December 5, 2023

History Content for the Future

WW2 Day by Day

On 2 December 1944, Private Pedro Cano, C Company, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, singlehandedly destroys multiple German machine gun nests and fortifications, allowing U.S. Army units to advance through the Hurtgen Forest, Germany.

For his actions today, PVT Cano will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on 18 March 2014. His citation will read:
˝Private Pedro Cano distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Schevenhutte, Germany on December 2 and 3, 1944. On the afternoon of the 2nd, American infantrymen launched an attack against German emplacements but were repulsed by enemy machinegun fire. Armed with a rocket launcher, Private Cano crawled through a densely mined area under heavy enemy fire and successfully reached a point within ten yards of the nearest emplacement. He quickly fired a rocket into the position, killing the two gunners and five supporting riflemen. Without hesitating, he fired into a second position, killing two more gunners, and proceeded to assault the position with hand grenades, killing several others and dispersing the rest. Then, when an adjacent company encountered heavy fire, Private Cano crossed his company front, crept to within fifteen yards of the nearest enemy emplacement and killed the two machinegunners with a rocket. With another round he killed two more gunners and destroyed a second gun. On the following day, his company renewed the attack and again encountered heavy machinegun fire. Private Cano, armed with his rocket launcher, again moved across fire-swept terrain and destroyed three enemy machineguns in succession, killing the six gunners. Private Cano’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.˝

Picture: American M1 Bazooka team prepares to fire
Source: U.S. Army

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On 28 November 1944, soldiers from the 15th Canadian Infantry Brigade who began a mutiny against conscription for overseas service in Terrace, Canada, begin returning the weapons they seized.

The mutiny started by soldiers from the Les Fusiliers du St-Laurent regiment, Prince Edward Island Highlanders (PEIH), Prince Albert Volunteers (PAV), and No. 19 Cdn. Field Ambulance (RCAMC) stationed near the town of Terrace, which we covered in our 24 November post, escalated when, at 1330 hours on 25 November, some 1,500 soldiers of the Fusiliers, PEIH, and PAV converged in the center of the town, armed and in full combat dress. For two hours, the soldiers marched through the town carrying banners that read “Down With Conscription” and “Zombies Strike Back.” During the evening, the mutineers threatened some of the soldiers of the Field Ambulance regiment into joining them.

Around 1000 hours on 26 November, the Fusiliers presented their demands, which were forwarded to Canada`s Pacific Command. The other two infantry units made similar demands. A large group of mutineers invaded the Sergeant`s mess hall at 1230 and stripped all NRMA NCOs of their ranks with the message, "You`re Zombies just like us." Around 1800 hours, the mutineers broke into the Field Ambulance regiment`s ammunition stores and seized a large amount of explosives.

Early morning yesterday, however, some soldiers began resisting the mutiny. At 1000 hours, Major General George Pearkes, commander in chief of Pacific Command, replied to their demands that ammunition must be returned and units re-disciplined, prompting the mutineers to parade through the town again.

Today, the unit`s commanders urge their men to stand down, to which many agree. The Fusilier`s commander receives instructions that his unit will depart for Quebec. By 2200 hours, one of the infantry unit`s men return the seized weapons and ammunition.

By tomorrow evening, all the mutineers will return their weapons and ammunition.

Only a small number will be prosecuted, and officers will turn a blind eye to those facing charges deserting off the trains transporting them.

Picture: Soldiers on parade in Terrace
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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On 26 November 1944, under orders issued by SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler yesterday, the demolition of the crematoria and gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp began.

The Auschwitz camp complex has become the worst example of the Nazi regime`s policies. In the camp, the exploitation and murder of Jews, Roma, Sinti, Slavs, and political prisoners have been brought up to an industrial scale based on the principles of efficiency, profitability, and, in the Nazi`s twisted view of reality, `humane solution` to the `Jewish Problem.`

While the murder of prisoners using Zyklon B gas had already begun in late 1941 in Crematorium I, and then Bunkers I and II at the Auschwitz II camp, it was not until Himmler`s visit on 17 and 18 July 1942 that commandant Rudolf Höss received orders to double the camp`s population and exterminate all those unable to work. It was Himmler`s concerns about leaving evidence of war crimes that led to the construction of the industrial-sized Crematoria II, III, IV, and V.

However, when the Nazi`s disregard for human life reached its peak this summer with the deportation of over 400,000 Hungarian Jews within just a few months, not even these facilities could handle the number of bodies, leading to Sonderkommando prisoners being forced to burn thousands of bodies in open-air pits.

Crematorium IV has been out of action since it was burned during the Sonderkommando uprising, which we covered in our 7 October post, and work has already begun on dismantling it. With the Red Army approaching, by 2 November, Himmler ordered a halt to the use of gas chambers and preparations to be made for the camp to be evacuated.

Yesterday, 25 November, Himmler issued an order for the final stage of the Nazi`s plan to begin: destroy all evidence of the camp`s operations.

Today, the SS administration of Auschwitz begins destroying unneeded records while the guards force what few Sonderkommando remain after last month`s uprising to begin dismantling the crematoria and gas chambers, as well as destroying evidence of the burn pits.

Picture: Topf & Söhne-designed crematorium for Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1943
Source: Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

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On 20 November 1944, Lieutenant Colonel George L. Mabry Jr., commanding the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, leads a scouting mission through the Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany.

For his actions LTC Mabry Jr. will be awarded the Medal of Honor in September 1945. His citation will read:
˝He was commanding the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, in an attack through the Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany, on 20 November 1944. During the early phases of the assault, the leading elements of his battalion were halted by a minefield and immobilized by heavy hostile fire. Advancing alone into the mined area, Col. Mabry established a safe route of passage. He then moved ahead of the foremost scouts, personally leading the attack, until confronted by a boobytrapped double concertina obstacle. With the assistance of the scouts, he disconnected the explosives and cut a path through the wire. Upon moving through the opening, he observed 3 enemy in foxholes whom he captured at bayonet point. Driving steadily forward he paced the assault against 3 log bunkers which housed mutually supported automatic weapons. Racing up a slope ahead of his men, he found the initial bunker deserted, then pushed on to the second where he was suddenly confronted by 9 onrushing enemy. Using the butt of his rifle, he felled 1 adversary and bayoneted a second, before his scouts came to his aid and assisted him in overcoming the others in hand-to-hand combat. Accompanied by the riflemen, he charged the third bunker under pointblank small arms fire and led the way into the fortification from which he prodded 6 enemy at bayonet point. Following the consolidation of this area, he led his battalion across 300 yards of fire-swept terrain to seize elevated ground upon which he established a defensive position which menaced the enemy on both flanks, and provided his regiment a firm foothold on the approach to the Cologne Plain.˝

Picture: PFC Benny Barron (Company I, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division) gives a helping hand to a buddy in the Hurtgen Forest, southwest of Duren, Germany, 18 November, 1944.
Source: Signal Corps Archives SC 270663

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On 18 November 1944, William J. Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), sends a memorandum to President Roosevelt proposing the creation of a `central intelligence service` in the post-war period under the President`s direct control.

`Wild Bill` Donovan has been running the OSS under the supervision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since the agency was created on 13 June 1942. The OSS`s work ranges from the most secretive and dangerous operations to the downright outrageous, as was described by Astrid in Episode 8 of our Spies & Ties series, which you can check out on YouTube by following the link in our bio.

Today, Donovan proposes the creation of a new intelligence agency in a secret memorandum to Roosevelt:
˝Pursuant to your note of 31 October 1944, I have given consideration to the organization of an intelligence service for the post-war period.

In the early days of the war, when the demands upon intelligence services were mainly in and for military operations, the OSS was placed under the direction of the JCS.
Once our enemies are defeated the demand will be equally pressing for information that will aid us in solving the problems of peace.
This will require two things:

1. That intelligence control be returned to the supervision of the President.
2. The establishment of a central authority reporting directly to you, with responsibility to frame intelligence objectives and to collect and coordinate the intelligence material required by the Executive Branch in planning and carrying out national policy and strategy.

I attach in the form of a draft directive the means by which I think this could be realized without difficulty or loss of time. You will note that coordination and centralization are placed at the policy level but operational intelligence (that pertaining primarily to Department action) remains within the existing agencies concerned...

Though in the midst of war, we are also in a period of transition which, before we are aware, will take us into the tumult of rehabilitation. An adequate and orderly intelligence system will contribute to informed decisions.˝

Picture: Major General William J. Donovan
Source: U.S. National Archives

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On 15 November 1944, the submarine USS Queenfish attacks Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Convoy Hi-81 and sinks the hybrid landing craft depot ship/escort carrier Akitsu Maru, killing much of the Imperial Japanese Army`s (IJA) 64th Infantry Regiment.

Rear Admiral Tsutomu Sato was ordered on 9 November to assemble Hi-81 to transport the IJA`s 23rd Infantry Division and their equipment to the Philippines before continuing on to Singapore. The convoy departed Imari Bay, Japan, yesterday, 14 November, with the hybrid Akitsu Maru, equipped for carrying out amphibious landings using the 27 Daihatsu-class landing craft, and escort carrier Shin`yō carrying most of the troops and equipment. Shin`yō would provide air cover for the convoy with its fourteen B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers. They were joined by 7 small escort ships, 3 landing ships, 1 destroyer, 1 seaplane tender, and 5 oilers.

However, Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, commander of the U.S. Navy`s Pacific submarine fleet, dispatched two submarines `wolfpacks` (USS Spadefish, Peto, and Sunfish, under Commander Gordon W. Underwood, and Queenfish, Picuda, and Barb, under Lieutenant Commander Charles E. Loughlin) to the Yellow Sea after learning through Ultra intercepts of the convoy heading to the Philippines.

At 1052 hours this morning, Queenfish, commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Loughlin, spots the convoy but is spotted in return by land-based aircraft arriving to cover it. The planes drop smoke markers on Queenfish`s position, but the submarine lets off four torpedos at 1152 before diving away.

At 1158, two torpedos strike Akitsu Maru in the stern and amidships, causing a magazine explosion. Then, as the rushing water hits the boilers, she explodes again. By 1201, she sinks, taking 2,046 of the 64th Regiment`s soldiers and 207 crew down with her.

The Kate torpedo bombers scramble, equipped with anti-submarine ordnance, but Queenfish evades their attack.

Tomorrow, Sato will take the convoy into the sheltered waters around Strange Island.

But this will not be the end of Hi-81`s troubles.

Picture: (Bottom) Akitsu Maru; (Top) USS Queenfish (SS-393, 29 April 1944
Source: Wikimedia Commons; U.S. National Archives

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On 14 November 1944, representatives of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union meet in London to sign the ˝Agreement on Control Machinery in the occupation zones of defeated Germany˝.

The issue of how to administer German territory after its defeat has been a much-discussed topic in high-level meetings between the Allies for much of this year. The agreement, which the Allies signed today, follows the protocol of 12 September 1944, in which they agreed to limit Germany’s territory to its 1937 borders, that is, to its borders before the annexation of Austria and the Sudeten region. The protocol also called for establishing three occupation zones, which were to be administered separately. These zones were to follow existing administrative boundaries (except in the case of Prussia, which was to be split up) and to take population size into account.

The ˝Agreement on Control Machinery˝ makes alterations in the boundaries between the North Western and South Western zones, assigning the North Western zone in Germany, as well as the North Western part of Berlin, to the United Kingdom, and the South Western zone, as well as the Southern part of Berlin, to the United States.

In addition to this, the Agreement`s first three articles add to the plan of organize occupation of Germany:
˝Article 1
Supreme authority in Germany will be exercised, on instructions from their respective Governments, by the Commanders-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, each in his own zone of occupation, and also jointly, in matters affecting Germany as a whole, in their capacity as members of the supreme organ of control constituted under the present Agreement.

Article 2
Each Commander-in-Chief in his zone of occupation will have attached to him military, naval and air representatives of the other two Commanders-in-chief for liaison duties.

Article 3
(a) The three Commanders-in-Chief, acting together as a body, will constitute a supreme organ of control called the Control Council.˝

Picture: U.S. Army distributing German-language newspapers
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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On 13 November 1944, Staff Sergeant Junior James Spurrier, Company G, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, nearly singlehandedly captures the village of Achain, France.

SSGT Spurrier served in the U.S. Army in New Guinea, but after being sent back to the USA for medical treatment in late 1943, he was transferred to the European Theatre of Operations at his request in June this year. Quickly promoted to staff sergeant of Company G, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross for manning a tank destroyer-mounted .50 caliber machine gun and neutralizing several dozen German troops near Lay-Saint-Christophe, France, on 16 September 1944.

For his actions today SSGT Spurrier will be awarded the Medal of Honor on 6 March 1945. His citation will read:
˝For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy at Achain, France, on 13 November 1944. At 2 p.m., Company G attacked the village of Achain from the east. S/Sgt. Spurrier armed with a BAR passed around the village and advanced alone. Attacking from the west, he immediately killed 3 Germans. From this time until dark, S/Sgt. Spurrier, using at different times his BAR and M1 rifle, American and German rocket launchers, a German automatic pistol, and hand grenades, continued his solitary attack against the enemy regardless of all types of small-arms and automatic-weapons fire. As a result of his heroic actions he killed an officer and 24 enlisted men and captured 2 officers and 2 enlisted men. His valor has shed fresh honor on the U.S. Armed Forces.˝

Picture: Four U.S. infantrymen of the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, walk past a wrecked building in Puttelange, France, shortly after the capture of the town
Source: U.S. National Archives

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On 9 November 1944, First Lieutenant Donald J. Gott and Second Lieutenant William E. Metzger Jr., pilot and copilot of a B-17 `Flying Fortress` from the 729th Bomb Squadron, 452nd Bombardment Group, sacrifice themselves to save the rest of their crew over Saarbrücken, Germany.

Both 1LT Gott and 2LT Metzger Jr. will receive a Medal of Honor for their actions on 16 May 1945. 1LT Gott`s citation will read:
˝On a bombing run upon the marshaling yards at Saarbrücken a B-17 aircraft piloted by 1st. Lt. Gott was seriously damaged by antiaircraft fire... Flares in the cockpit were ignited and a fire raged therein, which was further increased by free-flowing fluid from damaged hydraulic lines. The interphone system was rendered useless. In addition to these serious mechanical difficulties the engineer was wounded in the leg and the radio operator`s arm was severed below the elbow. Suffering from intense pain, despite the application of a tourniquet, the radio operator fell unconscious. Faced with the imminent explosion of his aircraft, and death to his entire crew, mere seconds before bombs away on the target, 1st. Lt. Gott and his copilot conferred. Something had to be done immediately to save the life of the wounded radio operator. The lack of a static line and the thought that his unconscious body striking the ground in unknown territory would not bring immediate medical attention forced a quick decision. 1st. Lt. Gott and his copilot decided to fly the flaming aircraft to friendly territory and then attempt to crash land. Bombs were released on the target and the crippled aircraft proceeded alone to Allied-controlled territory. When that had been reached, 1st. Lt. Gott had the copilot personally inform all crewmembers to bail out. The copilot chose to remain with 1st. Lt. Gott in order to assist in landing the bomber. With only one normally functioning engine, and with the danger of explosion much greater, the aircraft banked into an open field, and when it was at an altitude of 100 feet it exploded, crashed, exploded again and then disintegrated. All 3 crewmembers were instantly killed.˝

Picture: B-17 flying fortress hit by AAA over Nis yards, Serbia
Source: USAAF

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On 8 November 1944, Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels announces that Germany has been targetting Britain with the V-2 (Vergeltungswaffe 2 or Vengeance Weapon 2).

Two months since the first V-2s hit Paris and London, which we covered in our 8 September post, and the usual predictions of Allied morale collapsing in the face of Germany`s superior weapons have been absent from Goebbels` addresses until today. The V-1 flying bomb campaigns` failure to break British morale has somewhat tempered the Nazi leadership`s excitement over the V-2. In fact, since 13 October, which we covered in a post, most V-2s have been aimed at Antwerp under Hitler`s orders to deny the use of the port to the Allies.

But as Goebbels informs Germans that this new weapon will surely bring victory, despite all evidence to the contrary, the British Government maintains strict censorship on any information regarding the attacks. Despite the attacks causing hundreds of casualties, the British Government`s official explanation has resulted in much talk among the population of `flying gas mains` exploding with astonishing frequency.

Nevertheless, Churchill will finally reveal the truth about the explosions in an address to Parliament on 10 November:
˝For the last few weeks the enemy has been using his new weapon, the long-range rocket... In all, the casualties and damage have so far not been heavy... The reason for this silence was that any announcement might have given information useful to the enemy, and we were confirmed in this course by the fact that, until two days ago, the enemy had made no mention of this weapon in his communiques.

The use of this weapon is another attempt by the enemy to attack the morale of our civil population in the vain hope that he may somehow by this means stave off the defeat which faces him in the field. Doubtless the enemy has hoped by his announcement to induce us to give him information which he has failed to get otherwise. I am sure that this House, the Press and the public will refuse to oblige him in this respect.˝

Picture: Police officer examines remains of a V2 missile that hit London, England, on 17 September 1944
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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