Apr

14

1945

Italy: US 5th Army advance towards the Po valley

The 10 Division advancing in Italy in April 1945.

Our company sneaked around the side of a hill and began shooting at some farmhouses below us. We had been receiving sniper fire from the buildings. Three or four of our men on the forward slope were shot. My platoon leader was hit in both shoulders and a leg, and his runner was mortally wounded. Jim Keck, who teamed up with me in the squad, was struck in the left hip. The bullet deflected off the hip bone, ran up his side, and exited just below the armpit. Another soldier dashed toward one of the houses. He threw two grenades – killing one of the snipers—before being shot through the head.

Apr

13

1945

Gardelegen: concentration camp prisoners burnt alive

The recovered bodies are laid out in front of the barn.

Soon dead and dying men were piling up at all the doors. Cries of pain and panic rung inside the dark building, as others were trampled. To escape the rain of bullets, some men feigned death or hid under the dead bodies of others. By now the fire was completely out of control. The inside of the barn began to fill up with a suffocating smoke. Chaos and panic was complete. Men were swearing, crying, pleading, praying, shouting “Vive la France” and “Long live Poland.” Several even broke out singing their national anthem. Men were being roasted alive. Human torches ran around until they dropped to the ground dead. Others suffocated or were killed by the exploding hand-grenades and Panzerfausts.

Apr

12

1945

US forces liberate of Buchenwald – ‘beggars description’

While on an inspection tour of the newly liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp, General Dwight Eisenhower and a party of high ranking U.S. Army officers, including Generals Bradley, Patton, and Eddy, view the charred remains of prisoners that were burned upon a section of railroad track during the evacuation of the camp. Also pictured is Jules Grad (second from the left taking notes), correspondent for the "Stars and Stripes" U.S. Army newspaper and Alois J. Liethen of Appleton, WI, the mustached soldier who served as the interpreter for the tour of Ohrdruf.

The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.

Apr

11

1945

The rape and loot of Konigsberg, capital of Prussia

German prisoners are marched away from Konigsberg.

We marched on. We saw scenes that cannot be described. The ditches by the sides of the streets were full of corpses, many of them clearly showing signs of unbelievable maltreatment and rape. Dead children lay around in great numbers, bodies hung from the trees, their watches cut off. Staring—eyed German women were led in all directions, drunken Russians flogged a German nun, an elderly woman sat by the side of the road, both of her legs having been crushed by vehicles. Farmsteads burned, the household belongings lying in the roads, cows ran across the countryside, and were indiscriminately shot and left lying.

Apr

10

1945

British confront looting and fraternisation in Germany

Men of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders during the advance in Germany, 29 April 1945. Pte Fred Greener pushes a bicycle loaded with mortar bombs.

The Brigade Major told me that while the Commander was pinned down as it were, on the throne that morning, a Jock of his passed his field of vision with a side of bacon, followed shortly after by another with a wireless set, followed a few minutes later by a third with a goose under his arm. Whereupon he rose in his wrath, sent for his Brigade Major and issued several fresh edicts, the effect of which was that there would probably be no looting at Brigade, for at least a week.

Apr

9

1945

Allies launch the last big offensive in Italy

Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tank supporting infantry of 2nd New Zealand Division during the assault across the River Senio, 9 April 1945.

All four companies then lay low in their assembly areas, to be clear of the artillery bombardment. Fifteen minutes later, all hell broke loose. For four hours, the Germans were bombarded by artillery and mortars and bombed and strafed at intervals by hundreds of Allied aircraft. Thousands of fragmentation bombs hit enemy artillery dugouts and reserve areas. Sunset that day illuminated a hellish pall of smoke and dust across the German lines. The noise was thunderous. For the beleaguered Jerries it must have seemed like the end of the world.

Apr

8

1945

Death of a Danish hero – Anders Lassen VC

Corporal Aubrey of the SBS (Special Boat Service) sharpens his fighting knife as he prepares for combat.

Thus it was that while he and his sergeant were going through the small rooms of the German and Italian barrack-building outside Phira, a couple of nights before, Lassen had orders his companions to wake up the sleeping enemy soldiers before cutting their throats, so that they should know what was happening to them. The sergeant had refused. Nothing was said at the time, but when I met up with the party at the Perissa monastery Lassen was insisting on putting his sergeant on a charge for disobeying orders. The other officers had tried to dissuade him without much success.

Apr

7

1945

US planes sink Yamato – world’s largest battleship

Yamato under attack. A large fire burns aft of her superstructure and she is low in the water from torpedo damage.

The captain is out in the open in the antiaircraft command post overlooking the whole ship. Two ensigns attend him and plot on the maneuver board the torpedoes coming from all directions, indicating them to him with pointers. The navigation officer sits in the captain’s seat on the bridge; acting as one, the two men operate the ship. Coming over the voice tube, the captain’s orders deafen me. His is a terrible and angry voice, biting off the ends of words. Bombs, bullets focus on the bridge.

Apr

6

1945

As the Allies move east, the refugees move west

Three Russian girls still wearing their slave labour uniforms photographed soon after their arrival at No.17 Displaced Persons Assembly Centre, Hamburg Zoological Gardens.

The Germans were terrified of the Russians. Again and again women ran out to us to cry: ‘Can’t you leave a guard with us? The Russians have taken everything. The next lot will smash up the place if they find nothing.’ More than that the German women feared for themselves. Cases of rape increased. The looting increased. And still that vast moving human frieze kept pouring down the roads, constantly augmenting its numbers with every new town that was captured.

Apr

5

1945

Wounded captive to conqueror in a day

Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade in Osnabruck, 4 April 1945.

I made a dash for a house by the road, but the door was locked. I hammered on the door with my stick, and a woman opened it. She looked alarmed, but I limped in and my driver joined me. The Jerries must have been rotten shots, or we should have been cut to pieces. While my wound was being attended to, ten or fifteen Germans walked into the basement. They let my driver finish dressing the wound, then told us to get outside. It was then I noticed a row of the German field grey hats poking up behind a hedge.