Member Article: Tancred Borenius – Forgotten intelligence hero or messenger for wartime Churchillian coup?
by John Harris
The spring of 1941 saw wartime Britain at its most vulnerable and desperate. Nightly bombing raids over the long cold winter of 1940 by the German Luftwaffe had sought to bring the Churchill led government to the negotiating table prior to the implementation of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, originally timetabled for May 15th 1941.
Contrary to the usual post war history, many in positions of influence in Britain also favoured a negotiated settlement. All they knew and saw was the nightly devastation from an enemy far superior to themselves in terms of current offensive power. They certainly didn't know of the potential respite from any future German invasion of Russia; indeed the two countries were still active partners in a mutually beneficial trade agreement; their so called Commercial agreement, originally signed in February 1940.
Member Article: Soviet rifle corps in the Russo-German War, 1945
by Bill Wilson
For many in the Wehrmacht, the Red Army was for the entire war a poorly-understood force. German intelligence had some idea of how large the Red Army was at various points during the war, but German misconceptions about the Soviet forces have endured in the popular imagination, lending vague notions of "red hordes" and overwhelming numerical superiority.
Even though the structure of these forces has been made available by Russian sources, it remains a little known topic of the Second World War. Significant among the obscuring factors is the sheer number of formations fielded by the Soviets. Even their largest field force, the fronts, would be difficult to list from memory. Likewise, the situation for combined-arms armies and, further down, rifle corps is even more problematic because of their quantity.
Member Article: The Morality of Okinawa - Applying the Doctrine of "Just War"
by LtCol Richard Beil USMC(Ret.)
In any discussion about war, there is a vast gulf between the pacifist perspective that all war is wrong, and the realist perspective that all's fair in war, sometimes glibly expressed as just nuke ‘em and be done with it. In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). Elsewhere, in the Sermon on the Mount, he tells us "if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39). From such verses, some have concluded that Christianity is a pacifist religion and that violence is never permitted. But the same Jesus elsewhere acknowledges the legitimate use of force, telling the apostles, "let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one" (Luke 22:36). How are these passages to be reconciled?
Between pacifism and realism lies the concept of the Just War. Judgments on war and wartime conduct go back to Thucydides and the Melian Dialogue  in his History of the Peloponnesian War.
Member Article: The First Class at RAF No. 31 Radio School: August to September, 1941
by Paul Renard
U.S. Navy Aircraft Radioman First Class (ARM1/c) William C. “Willie” Fuchs (1919- ) crossed the border into Canada on 12 August 1941 and rode the busy wartime rails across western Ontario to Goderich along Lake Huron with a group of fellow sailors who had just completed a radar course at the Naval Research Laboratory Radio Materiel School (NRL RMS). Leaving the grain freighters of the town’s small harbor and its train station behind, he climbed aboard a bus for the final thirteen miles of his journey along the twisting Maitland River through a flat landscape of remote farms and small woodlots. At the end of his trip was the newly opened Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 31 Radio School (RS) outside of Clinton—a top secret facility reflecting Great Britain’s determination to continue the struggle against the Axis regardless of the outcome of battles in Europe.
Part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP), No. 31 Radio School opened on 20 July 1941 and was ready to begin radar design and maintenance classes for an initial group of 133 U.S. Navy and Army personnel and a few RAF trainees on August 16. Clinton was chosen for its remoteness to preserve secrecy, and because of its rolling countryside and proximity to a large body of water—conditions similar to those of southeast Britain. Its remote location in an insular farming community had two advantages: a lack of distractions for the trainees, and the unlikeliness of encounters with Axis espionage agents. The first class session lasted just under a month, concluding on 13 September. U.S. students consisted of 25 naval officers, 72 Navy enlisted men, and 36 Army enlisted men.
Member Article: France's Forgotten D-Day: Operation Dragoon and the Invasion of Southern France
by Bruce Malone
The United States Seventh Army’s invasion of the southern coast of France on 15 August 1944 is one of the least celebrated Allied combat operations of the Second World War. In the end, Operation Dragoon (originally named Operation Anvil) proved to be one of the most important Allied campaigns, yet it remains one of the most controversial Allied strategic decisions. The American decision to launch Operation Dragoon against strenuous British objections changed the Anglo-American Allied relationship for the duration of the war, as the United States, long the leader in materiel production and numbers of soldiers, assumed the role of strategic senior partner. From start to finish and long afterwards, Allied leaders hotly debated the merits of this campaign and its results. Supporters of the invasion, mostly American, point out its vital assistance to the campaign in northern France, while its detractors, mostly British, find fault for its negative influence on the difficult fight in Italy. Often lost in these arguments are the actual results of this remarkable campaign.
Member Article: The Soviet Invasion of Manchuria and the Kwangtung Army
by Paul S. Teague
From the start of the twentieth century, the Japanese considered Russia, and later the Soviet Union as its potential primary adversary. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 temporarily removed the Russian threat and the Japanese proceeded to garrison Manchuria. Initially this garrison consisted of two Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) divisions; however by 1910 this was reduced to six reserve battalions. In 1916 these reserve battalions were replaced by IJA regulars and in 1919 the Kwangtung Army was established with astrength of 10,000 soldiers by the IJA Order Number Twelve.
Officers in the Kwangtung Army considered themselves the guardians of Japan’s frontiers, and they believed the War Ministry did not appreciate the danger to Manchuria that the Soviets posed. The Kwangtung Army moved quickly to consolidate and expand control of Manchuria, and they began political maneuvers to establish a puppet government. A group of Kwangtung Army officers led by Ishiwara Kanji judged that the moment was ripe for bold action.
Member Article: Battle of Buna-Gona
by Paul S. Teague
In the South Pacific the Japanese wanted to establish a perimeter which the
Allies would not be able to penetrate, this perimeter would also allow the
Japanese to interdict the lines of communications between the United States and
Australia, thus isolating Australia. In order to accomplish this, the Japanese
planned to capture Port Moresby, New Guinea and to use the facilities there for
ground based air support against the Americans and Australians. The Japanese
also planned to construct a sea plane facility at Tulagi, and to construct an
airfield on Guadalcanal. The Japanese intentions were to Take Port Moresby and
Tulagi in order to secure air mastery of the Coral Sea and its shores. It was
allied resistance to this that resulted in the Battle of the Coral Sea 4-8 May
1942. The Allies were successful at the Battle of the Coral Sea in that, although the
Japanese were successful in taking Tulagi on 3 May 1942 they were prevented from
landing at Port Moresby. Though the Japanese landing at Port Moresby was
thwarted, they still intended to take it. The entire purpose of the attempted
landing at Port Moresby was to provide the Japanese with facilities to protect
additional movements into Southern New Guinea and to launch raids on Australia
to weaken the Allies ability to move troops.
Member Article: The Silent Service and the Turkey Shoot
by James Hinton
They called it the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. American pilots flying from fifteen carriers met Japanese pilots from nine carriers and four islands in the waters just off of Saipan. The resulting battle was the greatest carrier battle of World War II.
At the end of the fighting Japan had lost 80% of its employed aircraft, three carriers, and two oilers, and had failed to achieve any of its objectives. The U.S. carrier pilots were lauded and toasted for their victory, and are credited for effectively ending the Japanese carrier threat. In the seventy years since the Battle of the Philippine Sea took place it has been known as the pinnacle moment for Navy Aviation.
The truth is far more complicated. While the Navy air arm did account for many of the relatively cheap Japanese planes from the carrier force, and their inexperienced, it wasn’t them that delt the harshest blows in the Marianas. Instead, it was the U.S. submarine fleet that did the lion’s share of destroying the virtually irreplaceable ships of the Japanese carrier fleet.
American Airborne Units in World War II
by Michael F. Dilley
This short history will cover those combat military groups, squadrons, battalions,
regiments, divisions, and the one corps of U.S. airborne units in World War II.
It will not include Army Air Corps units (such as the Air Commandos) or Troop Carrier
units, or organizations that had American individuals in them who were airborne
qualified and even made operational jumps, such as Army and Marine Corps members
of the Office of Strategic Services (including those with Jedburgh teams and Operations
Groups), or the multi-service, multi-national Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance
Force (which initially included women who had previously jumped into denied areas).
\ The first plan to use parachute forces by American units was developed during World
War I. On 17 October 1918, Brigadier General William P. (Billy) Mitchell, a later
proponent of strategic aerial bombing, conceived the idea of dropping an American
division by parachute from bomber aircraft into an area in the vicinity of Metz,
Germany. The details of the planning were developed by Major Lewis H. Brereton,
a member of Mitchell’s Air Service staff. Brereton would later serve as the commander
of the First Allied Airborne Army during World War II as a Lieutenant General. (The
First Allied Airborne Army consisted of the American XVIII Airborne Corps, which
included: the 17th Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st
Airborne Division; and the British I Airborne Corps, which included: the 1st Airborne
Division and the 6th Airborne Division. Troop carrier units were also part of Brereton’s
Czechoslovak Exile Units of WWII
by Kai Isaksen
In 1938, the 1,500,000-strong Czechoslovak Army was among the largest in Europe, and fairly well-equipped with modern weapons, including locally produced tanks and aircraft.
On November 1st 1938, German troops entered the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, occupying the entire region with almost no resistance from the Czech forces – only 3rd Battalion of the 8th Border Regiment briefly resisted advancing German troops before being ordered to lay down their weapons by the Czech High Command.
In rapid succession, the Sudetenland was formally ceded to Germany. As had been decided in Munich, a third of Slovakia was ceded to Hungary and Poland occupied the Zaolizie region. Slovakia declared independence under a fascist government, and Ruthenia (part of modern Ukraine) tried to do the same, but was promptly invaded and annexed by Hungary.
Published works on Second World War Orders of Battle for land forces
by Bill Wilson
The armies of the Second World War were typically large organizations the formation of which was made possible by the total war efforts of the combatant nations. Holding continuous front lines in Europe, particularly in the Soviet Union, demanded the mobilization of hundreds of divisions in addition to other elements by both sides. Orders of battle indicate which units were present in given battles and campaigns, as well as providing information useful for determining the assignments and subordination of particular units within the national military structure.
The published works addressing orders of battle vary widely in their degree of comprehensiveness. Some have been published postwar as official works while others are commercial publications. Besides the published works, there are also primary sources available in the archives of the combatant nations. An evaluation of these primary sources is not in the scope of this article. This article will evaluate selected published order of battle works for Germany, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and the United States.
Book Review: Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-1942: Schwerpunkt
by Robert Forczyk
Robert Forczyk, a former US Army armor officer, once and for all dispels the persistent myth of German armor superiority during the first
years on the Eastern front.
As a reader, I found it amazing just how far behind in technology the Germans found themselves even at the very onset of Barbarossa.
By providing in-depth analysis of the tank engagements during these first years, Forczyk makes a convincing argument that the early German successes
were not due to superior tank design and performace, but instead because of German tactics, experience, logistics, communication, training, and initiative.
One realizes it was just became a matter of time before the Soviets caught up to the Germans in the other categories - thus permanently turning
the tide in the east.
Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-1942 is a highly-recommended read and is vital to understanding the reasons for eventually German
defeat in the east.
Flying Tiger, Hidden Eagle
by Christopher Lyon
It was December of 1939, and the world was at war. Poland, Czechoslovakia, France,
Italy, China, Great Britain, Russia and Japan all had seats at the highest stakes
game the world had ever seen, but the United States was quite noticeably absent.
Many historians have argued that Franklin Roosevelt did his utmost to propel the
country into conflict with Germany and Japan, and when viewed through the lens of
the Chinese conflict, this controversy is accentuated and brought to the fore. Although
it would be two full years before the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor, it was in this
critical month, when all Europe was falling under the sway of fascism, that the
Roosevelt administration, and especially the president himself, was preparing for
the coming storm. By mid-1940, the US was preparing to boost its support of the
hard-pressed Chinese troops with a very significant number of advanced fighters,
bombers, and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. For years the Chinese, who
had been fighting both the Japanese and been embroiled in their own civil war, had
faced the technological might of Japan armed only with planes from WWI and infantry
weapons that often pre-dated even that conflict. A US colonel, Claire Chennault,
who had been an advisor to the Chinese military since 1937, oversaw the creation
of the American Volunteer Group, a unit of US servicemen and pilots who volunteered
to serve in the Chinese military in late 1940 and early 1941.
SAARF – Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force
by Michael F. Dilley
In early 1945, with the Allied forces closing in on Germany from the west and Russian forces from the east, there was concern on the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) staff about the continued safety of Prisoners of War (POWs) in the hands of the Germans. Some intelligence reporting indicated that the Germans may be moving POWs out of camps in areas where Allied military forces were near at hand. Fears of German maltreatment of POWs in the event the war was lost had been raised earlier but planning for those contingencies did not receive a high priority.
As the situation became more of a reality and concerns were raised that camp personnel might decide to massacre prisoners, the priority for planning was raised. The new plans centered on establishing Contact Teams which could be parachuted into or near POW camps to observe and report activities relative to prisoner safety or to intercede in the event of any observed untoward actions being directed against prisoners. Based on limited intelligence reporting, conditions in some of the camps were believed to be bad. There was also uncertainty about whether Hitler might order that actions be taken against prisoners in view of Germany steadily losing ground in the war.
The Force at la Difensa
by Michael F. Dilley
Italy, early December 1943. It had been raining since mid-September. Rivers in the area were running high, bridges were swept away, and road surfaces were mostly gone. And, of course, it was cold.
The German Winter Line had held out despite attack after attack by Lieutenant General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army. Regardless of any progress made, no advance beyond the Mignano Gap to Cassino was achieved. This Gap was flanked by the Camino hill mass including mountains such as la Difensa, la Remetanea, Rotondo, and Lungo.
On 22 November, Fifth Army had announced Operation Raincoat, “the plan to breach the mountain passes.” One of the units in this plan was new to the Italian theater, having previously served in the invasion of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. It was assigned to the U.S. 36th Infantry Division as the spearhead of the operation. This unit was the First Special Service Force.
Sabotaging Hitler’s Heavy Water
by Michael F. Dilley
The years leading up to and including World War II saw a race by Germany and the United States to develop an atomic weapon. Although the idea of nuclear fission was first mentioned in 1934, it was not until four years later that experiments confirmed it by using Uranium. The two methods for moderating the energy of neutrons loosed by bombarding Uranium involve the use of heavy water or graphite. Heavy water, or Deuterium, which looks like regular water, was discovered in 1933. Germany ultimately decided to use heavy water in its nuclear reactor to breed the Plutonium-239 needed in its weapons research.
One method of producing heavy water is by separating it from regular water using electrolysis. This method requires electrolysis chambers and a considerably large amount of power. Ultimately the heavy water supplier for scientists throughout the world was the hydroelectric plant run by Norsk Hydro, located near Rjukan in the Telemark region of Norway.
The Soviet Offensive in the Arctic: The Pechenga (Petsamo)-Kirkenes Operation 1944
by Kai & Iryna Isaksen
The Pechenga-Kirkenes Operation, as it became known in Soviet military literature, is an important part of Soviet military history, but has been largely ignored in Western military literature, even though the last few years have seen an increased interest in the operations north of the Arctic Circle in WW2.
It was the "10th hammer blow", the last in a series of strategic offensive operations conducted by Soviet armed forces throughout 1944, designed to deal a decisive blow to the German ability to conduct counter offensives and mount military operations along the entire Eastern Front.
The battle, or rather series of battles, is the largest ever fought north of the Arctic circle and lessons are still being drawn today from the experience of the two armies that slugged it out in the moonlike landscape of the tundra west of Murmansk.
On October 7th 1944, a Soviet force of nearly 113,000 men of the Karelian Front, commanded by General Meretskov (later Marshal of the Soviet Union) launched an offensive against the 60,000-man German XIX Mountain Corps, defending in prepared positions along the Litsa river valley northwest of Murmansk.
Assisted by sea, air, and land forces (Naval infantry/marines) of the Northern Fleet, the Soviet 14th Army defeated the German forces in a three-phased operation that lasted a total of 24 days.
The Failure of Strategic Bombing and the Emergence of the Fighter as the Preiminent Weapon in Aerial Warfare
by Jeff L. Patton
The aircraft family tree began to split into specialties at the beginning of the Great War in 1914. From the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903, the airplane developed into single and twin engine variants carrying one or two crewmembers whose primary duty was observation and reconnaissance. Immediately before the advent of hostilities, the need for specialized aircraft became apparent and the combatant powers followed similar lines of development of fighter, bomber, and reconnaissance aircraft. Fighter aircraft were generally lighter, smaller, faster and more maneuverable in keeping with their mission to shoot down other aircraft while bombers were larger, longer ranged, carried multiple crew members and a heavier payload in keeping with their mission of being bomb haulers. When man first dropped explosives from an aircraft is unknown. However, the concept of using aircraft as bombers predates fighters by several years.
Dutch Harbor: The Unraveling of Japan’s Pacific Strategy
by Del C. Kostka
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto drew his hand across a map of the northern Pacific Ocean
in a long, sweeping arc. From Attu Island on the far western edge of the Bearing
Sea, the admiral traced his finger along the Aleutian archipelago to the island
of Amaknak near the Alaskan mainland. There, in June of 1942, Yamamoto intended
to strike the American forces at Dutch Harbor. As a strategist, Yamamoto had achieved
near deity status among the Japanese Imperial High Command. His crushing attack
on Pearl Harbor just six months prior was followed by quick and decisive victory
in the Philippines, Malaya, and the East Indies. Now, with the southwest Pacific
under firm Japanese control, Yamamoto looked to expand offensive operations to the
north and central Pacific. By attacking key strategic points in the Aleutians, as
well as Midway Island on the western tip of the Hawaiian chain, he intended to lure
the already weakened U.S. Pacific fleet from Pearl Harbor to its final destruction.
Yet despite his meticulous planning, his intellect and his vaunted reputation, the
attack on the remote Alaskan harbor upon which he now rested his finger would prove
to be one of Yamamoto’s greatest strategic blunders.
The Texas 36th Division: A History
by Bruce Brager
Perhaps the best way to give an idea of the human cost the 36th Division paid in World War II (and its other wars) is to reprint some material from the files of the 36th Division Association [ii] (apparently a rough draft of material for an early newsletter).
Soldier: Ed Ramsey, 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts)
by Bob Seals
This meeting engagement on Bataan at the village of Morong, led by then First Lieutenant Ed Ramsey on 16 January 1942, was to be the last horse mounted charge by U.S. Army Cavalry in military history. Surviving early days of defeat and disaster, Ed Ramsey was destined to have one of the most challenging and interesting wartime careers of the Pacific theater during the Second World War. His action packed four years of combat, mostly spent behind Japanese lines, reads like a pulp fiction novel written by a Hollywood screen writer. An illustrative example of an interwar generation of hard-charging Cavalry Army Officers, who worked hard and played hard, Ramsey rose to the occasion after the 8th of December 1941. Refusing to surrender on Bataan in April of 1942, he led tens of thousands guerrillas on Luzon in one of the most successful resistance campaigns of the war against ruthless Imperial Japanese Army occupation forces. His remarkable career in the Second World War encompassed the end of several storied American military institutions, to include the Philippine Scouts and Army horse cavalry, while helping to lay the doctrinal foundation of an Army branch not born until after the war, the U.S. Army Special Forces.
The U.S. Army in Czechoslovakia 1945: An Operational Overview
by Bryan J. Dickerson
From April to December of 1945, the Third U.S. Army conducted operations in and
around the western region of Czechoslovakia. Altogether, three of its corps (XII,
V and XXII) and nine infantry and four armored divisions and two cavalry groups
participated in these operations.
The Czechoslovak operations fell into three distinct phases: Border Operations,
Liberation and Occupation. The Border Operations Phase occurred from 15 April until
5 May. During this time, the 90th and 97th Infantry Division and 2nd Cavalry Group
screened the Czechoslovak border and conducted several limited offensive operations
across the border to protect Third U.S. Army’s left flank as Third Army drove south-eastward
into rumored Alpine Festung (National Redoubt) area of southern Germany / western
During the Liberation Phase (5-8 May 1945), V Corps and XII Corps conducted a major
offensive to liberate western Czechoslovakia from Nazi German occupation. The 1st,
2nd, 5th, 26th, 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions, 4th, 9th and 16th Armored Divisions
and the 2nd and 102nd Cavalry Groups all participated in liberating over 3,400 square
miles of Czechoslovakia. Their irresistible drive was only halted by the orders
of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower approximately on the line
Karlovy Vary – Plzen – Ceske Budejovice. Having been oppressed by the Nazis for
six long years, Czechs in small villages, towns and the large city of Plzen greeted
their liberators with exuberant public celebrations. The phase ended with the German
High Command surrender and the termination of all hostilities.
The Strategic Culture of the Imperial Japanese Navy
by Gary A. Gustafson
With the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Japan entered into a war against the two most powerful navies in the world, the United States and Britain. An Imperial Liaison Conference on 6 September 1941 approved the “Outline Plan for the Execution of the Empire’s National Policy.” The plan called for three phases. The first phase required the destruction of the US battle line at Pearl Harbor and the capture of resource-rich Southeast Asia. Phase 2 required the consolidation of a defensive perimeter from Burma to Sumatra to the Gilbert Islands to the North Pacific. Phase 3 looked to exploit the natural resources of the captured territory while the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) exhausted American attempts to retake the newly formed Empire of Japan. At a Cabinet Liaison Conference on 1 November 1941, Admiral Nagano Osami, Naval Chief of Staff (NCS), echoed Yamamoto’s earlier thoughts, “We can fight effectively for about two years, but no prediction can be made for after that.”  Despite unprecedented success in the first phase of the plan, within ten months the IJN had lost two thirds of its fleet carriers, was quickly losing an attritional campaign in the Solomon Islands, and had completely relinquished the initiative to the enemy.
The Battles of Luneville: September 1944
by Bryan J. Dickerson
The catalyst for this paper was Jenna Carpenter Smith. On Veterans Day 2012, she
contacted me seeking information about her late grandfather, Staff Sergeant Joseph
Carpenter, who had served in the 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group [Mechanized] in
World War Two. Jenna had contacted me after reading about her grandfather in my
article “The Liberation of Western Czechoslovakia 1945” which is also posted on
Military History Online. I knew Joe Carpenter and his wife Ellin for several years
before their deaths. Joe was one of the many World War Two veterans who have assisted
me with my research on World War Two in Europe and the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
That night, Jenna and I spoke by phone, during which time I shared my memories of
her grandfather and grandmother. I explained to her the role that her grandfather
and the 2nd Cavalry Group played in the European Campaign and share with her some
of the stories that Joe had told me a number of years ago.
Member Article: Military History Online - World War II Game
by Ed Druback
This “After Action Report” (AAR) was intended to be written for a dual audience even though it is a review of one game played of the infinite variety of possible outcomes. First and foremost this AAR was written for someone who has never played a table top war game. If you are interested in the early stages of WWII (through the fall of France) whether you have ever played a war game or not, I hope I have made this AAR an enjoyable read.
Visual Guide to the U.S. Fleet Submarines: Part 1
by David L. Johnston
A cursory review of photographs of the U.S. fleet submarines of World War II often
leaves the reader with the impression that the boats were nearly identical in appearance.
Indeed, the fleet boats from the Porpoise class all the way to the late war Tench
class were all similar enough in appearance that it is easy to see how this impression
is justified. However, a more detailed examination of the boats will reveal a bewildering
array of differences, some of them quite distinct, that allow the separation of
the boats into their respective classes. Ironically, the rapidly changing configuration
of the boats’ appearances often makes it difficult to get down to a specific boat
identification. However being familiar with all of the wartime changes will allow
you to narrow down the date of the photo and when combined with other data will
sometimes get you the specific name.
Lodge Act Soldier: Henryk "Frenchy" Szarek
by Bob Seals
No nation of the world suffered more during World War II than Poland. Having the
geographical misfortune to exist between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland
sustained more losses as a percentage than any other belligerent; an estimated twenty
percent of every man, woman or child in the nation, some 6 million or so by best
estimate. Enduring six hellish years of occupation, partition, deportations,
slave labor and mass executions, the Polish suffering did not end with the unconditional
surrender of the Third Reich on May 7, 1945. Thousands of Polish nationals, to include
soldiers who had faithfully served the Allied cause on various fronts, faced an
uncertain future, part of the enormous 14 million refugee population of Europe displaced
by war. With the Iron Curtain stretching from “…Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste
in the Adriatic,” in the words of Winston S. Churchill, individuals displaced by
the war faced the agonizing choice of remaining in the west or returning eastward
to live in their Stalinist dominated communist homelands.
Air Reconnaissance in the Second World War
by Del C. Kostka
In 1919, the great arsenals of the world lay in ruins. After four years of bitter
conflict, weary governments eagerly scrapped the instruments of war that spread
so much carnage and destruction across the continent of Europe. A global peace movement
and tight fiscal budgets conspired to keep military development to a minimum during
the post-war era, and in almost every nation’s air service the discipline that suffered
the most was aerial reconnaissance. It would be a shortsighted policy. Just twenty
years after “the war to end all wars," an even greater global crisis would once
again prove the indispensable nature of strategic aerial reconnaissance in modern,
mechanized warfare. Without question, air reconnaissance had an enormous impact
on military operations during the First World War. Airborne observers provided clarity
and situational awareness for battlefield commanders (Tactical Intelligence), and
air photo interpreters provided information about the enemy’s strength, logistics
and capabilities (Strategic Intelligence). But the intelligence value of air reconnaissance
in the First World War was considered secondary to the role that aviation played
in guiding artillery fire. Airborne artillery spotting, when combined with new wireless
communication and artillery technologies, constituted the most lethal weapon system
of the war. In fact, airborne artillery spotting was so effective that most post-war
military strategists considered air reconnaissance simply an extension of ground
Interview with WWII Veteran Walter Holy
Interview by Tony Welch
An astounding number of American teenagers, both male
and female, altered their birth dates in order to serve their country during World
War 11. The practice reached its peak in 1943. Over time, nearly 50,000 were detected
and sent home. Among the many who eventually managed to enlist, a handful was discovered
– court martialed – and then stripped of any valor awards they might have earned.
But the great majority – some 200,000 -- went unnoticed and served honorably for
the duration. Among those sworn in was Walter Holy (rhymes with ‘moly,’ as in ‘holy
moly’). Walter and his wife Frances reside in Vancouver, Washington, just over the
Columbia River from Portland. There’s a possibility that Walt’s combat boots are
still stashed in the hall closet, just in case. What might Walter be thinking? If
you’re never too young, then you’re also never too old…?
Member Article: Turning East: Hitler's only option
by Thomas Tripp
The invasion of the Soviet Union arguably was the most important military decision
Adolf Hitler made in his life. In just a little under four years, it destroyed the
Thousand Year Reich along with tens of millions of innocent lives. Did this
fatal decision go against his belief of avoiding a two-front war or did Hitler feel
he had a small window of opportunity to win a campaign in the East, provided it
was swift, while the British remained isolated on their island? He felt this would
bring about a settlement with Great Britain without the risk of a cross channel
invasion. Hitler in one of his last recorded conversations in the Reich Chancellery
Bunker in April 1945, stated:
Member Article: The Club Runs: Allied Aircraft Resupply Operations
to Malta, 1942
by Brick Billing
By early 1942 the tiny island of Malta, approximately 100 km south of Sicily, was
effectively under siege. German and Italian advances in North Africa had transformed
the Mediterranean an Axis-held lake, with the nearest Allied bases in Gibraltar
on the eastern end and Egypt on the west. The Axis, realizing Malta’s strategic
position, subjected the tiny island to daily aerial bombardments. Over the course
of two years Malta became one of the most heavily bombed places on Earth as the
German Luftwaffe, and the Italian Regia Aeronautica flew over 3,000
bombing raids in an attempt to neutralize the island . For as long as Malta remained
in Allied hands, British air and sea forces could mount attacks against Axis shipping,
threatening General Erwin Rommel’s supply lines in North Africa. As early as May
1941, Rommel had warned his superiors that: "without Malta the Axis will end
by losing control of North Africa." Standing against this Axis threat were
a series of fighter, bomber, and torpedo squadrons based at Malta’s three airfields;
Luqa, Hal Far, and Takali.
Interview with a World War II Veteran
by Robert C. Daniels
In preparation for writing a book, tentatively entitled “World War II in Mid-America,”
I have conducted oral interviews on 33 people of a small mid-western American community
that had lived during and through the war. These people represent a wide and diverse
range of those living in that area at the time: male, female, military, civilian,
adult, children, farmer, factory worker, etc. These interviews were designed to
gather information on how World War II affected the interviewees’ lives. As such,
questions were asked during the interviews about their lives prior to, during, and
after the war.
by Thomas Leckwold
Operation Market-Garden, the largest airborne operation in history, is a
well known failure because of the inability to capture a bridge over the Rhine River,
and the resulting destruction of the British 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. Many
opinions of the Battle of Arnhem were established by Cornelius Ryan in his book
A Bridge Too Far which became an epic 1977 movie by Joseph Levine and Richard
Attenborough. These works provided readers and movie goers an understanding of the
defeat that Allies suffered. However, these works fail in answering the basic question
of how events on the Western Front influenced the decision of choosing Arnhem as
the objective for such a daring and risky operation to force a crossing of the Rhine?
Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan
by Robert C. Daniels
U.S. Marine Edmond Babler was forced to surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army
in April 1942 with the fall of the Island fortress of Corregidor in the Philippines.
Like many of his fellow POWs, after spending two years of hard labor under what
can only be described as horrendous and savage slave labor conditions in the Philippine
Islands of Luzon and Palawan, he was transported to the Japanese main islands in
what would be known to the prisoners as a Hell Ship. What follows comprises Chapter
7 of 1220 Days: The story of U.S. Marine Edmond Babler and his experiences in Japanese
Prisoner of War Camps during World War II, and is his personal account of
that trip using his vernacular and colloquialisms whenever possible, including the
phonetic form in which Ed originally wrote and remembered several Japanese phrases.
It is his views and memories, with no apologies made nor intended to conform to
the modern concept of political correctness. The author has sparingly inserted clarifications
and corroborating information in encapsulated brackets where deemed necessary to
give the reader a better understanding of the ‘overall picture’ of the war in relation
to what Ed was experiencing.
“She Hastens Onward Still”: The Battleship USS Oregon And its
Place in National Memory
by Dr. Christopher M. Jannings
Ship breakers claimed the vast majority of 19th Pre-dreadnought and 20th century
United States battleships like the USS Oregon upon decommission. Masts,
guns, anchors, smoke stacks, and other elements of the most famous remain on public
display at historic sites, serving as substitutes for full-sized memorials that
require private donations or taxpayer dollars to maintain. The USS Oregon
was the centerpiece for the State of Oregon Marine Park from 1927 to 1942, and seemed
destined for honorable retirement until the outbreak of World War II, but was sacrificed
because of misguided patriotism in the State of Oregon and misappropriation of war
materials and building contracts, particularly involving the use of steel, within
the highest levels of government and industry.
From Liberation to Confrontation: The U.S. Army and Czechoslovakia
1945 to 1948
by Bryan J. Dickerson
In the closing days of World War II in Europe, soldiers of the U.S. Army were welcomed
as Liberators by crowds of Czech civilians exuberant at being freed from six long
years of Nazi tyranny and occupation. Just three short years later, the relation-ship
between the U.S. Army and Czechoslovakia was dramatically different. Instead of
allies, they were now adversaries. Due to the rapidly changing political situation
in central Europe and the emergence of a Cold War between the United States and
the Soviet Union, the U.S. Army in Europe underwent a series of major changes in
mission and structure which culminated with it being forced to assume a combat posture
against the very same country and ally that it had helped liberate from the Nazi
Germany in the spring of 1945. In just three and a half years, the U.S. Army performed
the roles of a combat force / liberator, an occupation force / rebuilder, a police
or constabulary force and ultimately, a combat force again in rapid succession.
Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust: Fact or Fiction?
by Abigail Pfeiffer
For close to fifteen years after the Holocaust there was little written about the
resistance of the European Jewish population against the Nazis and their collaborators.
According to Michael Marrus in his article “Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust”
the reason for this is “…most Jews had little stomach for myth-making of any kind
about Jewish resistance in the immediate shock of the war. It was all Jews could
do in the first postwar years to absorb the reality of mass murder on an unimagined
scale…” Only after the shock of the attempted liquidation of the whole population
of European Jews wore off did some solid historiography emerge about Jewish resistance.
The trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel also prompted more historians to examine Jewish
resistance, especially outside of Israel and Yiddish speaking populations. Two historians
emerged during this time, Hannah Arendt and Raul Hilberg, with views that the Jews
did not resist, at least not on a scale that would have made their resistance successful.
Member Article: Battle for the Seaports
by Ruud Bruyns
On January 30 1945 there was a remarkable movie premiere in the French seaport of
La Rochelle. The latest German war movie ‘Kolberg’ was displayed for the first time
to an audience which consisted of more than 20.000 soldiers, who were besieged by
Allied forces since August 1944. This movie, which was shot in full color, was meant
to boost morale among the German garrison by setting the siege of Kolberg by the
French in 1806 as an example. This was necessary because the Germans were trapped
there for almost half year, as were ten of thousands other German soldiers in the
ports of France, Belgium and Holland during the autumn of 1944. How was it possible
that approximately 200.000 German soldiers were locked up in these ports while the
German homeland was bound to be attacked by the Allies? Was it coincidence, or was
there a plan behind this set-up?
Member Article: A Turn Too Far: Reconstructing the End of the Battle
of the Java Sea
by Del C. Kostksa
Attu rises like a jagged stone from the churning waters of the North Pacific. Barren,
wind-swept, and shrouded in perpetual fog, the island has little relevance to a
world that is barely aware of its existence. Yet in 1943, this obscure wilderness
was the scene of an epic battle between resilient Japanese occupiers and an American
invasion force who were equally determined to possess the island. It was a battle
fought as much against the elements as with an enemy, and where a small and ill-equipped
band of US Army combat engineers found themselves squarely in the path of one of
the largest Japanese Banzai attacks of World War Two.
Member Article: A Turn Too Far: Reconstructing the End of the Battle
of the Java Sea
by Jeffrey R. Cox
The Java Sea campaign has gotten little in the way of analysis in the English-speaking
press, and what coverage it has gotten has largely focused on the role of the crews
of individual ships such as the US cruiser Houston, the Australian cruiser
Perth and the British cruiser Exeter, particularly in their futile
efforts to escape the Java Sea, James Hornfischer’s excellent book Ship of Ghosts
being a case in point. This relative silence is understandable for several reasons.
First of all, we lost. Unless the defeat can be used to bash the United States like
Vietnam is, defeats tend to get less play in the media. Furthermore, the territory
being defended was a Dutch colony, which, since the Dutch mainland was under Nazi
occupation, was effectively serving as their homeland, and thus meant much more
to the Dutch than the Anglos, who found the campaign small in comparison to their
overall war effort in the Pacific.
Member Article: How Arnhem was Lost around Eindhoven
by Landon McDuff
The Texas Army National Guard has a proud history that has not only influenced but,
has come to define its military culture. It is the purpose of this essay to discuss
some of those defining and controversial moments and remember the heroes that made
them so. Texas has traditionally been committed to the defense of its nation and
usually contributes more troops to the U.S. military than any other state.[i] The
Texas Army National Guard traces their beginnings to the fight for Texas’ independence
from Mexico. The spirit of the defenders of the Alamo, and the victorious men that
carried the day on the grounds of San Jacinto, is alive and well in the hearts of
every Texas National Guard soldier and airman. The TXARNG is a state military force
in local operation but trains and fights alongside the federal Army, daubed “Big
Army”. They call themselves “citizen soldiers” because although they have the same
training as “Big Army”, they only serve one weekend out of the month, unless called
into active duty.
Member Article: How Arnhem was Lost around Eindhoven
by Ruud Bruyns
A lot of explanations have been written about the failure of Operation Market Garden,
better known as the Battle of Arnhem after the ultimate goal of the operation. In
the mainly English speaking literature there has been very few references to Dutch
sources, while there have been many detailed publications about Market Garden. The
most notable are ‘Een andere kijk op de slag om Arnhem’ (Another Perspective
on the Battle of Arnhem, 2009) by Peter Berends, and ‘Einddoel Maas’ (End
Goal Meuse, 1984) and ‘Brabant bevrijd’ (Brabant liberated, 1993) by Jack
Didden en Maarten Swarts. The latter argue that Market Garden was lost in Brabant.
I want underline their thesis and want to add some new perspectives to this in this
Member Article: The Saga of Ormoc Bay - November 10, 1944
by Stuart Goldberg
The battle for Leyte had been raging since an Allied invasion force arrived off
the coast of this central Philippine island. From the 23rd of October to the 26th,
in a running battle on the sea and in the air, the Japanese attempted to repulse
the landing. This titanic military engagement, known as “The Battle of Leyte Gulf,”
proved to be the largest naval battle in history and decided the fate of not only
the Philippines, but also of the once mighty IJN Combined fleet. During the four-day
skirmish, Adm. Halsey’s Third Fleet and Adm. Kinkaid’s Seventh decimated four separate
Japanese naval task forces commanded by Admirals Ozawa, Kurita, Nishimura and Shima.
When the smoke had cleared, the surviving Japanese ships of Operation “SHO-GO” limped
back to Tokyo and the Americans secured the landing beaches. Consequently, despite
the stiff resistance by the Imperial Navy and Adm. Onishi’s newly instituted Kamikaze
tactics, American ground troops finally stormed ashore.
Member Article: Hunters of the Deep: A Brief Synopsis of the Contribution
of the Silent Service of the Pacific
by Bryan T. Hayes
The English dictionary refers to "Pacific" as an unaggressive or peaceful nature.
The Pacific theater in WWII was a direct antonym as American and Japanese forces
exercised immense human destruction across the islands and atolls in the central
and Southern theaters. American memories of the WWII Asian battles usually dwell
at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Hiroshima. As such, the majority of Naval
dramatic action captured on film and in books occurred on the surface, on the beaches,
or in the air, as the era witnessed an incredible shift from the battleship force
to the aircraft carrier, its support units and amphibious operations of the Marines
and sustaining naval units.
Member Article: Mush Morton and the crew of the Wahoo, War Criminals?
by David Johnston
On 26 January 1943 the submarine USS Wahoo (SS-238), under the command of
the indomitable Lt. Commander Dudley W. "Mush" Morton, engaged in a running gun
and torpedo battle with a Japanese convoy consisting of four ships off the northern
coast of New Guinea. It would later prove to be a seminal moment in the history
of the famous Morton and his Wahoo, forever cementing their combined reputation
as ace ship hunters. At a time when the war news was almost universally bad, and
when the submarine force was struggling to hit its stride against the Japanese,
Morton and the fighting Wahoo provided a much needed shot in the arm and
morale boost to our Navy and country. Unfortunately, it also would prove to be one
of the most controversial acts committed by one of our submarines during the war,
and would later result in whispered back room (and sometimes open) charges of racism,
murder, and official cover-up.
Member Article: Polish Cavalry: A Military Myth Dispelled
by Alexander Zakrzewski
At 2:00 P.M. on September 1st, 1939, Colonel Kazimierz Mastelarz, commander of the
18th Regiment of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade, spotted a badly exposed battalion
of German infantry in the woods near the Polish village of Krojanty. He hurriedly
assembled his troopers for a sabre charge and fell upon on the unsuspecting enemy,
easily overrunning them. For the Colonel, the short but brief action must have seemed
a fortuitous start to the war for he and his men. Their first encounter with Hitler’s
vaunted Wehrmacht had proven a tactical success at negligible cost. However, his
victory would prove short lived. Before the Poles could reorganize, a column of
German tanks and motorized troops appeared from around a bend and unleashed a devastating
hail of fire.
Excerpt from World's Bloodiest History: Massacre, Genocide, and the Scars
They Left on Civilization by Joseph Cummins
The Belgian farmer, whose name was Henri Lejoly, was surprised at the nonchalance
of the U.S. troops. Standing in the barren field outside of the town of Malmedy
on that cold early afternoon in the winter of 1944, they smoked and joked with each
other. Some of them had placed their hands on their helmets in a casual token of
surrender to the Waffen-SS troops of Kampfgruppe Peiper—the mechanized task
force commanded by the brilliant young German Colonel Jochen Peiper—as it passed
by, but beyond that they seemed remarkably unconcerned. The offhand behavior of
the roughly 115 U.S. prisoners may have been because the men came from Battery B
of the 285th Field Observation Battery. This was an outfit whose job was to spot
enemy artillery emplacements and transmit their location to other U.S. units. It
had seen relatively little frontline duty and was filled with numerous green replacements.
Member Article: The Predominance of Confucian Martial Culture over
Western Influence in the Far East
by Holly Senatore
Consider a society where equality among men is a foreign concept. Consider a state
where democracy is firstly established through removing a military threat through
war and reestablishing a viable working government. Lastly, consider a situation
where asking the post- war populace to embrace democracy is also asking them to
rid themselves of their own centuries long cultural values. This article does not
address the invasion of Iraq in 2003, an event in which the military goals were
readily accomplished yet the cultural goals of instilling democracy among a hostile
people are yet to be seen. Instead, this article examines a similar instance that
unfolded during the mid twentieth century when Japan surrendered to United States
military forces on September 2nd, 1945. This date marked the end of World War II
but established the beginning of a new chapter in Anglo-Japanese relations whereby
democracy was grafted upon a stratified and hierarchal civilization ruled by the
military class since the Yorimoto Shogunate in the 12th century A.D.
Member Article: Operation Market-Garden: British Ground Opeartions
on September 17, 1944
by Thomas Leckwold
Operation Market-Garden was the largest airborne operation ever executed that was
coordinated with a simultaneous ground operation. The operation ultimately failed
but it was largely not an airborne failure, but a ground force failure that was
attributed to a combination of the British operational doctrine and geography. The
British operational doctrine was ill suited for the operation that was envisioned
because, along with the geography, it emphasized the comparative weakness of the
British Army while simultaneously not denying the Wehrmacht many comparative advantages
in its defensive efforts. The result was the British Army’s ground forces inability
to gain momentum during the first day of the offensive and was a critical factor
for the failure of the entire operation.
Member Article: On the Shoulders of Giants: Innovation and Courage
- The Legacy of World War II Submarine Veterans
by Daniel T. Rean
The numbers tell a story. They do not lie. According to the United States Department
of Veterans Affairs, approximately 900 World War II veterans die every day. But
that number is not the whole story. We cannot simply consider statistical losses
when we look at that number. What we are really losing is a unique brand of warriors
who let nothing stand in the way of the march toward victory, and no group of World
War II veterans typified that never-say-die attitude better than that of America’s