Category: History



Winston Churchill, war time Prime Minister of Great Britain and a great leader of the Second World War, was a “Royalist” (grandson of the Seventh Duke of Marlborough) and a diehard imperialist who opposed India’s independence.

In the British parliament, he once called Gandhi “our enemy!” and said, “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.”

Albeit Churchill’s diatribe, Gandhi further reduced his apparel to a bare minimum of a loin cloth, his well-known attire! There is a sequel to this metamorphosis.

Pothan Joseph was an eminent journalist and one time editor of Hindustan Times. In the pre-partition days, Mohamed Ali Jinnah employed him as editor of his mouthpiece The Dawn newspaper published from New Delhi. (The Dawn continues its publication from Karachi in Pakistan). Pothan had an elder brother George Joesph. George was a staunch, if not a fierce, nationalist. The British administration in India had imprisoned him several times for his Swadeshi activities. He had once shared the same prison cell with Jawaharlal Nehru. George’s grandson who lives in London, in his biography of his grandfather, mentions about Gandhiji changing over to his distinguishing loin cloth.

On a visit to Madurai in 1925, Mahatma Gandhi stayed with George Joseph and his family. At a public meeting in the city, many in the audience approached him for a darshan. Those from the villages were not only barefoot but bare-bodied except for a dhoti wrapped round their waists and a piece of cloth on their heads.

To Gandhi, a Gujarati, this appearance seemed strange and primitive. For, in Gujarat and in North India, people rarely went about so minimally clad. In surprise, Gandhi turned around to Rajagopalachari and George Joseph and asked them for an explanation.

It was explained that the main reason for their dress was poverty. That night in George Joseph’s residence, Gandhi spent a restless night thinking about the plight of the poor who could not afford even a covering. The next morning, to the amusement of those present, Gandhi turned up without a shirt and wearing a garb with which he soon became identified.

He wanted to identify himself with the struggling masses even in the matter of dress. It was a message to the British regarding their role in the impoverishment of India. His change of apparel was a protest against their profligacy.

When Gandhi attended the 1930 Round Table Conference in London, he was invited by the King Emperor to the Buckingham Palace. Someone suggested to the Mahatma about the scantiness of his apparel. In his usual witty reply, he said, “His Majesty is dressed for both of us!”

In spite of his struggle with the British Government, he maintained a very civil attitude in dealing with the British administration in India, particularly with succeeding Viceroys. In his correspondence, he used to address the Viceroy as, “My dear friend…” Also in spite of Churchill’s outbursts, Gandhi had many admirers in England, His London hostess Muriel Lester initiated the Pacifists Movement and visited the Mahatma in Sevagram on many occasions.


People all over the world are familiar with what happened on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four US commercial passenger jet airliners and intentionally crashed two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The Twin Towers collapsed within two hours of being struck by the planes. Civilians from over 70 countries were killed in the attacks, with a total of 2,995 casualties. In the months before and after September 11, many important international events occurred. On October 7, 2001, the US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom was launched, starting the War in Afghanistan. This list will be documenting ten news stories and international events surrounding September 11, 2001.

Enron Scandal Revealed

Enron Scandal

Most Americans are familiar with the failure of the Enron Corporation. Enron was an American energy company based out of Houston, Texas. In 2000, Enron was one of the largest businesses in the world. They had working operations in many areas, mainly electricity, natural gas, communications and pulp and paper. Amazingly, Enron claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion in 2000. The problems for Enron started from the beginning, when a group of executives in the company began misleading the board of directors and audit committee. They did this by hiding billions of dollars in debt, acquired from failed deals and projects. In the months following 9/11, the illegal activity caught up with Enron and the company failed. Enron stock holders lost nearly $11 billion, and the resulting scandal marked the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history at that time.

The Enron scandal ended the business career of accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Arthur Andersen Corporation was found guilty of unlawful practice in the auditing of Enron. In October of 2001, one month after the attacks in New York and Washington, details of the Enron scandal were leaked to the world press. The story sparked a panic among Enron stock holders, and by December 2, 2001, Enron Corp. filed for one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in US history, with assets of $63.4 billion. Because of the failure, new regulations and legislation were enacted to expand the reliability of financial reporting for public companies. Many conspiracy theories have been formed around the Enron Scandal, and the date on which it was revealed to the public. Most of these claims document the ties between former Texas Governor George W. Bush and Enron founder Kenneth Lay.

Executive Order 13233

Bush Sr Jr

In 1972, thousands of official and unofficial FBI records were destroyed, upon the death of J. Edgar Hoover. In fact, in the past it was common practice for high ranking officials to destroy their most important business documents. For this reason, in 1974 the US Congress passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, placing the presidential records of Richard Nixon in federal custody to prevent their destruction. The Act was meant to reduce secrecy at the highest levels of government, and to give historians the materials they need to perform their duties. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 expanded such protection of historical records. This was accomplished by mandating that all records of former presidents automatically become the property of the federal government upon leaving the Oval Office.

The presidential papers of Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush were due to be made public when George W. Bush took office in January, 2001. However, George W. Bush first delayed the release for 90 days, and then repeated the action, pushing the date back into September, 2001. On November 1, 2001, Bush issued Executive Order 13233, limiting public access to the records of former U.S. presidents. The Bush executive order also includes the documents of former vice presidents. Many people were critical of this action, claiming that it violated both the “spirit and letter of existing US laws.” The order severely curtailed public access to presidential records and added to delays in obtaining materials from presidential libraries. On January 21, 2009, Executive Order 13233 was revoked, by executive order of President Barack Obama on his first day in office. Obama essentially restored the original Executive Order 12667.

During his presidency, George W. Bush was accused of acting in violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978. In 2007, the Bush White House e-mail controversy was revealed. The event started when George W. Bush initiated the, unprecedented, midterm dismissal of seven United States Attorneys on December 7, 2006. The U.S. attorneys were replaced with interim appointees, under provisions in the 2005 USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization. Following the action, a congressional request was called looking for documents indicating why the attorneys were fired. This caused the Bush administration to reveal the fact that not all internal White House emails were available, because they were sent via a non-government domain, that was hosted on an e-mail server not controlled by the federal government. In 2009, it was announced that as many as 22 million emails may have been deleted by the Bush administration.

2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Hurricane 01

Hurricane Erin was the first, and longest lived, hurricane in the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm developed from a tropical wave on September 1, 2001, and by September 9 it strengthened into a full blown hurricane. Hurricane Erin passed within 100 miles of Bermuda, and created nasty weather and rip currents along the East Coast of the United States. On September 11, Erin decelerated as it turned to the east, but the hurricane would gain power over Canada and not dissipate until September 15. It is an interesting story because many flights and air traffic control workers were directly affected by Hurricane Erin. The storm produced 6 foot swells off the coast of North Carolina.

The second hurricane of the 2001 season struck on September 12, 2001. The storm is named Hurricane Felix and it originated 1,500 miles (2414 km) south of the Azores. Felix did not impact land, but caused weather problems for boats and aircraft. Hurricane Gabrielle was the third hurricane recorded during the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm developed on September 11, 2001, in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. By September 13, Gabrielle intensified and accelerated northeastward toward Venice, Florida. On September 14, the storm made landfall near Venice, Florida, and was soon categorized as a hurricane. Hurricane Gabrielle caused heavy rainfall and bad weather conditions in Florida, Alabama, Bermuda and Canada. Three people were reported to have died in the storm, and it caused $230 million in damages. It is truly unfortunate that the September 11th terrorist attacks fell in line with a string of high powered hurricanes.

Abnormal Stock Trading

Stock Market 011

In the week prior to 9/11, an “extraordinary” amount of put options were placed on United Airlines and American Airlines stocks. If you are unfamiliar with the stock market, a put option is financial contract between two parties that will offer the buyer insurance against a company’s excessive loss. Someone who purchases a put option is expecting a stock to drop or they are protecting their assets. Between September 6 and 7, 4,744 put options were purchased on United Airlines stock, compared to 396 call options. On September 10, 4,516 put options were purchased on American Airlines, as compared to 748 call options. The trading activity was 600% above the normal level. United and American Airlines were the only two companies who had planes hijacked on 9/11. There were also an abnormal number of put options purchased in companies who had a stake in the World Trade Centers.

The majority of the suspicious trading was linked to Deutsche Bank Alex Brown. On September 12, 2001, the head of the bank, Mayo A. Shattuck III, resigned from office. The previous director of the bank was A. B. Krongard, who is the former head of the CIA. Citigroup Inc and Morgan Stanley also received an abnormal number of put options, and both companies held offices in the World Trade Centers, and saw a decrease in stock price after the attacks. On September 10, 2001, Raytheon, a defense contractor, had an anomalously high number of call options traded. The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an insider trading investigation, in which Osama Bin Laden was a suspect, but no action was taken. The trading was traced to areas all over the world, with most activity occurring in the UK, Italy, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, France and the US.

In the days prior to 9/11, the Chicago Exchange saw the highest number of United and American Airlines options traded in history. The names of the investors remain a mystery, because they never claimed their money. After it was discovered that a single U.S.-based institutional investor, with no conceivable ties to al Qaeda, purchased a large amount of these options, the 9/11 Commission dismissed the importance of the events. Unfortunately, the abnormal trading did not tip off law enforcement, as intelligence agencies constantly monitor the stock exchange and the sudden rise in activity could have allowed analysts to “connect the dots” and see that a major event was about to take place involving American Airlines, United Airlines and The World Trade Centers. However, nobody could have imagined the scale of the tragedy.

Death of Ahmad Shah Massoud

Ahmad Shah Masoud

In 1979, the Soviet Union began their ten year long conflict with Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Massoud was a military leader that played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s. His military prowess made him a hero in Afghanistan, earning him the nickname Lion of Panjshir. During the war, Massoud was known for his strategic and mass ambushes against Soviet and Afghan convoys. In 1983, the Soviets offered Massoud a truce, which he accepted. He then turned his attention to expanding the Afghan resistance movement, and liberating the northern provinces of Afghanistan. Massoud’s military forces were considered the most effective of all the various Afghan resistance movements.

In the middle of the 1990s, the Taliban took control of approximately 90 percent of Afghanistan. In response, Massoud formed an alliance to fight the Taliban, and provided shelter for people fleeing Afghan cities. However, on September 9, 2001, two days prior to 9/11, Ahmad Shah Massoud was killed by a suicide bomber at Khwaja Bahauddin, in Takhar Province, northeastern Afghanistan. The assassins may have intended to attack several Northern Alliance council members simultaneously because others were killed. Prior to his death, Massoud had warned the European Parliament that a terrorist attack was evident. The timing of the assassination is considered significant by people who believe Osama bin Laden ordered the murder, and wanted Massoud dead before staging the 9/11 attacks. Ahmad Shah Massoud died a national hero, and hundreds of thousands of people attended his funeral. The date of his death, September 9, is observed as a national holiday in Afghanistan, known as Massoud Day.

US Government Exercises

F16Main

On September 11, 2001, the United States government held a series of military exercises and drills. Operation Northern Vigilance was a NORAD operation, which involved deploying fighter aircraft to the northwestern part of North America, specifically Alaska and Northern Canada. The exercise was one part simulation, one part real world. It was in response to a similar test acted out by Russia on September 11, where long-range bombers were dispatched to Russia’s high north. The exercises were immediately called off after the news of the terrorist attacks and all simulated information was purged from NORADs computer screens. However, the event was a distraction for the US government on 9/11.

Operation Northern Vigilance was not the only US exercise planned for September 11. A series of war games were also acted out, specifically Global Guardian. Global Guardian is an annual, command-level exercise held in the United States. It is an important task, and the purpose of the drill is to test and validate US nuclear command, control and execution procedures. Vigilant Guardian is an exercise that was run in conjunction with Global Guardian. It involved a simulated bomber attack from the former Soviet Union. The drill was conducted in real time, and appeared legitimate in offices and on computers, but without any planes in the air. One of the drills included was a traditional simulated hijacking.

The National Reconnaissance Office drill that was being conducted on September 11, 2001, is the strangest. In the exercise, a simulated small aircraft crashed into one of the towers at the NRO headquarters. No plane was involved in the drill, but to simulate damage from the crash, some stairwells and exits were closed off. A bioterrorism exercise was planned for September 12, 2001. It was named Operation Tripod and included a real life test of the US plan to distribute antibiotics to an entire city population during a bioterrorism attack.Nimda Virus

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In the months before and after September 11, 2001, the United States was bombarded with a series of cyber attacks. A group of criminals exposed vulnerabilities in the Microsoft operating system, and created a buffer overflow virus, which executed arbitrary code and infected hundreds of thousands of computers. By July 19, 2001, the amount of infected hosts reached over 350,000 zombies. A series of separate viruses named Code Red I and Code Red II crippled valuable servers and made calculated attacks on US government computers.

On September 18, 2001, a new virus attacked United States operating systems. The worm was given the name Nimda, and it was an advanced version of Code Red II. Some might say that the Code Red viruses were created in preparation for the much larger Nimda attack, which was executed the week following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Due to the release date of the virus, members of the American government speculated on a link between the cyber attacks and Al Qaeda, but this theory ended up proving unfounded. The American media did not report much on the virus because of the terrorist attacks.

Multiple propagation vectors allowed Nimda to become the Internet’s most widespread and dangerous virus. It took only 22 minutes for the worm to rip through the American financial sector, causing over $3 billion in damage. The Nimda virus was so effective because it used five different infection vectors. People could, and still can, get the virus via e-mail, open network shares, infected websites, exploitation or via back doors left behind by the Code Red II virus. The group of people behind the Nimda virus and the theft of billions of dollars are unknown. The event greatly damaged the world’s financial sector and economy.

Wave of Accidents

Flight 587 Noaa Photo Of Crash Site

In the months following September 11, 2001, there was a wave of international accidents and events. On September 21, 2001, the AZF chemical factory located near Toulouse, France exploded. The event occurred when three hundred tons of ammonium nitrates ignited. The blast left a crater at the depth of 20 to 30 m (65 to 100 ft), with a diameter of 200 m (650 ft). It was a major incident in France, and 29 people were killed. The event is recognized as an environmental catastrophe, and the total damages already paid by insurance groups are exceeding 1.5 billion euros. The blast is believed to have occurred due to the improper handling of ammonium nitrate, including the mixing of chemical impurities. However, on October 2, 2001, France’s then Environment Minister, Yves Cochet, announced that the explosion “may have been a terrorist attack” and identified Hassan Jandoubi as a person of interest.

On October 4, 2001, Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 crashed over the Black Sea. The plane was en route from Tel Aviv, Israel to Novosibirsk, Russia, and all 78 people aboard were killed. The crash was initially thought to be a terrorist attack, since an Armenian plane near the scene reported seeing the Russian plane explode before it crashed into the sea. However, American intelligence reported that the crash was due to an errant S-200 surface to air missile fired as part of a Ukrainian Air Defense Forces exercise. Many people have labeled this hypothesis unlikely, considering the missiles range and safety features, claiming that the US was in fear of mass hysteria with yet another terrorist attack in the weeks following September 11. Ultimately, the government of Ukraine officially recognized their military’s fault in the accident and started negotiating compensation payments for victims’ relatives.

On November 12, 2001, the United States experienced its second deadliest aviation accident in history. It occurred when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into a Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, New York. The accident took place two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and it caused panic in New York. Thousands of people witnessed the Airbus A300 crash to the ground, killing all 260 people on board. Many people reported a fire and explosion before the plane crashed, but the National Transportation Safety Board attributed the disaster to the first officer’s overuse of rudder controls. Al-Qaeda has listed the crash among its successes, but physical evidence was never presented indicating terrorist activity. Surprisingly, the story was widely underreported in the United States, considering the magnitude of the crash. In the months after the tragedy, rumors were circulated that suggested that the plane was exploded by a shoe bomber, similar to the failed attempt of Richard Reid, but these claims are unsubstantiated.

2001 Anthrax Attacks

Anthrax Checks

Most people are familiar with the wave of anthrax attacks waged against the United States in the weeks following September, 11. Beginning on September, 18, a group of letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to US media outlets, and the offices of two US senators. In all, five people were killed in the terrorist activity, and seventeen others were seriously affected. The letters addressed to the US senators, Democrats Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, were laced with a highly refined dry anthrax powder. Shortly after the first wave of attacks, two letters were sent to the New York Post and NBC News. The letters contained threats mentioning 9/11, and implied a new wave of terrorist activity. For this reason, it was highly reported in America that Al-Qaeda was behind the 2001 anthrax attacks.

On September 11, George W. Bush and the White House staff began taking a regimen of Cipro, which is a powerful antibiotic. This activity has led to a list of conspiracy theories accusing the US government of having pre-knowledge of the anthrax attacks. The investigation into the crimes was one of the longest and most complex in the history of law enforcement. Ultimately, investigators began to focus their attention on an American scientist named Bruce Edwards Ivins. Ivins worked at the US government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. After extensive research, on August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared Bruce Edwards Ivins to be the sole culprit of the 2001 anthrax attacks. He committed suicide on July 29, 2008, after learning that he was going to be formally charged with the crimes. One would think that a media circus would have ensued, but little was mentioned about Bruce Edwards Ivins in the US press. His motives for blaming the attacks on Al-Qaeda are unknown.

USA PATRIOT Act

Bush

On October 26, 2001, US President George W. Bush enacted the USA PATRIOT Act. The bill was in direct response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11. The goal of the Act was to reduce restrictions on law enforcement and government officials when investigating criminal activity. It gave international law organizations the right to probe and search citizen’s e-mail, medical, financial and personal records. Some of the main sections of the law enacted restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering, expanded the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, and broadened immigration laws in regards to detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. The bill was passed by a wide margin in the US Congress. It was supported by some people and seen as an attack on civil liberties by others.

Entire websites have been dedicated to examining the Patriot Acts apparent lack of safeguards surrounding the rights of American citizens and foreign advocates. The bill made significant amendments to over 15 important constitutional statutes. The sections of the Patriot Act discussing Internet supervision and monitoring are confusing and extensive, ultimately reaching far beyond simple e-mail correspondence. One of the most surprising aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act is the lack of public and media debate regarding its introduction. Before September 11, provisions of the Act related to electronic surveillance were proposed and highly debated. However, many people feel that the Patriot Act has helped make America a safer place and stopped terrorist activity. In the first part of 2010, Barack Obama signed a one-year extension on several provisions in the Patriot Act.


Second world war stories are so interesting and fascinating. Just for the sheer reason that most of them portray the human spirit to overcome the obstacles and hardships. There are stories that may need a half century or more to age before being told, giving memories and bitterness a chance to fade and giving those involved, time to have passed into history.  The story of the battle for the Huertgen Forest is one of those stories.  Please read it, not necessarily to enjoy, but to honor to those whose sufferings were never properly recognized and whose patriotic deeds never celebrated.  The Hürtgen Forest, south of ancient city of Aachen along the German- Belgium border, can best be described as a “weird and wild” place.  The forest, even in daytime, has a somber appearance which was apt to cast gloom upon sensitive people. It was like a green cave, always dripping water, the firs interlocked their lower limbs so that everyone had to stoop, all the time. The forest floor, in almost perpetual darkness, was devoid of underbrush. Add to this gloom, a mixture of sleet, snow, rain, cold, fog and almost knee deep mud. This was to be setting for the most tragic battle of World War II.

After the war, German General Rolf van Gersdorff commented, “I have engaged in the long campaigns in Russia as well as other fronts and I believe the fighting in the Hürtgen was the heaviest I have ever witnessed.” Still, the Germans were delighted that the Americans wanted to throw their weight into an attack against dug-in troops in a forest where the American preponderance of artillery and command of the air would be of little value.  Also, delighting the Germans was that the Hürtgen Forest was of little military value and, if lost to the Americans, could be flooded since the Germans held flood control dams above the level of the forest. It was a battle that the Germans really couldn’t loose.

When American troops who had fought in Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland, finally took the forest, they said they had never seen anything that could compare to this for the amount of shattered military equipment scattered throughout and the countless American bodies.  They saw the 112th Regiment’s dead, still by their vehicles in the snow, telephones and maps intact in the bunker Command Post, on top of which a Tiger tank had squatted, shooting the Yanks as they emerged.  They referred to this as death valley.   What the British staff officer said after inspecting the Somme battlefield in France during the First World War could have very well applied here.  He cried out, “My God: Did we really send men to fight in this?”

America was throwing her finest young men at the Germans.  These youths had come from all sections of the country and from every major ethnic group except the African – American and the Japanese – American.  Due to an Army policy in force at the time, these two groups did not participate in this battle. While thousands of German soldiers were executed for desertion, only one American soldier was executed for the same offense, remarkably demonstrating the patriotism and devotion to duty of this group.

The training these young men had gone through at State-side posts such as Fort Benning was rigorous physically but severely short on the tactical and leadership challenges that the junior officers would have to meet.  British General Horrocks (one of the few generals, if not the only general to do so) made a surprise front line visit to the 84th division and described these young men as “an impressive product of American training methods which turned out division after division complete, fully equipped. The divisions were composed of splendid, very brave, tough young men.”  But he thought it was too much to ask of green divisions to penetrate strong defense lines, and then stand up to counter attacks from first-class German divisions.

And he was disturbed by the failure of American division and corps commanders and their staffs to ever visit the front lines.  He was greatly concerned to find that the men were not even getting hot meals brought up from the rear, in contrast to the forward divisions in the British line.  He reported that not even battalion commanders were going to the front.  Senior officers and staff didn’t know what they were ordering their rifle companies to do.  They did their work from maps and over radios and telephones.  And unlike the company and platoon leaders, who had to be replaced every few weeks at best, or every few days at worst, the staff officers took few casualties, so the same men stayed at the same job, doing it badly.

When Capt. John O’Grady of Ninth Army’s Historical Section visited the Forest in late November, he sent back a memorandum to Ninth Army:  “On 23rd November the battalion was attacking a superior German force entrenched on an excellent position.  The only thing that higher headquarters contributed to the debacle was pressure, and God only knows where the pressure started, perhaps Corps or perhaps Army.  It had the effect of ordering men to die needlessly. Tactics and maneuver on battalion or regiment scale were conspicuous by their absence.  It never seemed to occur to anyone that the plan might be wrong; but rather the indictment was placed on the small unit commanders and the men who were doing the fighting.  The companies went into battle against the formidable Siegfried Line with hand grenades and rifle bullets against pillboxes.  The 84th Division walked into the most touted defensive line in modern warfare without so much as the benefit of a briefing by combat officers.”

The battle began on September 19, 1944 when the 3rd Armored Division and the 9th Infantry Division moved into the forest. Six additional infantry divisions would be called upon only to emerge mauled, reduced to few in numbers and low in spirits. Two would come close to traversing the forest:  The First Infantry Division along the northern edge, and the 78th Infantry, which eventually seized the dams as the Roer campaign closed.  Statistics reveal that for every yard gained, the Forest claimed more lives than any other objective the Americans took in Europe.

The lieutenants and captains quickly learned that control of formations larger than platoons was nearly impossible. Troops more than a few feet apart couldn’t see each other. There were no clearings, only narrow firebreaks and trails. Maps were almost useless. When the Germans, secure in their bunkers, saw the GI’s coming forward, they called down pre sighted artillery fire, using shells with fuses designed to explode on contact with the treetops. When men drove to the ground for cover, as they had been trained to do, they exposed themselves to a rain of hot metal and fragmented wood. They learned that the only way to survive a shelling in the Hürtgen was to hug a tree. This way they exposed only their steel helmets to steel and fragments coming straight down from the top of the trees.

With air support and artillery almost useless, the GI’s were committed to a fight of mud and mines, carried out by infantry skirmish lines plunging ever deeper into the forest, with machine guns and light mortars their only support. For the GI’s, it was a calamity.  In the September action, the 9th Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Division lost up to 80 percent of their front-line troops, and gained almost nothing. “Call it off” is what the GI’s wanted to tell the generals, but the generals shook their heads and said, “Attack.”

On November 2, the 28th Infantry Division took up the fight. The 28th was the Pennsylvania National Guard and was called the “Keystone Division” referring to their red keystone shoulder patch.  So many of the Pennsylvania National Guard were to fall here that the Germans decided their name should be changed from the “Keystone Division” to the “Bloody Bucket Division,” since the keystone looked somewhat like a bucket.  When the 28th tried to move forward, it was like walking into hell. From their bunkers, the Germans sent forth a hail of machine-gun and rifle fire and mortars. The GI’s were caught in thick minefields. Their attack stalled. For two weeks, the 28th kept attacking, as ordered.  On November 5, division sent down orders to move tanks down a road called the Kall trail.  But, as usual, no staff officer had gone forward to assess the situation in person, and in fact the “trail” was solid mud blocked by felled trees and disabled tanks. The attack led only to more heavy loss of life.

The 28th’s lieutenants kept leading. By November 13, all the officers in the rifle companies had been killed or wounded. As the 28th Infantry withdrew, Combat Reporter Ivan H. Peterman was witness and wrote the following report:  “When survivors retired from the Hürtgen Forest today, they crouched in their vehicles, staring straight ahead.  If there were heroics to recount, someone else had to talk.  The men of this unit would not.  Too many of their companions remained behind, too many were dead or missing.  Too many were grievously wounded and shattered in nerves and spirit.  If they never saw the Hürtgen Forest again it would suit them.  If they never traveled in fragrant ravines, pitched another tent or hewed out a hut to ward off fragments and falling treetops, if they never saw a timbered slit trench, or smelled the tangy odor of burning cones and felt the springy needles underfoot, they wouldn’t care.  They had enough. They hated the Forest and all it defended.  They hated its roads and ridges.  They hated its cold and dampness.  They hated its lurking death and the constant feeling of unknown danger.  Yes, they hated the Hürtgen Forest where the stately Douglas firs with their epaulets of snow, ranged like frosted grenadiers, close ordered on hillsides — immutable, impenetrable, defiant….”

Next, was the 4th Infantry Division’s turn and this seasoned outfit took possibly the worst losses of all. Between November 7 and December 3, the division lost over 7000 men, or about ten per company per day. “Replacements flowed in to compensate for the losses but the Hürtgen’s voracious appetite for casualties was greater than the army’s ability to provide new troops.” Lieutenant Wilson recorded his company’s losses at 167 percent for enlisted men. “We had started with a full company of about 162 men and had lost about 287.” Sgt. Mack Morris was there with the 4th and reported: “Hürtgen had its fire-breaks, only wide enough to allow two jeeps to pass, and they were mined and interdicted by machine-gun fire. There was a mine every eight paces for three miles. Hürtgen’s roads were blocked. The Germans cut roadblocks from trees. They cut them down so they interlocked as they fell. Then they mined and booby trapped them. Finally they registered their artillery on them, and the mortars, and at the sound of men clearing them, they opened fire.”

After the 4th Division was expended, the First Army put its 8th Infantry Division into the attack. On November 27, it closed in on the town of Hürtgen, the original objective of the offensive when it began in mid-September. Orders were given to Lt. Paul Boesch, Company G, 121st Infantry, to take the town. At dawn on November 28, Boesch put one of his lieutenants on the left side of the road leading to the town while he took to the other side. When he gave the signal, Company G charged. “It was sheer pandemonium,” he recalled. Once out of that damned forest, the men went mad with battle lust.

The 8th Division did not get far beyond the town before it was used up. A staff officer from regiment visited the front and reported, “The men of this battalion are physically exhausted. The spirit and will to fight are there; the ability to continue is gone. These men have been fighting without sleep for four days and last night had to lie unprotected from the weather in an open field. They are shivering with cold, and their hands are so numb that they have to help one another on with their equipment. I firmly believe that every man up here should be evacuated through medical channels.” Many had trench foot, all had colds or worse, plus diarrhea.

It was time to send in another division. The 2nd Ranger Battalion was brought in. It had fought on Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought costly battles in Normandy and although it had taken 100 percent casualties, the core of the force that Lt. Col. James E. Rudder had led ashore on June 6 was still there. The battalion was assigned to the 28th Division in the Hürtgen and moved into the line. It immediately took casualties from mines and artillery, then the men sat in foxholes and took a pounding.

On December 6, orders were given to attack Hill 400 (named after its height in meters).  The First Army had thrown four divisions – Ranger companies A, B, C, D, E and F moved to the base of the hill under cover of darkness ready with fixed bayonets to charge at first light. Sgt. Bill Petty, who had distinguished himself on D-Day, recalled that “tension was building up to the explosion point.” At first light, he shouted, “Let’s go get the bastards!,” and firing from the hip, he led the Rangers as they charged. Sgt. Bud Potratz remembered hollering “Hi ho, Silver!” It was worse than D-Day but the Rangers had caught the Germans by surprise and although the Germans were good that day, they were not good enough!

When Sgt. Petty reached the top of the hill, he “found a situation of turmoil.” With another Ranger (named Anderson), he approached the main bunker and heard Germans inside. They pushed open the door and tossed in two grenades. Just as they were ready to rush in and spray the room with their BAR, a shell exploded a few feet away — the Germans were firing back on their own positions. The explosion blew Anderson into Petty’s arms. Anderson was dead, killed instantly by a big piece of shrapnel in his heart. Sgt. Petty had the unusual and very sad experience of having another Ranger named Anderson (brother of the Anderson who had just died in his arms) gets hit by German fire and had him die in his arms within the hour. The Germans were not going to give up the hill no matter what the cost. By 9:30, the first of five counterattacks that day began. They used machine guns, burp guns, rifles, and three potato masher grenades. Hand-to-hand fights developed on top of the hill often with bayonets.

German Field Marshal Model offered Iron Crosses and two weeks’ leave to any of his men who could retake the hill. The Germans threw in everything they had. On the American side, Ranger Lt. Lomell remembered, “we were outnumbered ten to one. We had no protection, continuous tons of shrapnel falling upon us, hundreds of rounds coming in.” At one point, Lt. Lomell saw his platoon sergeant, Ed Secor, “out of ammo and unarmed, seize two machine pistols from wounded Germans and in desperation charged a large German patrol, firing and screaming at them. His few remaining men rallied to the cause and together they drove the Germans back down the hill.” Lomell was a legend among the Rangers for what he did on D-Day, but in 1995 he commented, “June 6, 1944 was not my longest day. December 7th, 1944 was my longest and most miserable day on earth during my past 75 years.”

As Ranger numbers dwindled and ammunition began to run out, American artillery saved the day. Just after daylight, the Germans shelled the hill with such intensity that one explosion would cover the sound of the next approaching shell. But when the Germans attacked the hill with infantry, a combination of artillery and small arms fire of the rangers drove them back.  Late on December 8, an infantry regiment and tank destroyer battalion relieved the surviving Rangers. The Rangers had suffered 90 percent casualties and once again would have to be replenished with very few of the originals alive to be part of the new Ranger Battalion.

A week and two days later, the Germans retook the hill and not until February 1945 would the Americans get it back. When the Americans took Hill 400 again, the campaign would come to a close but since the Americans did not have the dams upstream, the Forest for which they had paid such a high price would be worthless. The battle had lasted ninety days and involved nine American Divisions and their supporting units. More than 24,000 Americans lost their lives and there were another 9,000 casualties from trench foot, disease and combat exhaustion.  So ended the battle for the Hürtgen Forest.

How and why so many wonderful young people were sacrificed and for what purpose poses an interesting question.  It has been said that the battle for the Hürtgen Forest was based on a plan that was grossly, even criminally stupid.  The blame for this catastrophe was a failure of the generals at the highest levels.  The officers from the level of captain down to freshly commissioned lieutenants and enlisted men from sergeants down to the newest recruits performed and died with such courage that all Americans should be forever proud of them.

The Doolittle Raid


World War II is so much of action and lively stories. It is a never ending saga as every single research opens a new and a perhaps unknown and untold story. Most of us knew that Japan attached USA at the Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, but not many must have known of The Doolittle Raid – on 18 April 1942, was the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese Home Islands (specifically Honshu) during World War II. By demonstrating that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, it provided a vital morale boost and opportunity for U.S. retaliation after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle. Doolittle would later recount in his autobiography that the raid was intended to bolster American morale and to cause the Japanese to begin doubting their leadership: “The Japanese people had been told they were invulnerable … An attack on the Japanese homeland would cause confusion in the minds of the Japanese people and sow doubt about the reliability of their leaders. There was a second, and equally important, psychological reason for this attack … Americans badly needed a morale boost.

After Pearl Harbor, it took the United States several months to rebuild and mobilize its Pacific Fleet. While America was preparing to challenge Japan for control of Southeast Asia, some American officers wanted to do something to boost the morale of the American people and to score a psychological victory against the Japanese. One of their proposals was to bomb Tokyo itself using long range bombers launched from the deck of an aircraft career. It was a dangerous mission, since nothing like it had ever been done before. Nevertheless, Lt. Colonel James H Doolittle and his volunteer pilots successfully bombed the Japanese capital on April 18, 1942.

Bombing Japan was a logistical problem because the United States did not control any islands within striking distance of Japan. That meant that the bombers had to be launched from an aircraft career. All the bombers in the US Air Force were designed for runways much longer and wider than the deck of an aircraft carrier, however, so it was difficult for the bombers to take off from them. After extensive training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the crews of the 16 bombers became proficient at taking off in extremely short distances. Even once the Air Force overcame the problems of launching the aircraft, they had problems with fuel. The B-25 bombers had to be highly modified to maximize fuel economy and fuel capacity. Even still, it was not possible for the bombers to return. The plan was for them to land in China after dropping their bombs over Tokyo.

Of course, the mission required complete secrecy. In early April of 1942, the bombers were loaded onto the USS Hornet for the journey to Japanese waters. No one was told the destination of the ship until it was well out to sea. The Hornet joined the USS Enterprise and the two continued to within 600 miles of Japan when the battle group was spotted by a Japanese patrol boat. The boat was sank, but not before sending word to the Japanese. Fortunately, the warning was not heeded because the Japanese command thought it must be a joke. Fearing that the Japanese would prepare a defense against the bombers, they were ordered to take off at once even though they were 200 miles from where they had planned to begin the mission.

The bombers flew low and avoided any Japanese antiaircraft defenses. Around noon on April 18th, they dropped their bombs onto the unprepared city of Tokyo. The Japanese military and people were stunned because they did not think an attack was possible. After dropping their payloads, the bombers flew over China, but could not see their landing sites. 15 of the crews parachuted or crash landed over China while one crew made it to a Russian airstrip. Only eight crew members were captured by the Japanese. Of these, three were executed, one died in a POW camp, and the rest survived the war as POWs.

Though the raid did not do much physical damage to Tokyo, it did tremendous psychological damage. The official in charge of the air defense of Tokyo committed suicide and the Japanese stationed four fighter squadrons there to prevent future attacks. The raid also greatly boosted the morale of the American people. For their success, Doolittle was promoted to General and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 “It was hoped that the damage done would be both material and psychological. Material damage was to be the destruction of specific targets with ensuing confusion and retardation of production. The psychological results, it was hoped, would be the recalling of combat equipment from other theaters for home defense thus effecting relief in those theaters, the development of a fear complex in Japan, improved relationships with our Allies, and a favorable reaction on the American people.” —General James H. Doolittle, 9 July 1942

 This blog is an extract from the article written by Edward Oxford and originally published in August 1997 issue of American History Magazine. More information on the story and the raid is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doolittle_Raid. An animated version of the entire operation is available at http://www.historyanimated.com/Doolittle.html.

Operation Drumbeat, 1942


An interesting feature  – The Second Happy Time (codenamed Operation Paukenschlag or Operation Drumbeat), also known among German submarine commanders as the “American shooting season was the informal name for a phase in the Second Battle of the Atlantic during which Axis submarines attacked merchant shipping along the east coast of North America.

Drumbeat, at least in theory, had been planned as far back as 1897. Germany had always been fascinated with attacking America, a land insulated and buffered by two oceans. There was a desire to “break” this immunity. Thus, in 1897, when Hitler was a mere boy of eight years, the German military planners first proposed a mostly naval operation against the East Coast of the U.S. Planning continued and by 1898, a more detailed vision had been constructed that focused on a naval bombardment and landing troops on Long Island along the Chesapeke Bay.

Captain Adolf Golzen, a German military attaché in Washington D.C., had seen such plans and was so taken by the discussions or writings in 1899, wrote his own detailed and serious plan. In his plan, which he presented, made New York city the primary target for a large naval blockade. One naval task force would blockade the harbors at the east end of Long Island as another large task force would enter New York Bay. The German armada entering would bombard FortHamilton and FortTompkins. Other ships would bombard Manhatten. Once completed, several infantry battalions and one engineer battalion would invade Long Island to establish a bridgehead to America. These units would subsequently attack across into the Manhatten area.

Beginning in 1917, the concept of attacking America with aircraft and airships seemed to take over the concept of using ships. The concept would require the use large bi-planes to reach the eastern U.S. seaboard. The idea went into remission in 1919 when Germany lost WW1. However, the idea remained and simmered on the back burner of high ranking minds until 1929, when a report by Major Wilberg, an Army Weapons Officer, mapped out a secret requirements document for bomb carriers. This remained secret until 1933. It then resurfaced with the rise of Hitler and taken quite seriously. The requirement was to have a four engine aircraft, with a crew of eight, armed with two 20mm cannon and five MGs. Its operational height was 6000 m and a top speed of 300 km per hour. Its range would be 2000 km. Other long range aircraft were also in various planning stages, but as Hitler rose to power, the Reich Air Ministry was more interested in the Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighter. One such long ranger bomber was the Do 19, which first flew in 1936.

In 1936, the Reich Air Ministry requested a long range bomber capable of flying 5000 km with a 500 kg bombload (the east coast of America is 6500 km from Europe). Eventually, Heikel produced the He 177. Competition was keen and Focke-Wulf present its FW 200, and in August, 1938, one flew non-stop from Berlin to New York! Then, in 1937, Hitler met with Willy Messerschmitt where he presented to Hitler’s surprise, the Messerschmitt long range bomber program. He had already worked up specifications for the Me 261, an aircraft that could fly 6700 km and 5000m and one ton bombload.

As 1940 turned in 1941, Hitler became more adamant in his desire to bomb to ashes New York City in order to teach the Jews a lesson on terror. The aircraft designs were valid and plentiful, what lacked were the engines! In April, 1941, the Air Ministry demanded that 50 Me 264s be built and tested, with 10 aircraft to have top priority so the air offensive against America(along with Drumbeat) could begin. Hitler wanted to target heavy industry (20 industrial sites had been identified). Messerschmitt had already six prototypes unbeknownst to Hitler by March 1941, with another 18 to be built. These could fly 12000 km and carry 3-5 tons of bombs. In a conference on May 22, 1941, Hitler was informed that if Germany seized the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic, it would provide a launch pad from with the He 177 and FW 200 could bomb from.

On December 7, 1941, the German High Command received word that the Japanese had attacked at Pearl harbor. For Admiral Karl Donitz, the commander of all U-boats based in France, the time was ripe. Even as a young officer, Donitz had been fascinated about attacking the US. Looking at the map, the distance from France to the waters off the US east coast is 3000 nautical miles. Unlike the Luftwaffe, Donitz had two submarines capable of attacking the US: Type IXB and IXC. When Donietz requested the use of 12 IX Type U-boats for his operation, he received a lukewarm response, in fact, all of the available U-boats were already in use and on station—but for five, which happen to be the advanced IX Type! These were: U-123, U-130, U-66, U-109, and U-125. Two were IXB types, the remaining were IXC types. Their captains were briefed and told to not expose themselves unless the target was at least 10000 tons while in American waters. The fishing ground was from CapeHatteras to St. Lawerence. The U-boats secretly made their way across the Atlantic between Dec. 16-24.

When the US Naval forces were informed of the impending attack by the British, the US Navy based in Virginia did little and remained idle as it was expected that these forces would be used to confront the German Navy. Thus, the entire US East Coast was defended by a polyglot force of the US Coast Guard. This force consisted of:

  • 51 Old training aircraft
  • 18 Scout aircraft
  • 6 Patrol aircraft
  • 3 Fighter and 3 Torpedo Aircraft
  • 4 Subchasers ( Nos. 102, 330, 412, 437)
  • 4 Armed Yachts (Sylph, Coral, Tour, Slean)
  • 2 Old gunboats (Nos. 17 and 18)
  • 3 Patrol boats
  • 7 Coast Guard Cutters (Dione, Dix, Active, Frederick, Antieram, Jackson, Rush) Of these, only three were operational.

The US Army Air Force, like the USN, had its own agenda and planning, which prevented helping defend America’s east coast by air reconnasiance. The following were based in from Virgina, New York to Massachusetts:

  • 9 B17
  • 6 B18
  • 31 B25

Because of maintenance and no communications between the three organizations, on average, the USN could only allow two destroyers to hunt for U-boats from Jan. to March every day. The US Army Air Force could only allow six aircraft (usually B25s) to make sorties every day. To defend Florida, in February, only 14 Scout aircraft and 2 B18’s were operational!

Drumbeat arrived unannounced and remained secret. Many Americans did not know German U-boats were waiting off shore.

The pace of Drumbeat grew with the passing of every month as subs rotated out and back to Franceand those just arriving. Doneitz continued to add all available submarines and more began to arrive off of Florida or in the Caribbean to intercept vital oil pumped from Aruba. Replacing the first wave in February were: U-103, 106, 107, 108, all IX Type. Also arriving now were the lesser U-boats, VIIC Type: U-432, 564, 578, 653. These were positioned up and down the East Coast from Norfolk to Boston. Others like the U128 and 504 hunted off the Florida coast Appearing in the warm tropics near Aruba and Trinidad raomed U67, U129, U156, U161, U502- all IXC Type. Each of these subs could linger around for 2-3 weeks time before returning.

U-Boats were deadly. For example, in a period of 3 days, in a sector assigned to three sub hunter ships, 14 ships had been sunk and 90,500 tons went to the bottom of the sea. None of the subs had been found or destroyed. Spotting a surfaced sub from the air by a B18 or B24 bomber was like finding a needle in a haystack. In the six months that Drumbeat was happening, less than five aircraft had spotted a surfaced submarine.

On June 13th, just after midnight, U-boat 202 crept as close as it could to the beach area at Amagansett, Long Island. From the sub were four German men who deployed a collapsible boat and paddled onto America. The first German troops had fulfilled a 45 years dream! These four men were part of Doenitz’ plan to land saboteurs who spoke perfect English. U-boat 202 then silently disappeared. Unbeknownst to the Germans, they happened to pick the only beach that the Coast Guard patrolled 24 hours a day and very close to the Coast Guard Station and the 113th Mobile Infantry Unit! Actually, a week had gone by before the first German saboteur had been captured. It was Georg Johann Dasch, a German national that had been a US resident for many years and married to a US citizen!

On June 17th, U 584, off Ponte Vedra, Florida, the story was retold, as four Germans landed onto an isolated beach unobserved. With them, they carried a considerable amount of explosives which they hid. Two of the saboteurs went to New York, the other two went to Chicago.

It was not until May, 1942, that the convoys departing from the US East Coast were in convoys escorted by US Destroyers. For some reason, the American authorities remained a very stubborn attitude about not mandating that ships travel in convoys as the British transports had done.

In all, around 40 U-boats participated in Drumbeat. The pickings were good and by June, over 400 ships had been sunk and 2,000,000 tons of war material went to the bottom of the ocean along with 5000 men. Drumbeat was very cost effective, only seven U-boats were lost. Had the Germans focused on the refineries at Aruba, which provide 75% of the aviation fuel Canada and the US used, by destroying it, the ramifications would have been detrimental. However, only two subs arrived there and shelled it causing fire but that was about it.

Some pictures of the entire story….

This feature is an extract from hubpages and wikipedia. Since I found the article interesting and felt this is untold history, so I posted if.

The army that disappeared


An army is a lot of people. This Japanese army included some 170,000 of the finest soldiers ever to march off to war. They marched off never to come back, back to the homes, families, mothers, fathers, children and friends that they might have once known. They would die on the island of New Guinea, some 160,000 of them. They would die horribly, not in real combat, only a small percentage of them would go that way, most were doomed to die of dysentery, malaria, malnutrition or just complete exhaustion.

Ogawa Masatsugu was one of these soldiers and was with the Seventy-Ninth Regiment of the Twentieth Division stationed in China. He was transferred with his unit to New Guinea in January of 1943.  He would be the only one from his company to board a transport ship bound for Japan and home after the war. People would come from all over Japan to see him expecting to see some large powerfully built iron man.  Instead, what they saw was a thin small framed man who walked slowly due to back injuries brought on by his ordeal in New Guinea. Many of the people who came had relatives or friends in the army that disappeared and it was hard for them to imagine what had happened and why no one returned alive from New Guinea.  Ogawa, now a professor of medieval Japanese literature, knew the answer.

Ogawa Masatsugu’s regiment was on the offensive in the eastern area of the island when General MacArthur launched “Operation Cartwheel” (an American and Australian offensive) in June of 1943.  At the coastal town of Finschhafen on September 22, Australian troops defeated a numerically superior Japanese force and drove them away from the coast.

“I was amazed how weak the Australian soldiers seemed.  Their infantrymen ran before us when we attacked.  The next day, though, their artillery and airplanes bombarded us from all sides.  Only when we were totally exhausted did their infantry return to mop up at their leisure.  Our side had no fighting capability left.” This, a quote from Ogawa.

The Japanese army was forced to conduct a “fighting retreat” across the Owen Stanley Mountain range harried at all times by the Australian and American troops.  Facing an impossible situation for a retreat, most armies of the world would have surrendered to save the lives of their troops.  Not so for the Japanese army, surrender was out of the question.  This army would have to fall back and in its retreat, cross mountains and travel through some of the most impassible jungles in the world.

“When we left Finschafen, we had already passed the limits of our energy, and yet we had to crawl along the very tops of ridges and cross mountain ranges.  It was a death march for us. It had rained for more than a half  a year straight.  Our guns rusted.  Iron just rotted away.  Wounds wouldn’t heal.  Marching in the rain was horrible.  Drops fell from my cap into my mouth mixing with my sweat.  You slipped and fell, got up, went sprawling, stood up, like an army of marching mud dolls.  It went on without end, just trudging through the muddy water, following the legs of somebody in front of you.”

“At times the rain was heavy in the mountains, not like in Japan.  It was more like a waterfall.  You’d have to cover your nose or it would choke you.  A valley stream could turn into a big river instantly. If you got caught there washing your face, away you went.  People could die of drowning while crossing the mountains.  I climbed mountains four thousand meters high.  Dark black clouds swirled around us.  I had the feeling the heavens were glowering down on me.  Beyond the clouds, you could see stars even in daylight.  It was like being in the eye of a typhoon, suddenly seeing those stars shining behind the dark clouds.  It was a weird experience.” This, a direct quote from Ogawa.

This type of experience had to be endured month after month.  There seemed no end to it.  After the battle at Finschhaven, the Japanese army had been marching for almost two months and had crossed most of the mountain ranges and was almost to the coast and salvation.  But there was another gorge ahead.

“After the main force had passed over the gorge, they blew up the suspension bridge.  The thousands who trailed behind were left to die.  We were at the end of the line.  Soldiers who had struggled along before us littered the sides of the trail.  It was a dreadful sight.  Some were already skeletons — it was so hot that they soon rotted — or their bodies were swollen and purple.  —  The whole mountain range was wreathed in the stench of death.  That was what it was like.

Because our own forces blew up the bridge before we could cross it, we were forced to  march an additional month because we were one day late.  It was about the tenth day of February 1944.  Behind me there were thousands completely dispersed, scattered.  Many had gone mad.  I couldn’t get over the fact that, delirious as they were, they still marched in the same direction.  Nobody, no matter how insane, walked the wrong way.  The dead bodies became road markers.  They beckoned to us:  “This is the way.  Just follow us corpses and you’ll get there.”

In New Guinea, we didn’t know what was killing us.  Who killed that one?  Was it death from insanity?  A suicide?  A mercy killing?  Maybe he just couldn’t endure the pain of living.  I remember the war as mainly one of suicides and mercy killings.

I knew an army doctor, about thirty-five years old, who volunteered to shoot all those who knew they could not survive.  This I consider “sacred murder.”  Often subordinates asked their superiors to kill them when the main force was about to depart.  If you were left behind, that was the end.  A man who had the strength left to pull the pin could always blow himself up, so everyone tried to keep one hand grenade until the last moment.  Even those who tossed away their rifles never threw away their last grenade.

Ogawa had given up hope of surviving and thought, “If you’re going to die  anyway, die gloriously.”  He therefore volunteered for special missions.  Again and again he came back from these only to find it was the main unit that was wiped out while he was on the dangerous assignment.

“In the world we lived in on New Guinea, you had no use for the language or knowledge you had accumulated before you went there.  Literature, which I’d studied at Keijo Imperial University, meant nothing.  I sensed that the extremes of existence could be reduced to the human stomach.  Lack of protein, in particular, fostered a kind of madness in us.  We ate anything.  Flying insects, worms in rotten palm trees.  We fought over the distribution of those worms.  If you managed to knock down a lizard with a stick, you’d pop it into your mouth while its tail was still wriggling.  Yet, under these conditions, a soldier offered me his final rice and a soldier I met for the first time gave me half a taro root he’d dug up.

“We didn’t know anything about the war situation outside our bit of jungle.  One day at the enemy camp we saw two flags go up, the Union Jack and the Japanese flag.  We heard Banzai! Banzai! in Japanese.  We’d never heard anything like it before.  We then had three days of silence.  Planes flew over and dropped leaflets proclaiming,  Peace has come to the Orient.  Even the regimental commander didn’t know about the end of the war.  This must have been about August 15, but even that I didn’t know exactly.  It would be a lie if I said I felt sad, or happy.  I can’t analyze my feelings at that time. I just felt, Well, so it’s over.”

How did Ogawa survive when most everyone else perished in this tragic campaign?  Of course he was doomed from the start as he was locked into a military system that specifically forbade surrender.  As the Field Service Code of January 15, 1941 stated, “Meet the expectations of your family and home community by making effort upon effort, always mindful of the honor of your name.  If alive, do not suffer the disgrace of becoming a prisoner; in death, do not leave behind a name soiled by misdeeds.”  – The Field Service Code:  Tojo Hideki, Army Minister, Senjinkun[Field Service Regulations] (Tokyo: The Army Ministry, 1941) [reprinted by Boei mondai kenkyukai, Tokyo: 1972], chapter 2, sect. 8

Ogawa survived because he was able to hold on until the day that Japan surrendered, otherwise he was doomed to perish just as the other soldiers of this army did.

Who can be blamed for a philosophy that brought senseless death to  millions of Japanese.  It would be easy to place the blame at the feet of the Emperor God Hirohito who was the only single person that could have prevented this disaster at that time.  But, he too appeared to be caught up in the wild and glorious speculations as to  the heights the Japanese nation might be destined.  Maybe the only thing left to blame would be the human weakness of believing what we want to believe no matter how much evidence and good common sense points to the contrary.

This is an extract from the book “Japan at War – An Oral History,by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook (Lost Battles)“.


In July 1944 Hitler tried to keep a promise to the German people. He promised over and over that his secret weapons would, at last, turn the tide and Germany would win. Of these the V1 Fying bomb and the V2 rocket saw action against London and Belgium. Hitler’s third vengeance weapon the V3 was a giant rocket assisted howitzer. It was capable of firing shells over 90 km to London.To do it he authorized the building of what was at that time the most potentially devastating weapon of the war – THE LONDON GUN!

It was also known as the V3 Cannon after the V1 Buzz Bomb and the V2 Rocket. These massive long range cannons had already been test fired in a remote Baltic sea location. They were big at 460 feet long. Timed explosions along the length of the barrel at angled T-junctions bumped the shell a little faster with each explosion as it proceeded along the barrel. This resulted in a muzzle velocity of over 1500mps (4,921 ft/sec) for a 140kg (308 lb.) shell. They could lob this shell more than 100 miles. By comparison, USS Missouri’s 16″ guns could fire about 20 miles depending on the type shell. So far, it was the largest gun ever built. Fifty of these guns along the coast of France sitting just across the channel near the port of Calais would lob some six hundred shells PER HOUR into London every day.

The fort comprised a 600m. long railway tunnel that went straight through the mountain. Off this a number of crosscuts and inclined shafts were sunk to accommodate the 130m long gun barrels. There were 5 inclined shafts in all. Each shaft had 5 cannon aimed at London. The shafts emerged through a reinforced concrete slab at the top of the hill.

Each cannon had charges placed along the length of the barrel which fired just as the shell passed imparting more energy and speed to the shell. Soon some five thousand engineers and workers (many slave) descended upon a small French town, Mimoyecques, just inland from Calais to build the first battery. These gun emplacements would have concrete and steel roofs 100 feet thick. Only the muzzles would protrude above ground but even they would have 8-inch sliding steel doors covering them until firing. They had their own rail line, their own storage facilities, and elevators to lift the huge shells to the breach. There were to be 25 guns in this, the first battery.

But the French underground soon spotted strange activity near the hamlet. They sent word quickly to British Intelligence. With this and other vital information, they soon deduced the activity and construction was for the LONDON GUN. But what could they do about it? It was built hundreds of feet underground. In late 1943 there was a plan hatched by the Americans and British to deal with the GUN. This plan, in addition to regular conventional and “penetrating bombs,” was very dangerous and had never been done before by the Allies although the Germans had successfully used similar, if smaller, radio-controlled drones – Nazi Smart Bombs. It involved an aircraft filled with explosives to be flown by pilots to a point near the target then flown into the construction by another following behind with radio guidance equipment. One young American Lieutenant named Joseph Patrick volunteered to command the drone until it was ready to attack. It was a B-24 Liberator that had a normal payload of 2,700 to 8,000 pounds. They removed the guns, ammo, crew (except for Joseph Patrick and his copilot) and everything else not nailed down. They loaded it with some 22,000 pounds of high explosives.

In November 1944, Joseph Patrick and his copilot struggled off from a base in Southern England. They were followed quickly by another Liberator. The plan was to get the overloaded B-24 near Mimoyecques where Joe Patrick and his copilot would bail out over enemy territory, making it very likely that they would spend the rest of the war as guests of the Germans – if they survived. The second Liberator using primitive remote control equipment would guide the now unmanned flying bomb into the LONDON GUN being built.

Shortly after takeoff something went very wrong! Something, perhaps a spark from the radio remote control, ignited the 22,000 pounds of high explosives which exploded over southern England. The blast was so huge that no remains of Joseph Patrick nor his copilot were ever found. To this day, results of the inquiry have never been released . . . if indeed there were results. We don’t know why the Liberator exploded.

A young lieutenant named Joseph Patrick had the last name of Kennedy. He was the oldest son of Joe Kennedy, the former ambassador to England and a crony of the wartime President Roosevelt. His father and FDR were grooming Joseph Patrick, known to all as Joe, to be president. He would, after the war, come home as a hero and possibly a former POW. If he had his younger brother Jack’s charm, he would certainly have beaten Nixon in 1960 instead.

Had he lived and become president, would President JOE Kennedy abandon the Bay of Pigs invasion that might have lead to Castro’s downfall in 1961? Would President JOE Kennedy escalate the war in Viet Nam? And finally, would President JOE Kennedy feel the need to shore up his political position with a visit to Dallas in November 1963?

Although the LONDON GUN never fired a shot, it inexorably affected US history, Cuban History, and SE Asian history in ways we will never know. As interesting as the story of the LONDON GUN is, it isn’t the most important part of the story.

One more final, bitter, irony

Before Joseph Patrick Kennedy’s abortive attempt, massive bombings of the site using conventional bombs continued to no avail. Then they used huge 5400kg (5.95 ton) “Tallboy Penetrator” bombs but they too failed to damage the construction until 6 July 1944 (4 months before the loss of Kennedy) when by sheer luck, one found its way into one of the shaft openings. It exploded 100 feet below the surface killing dozens. Work was then abandoned. Allied planners did not know this so the attempt by Joseph Patrick Kennedy went on as planned. They died never knowing that their sacrifice was not even needed!


This is an excerpt from histroy.net and also after a long search on Project Gutenberg to find and read the book War Plan Orange: The US Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 by Edward S. Miller.Though I took the pain and time to write this blog, the actual text is basically redrafted from the above mentioned references. So any views on this is solely not mine, but the writers and their associates. 

From his flagship, Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo watched with mingled fear and fury as the remnants of his aerial armada returned to the six carriers of Japan’s 1st Air Fleet. The fear stemmed from Commander Mitsuo Fuchida’s radioed report that the Pearl Harbor gamble had been a fiasco. The fury stemmed from the memory of how he and numerous others had advised Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto against this insane venture, only to have the commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy arrogantly overrule them.

At the debriefing of his pilots, Nagumo learned the full extent of the disaster. An American combat air patrol had spotted the first wave of 183 planes as they neared the northern coast of Oahu. By the time the attackers had reached Pearl Harbor, swarms of P-40s had risen to challenge them, while the sky above the objective roiled with antiaircraft fire from American warships and shore batteries. Forced to dodge this storm of shrapnel, Fuchida’s dive bombers and level bombers had scored few hits, none of them severe, while the torpedo planes, condemned to an unswerving course as they neared their targets, were nearly wiped out. The 170 aircraft of the second wave, trailing an hour behind the first, had suffered even greater losses. All in all, the Americans had destroyed or damaged nearly a third of Nagumo’s attacking force.

The above scenario could easily have occurred. Twelve weeks before the actual Pearl Harbor attack, a Japanese war exercise had demonstrated that even on short notice, American fighters and antiaircraft fire could decimate Japan’s air flotilla and prevent serious damage to the American fleet. And indeed, historically, the second wave, hampered by massive antiaircraft fire, accounted for only 10 percent of the total damage.

The American defenders could have received the warning in any of several ways: by better analysis of signals intelligence; by greater vigilance on the part of Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, commander of the defense of Oahu; or by a more precise report from radar operatives, who spotted the incoming attack formation but failed to indicate its size, leading the watch commander to assume it must be a flight of B-17 bombers due from the mainland. Murphy’s Law—”If anything can go wrong, it will”—could well have operated against the Japanese instead of the Americans.

What would have been the sequel to a failed attack? Three scenarios are possible. Admiral Husband E. Kimmel might have sent his battleships in hot pursuit of Nagumo’s task force. But with two of his three flattops detached to ferry aircraft to Wake and Midway Islands (the third was at San Diego, over 2,500 miles to the northeast), and just four oilers immediately available out of the 25 required to refuel the fleet at sea, this course of action seems unlikely. He might have kept the fleet in harbor and confined the fast carriers to brief hit-and-run strikes on Japanese outposts, as occurred historically. But Kimmel was an offense-minded admiral and the spirit of War Plan Orange—the Navy’s long-standing blueprint for a conflict with Japan—was also offensive. Thus he might well have chosen a third course, and steamed west in search of an early, decisive confrontation with Japanese naval forces in the Central Pacific.

Nowhere in the official documents do specific directives for such an operation exist. But in War Plan Orange, a magisterial study of naval planning done in preparation for a war in the Pacific, historian Edward S. Miller notes that the instructions that American submarine and carrier forces were supposed to execute in the event of war with Japan make sense only in the context of an early battle in the Central Pacific. Recollections of those involved and of other historians support that idea. Kimmel’s operations officer maintained that the Pacific fleet was “virtually mobilized” and ready to sortie en masse within one to four days of the outbreak of war. His battle force commander recalled that a 1941 war game included a full-scale battleship strike as well as carrier and submarine raids. And Gordon W. Prange, a historian who concentrated on the Pearl Harbor attack, believed that in the event of war, “Kimmel proposed to sail forth to engage Yamamoto and waste no time about it.”

Miller believes Kimmel would have pursued the following plan: American submarines would immediately sail west to reconnoiter and torpedo any enemy vessels they encountered. By 16J—the 16th day after the outbreak of war—the U.S. fleet would have sailed to Point Tare, a rendezvous point near Wake Island. Preliminary raids by American carrier aircraft would have functioned as bait to lure the Japanese Navy in that direction. With part of the Japanese Navy committed elsewhere, Kimmel anticipated an even match in terms of capital ships. In this he was correct. Yamamoto sent two of his ten battleships to support operations in southeast Asia. Thus, both sides would have had eight battleships available for the fight. The Japanese would have had an edge in aircraft carriers, but this would have been partially offset by the availability of American land-based aircraft on Wake Island—and the massive depletion of Japanese carrier-based aircraft that resulted from the failed Pearl Harbor attack.

The outcome of a major 1941 battle in the Central Pacific is impossible to predict. A decisive Japanese defeat would have been at least as crippling to the Japanese Navy as Yamamoto’s historical defeat at Midway in June 1942. A decisive American defeat would have been far worse than the historical Pearl Harbor attack. Most of the vessels damaged or sunk were subsequently repaired and returned to action, whereas any warships lost in the Central Pacific would have disappeared beneath thousands of feet of water.

But no American victory would have been great enough to prevent the Japanese seizure of Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines. And no Japanese triumph would have been enough to prevent America’s industrial might from sending forth hundreds of new warships to renew the fight. All that is certain is that Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the scapegoat of Pearl Harbor, might instead have gained the hero’s reputation that a bitter U.S. Congressman accused him of coveting: that of an “American Nelson.”


Starting in 1941, increasing numbers of British airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape. Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful, accurate map, one showing not only where-stuff-was, but also showing the locations of ‘safe houses’ a POW on-the-lam could go to for food and shelter.

Paper maps had real drawbacks: they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear-out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush. Someone in the MI-5 branch (one hopes it was the youthful incarnation of ‘Q’!), got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It’s durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads and unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatever.

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by HM Government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.

By pure coincidence, Waddington’s was also the U.K. licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly.  As it happened, ‘games and pastimes’ was a category of item qualified for insertion into ‘CARE packages’ dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war of all belligerents.

Under strictest secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington’s, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were located (Red Cross packages were delivered to prisoners in accordance with that same regional system). When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington’s also managed to add: A playing token containing a small magnetic compass, a two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together, useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian and French currency hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first missions, on how to identify a ‘rigged’ Monopoly set – by means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square! Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, perhaps one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely – HM Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in another, future war.

The story wasn’t declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington’s were honored.


I love researching WWII, people, places, technology, anything. WWII had an amazing impact on the world and there is a ton of information out there. Studying all the battles, effects and the causes might get a little boring. So, here are some very interesting and unusual events, which are not mentioned in the textbooks. This is a list of unordered events of WWII that are moderately unknown to the average person. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as I did.

Aleutian Islands Campaign

On June 3rd, 1942, Japanese forces invaded and occupied Attu and Kiska, two islands which were part of the state of Alaska. However, these islands had little value, very bad conditions and proved little of a threat to the United States. Many resulting casualties were not caused by gunfire, but booby traps, the weather and friendly fire.

Japanese Holdouts

Japanese holdouts were Japanese soldiers stationed on islands throughout the Pacific who refused to surrender, or did not know that Japan had surrendered. These soldiers remained isolated on these islands, often times by themselves, for several years, or decades. One famous case is Hiroo Onada, who finally surrendered in 1974, 29 years after Japan surrendered!! For more information please visit http://www.wanpela.com/holdouts/list.html.

South American Involvement

Although it is called “World War II”, many people do not include any South American countries on the list of combatants. The country of Brazil, “During the eight months of the Italian campaign, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force managed to take 20,573 Axis prisoners, including two generals, 892 officers and 19,679 other ranks. During the War, Brazil lost 948 of its own men killed in action across all three services.” Many other South American countries contributed in raw supplies and, in some cases, soldiers joined the Free French Forces.

Vichy France vs Allies

After the French surrender in 1940, Germany created a puppet government in Vichy. This government did not have any real power or control. However, after the French defeat, there were still French forces in places such as Northern Africa, Pacific colonies and navy ships. During Operation Torch, Vichy forces were forced to fight against invading allies. “The stiff Vichy resistance cost the Americans 556 killed and 837 wounded. Three hundred British troops and 700 French soldiers were also killed.”

Operation Drumbeat

Typically, people think of U-boats attacking ships in the Atlantic, around Greenland or closer to Europe, rather than off the coast of the United States. However, Operation Drumbeat involved 40 U-Boats attacking shipping very close to the coastline of various states. An even scarier fact is that German U-Boats even landed saboteurs on American soil! At Long Island, New York, and Ponte Vedra, Florida, 8 English-speaking Germans snuck into America (the 4 at Long Island were captured after several weeks).

Other European Nations in Nazi Forces

Many people believe that only Germans were serving in Nazi forces, but this is not the case. German recruitment programs were started in various occupied countries, and were aimed at enlisting citizens and former soldiers into Nazi forces, including the Waffen SS. The 373rd infantry battalion of Wehrmach was a German battalion comprised of Belgians. Frikorps Danmark was created in Denmark to recruit Danish Nazi’s. Similar forces were created in Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Norway, and even a British force (British Free Corps) was created with 27 soldiers (from various parts of the Empire including New Zealanders, Canadians, and Australians). For more information follow the link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_with_the_Axis_Powers_during_World_War_II.

Japanese Fire Balloons

From the Fall of 1944, until early 1945, the Japanese began launching over 9000 “Fire Balloons” from the island of Honshu. These balloons were made of Japanese paper (washi), filled with hydrogen and explosives. They were meant to go with the Jet Stream and fly to North America where they would detonate. The plan was very ineffective and only about 1000 made it the North America. However, 6 Americans were killed in 1945 in a single explosion.

Stalag Luft III

This is likely to be the best known item on the list. Stalag Luft III was a Nazi POW camp, mostly for allied airmen who’d been shot down and taken captive. However, these airmen were very crafty and over 600 had helped to organize an escape committee, which secretly began to dig tunnels and make plans. On March 24th, 1944, the plan was executed, but from the start, everything went wrong. Only 77 men managed to get into the escape tunnels, and were soon discovered. Of the 77, only 3 managed to get to safety. 50 escapees were executed by the orders of Hitler. This escape attempt was made into a 1963 film, “The Great Escape”.

The Niihau Incident

On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese pilots were able to return to aircraft carriers, but a few had been shot down, or had crashed on the island of Oahu. Japanese pilots were told that if they were to crash land, they should do so on the island of Ni’ihau, which they thought was uninhabited. Shigenori Nishikaichi was a pilot whose plane had been damaged. He crash landed on Ni’ihau, which he soon found out was inhabited. He was treated as a guest, but soon they found out about the attack on Pearl Harbor. 3 Japanese on the island tried to help Nishikaichi to escape, but eventually they were stopped, and Nishikaichi as well as one of the Japanese who tried to aid him were killed. This became known as the Ni’ihau incident. For more information on this please follow my own blog – https://maverickvedam.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/the-niihau-incident/

The Death Match

The Death Match was a football (soccer for Americans) match between a POW Soviet team, “FC Start”, and a team comprised of Luftwaffe members, “Flakelf”. The match was played on August 9th, 1942, and was refereed by a Waffen SS soldier. The ref was very biased, and allowed fouls against the Soviet side, and even allowed a German to kick the Soviet goalkeeper in the head. Eventually, the Soviet team pulled off a 5-3 win. This win had huge consequences for the winners. “A number of the FC Start players were arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, allegedly for being NKVD members (as Dynamo was a police-funded club). One of the arrested players, Mykola Korotkykh, died under torture. The rest were sent to the Syrets labour camp, where Ivan Kuzmenko, Oleksey Klimenko, and the goalkeeper Mykola Trusevich were later killed, in February 1943.”