Ian Fleming proposes ‘Operation Ruthless’

1. Obtain from Air Ministry an air-worthy German bomber.
2. Pick a tough crew of five, including a pilot, W/T operator and word-perfect German speaker. Dress them in German Air Force Uniform, add blood and bandages to suit.
3. Crash Plane in the Channel after making SOS to rescue service.
4. Once aboard rescue boat, shoot German crew, dump overboard, bring rescue boat back to English port.

A German ‘M Boat’, a minesweeper of the type that Ian Fleming suggested might be captured.

Ian Fleming, later to win fame and fortune as the the creator of James Bond, was working in Naval intelligence in 1940. The codebreakers at Bletchley Park, working on the highly secret German Enigma traffic, were having difficulty breaking into the German Naval signals. It was suggested that directly obtaining German Naval code tables would be the the fastest method of making progress. In effect this meant capturing a German Naval unit with the code material intact. Fleming proposed a scheme to do just this:

TOP SECRET.
For Your Eyes Only.
12 September 1940.
To: Director Naval Intelligence
From: Ian Fleming

Operation Ruthless

I suggest we obtain the loot by the following means:

1. Obtain from Air Ministry an air-worthy German bomber.
2. Pick a tough crew of five, including a pilot, W/T operator and word-perfect German speaker. Dress them in German Air Force Uniform, add blood and bandages to suit.
3. Crash Plane in the Channel after making SOS to rescue service.
4. Once aboard rescue boat, shoot German crew, dump overboard, bring rescue boat back to English port.

In order to increase the chances of capturing an R or M [Räumboot – a small minesweeper; Minensuchboot – a large minesweeper] with its richer booty, the crash might be staged in mid-Channel. The Germans would presumably employ one of this type for the longer and more hazardous journey.

NB. Since attackers will be wearing enemy uniform, they will be liable to be shot as franc-tireurs if captured, and incident might be fruitful field for propaganda. Attackers’ story will therefore be that it was done for a lark by a group of young hot-heads who thought the war was too tame and wanted to have a go at the Germans. They had stolen the plane and equipment and had expected to get into trouble when they got back. This will prevent suspicions that party was after more valuable booty than a rescue boat.

TNA ADM 223/463

Although Operation Ruthless was approved it was never carried out, a Commando raid captured the required material in early 1941.

1945: USS Indianapolis torpedoed – 900 men in the water

By then we were in very bad shape. The kapok life jacket becomes waterlogged. It’s good for about 48 hours. We sunk lower down in the water and you had to think about keeping your face out of water. I knew we didn’t have very long to go. The men were semicomatose. We were all on the verge of dying when suddenly this plane flew over. I’m here today because someone on that plane had a sore neck. He went to fix the aerial and got a stiff neck and lay down in the blister underneath. While he was rubbing his neck he saw us.

The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) underway in 1939. An Omaha-class light cruiser and several Clemson/Wickes-class "flushdeck" destroyers are visible in the background.
The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) underway in 1939. An Omaha-class light cruiser and several Clemson/Wickes-class “flushdeck” destroyers are visible in the background.

As soon as the Trinity nuclear test had been successfully concluded on the 16th July the USS Indianapolis had been despatched from Mare island, San Francisco to Tinian island in the mid Pacific. The heavy cruiser carried the Uranium that would arm the Little Boy bomb.

By 29th July she was en route back to the Philippines across the remotest reaches of the ocean. Her captain had discretion not to zig-zag and it may have made no difference that she was not.

A new study of the sinking published in 2018 reconstructs the events aboard the Japanese submarine I-58, captained by Hashimoto

I-58’s crew waited, breathless. The black shape on the horizon soon gathered itself into the shape of a triangle suspended in the moon’s silver light. But looking through the night periscope, Hashimoto still could not determine her class. Neither could he see the height of her mast in order to estimate the range. This lack of data opened the door to an array of possible mistakes, and his mind ticked through them all.

Without the range, course, and speed of the target, he could not make the proper calculations to obtain a hit. If the class of ship were known, he could estimate the speed by counting the target’s propeller blade frequency, but the hydrophones remained silent. And with the target pointed directly at him, its hull was masking sonar sounds.

He would have to wait until the target was on a broader line of sight to ferret out its speed. Also, changes in the target’s speed and course could throw off Hashimoto’s aim, especially at night, so the moment of firing had to be determined in advance.

A whole kingdom of errors loomed. But if Hashimoto could keep them small and fire six torpedoes in a fanwise spread, he could ensure a hit. Even if he guessed wrong on one of the variables – or even if the target zigzagged, as it was almost sure to do.

A crisp demand interrupted his calculations: “Send us!” It was the suicide pilots. Hashimoto had been so preoccupied with his Type 95 torpedo calculations that he had not followed up on his earlier order for the kaiten. “Why can’t we be launched?” the pilots clamored.

Hashimoto understood their desire. The kaiten could steer to the target, regardless of its speed or course. But the touch-and-go, obscured visibility would make it difficult for the pilots to home in visually on the target over a period of tens of minutes.

To get a Type 95 torpedo hit, all he needed was a reasonable estimate of speed and range, along with one good bearing, and he could send his fish to their target. That was the better option here, so he decided not to use the kaiten unless the oxygen torpedoes failed to hit their mark.

Hashimoto put his eye to the scope again and saw the top of the triangle resolve into two distinct shapes. He could make out a large mast forward and estimated its height at ninety feet. His heartbeat quickened. She appeared to be a large cruiser, ten thousand tons or bigger. Now I-58’s hydrophones gurgled to life, announcing enemy propeller revolutions that were moderately high. Using visual observations, Hashimoto adjusted and put the target’s speed at twelve knots, course 260, range three thousand yards.

He alone could see all this. Without him, the crew could know nothing. As they awaited his word, straining in the deadly quiet, an exhilarating thought formed in his mind: We’ve got her.

Aboard I-58, a sonarman thought he heard the clinking of dishes.‘ Twenty-seven minutes had passed since I—58’s navigator spotted the enemy ship. It now became apparent that the target was approaching off the starboard bow. He ordered the torpedo director computer set to “green sixty degrees”——the torpedoes would turn sixty degrees starboard after launch.

The target closed the distance: twenty-five hundred yards… two thousand… fifteen hundred. “Stand by…” Hashimoto commanded in a loud voice. “Fire!” At two-second intervals, six torpedoes ejected from tubes carved into the sub’s forward hull, one tube after another until all six were away. A report came from the torpedo room: “All tubes fired and correct.”

It was about five minutes after midnight, and six warheads streaked toward the enemy warship in a lethal fan. Hashimoto snatched a look through the periscope, brought his boat on a course parallel to the target, and waited. Every minute seemed an age.

The Indianapolis was steaming straight ahead when she was hit by three Type 95 torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-58 at 23:35. Some U.S accounts put the time at 00:14.

USS_Indianapolis-last_voyage_chart

Contrary to US Navy claims during the war and after, the Indianapolis was not observing radio silence because of the secrecy of her mission – she managed to transmit distress signals which were received by three separate US Navy monitoring stations, a matter that has only emerged from later de-classified documents. None of the three stations acted on the information. At 00:27 on 30 July, Indianapolis capsized and sank carrying around 300 men with her. The remainder of her 1,196 crew went into the water, only a limited number of lifeboats had been deployed and a minority of the men had life jackets.

Approximately 900 men now faced a hellish ordeal as they struggled to survive in the warm seas, with little or no water. They faced severe sun burn, dehydration, hypothermia – and sharks. Some have argued that the incident amounts to the largest single shark attack in human history. An account by the surviving Chief Medical Officer on board, Dr Lewis Haynes throws some light on the extent of the shark hazard:

I slowly walked down the side of the ship. Another kid came and said he didn’t have a jacket. I had an extra jacket and he put it on. We both jumped into the water which was covered with fuel oil. I wasn’t alone in the water. The hull was covered with people climbing down.

I didn’t want to get sucked down with the ship so I kicked my feet to get away. And then the ship rose up high. I thought it was going to come down and crush me. The ship kept leaning out away from me, the aft end rising up and leaning over as it stood up on its nose. The ship was still going forward at probably 3 or 4 knots. When it finally sank, it was over a hundred yards from me. Most of the survivors were strung out anywhere from half a mile to a mile behind the ship.

Suddenly the ship was gone and it was very quiet. It had only been 12 minutes since the torpedoes hit. We started to gather together. Being in the water wasn’t an unpleasant experience except that the black fuel oil got in your nose and eyes. We all looked the same, black oil all over – white eyes and red mouths. You couldn’t tell the doctor from the boat seamen. Soon everyone had swallowed fuel oil and gotten sick. Then everyone began vomiting.

At that time, I could have hidden but somebody yelled, ‘Is the doctor there?’ And I made myself known. From that point on – and that’s probably why I’m here today — I was kept so busy I had to keep going. But without any equipment, from that point on I became a coroner.

A lot of men were without life jackets. The kapok life jacket is designed with a space in the back. Those who had life jackets that were injured, you could put your arm through that space and pull them up on your hip and keep them out of the water. And the men were very good about doing this. Further more, those with jackets supported men without jackets. They held on the back of them, put their arms through there and held on floating in tandem.

When daylight came we began to get ourselves organized into a group and the leaders began to come out. When first light came we had between three and four hundred men in our group. I would guess that probably seven or eight hundred men made it out of the ship. I began to find the wounded and dead. The only way I could tell they were dead was to put my finger in their eye. If their pupils were dilated and they didn’t blink I assumed they were dead. We would then laboriously take off their life jacket and give it to men who didn’t have jackets. In the beginning I took off their dogtags, said The Lord’s Prayer, and let them go. Eventually, I got such an armful of dogtags I couldn’t hold them any longer. Even today, when I try to say The Lord’s Prayer or hear it, I simply lose it.

…The second night, which was Monday night, we had all the men put their arms through the life jacket of the man in front of him and we made a big mass so we could stay together. We kept the wounded and those who were sickest in the center of the pack and that was my territory. Some of the men could doze off and sleep for a few minutes. The next day we found a life ring. I could put one very sick man across it to support him.

There was nothing I could do but give advice, bury the dead, save the life jackets, and try to keep the men from drinking the salt water when we drifted out of the fuel oil. When the hot sun came out and we were in this crystal clear water, you were so thirsty you couldn’t believe it wasn’t good enough to drink. I had a hard time convincing the men that they shouldn’t drink. The real young ones – you take away their hope, you take away their water and food – they would drink salt water and then would go fast. I can remember striking men who were drinking water to try and stop them. They would get diarrhea, then get more dehydrated, then become very maniacal.

In the beginning, we tried to hold them and support them while they were thrashing around. And then we found we were losing a good man to get rid of one who had been bad and drank. As terrible as it may sound, towards the end when they did this, we shoved them away from the pack because we had to.

The water in that part of the Pacific was warm and good for swimming. But body temperature is over 98 and when you immerse someone up to their chin in that water for a couple of days, you’re going to chill him down. So at night we would tie everyone close together to stay warm. But they still had severe chills which led to fever and delirium.

On Tuesday night some guy began yelling, ‘There’s a Jap here and he’s trying to kill me.’ And then everybody started to fight. They were totally out of their minds. A lot of men were killed that night. A lot of men drowned. Overnight everybody untied themselves and got scattered in all directions. But you couldn’t blame the men. It was mass hysteria. You became wary of everyone. Till daylight came, you weren’t sure. When we got back together the next day there were a hell of a lot fewer.

I saw only one shark. I remember reaching out trying to grab hold of him. I thought maybe it would be food. However, when night came, things would bump against you in the dark or brush against your leg and you would wonder what it was. But honestly, in the entire 110 hours I was in the water I did not see a man attacked by a shark. However, the destroyers that picked up the bodies afterwards found a large number of those bodies. In the report I read 56 bodies were mutilated, Maybe the sharks were satisfied with the dead; they didn’t have to bite the living.

Their ordeal had been lengthened because the failure of the Indianapolis to arrive in the Philippines when expected was also not reported, and no search for the ship was ever undertaken. Instead they were spotted by chance at 10:25 on 2 August by a PV-1 Ventura on a routine patrol. They still had to spend the rest of the day in the water before help arrived:

It was Thursday [2 Aug] when the plane spotted us. By then we were in very bad shape. The kapok life jacket becomes waterlogged. It’s good for about 48 hours. We sunk lower down in the water and you had to think about keeping your face out of water. I knew we didn’t have very long to go. The men were semicomatose. We were all on the verge of dying when suddenly this plane flew over. I’m here today because someone on that plane had a sore neck. He went to fix the aerial and got a stiff neck and lay down in the blister underneath. While he was rubbing his neck he saw us.

The plane dropped life jackets with canisters of water but the canisters ruptured. Then a PBY [seaplane] showed up and dropped rubber life rafts. We put the sickest people aboard and the others hung around the side. I found a flask of water with a 1-ounce cup. I doled out the water, passing the cup down hand to hand. Not one man cheated and I know how thirsty they were.

Towards the end of the day, just before dark, I found a kit for making fresh water out of salt water. I tried to read the instructions, but couldn’t make sense of it or get it to work right. My product tasted like salt water and I didn’t want to take a chance so I threw it into the ocean. I then went to
pieces.

I watched the PBY circle and suddenly make an open-sea landing. This took an awful lot of guts. It hit, went back up in the air and splashed down again. I thought he’d crashed but he came taxiing back. I found out later he was taxiing around picking up the singles. If he hadn’t done this, I don’t think we would have survived. He stayed on the water during the night and turned his searchlight up into the sky so the Cecil J. Doyle (DE-368) could find us. The ship came right over and began picking us up.

See Lewis L. Haynes, “Survivor of the Indianapolis.” Navy Medicine 86, no.4 (Jul.-Aug. 1995)

I-58(II), modified B type 2 of submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy, on trial run inside the Tokyo Bay.
I-58(II), modified B type 2 of submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy, on trial run inside the Tokyo Bay.

British Commando raiders are executed in Sachsenhausen

Rumour also had it that the coming night would be still worse. Last night many were awakened by shots in the camp. This was what happened: when a party of those who had been taken from the blocks under cover of darkness marched out of the gate and turned to the right, they realised where they were going, broke the ranks and ran into the little park there between the walls. The guards opened fire on them, and they were shot down there in the park. It was the rat—tat of the guards’ tommy-guns which broke the night silence, filling those who lay awake with horror and dread.

Sachsenhausen concentration camp had operated since 1936 as punishment facility rather than an extermination site. About 30,000 people are believed to had died there from overwork, ill-treatment and malnutrition, although a proportion were put to death by shooting, hanging and, in later years, a gas chamber.
Sachsenhausen concentration camp had operated since 1936 as punishment facility rather than an extermination site. About 30,000 people are believed to have died there from overwork, ill-treatment and malnutrition, although a proportion were put to death by shooting, hanging and, in later years, a gas chamber.

On the 1st of February there had been elation in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, located 22 miles north of Berlin. The news reached the prisoners that the Red Army was just 60 miles east of Berlin. Rumours soon spread that they would soon be liberated, and that it might well happen in the next day or so.

The grim reality proved to be a deep disappointment the following day. Not only were the Nazis preparing to evacuate the whole camp but they were now starting to murder some of their more prominent prisoners. Odd Nansen, a Norwegian political prisoner, was keeping a secret diary in the camp, writing on the 3rd he recalled the events of the 2nd:

From the brightest and wildest optimism we’ve been plunged into gloomy pessimism.

When we got back from the job last night, we were met be the sinister announcement that the camp is to be evacuated. We’re all to start off on a trek. To the great majority the news was thunder from a clear sky, and many still refuse to believe it, such an utterly outrageous impossibility and insanity does it seem.

Forty thousand men on the tramp southward, southwest or west; miserably clad, with nothing to eat – for it can be only Norwegians who have any food to take with them – and in a worse than rickety condition. First we heard it as a rumour, and it penetrated slowly into our consciousness, which refused to accept it. Then it came as an official announcement in the block: “The camp will probably be evacuated”. Wahrscheinlich!

A hope still lingers in the interpretation of that lumpy German word, a little chance that the Russians may be too quick, the possibility of a change of mind with the ensuing counter-order, of which, indeed, we’ve known so many that they can almost be taken as the rule. But in that case there is another dark cloud in our sky, a cloud which has grown darker, blacker and more menacing in the last forty-eight hours. Liquidation! Vernichtung!

It is now being said that over two hundred men, including all the lackeys of the Sonderkommission, were shot last night. They were a frightful gang indeed, and no one laments them. They were the Gestapo’s henchmen among the prisoners. And so that was their reward.

When the truth about the events of the night gradually came out, when we learnt that our friends the Englishmen, John and Jack and Tommy and the rest, we knew them right back in Grini [a Nazi concentration camp in Norway], had in all probability been shot, and the Russian officers and many others, the atmosphere filled with gloom.

Rumour also had it that the coming night would be still worse. Last night many were awakened by shots in the camp. This was what happened: when a party of those who had been taken from the blocks under cover of darkness marched out of the gate and turned to the right, they realised where they were going, broke the ranks and ran into the little park there between the walls. The guards opened fire on them, and they were shot down there in the park. It was the rat—tat of the guards’ tommy-guns which broke the night silence, filling those who lay awake with horror and dread.

See Odd Nansen: Day After Day

The ‘English friends’ that Nansen was referring to were members of a British commando team that had been captured after a sabotage operation to Norway in 1943, Operation Checkmate. They had successfully sunk a German minesweeper and other ships with limpet mines but despite the fact that they had operated in uniform they fell victim to Hitler’s Commando Order when they were captured. They were not treated as Prisoners of War under the Geneva Convention.

In Sachsenhausen they had been forced to march 30 miles a day on cobbled roads, ‘testing’ German Army boots. It later emerged that, when they were led to execution, Temporary Lieutenant John Godwin, RNVR, who had led the team of Commandos and Royal Navy seamen, managed to snatch the pistol of the firing party commander and shoot him dead before being shot down himself.

Lieutenant JOHN GODWIN H.M.S. Quebec., Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who died age 25 on 02 February 1945
Lieutenant JOHN GODWIN H.M.S. Quebec., Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
who died age 25 on 02 February 1945

There were no witnesses to Godwin’s resistance surviving at the end of the war, a fact that meant he could not be eligible for a gallantry medal. Instead he was awarded a ‘Mention In Despatches’. The citation, in The London Gazette, 9 October 1945, read:

“For great gallantry and inspiring example whilst a prisoner of war in German hands in Norway and afterwards at Sachsenhausen, near Oranienburg, Germany, 1942-1945”

The Commando Veterans Association has a gallery commemorating the other members of Operation Checkmate.

Norwegian Resistance sinks troopship with timed mines

Eleven limpet mines were care fully loaded in to the dingy along with two Sten guns, ammunition and grenades in case they had to fight their way out of any trouble. The two men removed their boiler suits and stepped into the dingy in preparation to pushing off. However, a German patrol boat pulled up alongside the wharf and began a searching amongst the timbers. Manus and Nielsen laid low in their boat daring not to breathe, but the Germans were not the most observant and soon left. After a suitable period waiting for the all clear the intrepid duo pushed off.

Norway had been under German occupation since 1940.
Norway had been under German occupation since 1940.
British deception plans had forced Hitler to keep many troops in Norway, waiting for an invasion that never came.
British deception plans had forced Hitler to keep many troops in Norway, waiting for an invasion that never came.

Way back in 1940 Churchill had sought to ‘set Europe ablaze’ withe the establishment of the Special Operations Executive which supported resistance groups throughout Europe. A series of very significant sabotage operations against the German nuclear programme had been mounted in Norway. Even though Norway now appeared to be something of a backwater, which the Germans surely would wish to evacuate at some point, there were some very determined members of the Resistance who wanted to carry on the fight. Attacks on German troops meant fewer men who might be transferred back to Germany to carry on the main battle.

One man who had already been involved in a number of successful sabotage operations, as well as escaping from Gestapo custody when he was arrested in 1941, was Max Manus. On the 16th January he would successfully carry out an audacious attack on German shipping, carrying his explosives into Oslo harbour right under the noses of the Wehrmacht. He did so at a time when the Germans were on high alert for sabotage attempts, with soldiers positioned around the docks with orders to fire at anything floating in the water in case it might be a frogman.

The following report reads like it might be fiction, perhaps from an episode of Mission Impossible, but comes from the Special Operations Executive’s file recommending Max Manus for the Distinguished Service Order:

Manus planned and carried out the operation which saw the sinking of the ship ‘Donau’ approx 9,000 tons and the damaging of the ‘Rolandseck’ of approx 2000 tons.

It was not a straight forward operation as the limpet mines, the rubber boat and other equipment had to be concealed first on a wharf in Oslo harbour that was used for the embarkation of German troops. This in itself was a hazardous operation, but the shear audacity of Manus’ methods saw him through.

Brazen use was made of a well of a lift which led from the deck of the wharf to the lower platform whereby the equipment could be stowed. To get through the guard entrance at the dock a decoy vehicle was used with the occupant creating a nuisance of himself with the guards.

The second vehicle, with Manus and packed with all the equipment was then waved through … the ruse had worked. But to Manus’ chagrin the wharf was full of Germans. However, fortune favours the brave and with great daring, and in full view of the Germans, the equipment was unloaded close to the lift. The car was then driven out of the dock.

Later, when the wharf was clear of Germans, the equipment was stowed away in the lift and taken down to the lower section. Manus was aided by two loyal Norwegian workers.

The plan was to attack a large, heavy transport ship, but Manus had to wait some days until a suitable target presented itself. On the 15th January the ‘Donau’ arrived from Aarhus and Manus made the decision to attack her (NB. The ‘Donau’ had previously been used to transport Jews from Norway to Germany whereby many of them were taken to Auschwitz where their lives were sadly and cruelly taken).

Early next morning, Manus, with a helper met with his dock contact, but the man was not at all optimistic. The water surrounding the wharf was full of floating ice, a German soldier had recently fallen in and a search was in progress and finally a number of horses had been tied off to the door entrance which led to the lift. Manus decided to carry on.

Manus and his companion, Roy Nielsen dressed in full British battle-dress with over 100 metres of cordtex tied around their waists, but all concealed under boiler suits, approached the dock guard and proceeded to take part in a comic sketch to aid them through the gate…

Nielsen ‘slipped’ on the icy ground, much to the amusement of the guard … it worked, though, and they were through, despite a cursory inspection of their papers.

Once again the sheer audacity and bravery of the Norwegians had come to the fore. However, the atmosphere was still tense as the guards that were posted on the wharf to protect the ‘Donau’ regularly aimed their rifles and shot in to the water at anything that was suspicious.

Fortunately, the horses had been embarked and the door was clear to enter. The lift was positioned so that the two men could slip underneath it. Looking through a small chink they could see Germans approaching, but all the Germans wanted to do was to get out off the wind. There was at least 8 degrees of frost and it was exceptionally cold in the biting wind. After a while the Germans moved on and Manus’ contact on the docks carefully locked the door.

A rope ladder was let down amongst the wharf timbers but soon the rungs were full of ice: the rubber dingy was also lowered and blown up to the covering tune of a German sergeant drilling an unfortunate squad.

Eleven limpet mines were care fully loaded in to the dingy along with two Sten guns, ammunition and grenades in case they had to fight their way out of any trouble. The two men removed their boiler suits and stepped into the dingy in preparation to pushing off. However, a German patrol boat pulled up alongside the wharf and began a searching amongst the timbers.

Manus and Nielsen laid low in their boat daring not to breathe, but the Germans were not the most observant and soon left. After a suitable period waiting for the all clear the intrepid duo pushed off.

The going was tough as they inched their way forward through the ice using oars and an axe. Navigating carefully alongside the ‘Donau’ they placed their limpets aft of the engine room. With all the limpet mines in place they made their way back to the wharf, but then noticed the ‘Rolandseck’ arriving on the other side of the wharf.

Manus knew this was too good an opportunity to miss. Despite both men being soaked through and very cold, they fetched the one remaining limpet from their improvised store. The German patrol boat returned once again, but as before it failed to spot the armed Norwegians and once it had moved off the duo paddled their way alongside the ‘Rolandseck’ and planted their limpet on its side.

During this operation the ‘Donau’ left its mooring moving into open water with two tugs attending alongside. This meant that light now streamed under the wharf making it even more hazardous for the men as they returned, but to their relief nothing untoward happened and they made it safely back to their timbered shelter.

The dingy was disposed off by knifing and the men once more donned their boiler suits. Suddenly, the sound heavy steps approached the door way and then men stood ready with their Sten guns cocked for action, but to their immense relief it was their contact who had come to open the door. The men stepped out on to the wharf and made their way past the guard at the dock entrance who again laughed at Nielsen’s unfortunate earlier ‘accident’. Manus and Nielsen stepped aboard a tram and made their way home.

At 22:00hrs the ‘Donau’ was in the sound just off Drøbak having just dropped off her pilot. The Captain had just increased speed when the explosion occurred. The Captain attempted to beach the ship and ran her ashore at full speed with crew jumping off in all directions. Despite the beaching the ship settled at the stern and sunk in 25 metre of water’.

It is not known how many casualties there were aboard the Donau, although a large amount of equipment was lost, as well as many unfortunate horses. Roy Nielsen was to die in a Gestapo round up of resistance fighters on 4th April but Max Manus managed to evade the same series of raids. He went on to be awarded Norway’s highest military honour the War Cross, for the second time, for his part in this raid. Read more about his career at Nuav.net.

Max Manus, a leading member of the Norwegian Independent Company, a group within the British SOE.
Max Manus, a leading member of the Norwegian Independent Company, a group within the British SOE.
The SS Donau which was being used by the Germans as a troopship. Earlier in the war she had been used to transport Norway's small Jewish population to Germany - almost every one of them was subsequently murdered in Auschwitz.
The SS Donau which was being used by the Germans as a troopship. Earlier in the war she had been used to transport Norway’s small Jewish population to Germany – almost every one of them was subsequently murdered in Auschwitz.

V1 carrying Heinkel IIIs ambushed over North Sea

We started to close. It was still dark and there was a lot of cloud. You knew perfectly well that on our straight and level course behind him we would get a tremendous wash from his engines. I felt it. Then for some reason, he started to turn away slightly, as if he had an indication that we were behind him. It foxed us a bit.

A German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 H-22 with a  FZG 76 (V1) flying bomb.
A German Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 H-22 with a FZG 76 (V1) flying bomb.
German propaganda leaflets aimed at British troops, portrayed intense attacks by numerous V1 flying bombs. This was a huge exaggeration.
German propaganda leaflets, aimed at British troops, portrayed intense attacks by numerous V1 flying bombs. This was a huge exaggeration.

The German V1 attack on London had been defeated by intensive air defences and then the advance of the Allies in Europe. V1 rockets continued to be targeted on Antwerp and Holland in an attempt to disrupt the Allied supply lines – with little significant effect.

However there remained on alternative means of targeting the rockets at Britain. The forerunner of the air launched cruise missile was a Nazi adaptation to use Heinkel bombers to get the V1s within range of Britain and fire them whilst in mid air. They could only be crudely targeted and the ultimate destination was only determined by the engine cutting out, as before. 1,176 missiles were launched against Britain but a large proportion either failed to launch properly or failed to reach the land.

Once again the Allied superiority in cracking German codes was to give them a huge operational advantage. Although they could not completely neutralise the attacks they could be in precisely the right position to fight back.

Richard Leggett was a Mosquito pilot who participated in the counter-arrack on the Heinkels in the early hours of Christmas Eve, 1944:

The British ‘Y’ Service would get information that V1-carrying Heinkels would be taking off, and we’d be told that at such and such a time they would be in place. No other op was as tidy as this. We looked at our watches and thought, ‘My goodness, they’ll be here in another few minutes’; and sure enough, right on the button, it would all happen. It was a question of whether you’d be the lucky one because there were lots of us.

I looked at my clock and knew that at around 02.30 hours there would be several Heinkels in the usual place. The enemy obviously did not know we were going to meet him.

Being in a position to stab him in the back in the dark was a nice way to fight a war. One was mentally tuned to this. We felt sorry for our bomber chaps. We in the night fighter force didn’t have to drop bombs on women and children. We had to kill Germans who were trying to do things to our women and children with nasty weapons. It was a very clear and clean way to fight.

Sure enough, almost on the dot we saw the flash of a V1 being launched. At the same time ground control said they had contact.

Tally-ho!

There might be twelve, thirteen, fourteen of these Heinkels, all doing it at once. It was a timed op. Then they’d turn to port. I don’t know why but they always did this. Then they would go down very rapidly and head for home. Our job was to lose height quickly, go below 100 feet and pick up the Heinkel.

The Mk X was a good AI, but there were a lot of sea returns and it depended on the expertise of the navigator. I had a very good one. Sure enough, the Heinkel turned left and at two to three miles we got a contact.

It wasn’t a good night. There was rain and ‘stuff’ about. The Germans only came when the weather was bad.

We started to close. It was still dark and there was a lot of cloud. You knew perfectly well that on our straight and level course behind him we would get a tremendous wash from his engines. I felt it. Then for some reason, he started to turn away slightly, as if he had an indication that we were behind him. It foxed us a bit.

Eventually, it settled down again. I closed in on him. It was in cloud. Guns and sights were harmonized at about 200 yards but we could not get a visual, although we could feel his slipstream We dropped away and my navigator picked up contact again.

Some people might have lowered their undercarriage at this point, but l didn’t like to. I had as much flap as I dared and managed perfectly well. We waited and we waited.

Off Den Helder I was getting concerned. We’d followed him for fully fifty-five minutes. We waited as patiently as one can in this situation and eventually, as the dawn was coming up I closed in at 300 yards range. I fired my cannon in his slip- stream and had to put on a lot of throttle to prevent a stall.

I got a number of strikes on it and that was it. The Heinkel went in very quickly. When we broke away the cloud base was only at 200 feet. It was a beautiful morning.

This account appears in The Men Who Flew the Mosquito: Compelling Accounts of the ‘Wooden Wonders’ Triumphant WW2 Career

Heinkel 111H-22 of 7./KG 53 Legion Kondor crashed in Holland and one of the five man crew survived.

Not all the Heinekels were intercepted before they could launch their weapons. The aiming point was apparently Manchester – but they fell over a very wide area of northern England. BBC Shropshire has an account of a V1 from this raid that fell outside Newport. Aircrash Sites has analysis of where the V1s fell around Manchester.

31 of the 45 missiles launched on this night fell on England (although accounts vary), with the worst single incident being in Oldham where 27 people were killed. The times of the attack differ from that given by Leggett.

Another German propaganda leaflets aimed at British troops.
Another German propaganda leaflets aimed at British troops.
A De Havilland Mosquito PR Mark XVI of No. 140 Squadron RAF, warms up its engines in a dispersal at B58/Melsbroek, Belgium, before taking off on a night photographic-reconnaissance sortie.
A De Havilland Mosquito PR Mark XVI of No. 140 Squadron RAF, warms up its engines in a dispersal at B58/Melsbroek, Belgium, before taking off on a night photographic-reconnaissance sortie.

Eisenhower closely guarded against Nazi infiltrators

Some units might have with them in their vehicle a German officer in uniform and, if questioned, would tell a false story that they were taking an important German prisoner to higher headquarters in the rear. They carry capsules of acid to be thrown in the faces of MPs or others to facilitate escape. Skorzeny’s group may be in staff cars, civilian cars, command and reconnaissance cars, as well as jeeps.

An American Dodge WC ambulance passes abandoned German Tiger II '204' from schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 501, Kampfgruppe Peiper, I. SS-Panzerkorps, near La Gleize, Belgium, December 1944.
An American Dodge WC ambulance passes abandoned German Tiger II ‘204’ from schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 501, Kampfgruppe Peiper, I. SS-Panzerkorps, near La Gleize, Belgium, December 1944.
Skorzeny in Pomerania visiting the 500th SS Parachute Battalion, February 1945.
Skorzeny in Pomerania visiting the 500th SS Parachute Battalion, February 1945.

The Ardennes offensive was a last throw of the dice for Hitler. So desperate were the Nazis that they resorted to outright deception in an attempt to sow confusion and alarm amongst the Allies. Hitler had turned to Otto Skorzeny, mastermind of the scheme that released Mussolini from Italian captivity, to head a behind the lines operation with English speaking German troops in American uniforms, driving American jeeps and tanks.

There was not nearly enough American equipment available to supply the force that was originally envisaged. The men involved in Operation Greif then got tangled up with the huge tailbacks of military traffic in the narrow lanes of the Ardennes. The element of surprise was lost before they could they could make much impact.

While they did not achieve the level of confusion amongst the Allies that had been sought, and most of the spies were caught quite quickly, their existence led to many rumors and much alarm within Allied ranks. There were numerous incidents of American servicemen, including many senior officers, being closely questioned about their knowledge of arcane aspects of American sport and geography, in order to test their authenticity.

The alarm even spread to the office of the Supreme Allied commander, General Eisenhower, as described by his Naval Aide, Captain Harry C. Butcher:

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23, 1944

I went out to Versailles and saw Ike today. He is a prisoner of our security police and is thoroughly but helplessly irritated by the restriction on his moves. There are all sorts of guards, some with machine guns, around the house, and he has to travel to and from the office led and at times followed by an armed guard in a jeep.

He got some satisfaction yesterday in slipping out for a walk around the yard in deep snow, in the eyes of the security officers quite the most dangerous thing for him to do, but he had the satisfaction of doing something he wanted to do. I told him he now knows how it must feel to be President and be guarded day and night by ever-watchful secret-service men.

The restriction is caused by information from Intelligence officers of Hodges’ First Army, who cross-examined a German officer captured at Liége the night of December 19. He was one of a group of English-speak ing Krauts [Shows I’ve recently been with GIs who were in Italy and Africa] who had infiltrated through Allied lines in American uniform, driving an American jeep and carrying American identification papers.

The leader of this group, which specializes in kidnaping and assassination of high personages, is a character named Skorzeny, who, reputedly, rescued Mussolini. He is said to have passed through our lines with about sixty of his men and had the mission of killing the Supreme Commander.

One of their rendezvous points is said to be the Café de la Paix in Paris, just around the corner from the Scribe. There German sympathizers and agents are supposed to meet Skorzeny’s gang and to furnish information about General Ike’s abode, movement, and security guard.

The men were described as completely ruthless and prepared to sacrifice their lives to carry out their mission. All personnel speak fluent English. Similar attacks on other high officers have been given to other infiltrators, numbering about 150.

Some units might have with them in their vehicle a German officer in uniform and, if questioned, would tell a false story that they were taking an important German prisoner to higher headquarters in the rear. They carry capsules of acid to be thrown in the faces of MPs or others to facilitate escape. Skorzeny’s group may be in staff cars, civilian cars, command and reconnaissance cars, as well as jeeps.

Already about 150 parachutists wearing American uniforms or civilian clothes have landed in the U. S. First Army’s area. Many of them have been captured, but some are still at large. Those in uniform are not wearing dog tags, but all carry explosives and have a new type of hand grenade discharged from a pistol.

Our security officers are always supercautious, and with this alarming information, I can readily understand why they have thrown a cordon around the Supreme Commander, yet he is thoroughly disgusted at the whole procedure and seemed pleased to have someone to talk with like me, seemingly from the outside World.

Ike was as calm as he ever is, and, except for the irritation caused by his confinement, was cheerful and optimistic.

Over all, he felt that the situation was well in hand; that there was no need for alarm; that he and his senior commanders had taken prompt steps to meet what he figured was the Germans’ dying thrust, and if we would be patient and the Lord would give us some good flying weather, all would be well and we would probably emerge with a tactical victory.

He added that it is easier and less costly to us to kill Germans when they are attacking than when they are holed up in concrete fortifications in the Siegfried Line, and the more we can kill in their present offensive, the fewer we will have to dig out pillbox by pillbox.

See My Three Years With Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher, USNR, Naval Aide to General Eisenhower, 1942 to 1945

There is an account of capturing some of the spies on the 19th December by Tom Bailey of the 82nd Airborne.

Germans who were tried and convicted as spies during the Battle of the Bulge, are bound to stakes by MPs before their execution, December 23, 1944]
Germans who were tried and convicted as spies during the Battle of the Bulge, are bound to stakes by MPs before their execution, December 23, 1944]
Butcher had accompanied Eisenhower when he visited  airborne troops on the eve of D-Day.
Butcher had accompanied Eisenhower when he visited airborne troops on the eve of D-Day.

“Madeleine” – Noor Inayat Khan executed at Dachau


13 September 1944: Madeleine – Noor Inayat Khan executed at Dachau

The Gestapo had found her codes and messages and were now in a position to work back to London. They asked her to co-operate, but she refused and gave them no information of any kind. She was imprisoned in one of the cells on the 5th floor of the Gestapo H.Q. and remained there for several weeks during which time she made two unsuccessful attempts at escape. She was asked to sign a declaration that she would make no further attempts but she refused and the Chief of the Gestapo obtained permission from Berlin to send her to Germany for “safe custody”. She was the first agent to be sent to Germany.

Noor Inyat Khan was executed at Dachau.
Noor Inyat Khan was executed at Dachau.

Noor Inyat Khan had been an unlikely agent for the Special Operations Executive, many of the staff at her training school believed she was too naive and honest to survive the treacherous world of spying. Yet she was fluent in French and an accomplished radio operator, and she was sent to France to support the French Resistance in preparations for D-Day.

She arrived in Paris at a particularly dangerous time. The Gestapo had begun to unravel the Prosper/Physician network which she had joined, and made mass arrests of men and women in the Resistance movement. She became the only SOE radio operator to remain working in Paris, occupying a vital position. Even though it became obvious that the Gestapo had her description and were actively looking for her, she chose to remain in Paris and continued her work.

She was eventually arrested just four months after arriving in France. She was to demonstrate a stubborn resistance to the Gestapo’s interrogation and was soon recognised as a difficult and dangerous prisoner because of her escape attempts.

Eventually she was taken, with three other SOE agents, Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment and Eliane Plewman, to Dachau concentration camp. All four were executed in the early hours of 13th September 1944, accounts vary as to how they were treated prior to execution.

The George Cross citation:

Assistant Section Officer Nora INAYAT-KHAN was the first woman operator to be infiltrated into enemy occupied France, and was landed by Lysander aircraft on 16th June, 1943. During the weeks immediately following her arrival, the Gestapo made mass arrests in the Paris Resistance groups to which she had been detailed.

She refused however to abandon what had become the principal and most dangerous post in France, although given the opportunity to return to England, because she did not wish to leave her French comrades without communications and she hoped also to rebuild her group. She remained at her post therefore and did the excellent work which earned her a posthumous Mention in Despatches.

The Gestapo had a full description of her, but knew only her code name “Madeleine”. They deployed considerable forces in their effort to catch her and so break the last remaining link with London. After 3 months she was betrayed to the Gestapo and taken to their H.Q. in the Avenue Foch.

The Gestapo had found her codes and messages and were now in a position to work back to London. They asked her to co-operate, but she refused and gave them no information of any kind. She was imprisoned in one of the cells on the 5th floor of the Gestapo H.Q. and remained there for several weeks during which time she made two unsuccessful attempts at escape. She was asked to sign a declaration that she would make no further attempts but she refused and the Chief of the Gestapo obtained permission from Berlin to send her to Germany for “safe custody”. She was the first agent to be sent to Germany.

Assistant Section Officer INAYAT-KHAN was sent to Karlsruhe in November; 1943, and then to Pforzheim where her cell was apart from the main prison. She was considered to be a particularly dangerous and unco-operative prisoner. The Director of the prison has also been interrogated and has confirmed that Assistant Section Officer INAYAT-KHAN, when interrogated by the Karlsruhe Gestapo, refused to give any information whatsoever, either as to her work or her colleagues.
She was taken with three others to Dachau Camp on the 12th September, 1944. On arrival, she was taken to the crematorium and shot.

Assistant Section Officer INAYAT-KHAN displayed the most conspicuous courage, both moral and physical over a period of more than 12 months.

As a woman and a Muslim the Noor Inayat Khan story has found resonance in recent years. The Noor Inyat Khan Memorial Trust promotes peace and understanding in her name. A recently released film Enemy of the Reich tells her story.

Left to right; Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment and Eliane Plewman were also executed at Dachau on the 13th September 1944.
Left to right; Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment and Eliane Plewman were also executed at Dachau on the 13th September 1944.

The first ballistic missile attacks – V2 rockets


8 September 1944: The first ballistic missile attacks – V2 rockets

Intelligence, agents, air reconnaissance and photo-interpretation units warned us in the first place what Hitler was preparing for us, and since then we have directed our bomber forcesm with remarkable precision onto the weak links and bottlenecks in the enemy’s organisation. The visitation which London has so bravely borne has been painful enough.

German photograph of a V2 rocket in the initial stage of its flight
German photograph of a V2 rocket in the initial stage of its flight

On 8th September the British newspapers were full of reports of the rapid Allied advance through France and Belgium. A further victory was also apparent.The British had conquered the German V1 rocket attacks and there was widespread reporting of a statement made by War Cabinet member Duncan Sandys who had claimed that “except possibly for the last few shots, the battle of London is over”.

He had praised the assistance of United States officials who:

had thrown themselves into the job of beating the bomb as if New York or Washington had been the victim of the attack…

The latest American equipment for use with British heavy guns was ordered earlier in the year when flying bomb attacks began to look imminent. The necessary priority was accorded by the President as a result of a personal request by the Prime Minister.

Intelligence, agents, air reconnaissance and photo-interpretation units warned us in the first place what Hitler was preparing for us, and since then we have directed our bomber forcesm with remarkable precision onto the weak links and bottlenecks in the enemy’s organisation. The visitation which London has so bravely borne has been painful enough.

Had it not been for the vigilance of the intelligence services and the unrelenting efforts of the British and American air forces, her ordeal might have been many times more severe.

A highly concentrated barrage of anti aircraft guns on the south coast had proved to be very effective in knocking the V1 rockets out of the sky. Those that got through the barrage were often intercepted by pursuing aircraft, either Typhoon or the latest Spitfires, which just had the speed to catch them. On 28th August 90 out of 97 V1 rockets fired at London had been brought down by the guns, and only four missiles got through to hit London. Soon the Allied advances on the continent would put them completely out of range.

Gunners at a mixed anti-aircraft battery on the South Coast mark their names on a shell case after shooting down a V1 flying bomb with only one round, 6 August 1944.
Gunners at a mixed anti-aircraft battery on the South Coast mark their names on a shell case after shooting down a V1 flying bomb with only one round, 6 August 1944.
Workmen carry out temporary 'First Aid' repairs to houses in a London street following the explosion of a V1 Flying Bomb.
Workmen carry out temporary ‘First Aid’ repairs to houses in a London street following the explosion of a V1 Flying Bomb.

However the Minister had been evasive when questioned about whether there was a “V2” rocket:

I think we’ve got enough to deal with if we stick to the V1 we do know quite a lot about it … but in a very few days’ time I feel the press will be walking over these places in France and they will know a great deal more about it than we do now. It would be very dangerous for anyone to make a statement now.

Allied intelligence knew about the V2 but had little information on how close the Germans were to making them operational.

In fact the Germans had been struggling with the problem of the V2 rockets exploding in mid air. On 30th August they had introduced modifications which seemed to have solved the problem. Just before noon on the 8th a German rocket battery in occupied Belgium had pumped eight tons of alcohol and liquid oxygen into their rocket and fired it at Paris. Six people were killed and thirty-six injured.

The damage in Staveley Road, Chiswick after the first V2 rocket hit London.
The damage in Staveley Road, Chiswick after the first V2 rocket hit London.

At 6.43pm that day Chiswick, west London was rocked by a massive explosion, closely followed by another boom that was heard across London. The first explosion had been real enough – caused by 760 kilos of Amatol. The explosion that was heard just after it was the supersonic missile breaking the sound barrier as it re-entered the atmosphere. It had been just minutes since the missile had left the Hague in Holland.

Three people had been killed in Staveley Road, Chiswick, although casualties were light given the thirty feet wide, eight foot deep crater.

The Brentford and Chiswick Air Raid Precautions centre reported Incident 636 of the war:

Eleven houses demolished, 15 seriously damaged and evacuated. Blast damage to 516 houses. St Thomas rest centre opened to house sixteen. The WVS [Women’s Voluntary Service] incident inquiry point opened to the 10th. 14 families re-housed, three billeted.

Attempts by the Press to report the ‘Mystery Explosion’, the site of which had been visited by several unusually senior military figures and politicians, were blocked by the censor. Locally the reason given was ‘a Gas Main explosion’. Over the following weeks Londoners were to become familiar with this phrase.

See Christy Campbell: Target London: Under attack from the V-weapons during WWII

Cutaway drawing of a German V2 rocket.
Cutaway drawing of a German V2 rocket.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr dies in secret drone mission


12 August 1944: Joseph P. Kennedy Jr dies in secret drone mission

For extraordinary heroism and courage in aerial flight as pilot of a United States Liberator bomber on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Kennedy unhesitatingly volunteered to conduct an exceptionally hazardous and special operational mission.

The prototype Hochdruckpumpe gun in 1942, during the development programme in Poland. The "High Pressure Pump" gun was designed to fire 300 shells a minute at London.
The prototype Hochdruckpumpe gun in 1942, during the development programme in Poland. The “High Pressure Pump” gun was designed to fire 300 shells a minute at London. The operational version was built underground in France during 1943-4, with an array of barrels all aimed at London.

On 13th June 1944 the Nazis had begun firing the first of their Vergeltungswaffen (“retaliatory” “reprisal” ) weapons at England. The V1 pilotless jet aircraft was a relatively crude affair but Allied intelligence was aware that more sophisticated rocket weapons were also under development, designated the V2. A number of the launch sites had been identified in occupied France and it was a priority programme of the heavy bombers to put them out of action. The Allies were not aware that there was a third Vergeltungswaffen weapon under secret development – the V3 pump gun.

It was fortuitous therefore that Allied reconnaissance had identified the site of the V3 gun in northern France, even though they believed at the time that it was a V2 launch site. It was placed on the priority target list in any event.

An aerial reconnaissance photograph of the Mimoyecques site in northern France, with annotations. The chalk hill was soft enough to excavate the tunnels needed for the 430 foot long barrels.

The Mimoyecques site had already been attacked by RAF Bomber Command but such was the concern about the potential threat posed by the V2 that it was decided that further attacks were needed, in an attempt to completely obliterate it. It was now decided to use one of the Allied secret weapons in order to attack the site with a massive explosive force.

Under development were early ‘drones’ – pilotless aircraft. At this stage all that the Allies were developing were remotely controlled conventional aircraft. The remote control only operated once the aircraft was in the air – so pilots were needed to get them airborne. They then had to parachute out of what was effectively a flying bomb – ‘the Baby’ under the control of other – ‘Mother’ – aircraft flying alongside.

A B-24 Liberator bomber - those used as 'robots' in Operation Aphrodite were designated BQ-8. [This aircraft B-24J-55-CO (s/n 42-99949) belonged to 93rd BG, 328th BS; lost 21 September 1944 over Belgium]
A B-24 Liberator bomber – those used as ‘robots’ in Operation Aphrodite were designated BQ-8. [This aircraft B-24J-55-CO (s/n 42-99949) belonged to 93rd BG, 328th BS; lost 21 September 1944 over Belgium]

Experienced volunteer pilots were needed for what was a dangerous experiment. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr was a US Navy pilot who had been flying the B-24 Liberator in anti U-boat operations from England. A colleague of Kennedy described the mission, when years later it was declassified:

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr, the oldest child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, died on 12 August 1944, flying an experimental drone aircraft.
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr, the oldest child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, died on 12 August 1944, flying an experimental drone aircraft.

Joe, regarded as an experienced Patrol Plane Commander, and a fellow-officer, an expert in radio control projects, was to take a ‘drone’ Liberator bomber loaded with 21,170 pounds of high explosives into the air and to stay with it until two ‘mother’ planes had achieved complete radio control over the drone.

They were then to bail out over England; the “drone,” under the control of the mother planes, was to proceed on the mission which was to culminate in a crash-dive on the target, a V-2 rocket launching site in Normandy.

The airplane … was in flight with routine checking of the radio controls proceeding satisfactorily, when at 6:20 p.m. on August 12, 1944, two explosions blasted the drone resulting in the death of its two pilots. No final conclusions as to the cause of the explosions has ever been reached.

Lt. McCarthy of the 8th Combat Camera Unit was an eye witness in a US Mosquito aircraft monitoring the experimental flight:

the Baby just exploded in mid-air as we neared it and I was knocked halfway back to the cockpit. A few pieces of the Baby came through the plexiglass nose and I got hit in the head and caught a lot of fragments in my right arm. I crawled back to the cockpit and lowered the wheels so that Bob could make a quick emergency landing,

Top Secret telegram to General Carl Andrew Spaatz from General Jimmy Doolittle, August 1944 reporting the failure of the mission:

ATTEMPTED FIRST APHRODITE ATTACK TWELVE AUGUST WITH ROBOT TAKING OFF FROM FERSFIELD AT ONE EIGHT ZERO FIVE HOURS PD ROBOT EXPLODED IN THE AIR AT APPROXIMATELY TWO THOUSAND FEET EIGHT MILES SOUTHEAST OF HALESWORTH AT ONE EIGHT TWO ZERO HOURS PD WILFORD J. WILLY CMA SR GRADE LIEUTENANT AND JOSEPH P. KENNEDY SR GRADE LIEUTENANT CMA BOTH USNR CMA WERE KILLED PD COMMANDER SMITH CMA IN COMMAND OF THIS UNIT CMA IS MAKING FULL REPORT TO US NAVAL OPERATIONS PD A MORE DETAILED REPORT WILL BE FORWARDED TO YOU WHEN INTERROGATION IS COMPLETED

Kennedy was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross:

For extraordinary heroism and courage in aerial flight as pilot of a United States Liberator bomber on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Kennedy unhesitatingly volunteered to conduct an exceptionally hazardous and special operational mission.

Intrepid and daring in his tactics and with unwavering confidence in the vital importance of his task, he willingly risked his life in the supreme measure of service and, by his great personal valor and fortitude in carrying out a perilous undertaking, sustained and enhanced the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

John F. Kennedy was later to pay tribute to his eldest brother:

His squadron, flying in the bitter winter over the Bay of Biscay, suffered heavy casualties, and by the time Joe had completed his designated number of missions in May, he had lost his former co-pilot and a number of close friends.

“Joe refused his proffered leave and persuaded his crew to remain on for D-day. They flew frequently during June and July, and at the end of July they were given another opportunity to go home. He felt it unfair to ask his crew to stay on longer, and they returned to the United States. He remained. For he had heard of a new and special assignment for which volunteers had been requested which would require another month of the most dangerous type of flying.

“…It may be felt, perhaps, that Joe should not have pushed his luck so far and should have accepted his leave and come home. But two facts must be borne in mind. First, at the time of his death, he had completed probably more combat missions in heavy bombers than any other pilot of his rank in the Navy and therefore was preeminently qualified, and secondly, as he told a friend early in August, he considered the odds at least fifty-fifty, and Joe never asked for any better odds than that.

See JFK Library for more on Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.

The V3 weapon was never fired at England, in all probability it was too experimental a device to be deployed effectively, and in any event the earlier RAF bombing had done sufficient damage to prevent its use.

The French Resistance hit back against the occupation


17 June 1944: The French Resistance hit back against the occupation

The train entered the tunnel and after it had fully disappeared into it, we waited another minute before setting off the charge. Boulders collapsed and cascaded in a thunderous burst; a huge mass completely covered the entrance. Right after that, we heard one, then two huge explosions. The train has been taken prisoner. The 500 “feldgraus” inside weren’t about to leave, and the railway was blocked for a long, long time.

With undercarriage lowered to reduce speed, a B-17 of the 94th BG drops supplies to the French Resistance at Vercors, 14 July 1944.
With undercarriage lowered to reduce speed, a B-17 of the 94th BG drops supplies to the French Resistance at Vercors, 14 July 1944.
Maquisards gathering supply canisters dropped by an Allied aircraft, Haute Savoie.
Maquisards gathering supply canisters dropped by an Allied aircraft, Haute Savoie.

As the Allies remained locked into Normandy conflict, all over France the French Resistance became more audacious with their sabotage operations. In some areas they started open uprisings. It was a risky strategy against the much better armed German forces.

Henri Rosencher had travelled from Warsaw to study Medicine in Paris before the war broke out. His war began as a member of the French Hesistance. After training with the British in North Africa he became an expert with explosives. He then returned to France to assist the Resistance with their activities in the period following D-Day.

On the morning of the 17th of June, I arrived in the area of Lus-la-Croix-Haute, the “maquis” [zone of resistance] under the command of Commander Terrasson.

They were waiting for me and took me off by car. The job at hand was mining a tunnel through which the Germans were expected to pass by train. The Rail resistance network had provided all the details.

My only role was as advisor on explosives. TNT (Trinitrotoluene – a very powerful explosive) and plastic charges were going to collapse the mountain, sealing off the tunnel at both ends and its air shaft. When I got there, all the ground work was done. I only had to specify how much of the explosive was necessary, and where to put it. I checked the bickfords, primers, detonators, and crayons de mise à feu.

We stationed our three teams and made sure that they could communicate with each other. I settled into the bushes with the team for the tunnel’s entrance. And we waited. Toward three p.m., we could hear the train coming.

At the front came a platform car, with nothing on it, to be sacrificed to any mines that might be on the tracks, then a car with tools for repairs, and then an armored fortress car. Then came the cars over-stuffed with men in verdi-gris uniforms, and another armored car.

The train entered the tunnel and after it had fully disappeared into it, we waited another minute before setting off the charge. Boulders collapsed and cascaded in a thunderous burst; a huge mass completely covered the entrance. Right after that, we heard one, then two huge explosions.

The train has been taken prisoner. The 500 “feldgraus” inside weren’t about to leave, and the railway was blocked for a long, long time.

Henri Rosencher: ‘Salt, Ash, Flame‘ Paris, 2000: Editions du Félin 10, rue La Vaquerie 75011

Unfortunately the Resistance uprising in the Vercors area was to end terribly, with brutal and widespread reprisals by the Nazis. As a Jewish Communist Rosencher was especially vulnerable when eventually captured by the Germans, but survived the war in the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, and later Dachau. However none of his extended family in Poland survived the war.

Watched by two small boys, a member of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior) poses with his Bren gun at Chateaudun.
Watched by two small boys, a member of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior) poses with his Bren gun at Chateaudun.