driving over the Jeep when a Marine jumped in, started the engine and because he was unable to drive forward, put it in reverse and backed into the surf, giving our tank clear passage.

Feb

18

1945

Cliff climb assault surprises Germans on Riva Ridge

10th Mountain Division soldiers with snow shoes. 10 Jan 45,coming past the last contact with the accepted front. 2 Tank Destroyers are used for direct fire against any positions the enemy tries to build or any movement that may be observed.

When the advance teams reached the top at approximately midnight, they signaled to the 1st Battalion units below that they could begin the ascent in force. These units advanced in a column of companies toward the foot of Riva Ridge and then split up, each taking a different route up the face of the cliff. Fortunately, the haze which hung over the lower elevations of the ridge continued to help conceal the attacking mountaineers. With a biting and wet wind whipping them about, the climbers clambered cautiously up the wet rocks with the aid of the preset ropes, fearful that any dislodged rock that clattered down the cliff face would be followed by bursts of enemy machine guns and grenades.

Feb

17

1945

‘The only way out’ for an infantryman

Vickers machine gunners of the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, 15th (Scottish) Division, lay down harassing fire in support of forward elements during the battle for Goch, 20 February 1945.

In the middle of the curses and attempts to regroup Jerry Defensive Fire came down. We hit the ground, “B”, “D” and the German prisoners in a hopeless jumble. The gunnery was, fortunately, of a low standard as no shells came in among us. One straggler on the edge of the ditch was hit in the shoulder as he dived into the trench, rolling to the bottom in a shower of earth and stones. We bandaged him as neatly as we could. He didn’t seem too bad, so we said how much we envied him, wrapped him in his gas-cape to prevent shock and gave him a cigarette. From the smile on his face we gathered that “Jack” was certainly All Right.

Feb

16

1945

Bombs and shells pound the surface of Iwo Jima

The entire,  tiny, eight-square-mile island of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Group, halfway between Saipan and Tokyo, is seen under attack by U.S. Army 7th Air Force Consolidated B-24 Liberators. A cross-like airfield is directly in the center of the island, beneath the smoke of bombs, and the triangular field is clearly visible to its right. 7th Air Force Liberators have pounded Iwo Jima since August.

Black smoke covered the island, and shrapnel was flying all over the place with a shrieking sound. Trees with trunks one meter across were blown out of the ground, roots uppermost. The sound was deafening, as terrible as a couple of hundred thunderclaps coming down at once. Even in a cave thirty meters underground, my body was jerked up off the ground. It was hell on earth.

Feb

15

1945

Shot down and in the hands of the SS

Berlin, February 1945.

Three SS officers proceeded to question me for several hours, then stripped me of all my clothing, wrapped me in a blanket and took me about 16 kilometres by horse and wagon to a point somewhere west of the Rhine. We arrived at a German evacuation hospital, where there were about 300 wounded Germans and where they left me for a day and a night with no medical attention. Then we started on another trip further into Germany, to the finest hospital one could ask for anywhere — large, modern and shining. Here at last, I thought, was a chance to have my wounds dressed.

Feb

14

1945

Ash Wednesday in burning Dresden

An overview of the widespread destruction in the centre of Dresden.

At the beginning people had got hold of a little tea somewhere and distributed it by the mouthful. Soon there was nothing at all, not a drop of water, not even for the wounded and dying. The medical orderlies complained that they could not help anyone. The vigorous Waldmann felt tormented by thirst to such a degree that he literally began to fade away. He fell asleep, started up in a wretched state, he had been dreaming of drinking. New medical orderlies came. One put a bottle to Waldmann’s mouth.

Feb

13

1945

Operation Thunderclap – RAF start firestorm in Dresden

Still from film shot by the RAF Film Production Unit, showing incendiary fires burning in Dresden, Germany, during the second heavy attack on the night of 13/14 February.

I was last to mark, being in my bombing dive when the Master Bomber called “Markers to clear the target area”, followed by “Main Force come in and bomb”. Having released my markers and pulling out of my dive, two things caused consternation – first there, right in front of me were the spires and turrets of Dresden Cathedral, secondly, some of the Lancasters were a bit quick to drop their Cookies, much to my discomfort. The aircraft was rocked and buffeted just like a row boat in a heavy sea. It was on this occasion that I learned why the safety height to fly when 4000lb bombs were exploding was a minimum of 4000 feet.

Feb

12

1945

The horrific ordeal of the Sandakan death marches

The ruins of huts in the prisoner of war camp, Sandakan, North Borneo, October 1945. Courtesy Australian War Memorial: 120457

The PoWs carried all the food including that for the guards. The route of the Death March, climbing up to 1,000 metres in some places, was along jungle tracks some of which the prisoners had to hack through thick jungle. The route crossed and re-crossed rivers which, as it was the monsoon season, were full in full flow. Humidity was extreme. There were no medical kits for the PoWs and drinking water was direct from the streams, rivers, swamps or puddles. It was a case of march or die, which developed into march to die. Any prisoner that stopped was shot, bayoneted or clubbed to death; there were also occasional strangulations.