May 22, 2022

History Content for the Future

World War Two Day by Day

On 15 May 1943, an American experiment using bats as incendiary bombs accidentally starts a fire in the airbase of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
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As both sides race to achieve the technological edge over one another with ever more powerful bombs, the United States military has committed its resources to a most unusual superweapon: the bat bomb.
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The idea stems from the brilliant mind of Lytle S. Adams, a dentist and part-time inventor. During his trip to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, he was intrigued to see how bats rushed for cover in narrow nooks and crevices to roost before dawn. He began thinking to himself about what damage they could do if they were released into an urban environment -especially a wooden one like Tokyo- and armed with incendiary bombs.
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Adams writes to the White House, and his proposal soon reaches the President's desk. Roosevelt is impressed with the idea, remarking: 'This man is not a nut. It sounds like a perfectly wild idea but is worth looking into.' The President approves the project, codenamed 'X-Ray', and Adams can begin assembling a team of professionals to start development for the U.S. Army Air Force. Among them is Harvard professor Louis Fieser, who is at the forefront in the development of the new incendiary called napalm.
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After settling on the Mexican free-tailed bat as the suitable candidate for the bat bomb, work can begin on the bomb itself. Adams and his team come up with a bomb capable of holding about a thousand bats. Each one of them is to carry a payload of 15 to 18 grams (0.53–0.63 oz), comprised of a small container glued to the front of the bat. When the bomb is dropped, it will automatically open and release the bats, allowing them to seek shelter in the target area before the timed incendiary explosive detonates, starting fires across the city that will overwhelm its fire departments.
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Today, however, Project X sees a setback when armed bats escape a live test and set fire to the airbase of Carlsbad, as well as a general's car. Although the experimental weapon has proven to be destructive, the project is transferred to the Navy for further development.
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Photo: A napalm-equipped bat, 1941-45.
Source: Unknown.
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On 14 May 1943, a Japanese submarine torpedoes the Australian hospital ship AHS Centaur, killing 268 medical personnel and crew.
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Laid down in 1923 as a British merchant vessel, the Centaur was requisitioned by the Admiralty upon the outbreak of war. In November 1941, she was one of the first to the scene after the clash between HMAS Sydney and Kormoran, saving German survivors from the water and bringing them to Australia.
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After serving as a cargo ship in the Pacific theater, she was finally transferred to the Australians to be turned into a hospital ship. Refitted with an operating theater, two wards, and other medical facilities, the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur was able to hold just over 250 bedridden patients for 18 days. It meant patients could be brought straight from Port Moresby to Sydney without burdening the already-stretched Queensland hospitals in northern Australia.
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On May 12, Centaur departs Sydney, carrying aboard 332 crewmen and medical personnel headed for New Guinea. Around 0400 hours today, Japanese submarine I-177 spots the Australian hospital ship and opens fire. A torpedo hits the port side fuel tank, igniting its contents and turning the ship into a fireball. Centaur capsizes and sinks within three minutes, trapping those who survive the inferno beneath the decks. Only 64 survivors will be found and rescued.
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The blatant violation of the Geneva Convention causes much public uproar throughout the United Nations. The sinking of Centaur is not the first sinking of a hospital ship -a practice of which both sides are guilty- and it's not even the deadliest one by a mile, which unfortunate title belongs to the Soviet vessel Armenia, which sunk with 5,000 souls in 1941. However, it is the deadliest sinking of a western Allied hospital ship and will turn into a symbol of Japanese barbarism used in recruitment and war bond campaigns.
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The Japanese will deny any responsibility for the sinking, and the perpetrator of the war crime will remain a mystery for decades to come. No one will ever face trial in court.
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Photo: The AHS Centaur, Sydney, 1943.
Source: AWM, 302800
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On 13 May 1943, the last Axis troops in Tunisia surrender, bringing the North African Campaign to an end.
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Last week, we saw how the Allies liberated Bizerte and Tunis and pushed the Axis back into two pockets. By now, those perimeters have shrunk to an untenable size, while the Axis supply system has broken down completely.
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The German 5th Panzer Army, holed up in the northern pocket near Bizerte, records a last entry in its war diary on May 8th: 'The mass of our tanks and artillery is destroyed. No ammunition, no fuel left. Intention: fight to the last round. [...] In loyal performance of duty, the last fighters of the Fifth Panzer Army greet the homeland and our Führer. Long live Germany.' They surrender to the American 2nd Corps the following day. Commander Omar Bradley cables Dwight Eisenhower: 'Mission accomplished.'
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Field Marshal Giovanni Messe and General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim formally surrender the troops still under their command in the southern pocket on the 12th. Endless streams of prisoners march into captivity, where curious Allied soldiers gaze at them from a distance or have a short chat. Interactions are generally friendly, but some are quickly reminded why they're fighting who they are. War correspondent Ernie Pyle writes:
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'The first contacts of our troops with prisoners were extremely pleasant. So pleasant in fact that American officers got to worrying because the men found the Germans so likeable. But if the Americans talked to them long enough they in them the very thing we were fighting this war about - their superior-race complex, their smug belief in their divine right to run this part of the world. [...] I think those of our troops who had an opportunity to talk at length with the Germans, came out of it madder than ever at their enemy.'
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Today, all Axis resistance comes to an end as the last units surrender. After nearly three years since the first skirmishes on the Libyan-Egyptian border, the North African Campaign is at an end.
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Photo: A British and German soldier share a cigarette, Tunisia, March 1943.
Source: IWM, NA 1344
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On 12 May 1943, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill meet in Washington in the Trident Conference.
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When the two leaders last met in Casablanca in January of this year, there were still two firmly entrenched Axis armies to deal with in Tunisia. By now, however, the remnants of those armies are surrendering in droves, and the end of the African Campaign is near. There are new strategic questions to be settled, and it's time for a meeting between the Allied leaders.
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On May 4th, Churchill boards the ocean liner Queen Mary to take him to New York. False rumors about the ship's cargo are spread to keep the Prime Minister's presence a secret, and there are even some 5,000 German prisoners aboard for internment in America. The Chiefs of Staff accompany Churchill to represent their branches of the armed forces in the conference.
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The Americans and British have already decided on Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, during the previous conference, but there are still no concrete plans on what to do after its conclusion. The British are in favor of an attack against the Italian mainland. They are convinced that it will be enough to kick the Italians out of the war, neutralize their navy, and force the Germans to divert divisions from the Eastern Front to the Italian-occupied Balkans. It may also swing Turkey to the Allies and create bases from where Romania and the German supply routes to the Eastern Front can be bombed.
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The matter is thoroughly discussed today, on the first day of the conference. The Americans are quick to express their worries that an attack against Italy may become more of a drain than a gain on their resources and might delay the landings in Western Europe. Another point of conflict is the strategy in Burma, where Americans want to see more British efforts to reopen the Burma Road to China.
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The conference will continue for several more days, during which the Allies will decide on their strategic priorities for the months and years to come. Check out our latest news flash on YouTube for more on that.
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Photo: Churchill and Roosevelt fishing in between conferences, May 1943.
Source: FDR Presidential Library & Museum
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On 11 May 1943, American forces land on Attu in an attempt to retake the Aleutian Islands.
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Nearly a year ago, we saw how the Japanese invaded the islands during their eastward expansion to extend their perimeter. Although the simultaneous strike against Midway failed miserably, they seized the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska without trouble.
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Since then, these barren outposts on the corner of the Japanese empire have been somewhat of a forgotten sideshow. No real battles have taken place in the area aside from some aerial and naval activity. Now, however, the Americans are back to reclaim these remote stretches of United States soil. The 7th Infantry Division has been pulled from its training area in the desert to the far north, where it receives a quick refit.
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This process is still ongoing when orders land to move out against the first target: Attu. As the American invasion fleet sails past Kiska, the some 3,000 Japanese on Attu are notified of the impending danger and put on high alert. During the next couple of days, bad weather and poor visibility delay the American landings but also give the Japanese the false impression the threat has passed. So when the American armada approaches the shores of Attu today, the Japanese are caught off guard.
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The landings proceed smoothly. The 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, disembarks at Holtz Bay as the Northern Force, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Southern Force step ashore at Massacre Bay unopposed. Two more subsidiary landings take place at Austin Cove and Alexei Point to provide rear/flank cover for the main force and sweep the island's mountains for sentries and patrols.
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The Americans have successfully established their beachheads, but they are up to a nasty surprise not long after moving land inward. Japanese sniper and mortar positions high up on the mountains are laying down deadly fire and are nearly invisible to the troops below through the thick layer of fog. The Americans will have to advance up snow-covered slopes to clear the positions out, but for now, they're dead stuck.
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Photo: U.S. landing craft unloading supplies on Attu, 12 May 1943.
Source: U.S. Navy, 80-G-50848
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On 10 May 1943, the Allies withdraw from Maungdaw, Burma, bringing an end to the disastrous Arakan Campaign.
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Last week, we saw how the Japanese cut the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road, forcing an Allied withdrawal from Buthidaung and threatening Maungdaw. While 15th Corps commander William Slim favored a withdrawal from the vulnerable harbor town, Eastern Army commander Noel Irwin initially still wanted to hold on to the place.
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By today, however, Irwin also sees how holding on to Maungdaw would do more to drain Allied strength than to improve it and authorizes a retreat. The British and Indian troops will withdraw toward Cox's Bazar, where the open countryside is more accomodating to British air and artillery power. It will also shorten the supply route during the wet monsoon season, which is now very imminent and will bring all offensive action to a stop.
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The retreat from Maungdaw marks the end of a disappointing six-month campaign for the Allies. Noel Irwin is quick to shift the blame to William Slim -who was only in command of the front during the final stages- and signals him to report at his headquarters. Slim knows what's coming and remarks: 'I suppose this means I've got the sack. I'll join the Home Guard in England.' But then, another signal follows from Irwin, stating that he has himself been sacked by Commander-in-Chief India Archibald Wavell. Slim rejoices to his staff: 'I think this calls for the opening of a bottle of port or something if we have one.'
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Allied battle casualties stand at 2,500 for the whole campaign, of which less than half are fatal. However, 4,500 more have been hospitalized with disease, mainly malaria, about which a lot has been learned during the campaign. But the campaign has also taken an immense mental toll on those involved. One psychiatrist reports that 'no useful purpose would be served by counting psychiatric cases, for the whole of 14th Indian Division was for practical purposes a psychiatric casualty.' And indeed, the utterly demoralized division will never again see active service.
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Photo: Wounded Indian troops on an evacuation plane from Arakan, 1943-1945.
Source: IWM, IND 3015
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On 9 May 1943, the Japanese counterattack at Mubo, New Guinea, encircling the Australians.
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In the last week of April, we saw how the Australians began increasing the pressure on the Japanese in New Guinea in anticipation of a larger amphibious operation against Lae later in the year. Until then, attention was to be drawn toward Salamaua, before which the Japanese have dug in on the ridges of Mubo.
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The 2/7th Battalion was allotted to the task, with a hill feature dubbed the 'Pimple' as their first objective. After heavy air and artillery attacks, the battalion moves into action on April 24th. But the assault fails. Multiple tries follow, but each is pushed back by the destructive automatic fire of well-placed Japanese machine-gun nests until division commander Stanley Savige finally puts an end to the pointless attacks on May 7th.
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The Japanese are quick to seize the opportunity. Today, at 0815 hours, the Australian sentries of A Company -the company most forward before the Pimple- can hear a booby trap set off. They initially think it's just a branch or an enemy patrol at the most, but then, they suddenly start taking fire from all directions. Communications with the battalion headquarters are soon lost, and it becomes apparent that they have been surrounded by the Japanese.
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Private Charles Germaine describes what follows: 'We retreated to a rough line of weapon pits and then they attacked us. I counted twelve assaults in less than an hour. The undergrowth was so thick that we could not see the faces of the Japs, but we got glimpses of them as they wormed their way through the scrub towards us. At times they got within ten yards of us, but every time they were beaten back. It was our grenades which caused the Japs to run in terror. They tried rolling grenades down the hill, but these exploded before they reached our pits.'
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During the next two days, the Japanese fail to roll up the isolated Australian company. When relief reaches Company A on the 11th, both sides retreat to their bases to lick their wounds after the bloody stalemate that was Mubo.
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Photo: Two Australians on patrol near Mubo, July 1943.
Source: AWM, 015226
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On 8 May 1943, the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff approve a strategic plan on how to defeat Japan.
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Over the past months, we have seen how America and its allies in the Pacific devised their strategy for the upcoming months, marking Rabaul as their primary objective. It is all that is possible while the European theater takes precedence. However, a plan on how to eventually defeat Japan was still lacking.
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Today, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approve a plan describing just that. It will still need approval from the Combined Chiefs of Staff since it includes British and Commonwealth forces, but this will be granted soon. The plan is divided into four phases.
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In phase one, British and Commonwealth forces are to recapture Burma to reestablish a supply route to China, which is to be kept in the fight with additional reinforcements. At the same time, American forces are to push toward the Philippines to open a line of communications to the Celebes Sea. This ties into phase two, wherein American troops are to recapture the Philippines and prepare to capture Hong Kong. Its port would significantly increase the flow of reinforcements to China. The British will, for their part, need to regain control of the Strait of Malacca to secure the supply route.
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In phase three, the British will continue to clear the Strait of Malacca and compel the wide dispersion of Japanese troops. Simultaneously, the Americans are to establish dominance in the South China Sea with a landing on Formosa while the Chinese capture Hong Kong. Having secured a stable link with China, airbases are to be established on the Chinese mainland in phase four, followed by an 'overwhelming air offensive' against Japan in phase five.
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Although hopes are that the air offensive will crush the Japanese spirit, there is a phase six in which U.S. forces invade Japan. The lack of further elaboration or detail reveals the reluctance with which this phase is included. However, there's still an entire war to be won in Europe before these gaps will need to be addressed.
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Photo: The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff with President Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference, January 1943.
Source: IWM, A 14047
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On 7 May 1943, the Allies enter Tunis and Bizerte during the final stages of the Tunisian Campaign.
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Two weeks ago, we saw how the Allies launched an all-out offensive along the Tunisian Front with hopes of ending the campaign once and for all. While the British attacked Longstop Hill in the Medjerda Valley, the Americans of 2nd Corps advanced toward Bizerte in the north.
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Today, the Americans can finally see their ultimate objective: the port city of Bizerte. It has been utterly and completely destroyed after weeks of incessant bombing, which has leveled the port and adjacent residential areas alike. The local population has largely fled to neighboring towns and villages, leaving the cratered streets of Bizerte eerily quiet.
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But as the Americans move in, the sound of sniper fire and an occasional 88mm round resonates through the empty streets. American infantrymen and tanks skirmish as they move through the city, where some have already started to celebrate. On one occasion, soldiers can be heard singing 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary' in an abandoned bar while a Sherman is still blasting away at an enemy strong point further down the street.
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At the very same time, some 50 kilometers (31 mi) further south, the British Derbyshire Yeomanry and 11th Hussars enter Tunis. They are drawn respectively from the 1st and 8th Armies, but the papers still describe the move as a 'left hook by 8th Army'. It results in even more feelings of resentment towards the 8th Army within the ranks of the 1st Army than there already were.
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But despite this clash of egos, the feeling of excitement and victory prevails in the streets of Tunis. Unlike at Bizerte, the relatively intact streets are filled with cheering crowds and the tunes of the Marseillaise. British troops find some German troops throughout the city, but most have fled east toward the Cape Bon peninsula, where the Italian 1st Army plans to make a final stand.
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Photo: A Churchill tank parades through the streets of Tunis, 8 May 1943.
Source: IWM, NA 2880
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On 6 May 1943, the Japanese break through in Arakan, compromising the Allied defenses.
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About two weeks ago, we saw how British and Indian troops sprung a trap on the eastern side of the Mayu Range. Eight battalions took up position to trap the Japanese in a box, where they could be surrounded and destroyed. It was a complicated plan by division commander Cyril Lomax for his exhausted and demoralized troops, but if successful, would be a welcome victory in a time of repeated defeats.
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And sure enough, the Japanese walk right into the trap. British and Indian troops move in to surround them, but before the box can be sealed, the bottom gives in. The trap is a fiasco, and the Japanese break through to the vital Maungdaw-Buthidaung road. With this communication link through the Mayu Range cut, several brigades are now isolated on the eastern slopes. They are forced to abandon their vehicles and heavy equipment and escape the valley on foot.
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With Buthidaung having fallen, the Japanese now threaten the town of Maungdaw, which acts as the supply hub of all Allied forces in the region. Its port facilities allow sea traffic to bring in men and materiel much more efficiently than over the rugged coastal road. With the Japanese now controlling its approaches, shipping will be exposed to artillery fire. Corps commander William Slim, therefore, urges for its abandonment and a retreat to more open country. But army commander Noel Irwin is not willing to let Maungdaw fall just yet and orders it to be held.
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Back in London, Churchill notes: 'This campaign goes from bad to worse, and we are being completely outfought and outmanoeuvred by the Japanese. Luckily the small scale of the operations and the attraction of other events has prevented public opinion being directed upon this lamentable scene.'
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Photo: British troops standing before a tunnel on the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road, January 1944.
Source: IWM, IND 3409
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On 5 May 1943, the battle for Convoy ONS 5 turns into a disaster for the German U-boats, marking a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.
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Last week, we saw how a wolfpack of U-boats opened the attack on westbound convoy ONS 5, comprised of 42 merchants and 16 escorts. Although the Germans managed to sink one freighter, the Allied escorts were otherwise successful at driving off the U-boats.
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In the days that follow, heavy gales reduce the convoy's speed to a crawl that rapidly depletes its fuel tanks. Soon, Convoy ONS 5 finds itself scattered over a wide area, providing the lurking wolfpack 'Finke' (finch) with an opportunity to strike. As the 27 U-boats take position ahead of the convoy, a Canadian aircraft spots one of them and sinks it.
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Nevertheless, Finke is in position by the night of the 4th and finds its first kill in the straggling British freighter North Britain. Throughout the night, U-boats sink six Allied merchants but also suffer some damage from the defending escorts. In the morning, U-638 sinks another merchant, only to be tracked and sunk by the corvette Sunflower. The U-boats of Finke manage to sink three more merchants before nightfall, but then, the weather changes.
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A thick fog forms around the convoy, robbing the U-boats of their vision. As the U-boats take to the surface to scan the horizon through their binoculars, Allied escorts see the contacts pop up on their radar that lead them blindly to the U-boats. Suddenly, the Allied escorts have the advantage. One by one, Finke's U-boats are caught on the surface by charging destroyers and corvettes. Four U-boats are depth charged, while the fifth is rammed and forced to scuttle. Its crew is left to drown amid the heat of battle.
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The Battle of Convoy ONS 5 has cost the Germans one U-boat for every two freighters sunk. If this trend continues, which it likely will, losses will become unsustainable for Germany's U-boat arm. It means we're at a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.
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Photo: Destroyer HMS Vanoc drops depth charges on a U-boat contact, May 1943.
Source: IWM, A 4570
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On 4 May 1943, the Royal Navy destroys an Italian convoy headed for the shrinking bridgehead in Tunisia.
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Last month, we saw how two British destroyers opened the attack on a light Italian convoy centered around the freighter Belluno. The night-time engagement resulted in a rare victory for the Italians, who sunk a British destroyer and got their cargo to Tunisia but also lost a torpedo boat of their own.
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By now, the final Allied offensive in Tunisia is in full swing, and it has become clear that it's only a matter of time before the Axis bridgehead will be fully crushed. But while planes are getting some of the men out, ships are still bringing in supplies to delay the inevitable. British destroyers are therefore patrolling heavily between Sicily and Tunisia with their ships painted red to avoid friendly fire from above, where aerial superiority is firmly in Allied hands.
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Despite these overwhelming odds, the Italians continue to assemble light convoys to reach Tunisia. One of these convoys departs on May 3rd, comprised of the 3,500-ton merchant ship Campobasso escorted by the torpedo boat Perseo. As the convoy is traversing the dense minefields towards Cape Bon, it is spotted by three British destroyers of Force K. At 2335 hours, the British open fire, hitting Campobasso and setting her aflame.
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The Perseo then charges in for a torpedo attack before turning around to flee the scene. But as the burning Campobasso explodes, the flash illuminates Perseo for the British, who then open up on the Italian torpedo boat. Perseo stays afloat for another hour before it finally sinks. Still, only 113 Italians are rescued from the dark Mediterranean waters, while another 206 sailors die in battle.
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But while the Campobasso convoy has been annihilated, another light convoy centered around the familiar Belluno reaches Tunisia unscathed. It will be the last Axis convoy to do so, as the Allies have now hermetically sealed Tunisia by air and sea.
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Photo: A German soldier being hauled aboard by a British ship during the final days of the Tunisian campaign, May 1943.
Source: IWM, A 16807
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On 3 May 1943, American general Frank Andrews dies in a plane crash, making him the highest-ranking Allied officer to be killed in the line of duty so far.
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Born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1884, Andrews grew up in a family with a military tradition. After graduating from West Point in 1906, he became a cavalry officer and would see service in the Philippines, Hawaii, and back in the States. During the Great War, he took the opportunity to join the newly-formed Aviation Corps, which would grow on to become the current Army Air Forces.
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Within the Air Forces, Andrews became an outspoken advocate for the potential of strategic bombing and a firm believer in the B-17 heavy bomber. A conflict with Secretary of War Harry Woodring nearly cost him his career, but it was his close ties to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall that kept him within the military's higher circles.
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During this war, Andrews has stood at the head of air commands over Panama, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. At the Casablanca Conference, it was decided that he would assume command of all U.S. Forces in Europe, making him a prime candidate for a supreme command over a cross-Channel invasion of Western Europe.
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But it won't come this far. Today, Andrews is making his way from Britain to the United States when his plane is caught up in bad weather on its approach to Iceland. The B-24 Liberator aircraft crashes into the Fagradalsfjall volcano just outside the airbase, killing 14 out of 15 people aboard, including Andrews. As a lieutenant general, he is the highest-ranking Allied officer to be killed in the war so far.
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Photo: Lieutenant General Frank Andrews.
Source: U.S. Air Force, 080305-F-3927P-004
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On 2 May 1943, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt urges the coal miners to return to work amid nationwide strikes.
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Upon the outbreak of war, America's labor unions pledged not to strike to keep the war effort from suffering under any labor disputes. In return, the U.S. Government created the National War Labor Board, which would mediate between employers and employees to settle their differences. Last month, however, some 500,000 coal miners of the United Mine Workers union decided to stop their work when contract negotiations stalled.
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Today, President Roosevelt addresses those strikers in a nationwide radio address. He states: 'I want to make it clear that every American coal miner who has stopped mining coal - no matter how sincere his motives, no matter how legitimate he may believe his grievances to be - every idle miner directly and individually is obstructing our war effort. We have not yet won this war. We will win this war only as we produce and deliver our total American effort on the high seas and on the battlefronts. And that requires unrelenting, uninterrupted effort here on the home front.'
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'You miners have sons in the Army and Navy and Marine Corps. You have sons who at this very minute - this split second - may be fighting in New Guinea, or in the Aleutian Islands, or Guadalcanal, or Tunisia, or China, or protecting troop ships and supplies against submarines on the high seas. [...] I only wish they could tell you what they think of the stoppage of work in the coal mines. [...] The fathers and mothers of our fighting men, their brothers and sisters and friends - and that includes all of us - are also in the line of duty - the production line. Any failure in production may well result in costly defeat on the field of battle.'
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Roosevelt ends his speech by expressing his faith that the coal miners will return to work tomorrow. In reality, strikes will continue on and off during the coming months as the dispute remains unsettled.
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Photo: Pennsylvania coal miners during lunch break, November 1942.
Source: Library of Congress
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On 1 May 1943, a German air attack kills many of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps.
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During the winter, we saw how Allied troops gave chase to the retreating German-Italian Panzer Army along the North African Coast following the breakthrough at El Alamein. Airfield after airfield was captured, allowing the Allies to extend their aerial cover in the Mediterranean. It meant the relief of besieged Malta, which could once again count on a steady stream of supplies.
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Since then, convoys have been sailing back and forth to turn the fortress island into an offensive base of operations. One such convoy is MW 27, making its way there from Alexandria. Taking part in the convoy is the 5,000-ton troopship SS Erinpura, a First World War veteran that has returned to service. Today, she carries aboard 1,025 construction troops assigned to fortify Malta.
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They are part of the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps, a labor unit consisting primarily of soldiers from Basutoland (Lesotho), Bechuanaland (Botswana), and Swaziland. They have already seen service throughout the Middle East, building railroads and fortifications in Syria, and following Montgomery's Eighth Army to repair what Rommel's forces destroyed. Today, they're bound for Malta.
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Shortly before seven in the evening, as the convoy is making its way past Benghazi, a German aircraft appears above the convoy, followed by a second half an hour later. Then, at 1950 hours, some two dozen German aircraft appear to open the main attack. A Heinkel He 111 soon scores a torpedo hit against the tanker British Trust that sinks her. As hell breaks loose around the convoy, a bomb hits Erinpura in its forward section, causing it to take on massive amounts of water.
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The ship sinks within minutes, preventing the men aboard from coordinating an evacuation. Only those on the upper decks manage to jump off in time and swim away from the vortex of the sinking ship. Of a complement of 1,215, only 273 are saved from the waters. Over 800 Basuto, Batswanan, and Palestinian Jewish pioneers lose their lives in the sinking.
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Photo: Men of the Africa Auxiliary Pioneer Corps returning from the Middle East, April 1943.
Source: IWM, K 4257
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On 30 April 1943, the Allies fail to come up with any sort of plan to alleviate the plight of the Jews.
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The Bermuda Conference kicked off on April 19th, the very same day that the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto began their last stand against the German occupation forces, fully aware that there was no hope of rescue or relief.
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But it was this topic that began to be discussed on the faraway island of Bermuda. The conference there results from the increased public awareness of what is going on in the German Reich. Stories of systematic murder of the Jews are circulating throughout the West, and the public is starting to demand action. The American and British authorities, therefore, send their delegations to the island of Bermuda, far from prying eyes, to discuss the refugee problem, and more specifically, that of the Jews.
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Although saving the Jews trapped in the Third Reich seems to be an impossible task, there are things that can be done. Some sort of board or committee could be established to oversee the situation of the Jews throughout the Reich, its occupied territories, and its allied countries. In doing so, relief could be provided where possible, such as through neutral countries and their embassies or through secret contact with Germany's reluctant allies. There is not one big solution, but helping where possible could at least give some hope to those now trapped.
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But the Bermuda Conference bears no fruits at all. No central board or committee is established. The British are reluctant to provide refuge in Palestine, while the Americans are unwilling to reserve shipping space to carry supplies across- or refugees back across the Atlantic. They both insist that winning the war as fast as possible is the best way of helping.
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The results, or rather lack of results, of the Bermuda Conference are kept a secret from the public, but it does not take long before Jewish organizations realize its failure. One such organization will publicize an article in the New York Times with the apt headline: 'To 5,000,000 Jews in the Nazi Death-Trap, Bermuda was a Cruel Mockery.'
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Photo: Jewish refugees heading for Palestine, 1940-1946.
Source: Yad Vashem, 75508
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On 29 April 1943, the Battle of the Atlantic reaches new levels of intensity as more and more warships enter the theater.
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During the past months, we have seen how the Battle of the Atlantic further escalated. With an ever-increasing amount of escort vessels and U-boats taking to the seas, massive convoy battles began to take place, inflicting heavy losses on both sides.
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During the first four months of this year, German U-boats have sunk 1,302,949 tons of shipping for a loss of 43 U-boats. That's a lower sinking to loss ratio than ever before. However, the production of U-boats has never been higher, compensating for the heavy losses. While the total amount of frontline U-boats in the Atlantic stood at 166 in January, that number now stands at around 200. But it also means that the Kriegsmarine has to rely on increasingly inexperienced crews, working under increasingly high demands.
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The German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic gap have divided themselves into three patrol lines, one of them being the 30-boats strong Meise wolfpack. It is supposed to intercept the eastbound convoy SC 127, but it slips through a gap undetected. The Meise line then reorganizes, sending 16 of its U-boats to intercept the westbound ONS 5 convoy instead, comprised of 42 merchants and 16 escorts. In the morning of the 28th, U-650 spots the convoy and alerts the nearby U-boats. Four of them rush to the scene.
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When night falls, the U-boats open the attack. Radar and ASDIC (Sonar) signals alert the Allies of the imminent attack, and the rest of the night is spent chasing off the U-boats. Three of the U-boats are forced to return to base to repair the damage sustained during the night skirmish, but U-258 remains in the fight. It speeds ahead of the convoy, where it then submerges and waits for the Allied ships to pass overhead. At 0530 hours, U-258 fires a fatal volley toward the American merchant McKeesport. It signals the start of a battle that will escalate during the coming days.
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Photo: An American freighter sinking in the Atlantic, May 1943.
Source: IWM, AX 44A
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On 28 April 1943, the American submarine USS Gudgeon sinks the Japanese passenger liner Kamakura Maru, killing over 2,000.
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Originally launched as the Chichibu Maru in 1929, the 17,500-ton passenger liner was renamed Kamakura Maru in 1939. She would sail between Yokohama and San Fransisco until the outbreak of war when the Imperial Japanese Navy requisitioned her.
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However, the Kamakura Maru would depart once more with a load of American and British civilians in August 1942. Setting sail for Portuguese Mozambique, she exchanged diplomatic personnel and civilians caught in Japan with the SS City of Canterbury, which in turn handed over Japanese diplomats, their families, and thousands of POW parcels.
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Today, the Kamakura Maru is making for Singapore from Manila, Philippines, carrying some 2,500 soldiers and civilians. At 0104 hours in the morning, the American crew of the USS Gudgeon spots the massive unescorted Japanese ship just southwest of Panay. They initially think it's a battleship but soon correctly identify it as the Kamakaru Maru and open the hunt.
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Gudgeon tries to get ahead of the target, but with the Kamakaru Maru sailing at 17.5 knots, the submarine can't keep up. Skipper Bill Post decides to fire a volley of four torpedoes from behind in what he will later call an 'up-the-kilt' shot. After two nerve-wracking minutes, the American submarines can hear two explosions. They rise to the surface to see the Kamakaru Maru sinking stern first.
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The Japanese crew fail to send a distress signal out in time during the hurried evacuation. They will have to spend the next four days waiting for rescue, when only 465 survivors will be found. It is the deadliest sinking by a submarine of this war yet.
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Photo: The USS Gudgeon in San Fransisco Bay, August 1943.
Source: U.S. National Archives
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On 27 April 1943, Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose travels from Germany to Japan by submarine.
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Bose was born in 1897 in the Bengal region of the British Raj. He traveled to Britain to follow his education there, but returned to India to participate in the Indian freedom movement. Throughout the years, he became an advocate for an independent socialist India, rising through the ranks to become the president of the Indian National Congress in 1938.
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However, his open advocacy for the use of force to achieve independence caused a break with the non-violent resistance of Mahatma Gandhi. Outnumbered by Gandhi supporters, he had to resign from his post the following year. When war broke out that same year, and India got sucked into the conflict without consultation with the Indian National Congress, Bose called for mass civil disobedience. The British were quick to put him under house arrest.
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In January 1941, Bose had had enough and made his escape. After reaching Afghanistan, he made for the Soviet Union, Italy, and eventually Germany. With help from the Germans, Bose set up a radio station to encourage Indians to fight alongside the Axis. He also gathered Indian prisoners of war captured in North Africa to form an Indian Legion, which has just become an active regiment as we speak.
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As a left-wing admirer of the Soviet Union, he was left disillusioned when Operation Barbarossa kicked off. After the German reverses of 1942 and the following winter, he decided he could be of more use to the Indian independence movement from within the Japanese empire. The Germans agreed to arrange a U-boat that would take him around the Cape of Good Hope.
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Today, the Type IX U-180 meets up with the Japanese submarine I-29 some 500 nautical miles southeast of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Germans take two Japanese naval officers aboard tasked with studying U-boat construction methods, while the Japanese take on Bose. His first task will be to breathe new life into the Indian National Army, set to fight alongside the Japanese in Burma.
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Photo: Crew of I-29 posing with Subhas Chandra Bose (bottom left, wearing glasses) off Madagascar, 28 April 1943.
Source: Unknown.
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On 26 April 1943, the Chindits begin trickling back into India after a costly campaign.
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About a month ago, we saw how Orde Wingate ordered his Chindits to return to India, or China if the first proved impossible. It meant that the Chindits would have to make the crossing of the Irrawaddy once again, but now with Japanese patrols waiting for them.
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This turned out to be impossible in large groups, and the brigade had to split into columns to make for India on their own. In small parties and without any airdrops to supply them, the Chindits make their way toward India. The Japanese are hot on their tail, giving the columns not more than a couple of hours of rest during breaks. Those too ill or exhausted from the march have to be left behind, leaving them at the mercy of their Japanese captors.
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One such occasion is during the crossing of the Irrawaddy by Major Bernard Fergusson's No. 5 Colum. As the Chindits cross the river, they are caught by a Japanese patrol. Some 46 men are still on an island in the middle of the river, but there is no chance of picking them up under Japanese fire. Fergusson has to leave them behind in a decision he describes as 'as cruel as any which could fall on the shoulders of a junior commander.' Today, his column finally reaches Imphal, India, with just 95 survivors out of an original complement of 318.
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In total, only 2,182 out of 3,000 make it back to friendly lines, with 450 battle casualties and the rest missing or captured - a heavy toll. And has it been worth it? The damage the Chindits have dealt on the Burma railway was repaired within days, while the casualties they inflicted were insignificant. Distracting attention from a main attack would have been a justified objective, but this also wasn't achieved to a significant extent, as shown by the Japanese counteroffensive in Arakan.
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But the papers back in Britain seem to disagree. Wingate is hailed as a hero, and Operation Longcloth depicted as a daring accomplishment. If the Chindits have achieved anything, it's a small propaganda victory back home.
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Photo: Chindits with their mules, 1943-1944.
Source: IWM, SE 7910
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On 25 April 1943, the Germans set fire to the Warsaw Ghetto as the Jews continue to put up resistance.
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Last week, we saw how the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Germans prompted the Jews to take up their arms and resist. Although they were taken by surprise at first, the Germans have now resorted to a systematic approach of violence. They are moving through the ghetto block by block, setting fire to every building to root out the defenders and anyone hiding in the cellars below. Witness Feigele Peltel, watching from her apartment just outside the ghetto, describes the horrific scenes as people try to escape the sea of flames:
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'On the balcony of the second floor a woman stood wringing her hands. She disappeared into the building but returned a moment later, carrying a child and dragging a featherbed, which she flung to the pavement to break her fall. Clutching her child, she started to climb over the railing. A spray of bullets caught her midway—the child dropped to the street—the woman's body dangled lifeless from the railing.'
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'By now the flames had enveloped the upper floor, their rise matched by the increased frequency and intensity of the explosions. Jews were jumping out of windows, some of them caught by bullets in mid-air, others shot on the ground. Two Jews opened fire from the third floor, then retreated. A knot of people stood crowded in a third-storey window, lowering a rope to the ground. One man, then another, climbed out of the window and slid down the rope. The Germans opened fire, and both fell to the pavement. The cough of the machine gun mixed with the screams of agony.'
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'Dawn came quiet and ghastly to the ghetto, revealing the burnt shells of the buildings, the charred, blood-stained bodies of the victims. Suddenly one of those bodies began to move, slowly, painfully crawling on its belly until it disappeared into the smoking ruins. Others began to show signs of life. The enemy was on the alert, a spray of machine-gun fire—and all was lifeless again.'
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Photo: German SS soldiers beside a burning building in the Warsaw Ghetto, April/May 1943.
Source: Yad Vashem, 28334
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On 24 April 1943, the Soviets break off diplomatic ties with the Poles following the discovery of the Katyn mass grave.
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Ever since the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviets and the Poles have been in an uneasy alliance against the Germans. Polish civilian and military prisoners were released on a large scale and allowed to travel to Iran, where they came under British protection and could form an army in exile, but diplomatic ties remained strained.
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Throughout 1942, Soviet-Polish relations began to deteriorate. Polish relief officials in exile were being arrested while issues on citizenship and the disputed border lingered on. Most detrimental was the continuing silence of the Soviets on the disappearance of some 8,000 captured officers. They hoped their mass executions at Katyn could be swept under the rug to save their public image.
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But the Germans, having found the mass graves earlier this year, would not let this opportunity pass to win a propaganda victory. They announced the discovery of the Katyn mass graves to the world two weeks ago, hoping to drive a wedge in the Allied camp. The Soviets were quick to deny their guilt, but the Polish government in exile, based in London, had already received reports from its underground organizations that it was in fact the Soviets who perpetrated the massacre.
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Without consulting the British government, the Poles call for an investigation by the International Red Cross. However, they accidentally do so at the exact same time as the Germans, allowing the Soviets to portray the accusations as a German-Polish conspiracy. The British and American governments, eager to save the alliance with the Soviets, call on the Poles to withdraw their request.
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But is already too late. The Soviets use the incident as an excuse to break off all diplomatic ties with the Polish government in exile and begin working with an organization of Polish communists instead. Poland's post-war fate has just become even more complicated.
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Photo: Polish priest, Reverend Stanisław Jasiński, praying over an open mass grave at Katyn, 26 April 1943.
Source: IWM, HU 106227
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On 23 April 1943, the Allies attack along the front to push the Axis out of Tunisia.
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At the beginning of the month, we saw how the British 8th Army broke through the Mareth Line and established contact with the 1st Army in the west. Now that the Axis hold on Tunisia has been reduced to little more than a bridgehead, it is time for the final offensive to kick them out in Operation Vulcan. Our YouTube coverage provides a more detailed look at the Allied plan.
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Taking part in this final offensive is the British 5th Corps, which has been at the front since the beginning of the campaign last year. It was this British formation that saw the initial combat in the Medjerda Valley, and it is there that it has remained. Now, half a year later, they are reopening the attack in the sector, hoping to capture Longstop Hill and race into the valley beyond to seize Tebourba, and finally, Tunis.
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The British attack is preceded by a terrific artillery barrage. One BBC correspondent provides the following poetic description: 'The flashes of those guns, we hoped, were visible in Tunis as a sign of the wrath to come. Stripped to the waist, the gunners kept up their stream of fire while our infantry advanced close behind the barrage.'
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But the barrage does not crush the German defenders. The British infantrymen face heavy fire, mines, and barbed wire as they clamber up Longstop Hill. Soon, the sweltering heat starts to claim its casualties as well. When the base of the hill has been taken, the 8th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders presses forward to reinforce, but its commander is killed by shellfire.
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A certain Major John Anderson, only 25 years of age, is quick to take over and lead the battalion in a charge up the hill. Bayoneting his way forward, Major Anderson and just over 30 men reach the top, having started out with some 300. The feat earns him a Victoria Cross, but it does not win the battle for Longstop Hill just yet, for the Germans still control much of the vital feature.
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Photo: British stretcher-bearers on Longstop Hill, 23 April 1943.
Source: IWM, NA 2237
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On 22 April 1943, Australian forces increase the pressure on the Japanese in New Guinea.
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During the first two months of the year, we saw how the Battles of Buna-Gona, Guadalcanal, and Wau all came to a successful conclusion for the Allies. Since then, however, things have been quiet on the ground throughout the South and Southwest Pacific theater.
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But new plans are afoot in the Allied camp. Although the European theater will remain their top priority, the Allies have decided to commit enough resources to the Pacific to stop Japan from regaining the strategic initiative. That doesn't just mean containing the Japanese, but also preventing them from digging in along their perimeter. With Rabaul, the cornerstone of the Japanese perimeter, as their ultimate objective, the Allies will open the offensive in New Guinea and the Solomons.
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Still actively facing the Japanese in New Guinea is the Australian 17th Brigade. It was this brigade that flew into Wau just in time to blunt the Japanese thrust, and now, the 3rd Division headquarters has arrived to assume operational control. General Stanley Savige has set up a defense of Wau on three sides: one facing the Japanese beachhead at Lae and two facing the beachhead of Salamaua. The plan is to launch an amphibious offensive against Lae later in the year, but until then, Japanese attention is to be drawn toward Salamaua.
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That job goes to the 2/7th Battalion. It has taken up position before Mubo, where the Japanese have dug in following their failed expedition toward Wau. They are part of the 51st Infantry Division and have dug in on the so-called outposts of 'Pimple Hill' and 'Green Hill'. The Australians are keen to push them off of these vantage points, aiming to increase the pressure on the Salamaua beachhead. Their attack is scheduled for the 24th, two days from now.
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However, the first skirmishes begin today as the commandos of the 2/3rd Independent Company begin harassing the supply line to Mubo, weakening the support for the forward Japanese positions.
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Photo: Australian corporal Bill McDonnell in the Mubo area, September 1943.
Source: AWM, 015693
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On 21 April 1943, Free French leader Charles de Gaulle narrowly survives an assassination attempt.
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During the winter, we saw how French North Africa turned into a political battlefield between several prominent French senior officers in the wake of Operation Torch. Admiral François Darlan initially came out on top, but his assassination soon left room for Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud to fight amongst themselves for power. In the end, Henri Giraud became Darlan's de facto successor in North Africa as commander-in-chief of the French Army in Africa, while De Gaulle remained at the head of the Free French movement based in London.
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Today, De Gaulle arrives at Hendon airfield just outside London to board a Wellington bomber for Scotland, where he is scheduled to inspect Free French sailors. The runway is a short one, and the Wellington pilot has to rev his engines before lifting his tail to release the brakes to make enough speed for lift-off. But when the Wellington is starting to make speed, the tail suddenly drops again, stopping the plane from achieving lift-off. The pilot can get the plane to stop only just in time before it can crash into the embankment at the end of the strip.
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An investigation will reveal that the elevator control rod has been meddled with - an act of sabotage. But who's behind it? The Axis have their motives, but they do not have an effective spy network in Britain that would be capable of this. De Gaulle is quite clear on who he thinks is behind the attack. He is convinced the Allies want to get rid of him, and he would not be entirely wrong. While Britain recognizes De Gaulle's symbolic value for the resistance, the Americans have made it no secret that they prefer the more cooperative Giraud.
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De Gaulle will soon move his headquarters to Algiers, which is probably no coincidence. It will forever remain a mystery who is behind the attack.
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Photo: Charles de Gaulle ® greets Henri Giraud in Algiers, May 1945.
Source: IWM, NA 3207
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On 20 April 1943, British and Indian troops spring a trap for the advancing Japanese in Arakan, Burma.
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Two weeks ago, we saw how a Japanese attack over the Mayu Range nearly overran the British 6th Brigade, although it did succeed in capturing the brigade's headquarters. The Japanese took its commander, Ronald Cavendish, prisoner, but he died soon after from a barrage that he called in just before his capture.
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Since then, Cyril Lomax's 14th Indian Division has withdrawn to new positions before the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road. Roads reach Maungdaw from Bengal, but they will wash away during the upcoming Monsoon rain season. It will force the 14th Indian Division to rely solely on supply by sea to Maungdaw. The British and Indians will thus need to hold on to Maungdaw at all cost or abandon it before the Monsoon rains start.
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Maungdaw is also the place where the only road begins that cuts through the Mayu Range with an old tunnel. Lomax anticipates that the Japanese will try to cut this vital link and sever communications between the troops on the eastern side of the Mayu Range and those in the west. He, therefore, uses eight battalions to set up a trap on the Mayu Range's eastern flank meant to lure the Japanese in before closing the lid behind them and destroying the pocket.
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Lomax is supported in his plan by 15th Corps commander William Slim, who has finally assumed operational control of the area from the massively overburdened division headquarters. However, he does have his concerns: '[The plan] sounds nicely geometrical and simple, but translated into tired troops, many of them badly shaken, holding positions among tangled jungle hills and streams, it was not so tidy, and much less simple. I was more than a little anxious as to the outcome.'
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Today, the Japanese begin their advance toward the new British positions. They are unaware of the trap ahead, but it remains to be seen if the shaken Allied troops can pull off the ambitious plan.
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Photo: Indian troops lined up for an attack on the Japanese in Arakan, Burma, 1944.
Source: IWM, IND 3457
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On 19 April 1943, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto rise up against the Germans.
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Back in January, we saw how the Germans attempted to renew the deportations from the Warsaw ghetto, only to encounter unexpected armed resistance. They had lost control over the ghetto and had to abort their plans for further liquidation.
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Although a victory for the Jews in itself, the successful revolt also inspired the inhabitants to prepare for the inevitable day the Germans would return. Bunkers were constructed, tunnels dug, and most importantly, arms acquired in preparation for the uprising. Today, as heavily armed German troops begin surrounding the ghetto, the hour of reckoning has come for the Jews.
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Resistance fighter Zivia Lubetkin describes how she and her comrades prepare for battle: 'It was strange to see those [...] men and women, Jewish men and women, standing up against the armed great enemy glad and merry, because we knew that their end will come. We knew that they will conquer us first, but to know that for our lives they would pay a high price.'
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'When the Germans came up to our posts and marched by and we threw those hand grenades and bombs, and saw German blood pouring over the streets of Warsaw, after we saw so much Jewish blood running in the streets of Warsaw before that, there was rejoicing. The tomorrow did not worry us. The rejoicing amongst Jewish fighters was great and, see the wonder and the miracle, those German heroes retreated, afraid and terrorized from the Jewish bombs and hand grenades, home-made.'
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'after an hour we saw the officer hastening his soldiers to retreat, to collect their dead and their wounded. But they did not move, they did not collect their dead and their wounded. We took their arms later. And
thus on the first day, we the few with our poor arms drove the Germans away from the ghetto.'
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The Germans have gotten another nasty surprise, but they will return tomorrow, determined to crush the ghetto once and for all.
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Photo: German soldiers firing a 105mm cannon at a building during Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 1943
Source: Yad Vashem, 96556
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On 18 April 1943, Allied aircraft devastate the German air bridge to Tunisia in the Palm Sunday Massacre.
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During the past two weeks, American, British, and Commonwealth air forces have targeted the Axis air link with Tunisia in Operation Flax. German and Italian planes rush back and forth between Sicily and Tunisia to get supplies in and men out from the shrinking African stronghold.
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Today, the U.S. 57th Fighter Group sets out on its last patrol during the evening hours after an otherwise uneventful day. It is then when they see it: several V formations of German Ju 52 transport aircraft, escorted by over a dozen fighters. Commander James Curl is initially cautious: 'Look around and take it easy, boys' he says. 'It might be booby'. But when it becomes clear there is no trap waiting for them, Curl calls out on the radio: 'Juicy, juicy, juicy. Let's get 'em boys.'
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Lieutenant William Campbell describes: 'They were flying the most beautiful formation I've ever seen. It seemed like a shame to break it up. Reminded me of a beautiful propaganda film. They seemed to be without a leader after our first attack and just continued to fly straight ahead. That was suicide.'
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The Americans unleash a withering fire that devastates the German formations. German transports come crashing down as fireballs left and right. Lieutenant Byrne says of the spectacle: 'I had a ringside seat for the whole show. All you could see were those big ships coming apart in the air, plunging into the sea and crashing in flames on the beach. Their fighters couldn't get in to bother our ball carriers at all.'
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That is because the German fighters are kept busy by a British squadron of Spitfires flying high above the Americans, allowing them to dive onto the German Messerschmidts and distract them from the massacre of the transports. German losses are severe. Estimates vary, but at least 24 German transports are completely destroyed in the 'Palm Sunday Massacre', while a similar amount is forced to abort the mission or crash land in Tunisia. The Allies lose only a handful of their own.
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Photo: German transports over North Africa, January 1942.
Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-545-0614-21
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On 16 April 1943, the Italian Navy fights off a British attack on a convoy to Tunis.
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Earlier this month, the Allies launched Operation 'Flax', in which their air and naval forces would focus on disrupting the Axis supply route to Tunisia. And it has had a terrific effect. Less than half of Axis shipping is still reaching Tunisia, with just light transports and escorts daring to make the crossing.
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One of those light convoys leaves for Tunis on the 15th, consisting of a transport and four torpedo boats. But also active in the area are British destroyers Pakenham and Paladin, who are on the lookout for the convoy. At 02:42 hours today, the destroyers obtain a radar contact and close in on the Italians.
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Just minutes later, the two sides establish visual contact and rush to battle stations. The transport returns to the Sicilian coast with two of the torpedo boats while the other two engage the British at close quarters. Both sides unleash their entire arsenal on each other, making for a spectacular tracer light show.
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But whoever might have been admiring the show will have snapped back to the deadly reality when a hit by the Italian Cigno rocks the Pakenham. Another hit then starts a fire. Pakenham turns toward Cigno and fires a volley of torpedoes toward it. One hits the Cigno amidships, breaking it in two and sending the aft half sinking. The forward half stays afloat a little while longer and returns fire on Pakenham. A shell hits Pakenham's waterline near the engine room, causing a steam leak that forces the crew to evacuate the compartment.
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Pakenham continues to fight alongside Paladin, with both scoring hits on the other Italian torpedo boat, the Cassiopea. Both sides then withdraw from the battle. The remainder of the Cigno quickly sinks while Cassiopea limps away. The transport has enough nighttime left to turn around once more and slip into Tunis unscathed. Pakenham's engine soon runs out of power, exposing it to aerial attacks during the day. The British decide to scuttle the vessel, allowing Paladin to return to Malta. The Italians have successfully defended the cargo.
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Photo: An Italian sailor reloading a gun, 1940.
Source: ACS, 09137
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