Little Bits of History

August 31

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 31, 2017

1939: The Gleiwitz incident begins. What we know about these events were revealed at the Nuremberg Trials by Alfred Naujocks of the SS. False flag attacks were historically a naval plan where one used the flag of another nation instead of one’s own battle flag, This ruse during an attack is considered to be outside the bounds of reasonable warfare and against international law. Operation Himmler was a plan put forth by Nazi Germany in order to create the illusion of Poland’s “aggression” against Germany. It included staging false attacks on themselves using either innocent people or concentration camp prisoners. It was hoped this “documented” propaganda campaign would confuse the Allies when Germany “defended” herself.

Late in the evening, on this date, a group of German operatives were led by Naujocks into the Gleiwitz radio station. They were dressed in Polish uniforms and they sent out a short anti-German message in Polish. The hope was that the attack would look like anti-German Poles. They left behind a “victim” of the attack, a German farmer sympathetic to the Poles. He had been arrested by the Gestapo the day before and killed by lethal injection. He was then shot a couple times and brought to the “attack” so as to leave behind a someone who looked like he had been killed during this raid.

He was not the only “victim” who was “shot” during the attack. Several prisoners from Dachau concentration camp were drugged, brought to the scene, and then shot dead at the station. Their faces were disfigured to make identification impossible. The Polish uniforms and identification had been secured by the Abwehr and this was only one of several skirmishes along the German-Poland border at the same time as this radio attack. Also included were some house burnings. All this was supported by the “evidence” of the previous few months when German newspapers and politicians had been accusing the Poles of aggressive behavior against the Nazis. There were accusations of Poland carrying on an ethnic cleansing by killing Germans living in Poland.

As a response to these horrific “attacks” against Germany, the Nazis launched Fall Weiss, the invasion of Poland, initiating World War II in Europe. On September 1, 1939, as the Panzers rolled into Poland, Hitler gave a speech in the Reichstag citing these attacks as justification for Germany invading their neighbor. Although American correspondents were summoned to the radio station on September 1, they were not permitted to investigate the incident in detail and the world audience remained skeptical regarding the German charges. Naujocks’s testimony at the Nuremberg Trials blamed his superior officer, Heinrich Muller, head of the Gestapo, as the man who issued the orders.

I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn’t matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth. – Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939 speaking to his generals

We learned in World War II that no single nation holds a monopoly on wisdom, morality or right to power, but that we must fight for the weak and promote democracy. – Joe Baca

Today we know that World War II began not in 1939 or 1941 but in the 1920’s and 1930’s when those who should have known better persuaded themselves that they were not their brother’s keeper. – Hubert H. Humphrey

We tend to think of World War II and all the atrocities that happened, and people say, ‘Never again.’ But these things are still happening. The Amnesty International files are big. – Jimmy Smits

August 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 18, 2017

1940: Britain’s Hardest Day. By June 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Western Europe and Scandinavia. Britain refused to negotiate a peace with Hitler and so he issued (Wehrmacht) Directive No. 16 on July 16. Operation Sea Lion was the German code name for their plan to invade the British Isles. In order for Germany to invade the island nation, they had to have air superiority over Britain. The Luftwaffe was ordered to destroy the Royal Air Force before land troops could swarm the islands. Hermann Goring was given the task of planning the destruction of the RAF. The primary target for this assault was the RAF Fighter Command.

The Luftwaffe carried out a number of attacks in July and early August attacking shipping in the English Channel with little success. They had a particularly daring plan scheduled for August 13. On that day, Adletag, or Eagle Day, they planned a concerted attack on British airfields but it was a failure. In order to destroy the RAF, they had to trap planes on the ground and so redoubled their efforts on this day. The German’s assumed British air strength was depleted by previous attacks but their numbers were off. Even as August wore on and the RAF suffered losses, they had more planes and pilots in reserve than Germany knew about.

The Germans thought they would need to take out 300 existing British planes. But Great Britain had 855 serviceable machines and another 289 at storage units and 84 at training centers. With 1,438 fighters at the disposal of the RAF, Britain was up to the challenge of defending itself from the air. Britain had been planning air defense since spring and understood the imminent danger even before France fell. They did not, however, believe dogfights could take place, since the faster planes would exert too much g-force for bodies to tolerate. They knew they needed to defend the air by placing anti-aircraft guns around the perimeter of their island.

There were several attacks waged in various parts of England on this day. Both sides suffered great losses but Germany’s losses were far heavier. Britain had 27-34 fighters destroyed compared to Germany’s 69-71. But the RAF also lost 29 planes on the ground with another 23 damaged. In the air, they had 39 planes damaged while Germany had 31 damaged. Ten Britons were killed with another 19 wounded while there were 94 Germans killed, 25 wounded, and 40 captured. Both sides lost more aircraft on this day than at any point in the Battle of Britain, including September 15. Because of these heavy losses, the day became known as “The Hardest Day”.

The laurels for the day’s action went to the defenders.

he aim of the Luftwaffe was to wear down the Fighter Command without suffering excessive losses in the process, and in this it had failed.

It cost the attackers five aircrew killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, for each British pilot casualty. In terms of aircraft, it had cost the Luftwaffe five bombers and fighters for every three Spitfires and Hurricanes destroyed in the air or on the ground.

If the battle continued at this rate the Luftwaffe would wreck Fighter Command, but it would come close to wrecking itself in the process. – all from Alfred Price



June 6

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 6, 2017

1944: Operation Overlord begins. Four years before, in June 1940, Adolf Hitler claimed “the most famous victory in history” when France fell to the German war machine. The miracle of the time was the successful evacuation of 338,000 British Expeditionary Force soldiers from the northern coast of France (carried out between May 27 and June 4). By October 1940, Winston Churchill was advised that British troops, even with the help of the United States, could not soon gain a foothold on mainland Europe. When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, Joseph Stalin asked the West to help create a second front to split German troops and in doing so, divide and conquer.

Britain was numerically disadvantaged and wished to avoid such costly assaults as the Somme and Passchendaele of World War I. Two plans were put forth, Operation Roundup and Operation Sledgehammer but both were seen as unlikely to succeed. Rather than attack mainland Europe, Britain opted for an attack on French North Africa and moved onto Sicily and then Italy. The idea of an attack across the English Channel was not completely off the table. The United States, now in on the planning, went against Churchill’s request in May 1943. They were supplying the bulk of both manpower and military equipment. The lack of adequate numbers of landing craft and the difficulty of air support were both issues to overcome before real plans could be laid.

As more ideas and equipment emerged, so did likely plans for a European assault. Four likely landing sites were considered: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and the Pas de Calais. The two peninsulas could be cut off by Germans, Calais was the closest point to England and were within range of V-1 and V-2 rockets. The Germans thought it the most likely landing site and so it was most heavily fortified but offered few options for expansion. Normandy was able to offer a broad front from which assaults could venture forth in a variety of directions. The site was chosen and the attack was to take place on May 1, 1944. This plan was accepted by all parties participating.

US generals first saw the actual plans in December 1943 which called for three landing divisions with two more in support. They insisted the landing division be increased to five with three airborne divisions giving support. Eventually a total of 39 divisions were committed to the Operation, 22 American and 12 British along with 3 Canadian and one each from Poland and France. Over a million troops were committed to the attack on Normandy. The Battle of Normandy begun on this day lasted until August 30 and was a decided Allied victory, turning the tide in World War II. A total of over 2 million Allied troops were employed during the three months with over a quarter million Allied casualties. German troops numbered over 1 million overall and 530,000 of them were either killed or captured.

In the months leading up to World War II, there was a tendency among many Americans to talk absently about the trouble in Europe. Nothing that happened an ocean away seemed very threatening. – Gene Tierney

Our vision of war is probably too influenced by the biggest one of all, World War II, where the forces of evil were so unambiguous and so relentless that there was no choice but to commit to total war and to demand unconditional surrender. Seldom, though, is it quite that clear cut. – David Horsey

Americans, particularly after World War II, tended to romanticize war because in World War II our cause was the cause of humanity, and our soldiers brought home glory and victory, and thank God that they did. But it led us to romanticize it to some extent. – Neil Sheeha

We learned in World War II that no single nation holds a monopoly on wisdom, morality or right to power, but that we must fight for the weak and promote democracy. – Joe Baca

January 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 27, 2017

1945: Auschwitz concentration camp is liberated. The camp was part of the Nazi system built by the Third Reich in Poland. The original camp, Auschwitz I, and the second camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau were later joined by Auschwitz III-Monowitz. The first of the concentration camps was built in 1940 and the first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941. Auschwitz II-Birkenau went on to become a major site for the Nazi Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Between 1942 and late 1944 trains brought prisoners to the camp in droves. Jews especially were brought here where they were killed in gas chambers filled with the pesticide Zyklon B. At least 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with about 90% of them Jews. Seventeen percent of all Jews killed in the Holocaust died at this camp.

Jews were not the only people sent to Auschwitz. There were also 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Russian POWs, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others. Another targeted group were homosexuals who were persecuted regardless of religion or national origin. The gas chambers were not the only way for prisoners to die. Others were killed by starvation, forced labor, disease, executions, and medical experimentation. The Nazi staff at Auschwitz consisted of about 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel or SS and about 12% of the staff was later convicted of war crimes. Rudolf Höss, the camp commandant, was executed for his role in the mass killings.

During the last half of 1944, when the War was coming to an end, not in favor of the Third Reich, there were about 130,000 prisoners held at Auschwitz. As the Soviet Red Army got ever nearer, about half of the prisoners were transported to other, more distant, prisons. As the Red Army entered Poland in November 1944, Himmler ordered the mass scale gassing operations to cease not only at Auschwitz but across the Reich. Creamatorias were dismantled or repurposed into air raid shelters. The SS was ordered to get rid of evidence of the mass executions. To that end, as the Red Army drew ever closer, the remaining staff burned records and demolished many buildings.

At the beginning of the month, Himmler ordered evacuations of all camps. On January 17, 58,000 Auschwitz prisoners began a forced march towards Wodzisław Śląski but thousands died or were killed on the march. On this day, the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army liberated the camp were only 7,500 prisoners remained alive along with over 600 corpses. Also found at the camp were 370,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s garments, and 8.5 tons of human hair. This date is celebrated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the camp site has been dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The sad and horrible conclusion is that no one cared that Jews were being murdered… This is the Jewish lesson of the Holocaust and this is the lesson which Auschwitz taught us.  – Ariel Sharon

That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life – that is what is abnormal. – Elie Wiesel

Jews survived all the defeats, expulsions, persecutions and pogroms, the centuries in which they were regarded as a pariah people, even the Holocaust itself, because they never gave up the faith that one day they would be free to live as Jews without fear. – Jonathan Sacks

The Holocaust, taken by itself, is a black hole. To look at it directly is to be swallowed up by it. – David Novak

Le Paradis Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2014
Le Paradis massacre site

Le Paradis massacre site

May 27, 1940: The Le Paradis massacre takes place. The Battle of Dunkirk began just the day before. This important engagement of World War II lasted until June 4, 1940 with the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium fighting against Germany. The battle for France began in earnest on May 10, the same day Winston Churchill became PM of Britain. By May 26, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French First Army were trapped in an area about 60 miles long and 15-25 miles wide between the sea and advancing German troops. Two massive German armies flanked the allied forces. The Germans had about 800,000 men under Generals Gerd von Rundstedt and Ewald von Kleist. Lord Gort was in charge of the British troops while three French generals were also involved in defense with approximately 400,000 troops fighting for the Allies.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment was involved with the BEF. After an engagement at Le Cornet Malo, the men fell back to their headquarters at Cornet Farm, just outside Le Paradis. The commanders had been informed by radio that they were isolated and on their own and no assistance would be forthcoming. Their last contact with Brigade Headquarters was at 11:30 AM. They were in a defensive position as Waffen-SS troops attacked the farm building with mortars, tanks, and artillery which basically destroyed the building and forced the men to relocate to a cowshed. Ninety-nine men survived the attack but they had run out of ammunition.

Their leader, Major Lisle Ryder, ordered a surrender. The cowshed was near a road that was a boundary between two British regiments and as they raised their white flag, they surrendered to SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Fritz Knochlein’s unit rather than to the men they had been fighting. The 99 men, most of them wounded, were disarmed and led down a road off the Rue du Paradis. They were marched to a barn, lined up, and fired upon by two German machinegunners. Knochlein then armed some men with bayonets to make sure all the men were dead before they rejoined their units. Private Albert Pooley and one other man managed to survive. Private William O’Callaghan had pulled himself and Pooley into a hiding place (a pig sty) where they survived on raw potatoes and water from puddles before the farm owners discovered them and offered them aid. They were eventually captured by Germans but survived the war.

French civilians were forced to bury the 97 dead in a mass grave. The bodies were exhumed in 1942 and reburied in a local cemetery by the French authorities. Their final resting place became the Le Paradis War Cemetery. Excavation in 2007 revealed that approximately 20 more men, probably from the Royal Scots, were buried nearby in another shallow grave. After the war, Knochlein was tried for war crimes with Pooley and O’Callaghan able to testify against him. He was found guilty and was executed on January 28, 1949 at the age of 37.

When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin. – Winston Churchill

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. – George S. Patton

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Ernest Hemingway

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day: No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 25, 2012
Admiral Nimitz arriving in Hawaii

Admiral Nimitz arriving in Hawaii

December 25, 1941: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz arrives at Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, inflicting great damage on the Pacific Fleet. At the time, there were eight battleships in the harbor. Four of them were sunk, three were damaged, and one was grounded. Two other ships were sunk, nine more were damaged. There were 188 aircraft destroyed and another 159 damaged. Husband Kimmel and Walter Short watched in horror as 2,402 were killed and 1,247 wounded. There were 57 civilians killed and 35 more wounded. The Japanese lost 5 submarines and 29 aircraft. There were 64 Japanese killed and one captured.

On December 17, Nimitz was selected as Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, effective December 31. He was flown out to Hawaii to relieve Adm. Kimmel of command. He was carried across the ocean aboard a PB2Y-2 Coronado, a four-engine plane which was a larger version of the PBY Catalina. The plane left San Diego in the early evening of December 24. It took 17.2 hours to fly from California to Hawaii. As the plane approached Pearl Harbor, Nimitz was invited by the pilot to the flight deck. They flew circles around the harbor, giving the admiral a chance to truly see the damage inflicted. Nimitz took command standing on the deck of the submarine USS Grayling. Normally this would have been done on the deck of a battleship, but all of them had been either sunk or damaged in the attack.

On March 24, 1942, a newly formed US-British Combined Chiefs of Staff decided that the Pacific Ocean would be America’s strategic responsibility. By the end of the month, the US had divided the Pacific into three separate theaters – the Pacific Ocean Areas (POA), the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA under the command of General Douglas MacArthur), and the South East Pacific Area. Nimitz was given the job of Commander in Chief over all areas with operational control over all Allied forces – air, land, and sea.

His first order of business after taking command was to build the fleet back to some form of operational strength. He successfully organized the restoration of ships, planes, and supplies and was able to mount an effective defense, and then an offense against the Japanese forces. He took the fight to the Japanese and defeated the navy forces at the Battle of the Coral Sea. He went on to the Battle of Midway, and pushed forward to the Solomon Islands Campaign. On December 14, 1944, Congress approved a new rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy, the highest grade in the navy. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt bestowed the rank on Chester Nimitz.

He [Nimitz] took the time to shake the hand of every member of the crew and thank them for a comfortable flight and apologized to each for having taken them from their families on Christmas Day! What a giant of a man. What a great leader to take over the Pacific Fleet! – Captain Frank DeLorenzo

Those dirty bastards! Somehow, someway, we are going to make them pay! – Chester W. Nimitz, as the plane circled the harbor upon his arrive to Hawaii

God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless. – Chester W. Nimitz

That is not to say that we can relax our readiness to defend ourselves. Our armament must be adequate to the needs, but our faith is not primarily in these machines of defense but in ourselves. – Chester W. Nimitz

Also on this day:

Mastodons – In 1801 the first complete mastodon skeleton was discovered.
Scone Stone – In 1950, the Stone of Scone was stolen.
It Is Finished – In 1991, the dissolution of the USSR was completed.

Big Chuck

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2012

Charles de Gaulle enters Paris

August 26, 1944: Charles de Gaulle enters Paris. De Gaulle was a French general who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He was born in 1890 and was a veteran of World War I. Between the wars, he was known as a proponent of the mobile armored divisions. During the second war, he led one of the few successful armored counter-attacks at the Battle of France in May 1940. He rejected the 1940 armistice with Nazi Germany from the outset. De Gaulle escaped to England before France fell to Germany in June 1940. Paris was occupied by conquerors on June 14, 1940.

De Gaulle, in England, gave a radio address broadcast by the BBC pleading with French nationals to resist the German invaders. He organized the Free French Forces using other exiles in Britain. He also slowly amassed the oversight of French colonial holdings except for Indonesia, which was under the control of a pro-German Vichy regime. Although he gained a reputation of being a difficult man to work with, by the time the French were ready to retake Paris, de Gaulle was essentially the leader of the French government in exile.

Roosevelt did not wish to set up a provisional government in France and wished to let the now free French vote for the leaders they wished. De Gaulle, however, disagreed and did not want an Allied military government in place. Churchill tried to mediate between the two leaders without much success. After the success of D-Day, the liberation of Europe was in full swing. The Germans were retreating as the Allies advanced. Paris was not a strategic site and not on the Allied list of important cities to control. De Gaulle, however, lobbied for it to be a priority. This was done and on this day, the French General was once again inside his own city.

After the war, de Gaulle was the prime minister of the provisional French government. He resigned in 1946 over political conflict. He was, however, voted back into power as prime minister in May 1958. A new constitution was written under his auspices and the Fifth Republic was founded. De Gaulle was elected President, an office with more power than under the previous constitutions. He resigned from the Presidency on April 28, 1969. He died at his home on November 9, 1970 just a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

All my life I have had a certain idea of France.

France has no friends, only interests. (In response to Clementine Churchill, “General, you must not hate your friends more than you hate your enemies.”)

Let us be firm, pure and faithful; at the end of our sorrow, there is the greatest glory of the world, that of the men who did not give in.

Politics, when it is an art and a service, not an exploitation, is about acting for an ideal through realities. – all from Charles de Gaulle

Also on this day:

The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.

World War II

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 2, 2011

Peace in our time

September 2, 1945: World War II ends with the surrender of Japan. The war began on September 1, 1939 when Germany and Slovakia attacked Poland. Eventually, the Axis powers were joined by Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Japan. The Allies were composed of several nations as well with Great Britain, France, the USSR and the US as the lead combatants. During the six years and one day of war, the Allies lost over 16,000,000 military dead and over 45,000,000 civilian dead. The Axis had over 8,000,000 military dead and over 4,000,000 civilian dead.

Two days after the Nazis invaded Poland, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany. The US declared neutrality on September 5 and Canada joined in the war effort on September 10. The USSR joined in on September 17 by also invading Poland. The USSR and the Nazis invaded several countries in Europe throughout the rest of the year and into 1940. Hitler declared war on France on June 10 and the country fell by June 22, stunning the Allied forces. Japanese forces were active in China and the Far East and they attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 dragging the US into the war.

Back in Europe, by the end of 1944, Germany’s advances had been lost and she was in retreat. On April 30, 1945 the Reichstag was captured and the Axis leadership was in disarray. Mussolini, leader in Italy, was killed on April 28 and two days later Hitler committed suicide. German forces surrendered in Western Europe on May 7. War continued to rage in the Pacific theater. After dropping two atomic bombs on the Japanese in August, the Japanese were ready to offer unconditional surrender.

The Japanese Instrument of Surrender officially ended World War II. It was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The signatories represented the Empire of Japan, the US, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the USSR, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of Canada, the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Dominion of New Zealand. The document was signed at a ceremony with General of the Army Douglas MacArthur signing at 9:08 AM. A huge force of American planes flew over the Missouri to celebrate the ending of this horrific war.

“The losses were heavy, but all ranks would willingly undertake another operation under similar conditions…We have no regrets.” – Major General Robert Urquhart – Commander of 1st British Airborne Division – (Commenting on the British defeat at Arnhem) – January 1945

“The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.” – James Forrestal – Secretary of the Navy – 23rd February 1945

“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz – 16th March 1945

“It is on this beautiful day that we celebrate the Fuhrers birthday and thank him for he is the only reason why Germany is still alive today.” – Josef Goebbels – Ministry of Propaganda – 26th April 1945

Also on this day:
Liberal Arts and Music – In 1833, Oberlin College is founded.
London Burns – In 1666, the Great Fire of London began.