19Jul/14

Last stand of the Wehrmacht in St Lo

A young German soldier surrenders as the US Army approaches St Lo.

Question or statement I didn’t know, either way it struck us both. I held him until he died. The whole event only took a few moments. Willi’s last words may have been the trigger for Kalb’s next action. He took off his helmet and placed it over Willi’s face, then broke off the bottom of Willi’s identity disc. He took this, his watch, medals, wedding ring and the pictures of his family and wrapped it all in his handkerchief, which he thrust down the front of his trousers. No one would look here. He placed his battered cap on his head and told us to do the same.

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01Jul/14

Normandy – Canadian night patrol to snatch a prisoner

The crew of a Sherman tank named 'Akilla' of 1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Brigade, after having destroyed five German tanks in a day, Rauray, 30 June 1944. Left to right: Sgt J Dring; Tpr Hodkin, Tpr A Denton; Tpr E Bennett; L/Cpl S Gould.

So the actual practice requires that number two moves silently and quickly, knife in hand, on the soldier leaving the trench. The slightest sound will mean death to the patrol. A knife to the man’s kidney instantly paralyzes his vocal cords; number two’s other hand will catch soundlessly the falling rifle. Then a quick slash across the throat. Number three man, in the same moment, is in the trench guaranteeing a prisoner who will live by the quick use of the garrotte. The enemy soldier loses consciousness with- out a gasp. Then a fireman’s lift and back to the start point. Prisoner delivered; objective achieved

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30Jun/14

RAF heavy bombers support Royal Tank Regiment

Avro Lancasters carpet bomb a road junction near Villers Bocage, Normandy, France through which the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions were expected to move to carry out an attack on the junction of the British and American armies. The daylight attack, by 266 aircraft of Nos. 3, 4 and 8 Groups, was carried out at 4,000 feet to ensure that the target indicators dropped by the Pathfinders were seen and 1,100 tons of bombs were dropped with great accuracy.

Must have been hundreds of planes, but all over in about 10 minutes. Seemed to be very little Jerry AA and didn’t see a single plane destroyed. Shortly afterwards, a huge black cloud ascended and gradually spread towardsus. Within an hour, we were literally in a fog: air became noticeably cooler and daylight partially obliterated, visibility about 200 yards.

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28Jun/14

Another day in the destruction of Army Group Centre

An image used in Soviet post war propaganda to illustrate the 'fight to the death' when Russia was on the back foot - but actually taken in the summer of 1944 when they on the offensive.

As it approached the highway, the column deployed into a human wave and rushed forward. From our position, the left flank of the German line of advancing men was about 1,200 meters away. We opened fire on the Germans, not permitting them to turn in our direction. The Germans were packed so tightly together, and in such a mass, that it was simply impossible to miss.When our command found out that a German column was attempting to break out here, they rushed an antitank battery to our support. Twelve cannons unlimbered before the column and began to fire at it over open sights.

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27Jun/14

The other nations who fought for Hitler

US Army troops marched German prisoners of war through Cherbourg, 28 Jun 1944

That was the outward scene in the prisoners’ cage, and it made no sense at all. A dozen different nationalities. All of them reacting in different ways, pulling in different directions, speaking different languages. And yet an hour or two since they had all been fighting with a suicidal ferocity. Pillboxes were being held long after their eventual destruction was a certainty. The Russians had been firing right up to the last few yards before they threw up their hands.

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25Jun/14

Tank attack into Fontenay

A Sherman DD tank, with flotation screens removed, passing through Douet as engineers work to clear the debris, 25 June 1944.

We made ourselves ready. Doug Footitt and Arthur Reddish put extra tracer bullets into the machine-gun belts: at night the inside of a tank was pitch-dark and the gunner’s sights were useless, but the tracer would help the main gun find its targets. We would have to be careful of our own infantry straying into our line of fire, and Arthur kept some grenades handy in case we were attacked.

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24Jun/14

The Americans advance into Cherbourg

24 June 1944, the U.S. 79th Infantry Division while taking Fort du Roule near Cherbourg, had to storm the strong points. Here they blew the door of a bunker to clear the place.

A haze began to drift over Cherbourg towards the evening when the Americans advanced for their last run down to the sea. It had been as balanced and as decisive a break-through as any I have seen in this war – the power of the offensive machine against fixed positions. Coming up the the Regiment Command post one could feel the sense of expectancy and eagerness among the staff officers. The colonel said, “I think we are going to have better luck today”.

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