Mar

9

1945

Tokyo firestorm – deadliest bombing raid ever

Charred remains of Japanese civilians after the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9–10 March 1945.

The wind and flames became terrific. We were in Hell. All the houses were burning, debris raining down on us. It was horrible. Sparks flew everywhere. Electric wires sparked and toppled. Mother, with my little brother on her back, had her feet swept out from under her by the wind and she rolled away. Father jumped after her. “Are you all right?” he screamed. Yoshiaki shouted, “Dad!” I don’t know if his intention was to rescue Father or to stay with him, but they all disappeared instantly into the flames and black smoke. Everything was buming. In front of us were factories, red flames belching from windows.

Mar

8

1945

The grinding battle of Iwo Jima continues

D plus 3 day. Because of rapid advance made this morning by 1st Bn, 26th Marines, many Jap pillboxes and snipers were harassing troops. Photo’s of men moving near airfield.

The barrage was so intense that Jim was forced to concede the ground, and he yelled to his men that they were pulling back. The mortar fire would have to be silenced one way or another before they could move forward. The best way to get his men safely out was to order them back in pairs between salvos. After the next salvo landed, he turned to the two nearest men in the hole with him and yelled, “Go.” When they were safely away he waited for the next salvo. When it landed, he immediately pointed to the next two and yelled, “Go.”

Mar

7

1945

Capturing the bridge at Remagen

The Ludendorff Bridge from the north-eastern shore after the attempted demolition. The 300-kilogram (660 lb) weak, industrial-grade demolition charge only succeeded in destroying part of the eastern pedestrian catwalk and a section of main truss (shown above) on the northern side of the bridge.

German soldiers and civilians, gathering from miles around, were sitting in ‘grandstand’ seats at every vantage point on the east bank, waiting for the spectacular event to come off, when Burrows’ patrol ran onto the bridge – ten minutes before the hour fixed for its destruction. The German lieutenant signaled the plunger down. Two small explosions occurred, but the bridge only shuddered and remained standing. Several of the fuses had been faulty.

Mar

6

1945

First impressions of Allied occupied Germany

A Sherman tank of 8th Armoured Brigade in Kevelaer, Germany, 4 March 1945.

Sometimes our car got stuck in the mud. At a word the Germans ran to push it out. Once a German came up to my driver and said: ‘The Russian prisoners of war are looting my shop. Will the English soldiers please come and see they do it in an orderly manner?’ It never occurred to him to contest the right of the Russians to loot. He was simply anxious to avoid the needless smashing of his windows as well.We lived in farmhouses and small hotels, most of them filled with refugees from the bombed-out towns. We said: ‘We will require this room and that room in an hour’s time.’ At once the German families rose and left—to live in the cellar probably. They cleaned the rooms, washed our clothes, did our cooking.

Mar

5

1945

Soviet tank column smashes through civilian refugees

Column of Soviet IS-2 tanks on the road in East Prussia, 1st Belorussian Front. 
On the left side of the road - abandoned German Panzerfaust.

Then, on the other road, from the east, in the opposite direction to the column, Russian tanks drove up, and smashed through the column. We identified them as T-34/85s. The distance was too great, we heard nothing, only saw how the horses reared up, people ran to the sides, watched how the wagons were pushed and crushed by the tanks, how people fell from the wagons under machine-gun fire. This was how the Red Army did things – it was terrible!

Mar

4

1945

Fantasy and reality of the new German forces

A German woman with a Panzerfaust, March 1945.

Some of these troops with Mausers on their shoulders must have been at least sixty or seventy-five, to judge by their curved spines, bowed legs, and abundant wrinkles. But the young boys were even more astonishing. For us, who had saved our eighteen, nineteen, and twenty-year-old lives through a thousand perils, the idea of youth meant childhood and not adolescence, which was still our phase of life, despite our disillusion. But now we were looking literally at children, marching beside these feeble old men.

Mar

3

1945

Five Medals of Honor on Iwo Jima

Marines mopping up cave with grenades and BARs.

Stationed in the front lines, Corporal Berry manned his weapon with alert readiness as he maintained a constant vigil with other members of his gun crew during the hazardous night hours. When infiltrating Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack shortly after midnight in an attempt to overrun his position, he engaged in a pitched hand-grenade duel, returning the dangerous weapons with prompt and deadly accuracy until an enemy grenade landed in the foxhole. Determined to save his comrades, he unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and immediately dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body and protecting the others from serious injury.

Mar

2

1945

The Army commander visits the front line in Burma

British mortars in action during the fighting for Meiktila in Burma, 28 February 1945

Suddenly six Japanese, led by two officers wielding swords, rushed from the house. The Bren gunner shot one officer and a Japanese other rank but by then had expended the magazine of the gun. He was almost simultaneously attacked by the second Japanese officer who killed him with his sword. Naik Fazal Din went to the Bren gunner’s assistance immediately but, in doing so, was run through the chest by the officer, the sword point appearing through his back. On the Japanese officer withdrawing his sword, Naik Fazal Din, despite his terrible wound, tore the sword from the officer and killed him with it. He then attacked a Japanese other rank and also killed him.

Mar

1

1945

Fresh U.S. troops move up to the front line

Infantrymen of the 4th Infantry Division move through the debris littered city of Prum, Germany.

Beside one of the vehicles, we noticed that one of the Germans was still alive, even though he had been blown almost in two and his legs were missing. His eyes were open and he was moaning. There was no way that this man could recover from such wounds. In fact, we couldn’t understand how he had managed to live this long. We were all disturbed by the suffering that the man must be enduring, so one of the officers walked over and closed the man’s eyes, and shot him in the head with his forty five.

Feb

28

1945

Churchill – on the ‘terror’ bombing of Germany

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

Attacks on cities like any other act of war are intolerable unless they are strategically justified. But they are strategically justified in so far as they tend to shorten the war and preserve the lives of Allied soldiers. To my mind we have absolutely no right to give them up unless it is certain that they will not have this effect. I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.

The feeling, such as there is, over Dresden, could be easily explained by any psychiatrist. It is connected with German bands and Dresden shepherdesses. Actually Dresden was a mass of munitions works, an intact government centre, and a key transportation point to the East. It is now none of these things.