Joe Kennedy Jr-One last mission

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I always like ‘What if?’ scenarios. What if Joe Kennedy Jr would not have embarked on his last mission, would we be remembering the assassination of JFK? Or would Joe Kennedy have been President of the USA?

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The story of the Kennedy family is not only tragic it is also amazing and its legacy still lives on today.

High expectations were placed on the first born son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. In the wake of his support for the pre-war policy of appeasement, Joseph P. Kennedy knew he would never be President.

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He seamlessly transferred his ambition to his children, anointing the oldest, Joe Jr, as his proxy for the White House. Joe Jr was living the Ivy League life of the east coast social elite until the call to England interrupted his idyllic lifestyle as President Roosevelt appointed the elder Kennedy to be his ambassador to England. Joseph Sr placed huge pressure on Joe Jr, instilling his Irish American insecurities on his son to always compete and win. In peace and war, Joe Jr’s pursuit of excellence propelled him forward. War hero was the next expectation place on him.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a lieutenant in the Navy, died in 1944 testing a very rudimentary drone program called Operation Aphrodite.

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Here’s how it worked: the Navy would load up B-17’s or B-24’s with a ton of explosives, and then control them via radio from a trailing aircraft and steer them into targets kamikaze-style.

There was just one issue, the technology did not exist for these remotely-piloted aircraft to take off. So a crew had to take off the aircraft, get it to a safe altitude, and then parachute from the vessel.

Operation Aphrodite was combat tested program, meaning they tested the development of this new weapon by simply trying to make it happen in actual combat scenarios.

Although Joe Kennedy Sr had asked his son to maybe reconsider this mission, Joe Kennedy Jr had responded that he wanted to do just one more mission and this one was very safe.

On August 12, 1944, KennedyJOE KENNEDY JR. and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy took off in a converted B-24 Liberator (the drone versions were designated BQ-8) from Royal Air Force Station Fersfield, near Norwich. Their target was a massive underground military complex called the Fortress of Mimoyecques that had the potential to launch devastating attacks directly at London. Several minutes short of the planned bail out, an electrical fault in the Liberator caused the Torpex to detonate. In a thunderous instant.The single US Navy BQ-8 detonated prematurely over the Blyth estuary, eastern England, killing Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. and Lieutenant Wilford J. Willy

 

A formerly classified telegraph captures what happened:

ATTEMPTED FIRST APHRODITE ATTACK TWELVE AUGUST WITH ROBOT TAKING OFF FROM FERSFIELD AT ONE EIGHT ZERO FIVE HOURS PD ROBOT EXPLODED IN THE AIR AT APPROXIMATELY TWO THOUSAND FEET EIGHT MILES SOUTHEAST OF HALESWORTH AT ONE EIGHT TWO ZERO HOURS PD WILFORD J. WILLY CMA SR GRADE LIEUTENANT AND JOSEPH P. KENNEDY SR GRADE LIEUTENANT CMA BOTH USNR CMA WERE KILLED PD COMMANDER SMITH CMA IN COMMAND OF THIS UNIT CMA IS MAKING FULL REPORT TO US NAVAL OPERATIONS PD A MORE DETAILED REPORT WILL BE FORWARDED TO YOU WHEN INTERROGATION IS COMPLETED

The irony was that the mission was not necessary because the previous attack on Mimoyecques which initially deemed to be a failure had in fact been succesful.

Tallboy, or Bomb, Medium Capacity, 12,000 lb, was an earthquake bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis and used by the RAF during the Second World War.

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On the 6th of  July 1944 –  The tall boy was dropped on the Mimoyecques  V3-weapon targets,believed to be Hitler’s super weapon .Damage was unknown at the time, and efforts continued. In September, allied ground forces found galleries blocked with earth and debris where Tallboys had hit one of the shafts. The V-weapon was revealed to be the V-3 cannon.

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A young officer called Earl Olsen had spotted a potentially defect in the control panel of the BQ-8  and reported it to his superiors.But since he wasn’t a high ranking officer and had no official qualifications in electronics his concerns were dismissed, even by Joe Kennedy  himself. What if they just would have listened to Earl Olsen.

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French troops in Co Mayo,Ireland

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One of the most extraordinary episodes in Irish history saw a French naval flotilla sail to the Northern coast of Mayo in 1798 to help Ireland in its long fight to break with Britain.

The 1789 French Revolution had been a huge source of inspiration for Irish nationalists and in the wake of the second annual celebrations of the fall of the Bastille in 1791, The United Irishmen were formed by a group of merchants and intellectuals who sought an end to British interference, parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. Its leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone, went to seek French support.

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On 22 August, about 1,000 French soldiers under General Humbert landed in the north-west of the country, at Kilcummin in County Mayo.

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Joined by up to 5,000 local rebels, they had some initial success, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the British in Castlebar (also known as the Castlebar races to commemorate the speed of the retreat) and setting up a short-lived “Irish Republic” with John Moore as president of one of its provinces, Connacht. This sparked some supportive risings in Longford and Westmeath which were quickly defeated, and the main force was defeated at the battle of Ballinamuck, in County Longford, on 8 September 1798. The Irish Republic had only lasted twelve days from its declaration of independence to its collapse. The French troops who surrendered were repatriated to France in exchange for British prisoners of war, but hundreds of the captured Irish rebels were executed. This episode of the 1798 Rebellion became a major event in the heritage and collective memory of the West of Ireland and was commonly known in Irish as Bliain na bhFrancach and in English as “The Year of the French”.[

On 12 October 1798, a larger French force consisting of 3,000 men, and including Wolfe Tone himself, attempted to land in County Donegal near Lough Swilly. They were intercepted by a larger Royal Navy squadron, and finally surrendered after a three-hour battle without ever landing in Ireland.

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Wolfe Tone was tried by court-martial in Dublin and found guilty. He asked for death by firing squad, but when this was refused, Wolfe Tone cheated the hangman by slitting his own throat in prison on 12 November, and died a week later

Armée Juive-The Jewish Army

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Many people have this misconception about the resistance of the Jews against the Nazi regime, many think they just gave up without a fight. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There were many Jewish partisan groups and resistance fighters across Europe.

In this blog I will put the focus on the French Armée Juive, sinply because of the day it is in . On August  19 1944 they were significant in the uprising of the French resistance during the liberation of Paris.

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The Armee Juive means “Jewish Army”. It was a rebellion group who was inspired by their Jewish heritage to use physical resistance to rescue fellow brethren from camps, and launch attacks against the Germans.

The Jewish Army (Armée Juive), was founded in 1942. It was established and led by Abraham Polonski, Eugénie Polonski, Lucien Lublin,David Knout and Ariadna Scriabina(aka Sara Knout, daughter of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin).

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They continued armed resistance under a Zionist flag until liberation finally arrived. The Armée juive organised escape routes across the Pyrenées to Spain, and smuggled about 300 Jews out of the country during 1943–1944. They distributed millions of dollars from the American Joint Distribution Committee to relief organisations and fighting units within France. In 1944, the EIF and the Jewish Army combined to form the Organisation Juive de Combat (OJC). The OJC had four hundred members by the summer of 1944.

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Its members smuggled money from Switzerland into France to assist Jews in hiding, smuggled at least 500 Jews and non-Jews into neutral Spain,

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and took part in the 1944 uprisings against the Germans in Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse. “Solidarité,” a Jewish Communist unit, also carried out attacks on German personnel in Paris. Many Jews joined the general French resistance as well.

In 1944, a consolidated Jewish partisan force known as the Organization Juive de Combat (Jewish Fighting Organization) or OJC, cooperated in an campaign against the retreating German army, and participated in the liberation of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Grenoble and Nice. The OJC’s greatest success was the capture of a German train loaded with soldiers, food, weapons and ammunition. The Jewish partisans, all wearing Star of David armbands, triumphantly informed the terrified German prisoners, “Ich bin Jude (I am a Jew).”

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A letter to God-The children of La Maison d’Izieu.

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I have seen so many gruesome images of the Holocaust, but for some reason the pictures of these smiling and playing children touche me more then any other. For I know none of them survived, the only crime they committed was being a child.

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On the morning of 6 April 1944, members of the Lyon Gestapo who had been tipped off by an informant carried out a raid on the children’s home in Izieu and arrested everyone there.  44 children aged 4-17, and seven staff members who had been taking care of them, were incarcerated in the prison in Lyon, and were deported to Drancy the following day.  The deportation order was issued by Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo in Lyon.  Barbie reported the arrest of the children  and adults at the children’s home in a telegram that he sent to Paris. During the children’s detention in Lyon, the Germans discovered the whereabouts of some of their family members, who were also then taken to Drancy and later deported to their deaths in Auschwitz.

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During the raid on Izieu, Leon Reifman, a medical student who took care of the sick children, managed to escape and hide in a nearby farm.  His sister, Dr. Sarah Lavan-Reifman, who was the children’s home doctor, his parents, Eva and Moisz-Moshe and his nephew, Claude Lavan-Reifman also lived in the home.  They were all murdered at Auschwitz.  Miron Zlatin, Sabine Zlatin’s husband who ran the children’s home with her, was deported on 15 May, together with two of the older boys from the children’s home, to Estonia, where they were all shot to death.

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By the end of June 1944, all the children and adults caught in Izieu had been deported from Drancy.  Most were sent to Auschwitz, including all the children and five of the adults, among them Sarah Lavan-Reifman, who refused to be parted from her son Claude, and was sent together with him to the gas chambers.

Léa Feldblum, one of the care-takers, had false papers that enabled her to evade the deportation to Auschwitz, but she chose to reveal her true identity while in Drancy, in order to stay with the children.  Feldblum survived Auschwitz and immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1946.

One of the children of La Maison d’Izieu was eleven-year-old Liliane Gerenstein. Lilliane and her brother were sent to their deaths a few days after she wrote this letter to God:

“God? How good You are, how kind and if one had to count the number of goodnesses and kindnesses You have done, one would never finish.

God? It is You who command. It is You who are justice, it is You who reward the good and punish the evil.

God? It is thanks to You that I had a beautiful life before, that I was spoiled, that I had  lovely things that others do not have.

God? After that, I ask You one thing only: Make my parents come back, my poor parents protect them (even more than You protect me) so that I can see them again as soon as possible.

Make them come back again. Ah! I had such a good mother and such a good father! I have such faith in You and I thank You in advance.”

In 1987, Klaus Barbie was put on trial in France, and convicted of crimes against humanity.  He was sentenced to life-imprisonment.  Testifying at the trial, Laja Feldblum-Klepten said:

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“It is my duty to testify against Klaus Barbie in the name of my 44 children who were murdered at Auschwitz, because every night they appear before my very eyes

The Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.

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The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was a division of the Nazi Waffen-SS during World War II. It was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS. Das Reich served during the invasion of France and took part in several major battles on the Eastern Front, including in the Battle of Prokhorovka against the 5th Guards Tank Army at the Battle of Kursk.

It was then transferred to the West and took part in the fighting in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war in Hungary and Austria. Das Reich committed the Oradour-sur-Glane and Tulle massacres. Its staff included regimental commander SS-Standartenführer Sylvester Stadler as regimental commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, commanding the 1st Battalion.and SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Weidinger, Stadler’s designated successor who was with the regiment for familiarisation. Command passed to Weidinger on 14 June.

 

Early on the morning of 10 June 1944, Diekmann informed Weidinger that he had been approached by two members of the Milice, a paramilitary force of the Vichy Regime. They claimed that a Waffen-SS officer was being held prisoner by the Resistance in Oradour-sur-Vayres, a nearby village. The captured officer was claimed to be SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion (also part of “Das Reich” division).

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He may have been captured by the Maquis du Limousin the day before. Stadler ordered Diekmann to have the mayor choose thirty people to be hostages in exchange for Kämpfe.

On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the inhabitants – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. The SS also arrested six people who did not live in the village but merely happened to be riding their bicycles through there when the SS unit arrived.

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The women and children were locked in the church and the village was looted. The men were led to six barns and sheds, where machine guns were already in place.

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According to a survivor’s account, the SS men then began shooting, aiming for their legs. When victims were unable to move, the Nazis covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and was shot dead. In all, 190 Frenchmen died.

The SS men next proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. When it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the brutal attack. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. About twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the SS unit had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.

Several days later, the survivors were allowed to bury the 642 dead inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane who had been killed in just a few hours. Adolf Diekmann said the atrocity was in retaliation for the partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.

Raymond J. Murphy, a 20-year-old American B-17 navigator ,shot down over Avord, France in late April 1944, witnessed the aftermath of the massacre. After being hidden by the French Resistance, Murphy was flown to England on 6 August, and in debriefing filled in a questionnaire on 7 August and made several drafts of a formal report.The version finally submitted on 15 August has a handwritten addendum:

“Several weeks ago, I saw a town within 4 hours bicycle ride up the Gerbeau farm [of Resistance leader Camille Gerbeau] where some 500 men, women, and children had been murdered by the Germans. I saw one baby who had been crucified.”

Murphy’s report was made public in 2011 after a Freedom of Information Act request by his grandson, an attorney in the United States Department of Justice National Security Division.It is the only account to mention crucifying a baby.Shane Harris(an American journalist and author) concludes the addendum is a true statement by Murphy and that the town, not named in Murphy’s report, is very likely Oradour-sur-Glane.

Children from the village’s girl’s school, in the 1942-1943 school year. All of these girls were killed in the massacre.

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Protests at Diekmann’s unilateral action followed, both from Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, General Gleiniger, German commander in Limoges, and the Vichy government. Even SS-Standartenführer Stadler felt Diekmann had far exceeded his orders and began a judicial investigation. However, 29-year-old Diekmann was killed in action shortly afterwards during the Battle of Normandy, and many of the third company, which had conducted the massacre, were also killed in action. The investigation was then suspended.

 

 

D-DAY

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Codenamed Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning.

Rather then having an extensive text on the day I am opting to post pictures of D-Day and the days after, for there is nothing I can write which hasn’t been written before.

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Royal Marine Commandos attached to 3rd Infantry Division move inland from Sword Beach, 6 June 1944.

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Members of the French Resistance and the U.S. 82nd Airborne division discuss the situation during the Battle of Normandy in 1944.

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Large landing craft convoy crosses the English Channel on 6 June 1944

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Troops of the US 7th Corps wading ashore on Utah Beach.

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U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, talks with men of the 101st Airborne Division at the Royal Air Force base in Greenham Common, England on June 6, 1944, before they joined the D-Day invasion.

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Gliders are delivered to the Cotentin Peninsula by Douglas C-47 Skytrains. 6 June 1944.

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An abandoned Waco CG-4 glider is examined by German troops

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Carrying their equipment, U.S. assault troops move onto Utah Beach. Landing craft can be seen in the background.

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U.S. assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944.

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Personnel of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W” land on Mike Beach sector of Juno Beach, 6 June 1944

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British troops take cover after landing on Sword Beach.

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Crossed rifles on the sand are a comrade’s tribute to this American soldier who sprang ashore from a landing barge and died at the barricades of Western Europe. Picture taken a few days after D-Day, on Omaha Beach.

Crossed rifles in the sand placed as a tribute to this fallen soldier, 1944

The Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, September 2006. The cemetery contains predominantly Canadian soldiers killed during the Battle of Normandy. The cemetery contains 4 British soldiers and one French national who was killed fighting alongside Canadian troops. The British soldiers have markers very similar to the Canadian markers, but with different insignia in place of the maple leaf. The grave containing the French national is marked with a cross, which is visible on the lower left of the photo in the 4th row from the bottom.

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Operation Tonga

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Operation Tonga was the codename given to the airborne operation undertaken by the British 6th Airborne Division between 5 June and 7 June 1944 as a part of Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings during the Second World War.

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The paratroopers and glider-borne airborne troops of the division, commanded by Major-General Richard Nelson Gale, landed on the eastern flank of the invasion area, near to the city of Caen, tasked with a number of objectives.

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The division was to capture two strategically important bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River which were to be used by Allied ground forces to advance once the seaborne landings had taken place, destroy several other bridges to deny their use to the Germans and secure several important villages.

 

The division was also assigned the task of assaulting and destroying the Merville Gun Battery, an artillery battery that Allied intelligence believed housed a number of heavy artillery pieces, which could bombard Sword Beach and possibly inflict heavy casualties on the Allied troops landing on it. Having achieved these objectives, the division was then to create and secure a bridgehead focused around the captured bridges until they linked up with advancing Allied ground forces.

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The division suffered from a combination of bad weather and poor pilot navigation which caused many of the airborne troops to be dropped inaccurately throughout the divisional operational area, causing a number of casualties and making conducting operations much more difficult. In particular, the 9th Parachute Battalion, which was assigned the task of destroying the Merville artillery battery, was only able to gather up a fraction of its strength before it had to attack the battery, with the result that the depleted force suffered a number of casualties.

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However, the battery was successfully assaulted and the guns inside it disabled, and the division’s other objectives were also achieved despite the problems encountered. A small force of glider-borne troops of The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light Infantry secured the two bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne, the other bridges were destroyed, and a number of towns were occupied.

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A bridgehead was formed by the division, and it successfully repulsed a number of German counter-attacks until Allied ground forces from the invasion beaches reached its positions. The actions of the division severely limited the ability of the German defenders to communicate and organise themselves, ensuring that the seaborne troops could not be attacked during the first few hours after landing when they were most vulnerable.

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Operation Tonga began at 22:56 on the night of 5 June, when six Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers took off from Tarrant Rushton airfield towing six Horsa gliders carrying the coup-de-main force consisting of D Company, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire

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Light Infantry reinforced with two extra platoons from B Company and a party of sappers, who were tasked with capturing the bridges over the Caen Canal and the River Orne. A few minutes later, between 23:00 and 23:20, six Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle transports took off carrying pathfinders of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, who were to mark the three drop-zones to be used by the airborne troops of the division.Another sixteen Albemarles followed the transports carrying the pathfinders, these transporting elements of the 9th Parachute Battalion, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and 3rd Parachute Brigade Headquarters. After this small group, the remainder of the transports carrying 6th Airborne Division began to take off thirty minutes after the pathfinders, this ‘lift’ being divided into three groups. The first consisted of 239 Douglas Dakota and Short Stirling transports and seventeen Horsa gliders carrying the bulk of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades and their heavy equipment. These forces were due to land in their respective drop-zones at 00:50.[27] The second part of the lift was destined to land at 03:20 and consisted of sixty-five Horsa and four Hamilcar gliders transporting 6th Airborne Division headquarters and an anti-tank battery. The final part of the lift was formed of three Horsa gliders carrying sappers and men from the 9th Parachute Battalion, who were to land atop Merville Battery at 04:30.A second ‘lift’ of 220 Horsa and Hamilcar gliders carrying the 6th Air-landing Brigade and other units were to land at another drop-zone at 21:00.

Below some further pictures of Operation Tonga

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The last public execution by Guillotine.

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Eugen Weidmann (February 5, 1908 – June 17, 1939) was a German criminal who was executed by guillotine in France, the last public execution in that country

On June 17, 1939, Weidmann was beheaded outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles. The “hysterical behaviour” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions. Unknown to authorities, film of the execution was shot from a private apartment adjacent to the prison. British actor Christopher Lee – who was 17 at the time – witnessed the event.

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He would later go on to play headsman Charles-Henri Sanson in a French TV drama about the French Revolution, in which his character made prolific use of the device.

Beginning with the botched kidnapping of an American tourist, the inspiring dancer Jean de Koven, Eugène Weidmann murdered two women and four men in the Paris area in 1937. His other victims included a woman lured by the false offer of a position as a governess; a chauffeur; a publicity agent; a real estate broker; and a man Weidmann had met as an inmate in a German prison. On the surface, his crimes seemed in most cases to have had a profit motive, but they generally brought him very small winnings. Born in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1908, Weidmann early showed himself to be an incorrigible criminal. He had been sent to a juvenile detention facility and then served prison terms for theft and burglary in Canada and Germany prior to his arrival in Paris in 1937.

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After a sensational and much-covered trial, Weidmann was sentenced to death. On the morning of June 17, 1939, Weidmann was taken out in front of the Prison Saint-Pierre, where a guillotine and a clamoring, whistling crowd awaited him. Among the attendees was future acting legend Christopher Lee, then 17 years old. Weidmann was placed into the guillotine, and France’s chief executioner Jules-Henri Desfourneaux let the blade fall without delay.

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Rather then react with solemn observance, the crowd behaved rowdily, using handkerchiefs to dab up Weidmann’s blood as souvenirs. Paris-Soir denounced the crowd as “disgusting”, “unruly”, “jostling, clamoring, whistling”. The unruly crowd delayed the execution beyond the usual twilight hour of dawn, enabling clear photographs and one short film to be taken.

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After the event the authorities finally came to believe that “far from serving as a deterrent and having salutary effects on the crowds” the public execution “promoted baser instincts of human nature and encouraged general rowdiness and bad behavior”. The “hysterical behavior” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions.

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Guillotine was the only mean of execution that the French republic had ever known, the device was in service from 1792 to 1977. For almost 200 years the guillotine executed tens of thousands of culprits (or not) without ever failing to deliver a quick and painless death.

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While it is easy to see the guillotine as barbaric, it is actually a lot less gruesome than it looks. Capital punishment was very common in pre-revolutionary France. For nobles, the typical method of execution was beheading; for commoners, it was usually hanging, but less common and crueler sentences were also practiced. When Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the new method of execution to the National Assembly, it was meant to be more humane than previous capital punishments and also to be an equal method of death for all criminals regardless of rank.

Compared to many forms of capital punishment practiced to this day, the guillotine remains one of the best if we are judging based on pain and “cleanness”. In fact, the guillotine was developed with the idea of creating the most humane way to execute people. The condemned don’t feel pain, death is almost instantaneous and there are very few ways for things to be botched. The head of the victim remains alive for about 10-13 seconds, depending on the glucose and blood levels in his brain at the time. However, the head is believed to be more than likely knocked unconscious by the force of the blow and blood loss.

The Le Paradis massacre

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The Le Paradis massacre was a war crime committed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein.

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It took place on 27 May 1940, during the Battle of France, at a time when the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was attempting to retreat through the Pas-de-Calais region during the Battle of Dunkirk.

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Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regiment, had become isolated from their regiment. They occupied and defended a farmhouse against an attack by Waffen-SS forces in the village of Le Paradis. After running out of ammunition, the defenders surrendered to the German troops. The Germans led them across the road to a wall, and machine-gunned them. Ninety-seven British troops died. Two survived, with injuries, and hid until they were captured by German forces several days later.

After the war, Fritz Knöchlein was located, tried and convicted by a war crimes court, with the two survivors acting as witnesses against him. For his part in the massacre, Knöchlein was executed in 1949.

The British captives, a majority of whom were wounded, were disarmed and marched down a road off the Rue du Paradis. While they were waiting, two machine-guns from No.4 Machine-gun Company were prepared and set up by a barn in a paddock of the farm. The British prisoners were marched to the barn, lined up alongside it and fired upon by the two German machinegunners, who continued firing until all the British had fallen. Knöchlein then armed his men with bayonets to kill any remaining survivors. Satisfied that they had killed them all, the German soldiers left to rejoin the rest of their regiment.

An account by Private Albert Pooley, one of only two survivors:

… we turned off the dusty French road, through a gateway and into a meadow beside the buildings of a farm. I saw with one of the nastiest feelings I have ever had in my life two heavy machine guns inside the meadow … pointing at the head of our column. The guns began to spit fire … for a few seconds the cries and shrieks of our stricken men drowned the crackling of the guns. Men fell like grass before a scythe … I felt a searing pain and pitched forward … my scream of pain mingled with the cries of my mates, but even before I fell into the heap of dying men, the thought stabbed my brain ‘If I ever get out of here, the swine that did this will pay for it.’

Ninety-seven British prisoners were killed and the Germans forced French civilians to bury the bodies in a shallow mass grave the next day. Despite the German efforts, Private William O’Callaghan had survived and pulled Private Albert Pooley alive from among the bodies in the field. The pair then hid in a pig-sty for three days and nights, surviving on raw potatoes and water from puddles before being discovered by the farm’s owner, Madame Duquenne-Creton, and her son Victor. The French civilians risked their lives caring for the two men, who were later captured by the Wehrmacht’s 251st Infantry Division and transferred to a military hospital

On the day after the massacre, 28 May, Gunter d’Alquen, a journalist in the Waffen-SS, arrived at the scene with Dr Thum, the SS-Totenkopf deputy legal advisor. d’Alquen made a report of what he saw:

Gunter d'Alquen

It was possible to look into the back yard from the road…the corpses in British uniform were lying in the yard near the buildings. They were lying in such a position that one can assume they were killed by machine-gun bursts. It struck me at once that the dead soldiers were not wearing helmets, nor did they have any equipment on them…I took pictures of the dead bodies, and the whole farm. At Thum’s request these were to be placed at the disposal of the division…I believe I was already sitting there in the vehicle when Thum…told me that in the field which he had returned the equipment the shot British soldiers were lying in a heap, from which he had come to the conclusion that a summary trial had taken place”

After the war, O’Callaghan’s evidence and the discovery of the SS-run extermination camps prompted the British authorities to look into the reports.

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The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and after Knöchlein’s company was identified as the perpetrators in 1947, he was traced and arrested in Germany. Knöchlein was arraigned on charges of war crimes in August 1948, to which he pleaded not guilty:

Knöchlein denied being at Le Paradis. Then, when residents identified him; he said the executions were justified because the British used dum-dum bullets banned by the Hague Convention.

HP

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He also claimed the British had lured his men to the farmhouse with a white flag before gunning them down. Finally, he accused his jailers of subjecting him to physical and mental torture.

The court did not believe any of it, and Knöchlein was hanged on January 28, 1949, for his role in the massacre – the only one punished.

 

Two men-One name-Two fates

What’s in a name? Usually not much really but sometimes it can be everything. It can even be the difference of life and death.

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In this case the name Jean Stephan, both men were members of the French resistance but their lives had completely different outcomes.

Jean Stéphan was  a French resistant born October 28, 1912 in Rennes and shot on April 13, 1942 at Mont Valérien

During  the German  occupation, he became involved in the Resistance. He joined the Secret Organization (OS) French Francs-tireurs and partisans and took part in the local organization of the National Front, he was put in charge of a sector including Neuilly-Plaisance, Noisy-le-Grand and Gagny. They carried out various acts of sabotage (fire of enemy equipment at Gonesse and Vincennes in 1941, etc.).

On March 21, 1942, he was arrested, as he left the Ville-Évrard hospital where he worked as a nurse, and discovered leaflets of Resistance.

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He was then handed over to the Gestapo and shot a few days later at Mont Valérien.
Mont-Valerien 2011 © Jacques ROBERT
Jean Francois Marie Stephan, born 27 December 1916.
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Another member of the French resistance ,who had been with the Parisien Police, he was stripped from his rank in the Police because of his involvement with the resistance. However he eluded capture by the Germans and Vichy authorities.
The poster above is his “wanted” posted.He was  a member of the resistance in le Maquis du Vercors

He had a very high  place in the resistance because of the position he’d held with the Police. His resistance code name was “Daniel” he is mentioned in the book “Le Soufflet de Forge”
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He survived the war and  he was re-instated to  the french police and nearly got a far as commissioner.he was stationed at 36 Quai des orfèvres in Paris .
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He lived to tell the tale,until the age of 80