May 10 1940-An eventful day.

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May 10 1940 must have been one of the busiest and chaotic days in WWII.I won’t go to deep into the details because most of the events are well documented, however not everyone might know that these events happened on the same day.

The invasion of the Benelux(Belgium,Netherlands, Luxembourg)

On the 10th May, 1940, the German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. On the same day the German Ambassadors handed to the Netherlands and Belgian Governments a memorandum alleging that the British and French armies, with the consent of Belgium and the Netherlands, were planning to march through those countries to attack the Ruhr, and justifying the invasion on these grounds. Germany, however, assured the Netherlands and Belgium that their integrity and their possessions would be respected. A similar memorandum was delivered to Luxembourg on the same date.

There were however no plans for any British and French troops to march through the low countries in order to attack Germany.

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Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom upon the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlain who  formally lost the confidence of the House of Commons, resigned as Prime Minister Churchill, known for his military leadership ability, was appointed to replace Chamberlain as Prime Minister of Great Britain.. He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won the popular support in the UK.

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Operation Fork-the Invasion of Iceland

The invasion of the Benelux wasn’t the only invasion that day. The British invaded Iceland  on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 British Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.

In the evening of 10 May, the Icelandic government formally issued a statement noting that their neutrality had been “flagrantly violated” and “its independence infringed”. The British government appeased the protest by promising compensation, trade agreement, non-interference in domestic Icelandic affairs, and the promise that troops would be withdrawn at war’s end.

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The Bombing of Freiburg

You may be forgiven to think that Freiburg was bombed by the RAF on May 10th 1940, because that would make sense. However that wasn’t the case.

Freiburg was bombed that day but not by the Brits or French but by the German Luftwaffe.The  3 aircrafts involved, commanded by Lieutenant Paul Seidel ,  from 8. Staffel, Kampfgeschwader 51 “Edelweiss” ( 8th Season of Fighter Squadron 51)flying the Heinkel He 111 medium bomber. They had taken off at 14:27 from Landsberg-Lech Air Base, to bomb the French city of Dijon, or the alternative target Dole–Jura Airport, as part of the Battle of France.

Due to navigation errors, lost among the clouds hovering over the German city of Freiburg, they were 100% positive they had their target in sight. At 3:59 PM, the Heinkel He 111 planes started dropping the total of 69 bombs.The city’s anti-aircraft defenses were caught totally unprepared. They had clearly seen the German planes flying over their heads and probably assumed they were en route to France. The load fell near a train station, killing a total of 57 people. Once the damage was done, the air raid alarm absorbed the horror in the streets.

The German command tried to cover up the mistake and passed the bombing off as enemy action. The German media accepted that version without any hesitation.Die Deutsche Wochenschau News reel(German Weekly Review) for example, reported in its issue no. 506 on 15 May 1940 at the end of a longer contribution of the “brutal and ruthless air raid on an unfortified German city”.

The following day, the Freiburger Zeitung reported a “sneaky, cowardly air raid against all laws of humanity and international law.” Seven months later, the Fuhrer himself accused Winston Churchill of terrorist attacks against civilians in Freiburg.

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Even though top German military officials maintained that the raid on Freiburg must have been an Allied mission, the truth eventually surfaced. Important work carried out by several historians finally broke through the officers’ denialism. Thus in August 1980, even the famous Colonel Josef Kammhuber stated that it was “evident” that “the attack on Freiburg was conducted mistakenly by a chain of III/KG51.”

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Imber friendly fire incident

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The Imber friendly fire incident took place on the 13 April 1942 at Imber, England, during the Second World War. One of the Royal Air Force fighter aircraft taking part in a firepower demonstration accidentally opened fire on a crowd of spectators, killing 25 and wounding 71. Pilot error and bad weather were blamed for the incident

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On 13 April 1942 the weather was hazy and six Royal Air Force (RAF) Hawker Hurricanes from No. 175 Squadron RAF and six Supermarine Spitfires from No. 234 Squadron RAF were being used for a demonstration of tactical airpower at Imber, a British Army training ground on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

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The event was a dress rehearsal for an upcoming visit by Winston Churchill and General George Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army and attended by a number of military personnel.

The Spitfires overflew followed by the Hurricanes. Five of the Hurricanes hit the correct targets: several armoured vehicles and mock tanks. The pilot of the sixth Hurricane opened fire at the spectators before continuing with the demonstration. Casualties were 25 military personnel killed and 71 wounded.

The following day the War Office and Air Ministry issued a joint statement:

During combined excercises to-day in Southern England there was an unfortunate accident in which a number of soldiers, including some members of the Home Guard, were killed and other injured. The next-of-kin have been informed.[4]

First reports were that 14 had died with forty to fifty injured but this was later revised to 23 killed on the day (16 officers and seven soldiers). Four of the officers were members of the Home Guard.Two other officers died from wounds in the next few days, one on the 14 April the other (a Home Guard officer) on the 15 April to bring the total deaths to 25.

The Court of Inquiry found the pilot, 21-year-old Sergeant William McLachlan was guilty of making an error of judgement and that the weather at the time contributed to the incident. The pilot of the Hurricane had misidentified the spectators as dummies, thinking that they were part of the demonstration when he opened fire.

An inquest held at Warminster into the deaths recorded that the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds and attributed to misadventure. The RAF pilot told the inquest he lost sight of the aeroplane he was following in the haze and realised he had made a mistake after he fired. The coroner also pointed out that, contrary to rumour, the pilot was British and not American.

 

Forgotten History:The Bombing of Zutphen-the Netherlands

 

Zutphen is a town in the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands. It lies some 30 km north-east of Arnhem, on the Eastern bank of the river IJssel at the point where it is joined by the Berkel

On the 14th of October 1944,  Zutphen was bombed by the allies

At 4 PM three allied bombers flew over Zutphen theor task was to destroy the Ijsselbrug(Ijssel Bridge) in order to disrupt the supply of arms and block the German troops going in the direction of Arnhem.

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The bridge was destroyed but so was a nearby part of the town.De Rozengracht, Kreijnckstraat, Barlheze en Apenstert were complete wiped away.The station was badly damaged.

 

It is not exactly know how many people died that day but 92 were buried a great number of victims was never found.

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The Sinking of the HMS Oxley

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HMS Oxley was the Royal Navy’s first loss in WWII. Today marks the 77th anniversary of that event.

You probably are wondering why I am doing a blog about it. Because lets face it , it was war and there were going to be losses. This is true,however, what makes this special is not because it was the 1st loss but the fact it was sunk by another Royal Navy submarine the HMS Triton.

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When the Admiralty was notified that the United Kingdom would declare war on Germany, five submarines of the 2nd Submarine Flotilla were ordered to patrol on the Obrestad line off Norway on 24 August 1939.Thus, on 3 September all British submarines were in their combat patrol sectors.

At 19:55 on 10 September 1939, Triton had surfaced, fixed a position off the Obrestad Light, set a slow zigzag patrol, and began charging batteries. Lieutenant Commander Steel, having verified that the area was clear and having posted lookouts, gave the bridge to the officer of the watch and went below, leaving orders that he was to be called if anything unusual appeared. At 20:45, he was called to the bridge when an object in the water could be seen very fine on the port bow.

Steel ordered propulsion shifted to the main motors, the signalman to the bridge, and torpedo tubes 7 and 8 readied for firing. The object was recognised as a submarine low in the water.

Once on the bridge, the signalman sent three challenges over several minutes with the box lamp, none of which were answered. Steel wondered if the boat could be HMS Oxley, which should have been patrolling next in line, but some distance away. Steel and his bridge crew studied the silhouette, but could not distinguish what type of submarine it was.

A fourth challenge was sent: three green rifle-grenade flares. After firing, Steel counted slowly to 15 and then decided that they were seeing a German U-boat.

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He ordered tubes 7 and 8 fired with a three-second interval. Less than a minute later, an explosion was heard.

Triton moved into the area to investigate and heard cries for help. The light from the Aldis lamp revealed three men floundering amid oil and debris.

Lieutenant Guy C. I. St.B. Watkins and Lieutenant Harry A. Stacey entered the water and rescued Lieutenant Commander H.G. Bowerman,Oxley’s commanding officer, as well as Able Seaman Gluckes, a lookout. The third person in the water, Lieutenant F.K. Manley, was seen to be swimming strongly when he suddenly sank from view. Neither Manley’s body nor any other survivors from Oxley were found.

A Board of Enquiry found that Steel had done all he reasonably could in the circumstances. Oxley was out of position, Triton had acted correctly, and the first Allied submarine casualty of World War II was due to “friendly fire.” During the war, the loss of Oxley was attributed to an accidental explosion. After the war, it was explained to have been a collision with Triton. The truth was not revealed until the 1950s

 

Oops! I didn’t mean that to happen.WWII Mistakes-Part 2.

The allied invasion of Kiska

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When a Japanese task force of 500 marines swiftly invaded the U.S. occupied island of Kiska, the Americans decided to take it back with 35,000 men.

On August 15, 1943, an invasion force consisting of 34,426 Allied troops, including elements of the 7th Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Regiment, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 5,300 Canadians (mainly the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade from the 6th Infantry Division, with supporting units including two artillery units from the 7th Infantry Division), 95 ships (including three battleships and a heavy cruiser), and 168 aircraft landed on Kiska, only to find the island completely abandoned. The Japanese, aware of the loss of Attu and the impending arrival of the larger Allied force, had successfully removed their troops on July 28 under the cover of severe fog, without the Allies noticing. Allied casualties during this invasion nevertheless numbered close to 200, all either from friendly fire, booby traps set out by the Japanese to inflict damage on the invading allied forces, or weather-related disease. As a result of the brief engagement between U.S. and Canadian forces, there were 28 American dead as well as four Canadian dead, with an additional 130 casualties from trench foot alone. The destroyer USS Abner Read hit a mine, resulting in 87 casualties.

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The Brazilian Sailors Who Shot And Sank Their Ship By Mistake.

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With the European theater of World War II drawing to a close, crewmembers of the Bahia—a Brazilian cruiser stationed northeast of Brazil to protect Allied convoys—practiced a live-fire anti-aircraft drill using a kite towed behind the ship as the target. During the course of the exercise, the gunner accidentally hit a row of depth charges on the ship’s stern (the consequence of not placing guard rails to prevent the guns from firing so close to the ship).

Subsequently, the depth charges exploded and sank the ship in just a few minutes, forcing the crewmembers to bail out on lifeboats and endure almost a week out at sea. Of the more than 350 men aboard, only a few dozen survived, with four US Navy personnel among the dead.

The Ship That Almost Torpedoed FDR To Death.

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Perhaps no other ship in the US navy can ever surpass the tragicomic history of the William D. Porter and its crew. Its unenviable resume included wrecking a sister ship with its anchor, friendly-firing another one, and accidentally shooting a live round into a base commander’s front yard. However, all these incidents paled in comparison to the time the William D. Porter almost assassinated the president of the United States.

In 1943, the ship, along with three other destroyers, had been assigned to guard the USS Iowa, which carried FDR and his Secretary of State Cordell Hull en route to the Tehran and Cairo Conference. During the trip, the William D. Porter caused a major scare when one of its depth charges accidentally fell to the water and exploded, causing the rest of the convoy to think U-boats had found them.

After that incident, the crew—in a training exercise—inadvertently launched an armed torpedo right at the USS Iowa. The big ship managed to dodge it just in the nick of time.

Although the William D. Porter did finally serve with distinction during the Philippine and Okinawa campaigns, the ship met a demise as bizarre as its mishaps. On June 10, 1945, a kamikaze plane it shot down dove underwater and exploded, sinking the vessel. Miraculously, all the crew members survived.

Battle of Barking Creek.

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At 6.15am on 6 September 1939, unidentified aircraft were reported approaching from the east at high altitude over West Mersea, on the Essex coast. In response, six Hurricanes were ordered to be scrambled from 56 Squadron, based at North Weald Airfield in Essex. For some unknown reason, the Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Group Captain Lucking, sent up his entire unit. In addition to these, and unbeknown to the rest of the pilots, two Pilot Officers took up a pair of reserve aircraft and followed at a distance, destined to be the targets of the mistaken attack.

Additionally, 151 Squadron’s Hurricanes (also from North Weald), and Spitfires from 54, 65, and 74 Squadrons based at Hornchurch Airfield scrambled. With the war only three days old, none of the Royal Air Force pilots had seen combat, and very few had ever seen a German plane. Communications between planes and command centres were poor. There was no identifying procedure for pilots to distinguish between enemy and friendly aircraft.

With everyone in the air expecting to see enemy aircraft, and no experience of having done so, the conditions readily lent themselves to misunderstanding. ‘A’ Flight of 74 Squadron saw what they believed were enemy planes and their commanding officer, Adolph “Sailor” Malan, allegedly gave a clear and definite order to engage. Two of the three, Flying Officer Vincent ‘Paddy’ Byrne and Pilot Officer John Freeborn, opened fire.

Malan later claimed to have given a last minute call of ‘friendly aircraft – break away!’ but, whether this actually happened or not, the call was not heard by the attacking pilots.[2]

One Hurricane was piloted by Frank Rose, who was shot down but survived. Pilot Officer Montague Hulton-Harrop, however, did not survive. Fired upon by John Freeborn, he was hit in the back of the head; he was dead before his plane crashed at Manor Farm, Hintlesham, Suffolk, approximately five miles west of Ipswich. He was the first British pilot fatality of the war. His Hurricane was also the first plane shot down by a Spitfire. The entire air-raid warning turned out to be false.

Both Byrne and Freeborn were, along with Group Captain Lucking, placed under close arrest immediately after the incident.

Operation Bodenplatte

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The Luftwaffe’s last major air campaign of the war, which took place on New Years Day, 1945, was another friendly fire disaster. Planned to support the two-week old Ardennes Offensive (aka The Battle of the Bugle), the German high command scraped together the last remaining fighters and bombers for one final aerial blitz aimed at reigniting the stalled push into Belgium. The operation called for 900 aircraft to strike at British and American airfields in the region. Unfortunately, the plan was kept so secret that not even Axis units operating in the area were aware that it was taking place. Assuming the planes suddenly overhead were British and American, German anti-aircraft batteries along the front opened fire on the  planes. In all, 300 aircraft were destroyed and more than 200 pilots died. It was the largest loss ever suffered by the Luftwaffe in a single day.