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When Norwegian Commandos Stopped the Nazis’ Nuclear Bomb Project

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H/T War History OnLine.

I read a book titled Assault In Norway that was about this commando mission to destroy the heavy water production facility.

These brave men helped save the free world from the horrors of a Nazi atomic bomb or bombs.

German infantry attacking through a burning Norwegian village, April 1940. Photo Credit

Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Norway in 1940. Though a relatively poor country (at the time) with only a population of about three million people, Norway had one thing no other country did – the ability to produce heavy water which could be used to build an atomic bomb. The Allies tried to destroy the facility several times, but it took Norwegian commandos to finally bring it down.

The Vemork Hydroelectric Power Plant in Rjukan, Norway opened for business in 1911. Located near the Rjukan waterfall, it was the world’s biggest and was devoted to the processing of nitrogen for use as fertilizer. Then in 1933, the Norwegian Institute of Technology suggested a method of isolating heavy water from normal water through electrolysis for use in scientific study. The process required a lot of energy, and the Vemork plant was ideal.

The Vemork Hydroelectric Power Plant in 1935

The following year, the scientific community began proposing nuclear fission as an alternative form of energy. Then in 1939, German scientists published an article about how nuclear fission might be done using various materials such as uranium and deuterium. Naturally, it didn’t take them long to consider the military applications of atomic power.

 Considering Germany’s rapid militarization, France panicked and bought all of Vemork’s stock of deuterium in 1940. Then in April of that year, Germany invaded Norway, so French agents snuck it out and brought it back to France. Unfortunately, France was also invaded in May, so the substance was sent to Britain to keep it out of German hands.

Airspeed Horsa glider, of the type used by the airborne troops during the operation Freshman.

But the Vemork was now under Nazi control and was still able to produce heavy water. Given how advanced German technology was, few had any doubts that they would eventually develop an atom bomb. So now the race was on to develop one before the Germans did. To buy themselves time, the British had to take out the Vemork.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE – a British organization devoted to espionage, reconnaissance, and sabotage operations in Nazi-occupied territories) launched Operation Grouse on 19 October 1942. Many Norwegians had fled to Britain when their country fell to help the Allied cause against Germany, some of these were trained to be commandos.

The experimental apparatus with which the chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission of uranium in 1938. Photo Credit.

Operation Grouse involved sending four Norwegian commandos who knew the terrain to Rjukan to act as an advanced force. This group was called the Swallows, but they had landed far off-course, requiring a long march through sub-zero temperatures while avoiding detection. Because they had been separated from some of their supplies, they resorted to eating moss to stay alive.

Then Operation Freshman was launched on 19 November 1942. British engineers were flown into the area and were to meet up with the Swallows, but they failed. Most of the operatives died on the way – some because they crashed on a mountainside, others at the hands of the Gestapo. Realizing that Vemork was an important target to the British, the Germans beefed up its security.

SF Hydro at Mæl in 1925

So the SOE launched Operation Gunnerside on 16 February 1943. Six more Norwegian commandos, trained in explosives, were to join the Swallows. They were parachuted in by the Royal Air Force and met up with the half-starved Swallows after several days. By the time they reached Vemork, the facility was surrounded by mines, floodlights, and extra German soldiers.

Among Vemork’s staff was another Norwegian agent (also trained by the SOE) who provided detailed sketches of the interior, as well as shift schedules. Since the failure of Operation Freshman, the Germans had become slack, focusing on the area surrounding the facility, but not the interior of the complex.

Vials of the heavy water produced at Vemork. Photo Credit.

There were only three ways to reach the plant: (1) via a single-track rail which entered the building, (2) a guarded bridge over a ravine, and (3) the ravine with icy water at the bottom. The operatives chose the ravine because the water was at its lowest point in winter.

Making it to the other side, they slipped out of their camouflage suits and into British Army uniforms so that they would not be confused with local resistance fighters. If the Germans thought the latter were responsible, they’d would kill or imprison some of the locals.

The men entered the building through a cable tunnel into the main basement when they were caught by the caretaker. Fortunately, he was a patriotic Norwegian who hated the German occupation and offered to help. The men planted their explosives around the heavy water electrolysis chambers and timed them all for a delayed detonation… but then they had a problem.

The Vemork hydroelectric plant in the snow in 2008. Photo Credit.

The caretaker had misplaced his glasses. With the war on, supplies were low and he couldn’t easily get a replacement. So the men had to waste precious minutes scouring the basement looking for his spectacles. They finally found them and exited the building, making sure to leave behind a Thompson submachine gun which was only available to the British military.

The explosions destroyed all the heavy water produced since the German invasion, more than 1,102 pounds of it. Also ruined were the equipment required to produce more.

The saboteurs split up – five crossed over into neutral Sweden, some 248 miles away. The rest stayed in Norway, resulting in a massive manhunt involving 3,000 soldiers and thousands of gallons of precious fuel. But their quarry refused to leave – they wanted to help more anti-German actions from their native land.

A reconstruction of the Gunnerside agents setting explosives at Vemork

Operation Gunnerside was so successful that Vemork was only fully operational again by April. Since the Americans had finally joined the war, a joint Allied bombing of Vemork was launched in early November. Despite dropping 711 bombs in broad daylight, it did no good. The Allies had timed the raid at noon since that was when the workers were on their lunch break. Nevertheless, about 600 bombs missed their target, causing a number of civilian deaths.

Ten Norwegian commandos had succeeded in doing more damage than an entire aerial squadron armed with hundreds of bombs. The SOE deemed Operation Gunnerside to be its most successful sabotage mission in WWII. And since commandos were a new force, Gunnerside’s success ensured that they would remain important in the British military. Many other nations later copied the commandos and developed their own special forces units.

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The Black Dispatches From the Civil War Spies

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H/T War History OnLine.

A piece of Civil War history most people may not know.

 Freedwoman Mary Bowser, posing as a slave, often spied here for the Union.

 

The south steps of the Confederate White House teeming with Southern officers and The typical Southern officer’s opinion of African Americans was that they were an inferior subhuman race, lacking in intelligence or cunning. Their ignorance and subsequent disregard of the slaves in their midst led to the most successful intelligence gathering of the Civil War.
The black men and women that provided information to the Union did so at extreme peril and risk that they would never outlive, even long after the war was over. They did this gambling that the pay-off would be winning the war and trusting that they would hopefully gain their freedom. There would be no accolades or acknowledgment. Such attention, even long after the South fell, would put them in danger of retaliation from disgruntled former Confederates.
“Black Dispatches” were not a formal spy agency – it was a term used by Union officers to refer to black spies that provided Confederate intelligence. For the most part, the dispatches were not recruited – they were sometimes in the right place at the right time and then continued to work as spies, or, they risked life and limb to find a way to share information overheard or overseen.soldiers.

While there were 80 black Union officers, most free persons of color and former slaves did not have much in the way of military training and the Union did not make much of an effort to provide it. When Union officers began to realize that these men and women were not the stereotypes that they believed them to be but were instead brave, enterprising, and intelligent, they began to employ them in covert ways.

The pool from which they drew scouts, raiders, and spies was vast when you think about the numbers. Even though we can’t know who was assigned what, there were 179,000 black soldiers in the Army and 19,000 sailors in the Navy. Women, like Harriet Tubman working with 2nd South Carolina Infantry, were involved as scouts and raiders as well.

Robert Smalls waited until the white crew of the Confederate ship he steered left for the night and then sailed his eight man crew to pick up their wives and children and sail beyond the Union blockade.

 

The majority of active recruiting of black dispatches as spies happened under the leadership of famous detective Allan Pinkerton. General George B. McClellan used him to oversee intelligence operations for the Union. During his time as chief of intelligence, he soon found that the most willing and successful scouts and spies were former slaves.

He spread the word that he was looking for former slaves that were particularly adept at understanding military operations, and that could read and write or that had great powers of observation. He said of the recruits, “From the commencement of the war, I have found the negroes of invaluable assistance, and I never hesitated to employ them when after investigation I found them to be intelligent and trustworthy.”

“Contraband” slaves who had fled the South working for the Union Army waiting for emancipation. After 1863, some might have been singled out for service as soldiers, scouts, or spies

 

No matter how each person came to be a spy, whether through recruitment, chance, or their own initiative, the commitment they made was a dangerous one. Free northern blacks posed as slaves in order to do reconnaissance. Southern blacks still in the yoke of slavery stayed in place at the homes in which they served, ferrying information out to couriers. Runaway slaves that made it to Union lines went back into the South to scout, raid, and gather information. Some slaves took information with them when they escaped, and some were prompted to run away when they found information useful to the Union.

The risks they took went without recognition in their own lifetimes. Not because they were unappreciated, but because spies of any race needed to be cautious, and this was especially so for African Americans living in a tumultuous post-war culture.

Many intelligence records were destroyed by both Union and Confederate governments. What remained with the War Department were given to the men and women that served the intelligence community who in turn suppressed or destroyed them.

What we have left are personal accounts, some of which cannot be verified, or references in military papers on other subjects. What is known is that the contribution of the black dispatches is unmatched in the intelligence efforts during the Civil War.

Frederic Douglass said “The true history of this war will show that the loyal army found no friends at the South so faithful, active, and daring in their efforts to sustain the government as the Negroes. Negroes have repeatedly threaded their way through the lines of the rebels exposing themselves to bullets to convey important information to the loyal army of the Potomac.”

More than 150 years later, Ken Daigler, a former CIA Directorate of Operations, writing as P.K. Rose wrote that “This source of information represented the single most prolific and productive category of intelligence obtained and acted on by Union forces throughout the Civil War.”

 

Medal Of Honor: Destroying Two Enemy Bunkers Alone, Sgt. Garcia Saved His Platoon In The Jungles Of Vietnam

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P.Sergeant Candelario Garcia. February 26,1944- January 10, 2013   

 

             

We all need stories about heroes fighting through a seemingly hopeless situation, and the grit it takes to get yourself and your friends to safety. Such was the case with Sergeant Candelario Garcia in the jungles of Vietnam in 1968.

A 24-year-old at the time, Garcia led his platoon on a patrol that ended in a dramatic turn of events.  Following the signs of a strong enemy force ahead, he pursued them, only to be greeted by a hail of bullets. The attack could have killed the entire platoon, but Sgt. Garcia had other plans.

Sgt Garcia

Running headlong towards multiple machine-gun positions, Garcia saw to it, determined that the enemy would pay a heavy price for engaging them. As a result, Garcia succeeded in evacuating many of his wounded men and, ultimately, began a journey towards the nation’s highest military honor.

Ready for Action

Candelario Garcia was born February 26th, 1944 in Corsicana, TX, located about 50 miles southeast of Dallas. Garcia enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 28th, 1963, just as the call of war was beginning to draw the United States into Southeast Asia.

Just five months earlier, the disastrous Battle of Ap Bac took place in early January, where a relatively small force of Viet Cong soldiers defeated much larger South Vietnamese Army. It was becoming abundantly clear this would be no easy fight and a long conflict awaited those who would enter it. Undaunted by the prospect of war, Garcia stood ready for the call.

However, Garcia’s action for his Medal of Honor would come a good five years later, once America had been in the fight for some time and shortly after the infamous Tet Offensive that swept over South Vietnam. By late 1968, the South was on edge as it became apparent that any time was a good time for the enemy to attack. Concern for the security of Saigon had never been higher.

In December of 1968, the U.S. Army’s 1st Division was stationed at the military base of Lai Khe, a garrison for the South Vietnamese 5th Division.  Responsible for the defense of Saigon, the base was located on Highway 13 to the northwest of the city and would serve as the hub for Garcia’s platoon. On this particular day, Garcia headed out with his platoon on patrol in hopes of locating enemy forces operating in the area.

Tracking Down the Fight

Patrolling through the thick vegetation, a sharp eye led to a discovery which indicated a serious fight awaited them.  Garcia and his platoon noticed communications wiring running into thick vegetation which was one of the tell-tell signs of an enemy HQ ahead. The platoon began to investigate and as they did it didn’t take long before they found themselves in the open, taking deadly fire and losing men rapidly. With no real cover, Garcia knew immediate action would be needed if any of them were to survive.

Gripping his rifle and drawing upon a deep reserve of courage, Garcia crawled to within thirty feet of the enemy position. It was a fortified bunker and the enemy within was unleashing a storm of machine-gun fire upon his platoon. With just his rifle and a few grenades, he set out to save his men. He scrambled up and charged the enemy position firing as he ran. To many, it must have appeared to be a suicidal mission, but Garcia would have known by this point that if he did not succeed they would all die anyway.

He charged through the vegetation, still firing, and made it to the first bunker. He grabbed his first grenade, pulled the pin and threw it into the gunport. Then he pulled a second and threw it in. And just in case that didn’t clear the enemy he jammed his rifle inside and fired for good measure. All four enemy were dead within seconds, and one bunker was down.

Garcia saw another bunker about 50 feet away continuing to fire on their position. Without hesitation, he leaped into action once again. He ran toward the second bunker through a storm of gunfire, caught in the middle as the two sides exchanged rounds. He took out this position the same way that he dealt with the first – a few grenades and his rifle. When it was over, three Viet Cong soldiers lay dead.

More Men to Save

As the battle continued to rage around him, he took notice of several casualties trapped between the two forces.  Garcia ran back into the battle and took two wounded men to safety before rejoining his men continuing the fight. With Garcia’s leadership, the team regrouped and attacked the remaining forces, driving off or destroying the enemy. Sergeant Garcia’s quick thinking and incredible bravery no doubt saved the lives of fellow soldiers and prevented the obliteration of an entire platoon.

Upon returning home, Sergeant Garcia was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his inexplicable gallantry and resolve to save his men. However, during a modern era review of awards for gallantry, it became clear that Garcia’s actions were above and beyond the call of duty and worthy of an upgrade.  In 2014, Garcia’s Distinguished Service Cross was rescinded, and he was awarded the Nation’s highest military honor along with other men who had been previously overlooked.

Unfortunately, Garcia passed away in 2013, but rather than let the honor go unnoticed the Command Sergeant Major of Garcia’s unit accepted the award on his behalf. It is a great tragedy that Garcia could not have received the award himself but, to him, the lives of the men he saved that day were of greater value than any award or medal.

As for lovers of history, the Medal of Honor will now serve as a bookmark in time for all to pause and take notice at what occurred on that December day in the jungles of Vietnam.

Edith Cavell: The British Nurse Who Saved 200 Allies And Had A Huge Effect On WW1

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H/T War History OnLine.

The story of Edith Cavell is an interesting story that should be told.

Memorial to Edith Cavell in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral. Photo Credit

Edith Cavell was a British nurse during World War I, with a history that was tragically cut short. Before her execution at the hands of the Germans, however, she managed to help more than 200 Allied soldiers and citizens escape from the Germans that had overrun Belgium.

For this, she was accused of treason, but, shortly after, her case was widely known world-over, as she became a press sensation.

Edith Cavell

The Start of a Medical Career

Born in 1865, Cavell was not born to a wealthy family, but they were known for their charity. She went to a girls school before becoming a governess, where she traveled to Brussels to work for a family for five years.

After, she went to London Hospital to train as a nurse, working in various medical institutions around the country. Then, at the age of 42, she was asked to be the matron of a nursing school in Brussels. There, she found great success publishing a nursing journal, as she went on to train nurses at 40 different establishments in Belgium. The Red Cross took over her nurse training school at the outbreak of World War I.

Edith Cavell at the height of her nursing career, in Brussels before the beginning of World War I

World War I

As soon as the Germans overran Brussels, Cavell began assisting British soldiers as best she could by providing them with hidden shelter until she could help arrange transport to the Netherlands. She was associated with Prince Reginald de Croy, who would provide wounded British and French soldiers with false papers and access to people like Cavell. She would then help them with lodging and logistics until they reached Dutch ground.

Everyone involved was violating German military law through this practice, and suspicions were raised. Cavell was becoming more of an outspoken public figure in medical circles for her extensive work in nursing.

Unfortunately, one of the people involved in harboring the soldiers was a collaborator with the Germans and gave them her name. She was held in prison for ten weeks, two of which were in solitary confinement.

During this time, Cavell gave three depositions. She admitted she had sheltered and assisted at least 175 people who were either Allied soldiers or looking to escape joining the war.

She was sentenced to death due to her treason. Some claimed Cavell was protected under the First Geneva Convention, as she was medical personnel during wartime. However, it was argued that any protection was canceled out if an individual was using their medical status as a coverup.

A drawing of Cavell’s imprisonment produced in 1918

The British government did want to help Cavell as she was their citizen but felt they were powerless, and any attempts on their part would result in worse treatment for Cavell. As it was 1915, and the US had yet to join the war, they decided to intercede on behalf of Britain.

The First Secretary of the US Legation at Brussels spoke with German officials, telling them that executing Cavell would only worsen their already poor reputation with the rest of the world. He went so far as to compare the Cavell execution with the Lusitania sinking.

Unfortunately, the German response was not positive, with one German Count saying he would rather Cavell was executed than harm come to any German soldier. He also stated that he wished he had “three or four [more] old English women to shoot.”

However, some Germans did express a desire to pardon Cavell, for her honest admission of guilt, as well as her work as a nurse, during which she did help German soldiers as well as Allied soldiers.

Leading up to Cavell’s execution date, representatives from both the United States and Spain pleaded with Germany to at least postpone the shooting. However, on October 12, 1915, Cavell, along with four other Belgian prisoners, were taken to a shooting range where they faced two firing squads. Eight executioners were for the four other men; eight solely for Cavell.

Press Coverage

A propaganda stamp featuring Cavell after her death murdered at the hands of the Germans

Press coverage of Cavell’s case did occur during her imprisonment and trial. However, her appearance in the media significantly increased after her execution. Her image and story appeared in tons of newspapers, pamphlets, posters and books. She became a very popular figure in British propaganda. In US propaganda she was used to help Americans change their opinion about the war.

Her popularity is mainly attributed to the fact she was a woman and a nurse, as well as very courageous during her trial. Her death also represented a sense of German barbarism and wickedness. Propagandists hoped she would inspire a lust for revenge on the battlefield, and that she would stand for all innocent British women that were in danger of being killed by the Germans.

A poster for a US propaganda film documenting Cavell’s life

Unfortunately, some of the stories circulated in the media after her death were untrue. One such story said that Cavell refused to wear a blindfold in front of the firing squad.  Another that she fainted and a German officer approached her prostrate body and shot it himself with a revolver until she was dead.

Regardless of what was true or not, she became the most famous female figure of British WWI propaganda and the most famous British female casualty in the war. The American secretary was indeed correct that her execution would rank as high in the news as the Lusitania sinking.

Despite public sentiment, the German government held true to their decision and maintained that they had acted reasonably. They felt Cavell’s execution was necessary and just, and that war crimes could not be overlooked simply because the offender was a woman. They also were worried that if they had released Cavell, more women would have joined, thinking they could participate in the war without fear of being punished as a man would be.

Today, there are at least 11 memorials to Cavell throughout Europe for her service in the war.

Battle of Wake Island – All Those Who Surrendered Were Tortured, 98 Were Machine-Gunned

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H/T War History OnLine.  

The Japanese were as brutal or worse than the Nazi’s at times.

Before the threat of war in the Pacific and the outbreak of World War II, Wake Island was a stopping off point for vacationers aboard Pan American flights to and from the Orient. Bird watching, sports fishing, and swimming were the principal activities on the ten-mile-long island.

Situated roughly halfway between Hawaii and Japan and under the control of the USA, the atoll became a strategic dot in the vast Pacific Ocean. Early in 1941, almost frantic work was underway to complete an airstrip with defensive fortifications.

About 1150 civilian construction workers joined 450 Marines, a few Navy men, and a five-man Army radio section in the effort to establish a base of operations close enough to Japan for American bombers to strike the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands should such action be necessary.

Across the International Date Line, December 7, 1941, dawned in Hawaii. An Army radioman caught the broadcast at 7:00 a.m. December 8 at Wake Island. “Hickam Fields has been attacked by Jap dive bombers. This is the real thing.”

The personnel on Wake knew a war was looming, having installed five-inch anti-aircraft guns and stockpiled ammunition. Twelve Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters were standing by with Marine pilots at the ready. Within minutes after the radio message, the American flag was raised, as it was every day. But this day the bugle call of “General Quarters” gave men pause. They stopped all activity, stood at attention, and saluted the flag.

Then a sound caused the construction crews to run for cover and the Marines to head toward the guns. The deafening drone of thirty-six Japanese Mitsubishi G3M2 Nell bombers flying over Wake in strict formation assaulted their ears.

The fragmentation bombs and machine gun fire spewing from the aircraft ripped and tore at the tiny island. Pearl Harbor and Wake Island were being attacked almost simultaneously. Where the Pearl attack ended after a few hours, for several days the Japanese bombarded Wake from the air.

The wreckage of Wildcat 211-F-11, flown by Captain Henry T. Elrod on December 11 in the attack that sank the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi

 

On December 11, a Japanese invasion task force steamed toward the beaches of Wake Island. Marine gunners played them like the sports fish in the water beneath the war machines. They watched the cruiser and six destroyers carefully and blasted them with the five-inch naval guns at 4500 yards.

One destroyer was sunk. Several of the other ships were damaged. The flotilla retreated with the knowledge there were true fighting men on Wake Island.

After the initial raid was fought off, American news media reported that, when queried about reinforcement and resupply, Cunningham was reported to have quipped “Send us more Japs!” In fact, Commander Cunningham sent a long list of critical equipment—including gunsights, spare parts, and fire-control radar—to his immediate superior. It is believed that the quip was actually padding that is a technique of adding nonsense text to a message to make cryptanalysis more difficult.

The Japanese kept hammering at the island defenses, and ten days later the only surviving Wildcat fighter was lost. Pilots were assigned rifles and bayonets. A renewed enemy landing force sailed onto the beach, and 900 trained infantrymen invaded during the night of December 23. Construction workers and Marines fought side-by-side with everything they could, but by dawn, it was clear that there were too many Japanese.

The Commander Cunningham radioed Pearl Harbor. “Enemy on island. Issue in doubt.”

Japanese Patrol Boat No.32 (left) and Patrol Boat No.33

The Commander would later be quoted as saying, “I tried to think of something…We could keep on expending lives, but we could not buy anything with them.” He gave the order to surrender. The surviving eighty-one Marines and eighty-two civilians obeyed but destroyed everything they could find that the enemy could use as a weapon and disabled all the equipment they could. The Japanese claimed the victory at a great price.

Two destroyers and one submarine had been sunk by the Americans. Seven other ships were damaged, and twenty-one aircraft were shot down. The total lives lost by the Japanese was close to 1000. Their leaders were furious and exacted revenge on the prisoners. Stripped and tied with wire in such a way a sudden movement would cause strangulation, soldier, and civilian alike were made to sit in the sun on the concrete they had recently poured.

No water or food was given to them for two days. At one point, the captors installed machine guns near them, for a mass execution, they imagined. But, at last, they were fed spoiled and unsavory bits of food, and instructed to put quickly on clothing but not necessarily their own. Marines donned civilian pants, and construction workers were in khaki.

A spit polished, crisply white uniformed Japanese commander addressed the prisoners. An interpreter informed the group “the Emperor has graciously presented you with your lives.” One unfazed Marine replied, “Well, thank the son of a b**** for me!”

Toward the middle of January 1942, a merchant ship laid anchor at Wake Island. The prisoners were transported to China by ship. But as they were shoved toward the ship, two columns of Japanese sailors with clubs and belts formed and the prisoners were made to run between them, enduring savage beatings.

They were stuffed into the ship’s hold, became despondent, and were savagely treated. Shuffled about China and Japan, the Marines regained their spirit and endured tremendous hardships for the next three years. Eventually, after the atomic bomb attacks and Japanese surrender, they were rescued.

 

Attack by Yorktown planes in October 1943.

Ironically, the prisoners left on the island received a worse fate, working as slave labor until October 1943. Then on 5 October 1943, American naval aircraft from Yorktown raided Wake. Two days later, fearing an imminent invasion, the Japanese Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara ordered the execution of the 98 captured American civilian workers who had initially been kept to perform forced labor.

The 98 were taken to the northern end of the island, blindfolded and executed with a machine gun.

One of the prisoners (whose name has never been discovered) escaped the massacre, apparently returning to the site to carve the message 98 US PW 5-10-43 on a large coral rock near where the victims had been hastily buried in a mass grave. The unknown American was recaptured, and Admiral Sakaibara personally beheaded him with a katana. The inscription on the rock can still be seen and is a Wake Island landmark.

Before the final rescue, in July 1945, a strange thing happened in the prison camp. Japanese officers provided a formal dinner for the American officers, offering toasts and speaking of friendship. In the end, a high-ranking Japanese officer proposed a toast to “everlasting friendship between America and Japan.”

His side of the table smiled, nodded and waited for the American response. The skeleton faces of the Americans were still. At last a Major stood and said lightly, “If you behave yourselves, you’ll get fair treatment.”

The formal surrender of the Japanese garrison on Wake Island – September 4, 1945. Shigematsu Sakaibara is the officer in the right foreground.

The proverbial tables had turned. And the Americans promise of fair treatment far outshines the despicable behavior of the Japanese.  On August 16 the prison guards were gone. Small children were assigned to protect the prisoners from possible civilian attack.

On September 1, the Marines patched a makeshift American flag together and hoisted it into the air. Supplies were air-dropped and at last, the 1stCavalry Division liberated the prisoners. The war was over.

After the war, Sakaibara and his subordinate were sentenced to death for the massacre of the 98 and for other war crimes. Several Japanese officers in American custody had committed suicide over the incident, leaving written statements that incriminated Sakaibara.

Admiral Sakaibara was hanged on 18 June 1947. Eventually, Tachibana’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. The murdered civilian POWs were reburied after the war in Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl Crater.

Six Men Killed at the WWII Battle of Arnhem Identified

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H/T War History OnLine.

Now these six families will get the peace of mind knowing their loved ones were identified and properly laid to rest. 

The Battle For Arnhem

72 years after they were killed at the Battle of Arnhem during World War II, six soldiers have been located.

They were killed while trying to defend against the Germans during the failed Operation Market Garden, a mission depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far.

Thousands of Allied paratroopers landed in Holland, which was occupied by Germany in September 1944. They waited eight days for reinforcements that never came.

The six men were infantry soldiers that arrived in Arnhem on gliders. Their mission was to securing landing sites for supply drops and then holding part of Oosterbeek, a village along the Rhine River.

Aerial view of the bridge over the Neder Rijn, Arnhem; British troops and destroyed German armoured vehicles are visible at the north end of the bridge. September 1944.

In a span of four days the six soldiers from the Border Regiment, Lance Corporal Raymond Halliday, Corporal Jack Carr, Corporal Thomas Edgar, Private Thomas Stanley, Private Harry Vasey and Private George Wilson, were all killed in battle.

They were buried in unmarked graves, some by the British and others by the Germans after they retook the area.

Their names are on the list of servicemen with no known burial site at the Grossbeek Memorial in Holland.

Dutch historians who work to identify unmarked war graves felt that they had found the six men last year. They use exhumation reports from 1945 to find them.

According to the reports, after Arnhem was liberated, the bodies were exhumed and buried at the military cemetery at Oosterbeek.

They presented their findings to the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre which researched the British archives before confirming the identification of all six men.

While most of the 9,000 men who fought at Arnhem on September 18, 1944 were paratroopers, there were three battalions of infantrymen from the Border Regiment who flew in on gliders.

The families of the six men will attend a dedication ceremony in Holland. For the first time, they will be able to lay wreaths on headstones with the names of their family members on them.

Joanne Pritchard is Halliday’s granddaughter. Halliday died when her father, also named Raymond, was only two years old. She recalls that, even though her father didn’t really know his father, he was always proud to say he had fought and died in the war. She said it was an honor to finally be able to stand before her grandfather’s grave and pay her respects. Her daughters and nephew have received permission to leave school for the ceremony.

Prithchard’s father searched in Holland for his father’s grave in the 1970s, but never found it.

About 1174 men were killed and 6000 captured during the battle.

Stuart Eastwood is the curator of Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life for the former Border Regiment. He said it was “wonderful” that the six men have been found and that their family members know where they have been laid to rest after decades of wondering.

Wilson, 22, was the first of the six men killed on September 21. Three days later Edgar was shot and taken to the “Angel of Arnhem,” Kate Ter Horst, who cared for 250 injured men. Edgar later died from his wounds. On the same day, Edgar was shot, Halliday was shot and killed in a trench.

The Royal Netherlands Army’s Recovery and Identification team worked with the reports from 1945 to locate the six men. The JCCC confirmed their findings this year. In the case of Halliday, they were able to use dental records to positively identify him, Mail Online reported.

The objective at Arnhem had been to seize the Arnhem Bridge which crossed the Rhine into Germany and gain control of parts of the town. The paratroopers and infantrymen were to receive support from the XXX Corps tank division. The tanks never made it; the Arnhem Bridge was “A Bridge Too Far.” The troops lasted eight days until food and ammunition ran out.

MoH: Despite Serious Wounds, Paul Bolden Took Out 35 German SS Troops In The Bulge

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H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P.Master Sergeant Paul L.Bolden. June 15, 1922-May 21, 1979   

To be clear, the number would have only been 20 had the German SS taken Bolden up on his act of mercy.  For after gunning down 20 of the 35 holed up in a Belgian house, he retreated and gave the final 15 the opportunity to surrender.  He nursed his wounds as he waited and yet when it appeared the final 15 still had a little fight left in them he charged the house alone and finished the job.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the German Army made one final attempt overwhelm the Allies with their coordinated push catching many American units outnumbered, but not overwhelmed.  Men like Paul Bolden stood in the gap and with heroic feats turned 35 to 1 odds into a stunning victory.  For Bolden, he would pick up the nation’s highest military honor for his feat and leave history with this spectacular display of gallantry against all odds.

American tank destroyers move forward during heavy fog to stem German spearhead near Werbomont, (12/20/1944) Werbomont, 103rd TD, 82nd Airborne Div.

From Alabama to Belgium

Paul Luther Bolden was born in June of 1922 in the small Alabama town of Hobbs Island.  Growing up, not many would have picked the slender rural Alabama man as a local hero or national treasure.  But then again, such humble beginnings were often the case for the generation of warriors who would display unspeakable gallantry in the years to come.

 In October of 1942, Bolden would join the Army as an infantryman and in short, order would find himself on a boat to Europe.  By December of 1944, Bolden was a Staff Sergeant with the 30th Infantry Division as they pushed through Europe with sights set on the German homeland.  Unfortunately for Bolden and the rest of the Allied troops in late 1944 Europe, the Germans would have one last massive assault up their sleeves that December.The Battle of the Bulge kicked off on December 16th in the midst of a brutal winter as the Germans famously pushed into the Allied lines causing confusing and chaos.  And yet, as the Allies regained their footing they began to push back after halting the German advance, and it was time to reclaim lost territory and continue the advance towards the homeland.   For Bolden, Belgium would be the scene of his inexplicable gallantry, and he forced 35 German SS troops to make their final stand

For Bolden, Belgium would be the scene of his inexplicable gallantry, and he forced 35 German SS troops to make their final stand of the war.

Storming the SS

On December 23rd, 1944 Bolden would find himself and the rest of Company I of the 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division in the thick of this massive German winter assault near Petit-Coo Belgium.  As his Company advanced, they were suddenly pinned down by massive amounts of machine-gun and small-arms fire coming from a house approximately 200 yards to the front of their position.

Their dire position was then exacerbated when German mortar and tank artillery shells began to rain down up his Company.  It was at this moment that Bolden and a fellow soldier determined the only way out was forward and directly toward the enemy strong point.

German troops advancing during the Battle of the Bulge

On their own initiative, the pair crawled forward under the heavy fire towards what they knew for certain was a vastly numerically superior force.  Taking up assault positions near the house, the plan was for his fellow soldiers to lay down covering fire from across the street while Bolden charged the house alone to deploy grenades.

As Bolden rushed the house, he perched down just under a window and in an instant gifted both a fragmentation grenade and a white phosphorus grenade to the Germans entrenched in the house.  They exploded with a thunderous roar when Bolden had the presence of mind to realize the shock must have the Germans terribly disorganized.

At this moment, he left his covered position and kicked in the door only to find 35 German SS troopers staring at him in the face.  Just as they tried to reorganize themselves, Bolden opened up with his submachinegun and poured round after round into the crowd.

During this initial hailstorm of bullets, Bolden killed 20 of the German SS before an enemy burst of fire tore into his shoulder, chest, and stomach.  Meanwhile, his comrade across the street had been killed by enemy return fire, and Bolden retreated from the house.  Nursing his wounds, he was now giving the remaining Germans the opportunity to surrender and bring the war to a close for them.

Battle of The Bulge Inscription at WWII Memorial – Washington, D.C. Photo Credit

One More Charge

After a moment, it became clear the Germans were to refuse Bolden’s act of mercy and had decided to stick it out and fight some more.  Having already inflicted enough damage on the enemy and to say nothing of being seriously wounded, Bolden could have easily retreated and left this house fellow troops to clean up.  However, Bolden was a man of action who insisted on finishing the job.

Despite his serious wounds, he mustered the strength to make one more pass at the house.  Bursting through the door with his submachine gun giving the awaiting Germans a terrifying case of Dejavu, he killed the remaining 15 SS troopers, firing until his ammunition ran out.

For his actions on December 23rd, Paul Bolden was awarded the Medal of Honor for inexplicable gallantry and resolve.  His actions are credited with clearing the path for the rest of his unit and saving countless American lives.

Before leaving the Army, Bolden would reach the rank of Master Sergeant before returning to small town Alabama to live out the rest of his days. He received his Medal of Honor in August of 1945 along with 28 other recipients after the war.

Paul Bolden would pass away at the young age of 56 in 1979 and was buried in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama.  His Medal of Honor serves as a bookmark in history for what was one of the countless examples of heroism and the type of disregard for one’s own life that it took to overcome the enemy during that war.

Bolden would always lament the passing of his friend during that assault and made it clear that he wears the Medal not only for himself but for those who never made it out of the Bulge.

 

 

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