World War II Day by Day - Page 15 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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The Second World War (1939-1945).
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By Doug64
#15316671
May 28, Tuesday

Belgian king tells army to surrender


On orders from King Leopold, Belgian forces lay down their arms at 11:00 am today. At Ypres, a few units without communications continue fighting for two hours.

Leopold’s action has been denounced as “illegal and unconstitutional” by his cabinet ministers, who have fled to Paris. Britain’s liaison officer to the Belgian king, Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, passes on a message from King George VI appealing to Leopold to escape and lead resistance from England. Leopold brushes this aside, saying it is a repetition of what his ministers have been saying. “The cause of the Allies is lost,” he says.

Leopold has been little liked by the British and French. In peacetime, he pulled Belgium out of its alliance with them, and when war came, he failed to rejoin it although the German threat was manifest. His troops have fought valiantly. Not once, under relentless bombing and repeated tank assaults, have they broken during the eighteen days of fighting against overwhelming odds.

It has been learned that Leopold decided to surrender several days ago after an all-night row with his ministers, during which he refused to allow them to be seated. Then, two days ago, the king sent this message to the Allies: “The Belgian command intends to continue the fight to the very end. But the limits of resistance have now practically been reached.”

Yesterday, he sent General Derousseaux, his deputy chief of staff, to ask the Germans for an armistice. Almost six hours later, after being fired on by German troops, Derousseaux returned with an answer: the Fuhrer was demanding unconditional surrender. Leopold capitulated.

This morning the German High Command makes a further demand, requiring Leopold to give unhindered passage through the Belgian lines to the sea. Half an hour later, German columns move on Ostend and Dixmude and encounter resistance from British forces led by Lieutenant General Alan Brooke.
By Doug64
#15316759
May 29, Wednesday

Churchill thwarts Cabinet appeasers with Labour help


Winston Churchill is determined that the grim news from France, as the battered British Expeditionary Force retreats towards Dunkirk, should not deflect Britain from its absolute opposition to Germany, whatever the cost. But he needs the support of his five-man War Cabinet's two Labour Party members to sustain his position.

At a secret meeting in the Prime Minister’s room at the House of Commons this night the War Cabinet debates Italy’s offer to mediate a negotiated peace. Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, believes that Britain might secure better terms now before, as seems likely, France is forced to surrender.

Chamberlain, ousted as Prime Minister earlier this month, is sympathetic to the Halifax line; Churchill, predictably, is hostile. He turns to the Labour men, for so long his political opponents. Clement Attlee says that if negotiations ever begin, the morale of the people will suffer a disastrous blow. His deputy, Arthur Greenwood, agrees—and the two-hour meeting ends with Britain still defiantly at war.
By Doug64
#15316971
May 31, Friday

German economy geared for a short war


Germany’s economy is being reshaped to bolster its military campaigns. In March, Fritz Todt established the Ministry of Armaments and Munitions to improve the flow of arms to the front line.

Unlike the other warring powers, Germany was preparing for war as early as 1936, when a four-year economic plan was introduced, which included large-scale investment in armaments. Despite this, Germany’s reserves aren’t geared to cope with a protracted war; this is one reason behind Hitler’s Blitzkrieg strategy. With other heavy industries, armaments have been hit by labor and raw materials shortages. However, occupying areas rich in iron ore, such as Norway and Luxemburg, should ease the latter.
#15317017
Doug64 wrote:May 31, Friday

German economy geared for a short war


Germany’s economy is being reshaped to bolster its military campaigns. In March, Fritz Todt established the Ministry of Armaments and Munitions to improve the flow of arms to the front line.

Unlike the other warring powers, Germany was preparing for war as early as 1936, when a four-year economic plan was introduced, which included large-scale investment in armaments. Despite this, Germany’s reserves aren’t geared to cope with a protracted war; this is one reason behind Hitler’s Blitzkrieg strategy. With other heavy industries, armaments have been hit by labor and raw materials shortages. However, occupying areas rich in iron ore, such as Norway and Luxemburg, should ease the latter.

Hitler feared a repeat of 1918, when food shortages and strikes led to the collapse of the German war effort. The British actually put their economy on a full-on war footing before Nazi Germany did. The British were fighting a ‘Total War’ long before Goebbels made his famous speech.
By Doug64
#15317019
Potemkin wrote:Hitler feared a repeat of 1918, when food shortages and strikes led to the collapse of the German war effort. The British actually put their economy on a full-on war footing before Nazi Germany did. The British were fighting a ‘Total War’ long before Goebbels made his famous speech.

Yup, another sign that this war kicked off years earlier than Hitler expected.
#15317021
Doug64 wrote:Yup, another sign that this war kicked off years earlier than Hitler expected.

Indeed. As the ‘Phoney War’ demonstrated, neither side was ready to fight a major war. The outbreak of war in 1939 caught everyone by surprise, even Hitler.
By Doug64
#15317296
June 4, Tuesday

Operation Dynamo succeeds: 338,226 men saved


In the early hours of this morning, Major General Harold Alexander tours the shoreline in a fast motor boat to ensure that no soldiers remain to be lifted off. Then he returns to the quayside and takes ship to Dover, the last Allied soldier to leave Dunkirk. Behind him, Dunkirk is a lurid backcloth of flames and thick, oily smoke rising from burning vehicles and stores.

In seven days, no fewer than 338,226 men have been evacuated under relentless enemy attack. The killed, wounded, or missing number 68,000. All told, 222 naval vessels and some 800 civilian craft joined the operation; six destroyers and 243 other ships were sunk. Churchill speaks of the operation as “a miracle of deliverance.”

Goering had boasted that his Luftwaffe would annihilate the BEF. But his aircraft were often grounded by bad weather and couldn’t operate at night. “Dense fog over the Channel is giving cover to the British in their headlong flight,” the German news agency reported. General Halder fumed: “We must now stand and watch countless thousands of the enemy get away to England right under our noses.” Goering lost 150 planes in seven days, and the RAF Fighter Command lost 106. Not all those brought to safety have been military personnel. Among the last to come ashore at Dover are seven French telephone operators, a party of railway engineers, and a girl aged five, rescued from a Belgian farm.

French commanders accuse the British of saving their own men and abandoning the French; Weygand says the British are playing their usual double game. This is not quite true, as Churchill pointed out yesterday afternoon in an urgent message to Reynaud: “We are coming back for your men tonight. Please ensure that all facilities are used promptly. For three hours last night many ships waited idly at great risk and danger.”

British and French estimates put the number awaiting rescue at 30,000. But when the ships began taking men onboard a swarm of men appeared out of cellars and wrecked buildings and raced towards the mole. About 118,000, mainly French but also Belgian and Dutch troops, have been brought back. The Dunkirk survivors, a weary, defeated army, are put aboard trains and taken to barracks. The British welcome them as heroes who will fight another day and ply them with tea, food, and cigarettes.

Churchill vows: “We shall fight on the beaches”

Mr. Churchill today reviews the war situation. In Parliament, he says, “We shall go on to the end ... we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender....”

Rousing MPs’ patriotic fervor, he continues: “Even if—which I do not for a moment believe—this land or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry out the struggle until God’s good time the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.”

Earlier in his somber report, the Prime Minister described the Dunkirk evacuation of the bulk of the British Expeditionary Force as “a miracle of deliverance” even though there had been “a colossal military disaster.” Now, he says, Britain faces an imminent threat of invasion. But Napoleon had failed, and so, too, would Hitler.

Military triumph or disastrous fiasco?

People are already talking about the Dunkirk evacuation as a miracle, and the British troops have been welcomed home as heroes rather than as members of a defeated army. This hides the extreme seriousness of the situation.

For a start, the BEF left behind almost all its weapons, and there is little available in Britain to replace them. The Royal Navy has suffered severe warship losses, and three squadrons’ worth of fighters are now missing from the RAF’s order of battle. Now that the victorious German armies are turning south, the question is: can France resist them? There is little optimism in Whitehall that it will be able to do so for long. If so, Britain, its defenses weakened, will be left very much on its own.
#15317299
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” - Thomas Paine, The Crisis
By Doug64
#15317350
Potemkin wrote:“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” - Thomas Paine, The Crisis

Words that still ring as true in 1940 as in 1776.
#15317351
Doug64 wrote:Words that still ring as true in 1940 as in 1776.

They are words that will always ring true.
By Doug64
#15317352
Potemkin wrote:They are words that will always ring true.

So long as we have a civilization worth fighting for. May that be forever.
#15317359
Doug64 wrote:So long as we have a civilization worth fighting for. May that be forever.

Amen.
By Doug64
#15317374
June 5, Wednesday

British government bans strike action


Strikes and lockouts are now banned in Britain, and arbitration in industrial disputes is compulsory. Machinery in arms factories will run seven days a week, but workers can have one day’s rest in seven. Hiring a worker without government permission will be a criminal offense for an employer in certain vital industries—especially engineering. Miners and farmworkers will have to stay in their jobs. Plans are being prepared for possible large-scale transfers of population and communal feeding.

These decrees and emergency measures are announced today by Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour and National Service. He is rapidly becoming the most powerful member of the Cabinet after Mr. Churchill himself.

In summing up the drastic changes in industrial relations and work practices, Mr. Bevin says, “I cannot have a peacetime economy in wartime. I do not want one soldier to come back and say: ‘you sent me there ill-equipped.’”

He advised people not to have holidays. When asked what workers should spend any higher pay on when there are shortages of goods in the shops, the Labour Minister says, “They should save part of their wages which might be useful when they have a week or two off after the war.”

Mr. Bevin assures that all the new controls and restrictions are for wartime only.

Wealthy British send their children to Canada

Many middle-class parents plan to send their children abroad because of the danger of invasion. They are making private arrangements with relatives and friends in Canada, other Dominions, and the United States. The government is also planning an evacuation scheme for five to sixteen-year-olds through the Children’s Overseas Reception Board. Offers to take British children are pouring in.

Priestley gives BBC a northern voice

A new voice is heard giving the postscript to the BBC News tonight—the novelist J.B. Priestley talks of the Dunkirk evacuation in tones as downright and northern as Yorkshire pudding. “What was characteristically English about it was the part played by the little pleasure steamers. These Brighton Belles left that innocent world of theirs to sail into the inferno to rescue our soldiers. Some of them will never return.” He singles out the ferryboat Gracie Fields. “Now this little steamer, like all her brave and battered sisters, is immortal.”

De Gaulle joins the French government

Paul Reynaud, the French Prime Minister, has brought into his government, as Under-Secretary for National Defense, General Charles de Gaulle, who distinguished himself in last week’s fighting as the commander of a tank division and has long been known as the advocate for more aggressive military tactics. De Gaulle’s rise has been rapid. He only received his first divisional command, as a colonel, less than a month ago. Opponents of his ideas long held back his career. In his book Towards a Professional Army, he advocated for a war of movement similar to that proposed by the German tank expert General Guderian.
By Doug64
#15317536
June 7, Friday

Navy captain wins first Victoria Cross of the war


The war's first Victoria Cross—the British Empire’s highest award for heroism—has been awarded posthumously to Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee of the destroyer HMS Hardy. He led the raid on Narvik in April in a blinding blizzard, knowing that the Germans held Narvik in greater force than was at first thought. Nevertheless, he made three successful attacks on warships and merchant vessels in the harbor; as he withdrew, he engaged five German destroyers. Captain Warburton-Lee was fatally wounded when a shell landed on Hardy’s bridge.

Parisians prepare for German onslaught

A dull rumble can be heard north and east of Paris, the rumble of heavy guns. The broken glass from Paris’s first air raid four days ago still tinkles under the feet of the refugees moving east along the boulevards. The restaurants are empty, the Ritz deserted. For the third time in a lifetime, Paris prepares for a siege.

The air raid on June 3rd came at lunchtime. Leaflets giving warnings, dropped by German planes the night before, caused near-hysteria, but when the raid came, it was an anticlimax—though 254 are reported dead. Paris’s anti-aircraft guns were “well-nourished,” as the French say, and the 200 planes kept too high to be accurate. There was no panic; the city seemed to accept its fate.

Only the cafés remain open, and it is there, amongst the clientele, that you can see some Parisians face change, the jaws taking on prominence, the cheekbones becoming defined, the eyes staring out. It isn’t hunger. There is lots of food in Paris. It is fear.
By Doug64
#15317617
June 8, Saturday

Nazi cruisers sink three British ships


This evening, two German battlecruisers, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, sink the British aircraft carrier Glorious and her two escorting destroyers, returning from the failed expedition to Narvik. The destroyer Acasta takes on the Scharnhorst and manages to hit her in the stern with a torpedo before going down herself. As a result, the battlecruisers are forced back to Trondheim for repairs.

Germans push into the heart of France

The tide of battle on the Somme has turned decisively in favor of the Germans. General Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division has broken through the French front between Abbeville and Amiens and, in a lightning thrust, has reached the outskirts of Rouen. Rommel has sliced the French 10th Army in two, leaving the British 51st Highland Division with its back to the sea and facing destruction.

The French are fighting with desperate tenacity, but they are outnumbered two to one and able to maneuver their armor only slowly, while the Germans are shifting their Panzers from one sector of the front to another with bewildering speed.
By Doug64
#15317793
June 10, Monday

Mussolini takes Italy into the war


After months of bombastic indecision, Benito Mussolini, Italy’s Fascist dictator, tags his forces onto Hitler’s victorious Panzers today and declares war on the Allies. Informed sources here believe that the Duce’s great fear is peace, which will prevent him from winning glory.

British and French ambassadors in Rome are informed of the Italian decision today by Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and Foreign Minister. Asked why Italy should enter the war, he replies, “Mussolini is only carrying out the plans he has made with Hitler.”

Mussolini wasn’t even able to choose his own date for the declaration. Five days ago, he pleaded with Hitler to be allowed to join the fight against France. The Fuhrer prevailed on him to hold back until the French air force was completely destroyed. Hitler is insistent on a complete German victory. Nor, should France fall, will Mussolini be allowed to join Germany in armistice talks. More than 250,000 cheering and flag-waving people hear the Duce declare war from the balcony of his official residence, the Palazzo Venezia. “We will conquer,” he roars. “People of Italy, to arms! Show your tenacity, your courage, your worth.”
By Doug64
#15317888
June 11, Tuesday

Allied leaders meet for council of war, but defeatism grows


Churchill arrives at Briare, France, near Orleans, this afternoon with senior figures, including Mr. Anthony Eden and Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, to find out what the French plan to do. Weygand, established in a railway carriage, greets the British with the news that “the last line of defense has been pierced.... We are going to have to ask how France can continue the war.”

This evening, after dinner, Reynaud tells Churchill that Marshal Petain has already written down an appeal to the Germans for an armistice, but, Reynaud says, “He is ashamed to show it to me.” Churchill tells the gloomy French leaders that no matter what they do, “we shall fight on forever.”
By Doug64
#15318029
June 12, Wednesday

Heavy losses as Japan advances into heart of China


Japanese forces are within 400 miles (640 km) of the Chinese Nationalist capital, Chungking, after capturing the gateway city of Ichang today. The taking of Ichang—the westernmost city to fall to the Japanese—is the culmination of a three-month campaign by Japan’s China Expeditionary Army to put the Nationalists back on the defensive after their success at Wuyuan and their continuing guerrilla attacks on Japanese units.

Japan’s response has been to hit back with a massive invasion of the Nationalist-held provinces in south and west central China. So far, the price has been high. In the seesaw battle for Tsaoyang in May, the Japanese suffered 45,000 wounded or killed, and they had to pull in reinforcements from Manchukuo before taking Ichang.

RAF bombers strike first Italian targets

Britain replies swiftly to Italy’s declaration of war today with bombing raids on Milan and Genoa. At the same time, RAF and South African bombers strike at Italian aircraft on the ground, petrol depots, and ammunition dumps in Libya and East Africa. The Italians are caught by surprise, and only light anti-aircraft fire is met. The RAF claims that the raids have crippled Italy’s striking power in the Middle East. The first Italian bombs of the war fall on Malta in a series of seven raids which hit civilian targets, including a hospital. Seventeen people die, and two bombers are destroyed.

US isolationists feel anti-Italian backlash

Italy’s sudden entry into the war may have provoked a pro-Allied anti-isolationist backlash in the United States with serious long-term consequences for the Axis.

Tomorrow’s New York Times sums up the opinions of many Americans about Italy’s sudden entry into the war. “With the courage of a jackal at the heels of a bolder beast of prey Mussolini has left his ambush,” says an editorial. It was not the decision of the Italian people, it adds. It was the decision of one man “which now takes Italy into the darkness of night and makes her the moral enemy of every democratic people.”

The Baltimore Sun describes Italy’s action as a “long and dangerous gamble ... inevitably it is a losing one.” As other influential American newspapers join in a chorus of disgust at Mussolini’s action, the official American view comes from President Roosevelt, bringing more cheer to the Allies, anxious for America’s support.

The President says Italy has “scorned the rights of security of other nations,” and he adds that the United States will extend to the opponents of force his nation's material resources.

“Some still hold to the obvious delusions that the United States can become a lone island—in a world dominated by the philosophy of force,” adds the President. “Such an island represents to the overwhelming majority of Americans a helpless nightmare—of a people without friends.”
By Doug64
#15318284
June 14, Friday

Nazi darkness falls on “City of Light”


“The German Army are inside the gates of Paris!” These were the dramatic words with which the US ambassador to France, William Bullitt, announced to another US diplomat in Tours that the French capital is on the verge of falling to Hitler’s armies.

That was at 7 pm yesterday. All day, the Germans had been closing in on the great city. To the west, spearheads of motorized and Panzer columns had crossed the Seine at various points between Paris and Rouen. North of the capital, at least twelve divisions had begun a fierce attack along the Oise. To the east, Panzer divisions had crossed the Marne and were believed to be in Meaux.

It is four days since Reynaud’s government fled westwards to Tours, leaving Paris in the hands of a military governor, General Hering. The Battle of France is reaching its violent climax, and as the Germans swept all before them General Hering declared Paris an open city to save it from enemy bombardment. That was on June 11th, and since then, a great exodus of Parisian citizens has been underway, organized by Georges Mandel, the Minister of the Interior, who stayed behind to meet the invaders. He has ordered the police to hand over their arms to their superiors.

An air of deep gloom had descended on those who remained in Paris, and the normally bustling boulevards and cafés were silent and deserted. The silence was occasionally broken by distant explosions as the French blew up munitions factories.

It is at 10 am today that the Germans goose-step into the center of the “City of Light.” The only resistance comes from some workers near the Porte d’Aubervilliers, who punch passing soldiers, who ignore them. The Germans post machine-gunners in key positions as they march through near-empty streets, and a senior officer drives to M. Laingeron, the chief of the Paris police, to tell him to remain in office until further notice and to be responsible for keeping public order. The swastika now flies from the Eiffel Tower and German headquarters, established in one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. The French army is still fighting south of the city, but the loss of Paris seems a fatal blow.

Refugees stream from the French battle zones

Twelve million people—fleeing soldiers and terrified civilian refugees—are crowding roads out of every city in the north as Panzers race across France and panic grips the country. In Nancy, students working in bomb-proofed cellars at the university are being snatched from their end-of-term examinations by worried parents to join the chaotic stream heading west and south in any direction away from the Germans. The town council has ordered the city's evacuation, unaware that the enemy is relying on confusion and blocked roads to prevent the French army from regrouping. With barely time to gather a few belongings, families turn anything from prams—the quintessential image of this exodus—to wheelbarrows into makeshift vehicles. Even hearses can be seen, people desperately crowding into running boards. Their rooftops protected from bullets by mattresses, the few cars passing jangle with the pots and pans hanging from their doors.

This fleeing crowd is an easy target for the Germans, and the roads are soon strewn with bodies. Entire families are torn apart, children aimlessly wandering the roads. Many have no idea where they are headed. They have only one goal: to get away from the Germans. The German forces, meanwhile, advanced towards Paris, which began to resemble a ghost town. On June 10th, French government officials left the capital and, later, Bordeaux. The statement declaring Paris an open city on June 11th accelerated the departure of its population. A handful of frightened passersby still occupying the capital's streets have been faced with drawn windows and closed shutters. When Paris is occupied today, the Parisians are reassured by the apparent kindness of German soldiers, who respond willingly to questions from braver inhabitants. Not everyone is convinced that this will last.
#15318326
Doug64 wrote:Unlike the other warring powers, Germany was preparing for war as early as 1936, when a four-year economic plan was introduced, which included large-scale investment in armaments. Despite this, Germany’s reserves aren’t geared to cope with a protracted war; this is one reason behind Hitler’s Blitzkrieg strategy.

Hitler didn't have a blitzkrieg strategy. Why do historians get this so wrong? The term first arose not as a strategy to be followed but to be avoided. The term was used as a description of Germany's failed First War Strategy. When the Schliefen Blitzkrieg failed Germany was in trouble. Another thing that is misunderstood is the place of Ukraine. Hitler didn't want to fight a war so he could conquer / control Ukraine. He wanted to control / conquer Ukraine, so he could fight the war. Fight the war with France and maybe Britain without worrying about food supplies. Hitler ended up fighting the war the wrong way round.

In my view re-fighting and winning the war with France and Britain was the thing that really mattered to Hitler. However this was the one thing he couldn't admit to when writing / dictating Mein Kampf. Re-fighting the war with France and Britain was not a popular idea with the large majority of the German population. This was probably the last thing most Germans wanted. And if he did come to power Britain and France were hardly likely to just sit back and let him rebuild his military if they knew what his true intentions were. He knew that Poland and Czechoslovakia were not likely to allow this either. Saying he wanted Ukraine served two reasons, it covered his real reasons for rearmament and it was also something he wanted to achieve before general war with France and Britain.

Part of what undermined Hitler's strategy was that his rearmament plans were just not economically sustainable. By 1938 rearmament plans were already being scaled back. The acquisitions, of Austria, the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia gave temporary extensions to the sustainability of the German war economy. But these were temporary and his rearmament had triggered rearmament in France and Britain. He was in an arms race he knew he had no chance of winning long term. This gave him a short window of possible advantage. This caused the aggressive speed up in his diplomatic threats, which led him into general war with France and Britain for which Germany was not properly prepared.
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