On August 9, 1939, Hermann Göring boasted about the strength of the German Luftwaffe. He said "Not a single bomb will fall on the Ruhr. If an enemy plane reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring, you can call me Meier." He even boasted that Berlin would never be subjected to air attack from the enemy. Hitler also proclaimed "Just give me ten years and you will not recognize your cities." He was right when one sees the state Berlin fell into as the Russians marched in.
Luftwaffe bombs Germany!
On May 10, 1940, three Luftwaffe planes, HE 111s, bombed the German town of Freiburg by mistake, killing 24 people including thirteen children. In overcast weather the crews thought they were over the French town of Dijon. The fragments of the bombs found later, confirmed the bombs as German, but German propaganda claimed the raid to be a terror attack by the French Air Force, justifying subsequent bombing of French towns.
Italian Americans interned
During the war, a total of 51,156 Italian nationals were also interned in the USA at various times. These included the hundreds of Italian seamen from ships impounded in US ports at the outbreak of the war with Italy in June, 1940. The largest camp for Italian male internees was at Fort Lincoln in North Dakota. Later they were interned at Fort Missoula, Montana. In 1942 there were around 600,000 Italian residents in the USA who had not become US citizens. All were branded 'enemy aliens' by the US Government and 114,000 were restricted in their travel. Around 10,000 were compelled to move inland from their coastal area homes in California. As from October 10, 1942, the 600,000 Italian citizens living in the USA would no longer be classified as enemy aliens. This was the result of the splendid showing the Italians have made in meeting the test of loyalty to their new country.
Giant Japanese submarines
In 1942, Japan commenced building the world's biggest submarines. The 400 foot long I-400 series had a displacement of 3,530 tons and were intended to destroy the Pacific exit of the Panama Canal. They could cruise 37,500 miles and dive to a depth of 325 feet. Each of the I-400s could carry three specially designed seaplane bombers which were dismantled and stored in a watertight hanger inside the submarine. Only three were completed before the end of the Pacific war and survived the massive American bombing of Japan's naval bases. All three were captured and destroyed by the Americans in April, 1946.
Surrender at Stalingrad
After a 199 day siege the German Sixth Army, under the command of Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus, surrenders to the Soviet Union's superior forces.
Around 147,200 German and Romanian soldiers were killed.
91,000 were taken prisoner including 24 Generals and 2,500 other officers.
About 5,000 of these prisoners survived the war.
After the surrender, Germany began a three day period of mourning and Paulus became a member of the Free Committee for a Free Germany, a puppet organization of Soviet Russia, He settled in the former Soviet controlled East Germany after his release from a Soviet prison camp in 1953. He died on February 1, 1957, in Dresden.
Battle of Kursk, 1943
The 50 day battle of Kursk, 'Operation Zitadele' (Hitler's plan to encircle and destroy five Soviet armies operating in the area) was fought near the village of Prokhorovka, near the rail town of Kursk in central Soviet Union. Like Stalingrad, this was a major turning point in the German/Russian war and the last major offence mounted against the USSR. About 572 tanks and assault guns were deployed by both sides. In this vicious clash of military armour the Germans lost 54 tanks and 20 self-propelled guns. The Soviets lost around 334 tanks and assault guns, their T-34 tanks being dug into the ground with only their turrets showing. The Germans gained just over five miles and lost about 2,500 dead. By July 23, German forces involved in the Kursk salient offences were pushed back beyond their starting positions eighteen days before. Combatants were, on the Soviet side, the 18th and 29th Tank Corps. On the German side were the SS Liebsstandarte Adolf Hitler, SS Totenkopf and Das Reich SS divisions including Panzer Grenadier Division Deutschland. After a week of combat, Germany never regained the initiative after Kursk and no further major offences were undertaken. Zitadelle had been an appalling disaster. It ended in a victory for the Red Army and the German generals realised then that the war was lost. Exact figures for the losses has never been officially established. The battle is described by many historians as the 'Greatest Tank Battle In History'.
Gestapo publicly hanged in Russia, 1943
Three German Gestapo officers and a Russian accomplice, were hanged in the market square of KHARKOV in the USSR. Captain Wilhelm Langheld, Hans Ritz, Reinhardt Retelav and Mikhail Bulanov were found guilty of war crimes by a Russian Military Court. A crowd of around 40,000 watched as lorries on which they stood were driven away, leaving them hanging from the scaffold. The Nazis themselves often used this method for executions in the Soviet Union as in the case of Kieper and Kogan, two members of the Russian Regional Court who were hanged on August 17, 1941, at Zhitomir. Forced to watch the hangings, 400 Jews were rounded up in the city. After the executions, the Jews were taken outside the town and shot into a pit ten to fifteen metres wide and four metres deep.
Better late than never
On March 27, 1945, Argentina declared war on the Axis powers, thus bringing the number of countries fighting against the Axis to 53. Another latecomer was Turkey who remained neutral through most of the conflict but declared war on Germany in January, 1945. This was followed by Paraguay on February 8, Egypt on February 24, Lebanon on February 27, Saudi Arabia on March 1 and finally Finland on March 3.
Germany's last hope: Volkstrum
The entire youth of Germany, boys of 14 to 17 years, were expected to turn the war around during the last days of Hitler's Third Reich. But reality soon overcame the illusion. The Hitler Youth and the Volkstrum, consisting of old men, were Germany's last hope of survival. These troops were all that stood between Germany and Armageddon. Over a thousand of these boy soldiers were sent to defend the city of Breslau. There, they awaited the Russian onslaught. When it came, every house became a strongpoint. Many of there young boys killed themselves out of sheer terror of falling into the hands of the Soviets but their comrades fought on desperately for days more until the city surrendered on May 6, 1945. These boy soldiers only helped prolong a war which had long been lost. In Hitler's last public appearance he decorated the Hitler Youth member Alfred Zeck, from Goldenau, with the Iron Cross. Zeck was only twelve years old, becoming the youngest recipient of the prestigious medal.