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World War II Realism Campaign History Files


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To share with the community what I've been putting together the last few months, I will post the interesting parts of what I've been sharing each month here so others can read it if they were not able to be in attendance.

 

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Past Positions

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2021 World War II Realism Campaign Organizer

 

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January:

5 January
As this is this first night of the campaign, I will cover some of the events that led to the beginning of World War II. To start off, at 11:11 am on November 11th,1918 a cease fire went into effect to end the “war to end all wars” or World War I. In June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed and in January 1920 the League of Nations was created, which the U.S. never joined for various reasons. Shortly after this however, events that would lead to World War II would begin. June 1923 saw the destruction of the Deutschmark in Germany due to astronomical inflation. The Fascist Party in Italy was created under Mussolini and Stalin took control after Lenin died in Russia. 1925 saw Hitler publish “Mein Kampf,” 1926 had the removal of all Allied forces from Germany and Hirohito became the Emperor of Japan. October 1929 saw the Wall Street Crash which led to the great depression in the U.S. September 1931 saw the Mukden Incident, a staged bombing of Japanese railroads that led to a Japanese invasion of Manchuria. This is seen as the start of World War II by many scholars because of the domino effect created by it. Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and then its dictator two months later. Germany created laws forcing the boycott of Jewish businesses, created the Gestapo, SS, and Luftwaffe, outlawed trade unions, left the League of Nations, banned non-Nazi parties and created its concentration camps. The stage was set. The SS and Gestapo killed political enemies in the Night of the Long Knives, Italy invaded Ethiopia, Germany seized the Rheinland, Russia purged all of its political opponents, Italy left the League of Nations and Germany annexed Austria. Appeasement was attempted with the Munich Agreement which gave Czechoslovakia to Germany. This failed though as Germany then annexed Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia, signed pacts with Italy and Russia and then in 1939 invaded Poland. At this point appeasement was no longer an option and the War began in full.

Battle Covered
Tonight, our Campaign map is dod_abancourt_final and we will cover the Battle of France. The map is named after the town of Abancourt which is in northern France and saw fighting during the Battle of France.
Following the end of World War I, France decided to create a large scale fortification along its western border to deter aggression by Germany. This was the maginot line and it was built in the 1930s. The line’s purpose was to divert a German attack into Belgium, where France’s best units would focus combat power to defeat the aggressors. The biggest assumption by the French was the German forces could not move through the Ardennes forest rapidly or in large numbers. This would end up costing them dearly. The Battle of France would take place from May 10th through June 25th 1940 and would encompass 141 German Divisions, 22 Italian Divisions, and 140 Allied Divisions. In total, 3.6 million Axis and 3.4 million Allied troops would fight in this battle. The Germans split their attack into three fronts, A, B and C. Group B were tasked with invading and defeating The Netherlands as quickly as possible, and then engaging the Allies in combat in central Belgium. Group C were tasked with invading the Maginot Line of defenses, engaging the French troops defending this line and distracting them from Group A. Group A were the main focus of the German offensive. They were tasked with going through the middle of Group B and Group C, through the dense Ardennes Forest in south-east Belgium and Northern Luxembourg. From here, they advanced straight to the coast, which they reached on the 20th of May. Here, they captured key ports while also encircling a huge number of French and British troops in Northern France and Belgium, who had been fighting Group B of the German attack. The Allied troops were divided. Over 300,000 of the Allies’ strongest troops encircled in Northern France and Belgium retreated to England in Operation Dynamo between the 26th of May and the 4th of June. On the 29 May, Belgium surrendered. The German Army pushed on towards Paris, capturing the city on the 14 June 1940. After just six short weeks, France surrendered to the Nazis on the 25 June 1940. When the battle was over the Allies had over 375,000 troops dead or missing and 2.75 million captured while the Axis lost only 33 thousand troops. Less than a year after invading Poland, Germany had occupied, or become allied with, a large part of Europe.

27 January
I’m going to talk through the Pacific Campaign of World War II in short order and then talk the specific events of the Battle of Peliliu, which is our battle for tonight. On December 7th 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This attack resulted in the sinking of 4 battleships, 13 more ships damaged, almost 200 aircraft destroyed and almost 175 damaged, over 2,300 service members killed and over 1,100 injured. This was the final event that brought the U.S. into the war. The next day, the U.S. declared war on the Axis and entered World War 2 as a member of the Allies. The U.S.’s fleets in the Pacific immediately began movements and taking members of the Armed Forces to battle against the Japanese. The major battles of the Pacific, in chronological order, were the Battle of Wake Island in December of 1941, the Philippines Campaign from December 1941 to May 1942, the Battle of Midway in June of 1942, Guadalcanal from August 1942 to February 1943, the Marshall Islands from August 1942 to February 1944, the Palau Islands Campaign throughout 1944, the Battle of Iwo Jima on February 19th 1945 and the Battle of Okinawa on April 1st 1945. The Battle of Iwo Jima is best known for the picture of the marines raising the U.S. flag that is memorialized in Washington D.C. The Pacific Theater also included the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska, from 1942 to 1943.

Battle Covered
Tonight, our Campaign map is dod_peliliu and we will cover the Battle of Peliliu. The map is named after the island of Peliliu which is part of Palau islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Peleliu was held by more than 10,000 Japanese troops. The island’s airfield would allow Japanese planes to threaten any Allied operation in the Philippines, and General Douglas MacArthur pushed for an amphibious attack in order to neutralize this threat. On the morning of September 15, the 1st Marine Division landed on the southwest corner of Peleliu. Massive naval bombardment of land-based targets preceded troop landings, which were supported by strafing and bombing runs by carrier-based aircraft. The troops arrived on shore in waves, gathering on an island’s beaches until they had sufficient numbers to push inland. These methods had worked in earlier landings and were expected to work again on Peleliu. The Japanese had learned from past attacks, however, and they took a new strategy, aimed at bogging the enemy invaders down for days and inflicting massive casualties in hopes of pushing the Allies into a negotiated peace. Peleliu’s many caves, connected by networks of tunnels, allowed the Japanese to hunker down and emerge mostly unscathed from the Allied bombardment. They held out for four days before U.S. forces were even able to secure the southwest area of Peleliu, including a key airstrip. When the Marines turned north to begin their advance, they were targeted along the way by heavy artillery fire and a fusillade of small arms from Japanese forces installed in caves dug into the rocky surface of Umurbrogol Mountain, which the Marines dubbed “Bloody Nose Ridge.” Over the next eight days, U.S. troops sustained about 50 percent casualties in some of the most vicious and costly fighting of the Pacific campaign. Members of the Army’s 321st Regiment (and later the 323rd) were sent to aid the 1st Marine Division, arriving in time to make a renewed attack on Bloody Nose Ridge from the west on September 24. While the combined Army and Marine forces were able to envelop Japanese positions on the mountain, the Japanese still held out, and would only be dislodged after much bloodshed throughout October. More U.S. reinforcements arrived, and the ridge was finally neutralized on November 25. Characteristically, the Japanese defenders refused to surrender, and virtually all of them were killed. At the end of the battle, the U.S. had lost 7,900 troops and the Japanese lost almost 14,000.

 

 

 

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Current Positions
Command Staff - Executive Officer
Training - OIC
Military Police - OIC

 

Past Positions

Personnel - OIC

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Operations - OIC

2021 World War II Realism Campaign Organizer

 

Official Realism Record
Leader - 5-0
Assistant Leader - 2-0

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February

February 10
Last month, we covered all the events leading up to the beginning of World War II and the Battle of France. This concluded with Germany and the Axis powers in control of most of Europe anda major blow being dealt to the Allied Forces. It was a massive, lopsided victory for Germany that could have been a swift, decisive victory had the Allies not persisted. After the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain began as Germany attempted to crush British morale through a steady bombing campaign in Britain, including London. In December of 1941, the Japanese conducted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II. Britain began pushing back with the bombing of Cologne in May of 1942. Germany and Italy conducted a thrust into Russia in June of 1942, fighting what had originally been an ally of the Axis powers. In October of 1942, the Allies began their fight in Africa to win lands back and secure a foothold to launch from. In May of 1943, the Axis troops in Tunisia surrendered, ending the African campaign and creating the opportunity for Allied troops to begin their attack into Italy and start taking back Europe.

Battle Covered
Tonight, we have two Campaign maps and they are dod_adanti & dod_catania_rc2 which are both associated with the Allied invasion of Italy, known as Operation Husky. dod_catania_rc2 is named after the port of Catania in Italy which is located in Sicily. Dod_adanti is named after a fictional village in Italy, taken from the game Medal of Honor: Airborne.
After a hard fought victory in Tunisia and the African campaign, the next major initiative against the enemy would come in a Mediterranean crossing that would seek the first defeat of one of the three Axis powers—fascist Italy. The invasion of Sicily, the first part of the plan, was a massive undertaking—in Europe, second only to D-Day—involving 2,600 Allied ships and sustained air support. The original Allied plan envisaged two widely separate landings in the northwest and south east of the island. General Montgomery objected, because this approach lost the advantages of a combined, closely coordinated force. In the final plan, the British 8th Army would land on the south east of the island and the US 7th Army in the south west.
The invading force was made up of two armies—the U.S. Seventh Army and the British Eighth Army—and once ashore the Allies pressed forward in an attempt to destroy and capture the Axis units on the island. High winds caused problems in the air with dire consequences for British and American troops being flown from Tunisia to Sicily in 137 gliders and 400 transport aircraft respectively. Due to poor flying and navigational conditions, combined with inadequately trained pilots, the planes and gliders were badly scattered. Only a fraction of the elite troops reached their targets but in sufficient numbers to complete their assigned tasks. Of the gliders in the British sector, about a dozen were released early and were lost in the sea, with many casualties. To compound the self-inflicted air losses on or around D+3, a number of Allied supply aircraft were shot down by friendly fire, as they strayed over the battleground. The aircraft were certainly off their approved course but the primary cause was a failure in aircraft recognition by the spotters and gunners on the ground. The few German troops on Sicily were quickly reinforced to a total of four elite divisions, along with a substantial Italian force. The Germans skillfully used the island’s mountainous terrain to carry out an effective delaying operation. The Allies, especially the British, advanced cautiously against the Germans. On July 24, Mussolini was deposed and arrested, striking a heavy blow to the Axis fight in Italy. Although Hitler insisted that Sicily must be held at all costs, the German commanders soon realized that they must abandon the island if his German formations and their valuable weapons and equipment were not to be lost to the Allies. On the night of 11-12 August, the Germans began a well-executed withdrawal that saw 40,000 German and 60,000 Italian troops cross over to the mainland with minimal hindrance from the Allies. This operation took place from 9 July to 17 August 1943 with elements of the British, American, Canadian, French and Australian forces fighting alongside each other. The Allies brought a total of 467 thousand troops against the Axis’ approximately 315 thousand troops. By the end of the battle, the Allies had about 10 thousand killed, wounded or missing and the Axis had almost 180 thousand killed, wounded, or captured.

Unit Covered
Tonight, we will talk shortly about the history of the First Infantry Division, the oldest active Infantry Division in the United States Army, who fought in Operation Husky. The Division, known as the Big Red One, was constituted on 24 May 1917 in New York and then sent to the Mexico-American border for initial service. In 1917 the Division sailed for England and then France to take part in World War I. They fought though out the war and returned home in September 1919. They remained active between the wars and were reorganized immediately for service in World War II in 1940. They were part of the initial landing in Africa in October 1942. They fought through Africa, into Italy and were part of the first waves at Omaha Beach. The division fought through Europe until VE-Day and earned 16 medals of honor. The Big Red One was on occupation duty in Germany during the Nuremberg Trials and missed the Korean War. The Division was one of the first two into Vietnam and had a constant presence there for all five years of the War. 12,000 troops from the division spearheaded assaults during the Gulf War in 1990 and aided in the stabilization efforts in the Balkans in the mid-90s. The First were part of the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003 and have had 11 rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan since. They are currently located at Fort Riley, Kansas and are made up of two Armored Brigade Combat Teams, an aviation brigade, sustainment brigade and artillery headquarters.

 

 

 

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Current Positions
Command Staff - Executive Officer
Training - OIC
Military Police - OIC

 

Past Positions

Personnel - OIC

Recruitment - OIC

Operations - OIC

2021 World War II Realism Campaign Organizer

 

Official Realism Record
Leader - 5-0
Assistant Leader - 2-0

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March

March 10:
Last month, we covered all the events leading up to the invasion of Italy during Operation Husky as well as the history of the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division. This concluded with Allied forces in control of most of Italy but a large portion of the Axis force having successfully escape back into Europe. Mussolini had been overthrown and Italy had come under Allied occupation.

Battle Covered
The Tunisian Campaign was fought from November 8th 1942 until May 13th 1943 and was the final stage of the North African campaign. It saw a combined British, American and French army slowly eliminate the Axis bridgehead in Tunisia. For two years the North African campaign had swept back and forth across eastern Libya and western Egypt. After the Second Battle of El Alamein, Rommel's Panzerarmy Africa was forced into one final retreat across Libya.
Axis reinforcements began to arrive in Tunisia as early as November 9th 1942 and were reinforced in the following two weeks until they numbered about 20,000 combat troops which were heavily reinforced by air. When the British started its offensive on November 25th, the defense was unexpectedly strong. By December 5th the 1st Army’s advance was checked a dozen miles from Tunis and from Bizerte. Further reinforcements enabled Colonel General Arnim, who assumed the command in chief of the Axis defense in Tunisia on December 9th, to expand his two bridgeheads in Tunisia until they were merged into one. Germany and Italy had won the race for Tunis but were doomed to succumb to the lure of retaining their prize regardless of the greater need of conserving their strength for the defense of Europe.
The Eighth Army captured Tripoli on January 23rd 1943, the objective of every British offensive since 1940. Rommel and his army retreated across the Tunisian border, heading for the Mareth Line. On February 14th the Axis forces delivered a major attack against U.S. forces between the Fāʾiḍ Pass in the north and Gafsa in the south. The 21st Panzer Division destroyed 100 U.S. tanks and drove the Americans back 50 miles. In the Kasserine Pass, however, the Allies put up some stiffer opposition. Having overcome the stubborn U.S. resistance in the Kasserine Pass on February 20, the Germans entered Thala the next day, only to be expelled a few hours later by the reserve troops they found. His chance having been forfeited, Rommel began a gradual withdrawal on February 22. On Feb. 26, 1943, the Allies at the Mareth Line quadrupled their strength in the following week, massing 400 tanks and 500 antitank guns. Rommel’s attack, on March 6, was brought to an early halt and he relinquished his command. The Allied 1st Army resumed the offensive on March 17, with attacks by the U.S. II Corps, under General Patton, on the roads through the mountains, with the aim of cutting the Afrika Korps’ line of retreat up the coast to Tunis. The British 8th Army launched a frontal assault on the Mareth Line, combined with an outflanking movement by the New Zealand Corps toward el-Hamma in the Germans’ rear; and a few days later, seeing the frontal assault failing, they switched the main attack to the flank. Threatened with encirclement, the Germans decided to abandon the Mareth Line, which the 8th Army occupied on March 28th. The German high command had an opportunity to withdraw its forces from Tunisia to Sicily, but it chose instead to defend the indefensible area. The defenders withstood the converging assaults that the 8th and 1st armies from April 20 to April 23; but on May 6 a concentrated attack by Allied artillery, aircraft, infantry, and tanks was launched on the two-mile front of the Medjerda Valley leading to Tunis; and on May 7 the city fell to the leading British armoured forces, while the Americans and the French almost simultaneously captured Bizerte. At the same time, the Germans’ line of retreat into the Cap Bon Peninsula was severed by an armoured division’s swift turn southeastward from Tunis. A general collapse of the German resistance followed, the Allies taking more than 250,000 prisoners, including 125,000 German troops and Arnim himself. North Africa had been cleared of Axis forces and was now completely in Allied hands. At the end of the campaign, the Axis had over 350 thousands troops fighting and over 300 thousand killed or captured. The Allies had over 500 thousand fighting and only about 76 thousand killed or captured.

Unit Covered
Tonight, we will talk shortly about the history of the U.S. Army First Armored Division, known as “Old Ironsides,” who fought in the Tunisian Campaign. The 1st Armored Division was constituted on 15 July 1940 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. They remained at Fort Knox for 2 years to pioneer tank training techniques. On April 11 1942 they were moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey to await deployment overseas. They were part of the initial landing in Africa in October 1942. They fought through Africa, into Italy and remained in Italy fighting German resistance until the end of the war in Europe. The division fought through Europe until VE-Day and earned 2 medals of honor, 722 silver stars and over 5700 purple hearts. Old Ironsides was deactivated from 1946 until 1951, when it was reactivated in build up for the Korean War. The division was tested in preparation for the Cuba Missile Crisis, as a response force. The Division did not deploy as an entire division to Vietnam but sent Infantry, Aviation and Cavalry units to fight. It also sent troops to assist with rioting in Chicago following Dr Martin Luther King’s assassination. The division saw heavy fighting during the Gulf War in 1990, destroying 440 tanks, 485 personnel carriers, and over 320 artillery pieces and aided in the stabilization efforts in the Balkans in the mid-90s. Old Ironsides sent units to be part of the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003 and has had multiple rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan since. They are currently located at Fort Bliss, Texas and are made up of three Armored Brigade Combat Teams, an aviation brigade, sustainment brigade and artillery headquarters.

 

 

March 28:
Our last internal, we covered the history of the Pacific Campaign and went in depth to the Battle of Peliliu. This month we will pick up after the Battle of France. France had surrendered to the Nazis on the 25 June 1940. The Axis powers had captured France, Belgium and the Netherlands. From July 10 to October 31, 1940 the Battle of Britain ensued with German bombers and fighters attacking deep into Great Britain, hoping to drive them to surrendering. On September 22, 1940, the Tripartite Pact was signed between Germany, Italy and Japan formalizing their alliance. In December of 1940 the British faced the Italian Armies in North Africa and gained the first victories of the war for the Allies. Italy and Germany invaded Yugoslavia in early 1941 and Hitler betrayed Russia on June 22, 1941 with Operation Barbarossa. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and the next day the U.S. declared war on Japan. This brought the U.S. officially into World War II.

Battle Covered
Concerned after the loss of Bismarck, Adolf Hitler ordered the Kriegsmarine to move the ships to Germany for overhauls in preparation for their deployment to Norway. There they were to serve as a fleet in being, and as the premier naval defence for German-occupied Norway. After lengthy discussions the Oberkommando der Marine opted for the shorter, but arguably more dangerous route, through the English Channel. Hitler met with the commanders of this mission himself and stated that this was a no fail mission. The Luftwaffe was ordered to cover this movement and committed over 300 planes to supporting it. The Luftwaffe flew diversion missions, created radio jamming and had a heavily detailed plan to ensure this mission succeeded because its commander saw failure as bearing down on the Luftwaffe over the Navy. The British RAF committed three squadrons to cover the anticipated German route. They believe that German Navy would move mostly at night during the most dangerous parts of their route. During the evening of the 10 February 1942 the German fleet prepared to undertake their operation. As they slipped anchor RAF bombers appeared overhead. The German ships conducted a U-turn and sped back to the dock. The RAF bombers released their bombs but did little damage. Fortunately for the German ships they did not notice anything unusual. The next evening, the German fighters intercepted RAF surveillance aircraft during their night routes, allowing the fleet to begin their movement undetected. They were able to move for 11 hours unhindered. Eventually they were discovered and the RAF was dispatched. Most of the fighting that ensued was between the air squadrons and the ships saw very little action. The RAF bombers who did make attack runs did very little damage due to a lack of training on hitting naval targets, poor visibility and a low cloud ceiling. The two German capital ships took some damage but only believed to be due to mines and not air attacks. Operation Donnerkeil had been an outstanding success for the Luftwaffe.[3] The measure of success lay not in the ratio of losses, which amounted to 2:1 in the German favour, but the failure of the RAF, FAA and Royal Navy to intercept or at least inflict severe damage to the German warships. The meagre forces committed by the Navy had been repulsed easily by the German warships and their escorts. Heavy AAA fire had offered a helpful defence against air attack, but the German air defence had succeeded, along with poor weather, in breaking up RAF assaults on the ships. In total the German Luftwaffe lost 22 aircraft while the British RAF lost 41 total.

Unit Covered
n/a

 

 

 

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Current Positions
Command Staff - Executive Officer
Training - OIC
Military Police - OIC

 

Past Positions

Personnel - OIC

Recruitment - OIC

Operations - OIC

2021 World War II Realism Campaign Organizer

 

Official Realism Record
Leader - 5-0
Assistant Leader - 2-0

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  • 1 month later...

April:

21 April
Last month, we covered all the events leading up to the invasion of Italy during Operation Tunisia as well as the history of the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division. This concluded with Allied forces in control of northern Africa and prepared to launch their assault into Italy. We had previously covered the Allied victory in Sicily and their being poised to push further into Europe after the Axis retreat from Italy and into Europe.

Battle Covered
With the Italians out of the war, the British landings at Reggio on the 3rd September and the seizure of Taranto on the 9th, were not contested. However, the situation was different in the Gulf of Salerno, south of Naples, where the US Fifth Army landed on the 9th. A landing further north was considered too risky because of enemy fighter cover. Furtherore, an American plan to land an airborne division at Rome was abandoned. Five German divisions were concentrated against the Salerno beachhead and after a few days of fighting, it seemed possible that the Allied forces would be pushed back to the landing beaches and compelled to re-embark. The Luftwaffe scored hits with glider bombs on the British battleship Warspite and two American cruisers. But the Allies had massive air support and by the 15th, the Germans began to yield. On the 16th, the advance guard of the Eighth Army, which had covered some 200 miles in the 13 days since their landing at Reggio, made contact with the Fifth Army about forty miles south-east of Salerno. The Eighth Army now shifted the axis of its advance to the east coast. Using Brindisi and Taranto as bases, they pushed up the coast to Bari, which fell on the 22nd. Foggia, with its complex of airfields, fell on the 27th. Not until Montgomery reached the river Biferno did he encounter serious opposition. A commando landing seized Termoli, which was subsequently held by 78 Division against the 16th Panzers' counter-attack. The campaign now became a fight for the river lines. the Germans fell back to Trigno and then Sangro under this irresistible advance. They fought relentlessly but eventually their resistance broke. On the west coast the pattern was similar. Naples fell on 1st November, causing Kesselring to withdraw to Volturno and then, under continued Americans pressure, to the River Garigliano. On the 24th of December, preparations for Operation Overlord (the Normandy landings) made significant changes to the high command of Allied forces in the Mediterranean. Generals Eisenhower, Montgomery and Bradley, together with Air Chief Marshal Tedder, returned to England to take up new appointments. General Sir Henry Maitland-Wilson succeeded Eisenhower as theatre commander and Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese took over the Eighth Army. The Battle of Garigliano began on the night of the 17/18 January but the Allies made very little progress. On the 2nd of February General Mark Clark, with 50,000 British and American troops (VI Corps, Lucas commanding), landed at Anzio. Instead of pushing inland and cutting the Germans supply lines to Garigliano, Clark dug-in to consolidate his beachhead, while the German forces set about his containment. This cautious conduct of the landing seriously impeded the Allied advance. It was a lost opportunity to inflict serious damage to the German rear but it was a lesson brought home to the planners of Overlord. A similar situation would not be allowed to develop on the beaches of Normandy. Along the River Garigliano, the Germans stood fast with their hold on the great fortress of Cassino unshaken. On 29th January, the Allies launched another attack on this little town but, by the 4th of February, it ended in failure. The Abbey of St Benedict, high above the area of conflict, was well placed to observe the whole battlefield. The Allies decided to remove the threat and on the 14th February they dropped leaflets on the abbey warning that it would be obliterated the following day. On the 15th, 254 bombers dropped 576 tons of bombs and turned the Abbey into a heap of rubble. However, the Germans had constructed bunkers and strong-points in the abbey, which survived the bombardment and were actually strengthened by the rubble. After another day's bombing, the Allies launched a fresh attack on the 18th February following a five hour bombardment. On the 15th of March another attempt was made, this time in excellent weather. The preliminary bombing of 1,400 tons lacked accuracy. Allied positions were bombed up to twelve miles out from the target. There followed a two hour attack by 900 guns, then tanks and infantry went in. Water-filled craters fouled up the tanks which should have supported the Infantry. After nightfall, this offensive was also halted. Another offensive was launched on the 11th May. This time, Cassino was outflanked and despite heavy losses, the Polish Corps fought its way through to the north of the town and fell on it from the rear. Cassino fell on the 17th. The Poles took Monastery Hill on the 18th. Simultaneously, the Allies broke out of the Anzio beachhead but failed to cut the German lines of communication. General Mark Clark, obsessed with getting to Rome first, allowed the main body of the enemy to escape and took only 27,000 prisoners. Rome fell on the 4th of June about which President Roosevelt commented; 'The first Axis capital is in our hands. One down and two to go!'

 

 

 

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May:

26 May
Last month, we covered the events of Operation Avalanche which took us to the fall of Rome and the removal of Italy from the Axis forces. The Allied forces were now poised to conduct operations into mainland Europe and begin their march to Germany.



Battle Covered
The Battle of Tarawa, which took place from November 20-23, 1943 marked the beginning of the U.S.’s Central Pacific Campaign against Japan by seizing the heavily fortified, Japanese-held island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. won important battles at Midway Island in June 1942 and Guadalcanal from August 1942 to February 1943. American commanders next set their sights on an island-hopping campaign across the central Pacific. They intended to take the Marshall Islands followed by the Mariana Islands, then advance on Japan. The Gilbert Islands, a group of 16 atolls near the equator, were viewed by the U.S. as a stepping stone to the Marshalls and became the first target of the Central Pacific Campaign. In November 1943, the U.S. launched an offensive code-named Operation Galvanic, in which the prime target was the tiny island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. By November 19, 1943, American warships had arrived near Tarawa. Naval and air bombardments were planned for the next morning with the goal of weakening Japan’s defenses and clearing the way for 18,000 U.S. Marines to seize the island. The 18,000 U.S. Marines sent to tiny Betio were expected to easily secure it; however, problems quickly arose. Low tides prevented some U.S. landing crafts from clearing the coral reefs that ringed the island. Japanese coastal guns pounded the snagged vessels and desperate Marines gave up on freeing the boats and instead waded toward shore–hundreds of yards away– through chest-deep water amidst enemy fire. Making matters worse, the assault path through the lagoon to the shore became congested with disabled landing crafts and bloodied bodies, which hindered the dispatching of reinforcements. Marines on the beach crawled forward, inch by inch, knowing that to stand or even rise slightly made them easy targets. By the end of the first day, 5,000 Marines had landed at Betio while at least another 1,500 had perished in the process. Reserve combat teams and support craft transporting tanks and weapons raced to shore, and the ground assault finally took orderly form. The Marines moved inland, blasting surviving enemy emplacements with grenades, demolition packs and flamethrowers. On day three of the battle, November 22, the Marines fought on, destroying several Japanese pillboxes and fortifications. That night, the last Japanese defenders of Betio launched a furious but futile banzai charge, or all-out, suicidal attack. Most Japanese soldiers fought to their death rather than surrender. At morning light on November 23, the defenders lay in tangled heaps: All but 17 Japanese soldiers had died defending Betio. Seventy-six hours after the invasion began, Betio was finally declared secure. More than 1,000 U.S. troops were killed in action and some 2,000 were wounded in only three days of fighting at Tarawa. Word of the heavy casualties soon reached the U.S. and the public was stunned by the number of American lives lost in taking the tiny island.

Units Covered:
The Marine Raiders were originally formed as provisional rubber boat companies within the 7th Marines in 1941. This was to fill a deficiency identified within the Marine Corps for a fast attack transport unit. Once World War II began, President Roosevelt became interested in forming a unit similar to the British Commandos and saw the Marines as the place to build that. Eventually, two battalions of Marine Raiders were created and specialized in raid operations. The Raiders saw immediate action in the Central Pacific and the Solomons. They fought at Tulagi, the Battle of Edson’s Ridge, Makin Island, Savo Island, Bougainville and Guadalcanal. The Raiders expanded to 4 battalions at their height. However, in 1944 with the Marine Corps expanding to fill needs for the War, the Raiders were deactivated and their Marines sent to the main forces. In 2014, the Raiders were reactivated in the form of Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC), keeping much of the lineage and heraldry of the former units as they forged a new path in the special operations community of today. In the few years that the Raiders existed in World War II they saw combat continuously and earned numerous awards for heroism, including 8 Medals of Honor.

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June:

11 June
Last month, we covered the events of Battle of Tarawa and the beginning of the United States’ campaign in the Pacific Theater. Previously, we talked about the events of Operation Avalanche which took us to the fall of Rome and the removal of Italy from the Axis forces. The Allied forces were now poised to conduct operations into mainland Europe and begin their march to Germany.

Battle Covered:
In May 1944, the Western Allies were finally prepared to deliver their greatest blow of the war, the long-delayed, cross-channel invasion of northern France, code-named Overlord. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was supreme commander of the operation that ultimately involved the coordinated efforts of 12 nations. After much deliberation, it was decided that the landings would take place on the long, sloping beaches of Normandy. There, the Allies would have the element of surprise. The German high command expected the attack to come in the Pas de Calais region, north of the river Seine where the English Channel is narrowest. It was here that Adolf Hitler had put the bulk of his panzer divisions after being tipped off by Allied undercover agents posing as German sympathizers that the invasion would take place in the Pas de Calais. Surprise was an essential element of the Allied invasion plan. If the Germans had known where and when the Allies were coming they would have hurled them back into the sea with the 55 divisions they had in France. The invaders would have been on the offensive with a 10-to-1 manpower ratio against them. The English Channel was notorious for its rough seas and unpredictable weather, and the enemy had spent months constructing the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile line of obstacles. This defensive wall comprised 6.5 million mines, thousands of concrete bunkers and pillboxes containing heavy and fast-firing artillery, tens of thousands of tank ditches, and other formidable beach obstacles. And the German army would be dug in on the cliffs overlooking the American landing beaches. Allied leaders set June 5, 1944, as the invasion’s D-Day. But on the morning of June 4, foul weather over the English Channel forced Eisenhower to postpone the attack for 24 hours. The delay was unnerving for soldiers, sailors, and airmen, but when meteorologists forecast a brief window of clearer weather over the channel on June 6, Eisenhower made the decision to go. Just after midnight on June 6, Allied airborne troops began dropping behind enemy lines. Their job was to blow up bridges, sabotage railroad lines, and take other measures to prevent the enemy from rushing reinforcements to the invasion beaches. Hours later, the largest amphibious landing force ever assembled began moving through the storm-tossed waters toward the beaches. Planners had divided the landing zone into five separate beaches. The British and Canadians landed at Juno, Gold, and Sword beaches. The Americans landed at Omaha and Utah beaches. The fiercest fighting was on Omaha Beach where the enemy was positioned on steep cliffs that commanded the long, flat shoreline. Troops leapt from their landing boats and were pinned down for hours by murderous machine-gun fire that turned the beach into a vast killing field. By midday, the Americans had surmounted the cliffs and taken Omaha Beach at a heavy cost: over 4,700 killed, wounded, or missing out of the total of approximately 35,000 who came ashore that day, a loss rate of more than 13 percent. By nightfall, about 175,000 Allied troops and 50,000 vehicles were ashore with nearly a million more men on the way that summer. The Allied forces included the US 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions, 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, British 6th Airborne Division, and Canadian 3rd Infantry Division with 156,000 Soldiers and 196,000 Sailors. The Germans had 4 Divisions and 51,000 Soldiers plus artillery and anti-aircraft guns.

Units Covered:
The U.S. Army Rangers trace their lineage back to the Colonial period in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the wars between the colonies and Native Americans, the English regulars were unaccustomed to frontier warfare and so Ranger companies were formed. Rangers were full-time soldiers employed by colonial governments to patrol between fixed frontier fortifications in reconnaissance providing early warning of raids. In offensive operations, they were scouts and guides, locating villages and other targets for taskforces drawn from the militia or other colonial troops. Rogers' Rangers was established in 1751 by Major Robert Rogers, who organized nine Ranger companies in the American colonies. These early American light infantry units, organized during the French and Indian War, bore the name "Rangers" and were the forerunners of the modern Army Rangers. Major Rogers drafted the first currently-known set of standard orders for rangers. These rules are still listed on the first page of the Ranger Handbook and referenced by all Rangers, past and present. In January 1812 the United States authorized six companies of United States Rangers who were mounted infantry with the function of protecting the Western frontier. Five of these companies were raised in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. A sixth was in Middle Tennessee. The next year, 10 new companies were raised. By December 1813 the Army Register listed officers of 12 companies of Rangers. The Ranger companies were discharged in June 1815. Several units that were named and functioned similarly to Rangers fought in the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865, such as the Loudoun Rangers that consisted of Quaker and German farmers from northern Loudoun County. Aside from conducting similar irregular warfare on Confederate forces in Richmond, Mississippi and Tennessee, its members were also descendants of the first ranger groups, organized by Robert Rogers in the French and Indian War. In 1942, a proposal was submitted to General George Marshall that an American unit be set up "along the lines of the British Commandos". Five Ranger Battalions would be organized in the European Theater including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th; the 6th would be organized in the Pacific Theatre. On June 19, 1942 the 1st Ranger Battalion was sanctioned, recruited, and began training in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. A select fifty or so of the first U.S. Rangers were dispersed through the British Commandos for the Dieppe Raid in August 1942; these were the first American soldiers to see ground combat in the European theater. Together with the ensuing 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions they fought in North Africa and Italy until the Battle of Cisterna when most of the Rangers of the 1st and 3rd Battalions were captured. Of the 767 men in the battalions 761 were killed or captured. Before the 5th Ranger Battalion landing on Dog White sector on Omaha Beach, during the Invasion of Normandy, the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the 90-foot cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, a few miles to the west, to destroy a five-gun battery of captured French Canon de 155 mm GPF guns. The gun positions were empty on the day and the weapons had been removed some time before to allow the construction of casements in their place. Under constant fire during their climb, they encountered only a small company of Germans on the cliffs and subsequently discovered a group of field artillery weapons in trees some 1,000 yards to the rear. The guns were disabled and destroyed and the Rangers then cut and held the main road for two days before being relieved. Two separate Ranger units fought the war in the Pacific Theater. The 98th Field Artillery Battalion was formed on 16 December 1940 and activated at Fort Lewis in January 1941. On 26 September 1944, they were converted from field artillery to light infantry and became 6th Ranger Battalion. 6th Ranger Battalion led the invasion of the Philippines and executed the raid on the Cabanatuan POW camp. (Great Raid/James Franco) They continued fighting in the Philippines until they were deactivated on 30 December 1945, in Japan. At the outbreak of the Korean War, a unique Ranger unit was formed. Led by Second Lieutenant Ralph Puckett, the Eighth Army Ranger Company was created in August 1950. It served as the role model for the rest of the soon to be formed Ranger units. Instead of being organized into self-contained battalions, the Ranger units of the Korean and Vietnam eras were organized into companies and then attached to larger units, to serve as organic special operations units. Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and Long Range Patrol companies were formed by the U.S. Army in the early 1960s in West Germany to provide small, heavily armed reconnaissance teams to patrol deep in enemy-held territory in case of war with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. In Vietnam LRRP platoons and companies were attached to every brigade and division where they perfected the art of long-range patrolling.[26] Since satellite communications were a thing of the future, one of the most daring long-range penetration operations of the Vietnam War was launched on April 19, 1968, by members of the 1st Air Cavalry Division's, Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP), (redesignated Co. H, Ranger), against the NVA when they seized "Signal Hill" the name attributed to the peak of Dong Re Lao Mountain, a densely forested 4,879-foot (1,487 m) mountain, midway in A Shau Valley, so the 1st and 3rd Brigades, slugging it out hidden deep behind the towering wall of mountains, could communicate with Camp Evans near the coast or with approaching aircraft. On 1 January 1969, under the new U.S. Army Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS), these units were redesignated "Ranger" in South Vietnam within the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) and all replacement personnel were mandatory airborne qualified. Fifteen companies of Rangers were raised from "Lurp" units—which had been performing missions in Europe since the early 1960s and in Vietnam since 1966. The genealogy of this new Regiment was linked to Merrill's Marauders. The Rangers were organized as independent companies: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O and P. In 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Rangers were among those sent in. During the beginning of the war, they faced some of Iraq's elite Republican Guard units. Rangers were also involved in the rescue of American prisoner of war POW Private First Class Jessica Lynch. The 75th Ranger Regiment has been one of the few units to have members continuously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 6th Ranger Battalion still exists today and serves as the training Battalion for the last phase of the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Notable Rangers you may know are Pat Tillman, David Goggins, Alejandro Villanueva, Randy Shughart, Gary Gordon, Colin Powell, David Petraeus, and Stanley McChrystal.

On 6 June 1944, during the assault landing on Dog White sector of Omaha Beach as part of the invasion of Normandy, then-Brigadier General  Cota approached Major Schneider, CO of the 5th Ranger Battalion and asked "What outfit is this?", Schneider answered "5th Rangers, Sir!" To this, Cota replied "Well, goddamnit, if you're Rangers, lead the way!" From this, the Ranger motto—"Rangers lead the way!"—was born.

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July:

23 July
Last month, we covered the D Day landings and the beginning of the Allies’ campaign in the European Theater as well as the history of the U.S. Army Rangers. We are going to continue right after the completion of the initial landings.

Battle Covered:
The Brecourt Manor assault, depicted in the hit television series Band of Brothers, witnessed fierce fighting on D-Day. The battle that took place here can be seen in the second episode, “The Day of Days”. At the time of the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, a German battery was stationed here which comprised of four 105mm Howitzers. Once the allied landings commenced, this battery disrupted the unloading of men and supplies by shelling exit 2 leading off Utah Beach. Exit 2 runs from the beach to the village of Sainte Marie Du Mont. To ease the problems faced by the allies, 1st Lieutenant Richard Winters and his men from Easy Company were tasked with destroying this artillery position. The four Howitzers at the Brecourt Manor farm were well positioned, linked by trenches and covered by machine guns. The trenches made supplying and reinforcing the artillery positions very easy; however, during the battle, this proved to be it’s weakness. The assault on the artillery position was a complete success with limited men killed or injured. All four Howitzers were disabled, making the allied landings at Utah Beach all the more easier. For the success of the attack at Brecourt, Richard Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross Medal. By the end of the war, Winters achieved the rank of Major; a true testament to his character and ability. In 2008, a monument was erected at close to the battlefield site to pay homage to the brave men of Easy Company who lost there lives during Operation Overlord.

Units Covered:
The 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” was constituted in November 1918 and stood down when World War 1 ended a few days later. In August of 1942, the 101st was stood up at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana as part of two airborne Divisions in the U.S. Army for World War II. The pathfinders of the 101st led the way on D-Day in the night before the invasion. Many gliders were crashed or lost that night due to low visibility. During World War II, they fought in Operation Overlord, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Western Invasion of Germany. Members earned 3 Medals of Honor, 2 Distinguished Service Crosses and over 450 Silver Stars for their actions. The unit began preparing for redeployment to the Pacific Theater but Japan surrendered before they could begin movement. The Division was deactivated in 1949 and reactivated again in 1950 after the beginning of the Korean War. It was deactivated again in 1953 after serving as a training unit. In 1958 the Army created the Strategic Army Corps which consisted of 4 Divisions prepared to rapidly deploy in case of hostilities, including the 101st. The 101st saw action again in the Vietnam War where they fought in every area of South Vietnam from the DMZ all the way to the Central Highlands. They created the Tiger Force, which was a small long range surveillance unit that was meant to out guerilla the guerillas. After Vietnam, the unit was restructured with personnel and equipment to become an air mobile unit, similar to the 1st Cavalry Division (We were Soldiers). In 1974, they reorganized to an Air Assault unit and maintain that formation today. The 101st were part of the invasion of Iraq in January of 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. They provided humanitarian aide to Rwanda and Somalia and acted as peacekeepers in Haiti and Bosnia. One brigade deployed to Kosovo in 2000 as a peacekeeping formation. The 101st was the first unit to deploy in the Global War on Terror and has seen numerous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. (FL Panthers logo). The 101st is one of the most historic and decorated units of the U.S. Army and continues to serve today.

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August:

11 August
Last month, we covered the Battle of Brecourt Manor and how the Allies’ secured their foothold in France to begin their push towards Germany. We also talked about the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Battle Covered:
The battle of Caen was one of the key battles during Operation Overlord, and although the British and Canadians achieved their main aims, the failure to capture Caen quickly caused a great deal of controversy. The British 3rd Infantry Division was to seize Caen on D-Day or dig in short of the city if the Germans prevented its capture, temporarily masking Caen to maintain the Allied threat against it and thwarting a potential German counter-attack from the city. Caen, Bayeux and Carentan were not captured by the Allies on D-Day and for the first week of the invasion the Allies concentrated on linking the beachheads. British and Canadian forces resumed their attacks in the vicinity of Caen and the suburbs and city centre north of the Orne were captured during Operation Charnwood from 8–9 July. The Caen suburbs south of the river were captured by the II Canadian Corps during Operation Atlantic from 18–20 July. The Germans had committed most of their panzer divisions in a determined defence of Caen, which made the fighting mutually costly and greatly deprived the Germans of the means to reinforce the west end of the invasion front.
In western Normandy the US First Army cut off the Cotentin Peninsula, captured Cherbourg and then attacked southwards towards Saint-Lô, about 37 mi west of Caen, capturing the town on 19 July. On 25 July, after a weather delay, the First Army began Operation Cobra on the Saint-Lô–Périers road, coordinated with the Canadian Operation Spring at Verrières ridge to the south of Caen. Cobra was a great success and began the collapse of the German position in Normandy; the Allied break-out led to the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, from 12–21 August, which trapped most of the remnants of the 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army, opening the way to the Seine and Paris. Caen was destroyed by Allied bombing which, with the damage from ground combat, caused many French civilian casualties.

The Battle of Carentan took place between 6 and 13 June 1944, on the approaches to and within the town of Carentan, France. The objective of the attacking American forces was consolidation of the U.S. beachheads (Utah Beach and Omaha Beach) and establishment of a continuous defensive line against expected German counterattacks. The defending German force attempted to hold the town long enough to allow reinforcements en route from the south to arrive, prevent or delay the merging of the lodgments, and keep the U.S. First Army from launching an attack towards Lessay-Périers that would cut off the Cotentin Peninsula. Carentan was defended by four battalions of German troops. The 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division, ordered to reinforce Carentan, was delayed by transport shortages and attacks by Allied aircraft. The attacking 101st Airborne Division, landed by parachute on 6 June as part of the American airborne landings in Normandy, was ordered to seize Carentan. In the ensuing battle, the 101st forced passage across the causeway into Carentan on 10 and 11 June. A lack of ammunition forced the German forces to withdraw on 12 June. The 17th SS PzG Division counter-attacked the 101st Airborne on 13 June. Initially successful, its attack was thrown back by Combat Command A of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division.

Units Covered:
The 2nd Canadian Corps was created in 1943 in England. It, alongside the First British Corps and 1st Canadian Corps, comprised the First Canadian Army in northwest Europe in World War II. The newly formed Corps participated in Exercise Spartan, a large scale training in Southern England in March of 1943. The Corps consisted of two Canadian Infantry Divisions, 2 Canadian Armored Divisions, 1 Polish Armored Division, 1 Scottish Infantry Division, 1  Highland Infantry Division, 1 Belgian Infantry Brigade, 1 Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade, and 1 Czechoslovakian Armored Brigade. Their symbol was a simple blue diamond worn on their uniforms and helmets but on their colors, it had a gold maple leaf on top of the diamond. The 2nd Canadian Corps only existed for the duration of World War 2 and was deactivated on June 24, 1945 after accepting the surrender of the German forces it was facing. The 2nd Corps spearheaded the advance from Caen to Falaise during the Battle of Normandy. The Corps captured Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais, Cap-Gris-Nez and Ostend. The Corps was part of Operations Atlantic, Spring, Totalize, Tractable, Wellhit, Undergo, Switchback, Vitality, Infatuate, Veritable, Blockbuster and Duck throughout World War II.

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September:

29 September
Last month, we covered the Battles of Caen and Carentan and how the Allies’ continued their push into Europe after the initial landings on D-Day. We also talked about the Canadian 2nd Corps.

Battle Covered:
Operation Cobra was conducted from July 25 to 31, 1944. Six weeks after the Allied invasion of Normandy, Operation OVERLORD showed distressing signs of stalemate. More than a million American, British, and Canadian troops had come ashore in France by mid-July 1944, but they remained wedged within a narrow bridgehead roughly fifty miles wide and twenty miles deep. Both German defenders and Allied attackers had suffered more than 100,000 casualties. Initial efforts were hampered by the need to take the city of Caen in the east and the dense hedgerow country in the west. Seeking to launch a major breakout, General Omar Bradley sought to focus the Allies' efforts on a narrow front west of St. Lô.   Bradley’s plan for the operation code-named ‘Cobra’ was for a specific location on the German front to be carpet-bombed, then stormed by infantry, and finally penetrated by an armored spearhead. The key concept here was extreme concentration – of firepower, assault troops, and armor – to open a narrow gap through which the tanks could pass into the open country beyond. Though the British operations commenced on July 18, Bradley elected to delay several days due to poor weather over the battlefield. On July 24, Allied aircraft began striking the target area despite questionable weather. As a result, they accidentally inflicted around 150 friendly fire casualties. Operation Cobra finally moved forward the next morning with over 3,000 aircraft striking the front. The bombing had unhinged German defenses almost precisely as planned. In addition to killing perhaps a thousand German soldiers and demolishing numerous command posts, the bombardment overturned tanks, demolished enemy communications, and terrified those who survived the onslaught only to face several attacking U.S. Army infantry divisions. Late on the afternoon of July 25, the VII Corps commander sent his armor exploitation force into the breach. The next day, the German Seventh Army reported seven ruptures in the line from east to west. By the night of July 27, the 30th Infantry Division, which had suffered most of the fratricidal casualties earlier in the week, reported that the battle had busted wide open. Things got even better. More than 100,000 combat troops poured south through a gap not five miles wide, soon turning the German left flank and capturing several key bridges near Avranches, the gateway from Normandy to Brittany. The march into Europe had truly begun for the Allies. Overall, the battle included 11 U.S. Divisions and 8 German Divisions, with over 1,800 U.S. casualties and over 100 tanks destroyed while the Germans suffered over 2,500 killed and over 10,000 captured with over 3,000 vehicles and artillery pieces destroyed.

Units Covered:

The U.S. Army’s 8th Infantry Division, nicknamed either the Golden Arrow Division or Pathfinders, was activated on January 5, 1918 at Camp Fremont, California and initially comprised of two Infantry brigades, one field artillery brigade, one machine gun battalion, one engineer regiment, one signal battalion, one support battalion and a military police company. The Division was activated to fight in World War I and was moved to Siberia in October of 1918. Only part of the Division made it to France, as the armistice was signed during transport and those on boats were turned around. The rest of the Division followed shortly after in January of 1919 and disbanded in September 1919.  Part of the Division was reactivated in March of 1923 and placed under the U.S. Army’s III Corps at Camp Meade, Maryland. These units were on standby in case of war and conducted annual training. On July 1st 1940, the Division was fully reactivated and manned to fight in World War II. After receiving all of their Soldiers, the Division conducted training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri in 1942 and Camp Laguna, California in 1943. In December of 1943 the Division deployed overseas to begin combat operations. The Division trained in Ireland until it took part in the D-Day landings at Normandy. During World War II the Division participated in the Normandy landings, Operation Overlord, the Siegfriend Line Campaign, and the Western Allied Invasion of Germany. The Division was one of the units to discover SS run concentration camps and liberate the prisoners. During World War II, Pathfinders earned over 2,800 Bronze Stars, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 768 Silver Stars, 33 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 3 Medals of Honor. The Division returned to the U.S. in 1945 and was deactivated that same year. It was reactivated again in 1950 as a training Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In 1954, it became and active Division again and was moved to Germany as part of Operation Gyroscope. It would remain there until its deactivation in 1992. Before deactivation, elements of the Division were deployed to support other Divisions during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In May 1991, all units had returned to Germany and the Division began to case its colors for the final time.

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October:

20 October
Last month, we covered Operation Cobra and how the Allies made their first real movement into Europe after D Day to get the campaign towards Berlin started. We also talked about the US Army’s 8th Infantry Division.

Battle Covered:
In the summer of 1944 General Montgomery came up with an ambitious scheme to cross the River Rhine and advance deep into northern Germany and shorten the war. Codenamed 'Market Garden', his plan involved the seizure of key bridges in the Netherlands by the 101st and 82nd US Airborne Divisions, and 1st British Airborne Division who would land by parachute and glider. The Allied Forces had halted their advance after liberating Brussels in early September 1944. Operation Market Garden started on 17 September 1944. The two-pronged plan consisted of Operation Market, the airborne assault, and Operation Garden, the ground attack. The ground forces of the British XXX Corps had just three days to advance all the way from the Belgian border up to the city of Arnhem. In order for this to succeed, the bridges along the road would have to be captured by the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, and the British 1st Airborne Division. Montgomery hoped that the success of the operation would mean an end to the war by Christmas 1944. Despite being one of the biggest airborne operations in history, Operation Market Garden was only partly successful. On 17 September 1944, thousands of paratroopers and military equipment dropped from the sky. The Allied Forces advanced slowly. The ground forces had to drive north over a narrow two-lane road. Under constant fire by German soldiers, they called the route ‘Hell’s Highway'. On 20 September 1944, despite heavy German resistance, the Allies managed to capture the bridges across the Waal in Nijmegen. Operation Market Garden was terminated on 25 September 1944. Even the assistance of the Polish First Independent Parachute Brigade proved futile. Sadly, the Allied Forces did not manage to capture the last bridge near Arnhem. Arnhem quite literally proved to be ‘a bridge to far’. On 24-25 September about 2,100 troops from 1st Airborne Division were ferried back across the Rhine. Another 7,500 were either dead or made prisoners of war. The crossing of the Rhine and the capture of Germany's industrial heartland were delayed for six months. Now, the Allies would have to fight their way into the Reich on a broad front.

Units Covered:

The U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division came into being on August 5th, 1917 at Camp Gordon, Georgia. It was composed entirely of drafted Soldiers. Most of the Soldiers came from Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee but draftees from across the U.S. were brought in to fill shortages. This led the Division being name “All American,” as it was the only Division to have Soldiers from all 48 states. The Division departed from New York and Massachusetts to land in Liverpool, England and deploy to France. It participated in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive during World War I. During the latter, Sergeant Alvin C. York earned his Medal of Honor while rushing a German machine gun nest and capturing over 100 German Soldiers and killing 23, all single-handedly. The Division returned to the U.S. after the war and deactivated in May of 1919. On 13 February 1942, the Division was reactivated following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It returned to full service at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana under command of Major General Omar Bradley in March. In August 1942, the Division became the first airborne division and was renamed the 82nd Airborne Division. The Division was reorganized to contain one glider infantry regiment and two airborne infantry regiments prior to shipping to the Mediterranean. Its first two operations were airborne assaults into Sicily and Salerno. Throughout World War II, the 82nd conducted airborne and glider operations including into Normandy and during Operation Market Garden, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and were part of the invasion into Germany. During World War II, Paratroopers from the Division earned over 1,800 Bronze Stars, 898 Silver Stars, 37 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 4 Medals of Honor. On January 3rd, 1946, the Division returned to the United States. The Division was not deactivated but moved its home base to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1957, it was reorganized to better prepare for a potential nuclear war and created 5 battle groups instead of 3 regiments. In April 1965, the Division enter the civil war in the Dominican Republic as part of Operation Power Pack. The 82nd’s 3rd Brigade was deployed to Vietnam in 1968 to support the Tet Offensive.  The 82nd also served as a policing force during the urban riots across the U.S. from 1967-1968. During the 1970’s, the Division conducted multiple exercises as preparation for future wars. In 1983, the Division jumped into Grenada as part of Operation Urgent Fury to retrieve American citizens from the country following a military Coup. In 1989, the Division again conducted an airborne operation in Panama as part of Operation Just Cause to maintain the panama canal, safeguard American citizens, defend human rights and combat drug trafficking. The 82nd was part of the spearhead into Iraq during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. From 1992 to 2001, the Division was part of the Hurricane Andrew relief, Operation Restore Democracy: Haiti, the Panama Canal, Bosnia, Centrazbat, and Kosovo. After the War on Terror began, elements of the Division participated in OIF, OEF, the Surge in Iraq, the transition in Afghanistan, the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, the Syrian intervention, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and most recently the evacuation at Kabul Airport. Notable to our unit, T/3 Hershman and myself have both served in the 82nd Airborne Division.

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November:

17 November

Last month, we covered Operation Market Garden and how the Allies attempted to speed up the European campaign and failed to do with Market Garden’s failure. We also talked about the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division

Battle Covered

By the autumn of 1944, German resistance in the West was quickly crumbling as the British and Americans approached the German border. Aachen was one of the largest and toughest urban battles fought by US forces in World War Two, and the first city on German soil to be captured by the Allies. This was a pivotal battleground for American soldiers breaching the fortified Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944. After the failure of Operation Market Garden, the Allied advance toward Berlin slowed as supplies dwindled due to the time it took to transport them through France. Aachen was set as the target for the US First Army. It was believed the ancient and picturesque city would only be held only by a small garrison, which would presumably surrender once isolated. Indeed the German commander in Aachen had planned to surrender the city as American troops encircled it, but when his letter fell into German hands, Hitler had him arrested. His unit was replaced by 3 full divisions of the Waffen-SS, the most elite German fighters. Although a city of little military value, it was nonetheless of huge strategic importance – both as the first German city threatened by a foreign army during World War Two, but also as an important symbol to the Nazi regime as it was the ancient seat of Charlemagne, founder of the ‘First Reich’, and thus also of immense psychological value to the Germans. Aachen was formidably protected by belts of pillboxes, barbed wire, anti-tank obstacles and other impediments. In some places these defenses were over 10 miles deep. The narrow streets and layout of the city were also of advantage to the Germans, as they denied access to tanks. As a result, the US plan of action was to surround the city and meet in the middle rather than battle their way through the city’s streets. On 2 October the attack began with a heavy bombardment and bombing of the city’s defenses. During the first days of the assault, the armies attacking from the north were engaged in a fearsome hand-grenade battle as they took pillbox after pillbox, in a flight reminiscent of parts of World War One. Once the Americans had taken the outlying town of Übach, their German opponents suddenly launched a major counterattack in a desperate bid to pin their advance back. Despite attempting to cobble together all the air and armored reserves at their disposal, American tank superiority ensured that the counterattack was decisively rebuffed. Meanwhile on the south side of the city a simultaneous advance met with equal success. Here the preceding artillery bombardment proved far more effective, and the advance was slightly more straightforward. By 11 October the city was surrounded, and the Allies demanded that the city surrender or face devastating bombardment. The garrison categorically refused. Soon afterwards, the city was bombed and bombarded savagely, with 169 tons of explosives dropped on the beautiful old center on that day alone. The next 5 days were the toughest yet for the advancing American troops, as the Wehrmacht troops countered repeatedly whilst defending the fortified perimeter of Aachen bravely. As a result, the American armies failed to link up in the center of the city, and their casualties mounted. With most of the American soldiers needed on the perimeter, the task of taking the center of the city fell to the 26th Infantry Regiment. These troops were aided by a handful of tanks and one howitzer, but were far more experienced than the city’s defenders. The Wehrmacht took advantage of the maze of old streets to stall the 26th’s advance. Some used the narrow alleys to ambush the advancing tanks, and often the only way forward for the Americans was to literally blast their way through the city’s buildings at point blank range in order to reach the center. By 18 October the remaining German resistance was centered around the opulent Quellenhof hotel. Despite bombarding the hotel at point blank range, the Americans failed to take it, and were actually pushed back some distance by a concerted counter by 300 SS operatives. However, eventually US air and artillery superiority won-through, and after reinforcements began to pour into the city, the last German garrison in the Quellenhof bowed to the inevitable and surrendered on 21 October. The fall of the city was a turning point for the Allies in the war, and a further blow to the flagging Wehrmacht, which lost 2 divisions and had 8 more badly maimed. The city’s capture provided the Allies with an important morale boost – after many months of slogging through France they were now advancing into the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr Basin, the heart of Hitler’s Reich.

Unit Covered:

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December:

15 December

Last month, we covered Battle of Aachen and discussed how the Allies gained their first foothold in German territory through a hard fought victory at the town of Aachen.

Battle Covered

The first battle for tonight is the Bombing of Dresden. In the last months of World War II, Allied bombers from the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force conducted several major bombing raids on the eastern German city of Dresden. One tactic used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force at the time was the creation of firestorms. This was achieved by dropping incendiary bombs, filled with highly combustible chemicals such as magnesium, phosphorus or petroleum jelly (napalm), in clusters over a specific target. After the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area, become extremely hot and rose rapidly. Cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside and people were sucked into the fire. In 1945, it was decided to use this tactic in the medieval city of Dresden. According to the RAF at the time, Dresden was Germany's seventh-largest city and the largest remaining unbombed built-up area. The Allies considered it a good target as it had not been attacked during the war and was virtually undefended by anti-aircraft guns. The population of the city was now far greater than the normal 650,000 due to the large numbers of refugees fleeing from the advancing Red Army. Beginning on the night of February 13, 1945, more than 1,200 heavy bombers dropped nearly 4,000 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the city in four successive raids. During the next two days the USAAF sent over 527 heavy bombers to follow up the RAF attack. Dresden was nearly totally destroyed. An estimated 25,000 people were killed in the bombings and the firestorm that raged afterward. More than 75,000 dwellings were destroyed, along with unique monuments of Baroque architecture in the historic city center. This raid has been widely criticized and questioned since its occurrence as to the actual relevance to the German war effort, some going as far as to call it a war crime.

In March of 1945 a German raiding force from the Channel Islands launched a daring attack on a port in Allied-occupied France. Granville, Manche, France was the site of a prisoner of war camp. In December 1944 four German paratroopers and a Naval cadet escaped from the camp, eventually stole an American LCVP landing craft, and made their way to the German occupied Channel Islands. They reported that several ships were in the harbor at Granville discharging coal, which was in short supply in the beleaguered Islands. They also reported on the disposition of American troops in the area. The new garrison commander of the Channel Islands used the intelligence to plan a raid against the Allies to restore morale to his garrison and obtain needed supplies. On the night of February 6th 1945, a first attempt was aborted, due to a combination of bad weather and the detection of an escorting Schnellboot ("E-boat"), by a US Navy submarine. The raid was carried out on the night of 8 March. The raiding force comprised four large M class minesweepers, three armed barges carrying 8.8 cm guns, three fast motor launches, two small R type minesweepers, and a sea-going tug. As the Germans had received intelligence regarding the identification signals needed to enter the harbor, they were initially able to land unopposed. They damaged the harbor locks and started fires on shore. The Germans mined the British-registered merchant freighters Kyle Castle, Nephrite, Parkwood and the Norwegian freighter Heien. Outside the port, a submarine chaser, raised the alarm and was attacked by German vessels. About 14 US Navy personnel were killed in action, others were wounded, its 3-inch gun was disabled and the pilot house destroyed. The captain gave the order to abandon ship, but he and other crew members remained on board, and managed to evade the Germans, before intentionally grounding on the shore. Some claim that 30 Allied personnel were taken, as prisoners to the Channel Islands, including 15 of those who had earlier abandoned ship. Allied resistance caused significant delays to the German raiders. By the time they were ready to depart, the tide was so low that only one captured collier containing 112 tons of coal, could be taken back to the Channel Islands. A German minesweeper ran aground and was scuttled with explosives.

With that, we will now talk about how the war closed out. I’ll bring the Pacific and Russian actions into the fold and complete the war from there. June 22, 1944, the Soviets launch a massive offensive in eastern Belorussia (Belarus), destroying the German Army Group Center and driving westward to the Vistula River toward Warsaw in central Poland by August 1. August 23, the appearance of Soviet troops on the Prut River induces the Romanian opposition to overthrow the Antonescu regime. The new government concludes an armistice and immediately switches sides in the war. The Romanian turnaround compels Bulgaria to surrender on September 8, and the Germans to evacuate Greece, Albania, and southern Yugoslavia in October. September 4, Finland agrees to sign an armistice with the Soviet Union and to expel German forces. October 20, US troops land in the Philippines. December 16, the Germans launch a final offensive in the west, known as the Battle of the Bulge, in an attempt to re-conquer Belgium and split the Allied forces along the German border. By January 1, 1945, the Germans are in retreat. January 12, the Soviets launch a new offensive, liberating Warsaw and Krakow in January. They capture Budapest after a two-month siege on February 13, driving the Germans and their Hungarian collaborators out of Hungary in early April. March 7, US troops cross the Rhine River at Remagen. April 13, Soviet forces capture Vienna.  April 16, the Soviets launch their final offensive, encircling Berlin. April 30, Hitler commits suicide. May 7, Germany signs an unconditional surrender at the headquarters of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander of Allied forces in northwest Europe, at Reims on May 7. The surrender takes effect on May 8 at 11:01 PM Central European time. May 8, Germany signs a second, very similar, document of surrender in Berlin. It also comes into effect on May 8 at 11:01 PM CET. In Moscow, this was already after midnight on May 9. May, Allied troops conquer Okinawa, the last island stop before the main Japanese islands. August 6, the United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. August 8, the Soviet Union declares war on Japan and invades Manchuria. August 9, the United States drops an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. September 2, having agreed in principle to unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945, Japan formally surrenders, ending World War II.

Overall, by the end of World War II the cost to life and material was staggering. At the start of the war, there were an estimated 2.3 billion people on earth. Between 21 to 25.5 million military deaths, 29 to 30.5 million civilian war casualties and another 19 to 28 million civilians deaths due to famine and disease occurred during those 6 years. The total dead, not including injured, is between 70 to 85 million people, about 3.5% of the world’s population at the time. The holocaust alone was the cause of around 5 million deaths. The most effect countries were Poland, who lost about 20% of their pre-war population, and Russia, Yugoslavia and Germany who lost about 10% of their pre-war population. The material costs to all involved totaled more than 1 trillion dollars.

Unit Covered:
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Assistant Leader - 2-0

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