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Today in WWII History

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by PzJgr, Nov 16, 2006.

  1. Liberator

    Liberator Ace

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    1941 : British forces arrive in Greece

    On this day, a British expeditionary force from North Africa lands in Greece.

    In October 1940, Mussolini's army, already occupying Albania, invaded Greece in what proved to be a disastrous military campaign for the Duce's forces. Mussolini surprised everyone with this move against Greece, but he was not to be upstaged by recent Nazi conquests. According to Hitler, who was stunned by a move that he knew would be a strategic blunder, Mussolini should have concentrated on North Africa by continuing the advance into Egypt. The Italians paid for Mussolini's hubris, as the Greeks succeeded in pushing the Italian invaders back into Albania after just one week, and the Axis power spent the next three months fighting for its life in a series of defensive battles.

    Mussolini's precipitate maneuver frustrated Hitler because it opened an opportunity for the British to enter Greece and establish an airbase in Athens, putting the Brits within striking distance of valuable oil reserves in Romania, which Hitler relied upon for his war machine. It also meant that Hitler would have to divert forces from North Africa, a high strategic priority, to bail Mussolini out of Greece-and postpone Hitler's planned invasion of the Soviet Union.

    The Brits indeed saw an opening in Greece, and on March 7, 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill diverted troops from Egypt and sent 58,000 British and Aussie troops to occupy the Olympus-Vermion line. But the Brits would be blown out of the Pelopponesus Peninsula when Hitler's forces invaded on the ground and from the air in April. Thousands of British and Australian forces were captured there and on Crete, where German paratroopers landed in May.
     
  2. karlo

    karlo Member

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    On this Day..........first army crosses the rhine over the remagen railway bridge!....1945
     
  3. karlo

    karlo Member

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    Saar region returned to Germany in 1935!
     
  4. karlo

    karlo Member

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    German troops enter the Rhineland.............'36
     
  5. Liberator

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    1942 : Dutch surrender on Java

    On this day, Dutch forces surrender to the Japanese after two months of fighting.

    Java is an island of modern-day Indonesia, and it lies southeast of Malaysia and Sumatra, south of Borneo, and west of Bali. The Dutch had been in Java since 1596, establishing the Dutch East India Company, a trading company with headquarters at Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), which the Dutch commandeered in 1619. The Dutch East India Company began to assert greater and greater control over the Muslim kingdoms of the East Indies, transforming them into vassal states, with peasants growing rice, sugar, pepper, and coffee for the Dutch government. The company was dissolved in 1799 because of debts and corruption, and the Dutch government took control of the East Indies directly.

    The British supplanted the Dutch in Java for a brief period (1811-1816), but the Dutch returned to power, slowly granting native Javanese more local control, even giving them a majority on the People's Council. But on January 11, 1942, the Japanese declared war on the Royal Dutch government with its invasion of Borneo and the Island of Celebes, a date that also marked the beginning of the end of the Dutch presence in the East Indies. Sumatra was the next site of Japanese occupation, with paratroopers and troops landing from transports on February 14-16. Seven thousand British and Australian troops reinforced the Dutch fighters on Java, but the Allies pulled out of the fight in late February at the approach of two more large Japanese invasion forces that arrived on March 1.

    The Dutch finally ended all resistance to the superior Japanese forces on March 8, surrendering on Java. Java's independence of colonial control became a final fact of history in 1950, when it became part of the newly independent Republic of Indonesia.
     
  6. Liberator

    Liberator Ace

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    1945 : Firebombing of Tokyo

    On this day, U.S. warplanes launch a new bombing offensive against Japan, dropping 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Tokyo over the course of the next 48 hours. Almost 16 square miles in and around the Japanese capital were incinerated, and between 80,000 and 130,000 Japanese civilians were killed in the worst single firestorm in recorded history.

    Early on March 9, Air Force crews met on the Mariana Islands of Tinian and Saipan for a military briefing. They were planning a low-level bombing attack on Tokyo that would begin that evening, but with a twist: Their planes would be stripped of all guns except for the tail turret. The decrease in weight would increase the speed of each Superfortress bomber-and would also increase its bomb load capacity by 65 percent, making each plane able to carry more than seven tons. Speed would be crucial, and the crews were warned that if they were shot down, all haste was to be made for the water, which would increase their chances of being picked up by American rescue crews. Should they land within Japanese territory, they could only expect the very worst treatment by civilians, as the mission that night was going to entail the deaths of tens of thousands of those very same civilians. "You're going to deliver the biggest firecracker the Japanese have ever seen," said U.S. Gen. Curtis LeMay.

    The cluster bombing of the downtown Tokyo suburb of Shitamachi had been approved only a few hours earlier. Shitamachi was composed of roughly 750,000 people living in cramped quarters in wooden-frame buildings. Setting ablaze this "paper city" was a kind of experiment in the effects of firebombing; it would also destroy the light industries, called "shadow factories," that produced prefabricated war materials destined for Japanese aircraft factories.

    The denizens of Shitamachi never had a chance of defending themselves. Their fire brigades were hopelessly undermanned, poorly trained, and poorly equipped. At 5:34 p.m., Superfortress B-29 bombers took off from Saipan and Tinian, reaching their target at 12:15 a.m. on March 10. Three hundred and thirty-four bombers, flying at a mere 500 feet, dropped their loads, creating a giant bonfire fanned by 30-knot winds that helped raze Shitamachi and spread the flames throughout Tokyo. Masses of panicked and terrified Japanese civilians scrambled to escape the inferno, most unsuccessfully. The human carnage was so great that the blood-red mists and stench of burning flesh that wafted up sickened the bomber pilots, forcing them to grab oxygen masks to keep from vomiting.

    The raid lasted slightly longer than three hours. "In the black Sumida River, countless bodies were floating, clothed bodies, naked bodies, all black as charcoal. It was unreal," recorded one doctor at the scene. Only 243 American airmen were lost-considered acceptable losses.
     
  7. Liberator

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    1940 : Sumner Welles makes a "peace proposal"

    On this day, U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, after a meeting with Adolf Hitler in Berlin, visits London to discuss a peacemaking proposal with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to prevent a widening of the European war.

    Sumner Welles, a diplomat and expert on Latin America, spent his early professional life promoting the United States' "Good Neighbor" foreign policy as attache to the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires, chief of Latin American affairs of the State Department, and commissioner to the Dominican Republic. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him assistant secretary of state, sending him to Cuba, where Welles successfully mediated opposing groups attempting to overthrow the government of Gerardo Machado. He was promoted to undersecretary of state in 1937, serving as a delegate to several Pan-American conferences.

    But in 1940, the stakes were raised for Welles. War had broken out in Europe with the German invasion of Poland, and Welles was sent on a fact-finding tour of Berlin, Rome, Paris, and London, in the hopes of keeping the war contained, at the very least, and ideally brought to an end. After a trip to Rome to chat with Benito Mussolini, Welles met with Hitler on March 1-3. Hitler feared that Welles would try to drive a wedge between himself and Axis partner Italy by convincing Mussolini to keep out of the conflict completely. As a result, the Fuhrer bombarded Welles with a propagandistic interpretation of recent events, putting the blame for the European conflict on England and France. Welles informed Hitler that he and Mussolini had engaged in a "long, constructive, and helpful" conversation, and that the Duce believed "there was still a possibility of bringing about a firm and lasting peace." Hitler agreed that there would be peace-after a German victory in Europe.

    Welles left Berlin and arrived in London on March 10. He briefed British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on Hitler's intransigence, arguing that the only hope for a lasting peace was the progressive disarmament of the belligerents, primarily Germany. Chamberlain's foreign ministers were less than impressed with the suggestion, believing that even a "disarmed" Germany could still invade a smaller, weaker nation. In short, Welles' trip accomplished nothing.
     
  8. Liberator

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    1942 : MacArthur leaves the Philippines

    On this day, following President Franklin D. Roosevelt's orders, Gen. Douglas MacArthur pulls out of the Philippines, as the American defense of the islands collapses.

    The Philippines had been part of the American commonwealth since Spain ceded it at the close of the Spanish-American War. When the Japanese invaded China in 1937 and signed the Tripartite Pact with fascist nations Germany and Italy in 1940, the United States responded by, among other things, strengthening the defense of the Philippines. General MacArthur was called out of retirement and took command of 10,000 American Army troops, 12,000 Filipino enlisted men who fought as part of the U.S. Army, and 100,000 Filipino army soldiers, who were poorly-trained and -prepared. MacArthur radically overestimated his strength and underestimated that of Japan's. The Rainbow War Plan, a defensive strategy for U.S. interests in the Pacific drawn up and refined by the War Department, required that MacArthur withdraw his troops into the mountains of the Bataan Peninsula and await better-trained and equipped American reinforcements. Instead, MacArthur decided to take the Japanese head on-and never recovered.

    The day of the Pearl Harbor bombing also saw the Japanese destruction of almost half of the American aircraft based in the Philippines. Amphibious landings of Japanese troops along the Luzon coast followed. By late December, MacArthur had to pull his forces back defensively to the Bataan Peninsula-the original strategy belatedly pursued. By January 2, 1942, the Philippine capital, Manila, fell to the Japanese. President Roosevelt had to admit to himself (if not to the American people, who believed the Americans were winning the battle with the Japanese in the Philippines), that the prospects for the American forces were not good--and that he could not afford to have General MacArthur fall captive to the Japanese. A message arrived at Corregidor on February 20, ordering MacArthur to leave immediately for Mindanao, then on to Melbourne, Australia, where he was to assume command of all United States troops. MacArthur balked; he was fully prepared to fight alongside his men to the death, if necessary. MacArthur finally obeyed the president's order on March 11.
     
  9. Otto

    Otto Rested & Resupplied with MREs. Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Today marks one of the most interesting surrenders of WWII: Second Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army surrenders to Philippine authorities. He believed World War II was still underway and continued a 30 year guerrilla battle with other islanders. His final capitulation came when his senior officer, Maj. Taniguchi, ordered his surrender. Upon return to the Japanese homeland, Onoda was treated as a hero, but had difficulty coping with his "postwar" life.
     
  10. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Incredible story Otto. So if I am correct he surrendered after the Vietnam war or just about! Rambo was a wimp compared to that guy!
     
  11. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    1938 : Hitler announces an Anschluss with Austria

    On this day, Adolf Hitler announces an "Anschluss" (union) between Germany and Austria, in fact annexing the smaller nation into a greater Germany.

    Union with Germany had been a dream of Austrian Social Democrats since 1919. The rise of Adolf Hitler and his authoritarian rule made such a proposition less attractive, though, which was an ironic twist, since a union between the two nations was also a dream of Hitler's, a native Austrian. Despite the fact that Hitler did not have the full approval of Austrian Social Democrats, the rise of a pro-Nazi right-wing party within Austria in the mid-1930s paved the way for Hitler to make his move. In 1938, Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, bullied by Hitler during a meeting at Hitler's retreat home in Berchtesgaden, agreed to a greater Nazi presence within Austria. He appointed a Nazi minister of police and announced an amnesty for all Nazi prisoners. Schuschnigg hoped that agreeing to Hitler's demands would prevent a German invasion. But Hitler insisted on greater German influence on the internal affairs of Austria-even placing German army troops within Austria--and Schu!

    schnigg repudiated the agreement signed at Berchtesgaden, demanding a plebiscite on the question. Through the machinations of Hitler and his devotees within Austria, the plebiscite was canceled, and Schuschnigg resigned.

    The Austrian president, Wilhelm Miklas, refused to appoint a pro-Nazi chancellor in Schuschnigg's stead. German foreign minister Hermann Goering then faked a crisis by engineering a "plea" for German assistance from inside the Austrian government (really from a German agent). On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria. Hitler announced his Anschluss, and a plebiscite was finally held on April 10. Whether the plebiscite was rigged or the resulting vote simply a testament to Austrian terror at Hitler's determination, the Fuhrer garnered a whopping 99.7 percent approval for the union of Germany and Austria.

    Austria was now a nameless entity absorbed by Germany. It was not long before the Nazis soon began their typical ruthless policy of persecuting political dissidents and, of course, all Jewish citizens.
     
  12. Liberator

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    1944 : London suspends travel between Ireland and Britain

    On this day, Britain announces that all travel between Ireland and the United Kingdom is suspended, the result of the Irish government's refusal to expel Axis-power diplomats within its borders.

    In 1922, an independent Irish republic was established after generations of conflict between Ireland and Britain. One of the conditions of that agreement was that Britain would retain control of three naval bases along the Irish coast in order to continue Ireland's defense. But as war loomed in the late 1930s, Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera negotiated an agreement that ended the British occupation of those naval bases; Ireland had declared a pre-emptive state of neutrality in any European war, and the presence of the Royal Navy on independent Irish soil violated that neutrality. De Valera did not want Ireland to become an object of attacks aimed at Britain.

    De Valera was willing to bargain away Irish neutrality, though, in exchange for Northern Ireland's being returned to the Irish Republic. The British were not willing to pay that price but did agree to end conscription in Northern Ireland once De Valera denounced conscription--because it forced Irish men to fight in what De Valera believed was an English war--as an "act of aggression."

    Irish neutrality was challenged in 1941, with German air raids against Dublin. It was challenged again in 1942, when the United States landed troops in Northern Ireland, under the understanding that it was under the control of its ally, Britain. De Valera protested. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stunned at this intransigence and applied pressure to the de Valera government, attempting to change Ireland's neutrality stance. De Valera did not relent. Finally, when the Irish prime minister refused to expel from Ireland the diplomats of the Axis powers, Britain retaliated by suspending all travel between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom. Ireland did not flinch and, when the war ended, developed good relations with all the powers involved.
     
  13. Liberator

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    1943 : Germans recapture Kharkov

    On this day, German troops re-enter Kharkov, the second largest city in the Ukraine, which had changed hands several times in the battle between the USSR and the invading German forces.

    Kharkov was a high-priority target for the Germans when they invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, as the city was a railroad and industrial center, and had coal and iron mines nearby. Among the most important industries for Stalin's war needs was the Kharkov Tanks Works, which he moved out of Kharkov in December 1941 into the Ural Mountains. In fact, Joseph Stalin was so desperate to protect Kharkov that he rendered a "no retreat" order to his troops, which produced massive casualties within the Red Army over time.

    Hitler's troops first entered Kharkov in October 1941. In May 1942, the Soviets launched an effective surprise attack on the Germans just south of Kharkov, enabling the Red Army to advance closer to the occupied city, and finally re-enter it on February 16, 1943. Hitler began planning an immediate recapture as early as February 21-Red Army Day-hoping that success there would reverse the Soviet momentum of the previous three months. On March 10, German troops launched their major offensive; the Soviets had already suffered the loss of 23,000 soldiers and 634 tanks in the recapture and defense of Kharkov and were forced to rely on 1,000 Czech troops for aid.

    On March 14, the tide in Kharkov turned again, and the Germans took the city once more. "We have shown the Ivans we can withstand their terrible winter. It can hold no fear for us again," wrote an SS officer. This proved to be a meaningless boast when the Red Army liberated the city that summer, and untrue, as the brutal Soviet winter actually did take a terrifying toll on German troops.
     
  14. Liberator

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    1945 : Fighting on Iwo Jima ends

    On this day, the west Pacific volcanic island of Iwo Jima is declared secured by the U.S. military after months of fiercely fighting its Japanese defenders.

    The Americans began applying pressure to the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima in February 1944, when B-24 and B-25 bombers raided the island for 74 days straight. It was the longest pre-invasion bombardment of the war, necessary because of the extent to which the Japanese--21,000 strong--fortified the island, above and below ground, including a network of caves. Underwater demolition teams ("frogmen") were dispatched by the Americans just before the actual invasion to clear the shores of mines and any other obstacles that could obstruct an invading force. In fact, the Japanese mistook the frogmen for an invasion force and killed 170 of them.

    The amphibious landings of Marines began the morning of February 19, 1945, as the secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, accompanied by journalists, surveyed the scene from a command ship offshore. The Marines made their way onto the island--and seven Japanese battalions opened fire, obliterating them. By that evening, more than 550 Marines were dead and more than 1,800 were wounded.

    In the face of such fierce counterattack, the Americans reconciled themselves to the fact that Iwo Jima could be taken only one yard at a time. A key position on the island was Mt. Suribachi, the center of the Japanese defense. The 28th Marine Regiment closed in and around the base of the volcanic mountain at the rate of 400 yards per day, employing flamethrowers, grenades, and demolition charges against the Japanese that were hidden in caves and pillboxes (low concrete emplacements for machine-gun nests). Approximately 40 Marines finally began a climb up the volcanic ash mountain, which was smoking from the constant bombardment, and at 10 a.m. on February 23, a half-dozen Marines raised an American flag at its peak, using a pipe as a flag post. Two photographers caught a restaging of the flag raising for posterity, creating one of the most reproduced images of the war. With Mt. Suribachi claimed, one-third of Iwo Jima was under American control.

    On March 16, with a U.S. Navy military government established, Iwo Jima was declared secured and the fighting over. When all was done, more than 6,000 Marines died fighting for the island, along with almost all the 21,000 Japanese soldiers trying to defend it.
     
  15. Liberator

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    1942 : War Relocation Authority is established in United States

    On this day, the War Relocation Authority is created to "Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war."

    Anger toward and fear of Japanese Americans began in Hawaii shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; everyone of Japanese ancestry, old and young, prosperous and poor, was suspected of espionage. This suspicion quickly broke out on the mainland; as early as February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that German, Italian, and Japanese nationals-as well as Japanese Americans-be barred from certain areas deemed sensitive militarily. California, which had a significant number of Japanese and Japanese Americans, saw a particularly virulent form of anti-Japanese sentiment, with the state's attorney general, Earl Warren (who would go on to be the chief justice of the United States), claiming that a lack of evidence of sabotage among the Japanese population proved nothing, as they were merely biding their time.

    While roughly 2,000 people of German and Italian ancestry were interned during this period, Americans of Japanese ancestry suffered most egregiously. The War Relocation Authority, established on March 18, 1942, was aimed at them specifically: 120,000 men, women, and children were rounded up on the West Coast. Three categories of internees were created: Nisei (native U.S. citizens of Japanese immigrant parents), Issei (Japanese immigrants), and Kibei (native U.S. citizens educated largely in Japan). The internees were transported to one of 10 relocation centers in California, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming.

    The quality of life in a relocation center was only marginally better than prison: Families were sardined into 20- by 25-foot rooms and forced to use communal bathrooms. No razors, scissors, or radios were allowed. Children attended War Relocation Authority schools.

    One Japanese American, Gordon Hirabayashi, fought internment all the way to the Supreme Court. He argued that the Army, responsible for effecting the relocations, had violated his rights as a U.S. citizen. The court ruled against him, citing the nation's right to protect itself against sabotage and invasion as sufficient justification for curtailing his and other Japanese Americans' constitutional rights.

    In 1943, Japanese Americans who had not been interned were finally allowed to join the U.S. military and fight in the war. More than 17,000 Japanese Americans fought; the all-Nisei 442nd Regiment, which fought in the Italian campaign, became the single most decorated unit in U.S. history. The regiment won 4,667 medals, awards, and citations, including 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 560 Silver Stars. Many of these soldiers, when writing home, were writing to relocation centers.

    In 1990, reparations were made to surviving internees and their heirs in the form of a formal apology by the U.S. government and a check for $20,000.
     
  16. Liberator

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    1945 : General Fromm executed for plot against Hitler

    On this day, the commander of the German Home Army, Gen. Friedrich Fromm, is shot by a firing squad for his part in the July plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. The fact that Fromm's participation was half-hearted did not save him.

    By 1945, many high-ranking German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and they believed that assassination was the only way to stop him. According to the plan, coup d'etat would follow the assassination, and a new government in Berlin would save Germany from complete destruction at the hands of the Allies. All did not go according to plan, however. Col. Claus von Stauffenberg was given the task of planting a bomb during a conference that was to be held at Hitler's holiday retreat, Berchtesgaden (but was later moved to Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg). Stauffenberg was chief of staff to Gen. Friedrich Fromm. Fromm, chief of the Home Army (composed of reservists who remained behind the front lines to preserve order at home), was inclined to the conspirators' plot, but agreed to cooperate actively in the coup only if the assassination was successful.

    On the night of July 20, Stauffenberg planted an explosive-filled briefcase under a table in the conference room at Rastenburg. Hitler was studying a map of the Eastern Front as Colonel Heinz Brandt, trying to get a better look at the map, moved the briefcase out of place, farther away from where the Fuhrer was standing. At 12:42 p.m. the bomb went off. When the smoke cleared, Hitler was wounded, charred, and even suffered the temporary paralysis of one arm-but was very much alive.

    Meanwhile, Stauffenberg had made his way to Berlin to meet with his co-conspirators to carry out Operation Valkyrie, the overthrow of the central government. Once in the capital, General Fromm, who had been informed by phone that Hitler was wounded but still alive, ordered Stauffenberg and his men arrested, but Fromm was located and locked in an office by Nazi police. Stauffenberg and Gen. Friedrich Olbricht began issuing orders for the commandeering of various government buildings. Then the news came through from Herman Goering that Hitler was alive. Fromm, released from confinement by officers still loyal to Hitler, and anxious to have his own association with the conspirators covered up quickly, ordered the conspirators, including two Stauffenberg aides, shot for high treason that same day. (Gen. Ludwig Beck, one of the conspiracy leaders and an older man, was allowed the "dignity" of committing suicide.)

    Fromm's last-ditch effort to distance himself from the plot failed. Within the next few days, on order of Heinrich Himmler, who was now the new head of the Home Army, Fromm was arrested. In February 1945, he was tried before the People's Court and denigrated for his cowardice in refusing to stand up to the plotters. But because he went so far as to execute Stauffenberg and his partners on the night of July 20, he was spared the worst punishment afforded convicted conspirators-strangulation on a meat hook. He was shot by a firing squad on March 19.
     
  17. Liberator

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    1945 : British troops liberate Mandalay, Burma

    On this day, the 14th Army, under British Gen. William J. Slim, captures the Burmese city of Mandalay from the Japanese, bringing the Allies one step closer to liberating all of Burma.

    Mandalay, a city on the Irrawaddy River in central Burma (now Myanmar), was the center of the communications in Burma, as well as of rail, road, and river travel. The British conquered Mandalay, the second-largest city in Burma, in 1885. Burma as a whole was detached from India by the British in the Government of India Act of 1935 and made a Crown Colony with its own constitution and parliament. Burmese nationalists plotted with the Japanese in the late 1930s to wrest Burma from the British Empire and bring the nation within the Japanese Empire. Attempts by the nationalists to undermine the building of the Burmese Road (which would create an overland link between the West and China) and incite riots failed, and Burma remained a British colony.

    On December 8, 1941, the Japanese took matters into their own hands and invaded Burma. Troops landed at Victoria Point, at the southern tip of the peninsula. Moving north, the Japanese troops, composed mostly of disgruntled Burmese nationals who fashioned themselves an army of liberation, determined to expel the Brits from their homeland, advanced on Rangoon, Lashio (the Burmese end of the Burma Road into China), and Mandalay, which fell on May 2, 1942. With the Japanese holding central Burma, China was cut off from the West-and Western supplies.

    In early 1944, British Gen. William J. Slim, commander of the 14th Army, led an offensive against the Japanese that broke a siege at Imphal. By mid-December, buoyed by his success, Slim launched an offensive against Meiktila, east of the Irrawaddy River and a key communication post between Rangoon and Mangalay. A strategy of misdirection was employed, with one corps headed toward Mandalay even as Slim's immediate objective was Meiktila. With the Japanese preoccupied with the first corps, a second corps took Meiktila on March 3, 1945, and Mandalay fell on the 20th. The 14th Army now controlled a significant swath of central Burma. Rangoon, the capital, would fall in May, returning Burma to British hands.
     
  18. Liberator

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    1943 : Another plot to kill Hitler foiled

    On this day, the second military conspiracy plan to assassinate Hitler in a week fails to come off.

    Back in the summer of 1941, Maj. Gen. Henning von Tresckow, a member of Gen. Fedor von Bock's Army Group Center, was the leader of one of many conspiracies against Adolf Hitler. Along with his staff officer, Lt. Fabian von Schlabrendorff, and two other conspirators, both of old German families who also believed Hitler was leading Germany to humiliation, Tresckow had planned to arrest the Fuhrer when he visited the Army Group's headquarters at Borisov, in the Soviet Union. But their naivete in such matters became evident when Hitler showed up-surrounded by SS bodyguards and driven in one of a fleet of cars. They never got near him.

    Tresckow would try again on March 13, 1943, in a plot called Operation Flash. This time, Tresckow, Schlabrendorff, et al., were stationed in Smolensk, still in the USSR. Hitler was planning to fly back to Rastenburg, Germany, from Vinnitsa, in the USSR. A stopover was planned at Smolensk, during which the Fuhrer was to be handed a parcel bomb by an unwitting officer thinking it was a gift of liquor for two senior officers at Rastenburg. All went according to plan and Hitler's plane took off--the bomb was set to go off somewhere over Minsk. At that point, co-conspirators in Berlin were ready to take control of the central government at the mention of the code word "Flash." Unfortunately, the bomb never went off at all-the detonator was defective.

    A week later on March 21, on Heroes' Memorial Day, (a holiday honoring German World War I dead), Tresckow selected Col. Freiherr von Gersdorff to act as a suicide bomber at the Zeughaus Museum in Berlin, where Hitler was to attend the annual memorial dedication. With a bomb planted in each of his two coat pockets, Gersdorff was to sidle up to Hitler as he reviewed the memorials and ignite the bombs, taking the dictator out-along with himself and everyone in the immediate vicinity. Schlabrendorff supplied Gersdorff with bombs-each with a 10-minute fuse.

    Once at the exhibition hall, Gersdorff was informed that the Fuhrer was to inspect the exhibits for only eight minutes-not enough time for the fuses to melt down.
     
  19. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    1942 : Cripps and Gandhi meet

    On this day, Sir Stanford Cripps, British statesman, arrives in India for talks with Mohandas Gandhi on Indian independence, in what will become known as the Cripps Mission.

    Cripps was a gifted student with a background in such diverse disciplines as chemistry and law. Always of weak health, he was deemed unfit for military service during World War I; instead, he worked in a government factory. After the war, Cripps was made a King's Counsel (1927). Shortly thereafter, he was knighted, and in 1931 was elected to Parliament as a Labour Party member for Bristol East. Cripps' politics were left of even the Labour Party, and when he advocated a united front with the Communists in 1938 against a growing European fascism, he was expelled from the party.

    Once World War II erupted, Cripps was made ambassador to the Soviet Union. In 1942, he joined the War Cabinet and ventured to India to begin discussing two pressing issues: Japan's threat to India, and India's independence from Britain. The first meetings of the Cripps Mission took place on March 22, 1942. The first item on the agenda was India's defense against a growing Japanese empire. Cripps wanted to rally the Indian National Congress behind the cause. The leader of the Congress was Mohandas K. Gandhi.

    Nicknamed Mahatma, the "Great-Souled," Gandhi was at the center of India's quest for independence from British colonial rule. His use of nonviolent protest both in South Africa, where he practiced law, and in India made him a model and icon for later social-protest movements. Gandhi deemed the negotiations made with the British government through the Cripps Mission unsatisfactory. It did not guarantee Indian independence--never mind the immediate autonomy that the Congress demanded--and threatened to "divide and keep conquered" by playing Hindu Indians against Muslim Indians. Consequently, though Gandhi hated fascism, he could not promise unqualified Indian support of the British during the war.

    The Cripps Mission failed; Cripps returned to Britain and was eventually transferred to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Gandhi was arrested as a "threat" to Indian security. He was interned for two years before health issues forced his release.
     
  20. Liberator

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    1944 : Germans slaughter Italian civilians

    On this day, German occupiers shoot more than 300 Italian civilians as a reprisal for an Italian partisan attack on an SS unit.

    Since the Italian surrender in the summer of 1943, German troops had occupied wider swaths of the peninsula to prevent the Allies from using Italy as a base of operations against German strongholds elsewhere, such as the Balkans. An Allied occupation of Italy would also put into their hands Italian airbases, further threatening German air power.

    Italian partisans (antifascist guerrilla fighters) aided the Allied battle against the Germans. The Italian Resistance had been fighting underground against the fascist government of Mussolini long before its surrender, and now it fought against German fascism. The main weapon of a guerrilla, defined roughly as a member of a small-scale "irregular" fighting force that relies on limited and quick engagements of a conventional fighting force, is sabotage. Aside from killing enemy soldiers, the destruction of communication lines, transportation centers, and supply lines are essential guerrilla tactics.

    On March 23, 1944, Italian partisans operating in Rome threw a bomb at an SS unit, killing 33 soldiers. The very next day, the Germans rounded up 335 Italian civilians and took them to the Adeatine caves. They were all shot dead as revenge for the SS soldiers. Of the civilian victims, 253 were Catholic, 70 were Jewish and the remaining 12 were unidentified.

    Despite such setbacks, the partisans proved extremely effective in aiding the Allies; by the summer of 1944, resistance fighters had immobilized eight of the 26 German divisions in northern Italy. By war's end, Italian guerrillas controlled Venice, Milan, and Genoa, but at considerable cost. All told, the Resistance lost some 50,000 fighters-but won its republic.
     

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