Nov

30

1944

Wartime Berlin – an international city, underground

The production of German munitions and armaments, including many of her secret weapons programmes was now heavily dependent on foreign labour.

Ragged, romantic-looking characters in padded jackets, with high, Slav cheekbones, mixed with fair-haired Danes and Norwegians, smartly turned-out Frenchwomen, Poles casting looks of hatred at everybody, fragile, chilly Italians — a mingling of races such as can never before have been seen in any German city.

Nov

29

1944

Survival as a POW in Nagasaki, Japan

Orderly on his rounds in X Ward, Changi Gaol, Singapore, with POW's suffering from starvation and Beri-Beri.
Leslie Cole, 1945

Though we found it difficult to obtain radios or receive news, we realised that the Japanese were definitely losing the war. The wholesale demolition of houses to provide fire lanes in the event of incendiary bombing, the increased air raids, the irritability of the officers and warrant oflicers with the guards and of course with us, and a continuous atmosphere of tension gave us all the evidence we needed.

Nov

28

1944

Hitler Order: carry on fighting even if cut off

German forces were on the retreat on all fronts, including Yugoslavia.

Should a Commander, left to his own resources, think that he must give up the struggle, he will first ask his Officers, then his Noncommissioned Officers, and finally his troops, if one of them is ready to carry on the task and continue the fight. If one of them will, he will hand over command to that man – regardless of his rank – and himself fall in. The new Leader will then assume the command, with all its rights and duties.

Nov

27

1944

US Navy battle group under attack from Kamikaze

A closer view of the Japanese kamikaze aircraft, smoking from antiaircraft hits and veering slightly to left moments before slamming into the USS Essex on November 25, 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Jap planes were coming at us from all directions. Before the attack started we did not know that they were suicide planes, with no intention of returning to their base. They had one thing in mind and that was to crash into our ships, bombs and all. You have to blow them up, to damage them doesn’t mean much. Right off the bat a Jap plane made a suicide dive at the cruiser St. Louis, there was a big explosion and flames were seen shortly from the stern.

Nov

26

1944

US 116th Infantry Regiment on the ‘watch on the Roer’

A U.S. Infantry anti-tank crew fires on Nazis who machine- gunned their vehicle, 
somewhere in Holland." W. F. Stickle, November 4, 1944.

Outpost guard duty was a dreaded chore that befell us too often. Changing of the guard had to be performed after dark. We almost tiptoed as we made the rounds patrolling or traveling to outpost duty. The single-cart dirt path was under German surveillance during daylight and was zeroed-in night and day. Intermittent mortar and artillery rounds kept us alert as we traveled the road. It was never safe to use the path, even at night. We were told, emphatically, that when a Very light pistol shot was fired, we were to freeze in our tracks. We did as we were told.

Nov

25

1944

168 dead as Woolworths obliterated in V2 attack

A scene of devastation following a V2 rocket attack, somewhere in the south of England. In the foreground, a casualty is being carried away on a stretcher, whilst in the background, Civil Defence workers continue to search through debris and rubble, checking for any other survivors. The remains of a building can also be seen. According to the original caption, the rocket fell here "about two hours ago".

People were lying around me, some bleeding with cuts to their heads from flying glass. I managed to stand up unsteadily and then I saw the huge pall of black smoke rising from the Woolworth site. There was too much for the mind to take in, but bodies lay everywhere, some stripped of clothing. Cars were mangled wrecks,on their sides or upside down. Telephone poles lay crazily across rooftops. The tram I had been travelling in had stopped in the middle of the road. I learned later that all the passengers were found dead in their seats.

Nov

24

1944

Germany scrapes together manpower for the front

"The unshakable confidence in victory of the German people cannot be better characterized than by the fact of the incessant flow of volunteers, even in the 6th year of the branches....Trained by experienced instructors front with the latest and best weapons they will stand at the front in the foreseeable future."

In just six weeks, the recruits would have to learn the tips that might help them survive at least their first day fighting the Russians. Field training and weapons practice were the chief activities. At night, and in the thick mists that settled over the wintery countryside, they practised map reading and navigation. Life was hard for the recruits who until then had enjoyed all the comforts of a home life such as they were in these difficult times. Still, their living conditions were no worse than those I experienced during two cruel winters on the Ostfront.

Nov

23

1944

British soldiers discover horrors of Vught camp

Vught Concentration Camp: The electrically charged barbed wire fence around Vught concentration camp near Hertogenbosch in Holland.

Outside stood a gibbet with a well-worn noose. Under this structure were two wooden blocks that tapered to a tiny base. The purpose was to string the victim up by the neck precariously balancing on tip-toe on the wobbling blocks. Here we were told the agonised victim might sway for hours until either fatigue or desperation caused the slight movement necessary to topple the blocks and complete the execution.

Nov

22

1944

HMS Stratagem – escape from a flooded submarine

HMS Stratagem, sunk off Malaya on 22 November 1944.

The first I managed to reach had a defective valve on the oxygen bottle and I could not move it. The second was in working order and I put this over the head of one of the older ratings who was panicking and in tears due to the pressure effect on his eyes. The pressure in the boat at the time was immense and the chlorine content in the air considerable. The water all round us must have been full of oil fuel as we were all drenched with it, although I did not notice it at the time. The air could be heard to be escaping through the hull forward and the water was still rising fast.

Nov

21

1944

USS Sealion attacks and sinks battleship Kongo

The battlecruiser Kongo had been built by the British shipyard Vickers in 1912. In 1929 she was re-bilit as a battleship as seen here in 1929-30.

0406: Tracking indicates the target group now zigzagging. We are holding true bearing, maybe gaining a little. Called for maximum speed from engineers – they gave us 25% overload for about thirty minutes, then commenced growling about sparking commutators, hot motors, et al , forced to slow to flank. Sea and wind increasing all the time – now about force 5 or 6 – taking solid water over bridge, with plenty coming down the conning tower hatch.