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Update 8-8 : New Pictures Added to the Website

New Pictures have been added to the website:

  • World War 2 Field Marshalls
  • The Tank Museum (Formerly Bovington Tank Museum) – England
  • Tiger 1
  • Tiger 2 – King Tiger
  • Hetzer
  • Replica Uniforms made for Reenacting or Collecting
  • Self-Propelled Tank Destroyers

 

New Pages have been added to the website:

  • Field Marshall Walter Model
  • Baugnez 44 Historical Center

 

Enjoy!

 

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German Saboteurs Executed in Washington

Aug 8, 1942:

German Saboteurs Executed in Washington

During World War II, six German saboteurs who secretly entered the United States on a mission to attack its civil infrastructure are executed by the United States for spying. Two other saboteurs who disclosed the plot to the FBI and aided U.S. authorities in their manhunt for their collaborators were imprisoned.

In 1942, under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s orders, the defense branch of the German Military Intelligence Corps initiated a program to infiltrate the United States and destroy industrial plants, bridges, railroads, waterworks, and Jewish-owned department stores. The Nazis hoped that sabotage teams would be able to slip into America at the rate of one or two every six weeks. The first two teams, made up of eight Germans who had all lived in the United States before the war, departed the German submarine base at Lorient, France, in late May.

Just before midnight on June 12, in a heavy fog, a German submarine reached the American coast off Amagansett, Long Island, and deployed a team who rowed ashore in an inflatable boat. Just as the Germans finished burying their explosives in the sand, John C. Cullen, a young U.S. Coast Guardsman, came upon them during his regular patrol of the beach. The leader of the team, George Dasch, bribed the suspicious Cullen, and he accepted the money, promising to keep quiet. However, as soon as he passed safely back into the fog, he sprinted the two miles back to the Coast Guard station and informed his superiors of his discovery. After retrieving the German supplies from the beach, the Coast Guard called the FBI, which launched a massive manhunt for the saboteurs, who had fled to New York City.

Although unaware that the FBI was looking for them, Dasch and another saboteur, Ernest Burger, decided to turn themselves in and betray their colleagues, perhaps because they feared capture was inevitable after the botched landing. On July 15, Dasch called the FBI in New York, but they failed to take his claims seriously, so he decided to travel to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. On July 18, the same day that a second four-man team successfully landed at Ponte Verdra Beach, Florida, Dasch turned himself in. He agreed to help the FBI capture the rest of the saboteurs.

Burger and the rest of the Long Island team were picked up by June 22, and by June 27 the whole of the Florida team was arrested. To preserve wartime secrecy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a special military tribunal consisting of seven generals to try the saboteurs. At the end of July, Dasch was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Burger was sentenced to hard labor for life, and the other six Germans were sentenced to die. The six condemned saboteurs were executed by electric chair in Washington, D.C., on August 8. In 1944, two other German spies were caught after a landing in Maine. No other instances of German sabotage within wartime America has come to light.

In 1948, Dasch and Burger were freed by order of President Harry Truman, and they both returned to Germany.

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Battle of Amiens

Aug 8, 1918:

Battle of Amiens

On this day in 1918, the Allies launch a series of offensive operations against German positions on the Western Front during World War I with a punishing attack at Amiens, on the Somme River in northwestern France.

After heavy casualties incurred during their ambitious spring 1918 offensive, the bulk of the German army was exhausted, and its morale was rapidly disintegrating amid a lack of supplies and the spreading influenza epidemic. Some of its commanders believed that the tide was turning irrevocably in favor of Germany’s enemies; as one of them, Crown Prince Rupprecht, wrote on July 20, “We stand at the turning point of the war: what I expected first for the autumn, the necessity to go over to the defensive, is already on us, and in addition all the gains which we made in the spring—such as they were—have been lost again.” Still, Erich Ludendorff, the German commander in chief, refused to accept this reality and rejected the advice of his senior commanders to pull back or begin negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Allies prepared for the war to stretch into 1919, not realizing victory was possible so soon. Thus, at a conference of national army commanders on July 24, Allied generalissimo Ferdinand Foch rejected the idea of a single decisive blow against the Germans, favoring instead a series of limited attacks in quick succession aimed at liberating the vital railway lines around Paris and diverting the attention and resources of the enemy rapidly from one spot to another. According to Foch: “These movements should be exacted with such rapidity as to inflict upon the enemy a succession of blows….These actions must succeed each other at brief intervals, so as to embarrass the enemy in the utilization of his reserves and not allow him sufficient time to fill up his units.” The national commanders—John J. Pershing of the United States, Philippe Petain of France and Sir Douglas Haig of Britain—willingly went along with this strategy, which effectively allowed each army to act as its own entity, striking smaller individual blows to the Germans instead of joining together in one massive coordinated attack.

Haig’s part of the plan called for a limited offensive at Amiens, on the Somme River, aimed at counteracting a German victory there the previous March and capturing the Amiens railway line stretching between Mericourt and Hangest. The British attack, begun on the morning August 8, 1918, was led by the British 4th Army under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. The German defensive positions at Amiens were guarded by 20,000 men; they were outnumbered six to one by advancing Allied forces. The British—well assisted by Australian and Canadian divisions—employed some 400 tanks in the attack, along with over 2,000 artillery pieces and 800 aircraft.

By the end of August 8—dubbed “the black day of the German army” by Ludendorff—the Allies had penetrated German lines around the Somme with a gap some 15 miles long. Of the 27, 000 German casualties on August 8, an unprecedented proportion—12,000—had surrendered to the enemy. Though the Allies at Amiens failed to continue their impressive success in the days following August 8, the damage had been done. “We have reached the limits of our capacity,” Kaiser Wilhelm II told Ludendorff on that “black day.” “The war must be ended.” The kaiser agreed, however, that this end could not come until Germany was again making progress on the battlefield, so that there would be at least some bargaining room. Even faced with the momentum of the Allied summer offensive—later known as the Hundred Days Offensive—the front lines of the German army continued to fight on into the final months of the war, despite being plagued by disorder and desertion within its troops and rebellion on the home front.

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Volkswagen halts production during World War II

Aug 7, 1944:

Volkswagen halts production during World War II

On this day in 1944, under the threat of Allied bombing during World War II, the German car manufacturer Volkswagen halts production of the “Beetle,” as its small, insect-shaped automobile was dubbed in the international press.

Ten years earlier, the renowned automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche had signed a contract with Germany’s Third Reich to develop a prototype of a small, affordable “people’s car.” The German chancellor, National Socialist (Nazi) leader Adolf Hitler, called the car the KdF (Kraft-durch-Freude)-Wagen (or “Strength-Through-Joy” car), after a Nazi-led movement ostensibly aimed at helping the working people of Germany. Porsche didn’t like that moniker; he preferred Volkswagen (meaning “people’s car”), the name under which the car had originally been developed. In 1938, the government built a factory to produce the car in the city of KdF-stat. The first production-ready Beetle debuted at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939. Several months later, Germany invaded Poland, sparking the conflict that would explode into world war.

During the war years, the German army’s need for a lightweight utility vehicle took precedence over the production of affordable passenger cars. The result was the Type 62 Kubelwagen, a convertible vehicle with a modified Beetle chassis, four doors and 18-inch wheels (compared with the Beetle’s 16-inch ones) to give it better ground clearance. Though production at the KdF-stat factory was dedicated primarily to the Kubelwagen and its amphibious counterpart, the Schwimmwagen, the factory did continue to produce Beetles from 1941 to August 7, 1944, when production was halted under threat of Allied bombing.

In the war’s aftermath, a devastated Germany was divided into four sectors. Those under British, French and American control would combine to form West Germany, while the region under Soviet control became East Germany. KdF-stat (soon renamed Wolfsburg), which was in the British sector, and its auto factory remained in relatively good shape for having been a target of Allied bombs. Volkswagen, then under the control of the British military, began turning out Beetles again in December 1945. By 1949, the company (now called Volkswagen GmbH) was back in German hands, and in 1972 the Beetle passed the iconic Ford Model T as the top-selling car in history.

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Battle of Mulhouse Begins

Aug 7, 1914:

Battle of Mulhouse Begins

At five o’clock on the morning of August 7, 1914, French troops launch their first attack of World War I, advancing towards the city of Mulhouse, located near the Swiss border in Alsace, a former French province lost to Germany in the settlement ending the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

As envisioned by French Commander in Chief Joseph Joffre, the Battle of Mulhouse was intended to anchor the French recapture of Alsace and provide a base for further French operations to the north. Operating according to the Plan 17 strategy—which emphasized offensive warfare above all else as ideally suited to the French temperament and strengths—Joffre sent General Bonneau and his VIIth Corps over the Vosges Mountains, on the frontier between France and Alsace, with bayonets drawn on the morning of August 7. Bonneau’s men captured Altkirch, a town with a population of 4,000 on the way to Mulhouse, in six hours, suffering 100 casualties. The bayonet charge over the crest of the Vosges that morning seemed a symbol of the classic, glorious French spirit and courage, in a war where most of the fighting would be messy, brutal trench warfare.

Finding only suspiciously light German defenses around Mulhouse, Bonneau hesitated after taking Altkirch, wary of stepping into a trap. After an impatient order from French command, however, he moved ahead with the advance. On August 8, French troops entered Mulhouse without firing a shot; the town’s German occupants had already evacuated.

As the French were occupying Mulhouse, German reserve troops were arriving from Strasbourg and deploying around the town, and on the morning of August 9 the Germans mounted a counterattack against nearby Cernay. Though Bonneau’s men fought fiercely throughout the day and overnight to hold their positions, they were overpowered; by the time Joffre had dispatched a reserve division to Mulhouse, the French had begun a slow withdrawal in order to escape being encircled by the Germans. Joffre accused Bonneau of being too tentative and not mounting a sufficiently aggressive offense; he relieved him of the command and replaced him General Paul Marie Pau, who emerged from retirement to command the “Army of Alsace” in its unsuccessful advance on Lorraine later that month.

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Germany and France Declare War on Each Other

Aug 3, 1914:

Germany and France Declare War on Each Other

On the afternoon of this day in 1914, two days after declaring war on Russia, Germany declares war on France, moving ahead with a long-held strategy, conceived by the former chief of staff of the German army, Alfred von Schlieffen, for a two-front war against France and Russia. Hours later, France makes its own declaration of war against Germany, readying its troops to move into the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which it had forfeited to Germany in the settlement that ended the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

With Germany officially at war with France and Russia, a conflict originally centered in the tumultuous Balkans region—with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, and the subsequent standoff between Austria-Hungary, Serbia and Serbia’s powerful Slavic supporter, Russia—had erupted into a full-scale war. Also on August 3, the first wave of German troops assembled on the frontier of neutral Belgium, which in accordance with the Schlieffen Plan would be crossed by German armies on their way to an invasion of France. The day before, Germany had presented Belgium and its sovereign, King Albert, with an ultimatum demanding passage for the German army through its territory.

This threat to Belgium, whose perpetual neutrality had been mandated by a treaty concluded by the European powers—including Britain, France and Germany—in 1839, united a divided British government in opposition to German aggression. Hours before Germany’s declaration of war on France on August 3, the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, went before Parliament and convinced a divided British government—and nation—to give its support to Britain’s entrance into the war if Germany violated Belgian neutrality.

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime,” Grey famously remarked to a friend on the night of August 3. The next day, Britain sent its own ultimatum to Berlin: halt the invasion of Belgium or face war with Britain as well. A reply was demanded by midnight that night. At noon that day, King Albert finally made a concerted appeal for help to France and Britain, as guarantors of Belgium’s neutrality according to the Treaty of 1839. To do so earlier, to call in the French and British too soon, would have risked violating his country’s neutrality before Germany had done so. When London received no answer to its ultimatum—the first German troops had in fact crossed the Belgian frontier at Gemmerich, 30 miles from the fortress city of Liege, that morning—Britain declared war on Germany.

In August 1914, as the great powers of Europe readied their armies and navies for a fight, no one was preparing for a long struggle—both sides were counting on a short, decisive conflict that would end in their favor. “You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees,” Kaiser Wilhelm assured troops leaving for the front in the first week of August 1914. Even though some military leaders, including German Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke and his French counterpart, Joseph Joffre, foresaw a longer conflict, they did not modify their war strategy to prepare for that eventuality. One man, the controversial new war secretary in Britain, Lord Horatio Kitchener, did act on his conviction that the war would be a lasting one, insisting from the beginning of the war—against considerable opposition—on the need to build up Britain’s armed forces. “A nation like Germany,” Kitchener argued, “after having forced the issue, will only give in after it is beaten to the ground. This will take a very long time. No one living knows how long.”

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Italians move on British Somaliland

Aug 3, 1940:

Italians move on British Somaliland

On this day in 1940, Italy begins its offensive against the British colony of Somaliland, in East Africa, territory contiguous with Italian Somaliland.

Italy had occupied parts of East Africa since 1936 and by 1940, when it officially entered the war, had troops far outnumbering British forces in the region. Despite their numerical superiority, the Italians had been slow to make offensive moves for fear that the British blockade in North Africa would make it impossible to get much-needed supplies, such as fuel and weapons, to sustain long engagements. But if Italy was to make greater territorial gains, it had to act, while British numbers were still relatively small.

After several forays a few miles into Sudan and Kenya, the Italians were ready for a bigger push: British Somaliland. The rationale was that it was actually a defensive move. Afraid that the British could enter Italian-occupied Ethiopia through French Somaliland, the Duke of Aosta (who was also Viceroy of Ethiopia and supreme Italian military commander of the region) ordered an invasion of British Somaliland. The British defenders at the garrison put up a fierce struggle; although they had to eventually withdraw, they inflicted 2,000 casualties on the Italian forces, while suffering only 250 of their own.

Italy would not enter the Somaliland capital, Berbera, until August 19, while Britain built up its African forces in Kenya. The war for East Africa was not over.

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