Archive for August, 2010

Leningrad

Posted: August 30, 2010 in World War 2

Adolf Hitler seemed to reserve a special loathing for the city of Leningrad. Perhaps it was because Leningrad was the place where the revolution that had brought the communists to power in Russia in 1917 had taken place; perhaps it was because it was named for Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the first ruler of the communist Soviet Union. Hitler stated in 1942; “St. Petersburg (Leningrad’s name under the pre-1914 Tsarist regime in Russia) must disappear utterly from the earth’s surface.

During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Leningrad was the target of Army Group North. Within a month of the opening of hostilities, German tanks had cut the main Leningrad-Moscow railroad line, & by the start of September the first German artillery shells began to land on the city. Soviet defenses was complicated by the fact that Finnish forces, attempting to retake territory ceded to the Soviet Union after the Winter War of 1939-1940, moved southward & hampered supply efforts.

BESIEGING THE CITY OF LENINGRAD

Hitler decided against a land attack into the city itself, because he did not want German troops to get held up in hand-to-hand urban warfare. He preferred to starve the city out. The epic siege lasted almost three years. Although all land links were cut, a road across Lake Ladoga functioned when the lake was frozen over during the winter months. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the siege. The heroism of the defenders & the plight of the civilians was significant in creating a more positive view of the Soviet Union in the West.

From Front Page, WWII: History In The Headlines 1939-1945

Monte Casssino

Posted: August 29, 2010 in World War 2

The German defensive positions in Italy from late 1943 to mid-1944 were based along the Gustav Line. Making the maximum use of the mountainous terrain, the Gustav Line was centered on the town of Cassino, 1968 feet (600m) above the Liri Valley, which overlooked the main route from Naples to Rome. To even get to the Gustav Line, the Allies had to cross two difficult rivers, the Garigliano & the Rapido.

Even when forces did more toward Cassino, they found the town impossible to take. German paratroopers created formidable defenses & could not be dislodged. When the town was bombed, the rubble merely made the defenders` task easier. Part of the problem was that the town was overlooked by mountains that gave German artillery spotters a clear view of Allied movements. Allied troops became convinced that a monastery at the top of the mountain above Cassino, Monte Cassino, was being used by the Germans, & this monastery was bombed in March, 1944.

BREAKING THE STALEMATE

To break the stalemate at Cassino, the Allies landed behind German lines at Anzio, just south of Rome, on January 22nd. They got 50,000 men & their equipment ashore, but failed to move quickly, & were soon bottled up. At points it seemed that the Germans would drive them back into the sea, & the fighting was intense around the perimeter of the Anzio beachhead.

Stymied at both Cassino & Anzio, the Allies in Italy consequently found progress very difficult. Troops from many nations – including New Zealand, Poland & India – were involved in trying to take Cassino. General Sir Harold Alexander, in charge of the British Eighth Army, eventually had to give up frontal assaults on the town. Instead, Alexander concentrated on moving forward in the surrounding mountains. In May, the monastery itself was finally occupied by French colonial troops from Morocco, & the road to Rome was opened.

From Front Page, WWII: History In The Headlines 1939-1945

“The entire air force command ought to be hanged on the spot.”

April 21st, 1945: Hitler himself was on the telephone, demanding precise figures about our air support south of Berlin. I told him that such questions could not possibly be answered on the spot, what with the breakdown in communications. “We have to make do with the routine reports that come in automatically in the morning & at night,” I said. Hitler was highly incensed.

Later, he rang again & complained that none of our jets had taken off from Prague.

I explained that our airfields were under constant enemy surveillance, & that our planes ran the danger of being destroyed on the ground the moment they emerged from cover. Hitler cursed. “In that case, the gets are no damn good to anybody. The whole Luftwaffe is useless.”

“In view of the constant encroachments by the enemy, we are doing all we can. Successes are matters of the past, & in a few days the Luftwaffe will be completely finished,” I told him.

In his rage, Hitler mentioned a letter from one Roechling (something I had never even heard of), & yelled: “What he has to say is quite enough for me. The entire air force command ought to be hanged on the spot!”

From Koller: Die Letzte Monat (The Last Month)

Final Transmission

Posted: August 24, 2010 in World War 2

Last signal from U-1023

To: Grand-Admiral

In course of 46-day schnorkel assignment, we have sunk 1 merchantman of 8,000 tons & 1 destroyer. Also torpedoed 1 ship of 10,000 tons & 1 ship of 8,000 tons. In firm reliance on you, Grand-Admiral, we are about to carry out your hardest order (surrender of U-boats to Allies).

U-1023

May 10th, 1945
3:55pm

The End Of The German Navy

Posted: August 24, 2010 in World War 2

April-June, 1945

Radio message to all units.

In accordance with the unconditional surrender of all German forces, all German ships will refrain from any act of war. The crews are forbidden to scuttle their ships or otherwise to render them unserviceable. Infringements are direct violations of the Grand-Admiral’s order, & will have severe repercussions on the German nation.

Naval Command

From Admiral Doenitz’s order of May 7th, 1945

U-Boat Losses In WW2

Posted: August 23, 2010 in World War 2

Of the 630 U-Boats lost at sea, 603 were destroyed by enemy action, 20 from causes unknown & 7 from accidents.

In port, 81 U-boats were destroyed by air attacks & mines & 42 were lost through other causes.

On evacuation of overseas bases & at the end of the War, 216 U-boats were sunk or blown up by their crews. (Some were later raised by the Allies.) During the war, 38 U-boats were scrapped as a result of irreparable damage or on becoming obsolete; 11 U-boats were handed over to foreign navies or interned in neutral ports after sustaining damage. At the end of the war, 153 U-boats were handed over in British or Allied ports.

From the Memoirs of Admiral Doenitz

My wife & I choose death rather than witness the shame of overthrow & capitulation. It is our wish that our bodies be burned immediately in the place where I have done the greater part of my daily work during the twelve years of service to my people.