World War II in Europe

The Image Maker

val c pope one of first combat cameramen to land at Normandy seen in france june 44651 8x10Val C. Pope served with a U.S. Army Signal Corps company during World War II. He was one of the first combat cameramen to make it ashore on D-Day. He landed on Omaha Beach with still photographer Walter Rosenblum sometime during the morning of June 6th. Armed only with a movie camera, Val and Walter set about capturing the chaos on Omaha as it unfolded around them. One of the most gripping movie clips Val shot that survived the landing was the rescue of several drowning GI’s. Their landing craft was hit and sinking, and as they ended up in the water floundering, a young lieutenant saw their plight from shore. He grabbed a cast away life raft, jumped into the surf and swam out to them. Val’s footage shows the men being helped ashore.omaha beach 1157

For the next several days, Val remained right in the thick of the fighting, filming some of the iconic scenes of the early days of the invasion. While walking past a couple of buildings in search of a Red Cross aid station, he was ambushed by a German machine gun team. Hit in the head, he fell back unconscious as a fellow combat camerman dove for cover. A few minutes later, a group of GI’s rushed out and pulled Val out of the line of fire. He died as medics worked furiously to save his life.

Today, as we remember the June 6th landings, let us not forget those who carried cameras instead of guns, whose images have become a timeless–and priceless–part of our national heritage. Without them and their selfless spirit to capture history as it unfolded, future generations would have had no window into those momentous events in 1944.omaha beach dday first wave going ashore iii212

 

 

 

Categories: ETO, European Theater of Operations, War in Europe, World War II, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sky Above Southern California

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The Planes of Fame Republic P-47D Thunderbolt with a replica Fw-190 on its wing. Chino Air Show, 2016. If you are a lover of warbirds and have not made the trip to Chino, do so. The museum’s collection is simply incredible.

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Chino Air Show, Day 2

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Categories: Korean War, Uncategorized, World War II, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe, World War II in the Pacific | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Knives and Bayonets Against the Waffen-SS:

82nd airborne bulge155 8x10The American paratroopers moved swiftly through the darkness, their speed and effort keeping the bitter cold at bay. Through thick woods they’d captured earlier that day, they would soon break out into flat, open ground broken only by rows of heavy barbed wire fences. Four hundred yards across that dead space, two companies of elite SS panzergrenadiers waited for them. Supported by heavy tanks, half tracks, 75mm gun carrying armored cars and 20mm flak wagons, the entrenched SS troops possessed the kind of firepower that could utterly wipe out an infantry assault.

The paratroopers had waited for the pre-attack artillery bombardment, but it didn’t happen. They waited for the two tank destroyers assigned to attack, but the LT in charge of them refused to move forward, arguing his M36 Jacksons were no match for the German armor on the other side of the open ground.

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A German 20mm flak half track. Cheneux was defended, in part, by a Luftwaffe light flak battalion equipped with eighteen of these deadly vehicles.

Without artillery or armor, the paratroopers attacked anyway. The situation was desperate.

Bulge359It was 1930 hours, December 20, 1944. Christmas season in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest. The 82nd Airborne reached the battlefield only two days before after a wild drive up from France. Thrown into the path of Kampfgruppe Peiper, the men of the 82nd had no time to get oriented, lacked winter clothing and carried nothing heavier than bazooka rocket launchers.

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An 82nd anti-armor bazooka team covers a road near Cheneux on December 20, 1944.

The Peiper’s panzergrenadiers represented the best troops left to Nazi Germany. Fiercely loyal to the Reich, they fought with tremendous intensity and determination with the best equipment in the world. Equipped with Tiger II heavy tanks, Panther medium tanks, self propelled guns and half tracks, Peiper’s kampfgruppe was supposed to lead the way to the Meuse River in the opening days of the German Ardennes offensive. Getting across the Ambleve River was a key step toward the Meuse, but furious counter-attacks by the 30th Infantry Division had stopped Peiper’s spearhead at Stoumont. To the south, at Cheneux, the Waffen-SS troops seized two bridges, crossed the Ambleve and prepared to drive on.

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Men of the 82nd moving into forward positions on December 20, 1944.

The 82nd’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment reached the front and its regimental commander, Colonel Tucker, realized the gravity of the situation. The panzergrenadiers had to be driven back across the Ambleve and their bridgehead destroyed. Cheneux had to be seized and the river used as the main defensive line against further German armored thrusts.

The responsibility for taking Cheneux fell to the 1-504. Second Battalion had pushed to within a half mile of the town earlier on December 20, 1944, their advance aided by a captured German half track armed with a 77mm field gun, which a scratch American crew put to good use until they ran out of ammunition. Shortly after, the attack stalled and 1-504 was ordered to attack through 2nd battalion’s lines and take Cheneux in a night attack.

Nothing went right at first. Bravo Company 1-504 formed the right wing of the assault, while Charlie was the left.  Each company went in with four waves of men with fifty yards of space between each wave.

They barely made it into the open terrain when the Germans opened fire with every barrel. Mortar round rained down on the Americans. Artillery soon followed. Struggling through the indirect, the first waves crawled to the barbed wire fences. The Germans had them zeroed. Suddenly, yellow glowing 20mm anti-aircraft shells streaked overhead, exploding among the troops.  The zipper-fast sound of MG-42’s going cyclic erupted across the German main line of resistance. The Americans, caught against the barbed wire, out in the open without support, were cut down relentlessly.

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The deadliest machine gun of World War II, the German MG42.

Trapped in the kill zone, the veteran NCO’s and officers of 1-504 realized they had to close with the enemy or die in the terrible crossfire. On the right, 1st platoon Bravo Company’s commander, 2nd Lt. Richard Smith and Staff Sergeant William Walsh stood up in the tracer-light night and urged their men to charge.  They hurdled the barbed wire fences, 20mm flak rounds savaging their ranks. Sprinting through the fusilade, Walsh was seriously wounded in the hand. He kept going, urging his men as the MG-42’s raked through them.

82nd Airborne Div 325th Glider Regt M1919 Browning 30 cal LMG team Odrimont Belgium Bulge 010645 (1 of 1)

1-504th’s machine gun teams suffered catastrophic losses. Five of eight supporting the initial night assault into Cheneux were wiped out by German counter-fire. This M1919 LMG team belonged to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. The photo was taken at Odrimont, Belgium a couple weeks after the Battle of Cheneux on January 6, 1945.

The battalion’s .30 caliber machine guns did their best to suppress the Germans, but the American gunners didn’t stand a chance in the face of so much firepower. Panzers, flak wagons and mortars concentrated on those support by fire positions and took out five of the eight machine gun crews before the night was over.

That left the paratroops on their own in the kill zone. Some tried to provide their own suppressing fire while others charged forward. Ammunition ran low; the men pulled guns and ammo off the wounded and the dead to keep going. Driven forward, the first wave finally reached the German lines. On 1st Platoon, Bravo’s section of the front, Staff Sergeant Walsh had his men prep grenades for him (he couldn’t pull the pins out with his wounded hand). Holding the spoon in place, he charged toward a German 20mm flak half track and chucked the grenade onto its bed. The weapon detonated beside the 20mm gun, wiping the crew out.

Other paras surged into the German trenches and foxholes, clubbing the panzergrenadiers with rifle butts and  beating them with bare fists. The fighting devolved into vicious man-t0-man battles to the death.

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A captured panzerschrek under investigation by U.S. troops at St. Mere Eglise during the Normandy Campaign. Captured panzerschreks were sometimes used against the Germans since they proved more effective than American bazookas.

Sergeant Edwin Clements reached one of the flak tracks. Out of ammunition, he drew his combat knife, jumped onto the back of the vehicle and killed the three man gun crew. Nearby, Private Mack Barkley did the same, slitting a 20mm gunner’s throat then grabbed a German panzerschrek and put two rockets into another armored vehicle before being wounded in action.

The fighting coalesced around the armored vehicles. The panzergrenadiers, overwhelmed in their trenches by the desperate American assault, gave ground. Twenty of them were killed in hand-to-hand fighting as the others fell back into Cheneux’s buildings. Meanwhile, the vehicle crews found themselves surrounded by paratroops willing to do just about anything to knock their guns out. Staff Sergeant Walsh was seen climbing onto a German tank and–in true Hollywood fashion–dropping a grenade on the crew from the track commander’s hatch. Others followed suit. Private First Class Daniel Del Grippo of 2nd Platoon Charlie earned a Distinguished Service Cross for knocking out an MG-42 nest, then tommy-gunning a flak track’s 20mm crew.

First Platoon Bravo made it into the west side of Cheneux with twelve men standing. Walsh and Smith urged them forward toward’s the town church, only to run into another flak track parked in an intersection. Sergeant Dock L. O’Neil, who had splintered his M1 Carbine’s stock on an SS Soldier’s head, led the attack against this vehicle and knocked it out with a bazooka just as the gun crew wounded him in the leg. As the track burned, one of the Luftwaffe gunners jumped clear, only to be cut down by O’Neil’s Model 1911 Colt .45. Smith was killed soon after while leading the remains of his platoon.

An hour into the attack and every B Co officer had been killed or wounded except the company commander. The sight of his men being slaughtered in the 400 yard kill zone proved too much for him. He went berzerk, suffering a mental breakdown and a few of his surviving men had to physically restrain him. Command fell to the XO, who pressed the attack forward.

Bulge135 burnGerHTJan6On the left, Charlie Company ran into multiple barbed wire fences. Every time the assault waves climbed over them, the Germans smothered the Americans with explosive shells and machine gun rounds. Stubbornly, the surviving Americans closed with the panzergrenadiers and drove them out of the foxholes–or killed them in place.

As the attack neared the west side of town, Charlie’s lead elements ran into a Puma armored car equipped with a short barreled 75mm infantry support gun. The vehicle had been taking out the battalion’s heavy weapons crews, but now it shifted fire on the advancing paras. Corporal Harold Stevenson tried to knock it out with a bazooka, but the Puma’s gunners cut him down. The vehicle backed away into the night to continue the fight elsewhere in town.

Charlie penetrated the town, fighting room to room with the panzer grenadiers inside the buildings while simultaneously battling the Luftwaffe’s flak tracks in the streets. The two companies of SS panzergrenadiers lost half their men and began to pull back against the Ambleve to defend the two bridges.

Three hours into the fight, one of the 504th’s senior officers discovered that the two M36 Jackson Tank Destroyers assigned to the assault waves had not gone forward. Demanding an explanation, the airborne lieutenant colonel was outraged to hear a young LT explain how his tracks didn’t stand a chance against the German panzers defending the town.

The LTC stormed over to a platoon of 60mm mortars and ordered the men there to start dropping rounds on the tankers if they did not move forward. Under that threat, the LT gave the word to go get into the fight. They rumbled up the main road into Cheneux, the fighting raging in chaotic clumps on either side without any clear front line remaining. As the Jacksons neared the town, a German half track roared right at them. Surprised, the lead Jackson’s crew trained their turret on the track–only to have their 90mm gun barrel smack the German vehicle. Stunned at this collision with an American AFV, the half track crew bailed out while the Jackson’s driver backed up far enough to allow his gunner to put an HE shell into the German rig. It blew up as the M36’s killed its fleeing crew.

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The M36 Jackson sported a 90mm gun, the largest and most powerful anti-tank weapon to be widely employed by the U.S. Army in WWII.

Late that night, a few of the survivors of 1-504th’s attack reached Cheneux’s picturesque church on the south side of town. Surprisingly, it was one of the few intact buildings left, and the men approached it cautiously. Led by Lt. Howard Kemble, a light machine gun platoon leader whose men were thrown into the assault as reinforcements, the small band of Americans opened the church’s front doors and found an elderly priest presiding over a congregation of terrified, traumatized civilians. Though in the midst of battle, some of the Americans–Lt. Kemble included–entered the church, knelt beside the Belgians and prayed together with them. A moment later, they slipped back out into the fight where Lt. Kemble led the men into a bayonet charge. He was killed not long afterward by German Soldier he thought was an American. Kemble received a posthumous Silver Star for his actions.

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504th paratrooper Walt Hughes at Cheneux after the night assault.

 

 

By the end of the night assault, the 1-504 secured half of Cheneux. They clung to their foothold and awaited reinforcement. The next day, the 504th’s 3rd battalion joined the fight and finished the job, clearing the town and forcing the Germans across the Ambleve in bitter fighting.

The Germans lost at least a hundred and fifty men, four flak tracks knocked out or captured, one Tiger II lost, two Pumas, six half tracks, a 105mm howitzer and two other vehicles. The bloody coup de main forced Peiper to abandon his only bridgehead across the Ambleve. He withdrew to La Gleize to await relief that never came. Ultimately, his kampfgruppe was surrounded and virtually destroyed. The 504th’s action at Cheneux played a major role in blunting the main armored spearhead on the northern sector of the Battle of the Bulge. That strategic victory came at a terrible cost. By the end of the first night of the Battle of Cheneux, Bravo company had twenty men standing, no officers. Charlie had three officers, forty men left.

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Men of the 82nd Airborne examine an abandoned Tiger II.

In the days that followed the Battle of Cheneux, the 82nd Airborne Division fought against no fewer than three Waffen-SS Divisions, only retreating after General Bernard Law Montgomery ordered them to do so. Within days of that withdrawal, the division returned the offensive and played a key role in the American counter-punch that regained in January all the ground lost in December.

The 504th had not just achieved their military objective that December 20th. Their furious attack against entrenched, elite troops backed up by heavy weapons and armor–succeeded against all odds because of their sheer courage, professionalism and determination. These men exemplified the best tradition of American combat arms and proved that man-to-man, the Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne were more than the measure of the Waffen-SS.  The assault at Cheneux represents one of the most heroic and determined in the U.S. Army’s history. It has become part of the long and proud legacy of the 82nd Airborne– a legacy that our current generation has added to on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror.

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The 504th Parachute Infantry advancing to another assembly point prior to an assault on German positions near Heersbach during the final days of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. The 504th saw near-continuous action for almost five months following the devastating battle of Cheneux.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Belgium, ETO, European Theater of Operations, Uncategorized, War in Europe, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ardennes Offenisive Begins

59th signal ban rail jeep 1st army bastogne belgium 121644 (1 of 1)December 16, 1944, the German Army launched the largest offensive operation ever conducted against United States ground forces. Known as the Battle of the Bulge, the fighting raged for over a month and consumed most of the Third Reich’s remaining reserves of fuel and oil. Somewhere between 65,000-125,000 Germans troops were killed, wounded, captured or missing during those furious six weeks of fighting. The U.S. Army suffered more than 89,000 casualties and the loss of over eight hundred armored vehicles and tanks.

Photos from the early days of the German offensive are few and far between, but here are some shots taken on December 16, 1944 throughout the Western Front by U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting more photos that captured key moments during the Ardennes Offensive and the subsequent Allied counter-offensive.

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Men of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, muscle a 57mm anti-tank gun into position at what became known as the Hot Corner, a patch of ground the division denied to the advancing Germans which ensured the North Shoulder of the Bulge would hold. The photo was taken on December 17, 1944.

 

German Employed Captured M8 Greyhound Armored Car Knocked Out at St Vith Belgium Bulge Seen 020345 (1 of 1)

Some German units employed American vehicles during the Ardennes offensive. This captured M8 Greyhound armored car was knocked out during the pivotal fighting for St. Vith, Belgium.

 

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Fighting along the Western Front did not stop with the German offensive in the Ardennes. Here, a patrol from the 45th Infantry Division’s 180th Regiment fights house to house in Bobenthal, Germany under sniper fire on December 16, 1944.

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Men of the 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 90th Infantry Division, rain shells down on German positions near St. Barbara, Germany on December 16, 1944. The 90th would later be thrust into the American counter-attack and ended up fighting around Bastogne.

A Waffen SS soldier with Kampfgruppe Hansen seen after elements of the 14th Cavalry Group were ambushed and destroyed outside of Poteau, Belgium on December 18, 1944.

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Photo of the Day: Prelude to Operation Grenade

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Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division hunkered down in a cellar near Prum, Germany just before Operation Grenade, the crossing of the Roer River in February 1945.

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Deeds, Not Words

hurtgen forest troops and mmg fall 44173 8x10December 1, 1944

Grosshau, Germany

Eastern Edge of the Hurtgen Forest

 

Cold, wet and hungry Soldiers hunkered down in foxholes, side by side with complete strangers. In two weeks, the 22nd Infantry had lost 151% of its riflemen while fighting for six thousand yards of ground in the Hurtgen Forest. Urged forward time after time, the line companies had endured an onslaught of German artillery barrages, machine gun fire and minefields. Many attacks had been stopped cold, smothered by German shells and bullets. So many men had been lost that the rifle companies were filled with green replacements thrown into the line with bewildering speed. Once considered the pride of the 1st Army, the 22nd had become a shell of its former self.

The attacks continued with relentless intensity until the 22nd Infantry had lost almost all its veteran dogfaces, the men who had come ashore at Utah Beach earlier in the summer. Somehow, the regiment ground forward, inch by inch against withering fire and counter-attacks until by the end of November, one of the 22nd Infantry’s battalions had reached the outskirts of Grosshau, Germany, the last town before the Roer Plain. Take the town and another push would thrust the entire 4th Infantry Division into open ground where the 5th Armored Division, waiting in reserve, would exploit.

gst marcario garcia cmh147 5x7On November 27, 1944, B Company 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry advanced into a German kill zone while pushing on for Grossau. Pinned down by machine gun fire, B Company was soon hit by an artillery and mortar barrage. With casualties mounting, an acting squad leader named Private Marcario Garcia launched a one-man attack on the machine gun nest. Despite being wounded, he pressed his assault, killed three Germans and knocked out the machine gun. He returned to the company line, which was now being raked by another machine gun nest. He located it and stormed the nest, killing three more Germans and capturing four others. The second attack freed up B Company and the advance continued. Only then did Garcia go to the rear for medical treatment.gst marcario garcia cmh146 4x6

Private Garcia received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, the first Mexican citizen to receive America’s highest award for bravery. He became an American citizen in 1947. Shortly after President Truman bestowed the MOH on him at a White House ceremony in 1945, Garcia tried to order food at a restaurant south of Houston, Texas. The owner refused to serve him because he was Hispanic. When Garcia protested, the owner beat him with a baseball bat. Walter Winchell later reported on the incident, and Garcia’s beating became a rallying point for Latino-Americans.

On the 29th, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry fought its way into Grosshau with the help of a platoon of tanks. The Germans defending the town refused to surrender, and the fighting devolved into point-blank building-to-building battles. Grossau, which had been subjected to countless barrages of American artillery, was almost completely destroyed in the fighting. Germans held out in cellars and within the ruins until nightfall, but the 3rd Battalion eventually cleared them out and secured the town.

hurtgen forest us troops fighting 1944351 8x10One more push and the regiment would clear the Hurtgen Forest and break into the open ground beyond. The regiment was ordered forward, reinforced by the 46th Armored Infantry Battalion, the regiment tried to clear the Hurtgen on the 30th. Little progress was made beyond reaching the woodline on the far side of Grosshau.

On the 1st, 2-22 and the 46th tried again. The men ran into a massive German artillery barrage that pinned them down and savaged their ranks.  The Germans counter-attacked and flung the 2nd Battalion back. The Germans were stopped only when the battalion’s reserves were thrown into the fight. By the end of the day, 2-22 was down to a hundred and twenty-five men.

On of the 22nd Infantry's 81mm mortar crews firing in support of the rifle companies holding off a German counter-attack at Grosshau on December 1, 1944.

On of the 22nd Infantry’s 81mm mortar crews firing in support of the rifle companies holding off a German counter-attack at Grosshau on December 1, 1944.

Colonel Charles T. Lanham, the 22nd’s commanding officer, saw that his men had nothing left to give. With his battalions down below company strength and the Germans massing on his northern flank for another counter-attack, he organized a scratch force composed of headquarters troops and supply clerks. That gave him a hundred man reserve.

Lanham was a highly regarded officer who’d been with the 22nd since Utah Beach. Known for his grit, he was also a warrior-poet and short story writer. Ernest Hemingway befriended him that fall while the 22nd fought its way through the Siegfried Line and later described him as, “The finest and bravest and most intelligent military commander I’ve ever known.”

Ernest Hemingway and Colonel Lanham together in the fall of 1944.

The Germans hit Lanham’s 3-22 the next day in a furious counter-assault. The onslaught was too much for the battalion, and one skeletal company was overwhelmed. The Germans poured into the regiment’s rear, hitting both the headquarters of 1st and 3rd battalions. Lanham ordered his men to hold on and keep fighting. He threw in his scratch reserves, supported by a few tanks. They contained the German breach, cleared it and restored the line.

That night, the 4th Infantry Division commander, Major General Raymond Barton, sent in a regiment from the 83rd Infantry Division to effect a relief in place. As it was underway, the Germans hit the 22nd again and overran part of 1-22. Again, headquarters troops and a few men from a heavy weapons company contained the German attack and eventually threw it back. Later that day, as the 22nd was pulling out, about thirty Luftwaffe fighter-bombers made a final, parting attack on the regiment. Fortunately, the trees that had sheltered the German defenders from American air power returned the favor for the 22nd that day, and few men were hit in that last crucible in the Hurtgen Forest.

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Grosshau, Germany December 1, 1944. A jeep from the 22nd Infantry moves among the ruins.

In eighteen days of close quarters combat among the woods and hills of the Hurtgen, the 22nd Infantry suffered 2,773 casualties. They’d gone in with a total strength of about 3,200 men. Everyone suffered, not just the line units. In the Hurtgen, there were no rear areas, only targets for German long-range artillery. During the battle, Lanham’s men captured 762 German soldiers. They had advanced six thousand yards and had taken their main objective despite some of the worst terrain and most formidable defenses the U.S. Army encountered in Europe during World War II.

 

 

 

 

Categories: ETO, European Theater of Operations, World War II, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe, WW2, WWII | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Patriot Journalist

“Many heroes lived, but all are unknown and unwept, extinguished in everlasting night because they have no chronicler.”

-Quintus Horatius Flaccus.

 

187mckinlaykantorBorn in 1904, MacKinlay Kantor grew up in Iowa, where he showed considerable writing talent even as a kid. As an adult, he became a novelist and published his first novel at age twenty-four. He wrote crime stories at first, then in the Depression he switched to military and historical novels set in the American Civil War.

During World War II, Kantor tried to join the service, but he was almost forty when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was 4F’d, but that didn’t stop him from getting into the fight. He went to England as a correspondent for an LA-based newspaper. He flew combat missions with both RAF and USAAF bombers, and even learned how to operate the turrets on B-17’s and B-24’s.

After D-Day, he reached the Continent and chronicled the experiences of the foot soldiers fighting their way into Germany. On April 14, 1945, he was present when American troops liberated Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

He returned at the end of the war and wrote a beautiful and poignant book on PTSD and the struggle of veterans to reintegrate back into their communities back home. Glory for Me was published later that year in 1945 by Coward-McCann Inc. It is the story of three combat-scarred veterans, Fred, Homer and Al, who meet in a B-17 that flies them back to their hometown of Boone City. What unfolds is a case study of recovery from trauma and failed relationships as each man endures his own struggle to overcome the things that scarred his soul overseas.

The-Best-Years-of-Our-LivesIn 1946, MGM turned Glory for Me into one of the most loved movies of the era. The Best Years of Our Lives earned seven Academy Awards, including a special one for the actor who played Homer. The movie’s themes are timeless and as poignant today after nine years of war as they were in 1946. The AFI lists it as one of the top 100 American films ever made.

Kantor continued writing novels on the Civil War and later on the American Revolution. He published his most famous work,Andersonville in 1956. The stunning story of the Union POW’s and how they were treated at that notorious Confederate prison earned Kantor a Pulitzer Prize that year.

Kantor publshed over thirty novels during the course of his life. Most of them delved into the life and experiences of ordinary American soldiers. He based many of his early Civil War books on interviews he personally conducted with Union and Confederate veterans.

He died in 1977 at the age of 73, leaving behind a legacy of respect and reverence for the soldiers, airmen and sailors he wrote about in his lifetime body of work.

 

31j2NyMzdxL__SL500_AA300_From Glory for Me:
When you come out of war to quiet streets

You lug your War along with you.

You walk a snail-path. On your back you carry

it-

A scaly load that makes your shoulders raw;

And not a hand can ever lift the shell

That cuts your hide. You only wear it yourself–

Look up one day, and vaguely see it gone.

…And one day it is gone if you are wise.

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Iowa’s Red Horse in Action

113th cav recon reg m8 tanks heure le remam belgum sept 9 44

M8 75mm gun motor carriages of the 113th Cavalry, Iowa National Guard, conduct a fire mission with their 75mm guns outside of Heure le Romain, Belgium on September 9, 1944.

 

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Without Norway, No Normandy: The Hidden Role the Norwegians Played in WWII

North Atlantic079This week, Bloomberg News reported that the new Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, was in Washington D.C. for meetings and asked the White House for some time with the President while he was here. According to reports, the White House staff did not even respond. This broke with a long standing tradition that when the Secretary General of NATO was in D.C., the President always made time to see him. Full article is here: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-03-24/obama-snubs-nato-chief-as-crisis-rages.

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Norwegian Resistance fighters played a well-known role in stopping the Nazi atomic bomb program by destroying the only available heavy water and heavy water production facility available to the Germans. Those attacks, carried out with help from the British SOE, are considered the most effective guerrilla operations in Western Europe during WWII.

At this perilous moment in history, with so many challenges facing our brothers and sisters in Europe, it is important to remember the historical bonds our nations have forged in the defense of common principles. It is also important for Americans to remember that the contributions made by every nation, especially during WWII, all played important roles in the ultimate victory that restored peace to Europe for a generation.

Jen Stoltenberg is Norwegian. He served as Prime Minister and as the head of the Labor Party, as well as in many other positions since his election to Parliament in the early 1990s. Today’s post is an homage to the Secretary General’s nation and its vital (if virtually unknown) contribution to the victory in Europe during WWII. I

 

The Ships that Saved the Cause

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In the spring of 1940, as Norway succumbed to the German onslaught, the Royal Navy evacuated King Haakon VII and much of his government’s senior leadership. The fight would continue, despite the conquest of their homeland. Setting up in London, the Norwegian government-in-exile possessed an ace-in-the-hole that soon played a crucial role in the ultimate defeat of the Third Reich.

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In 1939, though Norway’s population barely topped three million people, the country boosted the world’s fourth largest merchant marine force.  With a thousand, modern vessels, the Norwegians could haul more cargo than just about anyone else on the planet. Want oil moved across the Atlantic? Call the Norwegians. Their fleet included a whopping twenty percent of all tankers on the planet in 1939. The Norwegians were the masters of the seafaring arteries between Europe and the rest of the world.7655 atlantic convoy bound for sicily (1 of 1)

North Atlantic054Despite the German invasion and the Luftwaffe’s depredations, the fleet survived virtually intact. When King Haakon reached London, he delivered the 4.8 million ton Norwegian merchant marine to the Allied cause. This was manna from heaven for Great Britain, whose survival soon depended on these ships. By 1942, forty percent of Britain’s oil rode to the Home Islands aboard Norwegian tankers. Without their contribution, England would surely have been doomed, but the Norwegian crews never received credit for this crucial component to the Allied victory.

The price paid to keep Britain in the war was a steep one. Fully half of the Norwegian merchant fleet was destroyed by U-boats, mines and the Luftwaffe. These five hundred ships took three thousand unheralded, heroic men down with them.North Atlantic194

Though the German conquest of Norway seemed at the time to be a tremendous victory, there was a hidden dimension the Third Reich never envisioned. The Nazi invasion in the north ultimately delivered to the British the very means of their salvation.

 

Categories: Allies, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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