10 Survival Tricks Used During The Holocaust

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H/T ListVerse.

You did what was necessary to survive.

The Holocaust of course saw an enormous number of deaths, with some 10 million people killed at the hands of the Nazis. And yet it is also the story of life, of the many ways that the persecuted managed to resist and survive.

10 Beet Juice

Photo credit: Wikimedia

The persecuted were starved and worked ragged in concentration and work camps, and they were also not given proper clothing. This made their bodies very pale and weak, like living skeletons. At the camp of Auschwitz, during medical examinations, the prisoners would use beet juice (and sometimes their own blood) to give their cheeks a blush tone to make them seem healthier.

Should they fail the medical exam, they would be sent to death, so the “blush” in their cheeks gave them leverage over the doctors, tricking them into believing they were healthier than they truly were.

9 Hair Dye

Photo credit: Wikimedia

At the beginning of the Holocaust, the Nazis targeted the mentally handicapped and the elderly. Many of the persecuted chose to burn their birth records to escape the Nazi soldiers, but one thing still gave them away: their age. Older men and women (usually above the age of 40) had hair that was either partially or fully gray.

To make themselves look younger, they would dye their hair. Hair dye frequently ran out of stock at stores in the major Jewish cities because of the increasing numbers of people needing to dye their hair.


8 Fake IDs And Birth Records

Photo credit: Toronto Star

Another way Nazis looked for Jewish people and others to persecute were to look at their birth records, passports, and other IDs. Many Jews had been employed at making genuine IDs before going into hiding, and then when they did go into hiding, they used their skill to help others from facing the same.

They made hundreds of fake papers for Jewish people facing persecution, saving them from the death camps and from the Nazi regime. Many who received fake papers fled the country to Switzerland and Denmark. Adolpho Kaminsky created fake papers for Jews for years after he escaped deportation to a death camp and is one of the most well-known forgers from that time period.

7 Kindertransport

Photo credit: Wikimedia


Many of the persecuted people during the Holocaust cared more about their children than themselves. The kindertransport was a secret escape route for those under the age of 18 from Germany in the years 1938–1940. During this time, children were smuggled out of Germany, Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia into countries willing to accept them.

The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 children over the course of those two years. The children were also given fake IDs to use in the event that they were stopped before they reached their destination. Once they reached their sanctuary country, they were assigned a family to stay with. Many children were well taken care of, though some were received with tension. The kindertransport stopped in 1940 after Poland fell to the Nazis and stricter travel laws were enforced.

6 Living

Photo credit: Wikimedia

This sounds redundant, but this was one of the best forms of survival.

Once the persecuted were taken away to camps, they knew that their chances of survival were very slim and that every second they were alive had to count. The prisoners at the death camp Sobibor took this to heart. While they were captive at this camp, they worked their assigned jobs during the day and had lives of their own during the nights.

They regularly socialized, ate/drank together (with the provisions they were allowed), and even had sex lives. When survivors of this camp were interviewed, many of them said that trying to live “normal” lives was their form of resisting the Nazis.

5 Revolt

Photo credit: Wikimedia

The prisoners at the Sobibor death camp tried to live as normal while within the death camp—that is, until they overheard the leaders of the camp talking about the camp’s liquidation.

In the summer of 1943, some prisoners overheard leaders going over the plans for the camp in the coming months. All prisoners were to be exterminated, and the camp was to be destroyed before Russian liberators could arrive. The prisoners (around 600) planned a revolt against the camp.

They individually killed off guards over the course of one day and then broke through the barbed wire fence and ran through and open mine field toward the forest. Only 200 or so of the prisoners survived. You can still visit the site where Sobibor once stood today.

4 Hiding

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Many of the persecuted were taken in by non-Jewish families and hidden in different areas. Some possible hiding areas included unused basements/attics, hidden crawlspaces within walls or floors, secret compartments such as fake bookshelves or fake windows, and many more.

The most well-known case of hiding is of course Anne Frank and her family. They hid in a small apartment above her father’s office for many years, a family friend providing them with food and other basic supplies. Before the war ended, they were discovered and taken to different camps, where all but the father, Otto, died.

3 Exercise

As mentioned before, at many of the camps that the persecuted were taken to, there were medical exams that the prisoners had to pass to stay alive. As well as using beet juice to make themselves seem healthier, (higher heartrate, blush on their face, etc.) the prisoners would often exercise in their barracks before an exam.

They would run, do pushups, sometimes even quarrel with each other in the hopes that they would make themselves look healthier to the doctors.

2  Service To Nazi Soldiers

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Another unusual way of survival, mainly for Jews, was their different forms of services to Nazi soldiers. One of the main services (for men) was finding other Jews and outing them to the Nazi soldiers in the area. These Jewish men would infiltrate secret orders, find out where other Jewish people were hiding, and then report this information to Nazi soldiers in exchange for their lives.

Another was serving as comfort women for Nazi soldiers. They would set up brothels in Nazi-controlled countries, and these women were often treated better than average female prisoners and usually lived longer.

1 Bribery

Believe it or not, high-society people were able to bribe their way out of being persecuted. Many wealthy Jews paid their way to freedom.

Nazi soldiers were power-hungry and wanted to be wealthy themselves and were open to bribery to lift them higher. Many Jews who were able to buy their way out ended up spending all of their wealth on their freedom, ending up poor and without necessary survival supplies, but at least they were alive.


Medal of Honor – John R. Fox Sacrificed Himself by Deliberately Calling an Artillery Strike on his Own Position


H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. First Lieutenant John R. Fox.

John Robert Fox was an American soldier who was killed in action when he deliberately called artillery fire on his own position after his position was overrun. By sacrificing himself, he succeeded in defeating a German attack in northern Italy during World War II. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1997, for willingly sacrificing his life.

Fox was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 18th, 1915, and attended Wilberforce University, participating in ROTC under Aaron R. Fisher and graduating with a commission as a second lieutenant in 1940. He was just 29 years old when he called artillery fire on his position the day after Christmas in 1944, for which he was first posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1982. It was more than fifty years after his death before Fox was finally awarded the Medal of Honor. After being repatriated, his body was buried in Colebrook Cemetery in Whitman, Massachusetts.

Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division with a captured German soldier.

In the early 1990s, it was determined that during and immediately after WWII African-American soldiers had been denied consideration for the Medal of Honor solely because of their race. Seven African-American soldiers had their Medals upgraded in January 1997 to the Medal of Honor; First Lieutenant Fox was one of them.

The 92nd Infantry Division (colored), also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, was a segregated African-American division that fought on the Italian Front during World War II. First Lieutenant John R. Fox was assigned to the 366th Infantry Regiment.

In December 1944, American troops had been forced to withdraw from the Italian village of Sommocolonia when the Germans overran them. Fox volunteered to stay behind as part of a small forward observer party. From his position on the second floor of a house, Fox directed defensive artillery fire.

The Germans were in the open in the streets and attacking in strength, vastly outnumbering the small group of American soldiers. Lieutenant Fox radioed in to have the artillery fire adjusted closer to his position, then radioed again to have the shelling moved even closer. The soldier receiving the message was stunned since that would bring the deadly artillery fire right on top of Lieutenant Fox’s position; he would surely be killed.

When Fox was told this, he replied, “Fire it.”

‘That last round was just where I wanted it, the young lieutenant reported. “Bring it in 60 yards more.”

The receiving operator thought Fox was mistaken – the order would train the full fire of up to 75 heavy caliber artillery guns directly on Fox’s position.

Fox confirmed the order: “There’s more of them than there is of us.”

Seconds later the bombardment began. And within minutes, hundreds of shells had hit the target. Each one powerful enough to blast the house and its occupants into oblivion.

Memorial to Medal of Honor recipient John R. Fox in the woods and ruins above Sommocolonia, Italy. Photo Credit

In the end, the artillery strikes forced the Germans to delay their advance through the town. This gave the American soldiers time to reorganize and launch a counterattack which allowed them to retake the town from German control.

 When the soldiers went to recover the body of Lieutenant Fox and the eight Italian soldiers who’d been killed as well, they also found the bodies of about 100 German soldiers around the wreckage.

Medal of Honor citation

For his “gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life,” Fox was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His widow, the former Arlene Marrow of Brockton, Massachusetts, received his medal from President Bill Clinton in a White House ceremony on January 13, 1997.On that day, Clinton also awarded the medal to six other previously neglected African-American World War II veterans, including Vernon Baker, who was the only one living when awarded.

“For extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Sommocolonia, Italy on 26 December 1944, while serving as a member of Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92d Infantry Division. During the preceding few weeks, Lieutenant Fox served with the 598th Field Artillery Battalion as a forward observer. On Christmas night, enemy soldiers gradually infiltrated the town of Sommocolonia in civilian clothes, and by early morning the town was largely in hostile hands. Commencing with a heavy barrage of enemy artillery at 0400 hours on 26 December 1944, an organized attack by uniformed German units began. 

The Medals of Honor awarded by each of the three branches of the U.S. military, and are, from left to right, the Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Being greatly outnumbered, most of the United States Infantry forces were forced to withdraw from the town, but Lieutenant Fox and some other members of his observer party voluntarily remained on the second floor of a house to direct defensive artillery fire. At 0800 hours, Lieutenant Fox reported that the Germans were in the streets and attacking in strength. He then called for defensive artillery fire to slow the enemy advance. As the Germans continued to press the attack towards the area that Lieutenant Fox occupied, he adjusted the artillery fire closer to his position. Finally he was warned that the next adjustment would bring the deadly artillery right on top of his position. 

After acknowledging the danger, Lieutenant Fox insisted that the last adjustment be fired as this was the only way to defeat the attacking soldiers. Later, when a counterattack retook the position from the Germans, Lieutenant Fox’s body was found with the bodies of approximately 100 German soldiers. Lieutenant Fox’s gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life, contributed greatly to delaying the enemy advance until other infantry and artillery units could reorganize to repel the attack. 

His extraordinary valorous actions were in keeping with the most cherished traditions of military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.”

Remains of German WWII pilot and crashed plane discovered in Denmark after more than 70 years

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H/T Yahoo News.

Sadly this young man did not have any surviving family to see him finally laid to rest.

German Messerschmitt planes like the one believed to have been flown by Hans Wunderlich


A German fighter pilot killed when his plane crashed in Denmark has been identified after more than 70 years.

The remains of 19-year-old Hans Wunderlich had lain undiscovered since his aircraft, believed to be a Messerschmitt, came down in farmland near Birkelse, a village 155 miles northwest of Copenhagen, in October 1944.

The pilot has no surviving next of kin and so may be buried in a war cemetery in Denmark.

His body and the plane’s wreckage was found by Klaus Kristiansen and his 14-year-old son, Daniel.

Mr Kristiansen said: “We went out to the field with a metal detector. I hoped we might find some old plates or something for Daniel to show in school.”

Recovering bits of plane debris, they dug further down using a neighbour’s excavator and came across the plane’s engine, guns and parts of fuselage at a depth of around 16 feet.

As well as the pilot’s remains, they also came across a small diary in which the pilot had written his name. His initials were also found on a watch recovered at the site.

He is believed to have come from the training base for German pilots in the nearby city of Aalborg.

The name Hans Wunderlich was found in both service records and papers from the canteen at the base.

Born in Neusorg, Bavaria, on 22 July 1925, he was unmarried and had no children.

The German authorities have said his parents died several years ago, and in 2006, his only sister also passed away, leaving no children.

The Historical Museum of Northern Jutland (Nordjyllands Historiske Museum) is currently looking at opening a temporary exhibition of the wreckage and other finds from the crash.

Torben Sarauw, curator and head of archaeology at the museum, said: “It’s quite a special find.”



The Mime Who Saved Kids From the Holocaust

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H/T The Smithsonian.

This is a story that needs to be told and Marcel Marceau needs to be honored for what he did during the war.

Marcel Marceau is history’s most famous mime, but before that, he was a member of the French Resistance

Marcel Marceau in 1955 (Photographer unknown / Museum of the City of New York. 76.68.68)

The fact that most people know what a mime looks like—the white face with cartoonish features, the black and white clothes—is largely thanks to Marcel Marceau, born Marcel Mangel.

Born on this day in 1923, Marceau maintained that he created the character he mimed, Bip the Clown, as a figure of hope. During a speech when he received a humanitarian award at the University of Michigan, he said that he drew on elements from history and cinema to create Bip’s name—which riffs off the character Pip from Great Expectations—and his look.

“Modelled after his movie hero, Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, Bip was the classic underdog dressed in a striped shirt, white sailor pants and a battered top hat with a single red flower sprouting from the lid,” writes Saul J. Singer for Jewish Press.

But though Bip is what Marceau is remembered for today, before he created the character, he used his mime skills for another reason: to help him smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied France when he was part of the French Resistance.“He later said that he used his pantomime skills to keep the children silent during the most dangerous moments,” writes David B. Green for Haaretz.

Marceau’s talent of mimicry also may have saved his own life during the war, when he ran into a unit of 30 German soldiers, Singer writes. The mimic pretended to be an advance guard of a larger French force and convinced the Germans to retreat, he writes.

By 1944, the American troops noticed his skills, and his first big performance was in an army tent in front of 3,000 American soldiers following the liberation of Paris. During this time, because he spoke English, French and German well, he served as a liaison officer with General Patton.

Like many survivors of that dark time, Marceau went on to do great things in the performing arts. After the war, he began studying mime at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris and in 1947, created his most iconic character, Bip. “Destiny permitted me to live,” he said in his 2001 speech. “This is why I have to bring hope to people who struggle in the world.”

He also alluded to his character’s dark origins, saying on another occasion that “the people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it… My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”

But he only referred to his Jewish experience in one piece, writes Singer, and explicitly stated that Bip was not intended to be a specifically Jewish character. In “Bip Remembers,” Marcel explained that he returns to his childhood memories and home and shows life and death in war.

One of the people he alluded to in that sketch was his father, Charles Mangel, who was murdered at Auschwitz. Marceau changed his name because he needed to hide during the war, choosing “Marceau” to honor a historic French general, along with his brother Alain.

Marceau’s performances as Bip were a bright spot in the appreciation of mime outside of France, writes novelist Mave Fellowes for The Paris Review. After his death in 2015, nobody stepped forward to take his place.

“So all we have is the footage,” she writes, “fuzzy, flickering recordings of his performances. A solitary figure on the stage in a circle of spotlight. We can see the white face below the battered hat and watch it move, flickering from one emotion to the next as if someone is pressing the controls on a mask. The outfit is oddly creepy. The act seems to take itself so seriously as to be ridiculous. But when the figure climbs the staircase, we feel that he is rising upwards. When he lifts the dumbbell, we can sense its weight.”

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Joe Beyrle

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H/T Badass Of The Week.

R.I.P. Sergeant Joe Beyrle.  

I skipped part of this story as it is a bit of an anti Nazi rant.




So, to that end, here’s an article about a dude who not only kicked Fascist balls for the U.S. of A., but a man who hated those assholes so bad that even after he got captured he broke out of his POW camp, joined up with the Soviet Red Army, and became the only man in World War II to kill Nazis while wearing two different uniforms.

It’s the story of United States Army Paratrooper Joe Beyrle, Staff Sergeant of the 82nd Airborne Division and, later, Private of the Soviet First Guards Tank Army.  This is his mugshot from the POW camp.  It is sure as shit not the mugshot of a man who would sit politely and let you “well, actually” his ass about the subtle misunderstood intricacies of National Socialist ideology.  That’s for damn sure.

When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor went down exactly 75 years ago yesterday (I was on a documentary about this recently!), Joseph Beyrle was a high school senior in Muskegon, Michigan.  He was a big, strong, asskicking motherfucker who had already been offered a full-ride scholarship to play baseball at Notre Dame, but when a bunch of Imperialist assholes decided to screw with the American way of life he turned down the scholarship, enlisted in the Army, and immediately volunteered for the toughest group of bastards the Army had to offer – the Parachute Infantry.

After a brutal accelerated training regimen, exhausting PT in the blistering heat, extended forced marches, grueling full-kit runs up Currahee mountain, and both British and American Jump School, Beyrle was in England by 1943 and ready to start stomping Fascist guts by falling on them from very high altitudes.  D-Day was still a few months away, but Staff Sergeant Beyrle didn’t want to wait that long, so he volunteered for an incredibly dangerous series of missions – basically, the OSS would load him up with a backpack full of gold and he’d parachute in the France in the middle of the night, where he’d get picked up by the French Resistance, give them the gold, and then they’d shuttle him around for a few days until he was able to catch a ride back to England.

This is hard core deep cover spy shit behind enemy lines, where failure would probably result in summary execution.  He pulled it off without a hitch.

Then he went back and did that shit a second time.

Joe Beyrle had already hefted a carbine on French soil twice when the word finally came down that it was time to liberate the European continent from the Fascist scourge.  On the pitch-black night of June 5, 1944, Beyrle and the 101st Airborne Division flew in on their dangerous mission to land behind enemy lines, cut bridges and power supplies, and soften up defenses for the men who were going to land on Utah Beach at dawn.  With planes blowing up around him, flak explosions rocking his aircraft, and tracer fire from anti-aircraft cannons snaking around the sky in every direction, Joe Beyrle jumped out of a goddamn airplane to death-from-above the Germans with his massive raging Freedom-boner.

Unfortunately, he landed on the roof of this church at Come du Mond.  And, oh yeah, there was a fucking Nazi sniper hiding in the steeple, and that asshole was taking potshots at Beyrle’s parachute during the entire descent.




With bullets planking off the roof around him, in pitch darkness, with his parachute still spread out around him, Joe Beyrle shimmied down off the roof, slammed a mag into his M1 Carbine, and started out on a mission so badass that when you visit the church at Come du Mond today you can see a plaque that looks like this:

Beyrle was a fucking Army of One back before that became Branding™.  Completely alone, with no real idea where the rest of his unit was, he killed a few Nazis, found the Come du Mond power substation, blew it up with thermite, ambushed a full squad of German infantry by chucking grenades at them, and then headed off to blow up a bridge and prevent the Nazis from sending reinforcements to Utah Beach.

Unfortunately, he crawled through a hedgerow and fell head-first into a German machine gun nest.  He looked up to see ten guys pointing Schmeissers at him.  Rather than try to Funk it, he surrendered.

The Germans marched Beyle deeper into France, towards a POW holding area, when suddenly explosions started ripping out around them everywhere – either German artillery or American aircraft, it was tough to tell, but both Germans and American POWs were getting blown up by it and it sucked for everyone.  Beyrle took shrapnel in his ass and was blown off his feet and into a ditch, but rather than lay there and cry about it he used to opportunity to escape.  He evaded capture for another 12 hours behind enemy lines before they caught him again.

This time they put him in a truck and drove it towards St. Lo., but the truck was strafed by Allied aircraft.  Beyrle tried to escape again, was caught, was taken to St. Lo., and then the Americans bombed St. Lo all night long and Beyrle was lucky to survive it.

Now, at various points I’m going to quote Sgt. Beyrle here, because they simply don’t make guys like this anymore.  If you want to read his full first-person account, there’s a link to it at the bottom.

I was interrogated 20-24 hours a day, they were trying to get all the usual questioned answered. “Why me, a German, was I fighting for the Jews Roosevelt and Morganthau against my own people?” Sometime during the questioning  I called a German officer a “SOB” and woke up several days later in a hospital with a big headache and a bashed head and later I was taken back to the monastery.


For the next three months Beyrle was starved, beaten, interrogated, and moved to a number of different camps.  He’d work during the day, survive Allied bombings at night, and weather hunger, disease, and exhaustion constantly.  At one point he was locked in a boxcar for a week with 50 other guys.  The train was then strafed by Allied planes, and he was lucky to survive that (it seems to be a recurring thing that this dude kept almost getting teamkilled by his own dudes).  By September of ’44 he was in Poland, at a Russian POW camp with about 12,000 Russian men and women POWs.

Naturally, he immediately began planning his escape.

On a cold night in November of 1944, Joe Beyrle and 3 other Americans cut through the barbed wire in the camp and began their escape South.  They snuck into a railway station, hopped a train car headed for Poland, and planned to meet up with the Red Army as it pushed through the region.

Unfortunately, they got on the wrong train, and ended up in fucking Berlin.

One thing you never hear much about is that there were a large number of Germans who fucking hated Hitler, and they’d organized a German Underground Resistance that would help the Allies during the war.  Beyrle and the Americans, still in their POW uniforms, linked up with the resistance, and spent nearly a week hiding from the authorities and attempting to contact Allied Command.

The Gestapo found them first.

In the next 7 to 10 days we found out everything we had heard about the Gestapo was true. We were interrogated, tortured, kicked, knocked around, walked on, hung up by our arms backwards, hit with whips, clubs, and rifle butts. When you thought they could do no more, they would think of other ways to torture you. When you would slip into semi-consciousness, they would start again.

(Still think this sounds like a viable form of government?)




After about a week the Gestapo turned Beyrle over to the German Army, and they put him back in the prison camp at Stalag Luft III – where he was sentenced to spend 30 days in a 4-by-5 pine box as punishment for escaping.  Luckily he only served 7 days in a box so small he couldn’t lay down, but that was only because a Red Cross operative from Geneva intervened on his behalf.

It took months for Beyrle to get his strength back, but, as soon as he did, you could be goddamn sure that he was going to make another run for it.  With his 3 buddies, Beyrle broke through a wall and made a mad dash for freedom – the Nazis machine gunned all 3 of Beyrle’s friends to death as they ran for it, but Beyrle got away – only to hear the faint barking of the German Shepherds the Nazis sent to hunt him down.

So, in the freezing ass motherfucking cold of Poland in January, Sgt. Beyrle dove into a frozen river and followed it for a couple miles East to throw off the trail of the dogs.

Somehow, miraculously, after not being shot, devoured by hounds, or freezing to death, Joseph Beyrle reached Soviet lines.  He met up with the First Guards Tank Army, and was greeted by Battalion Commander Aleksandra Samusenko, a woman who holds the distinction of being the only female tank commander of World War II.  Even though he spoke very little Russian, Beyrle convinced Samusenko to let him join up, so she gave him a PPSH-41 submachine gun, a few drums of ammunition, and told him what their next objective was:

He was about to fucking liberate the POW camp he had just escaped from.

World War 2. A Soviet automatic rifleman with a PPSh machinegun, hidden on the banks of the Dnieper River, providing cover as Red Army soldiers cross.

The Red Army smashed the POW camp after a short but bloody fight, and Beyrle had the honor of raiding the camp office and stealing back the POW photo the Germans had snapped when they first captured him.  He continued to fight through the Eastern Front for a couple months, kicking ass in battles across Poland, but when a Stuka dive bomber blew up the tank Beyrle was riding on he ended up in a Russian field hospital.

When word came down that there was a U.S. POW in a Red Army uniform, things got kind of crazy.  Beyrle met Zhukov, was sent back to Moscow, and linked up with the U.S. Embassy there.  Unfortunately, when Beyrle finally met a friendly American face after nearly a year of getting his ass kicked behind enemy lines, it turned out that there was yet another problem:

The U.S. Ambassador told him that Joseph R. Beyrle was declared KIA on June 10, 1944.

The Ambassador was a little concerned that Beryle was lying about his identity and may have been a German spy, and Beyrle was shipped around to Odessa, Egypt, and Italy, before finally being cleared and returning home on April 11, 1945. His parents were pretty surprised and happy to see him, mostly because they thought he’d been dead for ten months.

Joe Beyrle was given the Purple Heart, and was honored with awards by Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin at a ceremony in the 1990s – where he was also given a badass custom AK-47 by the friggin’ dude who invented the AK-47. Beyrle’s son would go on to be the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under G.W. Bush and Obama.

I’ll end this the way he ends his autobiography, because it’s amazing:

My funeral Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Church in Muskegon by Father Stratz on September 17, 1944. My wife and I were married in the same church on September 14, 1946, by Father Stratz. We are now the parents of a daughter and two sons and have seven grandchildren.



Joe Beyrle’s Story in His Own Words

An American in the Red Army

Arlington National Cemetery

Washington Post

War History Online





The Battle of Brody: The Biggest Tank Battle Ever (And It’s Been Completely Forgotten)

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H/T The National Interest.

Sadly most history like this is not only forgotten it is not being taught.

My thirteen year old daughter knows more World War II than many high school students.  

A thousand coffee table books and countless hours of popular history programs have described the Battle of Prokhorovka, part of the Third Reich’s 1943 Operation Citadel, as the largest tank battle in history. Near the city of Kursk on the Eastern Front, hundreds of Soviet tanks slammed into the 2nd SS Panzer Corps in an enormous conflagration of flesh and metal.

Prokhorovka was certainly an important clash and one of the largest tank battles ever, but it might be time to retire its description as the biggest — a claim which has been seriously questioned in recent years by historians with access to Soviet archives opened since the end of the Cold War.

A thousand coffee table books and countless hours of popular history programs have described the Battle of Prokhorovka, part of the Third Reich’s 1943 Operation Citadel, as the largest tank battle in history. Near the city of Kursk on the Eastern Front, hundreds of Soviet tanks slammed into the 2nd SS Panzer Corps in an enormous conflagration of flesh and metal.

Prokhorovka was certainly an important clash and one of the largest tank battles ever, but it might be time to retire its description as the biggest — a claim which has been seriously questioned in recent years by historians with access to Soviet archives opened since the end of the Cold War.

In fact, there’s a strong case that history’s largest tank battle actually took place two years prior and is largely unknown.

Prokhorovka was the centerpiece of Citadel, the last German strategic offensive on the Eastern Front. On July 12, 1943, counter-attacking Soviet tanks charged across open terrain, taking heavy losses to German tank fire, including from heavily-armored Tiger Is with 88-millimeter guns.

This particular engagement was a tactical defeat for the Soviets, but the charge inflicted enough damage to help stall — and eventually halt — the German army’s Citadel offensive.

So, how many tanks were at Prokhorovka? To be sure, not the common popular figures which range as high as 1,500 tanks in total, according to the 2011 book Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943 by Valeriy Zamulin, a Russian military historian and former staff member at the Prokhorovka State Battlefield Museum.

The actual number was 978 tanks in total — 306 German and 672 Soviet, according to Zamulin. As many as 400 Soviet and 80 German tanks were destroyed.

 Expanding the battle beyond Prokhorovka, the total number of tanks fielded by the 2nd SS Panzer Corps and the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army at and near the battle amounted to 1,299, according to a statistical analysis published in 2000 by Niklas Zetterling and Anders Frankson.

Expanding the number to encompass all of Operation Citadel would include many more tanks. But they were not concentrated and committed in the same numbers as at the Battle of Brody, which hardly anyone has written about.

That’s also according to Zamulin and David Glantz, a historian of the Eastern Front and Soviet military. “This, in fact, is the biggest tank battle in World War II,” Glantz said regarding the Battle of Brody during a 2007 lecture available via the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Beginning on June 23 between Dubno, Lutsk and Brody in far western Ukraine, six Soviet mechanized corps under Gen. Mikhail Kirponos launched a counter attack into the advancing 1st Panzer Group advancing toward Kiev.

The battle which developed and then concluded on June 30 was a confusing morass that swallowed 2,648 Soviet tanks out of a total force of 5,000 versus some 1,000 German tanks. It’s unclear how many tanks of the 1st Panzer Group were destroyed in the battle, but the force did lose 100 of its tanks during the first two weeks of the war.

Making sense of the chaotic battle on available maps is … difficult. The six Soviet corps were disorganized and lacked enough trucks and tractors to transport infantry, howitzers and supplies, and their attacks were uncoordinated. German warplanes bombed them incessantly, and fast-moving Panzer divisions with coordinated artillery support chopped them apart.

What’s all the more remarkable is that the Soviet corps had considerable numbers of heavier KV and T-34 tanks, tougher than the German army’s best tanks at the time.

The Soviet 10th Tank Division of the 15th Mechanized Corps alone had 63 KVs and 38 T-34s, according to Glantz’s book The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front. However, lightly-armed BT and T-26 tanks comprised the bulk of the Soviet force.

By June 29, 1941, as the advancing German tanks encircled and annihilated the Soviet units, with others falling back, “the battles the Soviets were still waging elsewhere were now battles more for survival than anything else,” Glantz wrote, “because at this point the Soviets began running out of fuel and ammunition.”

There were some limited Soviet successes. When the 13th Panzer Division advanced on Rovno, Gen. Konstantin Rokossovsky of the 9th Mechanized Corps — who would become one of the USSR’s most famous commanders — bombarded it with artillery and inflicted a heavy loss of life. Rokossovsky had actually set up the ambush after ignoring an order to continue counter-attacking, deeming it pointless.

Glantz also noted in When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler that the battle contributed in a small way to Germany’s later defeat on the Eastern Front by drawing away German troops intended for the advance on Moscow.

The USSR went on to inflict a major defeat on Germany during the Moscow counter-offensive during the winter of 1941–1942, closing the door on the Germans ending the war on the terms Hitler set out. The later Battle of Stalingrad in 1942–1943 ended the possibility of German victory completely.

“The southwestern border battles also demonstrated that German armor was not invincible, and they gave future commanders such as Rokossovsky their first expensive but useful lessons in mechanized warfare,” Glantz wrote.

But it was at a terrible cost.

This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.

Image Credit: Creative Commons. 

Remains of World War II pilot return for burial


H/T Chicago Sun Times.

R.I.P. Maax Curtis Hammer Jr.  

The remains of Maax Curtis Hammer Jr., who was a World War II Flying Tiger from downstate Cairo, have been returned to southern Illinois for burial. | Richard Sitler/The Southern Illinoisan via AP

CARBONDALE — The remains of a southern Illinois native who flew planes in Southeast Asia more than 75 years ago have returned home for burial.

Maax Curtis Hammer Jr. died when his plane crashed in what is now Myanmar in 1941, the Southern Illinoisan reported. His remains returned to Carbondale on Wednesday via dignified transport from Hawaii, where he was buried for 67 years in a grave marked “Unknown.”

A visitation is planned for March 20 in Carbondale and a private family graveside service is planned for the next morning.

Hammer was part of the Flying Tigers, a group of volunteer pilots who helped the British and Chinese defend what was Burma and China from the Japanese. On Sept. 22, 1941, Hammer apparently entered an inverted spin while flying in a storm and could not recover from it. A crash site investigator indicated Hammer’s plane hit the ground nose first, and his remains were discovered on the plane’s engine 15 feet below the ground.

Hammer’s family was officially notified of his DNA match to one of his living cousin’s sample on Jan. 4, 2017.

Tripp Alyn, a distant cousin of Hammer’s, hopes Oakland Cemetery is his relative’s final burial site. Hammer’s parents and grandparents are also buried at the Carbondale cemetery.

“He was in a grave marked ‘Unknown’ for 67 years,” Alyn said. “The most important thing is to know that Maax is going to be back with his parents. It’s what’s so gratifying to me.”

Tuesday’s service will include a Missing Man Flyover by the A-10 Warthogs, which are similar to the planes Hammer flew.



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