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Australians battle Germans at Pozieres

Jul 26, 1916:

Australians battle Germans at Pozieres

On July 26, 1916, during the epic Battle of the Somme, Australian troops taking part in their first offensive action on the Western Front battle the Germans at Pozieres, near the Somme River in France.

Divisions of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, known as ANZAC, which had previously served on the Gallipoli Peninsula during the ill-fated Allied invasion there in 1915, were given the objective of capturing Pozieres Ridge, an early goal set by the British army’s command for the ambitious Somme Offensive, which began on July 1, 1916. They began their attack late on the night of July 22, just two days after their arrival in the Somme region. The ANZAC divisions were aided in their advance by the British 48th Division, which launched a simultaneous attack to the west of Pozieres, towards the Germans’ left flank.

After the initial Allied bombardment, Australian troops moved forward under heavy fire, but were able to press ahead and capture the village of Pozieres itself within an hour. The attack’s main objective, Pozieres Ridge, was heavily defended by the Germans, who had used the week preceding the attack to reinforce their positions with a network of machine guns placed in shell holes in front of their lines.

The night of July 26-27 saw a 12-and-a-half-hour-long grenade battle between the Australians, with British support, and the Germans at Pozieres Ridge. The German army had produced multiple types of grenades by that point in World War I—including the Stielhandgranate (stick bomb), the Diskushandgranate (disc grenade), Eierhandgranate (hand grenade) and Kugelhandgranate (ball grenade, a popular type that could be thrown a great distance and that included a grenade dubbed the pineapple grenade by the British for its distinctive shape). For their part, the Allies launched some 15,000 Mills bombs—a weapon designed by William Mills and introduced in May 1915. A 1.25-pound grenade with a serrated exterior, the Mills bombs were designed to break into fragments upon detonation, inflicting the maximum amount of damage. Improved throughout the war, they quickly became the leading British grenade.

Pozieres Ridge finally fell to the Allies on August 4, 1916, after two weeks of exhausting and costly fighting, but the Germans remained in control elsewhere in the region. The Allied command—particularly British commander Sir Hubert Gough—came under heavy Australian criticism for continuing the offensive for such a long time at a high casualty rate, especially when combined with an earlier failed operation, based near Fromelles to the north of the Somme. Though brief, the attack at Fromelles resulted in 5,708 Australian casualties, including 4,000 dead, and an additional 400 prisoners taken by the Germans.

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Update 7-19 : New Pictures Added to the Website

New pictures have been added to the pages:

  • World War 2 Generals
  • Other Museums, Artifacts, and Vehicles
  • Luftwaffe – After WW2
  • Deutsches Panzermuseum – German Tank Museum
  • WW2 Allies – Kingdom of Hungary
  • Musée des Blindés – Tank Museum – France
  • Heinkel He 115 Recovery
  • Tiger 1 Replica
  • World War 2 Field Marshalls
  • Specialized Vehicles or Odd Devices and Equipment
  • War Medals and Decorations
  • German WW2 Medical Korps
  • WW2 Allies – Finland
  • Luftwaffe – WW2
  • SS – Schutzstaffel
  • Oorlogsmuseum Museum – Overloon, Netherlands
  • Sd.Kfz. 2, 4, 6-11, 222, 231-232, 234, and 250-254
  • Special Collection of Photos from Boelcke’s Grandfather

2 New Pages have been added to the Website:

  • WW2 Allies – Empire of Japan
  • 1936 Summer Olympics – Berlin

Enjoy!

 

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Assassination Plot & Coup against Hitler Fails

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1984-079-02,_Führerhauptquartier,_Stauffenberg,_Hitler,_Keitel_crop

Jul 20, 1944:

Assassination Plot & Coup against Hitler Fails

On this day in 1944, Hitler cheats death as a bomb planted in a briefcase goes off, but fails to kill him.

High German officials had made up their minds that Hitler must die. He was leading Germany in a suicidal war on two fronts, and assassination was the only way to stop him. A coup d’etat would follow, and a new government in Berlin would save Germany from complete destruction at the hands of the Allies. That was the plan. This was the reality: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, chief of the army reserve, had been given the task of planting a bomb during a conference that was to be held at Berchtesgaden, but was later moved to Hitler’s “Wolf’s Lair, a command post at Rastenburg, Prussia. Stauffenberg planted the explosive in a briefcase, which he placed under a table, then left quickly. Hitler was studying a map of the Eastern front as Colonel Heinz Brandt, trying to get a better look at the map, moved the briefcase out of place, farther away from where the Fuhrer was standing. At 12:42 p.m. the bomb went off. When the smoke cleared, Hitler was wounded, charred, and even suffered the temporary paralysis of one arm—but he was very much alive. (He was even well enough to keep an appointment with Benito Mussolini that very afternoon. He gave Il Duce a tour of the bomb site.) Four others present died from their wounds.

As the bomb went off, Stauffenberg was making his way to Berlin to carry out Operation Valkyrie, the overthrow of the central government. In Berlin, he and co-conspirator General Olbricht arrested the commander of the reserve army, General Fromm, and began issuing orders for the commandeering of various government buildings. And then the news came through from Herman Goering—Hitler was alive. Fromm, released from custody under the assumption he would nevertheless join the effort to throw Hitler out of office, turned on the conspirators. Stauffenberg and Olbricht were shot that same day. Once Hitler figured out the extent of the conspiracy (it reached all the way to occupied French), he began the systematic liquidation of his enemies. More than 7,000 Germans would be arrested (including evangelical pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer), and up to 5,000 would wind up dead—either executed or as suicides. Hitler, Himmler, and Goering took an even firmer grip on Germany and its war machine. Hitler became convinced that fate had spared him—”I regard this as a confirmation of the task imposed upon me by Providence”—and that “nothing is going to happen to me… [T]he great cause which I serve will be brought through its present perils and…everything can be brought to a good end.”

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America bombs Rome

Jul 19, 1943:

America bombs Rome

On this day in 1943, the United States bombs railway yards in Rome in an attempt to break the will of the Italian people to resist—as Hitler lectures their leader, Benito Mussolini, on how to prosecute the war further.

On July 16, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to the Italian civilian population to reject Mussolini and Hitler and “live for Italy and civilization.” As an “incentive,” American bombers raided the city, destroying its railways. Panic broke out among the Romans. Convinced by Mussolini that the Allies would never bomb the holy city, civilians poured into the Italian capital for safety. The bombing did more than shake their security in the city—it shook their confidence in their leader.

The denizens of Rome were not alone in such disillusion. In a meeting in northern Italy, Hitler attempted to revive the flagging spirits of Il Duce, as well as point out his deficiencies as a leader. Afraid that Mussolini, having suffered successive military setbacks, would sue for a separate peace, leaving the Germans alone to battle it out with Allied forces along the Italian peninsula, Hitler decided to meet with his onetime role model to lecture him on the manly art of war. Mussolini remained uncharacteristically silent during the harangue, partly due to his own poor German (he would request a translated synopsis of the meeting later), partly due to his fear of Hitler’s response should he tell the truth—that Italy was beaten and could not continue to fight. Mussolini kept up the charade for his German allies: Italy would press on. But no one believed the brave front anymore. Just a day later, Hitler secretly ordered Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to take command of the occupied Greek Islands, better to “pounce on Italy” if and when Mussolini capitulated to the United States. But within a week, events would take a stunning turn.

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Mein Kampf is Published

Jul 18, 1925:

Mein Kampf is Published

On this day in 1925, Volume One of Adolf Hitler’s philosophical autobiography, Mein Kampf, is published. It was a blueprint of his agenda for a Third Reich and a clear exposition of the nightmare that will envelope Europe from 1939 to 1945. The book sold a total of 9,473 copies in its first year.

Hitler began composing his tome while sitting in Landsberg prison, convicted of treason for his role in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch in which he and his minions attempted to stage a coup and grasp control of the government in Bavaria. It ended in disaster, with some allies deserting and others falling into the hands of the authorities. Hitler was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment (he would serve only nine months). His time in the old fortress at Landsberg was hardly brutal; he was allowed guests and gifts, and was treated as something of a cult hero. He decided to put his leisure time to good use and so began dictating Volume One of his opus magnus to Rudolph Hess, a loyal member of the German National Socialist Party and fellow revolutionary.

The first part of Mein Kampf, subtitled “A Reckoning,” is a 400-plus page diatribe on the problems besetting Germany—the French, who wished to dismember Germany; the lack of lebesraum, “living space,” and the need to expand east into Russia; and the baleful influence of “mongrel” races. For Hitler, the state was not an economic entity, but a racial one. Racial purity was an absolute necessity for a revitalized Germany. “[F]or men do not perish as the result of lost wars, but by the loss… of pure blood.”

As for leadership, Hitler’s Third Reich would mimic the Prussian ideal of absolute authoritarian rule. “There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons… Surely every man will have advisers… but the decision will be made by one man.”

So there it was: War with France, war with Russia, the elimination of “impure” races, and absolute dictatorship. Hitler laid out his political agenda a full 14 years before the outbreak of war.

Volume Two of Mein Kampf, focusing on national socialism, was published in 1927. Sales of the complete work remained mediocre throughout the 1920s. It was not until 1933, the first year of Hitler’s tenure as chancellor of Germany, that sales soared to over 1 million. Its popularity reached the point where it became a ritual to give a newly married couple a copy.

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Allies begin major counter-offensive in Second Battle of the Marne

Jul 18, 1918:

Allies begin major counter-offensive in Second Battle of the Marne

Three days after a German offensive near the Marne River in the Champagne region of France meets with failure, Allied forces launch a major counterattack on July 18, 1918, ending the Second Battle of the Marne and decisively turning the tide of the war toward an Allied victory.

After forces commanded by the German general Erich von Ludendorff fall painfully short of their objectives near the city of Reims on July 15–largely due to the deceptive Allied strategy of planting a line of false, lightly-manned trenches in front that would leave their real front line undamaged by the preliminary German bombardment–the Allied supreme commander, Ferdinand Foch, authorized a major counteroffensive. The Allied attack, which began in the early morning hours of July 18, 1918, was carried out by 24 divisions of the French army, as well as troops from the United States, Britain and Italy, pressing forward in some 350 tanks against the German salient.

As Crown Prince Wilhelm, a commander of the German forces at the Marne, recalled of the events of July 18: “Without artillery preparation, simply following the sudden rolling barrage, supported by numerous deep-flying aircraft and with unprecedented masses of tanks, the enemy infantry–including a number of American divisions–unleashed the storm against the 9th and 7th Armies at 5:40 in the morning.” The French 6th and 10th Armies led the infantry advance, pushing forward five miles on the first day of the offensive alone. Meanwhile, the French 5th and 9th Armies launched supplementary attacks to the west. By the time the Germans ordered a retreat on July 20, the Allied counteroffensive in the Second Battle of the Marne had driven the Germans back from Chateau-Thierry to Soissons on the Aisne River, effectively reversing all the gains made in the region during the entire German spring offensive of 1918.

Casualties at the Marne were staggering, with Germany losing 168,000 soldiers to death or injury, compared with 95,000 for the French, 13,000 for the British and 12,000 for the U.S. After the disaster at the Marne, Ludendorff was forced to call off a planned German offensive further north, in the Flanders region stretching between France and Belgium, which he had envisioned as Germany’s best hope of victory. In the end, the Second Battle of the Marne marked the last large-scale German offensive of World War I.

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