Thursday, May 29, 2014

This Day in WWII History: May 29, 1942: Jews in Paris are forced to sew a yellow star on their coats

On this day in 1942, on the advice of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler orders all Jews in occupied Paris to wear an identifying yellow star on the left side of their coats.

Joseph Goebbels had made the persecution, and ultimately the extermination, of Jews a personal priority from the earliest days of the war, often recording in his diary such statements as: "They are no longer people but beasts," and "[T]he Jews... are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is pretty barbaric and is not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews."

But Goebbels was not the first to suggest this particular form of isolation. "The yellow star may make some Catholics shudder," wrote a French newspaper at the time. "It renews the most strictly Catholic tradition.",_Paris,_J%C3%BCdische_Frauen_mit_Stern.jpg

Intermittently, throughout the history of the papal states, that territory in central Italy controlled by the pope, Jews were often confined to ghettoes and forced to wear either yellow hats or yellow stars.

Taken from: [29.05.2014]

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

This Day in WWII History: May 28, 1940: Belgium surrenders unconditionally

On this day in 1940, after 18 days of ceaseless German bombardment, the king of Belgium, having asked for an armistice, is given only unconditional surrender as an option. He takes it.


File:Bundesarchiv Billd 146-1971-011-27, Belgien, Eben Emael, Fallschirmjäger.jpg

German forces had moved into Belgium on May 10, part of Hitler's initial western offensive. Despite some support by British forces, the Belgians were simply outnumbered and outgunned from the beginning. The first surrender of Belgium territory took place only one day after the invasion, when the defenders of Fort Eben-Emael surrendered.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-011-31, Belgien, Eben Emael, gesprengte Brücke.jpg

King Leopold III  with General Dennis

 File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1974-061-61, Belgien, Kapitulation der belg. Armee.jpg

Disregarding the odds, King Leopold III of Belgium had tried to rally his forces, evoking the Belgian victory during World War I. The Belgian forces fought on, courageously, but were continually overcome by the invaders.

 File:Kasematte Maastricht 2.jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-011-29, Belgien, Fort Eben Emael, Albert Kanal.jpg,_Belgien,_Albert-Canal,_Gefangene.jpg

By May 27, the king of Belgium, realizing that his army was depleted and that even retreat was no longer an option, sent an emissary through the German lines to request an armistice, a cease-fire. It was rejected. The Germans demanded unconditional surrender. Belgium's government in exile, stationed in Paris, repudiated the surrender, but to no avail. Belgium had no army left to fight. In the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill defended King Leopold's decision, despite the fact that it made the British troops' position, attempting to evacuate Dunkirk, in northern France, more precarious.

 File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1970-048-11, Belgien, Brügge, Entwaffnung.jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-125-0277-09, Im Westen, zerstörter französischer Panzer Char B1.jpg

 File:British troops and Belgian refugees on the Brussels-Louvain road, 12 May 1940. F4422.jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-127-0396-13A, Im Westen, deutsche Panzer.jpg

King Leopold refused to flee the country and was taken prisoner by the Nazis during their occupation, and confined to his palace. A Belgian underground army grew up during the occupation; its work including protecting the port of Antwerp, the most important provisioning point for Allied troops on the Continent, from destruction by the Germans.

File:Albert I and Leopold III.jpg

File:Infanterie-Regiment 489 Westfeldzug Gefangene Fort Eben-Emael 1940-2 by-RaBoe.jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-040-60, Belgien, Antwerpen, belg. Pzkpfw..jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-127-0391-21, Im Westen, deutsche Soldaten mit getarnter Pak.jpg

Taken from: [28.05.2014]

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Day in WWII History: May 27, 1941: Bismarck sunk by Royal Navy

File:Battleship Bismarck burning and sinking 1941.jpg

On May 27, 1941, the British navy sinks the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic near France. The German death toll was more than 2,000.

 File:Bundesarchiv Bild 193-04-1-26, Schlachtschiff Bismarck.jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MN-1361-16A, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, Indienststellung.jpg

On February 14, 1939, the 823-foot Bismarck was launched at Hamburg. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hoped that the state-of-the-art battleship would herald the rebirth of the German surface battle fleet. However, after the outbreak of war, Britain closely guarded ocean routes from Germany to the Atlantic Ocean, and only U-boats moved freely through the war zone.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-012-03, Schlachtschiff Bismarck in der Ostsee.jpg

File:Bismarck reconnaissance.jpg

File:Bismarck aircrew rewarded.jpg

In May 1941, the order was given for the Bismarck to break out into the Atlantic. Once in the safety of the open ocean, the battleship would be almost impossible to track down, all the while wreaking havoc on Allied convoys to Britain. Learning of its movement, Britain sent almost the entire British Home Fleet in pursuit.

File:Graf Spee at Spithead.jpg

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1968-015-25, Schlachtschiff Bismarck, Seegefecht.jpg

File:Map Rheinuebung.svg

File:Rodney firing on Bismarck.png

On May 24, the British battle cruiser Hood and battleship Prince of Wales intercepted it near Iceland. In a ferocious battle, the Hood exploded and sank, and all but three of the 1,421 crewmen were killed. The Bismarck escaped, but because it was leaking fuel it fled for occupied France. On May 26, it was sighted and crippled by British aircraft, and on May 27 three British warships descended on the Bismarck and finished it off.

File:HMS Dorsetshire Bismarck survivors.jpg

File:Bismarck illustration.png

Taken from: [27.05.2014]

Monday, May 19, 2014

This Day in WWII History: May 19, 1943: Churchill and FDR plot D-Day

On this day in 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt set a date for the cross-Channel landing that would become D-Day—May 1, 1944. That date will prove a bit premature, as bad weather becomes a factor.

 Band of Brothers: Churchill with American troops

Battling on: Churchill knew the D-Day battle marked the end of Britain's - and his own - supremacy on the world stage

Addressing a joint session of Congress, Churchill warned that the real danger at present was the "dragging-out of the war at enormous expense" because of the risk that the Allies would become "tired or bored or split"—and play into the hands of Germany and Japan. He pushed for an early and massive attack on the "underbelly of the Axis." And so, to "speed" things up, the British prime minister and President Roosevelt set a date for a cross-Channel invasion of Normandy, in northern France, for May 1, 1944, regardless of the problems presented by the invasion of Italy, which was underway. It would be carried out by 29 divisions, including a Free French division, if possible.

File:Churchill Oversees Preparations for D-Day.jpg


Taken from: [19.05.2014]

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This Day in WWII History: May 15, 1942: Legislation creating the Women's Army Corps becomes law

File:"Calling WAAC..." - NARA - 514016.jpg

On this day in 1942, a bill establishing a women's corps in the U.S. Army becomes law, creating the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACs) and granting women official military status.


In May 1941, Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts, the first congresswoman ever from New England, introduced legislation that would enable women to serve in the Army in noncombat positions.

Rogers was well suited for such a task; during her husband John J. Rogers' term as congressman, Rogers was active as a volunteer for the Red Cross, the Women's Overseas League, and military hospitals.

Because of her work inspecting field and base hospitals, President Warren G. Harding, in 1922, appointed her as his personal representative for inspections and visits to veterans' hospitals throughout the country. She was eventually appointed to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, as chairwoman in the 80th and 83rd Congresses.


The bill to create a Women's Auxiliary Army Corps would not be passed into law for a year after it was introduced (the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a great incentive). But finally, the WAACs gained official status and salary—but still not all the benefits accorded to men. Thousands of women enlisted in light of this new legislation, and in July 1942, the "auxiliary" was dropped from the name, and the Women's Army Corps, or WACs, received full Army benefits in keeping with their male counterparts.

The WACs performed a wide variety of jobs, "releasing a man for combat," as the Army, sensitive to public misgivings about women in the military, touted. But those jobs ranged from clerk to radio operator, electrician to air-traffic controller. Women served in virtually every theater of engagement, from North Africa to Asia.

It would take until 1978 before the Army would become sexually integrated, and women participating as merely an "auxiliary arm" in the military would be history. And it would not be until 1980 that 16,000 women who had joined the earlier WAACs would receive veterans' benefits.

Taken from: [15.05.2014]