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WORLD WAR 2
#36
My maternal Grandfather served on board a oil tanker that was sunk. He lost most of his hearing due to floating in oil covered water for awhile. He died before I was born so I really don't know much about him. I have a great uncle that served in Japan as the "occupying" force for some time. Only intresting stories are of his "adventures" with the local woman. But he did give me a few dollars in the curency that was using during that period.
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#37
Quote:

Originally Posted by Overlord
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Maternal grandpa's status during WWII unknown (no living member of my family ever spoke to him, or was willing to). Paternal grandpa fled Germany a year before war broke out and lived in Colombia for a few years until the U.S. let him in. Paternal grandmother was living here the entire time.

My maternal grandmother lost her entire immediate family in the concentration camps. Parents, brother, uncles, aunts, and cousins. She was first sent to a labor camp, then later, towards the end of the war, a death camp. She was one of the prisoners involved in the Mengele experiments, specifically: radiation poisoning to see if humans could be rendered infertile from doses of radiation. The experiment failed.

She was rescued during the final days of WWII basically in the nick of time, while German commanders who must have known the war was lost were executing people in her camp as fast as they could. Taken to Switzerland to recuperate, as she had lost half her body weight and was suffering from pneumonia along with catastrophic malnutrition. Survived to emigrate to Colombia. Married my grandfather, went to the United States with him.

The only family member she remained uncertain about throughout the years was her younger brother, as he hadn't been taken to what she later learned were the killing chambers. Did not reach closure that her younger brother had actually been killed until two years before her passing in June of this year.

I'm glad she had a chance to tell her story for the Holocaust Museum. Humanity is capable of incomprehensible evil, and it shouldn't be forgotten.

This is an incredible and sobering story, Overlord.
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#38
My grandfather fought with the Hasty Ps all over the European theatre but saw most of his action during Operation HUSKY and during the liberation of Holland. He traded goods on the blackmarket in Holland and met a fellow black marketeer who would invite him over for dinner every once in a while. There he met the man's sister, a beautiful, talented oil painter who would eventually become his wife.

It was decided at the beginning of the occupation that my Oma's immediate family would tell everyone that they were Anglican despite bearing the name Eisenberger. They had heard the stories that to be Jewish was to be dead so they followed that one simple decision until they all died many years later. We didn't know that my Oma was Jewish until we found a picture of her grade school class at the Shoa museum.
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#39
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bluelouboyle
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I'm definitely interested. I started this thread as I recently found online my grandfather's service record. He fought for the Australian army.

Well, one interested soul is usually all it took to get a story out of my grandfather, as he was usually certain more would stop and listen. He was an electrician by trade in his life, but had a real passion for writing stories and poetry. After he died in 2003, his collected works were passed on to me; I was the only grandchild whom had inherited his love of the written word and we had a unique connection because of that. Here's some passages from his (sadly never finished) account of his life, directly concerning some events in WWII that you guys might enjoy hearing about, his time spent on Iwo Jima and some other anecdotes about the men he knew:

Quote:


...when that job was finished, I had asked a Lt. Colonel Chamberlain, a former commancer of mine and a fine man, to take me overseas with him. Here I was, a volunteer enlistee who had worked sincerlu and hard enough to be ordered to get a commission and I was still a long ways from the war. He wondered aloud how I knew he was preparing the 553rd for overseas and I told him I'd head but couldn't recall from whom. In all actuality, it really was general knowledge around the base. He agreed but already had a motors officer. Next thing I knew I was in the Filter Officers cource on base. A Filter Officer works in a control center and filters the incoming information from the radar net. He keeps the plotting board cleard of non-essential plots and makes certain what is displayed is correct. I graduated top of the class and had learned a lot about radars, antennas, siting radars, etc. I was then assigned to the 553rd Aircraft Warning Battalion and we went on bivouac. I didn't get to see Ann very often after that...

...On two occasions, my old friend and fellow Boy Scout, Johnny Walker, flew in in the Pan American Clipper he piloted. We toured the island and had a great visit. I then went across the island to Honolulu now and then. On one trip it was to meet Bill Richardson, neighbor and old friend of the Dunn's. He was docked at Pearl Harbor. He took me through his ship, a Destroyer, and went through it from stem to stern...Bill's destroyer was later hit by Japanese Kamikaze pilots and rolled over and sunk at Okinawa after making the whole Iwo Jima campaign safely. I have never had a desire to be a sailor...

[ After shipping out to Iwo Jima ]

...At first we only had back-packed radars reporting in. Photographer Joe Rosenthal's picture of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima was taken atop Mount Surabachi. Later we were to install a radar at that exact place alongside a big search radar. the SCR 270, a hight finder radar. It was the very first to see action outside of testing. A friend of mine, an electrical engineer named Deering, was one of the designers and the Officer that put it into service at the site. He lived in my tent; we called him "Little Abner," the nickname for the set...

..Later, the SCR 270 was dismantled and a so-called micro-wave radar was installed instead. This one had a higher definition and no black lobe as the SCR 270 had. In fact, the black lobe was the culprit they blamed when the Japs sneaked a fleet of fighters and bombers into Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The soldier that was on radar at that time was in OCS when I was. I knew him, played ping pong with him several times. He had it right. The officer had it wrong, and while we would have been bombed anyway, we might have suffered fewer casualties. The poor G.I. had no wish to become an officer, possibly because of the incident with the jackass that had told him how to do his job and got it wrong at the only time his whole career when he could have saved a lot of lives by getting it right. There were ways to tell if it was a black lobe or a forward lobe echo. We could tell.

...One night, I was not on duty, a flight of Japs came over and it turned out they were either jets or had jet assisted takeoff pods on them to out run the fighters. As the could turn the boosters on and off, I have reason to believe that they were jets. They could sure out-run our P-60 night fighters. We heard it all on my personal all wave radio. Some bad words were used by our pilots that night...

...One night when I was on duty I got a phone call that one of our fighter pilot tent areas was under attack. Some Jap general had been hiding with over a hundred troops in one of the countless hand dug caves on Iwo. One night he marched out, counting in good English: hup two tree foah etc. and marched through our company's outer perimeter and were properly challenged by a guard in the next unit, an artillery battery. They shot him and ran to the pilot's tents, sliced open the tents and threw gernades inside. We lost seven pilots. The rest of the pilots fought back from slit trenches, in a few cases, waiting in the tent for a Jap to start slicing and then emptying their .45 caliber pistols right through the tent. Some Japs escaped, but eighty odd didn't. That was the last of the raids. I was on the phone with a pilot in one of the slit trench type foxholes. He gave us the rundown...

...for the most part the war had moved on to Okinawa. After that we were only bombed once more. That took place after I reached my new assignment. One small bomb hit at the center point of an X drawn between my two hospital type tents which comprised the supply buildings. Not everything was wiped out; my radio which was on the stand survived...I am able to write this dirge because I was underground during the bombing. That radioshack was my refuge during such times. The bomb was an anti-personnel daisy cutter type of about fifty pounds. It could kill and people were killed during that raid.

...One time a Navy radio operator was practicing sending messages and accidentally left his telegraph key connected to the transmitter. The message "The War Has Ended; The Japs Have Given Up" was transmitted far and wide. This hoax, possibly accidental, caused great celebration on all the Navy ships in our harbor and caused the ground forces to go nuts. I called my platoon together and informed them that such information had not been recieved through command channels. I told them the rumor was false, and gave them strict order to stay under cover, in the foxholes, and to not, repeat not, fire a weapon.

...In the evenings when I wasn't working, just a few times and not often enough, a group would form in revetment and sing and play guitar. I seemed to have the only guitar though. I had landed with five fifths of various kinds of spirit in my footlocker. Those bottles could have easily brought anywhere up to a hundred or more dollars a piece. I didn't sell them. One was saved, two were drank by the singing group. Each of them took only a sip so as to share. Great guys! One of my tent mates and I miserly portioned out over several days, and one was used to pay off a bridge game my drunk usual partner and I were in. I didn't realize that he was really too drunk to play until he lost about fifty bucks of my money in one deal. My money was going home to Ann, so I didn't have much. We were all pretty good players but not experts. Just guys.

All told, his recounting of his entire WWII experience takes up about ten non-formatted pages from a typewriter. This was written in 1991; before that he had never spoken to anyone in my family about the Japanese raid or the bomb that blew the tent from over his head; no had even known he had stepped foot on Iwo Jima. I guess he felt enough time had passed or perhaps was worried that his memory would leave before he could recount his tale and wanted to get it out before it was too late; we never knew. He died seven years ago today.

Hope you guys enjoyed!
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#40
My paternal grandfather spent his 4 years in Alaska guarding it from the Russians. He told stories about the Army using those guys as survival testing dummies. They made him eat only Vienna sausages and drink water for 2 months. My grandmother would, according to family lore, buy Vienna sausages just to tweak my grandfather. My grandfather was one of 24 children (he was one of the last), and he lost 2 brothers in WWII. My grandfather had passed away about the time I had gotten old enough to ask about it, so I never got to really ask.

My maternal grandfather wasn't old enough to ship out till 1945, so he spent his time cooking through the rebuilding of Europe. He eventually retired, after working as a ground cook for LBJ's Air Force One crews. He told great stories, mainly because he didn't see any fighting, just the rebuilding.

Working in a photo lab during college around 2003, I helped a gentleman, who looked to be in his early sixties, make reproductions of some old negatives. The prints were of the D-Day landing ships and the crew. After the prints came out, the gentleman and I were looking, and I spotted a guy that looked similar to the customer and said 'Is that your dad?' He turned and laughed, said 'No. That's me!' Turns out the man was nearly 80 and looked damned good. He told me about building the Landing Craft Tanks on the Mississippi river from Kansas, floating them down to New Orleans, then sailing across the Atlantic. The man talked to me for an hour.

Before he left, I asked him how he looked so young. His answer was 5 words "Good Whiskey and Clean Women." A motto I live by today.

The great thing about living where I do is it's connection to WWII. Oak Ridge exists solely because of it. A lot of its old timers were originals to the city, or from the tiny communities that were folded into the city because of the land buy up. I
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#41
No wonder World War 2 continues to permeate every part of popular culture and will do so in the future. Look at this thread. At how many people this affected. Even looking past the huge geopolitical impact it had, this war personally affected almost every living human. The scale just seems inconceivable. For almost five years, an overwhelming percentage of the total human effort, at least in the developed world, went towards this single event.

The treasure of whole nations expended. Entire countries laying in ruins. Millions upon tens of millions of dead. Hundreds of millions wounded either in body or mind. Empires crumbling while others emerge. The death camps. The up until that time almost science fiction weapons. The absolute best and absolute worst mankind is capable of, all compressed into half a decade.
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#42
That was fascinating Greg, thanks. And well put, Stelios.
Would this generation be so stoic and endure such an event?
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#43
Yes, I believe we would be able to handle it. I would hate for us to have to, though.

We may whine and cry and moan about ultimately trivial things but that's because that's all we have to whine about. My grandmother's favorite blessing was "May God never put you through all the troubles you can handle." Humans are capable of bearing efforts and tragedies that would previously seem inconceivable to them.
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#44
Wait until the oil runs out in our lifetime and we'll find out I fear.

...and very very well said stel. That was stirring stuff - no foolin'.
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#45
My grandfather was a frogman in WWII, and he would very occasionally talk about his experiences; usually obscure stuff like having to wake guys up who were snoring too loud for fear the enemy would hear them. He mentioned a few missions he went on in terms of what they were doing (help recapture a town, blow up a boat, etc...) but never spoke beyond vague details.

I've done a good bit of researching on WWII and have been to some of the historical sites (mainly in Asia) and I still can't come close to fathoming all the different theatres involved (not just countries, but undersea, air, etc...) and the struggles going on within each. A man could spend years just studying the Siege of Leningrad. Stelios summed it up perfectly.
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#46
Couple of NY Times articles that I thought might be interesting to people in this thread. First is this fascinating article about the recovery of art thought lost to the Nazis because the Reich considered it "degenerate":

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/ar....html?ref=arts

Christian Bale's swing record collection, sadly, remains lost.

The next are a couple of book reviews about World War II. This one, And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris, sounds great. One of my favorite interests in World War II is the civillian perspective, particularly for people in Britain and Occupied Europe, and it looks like it also covers the Parisian film movement of that era as well:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/bo...html?ref=books
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#47
My Grandma and Grandpa both served in WWII (she was a nurse, he was a soldier) and met BECAUSE of it, so in a weird way, my dad wouldn't exist if it wasn't for WWII, and therefore I wouldn't exist. Strange, eh?

Oh, and they didn't meet because of a Florence Nightingale sort of thing: they met at a military party. He stepped on her foot.
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#48
Quote:

Originally Posted by JudgeSmails
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He was a first generation American of German descent so I bet that had a lot to do with it.

Same with my grandfather who served. Last name of Holzhauer, to boot. I'm not sure if it was ever an issue, but from the sound of stories by my Grandmother, it wasn't.

He served in the European theater. Was coming to shore on D-Day when his ship hit a mine and left him floating in the water waiting to be picked up for 8 hours.
He then went through Europe, primarily manning a quad anti-aircraft gun mounted in the back of a truck. Apparently he was really good at shooting down Luftwaffe strafing his company, which kept getting him promoted, but he was also an ornery shit, which kept getting him demoted. I think he ended up breaking even in that department.
Was in the middle of the battle of Hurtgen Forest which doesn't sound fun.

He was a grumpy man, to say the least, and I'm sad I never knew him well before his death when I was 14. All of his war stories come to me through my Grandmother and my uncle (his son).
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#49
My papa (What I called my grandfather) was in the Guadalcanal Campaign. He was part of the effort that had destroyers bringing in supplies to American soldiers on the Island. They had to do it at night. He saw a lot of people killed in really horrible ways and often said it was only luck that the ships he was on weren't hit. He often said that being in the Pacific made him realize what Hell was like. He always avoided saying if he ever had to kill, but he had a ton of medals.
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#50
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Originally Posted by The Rain Dog
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If you can get it over in the US Rath, KOKODA by Peter Fitzsimons is considered pretty definitive these days.

It was very much the 'Gallipolli of WW2' for Australians as far as being a part of the public consciousness goes - with the added importance that it really was the last theatre of war Australians could defend before a full scale Japanese invasion.



I've always been just as fascinated as to what would have happened had Hitler maintained his pact with Stalin and not tried to conduct a war on two fronts at once.

New Guinea was an absolute Hellhole of a campaign.
One of my Great Uncles in the US Army got shipped to Australia in the Summer or 1942, and then got to take part in the Buna/Gona Campaign. Really Brutal.
That campaign was unique because Aussie and US Troops quite literally fought side by side.....Aussie tanks giving support to US Infanty. That did not happen that often.

And from what I have read, the Japanese soldiers hated New Guinea as much as the allies did.
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#51
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Originally Posted by Snaieke
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You should be asking these things yourself, he's your Dad, you should know his life.

I do ask him stuff all the time, and I've shared many of those stories on the board since I joined. It's just that I looked over this thread and saw that most people who had relatives involved in the war were telling stories those relatives told them before they died. Some people said stuff like "I wish I got a chance to ask so and so before they passed away". I figured, "well heck, my dad is a WW2 vet, is still very much alive and is able and willing to take questions! Why not make him available as a resource?"

Figured other Chewers might not have a living WW2 vet in their lives, and might be intrigued by the ability to ask my dad a question

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu
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Hey Kate, what was your dad's favorite top 40 hit from back home when he was in the military? I want to know.

He has told me some stuff along those lines before but I can't remember it off the top of my head. He's picking me up later tonight and I will ask him your question, Rath
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#52

Here is a good piece I found about World War 2. It explains the diplomatic moves that led to the war quite well with a few minor omssions.

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#53

My maternal grandfather fought in North Africa (Tunisia), and him and the rest of his men were eventually captured by The Desert Fox himself.  The captured Americans were shipped to Italy, where they were stripped naked, and put on a train for Berlin.  This was in February, 1943, so you can imagine how ridiculously cold it was.  They were spit on, had rocks thrown at them, and obviously were treated like shit.  Their train took them through the mountains and a cold that most of us will never know (or can imagine).  The POWs all huddled together and tried to stay as warm as possible, even switching positions like the Emperor Penguins in "March of the Penguins".  Still, it was brutal, with many men dying of exposure.  They arrived at a POW camp just outside of Berlin, where he (my grandfather) stayed until the end of the War in 1945.
Unfortunately, my grandfather rarely talked about this time of his life, but it was traumatic (duh).  What bits and pieces my grandmother and mom were able to gather were that, while the Americans were treated like crap in the camp, it was nothing compared to how the Russians were treated.  My grandfather had health problems for the rest of his life, stemming from his stay in the camp as well.
I wish I had tried to talk to him about it all, but I never did.  The way I saw it was if he was that secretive about it, it was just something that haunted him so much that he wanted to keep buried.  I get it, and I can't imagine the horrors that he went through and saw.  Especially being a young man, from a small town in Iowa, being in such a strange place and fearing for your life every second of the day.
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#54


Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post

ve read that it's pretty commonly accepted that Operation Sealion (the Nazi plan to invade England) wouldn't have worked, and that Germany had no real shot at invading the British mainland.


Nothing is assured in warfare, but the chances of Sea Lion working were marginal to say the least. The problem was Hitler appeared to have an inferiority complex over Churchill. The guy drove him nuts (Hitler commonly referred to him as the "Little Warmonger" seemingly without ever recognising the irony). So much so that his judgment began to be clouded by an insatiable and irrational urge to either defeat him or inflict significant harm upon him.

The German General Staff (von Manstein, Guderian, Jodl etc.) were given nearly a year to devise the invasion of the Low Countries and France. It was a similar story for Operation Barbarossa in the East. These were meticulously planned and cleverly thought-out campaigns supported by a huge investment in weapons, training and logistics. But the keys to the successes of both were the Field Marshalls (arguably the finest military minds on either side in WWII) who were pretty much left to do their jobs by Hitler.

Things were going swimmingly until Neville Chamberlain stood down as Prime Minister and Churchill got the job by default. Hitler always thought he could strike a deal with Britain which in exchange for ending hostilities and staying out of the Empire would mean Britain respecting Germany's right to expand into Eastern Europe. After all, he had nothing against Britain and regarded the British as  spiritual cousins. He may well have come to such an arrangement under Chamberlain. But Churchill was a totally different animal and when von Ribbentrop (carrying this offer) was sent packing soon after Churchill took office Hitler just seemed to lose his marbles completely. Days after he summoned the brass hats and ordered them to devise a full scale amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain in SIX WEEKS.

You can imagine the looks of horror that must have circulated the room. These guys weren't the brainwashed political fanatics that populated the SS ranks. Most of the Wehrmacht senior officers were honorable men who had fought with valor and distinction in the preceding war. They had witnessed the devastating effects of mechanised warfare in the Great War and had no wish to see their men die pointlessly. Which is why they did their best to try and bury the plan. Hitler could rant and rave all he liked about the superior fighting prowess of the Aryan soldier. But they knew any attempt at invading Britain would be suicidal. +

Even if the Germans could achieve air supremacy (which given Britain's key advantage in radar technology and fully integrated air defence system was no easy feat) they still had to tackle the small matter of the most powerful navy in the world parked directly across their route through the English Channel. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel, especially since the Germans had no means of ferrying troops onto the beaches (unlike the Allies) and seriously considered towing them on flat barges behind ships.

Sea Lion was dropped after Germany lost control of the skies (and conceded its first major defeat in WWII) during the Battle of Britain. Of course, it didn't help that Hitler put control of the Luftwaffe in the pudgy hands of a drug addled moron (Goering) who lived in a fantasy land which made Hitler's look positively spartan. It was around this time that the formerly peerless German war machine slid onto the downslope. Hitler's meddling was a major factor. But the war in the East was a bad idea to begin with. The Germans could have had another six divisions and it wouldn't have made much difference. Russia was just too big with greater resources of men, material and - most of all - motivation. In the end it came down to a numbers game.

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#55

The war in the East was indeed a bad idea but it couldn't be avoided. As long as Hitler had some hope of negotiating some kind of peace with the British, his invasion of Soviet Union was inevitable. This wasn't Germany using its central position to fight its enemies one at a time. They were after the gigantic plains west of the Urals and the oilfields of the Caucasus. Just like the Greek colonization of the Black sea and the Roman takeover of Egypt it was something they had to do for the Reich to have any chance of reaching a thousand years. They had few, if any political goals in the Eastern front. It was a war of annihilation and colonization.

But when you read about the war, it becomes obvious how much of its ultimately victorious outcome was determined by characteristics the allied leaders had that aren't usually thought of as good. Stalin being a homicidal maniac, Churchill being an unreasonable, single minded extremist, Roosevelt being cynical beyond belief and forcing the Congress into voting for war.

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#56

My maternal grandfather did not fight in the war despite wanting to. He was the youngest of four brothers, and the eldest three were all shipped over to Europe, where they all died. I do not know how, but apparently one of them died under mysterious circumstances, having fallen overboard somewhere. Foul play was suspected, and I remember hearing from a family member that it was suspected that he had rejected the sexual advances of another soldier, who was questioned about his murder.

My paternal great grandfather survived the war, but later developed very severe schizophrenia brought on by PTSD. He was eventually committed and later died in a mental institution. The scars from that event are still felt quite strongly on that side of the family, as it happened when my grandmother and her siblings were still children, and it colored how they all approached relationship, which echoed down to my father, and well, you get the picture.

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#57

My paternal great-uncle, Jozef Cyrek, was murdered at Auschwitz. He was a Polish-Catholic. I think it's important to recognize that a lot of people died in the Holocaust, from a lot of different places for a lot of different things, but ultimately it all came down to one overarching issue: they weren't 'German' enough. The Holocaust was more about supreme German narcissism than any sort of external prejudice.

This his photo, taken as part of the Nazi documentation process. The Nazi's were real good at keeping records.

_cyrek.jpg

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#58

They should be good at record keeping. They contracted IBM to set up their record systems.

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#59
AFor those Band of Brothers fans, I just found out Dick Winters died (on the 2nd). One hell of a soldier.

 

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#60

On hell of a soldier indeed.  I'm very surprised that this did not get more attention.  The man was a hero and the best example of what America can produce.

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#61

Speaking of courage and valor - I was browsing the list of Victoria Cross (Britain's highest military honour) recipients and came across a few pretty astonishing feats by Gurkha soldiers (Nepalese recruits to the British army) which seem almost larger than fiction itself:

Lachhiman Gurung:

"On 12/13 May 1945 at Taungdaw, Burma [now Myanmar], Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon which bore the brunt of an attack by at least 200 of the Japanese enemy. Twice he hurled back grenades which had fallen on his trench, but the third exploded in his right hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded but the rifleman, now alone and disregarding his wounds, loaded and fired his rifle with his left hand for four hours, calmly waiting for each attack which he met with fire at point blank range. Afterwards, when the casualties were counted, it is reported that there were 31 dead Japanese around his position which he had killed, with only one arm".

Bhanbhagta Gurung

"On 5 March 1945 at Snowdon-East, near Tamandu, Burma (now Myanmar), Gurung and his unit were approaching Snowdon-East. His company became pinned down by an enemy sniper and were suffering casualties. As this sniper was inflicting casualties on the section, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung, being unable to fire from the lying position, stood up fully exposed to the heavy fire and calmly killed the enemy sniper with his rifle, thus saving his section from suffering further casualties.[2]
The section advanced again but came under heavy fire once again. Without waiting for orders, Gurung dashed out to attack the first enemy fox-hole. Throwing two grenades, he killed the two occupants and without any hesitation rushed on to the next enemy fox-hole and killed the Japanese in it with his bayonet. He cleared two further fox-holes with bayonet and grenade. "During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy fox-holes, Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung was subjected to almost continuous and point-blank Light Machine Gun fire from a bunker on the North tip of the objective." For the fifth time, Gurung "went forward alone in the face of heavy enemy fire to knock out this position. He doubled forward and leapt on to the roof of the bunker from where, his hand grenades being finished, he flung two No. 77 smoke grenades into the bunker slit." [2] Gurung killed two Japanese soldiers who ran out of the bunker with his Kukri, and then advanced into the cramped bunker and killed the remaining Japanese soldier.


Gurung ordered three others to take up positions in the bunker. "The enemy counter-attack followed soon after, but under Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung's command the small party inside the bunker repelled it with heavy loss to the-enemy. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung showed outstanding bravery and a complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous clearing of five enemy positions single-handed was in itself decisive in capturing the objective and his inspiring example to the rest of the Company contributed to the speedy consolidation of this success."

Tul Bahadur Pun

"The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:-

No. 10119 Rifleman Tulbahadur [sic] Pun, 6th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

In Burma on 23 June 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it.

So intense was this cross fire that both the leading platoons of 'B' Company, one of which was Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun's, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur (sic) Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded.

Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees.

Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon which enabled them to reach their objective.

His outstanding courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring to all ranks and beyond praise."

Over the last century the Gurkhas have achieved a legendary status among the British Army for their bravery, steel and humbleness. For this reason they were/are very often assigned the toughest jobs. This loyalty is all the more surprising when you consider that it took until 2009 before they were afforded the same rights as British soldiers (pension, benefits etc.) and offered the option of residency.

One other VC story I'll mention is that of Royal Airforce pilot Norman_Cyril_Jackson, who serves as a reminder that human beings are capable of the most extraordinary feats when placed under conditions of extreme stress:

"This airman was the flight engineer in a Lancaster detailed to attack Schweinfurt on the night of 26th April, 1944. Bombs were dropped successfully and the aircraft was climbing out of the target area. Suddenly it was attacked by a fighter at about 20,000 feet. The captain took evading action at once, but the enemy secured many hits. A fire started near a petrol tank on the upper surface of the starboard wing, between the fuselage and the inner engine.

Sergeant Jackson was thrown to the floor during the engagement. Wounds which he received from shell splinters in the right leg and shoulder were probably sustained at that time. Recovering himself, he remarked that he could deal with the fire on the wing and obtained his captain's permission to try to put out the flames.

Pushing a hand fire-extinguisher into the top of his life-saving jacket and clipping on his parachute pack, Sergeant Jackson jettisoned the escape hatch above the pilot's head. He then started to climb out of the cockpit and back along the top of the fuselage to the starboard wing. Before he could leave the fuselage his parachute pack opened and the whole canopy and rigging lines spilled into the cockpit.

Undeterred, Sergeant Jackson continued. The pilot (Tony Mifflin), bomb aimer (Maurice Toft) and navigator (Frank Higgins) gathered the parachute together and held on to the rigging lines, paying them out as the airman crawled aft. Eventually he slipped and, falling from the fuselage to the starboard wing, grasped an air intake on the leading edge of the wing. He succeeded in clinging on but lost the extinguisher, which was blown away.

By this time, the fire had spread rapidly and Sergeant Jackson was involved. His face, hands and clothing were severely burnt. Unable to retain his hold he was swept through the flames and over the trailing edge of the wing, dragging his parachute behind. When last seen it was only partly inflated and was burning in a number of places.

Realising that the fire could not be controlled, the captain gave the order to abandon aircraft. Four of the remaining members of the crew landed safely. The captain and rear gunner have not been accounted for.

Sergeant Jackson was unable to control his descent and landed heavily. He sustained a broken ankle, his right eye was closed through burns and his hands were useless. These injuries, together with the wounds received earlier, reduced him to a pitiable state. At daybreak he crawled to the nearest village, where he was taken prisoner. He bore the intense pain and discomfort of the journey to Dulag Luft with magnificent fortitude. After ten months in hospital he made a good recovery, though his hands require further treatment and are only of limited use.

This airman's attempt to extinguish the fire and save the aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands was an act of outstanding gallantry. To venture outside, when travelling at 200 miles an hour, at a great height and in intense cold, was an almost incredible feat. Had he succeeded in subduing the flames, there was little or no prospect of his regaining the cockpit. The spilling of his parachute and the risk of grave damage to its canopy reduced his chances of survival to a minimum. By his ready willingness to face these dangers he set an example of self-sacrifice which will ever be remembered."

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#62

Ghurkas take care of business. There's sort of been an on-going debate in the UK about the treatment and recognition of Ghurka veterans in recent years. Maybe someone in the UK could elaborate on this, as my recollection of the issue is a bit faded at this point.

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#63

From what I've read, they've more or less won that right to settle in UK now though I'm not too sure how far along that process has progressed.
Their pension however is still a bit of a problem. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11530333

Their reputation in the field precedes them, so much so that in the Falklands the Argentinians rather surrender(and rightly so) when they found out who they were facing. It also helps that the Gurkha units were hellbent on charging the lines with just their kurkri knives rather than use of their guns. You can imagine how disappointed they were when they saw all these hands up and white flags flailing away before them.

An anecdote  to this story : The British Commander of the Gurkha forces in Falklands was once asked by another officer how he commanded them in the field. "Did you just point them at the Argentines and let them go at it?"
"Hell no!" The Commander replied, "If I did that they wouldn't stop till they hit Chile!"


Back to the WWII topic: Another reason Hitler wanted to avoid engaging the British in the War too much because he had a political ace card packed away. That being the abdicated former King of England Edward VIII, was a nazi sympathizer* and they were actually quite chummy together. Hitler wanted to reinstall Edward back to the throne and gain a friendly ally that way.

That of course wouldn't work if his armies ended up trashing England too much and turn the country irrevocably against him, whoever is at the throne.
Whatever the case Hitler in the end never had the right logistics to mount an invasion of England anyway at the time. Not enough of the right sea going transports.
He had gathered a large amount of river barges but those were never going to survive the channel crossing and the Royal Navy still had a strong presence in the channel. Luftwaffe or not.


*A fact well known by Churchill and the British AND US secret service. It was why he was shipped off to the Bahamas for the duration of the war and was never to hold any official appointment thereafter(He actually was an officer in France when Germany invaded, though he ran off with his wife to Spain the first chance he got). It may also be part of the reason he abdicated as well. Kinda puts the movie "The King's Speech" into a new light doesn't it?

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#64


Quote:
Originally Posted by Strumvogel View Post
*A fact well known by Churchill and the British AND US secret service. It was why he was shipped off to the Bahamas for the duration of the war and was never to hold any official appointment thereafter(He actually was an officer in France when Germany invaded, though he ran off with his wife to Spain the first chance he got). It may also be part of the reason he abdicated as well. Kinda puts the movie "The King's Speech" into a new light doesn't it?

Not really, considering that Edward's Nazi sympathies are kind of a blatant point of the movie. 

I'm of the Ian Kershaw school of thought that the strength of Hitler and the Nazis as a military unit was largely trumped up. That they were an effective fighting force, but that there own bureaocracy and high ranking infighting would have eventually throttled their Empire without Russian and American intervention.

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#65

Some interesting WW2 discussion in some of these BBC history podcasts, especially the interviews with survivors of the blitz from June 2010.  They should be downloadable outside the UK:

http://www.historyextra.com/podcast-page

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#66

My father's step father was in the navy on a cruiser. The only WWII story he talked about was being in Typhoon Cobra.

My mothers father was a transport pilot in the pacific. The only story he told was, once being lost over the pacific, because of being giving bad coordinates, a hairy story in itself. My grandmother told me he had metals form being caught in more then one air rad, but never talked about them. From a man who had stories from his time on the minute man system, he the one who got them to 'work'( his onion of what a nuclear exchange would have been in the 70s and 80s, would have made a great Black comedy. Basically the US would have been lucky if ½ their missile found their targets, then the question of how many warheads would have detonated . The Russians had more to fear from their own weapon systems then the did from ours, the US would not even have to return fire to win that war). He also had some hairy stories about his time with McDonnell Douglas aircraft salvage teams.

I have known a navy Pear Harbor survivor, a Marine, and a UDT out side the family. The sailor had no real problem talking about the war. The Marine was in the 1st, and you could get him to talk about the "Frozen Chosin" but not Okinawa. The UDT guy had wounds on his neck and face, were he got bayonet in the neck and face on some island by a Imperial Japanese Marine( a bad motherfucker if there ever was one), and left for dead. He then swam back to his ship. He like most UDTs had a life long problem with heroin.

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#67

The Atlantic has a fantastic (and massive) 20-part photo retrospective of WWII up on their website:

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/ww2.html

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#68
AMy grandfather received a Purple Heart on Okinawa and had some shrapnel in his leg until the day he died. He refused to tell anyone about what he saw there.
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#69

I met Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, years ago when I was living in Minot Air Force Base in ND. Paul and a couple of the crewmen were promoting a book about the mission to Hiroshima. I can't remember the name of the book, but my dad bought it and they autographed it. Really nice bunch of gentlemen. They shook our hands and talked to us for a few minutes. It's because of them I took interest in WWII.

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#70

My three uncles (mothers brothers) fought for the Japanese Army in WWII. They all came home. I am half Japanese.

My two great uncles (my dad's uncles) fought for the Allies. My Great Uncle Guido was 82nd Airborne and was wounded jumping on D-Day. My Great Uncle Carlo (Cullo) landed at Anzio Beach. Weird world.

Also aside: My Uncle Thomas died in Vietnam in the 3rd Marines. My dad was Navy. My Uncle Nick was Army. My son is currently in the 1st Infantry Div. and just got back from his 2nd deployment to Iraq. Will probably be his last there. Going to Afghanistan next I guess. Oh yeah I served in the Army back when Stripes was relevant. My family is pretty liberal and every generation has worn a uniform. My Aunt Nancy was a hippie tho.

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