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Portuguese army sees first action in Flanders

Portuguese troops loading the Stokes Mortar.
Portuguese troops loading the Stokes Mortar.

Jun 17, 1917:

Portuguese army sees first action in Flanders

On June 17, 1917, the Corpo Expedicionario Portugues (CEP), or Portuguese Expeditionary Corps, goes into action for the first time in World War I, on the battlefields of Flanders on the Western Front.

With the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914, Portugal entered the war on the side of the Allies in order to secure international backing of its colonial holdings in Africa. While Portuguese participation in the war was at first limited to naval support, Portugal sent its first troops–an expeditionary force of two divisions, or some 50,000 men–to the Western Front in February 1917.

On June 17 of that year, the CEP saw its first action of the war, against the Germans in Flanders, Belgium. From the beginning of the fighting, the Portuguese troops, fighting alongside the British, were plagued by problems, including negative reactions to the poor rations and harsh weather on the battlefield and low morale due to the fact that they were fighting far from their native land, on behalf of a foreign cause. On April 9, 1918, the CEP saw action again against Germany near the town of Lys, during the major German offensive of that spring. During the Battle of Lys, one Portuguese division of troops was struck hard by four German divisions; the preliminary shelling alone was so heavy that one Portuguese battalion refused to push forward into the trenches. All told, the victorious Germans took more than 6,000 prisoners at Lys and were able to push through the Allied lines along a three-and-a-half mile stretch. By the time World War I ended, a total of 7,000 Portuguese soldiers had died in combat.

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Marshal Petain becomes premier of occupied France

 

Jun 16, 1940:

Marshal Petain becomes premier of occupied France

On this day in 1940, Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, World War I hero, becomes prime minister of the Vichy government of France.

As Germany began to overrun more French territory, the French Cabinet became desperate for a solution to this crisis. Premier Paul Reynaud continued to hold out hope, refusing to ask for an armistice, especially now that France had received assurance from Britain that the two would fight as one, and that Britain would continue to fight the Germans even if France were completely overtaken. But others in the government were despondent and wanted to sue for peace. Reynaud resigned in protest. His vice premier, Henri Petain, formed a new government and asked the Germans for an armistice, in effect, surrendering.

This was an ironic position for Petain, to say the least. The man who had become a legendary war hero for successfully repelling a German attack on the French city of Verdun during the First World War was now surrendering to Hitler.

In the city of Vichy, the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies conferred on the 84-year-old general the title of “Chief of State,” making him a virtual dictator–although one controlled by Berlin. Petain believed that he could negotiate a better deal for his country–for example, obtaining the release of prisoners of war–by cooperating with, or as some would say, appeasing, the Germans.

But Petain proved to be too clever by half. While he fought against a close Franco-German military collaboration, and fired his vice premier, Pierre Laval, for advocating it, and secretly urged Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco to refuse passage of the German army to North Africa, his attempts to undermine the Axis while maintaining an official posture of neutrality did not go unnoticed by Hitler, who ordered that Laval be reinstated as vice premier. Petain acquiesced, but refused to resign in protest because of fear that France would come under direct German rule if he were not there to act as a buffer. But he soon became little more than a figurehead, despite efforts to manipulate events behind the scenes that would advance the Free French cause (then publicly denying, even denouncing, those events when they came to light).

When Paris was finally liberated by General Charles de Gaulle in 1944, Petain fled to Germany. He was brought back after the war to stand trial for his duplicity. He was sentenced to death, which was then commuted to life in solitary confinement. He died at 95 in prison. The man responsible for saving his life was de Gaulle. He and Petain had fought in the same unit in World War I and had not forgotten Petain’s bravery during that world war.

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Battle of the Piave River

Jun 16, 1918:

Battle of the Piave River

On June 16, 1918, the Battle of the Piave River rages on the Italian front, marking the last major attack by the Austro-Hungarian army in Italy of World War I.

After turmoil-plagued Russia bowed out of the war effort in early 1918, Germany began to pressure its ally, Austria-Hungary, to devote more resources to combating Italy. Specifically, the Germans advocated a major new offensive along the Piave River, located just a few kilometers from such important Italian urban centers as Venice, Padua and Verona. In addition to striking on the heels of Russia’s withdrawal, the offensive was intended as a follow-up to the spectacular success of the German-aided operations at Caporetto in the autumn of 1917.

By June 1918, however, Austria-Hungary’s troops were in a radically different condition than they had been at Caporetto. Supplies were low, as was morale, while the Italians had bulked up their numbers along the Piave and received new shipments of arms from Allied munitions factories. Nevertheless, both commanders in the region–former Commander-in-Chief Conrad von Hotzendorff and Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna–favored an attack. Preparations were laid to divide their two forces and carry out the offensive in a pincer-like motion, with Conrad taking the main task of reaching the city of Verona and Boroevic attempting to cross the Piave and aim for Padua and the Adige Valley.

After some diversionary attacks, the main Austrian offensive was launched on June 15. Conrad’s 10th and 11th Armies made limited progress, and their advance was checked the following day by the forceful counterattack of the Italian 4th and 6th Armies, fortified by British and French troops. Within a week, the Austrians had suffered over 40,000 casualties. Meanwhile, Boroevic’s 5th and 6th Armies, which had crossed the Piave River along the Italian coast on June 10, gained slightly more territory–some three miles along a 15-mile front–but was also forced to give up those gains and retreat on June 19 under the Italian counterattack by the 3rd and 8th Armies. The Austrian troops stalled in their attempt to cross back over the rapid-flowing Piave, however, and the Italians were able to attack their flank; by the time they finally reached the other shore, a total of 150,000 of Boroevic’s men had been killed or wounded.

Though the cautious Italian commander in chief, General Armando Diaz, chose not to pursue the fleeing enemy troops across the river, the offensive ended in dismal failure. It was a fateful blow for Austria-Hungary’s presence on the Italian front. In the months that followed, the depleted, demoralized army ceased to exist as a cohesive force, a destruction that was completed by the Italians during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in late October 1918, just days before the end of World War I.

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Update: New Pictures Added to the Website 6-16

New Pictures have been added to the Pages:

  • Museum Artifacts and Vehicles
  • Tiger 1 Replica
  • Deutsches Panzermuseum – German Tank Museum.
  • Marder 1, 2, & 3 Tank Destroyer
  • Self-Propelled Tank Destroyers
  • Musée des Blindés – Tank Museum – France.
  • StuG III
  • Sd.Kfz. 2, 4, 6-11, 222, 231-232, 234, and 250-254
  • Video – New Video Added

A New Page has been added to the website with pictures and video – Heinkel He 115 Recovery.

 

Enjoy!

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Update: New Pictures Added to the Website 6-15

New Pictures have been added to the Pages:

  • Collections
  • Tiger 1 Replica
  • Luftwaffe Varied Plane Types
  • Replica Uniforms made for Reenacting or Collecting
  • War Medals and Decorations
  • Luftwaffe Pilots
  • Panzer IV
  • German Heer (Army) Photos
  • Paintings & Art
  • Bundeswehr
  • Messerschmitt Bf 109
  • Junkers Ju 87 Stuka Dive Bomber
  • Special Collection of Photos from Boelcke’s Grandfather
  • Panzer III
  • My Collection of Items
  • World War 1 – The Great War

Thank you

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The “Blobel Commando” begins its cover-up of Atrocities

Jun 15, 1943:

The “Blobel Commando” begins its cover-up of Atrocities

On this day in 1943, Paul Blobel, an SS colonel, is given the assignment of coordinating the destruction of the evidence of the grossest of Nazi atrocities, the systematic extermination of European Jews.

As the summer of 1943 approached, Allied forces had begun making cracks in Axis strongholds, in the Pacific and in the Mediterranean specifically. Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, the elite corps of Nazi bodyguards that grew into a paramilitary terror force, began to consider the possibility of German defeat and worried that the mass murder of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war would be discovered. A plan was devised to dig up the buried dead and burn the corpses at each camp and extermination site. The man chosen to oversee this yearlong project was Paul Blobel.

Blobel certainly had some of that blood on his hands himself, as he was in charge of SS killing squads in German-occupied areas of Russia. He now drew together another kind of squad, “Special Commando Group 1,005,” dedicated to this destruction of human evidence. Blobel began with “death pits” near Lvov, in Poland, and forced hundreds of Jewish slave laborers from the nearby concentration camp to dig up the corpses and burn them–but not before extracting the gold from the teeth of the victims.

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Entire Toy Collection Minus Tiger 1

 

For the modelers and toy collectors, I took a few pics. The RC Tiger 1 is not in the pic since it would not fit. Thought a few people might enjoy this.

After getting one as a gift, I now collect toys with my German Memorabilia collection. Most are from closed companies who made them.

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