Allies slaughtered by Germans in Arnhem

Sep 26, 1944:

Allies slaughtered by Germans in Arnhem

On this day in 1944, Operation Market-Garden, a plan to seize bridges in the Dutch town of Arnhem, fails, as thousands of British and Polish troops are killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

British Gen. Bernard Montgomery conceived an operation to take control of bridges that crossed the Rhine River, from the Netherlands into Germany, as a strategy to make “a powerful full-blooded thrust to the heart of Germany.” The plan seemed cursed from the beginning. It was launched on September 17, with parachute troops and gliders landing in Arnhem. Holding out as long as they could, waiting for reinforcements, they were compelled to surrender. Unfortunately, a similar drop of equipment was delayed, and there were errors in locating the proper drop location and bad intelligence on German troop strength. Added to this, bad weather and communication confused the coordination of the Allied troops on the ground.

The Germans quickly destroyed the railroad bridge and took control of the southern end of the road bridge. The Allies struggled to control the northern end of the road bridge, but soon lost it to the superior German forces. The only thing left was retreat-back behind Allied lines. But few made it: Of more than 10,000 British and Polish troops engaged at Arnhem, only 2,900 escaped.

Claims were made after the fact that a Dutch Resistance fighter, Christiaan Lindemans, betrayed the Allies, which would explain why the Germans were arrayed in such numbers at such strategic points. A conservative member of the British Parliament, Rupert Allason, writing under the named Nigel West, dismissed this conclusion in his A Thread of Deceit, arguing that Lindemans, while a double agent, “was never in a position to betray Arnhem.”

Winston Churchill would lionize the courage of the fallen Allied soldiers with the epitaph “Not in vain.” Arnhem was finally liberated on April 15, 1945.

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Update 9-24 : New Pictures Added to the Website

New Pictures have been added to the pages:

  • Tiger 1
  • Panzer III
  • Jagdtiger
  • Tiger 1 Replica
  • La Roche-en-Ardenne 44 Museum –  La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium
  • Baugnez 44 Historical Center – Belgium
  • The Tank Museum (Formerly Bovington Tank Museum) – England
  • Special Collection of Photos from Boelcke’s Grandfather
  • Nazi German Expeditions to Brazil 1935-1937
  • War Medals and Decorations
  • SS – Schutzstaffel
  • SS Officers, NCOs, Etc.

Enjoy!

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Patton Questions Necessity of Germany’s “Denazification”

Sep 22, 1945:

Patton Questions Necessity of Germany’s “Denazification”

On this day in 1945, Gen. George S. Patton tells reporters that he does not see the need for “this denazification thing” and compares the controversy over Nazism to a “Democratic and Republican election fight.” Once again, “Old Blood and Guts” had put his foot in his mouth.

Descended from a long line of military men, Patton graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 1909 and served in the Tank Corps during World War I. As a result of this experience, Patton became a dedicated proponent of tank warfare. During World War II, as commander of the U.S. 7th Army, he captured Palermo, Sicily, in 1943 by just such means. Patton’s audacity made itself evident in 1944, when, as commander of the 3rd Army, he overran much of northern France in an unorthodox–and ruthless–strategy.

Along the way, Patton’s mouth proved as dangerous to his career as the Germans. When he berated and slapped a hospitalized soldier diagnosed with shell shock, but whom Patton accused of “malingering,” the press turned on him, and pressure was applied to cut him down to size. He might have found himself enjoying early retirement had not Generals Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall intervened on his behalf. After several months of inactivity, he was put back to work.

And work he did–at the Battle of the Bulge, during which Patton once again succeeded in employing a complex and quick-witted strategy, turning the German thrust in Bastogne into an Allied counterthrust, driving the Germans east across the Rhine. In March 1945, Patton’s army swept through southern Germany into Czechoslovakia–which he was stopped by the Allies from capturing, out of respect for the Soviets’ postwar political plans for Eastern Europe.

Patton had many gifts, but diplomacy was not one of them. After the war, while stationed in Germany, he criticized the process of denazification, or the removal of former Nazi party members from positions of political, administrative, and governmental power, probably out of naivete more than anything else. Nevertheless, his impolitic press statements questioning the policy resulted in Eisenhower’s removing him as U.S. commander in Bavaria. He was transferred to the 15th Army Group, but in December 1945 he suffered a broken neck in a car accident and died less than two weeks later at the age of 60.

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Update 9-21 : New Pictures Added to the Website

New Pictures have been added to the pages:

  • Collections
  • Special Collection of Photos from Boelcke’s Grandfather
  • Battle of Normandy
  • Panther
  • Panzer IV
  • Weapons of WW2
  • Luftwaffe – WW2
  • La Roche-en-Ardenne 44 Museum –  La Roche-en-Ardenne, Belgium
  • Baugnez 44 Historical Center – Belgium
  • Oorlogsmuseum Museum – Overloon, Netherlands
  • Normandy Tank Museum – Catz, France
  • War Medals and Decorations
  • Iron Cross
  • World War 1 – The Great War
  • SS – Schutzstaffel
  • SS Officers, NCOs, Etc.
  • Order of Battle – Waffen-SS Divisions

Enjoy!

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Germans Bombard Leningrad

Sep 19, 1941:

Germans Bombard Leningrad

On this day in 1941, as part of their offensive campaign in the Soviet Union, German bombers blast through Leningrad’s antiaircraft defenses, and kill more than 1,000 Russians

Hitler’s armies had been in Soviet territory since June. An attempt by the Germans to take Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg) in August by a massive panzer invasion had failed. Hitler had wanted to decimate the city and hand it over to an ally, Finland, who was attacking Russia from the north. But Leningrad had created an antitank defense sufficient to keep the Germans at bay—and so a siege was mounted. German forces surrounded the city in an attempt to cut it off from the rest of Russia. (Finland eventually stopped short of an invasion of Leningrad, happy just to recapture territory it had lost to the Soviet invasion in 1939.)

The halt of the German land attack and the withdrawal of the panzer divisions to be used elsewhere did not stop the Luftwaffe from continuing to raid the city. (“The Fuhrer has decided to have St. Petersburg wiped off the face of the Earth,” declared Hitler to his generals.) The air attack of the 19th was particularly brutal; many of those killed were already recuperating from battle wounds in hospitals, which were hit by German bombs.

The siege of Leningrad would last a total of 872 days and would prove devastating to the population. More than 650,000 Leningrad citizens died in 1942 alone, from starvation, exposure, diseases, and artillery shelling from German positions outside the city. The only route by which supplies could enter the city was via Lake Ladoga, which entailed sleds negotiating ice during the winter. But the resources that got through were only enough to prolong the suffering of the Leningraders. Even tales of cannibalism began leaking out of the city. Soviet forces were finally successful in breaking the siege in January 1944, pushing the Germans 50 miles from the city.

Among those trapped in the city was an air-raid warden born in St. Petersburg named Dimitri Shostakovich, who wrote his Seventh Symphony during the siege. He was eventually evacuated and able to perform his masterwork in Moscow. The U.S. premiere of the piece raised relief funds for the desperate Russians.

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Battle of Epehy

Sep 18, 1918:

Battle of Epehy

On this day in 1918, near the French village of Epehy, the British 4th Army, commanded by Sir Henry Rawlinson, attacks German forward outposts in front of the Hindenburg Line, Germany’s last line of defense on the Western Front during World War I.

Named by the British for the German commander in chief, Paul von Hindenburg—the Germans referred to it as the Siegfried Line—the Hindenburg Line was a semi-permanent line of defenses that Hindenburg ordered created several miles behind the German front lines in late 1916. The following spring, the German army made a well-planned withdrawal to this heavily fortified defensive zone, burning and looting villages and countryside as they passed, in order to buy themselves time and confuse the Allied plans of attack. By early September 1918, Allied forces had effectively countered the major German spring offensive of that year and had reached the furthest forward positions of the Hindenburg Line, considered by many on both sides to be impregnable.

Reluctant to launch an offensive attack on the line itself, the British commander in chief, Sir Douglas Haig, at first overruled a planned assault by General Rawlinson of the 4th Army against the established and heavily fortified German positions. On the heels of Allied successes at Havrincourt and Saint-Mihiel—executed by British and American forces respectively—Haig changed his mind and authorized the attack by all three corps of Rawlinson’s army, aided by a corps of the 3rd Army fresh from its success at Havrincourt.

The British-led assault went ahead on the morning of September 18, 1918, with a creeping artillery barrage from approximately 1,500 guns, as well as 300 machine guns. Although the Germans held steady on both flanks, they were soundly defeated in the center by the Allied advance, led by two Australian divisions under General John Monash. By the end of the day, the Allies had advanced some three miles, a modest result that nonetheless encouraged Haig and his fellow commanders to proceed with further attacks to capitalize on the emerging German weaknesses. By the end of the month, pressing their advantage and pushing ahead with their so-called “Hundred Days Offensive,” the Allies had done the seemingly impossible: broken the formidable Hindenburg Line.

 

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Hindenburg Gives Order to Strengthen German Defenses

Sep 16, 1916:

Hindenburg Gives Order to Strengthen German Defenses

On September 16, 1916, one month after succeeding Erich von Falkenhayn as chief of the German army’s general staff during World War I, General Paul von Hindenburg orders the construction of a heavily fortified zone running several miles behind the active front between the north coast of France and Verdun, near the border between France and Belgium.

This “semi-permanent” defense line, as Hindenburg called it, would be the last line of German defense; its aim was to brutally crush any Allied breakthrough on the Western Front in France before it could reach the Belgian or German frontier. The British referred to it as the Hindenburg Line, for its mastermind; it was known to the Germans as the Siegfried Line.

After waging exhausting and bloody battles against the Allies at Verdun and the Somme, and with the U.S edging ever closer to entering the war, Germany’s leaders looked to improve their defensive positions on the Western Front. In February 1917, the German army began a well-organized withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, a move calculated to give a period of respite before the Allies could begin their attacks again. The withdrawal reduced the length of the line the Germans had to defend by 25 miles, freeing up 13 army divisions to serve as reserve troops. On their way, German forces systematically destroyed the land they passed through, burning farmhouses, poisoning wells, mining abandoned buildings and demolishing roads.

After the withdrawal, which was completed May 5, 1917, the Hindenburg Line, considered impregnable by many on both sides of the conflict, became the German army’s stronghold. Allied troops would not breach it until the last days of September 1918, barely one month before the armistice.

 

 

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