31May/14

‘No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country’

US Engineers are briefed on their objectives for the forthcoming invasion, May 1944. Left to right: Private Albert V Ottolino; PFC (Private First Class) Howard D Kraut; Private J H James.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans, love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers … Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.

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29May/14

Civilians in Britain anticipate the ‘Second Front’

Princess Elizabeth inspecting an honour guard during a Royal visit to 2nd (Armoured) Battalion Grenadier Guards, 5th Guards Armoured Brigade, Guards Armoured Division, at Hove, 17 May 1944.

Although dead secret, much seeps through, how the Americans have been pouring tanks, guns, and equipment into this country, how the respective armies have been given different objectives — the Yanks here, the Canadians there, the British somewhere else, and how the invasion will be preceded both by a massive air-bombardment and an attack by air-borne gliders.

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27May/14

Biak – “a shitty little malaria and typhus infested atoll”

The Campaign in the Dutch East Indies, April - September 1944: American infantry advance behind a Sherman tank on the island of Biak. On Biak the Americans encounted stiff opposition and the island was not taken until August 1944

Our shoulder patch was a representation of a setting sun; we were the sunset to the Jap flag’s rising sun motif. But recently Tokyo Rose had given us a new nickname: the “Butchers of Biak”. In her nightly radio broadcasts she would berate our alleged brutality, and try to destroy morale by predicting our impending doom. A captured Jap order directed the beheading of all American prisoners.

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25May/14

Chindits: British forced to shoot their wounded

Chindit Operations - General: A railway bridge behind Japanese lines is blown up by Chindits

The doctor said, ‘l’ve got another thirty on ahead, who can be saved, if we can carry them.’ The rain clattered so loud on the bamboo that I could hardly hear what he said. ‘These men have no chance. They’re full of morphia. Most of them have bullet and splinter wounds beside what you can see. Not one chance at all, sir, I give you my word of honour. Look, this man’s died already, and that one. None can last another two hours, at the outside.

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22May/14

Chindit jungle strongpoint faces third Japanese attack

Chindits at rest in their jungle bivouac.

With a heavy heart I sent a Most Immediate signal to Joe asking for permission to abandon the block at my discretion. The direction of the new Japanese attack would prevent night supply drops on the airfield, and, with the A.A. guns, only night drops were now possible. Night drops on the block, or on the jungle to the west, could never keep us supplied with ammunition in heavy battle. It would take too many men, too long, to find and bring in the boxes.

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21May/14

Tension in Britain during wait for ‘Second Front’

Churchill Mk IV tanks in storage on the Winchester by-pass in Hampshire, in readiness for the invasion of Europe, 16 May 1944.

There is a curious new something in their expressions which recalls the way people looked when the blitz was on. It’s an air of responsibility, as though they had shouldered the job of being back in the civilian front line once again. It’s evident in the faces of women looking up thoughtfully from their gardens at the gliders passing overhead, in the unguarded faces of businessmen wearily catnapping on trains on their way home to all-night Home Guard duty, in the faces of everybody except the young fighting men themselves.

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