Operation Fork-the invasion of Iceland

The Axis powers and mainly Germany, Italy and Japan were not the only occupying forces during WWII. The allies also occupied some nations.

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After the defiant battles that the Icelandic football team fought at the 21st century battlefield of the EURO 2016 Championships I decided to have a look at this country’s history during WWII.

Iceland didn’t want any part of the Second World War. It was all tiny and defenseless and alone out there in the north Atlantic. Most of the hundred thousand people on the island were peaceful farming and fishing families. They had no army; only a few dozen hastily-trained police officers.

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For the most part, the Icelandic arsenal was limited to a few pistols and rifles and a couple of antique cannons. But that was the point: ever since the end of the First World War, when they had been granted their autonomy under Danish rule, Iceland had been an officially neutral country. They weren’t going to be doing any invading — and no one was supposed to invade them.

The invasion of Iceland, code named Operation Fork, was a British military operation conducted by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines during World War II to occupy and deny Iceland to Germany. At the start of the war, Britain imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of its naval blockade. Britain offered assistance to Iceland, seeking cooperation “as a belligerent and an ally”, but Reykjavik declined and reaffirmed its neutrality. The German diplomatic presence in Iceland, along with the island’s strategic importance, alarmed the British. After failing to persuade the Icelandic government to join the Allies, the British invaded 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.

Iceland, an independent sovereign nation ruled by the King of Denmark, joined Denmark in the pursuit of neutrality when the European War began. Upon the German invasion of Denmark in Apr 1940, Icelandic parliament declared King Christian X unable to perform his constitutional duties,

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and began to act in a more independent manner, though it remained neutral. On 9 May 1940, the United Kingdom issued a message to Iceland stating her willingness to defend Iceland (Iceland had no military force of her own) if Iceland would allow British forces to establish presence there. The United Kingdom intended to use Iceland to establish a base in the North Atlantic as well as to prevent a German invasion and occupation. The Icelandic government rejected the offer, noting her wish to remain neutral in the conflict. What the Icelandic parliament did not know, however, was that the United Kingdom had been planning an invasion under the code name of Operation Fork since late Apr or early May.

On 3 May 1940, the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion in Bisley, Surrey received orders from London to be ready to move at two hours’ notice for an unknown destination. The battalion had only been activated the month before. Though there was a nucleus of active service officers, the troops were new recruits and only partially trained. There was a shortage of weapons, which consisted only of rifles, pistols, and bayonets, while 50 of the marines had only just received their rifles and had not had a chance to fire them. On 4 May, the battalion received some modest additional equipment in the form of Bren light machine guns, anti-tank guns, and 2-inch mortars. With no time to spare, zeroing of the weapons and initial familiarisation firing would have to be conducted at sea

At 0400 on 8 May, under the command of 49-year-old Colonel Robert Sturges, a highly regarded WW1 veteran, 746 men of the inexperienced 2nd Royal Marine Battalion departed Greenock, Scotland, United Kingdom. Also with the invasion force was a small intelligence team headed by Major Humphrey Quill and a diplomatic mission headed by Charles Howard Smith. In the morning of 10 May, a Walrus aircraft was dispatched to scout the waters leading up to Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, for German submarine activity.

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But mis-communications led to the aircraft circling the actual city several times, thus alerting Icelandic officials the presence of the British force. The acting police chief Einar Arnalds recognized it as a British aircraft, but advised Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson it was probably only a British warship en route on a diplomatic mission. The German consul to Iceland Werner Gerlach was more cautious, who began burning his documents after seeing British warships arrive at the Reykjavík harbor.

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As Icelandic officials prepared warning statements for the British fleet announcing their violation of Icelandic neutrality, heavy cruiser HMS Berwick transferred 400 marines to the destroyer Fearless, which took them to Reykjavík.

The invasion was not met with resistance from the 70-strong Reykjavík police force, though a large crowd gathered at the harbor to protest.

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The British marines moved to occupy telecommunications facilities, radio stations, and meteorological offices, while the local German population (including Consul Gerlach and crew of German freighter Bahia Blanca) were placed under arrest, all in the attempt to delay the news of the invasion from reaching Germany.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.

While the British marines secured Reykjavík,

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a small detachment was sent to nearby Hvalfjörður (a fjord), Sandskeið, and Kaldaðarnes. On 15 May, the harbor town of Hafnarfjörður was occupied. On 17 and 19 May, men were sent by ship to land at Akureyri and Melgerði, respectively, in the Eyjafjörður (a fjord) on the northern coast to guard against potential German landings. In the following few weeks, anti-aircraft weapons were deployed in Reykjavík to deter potential German air raids.

When the news of the invasion finally reached Germany, a discussion dubbed Operation Ikarus began to examine the possibility of counter-action, but none came to fruition.

 

In Jul 1941, the responsibility of the occupation was passed to the United States, which sent 40,000 soldiers to guard the island with a population of merely 120,000.The US had actually not officially joined the War at that stage.

Although Iceland still officially maintained neutrality, she actually cooperated with Allied authorities throughout the war.

The time line

16 Apr 1940 Iceland declared independence from Denmark and asked United States for recognition.

9 May 1940 British troops occupied Iceland.

10 Apr 1941 American destroyer USS USS Niblack attacked a German submarine off Iceland; the submarine escaped without being damaged. It was the first shot fired between the US and Germany.

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18 Apr 1941 The United States declared that the Pan-American Security Zone, last defined with the 3 Oct 1939 Declaration of Panama, to be extended to 26 degrees west longitude, 2,300 nautical miles east of New York on the east coast of the United States. It was just 50 nautical miles short of Iceland, which was a major Allied convoy staging area.

7 Jul 1941 US Marines who had departed from Naval Station Argentia,with a heavy escort (including battleships New York and Arkansas, cruisers Brooklyn and Nashville, and more than a dozen destroyers)arrived at Reykjavik.

 

Approximately 230 Icelanders lives were lost in World War II hostilities.Most were killed on cargo and fishing vessels sunk by German aircraft, U-boats or mines

The presence of British,Canadian and American troops in Iceland had a lasting impact on the country. Engineering projects, initiated by the occupying forces – especially the building of Reykjavík Airport – brought employment to many Icelanders. This was the so-called Bretavinna or “Brit labour”. Also, the Icelanders had a source of revenue by exporting fish to the United Kingdom.

There was large-scale interaction between young Icelandic women and soldiers, which came to be known as Ástandið (“the condition” or “situation”) in Icelandic. Many Icelandic women married Allied soldiers and subsequently gave birth to children, many of whom bore the patronymic Hansson (hans translates as “his” in Icelandic), which was used because the father was unknown or had left the country. Some children born as a result of the Ástandið have English surnames.

 

 

Irma Grese- Evil knows no gender.

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Men don’t have the monopoly on doing evil acts, throughout history there have been many women who acted in barbaric ways. Often their acts would be more evil then that of their male counterparts as was the case with  Irma Grese, the proof that evil is not bound to gender but personality.

Irma Ida Ilse Grese (7 October 1923 – 13 December 1945) was a female SS guard at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Auschwitz, and served as warden of the women’s section of Bergen-Belsen.

Grese was convicted for crimes against humanity committed at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and sentenced to death at the Belsen trial. Executed at 22 years of age, Grese was the youngest woman to die judicially under British law in the 20th century. She was nicknamed by the camps’ inmates “the Hyena of Auschwitz”

During World War II Irma Grese was the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals. She was born on October 7, 1923, to a agricultural family and left school in 1938 at the age of 15. She worked on a farm for six months, then in a shop and later for two years in a hospital. Then she was sent to work at the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.

She became a camp guard at the age of 19, and in March 1943 she was transferred to Auschwitz. She rose to the rank of Senior SS-Supervisor in the autumn of 1943, in charge of around 30,000 women prisoners, mainly Polish and Hungarian Jews. This was the second highest rank that SS female concentration camp personnel could attain.

After the war survivors provided extensive details of murders, tortures, cruelties and sexual excesses engaged in by Irma Grese during her years at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. They testified to her acts of pure sadism, beatings and arbitrary shooting of prisoners, savaging of prisoners by her trained and half starved dogs, to her selecting prisoners for the gas chambers.

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Irma Grese was born to Berta Grese and Alfred Grese, a dairy worker. Irma was the third of five children (three girls and two boys). In 1936, her mother committed suicide by drinking hydrochloric acid after discovering that Alfred had had an affair with a local pub owner’s daughter.

Irma Grese left school in 1938 at age fourteen, probably due to a combination of a poor scholastic aptitude, bullying by classmates, and a fanatical preoccupation with the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel), a Nazi female youth organization, of which her father disapproved.

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Among other casual jobs, she worked as an assistant nurse in the sanatorium of the SS for two years and unsuccessfully tried to find an apprenticeship as a nurse.

Irma Grese worked as a dairy helper and was single when she volunteered for service in a concentration camp. From mid-1942 she was an Aufseherin (female guard) at Ravensbrück and in March 1943 transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the second half of 1944, Grese was promoted to Rapportführerin, the second-highest rank open to female KZ-wardens. In this function, she participated in prisoner selections for the gas chambers.

In early 1945, Grese accompanied a prisoner transport from Auschwitz to Ravensbrück. In March 1945, she went to Bergen-Belsen along with a large number of prisoners from Ravensbrück.Grese was captured by the British on 15 April 1945, together with other SS personnel who did not flee.

Grese inspired virulent hatred in prisoner Olga Lengyel, who wrote in her memoir Five Chimneys that selections in the women’s camp were made by SS Aufseherin Elisabeth Hasse and Irma Grese. The latter was visibly pleased by the terror her presence inspired in the women at roll call. Grese had a penchant for selecting not only the sick and the weak but any woman who had retained vestiges of her former beauty. Lengyel said that Grese had several lovers among the SS in the camp, including Josef Mengele. After Grese forced the inmate surgeon at the infirmary into performing her illegal abortion, she disclosed that she planned a career in the movies after the war. Lengyel felt that Grese’s meticulous grooming, custom fitted clothes, and overuse of perfume were part of a deliberate act of sadism among the ragged women prisoners.

It became apparent that she wasn’t just torturing and maiming prisoners because it was her job, an excuse many Nazis have tried to use to explain their actions. She did it because she got off on it, literally. Take this survivor’s story, recounted by Sonja Maria Hedgepeth and Rochelle G. Saide in their book Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust, as an example:

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“[Grese] went around in camp, her bejeweled whip poised, picked out the most beautiful young women and slashed their breasts open with the braided wire end of her whip. Subsequently those breasts got infected by the lice and dirt which invaded every nook and corner of the camp. They had to be cut open, if the patient was to be saved. Irma Griese (sic) invariably arrived to watch the operation, kicking the victim if her screams interfered with her pleasure and giving herself completely to the orgiastic spasms which shook her entire body and made saliva run down from the corner of her mouth”

While at Auschwitz, when she wasn’t  just torturing people for fun, Grese was reportedly responsible for 30 murders every day. Then, in 1945, she was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she earned the nickname the “beautiful beast of Belsen” because of her tight-fitting Nazi uniform, blue eyes and blonde hair. She was pretty much everything Hitler stood for.

On April 15, 1945, British Forces finally liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp and took Grese into custody.

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Grese and ten others, eight men and two other women, Johanna Bormann (mistakenly spelled Juana by the British) and Elisabeth Volkenrath, were convicted for crimes committed at Auschwitz and Belsen and sentenced to death. As the verdicts were read, Grese was the only prisoner to remain defiant.Her subsequent appeal was rejected.

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On Thursday, 13 December 1945, in Hamelin Jail, Grese was led to the gallows. The women were executed singly by long-drop hanging and then the men in pairs.Regimental Sergeant-Major O’Neill assisted the noted British executioner, Albert Pierrepoint.

 

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Matvey Kuzmin-Forgotten WWII Hero

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Not everyone that made a difference were young and armed, sometimes it was the ordinary folks who contributed greatly to the war efforts and they did it unarmed, as was the case with Matvey Kuzmin, an 83 year old Russian farmer.

Matvey Kuzmich Kuzmin (3 August 1858–14 February 1942) was a Russian peasant who was killed in World War II. He was posthumously named a Hero of the Soviet Union on May 8, 1965, becoming the oldest person named a Hero of the Soviet Union based on his age at death.

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Kuzmin was born in 1858 in the village of Kurakino, in the Velikoluksky District (then Uezd) of Pskov Oblast. He was a self-employed farmer who declined the offer to join a kolkhoz or collective farm. He lived with his grandson and continued to hunt and fish on the territory of the kolkhoz “Rassvet”  He was nicknamed “Biriuk” (lone wolf).

Kuzmin’s home region was occupied by the forces of Nazi Germany in World War II. In February 1942, he helped house a German battalion in the village of Kurakino. The German unit was ordered to pierce the Soviet defense in the area of Velikiye Luki by advancing into the rear of the Soviet troops dug in at Malkino Heights.

On February 13, 1942, the German commander asked the 83-year-old Kuzmin to guide his men and offered Kuzmin money, flour, kerosene, and a “Three Rings” hunting rifle. Kuzmin agreed, but on learning of the proposed route, sent his grandson Vasilij to Pershino (6 km. from Kurakino) to warn the Soviet troops and to propose an ambush near the village of Malkino.

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During the night, Kuzmin guided the German units through straining paths, leading them to the outskirts of Malkino at dawn. There the village defenders and the 2nd battalion of 31st Cadet Rifle Brigade of the Kalinin Front attacked. The German battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and suffered losses of about 50 killed and 20 captured.Among the chaos, a German officer had realized what had happened and turned his pistol towards Kuzmin and shot him twice. Kuzmin died during the skirmish. Three days later Kuzmin was buried with military honors. Subsequently he was reburied at the military cemetery of Velikiye Luki.

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Kuzmin’s death became known through an article in Pravda, by Boris Polevoy. Polevoy was a military correspondent in that area and attended Kuzmin’s funeral.In 1948 Polevoy wrote the children’s story The Last Day of Matvey Kuzmin, which is still included in Russian school readings for third grade.

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Kuzmin’s self-sacrifice, which was compared with that of Ivan Susanin, earned him the posthumous honour of being named a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Throughout the USSR streets were named in his honour. A Soviet naval trawler was also named for him.

In 1943 a statue to him was raised in the Moscow Metro station Izmailovsky Park (now Partizanskaya), designed by the Soviet sculptor Matvey Manizer.

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Vere St.Ledger Goold -Irish Wimbledon finalist and murderer.

 

Since the tennis season is at full swing at the moment I thought it only appropriate to have a story about a Wimbledon semi finalist.

Vere Thomas “St. Leger” Goold (2 October 1853– 8 September 1909) was an Irish tennis player. He quickly faded from the game and ended his life in prison convicted of murder and premature death, by suicide.

He  shares two distinctive titles: He was the first Irishman to make it to the semi finals of Wimbledon. He is also the only Wimbledon finalist ever to be convicted of murder.

Goold was the fifth son of a magistrate in Co Waterford, his grandfather was a baronet and his grandmother was a daughter of the Earl of Kenmare. He became interested in lawn tennis and quickly ascended the ranks of the Irish Tennis League, winning the Irish Open in 1879 at the age of 25. The first prize was £20, a hefty sum back then.

Goold then went on to compete in the third ever Wimbledon tournament. He was the favourite to win because of his splendid backhand. Goold dispatched his opponents handily, leading him to his place in the finals that year.

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However he was beaten by the Reverend John Thorneycroft Hartley, who had to rush back from giving a church sermon to reach the grounds on time.

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Historians suggest that part of the reason for Goold’s loss was that he was suffering from a “roaring” hangover.

Goold’s star faded after that. He reached the final of the first open tournament held in Cheltenham and lost in a closely fought match. He then failed to defend his Irish title in 1880, losing out in the challenge round.

Goold continued to play until 1883. His only other noteworthy win was in 1881 in an unofficial Irish–English international doubles game.As Goold’s career went downhill, he became a degenerate, wasting his money on drink and opium.

He moved to London, where a local journalist would later write of him: “Those who knew him described him as a man of perfect breeding and of courtly, charming manner, cultured and generous. He was wont when coming home late from the club or the theatre to collect stray cats and to bring them to share his supper.

He married a French dressmaker, Marie Giraudin, who, according to the London Times, had wed a man against her parents’ wishes but then left him and fled to England. There she met and married a captain in the English army — her first husband having died in the meantime — but was made a widow for a second time when the captain died and, sinking into penury, she was forced to sell her jewels. It was around this time, in London, that she met Goold. After marrying, the couple were reported to have taken a large and furnished house in London’s West End where they held lavish parties and “lived extravagantly”.

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Early in 1902 the pair ran into serious financial problems. They fell into arrears on the rent and when the landlord called to the house he found it had been cleaned out, but not in a good way — the furniture had been sold.

From London, the Goolds fled to Canada, where Marie resumed her business in Montreal. The shop prospered but the profits were squandered on gambling , a foreshadow of the troubles to come — and on poor investments. They then shuttled between Montreal and Liverpool ,where Goold set up a laundry business. By then, the couple had re-invented themselves as “Sir Vere and Lady Goold”.

Vere, meanwhile, plotted a scheme to break the bank of the casino in Monte Carlo.

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It had been done only a very few times in the past,once by an English actress who was said to have entranced Oscar Wilde,and Goold was determined that he would turn his fortunes around. A friend had advised him of a secret system of winning, which, he said, was “infallible”.

The Irishman and his French wife introduced themselves as ‘Sir’ and ‘Lady’, despite the fact that the baronetcy had not passed to him but to his older brother who was living in Australia.

According to the Irish Times, “They mixed with the best society and were frequently seen at the tables in the casino.” Goold himself was “quiet, unassuming and soft spoken” while his wife was invariably depicted as a domineering battleaxe. They were “on visiting terms with people of note in the resort and were always well dressed and paid their bills regularly”. Their niece, Isabelle, who stayed with them, was “one of the belles of the season” and had English doctors pursuing her across ballrooms.

While they lost all of their money at the roulette tables, the Goolds found their meal ticket, the Danish Emma Levin. She was the widow of a Stockholm broker and already had a hanger-on named Madame Castellazi. The Goolds borrowed £40 from Mrs Levin. They soon lost all of that money too.

After the couple got into a public fight with Madame Castellazi, Madame Levin decided to leave Monte Carlo to avoid the publicity. She came to see the Goolds’ villa to ask them for the money that they owed.

It appears a fight ensued. When the police later came to the villa, after Madame Castellazi reported Mrs Levin missing, there were blood stains all over the walls, the ceiling and the furniture. There was also a dagger and a butcher’s knife with blood on them.

However the Goolds and Mrs Levin were nowhere to be found. The Goolds had caught the train from Monte Carlo to Marseilles. They left a large suitcase and handbag at the station, with instructions that they be forwarded to London.

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A porter noticed the nasty smell and blood seeping from the luggage. When he opened the suitcase was horrified to discover the remains of Mrs Levin. The head was found in Mrs Goold’s hat-box and the legs in the other bag.

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The Goolds were promptly arrested and clapped in separate prison cells. Vere was heard to morosely remark that he regretted that he hadn’t already committed suicide. He would later write incomprehensible notes to Isabelle, who now had to make her way in life alone, her marriageability tainted by association.

News of the crimes spread like cholera across Europe, there were frequent reports in the Irish Times and to the United States.

 

 

The feverish press interest brought a world of pressure on the investigating police force. “The Monte Carlo Trunk Murder”, as it became known, provided fresh morsels of intrigue on an almost daily basis. When interrogated, the Goolds seem to first have claimed that a man named Burker (or possibly Barker) had killed Ms Levin in their suite while they were absent, and they had merely dismembered her body to prevent a scandal taking place in their temporary home.

Their accounts didn’t match, however. The French police decided to let the prisoners stew or “cook” for a few more days. Vere was by then suffering from “profound depression” and had attacked a guard, while his wife had come under intensified suspicion as it was noticed that she had bruises on her arms and legs ,possibly caused in a physical struggle.

Worn down by inquisition, Vere now seemed prepared to take the blame. He confessed that Emma Levin had visited the suite to borrow money from him and, when he refused, they had a bitter argument and, addled by drink and rage, he stabbed her.

Marie, who was thought to keep both her husband and niece on the shortest of leashes, said that she had witnessed part of this altercation but ” … naturally I thought it better to leave them alone while they discussed the transaction. Suddenly I heard piercing cries and the sounds of a struggle”. When she had returned to the room she said she fainted but quickly recovered consciousness and came up with the idea that the body should be cut up. Vere was too drunk to do any such thing so they dumped their dead widow in the bath until the next morning at which point he took a saw to the dowager’s neck and limbs.

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The trial in Monte Carlo lasted three days and there were 30 witnesses. It was dubbed ‘The Trunk Murder’.

Although Vere Goold confessed, the jury thought it more likely that Marie Goold was guilty. It came out in the trial that her two previous husbands had died in suspicious circumstances. They also felt that Marie had Vere so henpecked that he would not have murdered someone without her order. The papers labelled her “Lady MacBeth Reborn”.

A criminal profiler showed Goold’s flawed character. He argued that because his mother died when he was 17 and his father had died the year of the Wimbledon final, he had been without moral guidance. He was also a degenerate and morally incapable of making decisions due to his alcoholism and drug abuse.

The advocate general viewed Mr Goold as a “contemptuous pity, as a drink and drug-debauched creature.

Mrs Goold was sentenced to death but this was eventually reduced to life imprisonment because the Monegasque government didn’t have a guillotine or an executioner. She died of typhoid fever in jail in 1914.

Vere Goold was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island in French Guinea. According to reports he had nightmares of his own legs being cut off and suffered severe withdrawal from whisky and opium. He died by suicide in 1909, aged 55.

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Nazi Propaganda

I often wonder how the Nazi’s became so powerful because anyone with half a brain would have been able to figure out what their ultimate aim was, especially in a land of scholars and scientists  like Germany.

The one thing you have to give the Nazi’s is they knew how to play the media, their propaganda machine was second to none.

Combine the propaganda with the actually ability of fulfilling the promises of creating jobs and bringing prosperity and you have the most powerful weapon a man can build. And by the time the masses will have found out that the jobs and prosperity are only to serve a warped ideology and are really only temporary, they will have bought in to the whole idea of making your country ‘great’ again.

In charge of the Nazi Propaganda machine was Joseph Goebbels.

Mein Kampf contained the blue print for the Nazi propaganda.

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“Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed.The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood”

The propaganda machine already started rolling years before WWII started.Below are examples of the Nazi propaganda.

Nazi Party election poster used in Vienna in 1930. Translation: “We demand freedom and bread”.

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A 1937 anti-Bolshevik Nazi propaganda poster. The translated caption: “Bolshevism without a mask – large anti-Bolshevik exhibition of the NSDAP Gauleitung Berlin from November 6, 1937 to December 19, 1937 in the Reichstag building”.

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Photo of front page of Der Stürmer, dated May 1934, which is on permanent display at the Jewish Museum, Berlin. Subject matter is the Blood libel against Jews.

Der Stürmer, a weekly magazine published by Julius Streicher, was the most vile anti-Semitic publication of the National Socialist period. This special edition was dedicated to the practice of ritual murder ascribed to the Jews. The authors presented their prejudices as fact in order to intensify anti-Semitic hatred towards the ‘murderers of Christ.’ This accusation, which emerged in the Middle Ages, maligned Jews as ‘murderers’ of Christian children for ritualistic purposes. Der Stürmer attempted to keep this old prejudice alive by citing alleged current examples.

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The same publisher also released in  1938 Der Giftpilz (translated into English as The Toadstool or The Poisonous Mushroom), one of the most widespread pieces of propaganda, which warned about insidious dangers Jews posed by using the metaphor of an attractive yet deadly mushroom.

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Nur für Deutsche (“Only for Germans”), a Nazi slogan used in occupied territories, mainly posted at entrances to parks, cafes, cinemas, theatres and other facilities.

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Our last hope,Hitler

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Goebbels had commissioned a great number of movies A particularly nasty one was a documentary called “Der ewige Jude” -the eternal Jew.

The Jews of Poland (invaded by Germany in 1939) are depicted as filthy, evil, corrupt, and intent on world domination. Street scenes are shown prejudicially, along with clips from Jewish cinema of the day and photos of Jewish celebrities, while the narrator “explains” the Jewish problem. The climax and resolution of the film is Hitler’s 1939 announcement that the Jewish race will meet its “annihilation”.

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There were numerous posters of portraying the Aryan race as the master race, mostly depicting youthful wholesome and athletic looking men and women.

Given the fact that the world was in turmoil in the 1930’s it is not hard to understand that a lot of people fell for the promise of a better life.

Unfortunately the similarities to what is happening globally at the moment is staggering.

Hitler and Wagner

I have to be honest, the title and the 2 pictures above are a bit misleading. Yes this blog is about the relationship between Hitler and Wagner but with Winifred Wagner , the daughter in law of Richard, the wife of Siegfried Wagner,  the son of the composer.

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It is because of Hitler’s passion and enthusiasm he got to meet Winifred.

Winifred Wagner (born Winifred Marjorie Williams; 23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was the English-born wife of Siegfried Wagner, the son of Richard Wagner, and ran the Bayreuth Festival after her husband’s death in 1930 until the end of World War II in 1945. She was a friend and supporter of Adolf Hitler , and she and Hitler maintained a regular correspondence.

Winifred Williams was born in Hastings, England, to John Williams, a writer, and his wife, the former Emily Florence Karop. Winifred lost both her parents before the age of two and was initially raised in a number of homes. Eight years later she was adopted by a distant German relative of her mother, Henrietta Karop, and her husband Karl Klindworth, a musician and a friend of Richard Wagner.

The Bayreuth Festival was seen as a family business,

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with the leadership to be passed from Richard Wagner to his son Siegfried Wagner, but Siegfried, who was secretly bisexual, showed little interest in marriage.

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It was arranged that Winifred Klindworth, as she was called at the time, aged 17, would meet Siegfried Wagner, aged 45, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1914. A year later they were married. It was hoped that the marriage would end Siegfried’s homosexual encounters and the associated costly scandals, and provide an heir to carry on the family business.

In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler, who greatly admired Wagner’s music. When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch,

Hitler-Putsch, München, Marienplatz

Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with Britain.

Although Winifred remained personally faithful to Hitler, she denied that she had ever supported the Nazi party. Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage. Haus Wahnfried, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat.

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Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred’s children solicitously.

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Extraordinarily, even when it must have been obvious how Hitler’s state-controlled eugenics programme and anti-Semitic policies were at work, Winifred somehow managed to separate in her mind the horrific policies of Adolf Hitler the dictator from the behaviour of the man she knew as Wolf, or USA – Unser Seliger Adolf (“Our beloved Adolf”)

Recent  evidence about the woman known as “Hitler’s girlfriend” has been unearthed by Brigitte Hamann, a Vienna-based historian.
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Mrs Hamann spent five years researching unpublished material held by a Wagner archivist and letters written by the Wagner family’s private schoolteacher, Liselotte Schmitt.

Most of Winifred Wagner’s correspondence and diaries, including her letters to Hitler, are still held by the Wagner family and remain unpublished.

Her biography shows that, contrary to popular belief, Winifred’s friendship with Hitler cooled dramatically during the war after she intervened on many occasions to prevent her Jewish, Communist and homosexual friends from being sent to concentration camps.

Even before the war, Winifred, who was a Nazi Party member, told Hitler that she was “disgusted” by the persecution of the Jews.

After Jewish members of the Bayreuth festival team were spat at by Nazi sympathisers, she wrote to him, saying: “It is a scandal that these honourable men should be denigrated by such rabid individuals. These Jews have earned a right to Bayreuth through their life’s work.”

In the late 1930s, a letter from her to Hitler prevented Alfred and Hedwig Pringsheim – whose daughter Katja was married to the writer Thomas Mann(Who was the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate) – from being arrested by the Gestapo.

The couple were allowed to flee to Switzerland. “My grandparents owe their escape entirely to Winifred Wagner,” According to their Grandon

Winifred is quoted as saying to a Communist friend, Lydia Beil, whom she managed to free from imprisonment by the Nazis: “I will make my passionate opposition felt if it helps to prevent an act of violence by the party.”

The Jewish singer Hans Beer was also rescued from a “punishment battalion” at Buchenwald concentration camp on Winifred’s intervention. “I was snatched from the jaws of death,”Hans Beer has said

Because of her position, Winifred was able to help dozens of Nazi victims who turned to her increasingly after war broke out. “She did so spontaneously, automatically and with a great deal of human sympathy,” writes Mrs Hamann.

In spite of her undeniable charitable acts (and there were many) towards individual sufferers under the Hitler regime, there was an ugly streak running right through the woman, and as her intellectual capacities diminished with age she became more and more intolerant, her circle of friends consisting only of people from the old Nazi network.

Her grandson Gottfried Wagner later recalled:

“My aunt Friedelind was outraged when my grandmother again slowly blossomed as the first lady of right-wing groups and received political friends such as Edda Goering, Ilse Hess, the former National Democratic Party of Germany chairman Adolf von Thadden, Gerdy Troost, the wife of the Nazi architect and friend of Hitler, Paul Ludwig Troost, the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, the Nazi film director Karl Ritter and the racialist author and former cultural leader of the Reich Hans Severus Ziegler”.

In a 1975 interview, she said: “If Hitler were to come in the door today, I would be as happy and glad to see him and have him here as I always was.”

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UNIT 731-Japanese WWII Experiments

The Nazi’s did not have ‘the monopoly’ on evil acts. Their Asian counterparts in Japan did not shy away from evil in order to get what they wanted. Some of their acts made the Nazi’s look like choirboys.

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Unit 731  was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japan. Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (now Northeast China).

It was officially known as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army. Originally set up under the Kempeitai military police of the Empire of Japan, Unit 731 was taken over and commanded until the end of the war by General Shiro Ishii, an officer in the Kwantung Army.

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The facility itself was built between 1934 and 1939 and officially adopted the name “Unit 731” in 1941.

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Referring to their victims as maruta, meaning logs, the researchers experimented on, apparently, anyone they could get their hands on: Chinese, Russians, Koreans, Mongolians, Pacific Islanders, other South East Asians and even a few American prisoners of war all fell victim to the doctors at the camps.

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Unit 731 veterans of Japan attest that most of the victims they experimented on were Chinese, Koreans and Mongolians. Almost 70% of the victims who died in the Pingfang camp were Chinese, including both civilian and military.Close to 30% of the victims were Russian.Some others were South East Asians and Pacific Islanders, at the time colonies of the Empire of Japan, and a small number of Allied prisoners of war. The unit received generous support from the Japanese government up to the end of the war in 1945.

Instead of being tried for war crimes, the researchers involved in Unit 731 were secretly given immunity by the U.S. in exchange for the data they gathered through human experimentation. Others that Soviet forces managed to arrest first were tried at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials in 1949.

 

Americans did not try the researchers so that the information and experience gained in bio-weapons could be co-opted into the U.S. biological warfare program, as had happened with Nazi researchers in Operation Paperclip.On 6 May 1947, Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, wrote to Washington that “additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as ‘War Crimes’ evidence.” Victim accounts were then largely ignored or dismissed in the West as Communist propaganda.

Thousands of men, women and children interred at prisoner of war camps were subjected to vivisection, often without anesthesia and usually ending with the death of the victim. Vivisections were performed on prisoners after infecting them with various diseases. Researchers performed invasive surgery on prisoners, removing organs to study the effects of disease on the human body. These were conducted while the patients were alive because it was feared that the decomposition process would affect the results.The infected and vivisected prisoners included men, women, children, and infants, including pregnant women (impregnated by Japanese surgeons) and their infants.

Prisoners had limbs amputated in order to study blood loss. Those limbs that were removed were sometimes re-attached to the opposite sides of the body. Some prisoners’ limbs were frozen and amputated, while others had limbs frozen, then thawed to study the effects of the resultant untreated gangrene and rotting.

Some prisoners had their stomachs surgically removed and the esophagus reattached to the intestines. Parts of the brain, lungs, liver, etc. were removed from some prisoners.

Prisoners would be buried alive to see how long it would take before they died and what the effects were.

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Prisoners were injected with inoculations of disease, disguised as vaccinations, to study their effects. To study the effects of untreated venereal diseases, male and female prisoners were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea, then studied. Prisoners were also repeatedly subject to rape by guards.

Plague fleas, infected clothing, and infected supplies encased in bombs were dropped on various targets. The resulting cholera, anthrax, and plague were estimated to have killed around and possibly more than 400,000 Chinese civilians.Tularemia was tested on Chinese civilians.

Unit 731 and its affiliated units (Unit 1644 and Unit 100 among others) were involved in research, development, and experimental deployment of epidemic-creating biowarfare weapons in assaults against the Chinese populace (both civilian and military) throughout World War II. Plague-infested fleas, bred in the laboratories of Unit 731 and Unit 1644, were spread by low-flying airplanes upon Chinese cities, coastal Ningbo in 1940, and Changde, Hunan Province, in 1941. This military aerial spraying killed thousands of people with bubonic plague epidemics.

 

Physiologist Yoshimura Hisato conducted experiments by taking captives outside, dipping various appendages into water, and allowing the limb to freeze. Once frozen, which testimony from a Japanese officer said “was determined after the ‘frozen arms, when struck with a short stick, emitted a sound resembling that which a board gives when it is struck'”, ice was chipped away and the area doused in water. The effects of different water temperatures were tested by bludgeoning the victim to determine if any areas were still frozen. Variations of these tests in more gruesome forms were performed.

Female prisoners were forced to become pregnant for use in experiments. The hypothetical possibility of vertical transmission (from mother to fetus or child) of diseases, particularly syphilis, was the stated reason for the torture. Fetal survival and damage to mother’s reproductive organs were objects of interest. Though “a large number of babies were born in captivity” of Unit 731, there has been no account of any survivors of the facility, children included. It is suspected that the children of female prisoners were killed or the pregnancies terminated.

While male prisoners were often used in single studies, so that the results of the experimentation on them would not be clouded by other variables, women were sometimes used in bacteriological or physiological experiments, sex experiments, and the victims of sex crimes. The testimony of a unit member that served as guard graphically demonstrates this reality:

“One of the former researchers I located told me that one day he had a human experiment scheduled, but there was still time to kill. So he and another unit member took the keys to the cells and opened one that housed a Chinese woman. One of the unit members raped her; the other member took the keys and opened another cell. There was a Chinese woman in there who had been used in a frostbite experiment. She had several fingers missing and her bones were black, with gangrene set in. He was about to rape her anyway, then he saw that her sex organ was festering, with pus oozing to the surface. He gave up the idea, left, and locked the door, then later went on to his experimental work

Human targets were used to test grenades positioned at various distances and in different positions. Flame throwers were tested on humans. Humans were tied to stakes and used as targets to test germ-releasing bombs, chemical weapons, and explosive bombs.

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At the end of the war, unit 731 scientists destroyed much of the evidence of the program. According to reports, however, some infected test animals were released; it is believed that at least 30,000 people died from the plague in the Pingfang area within the first three years after the war.

In Japan, not one was brought to justice. In a secret deal, the post-war American administration gave them immunity for prosecution in return for details of their experiments.

 

Some of the worst criminals, including Hisato Yoshimura, who was in charge of the frostbite experiments, went on to occupy key medical and other posts in public and private sectors.

Like the German rocket scientists and engineers who were folded into military and other governmental programs at the end of World War II through Operation Paperclip, unit 731’s scientists were given immunity from prosecution and their atrocities were covered-up in exchange for exclusive access to their findings.

I don’t know what is more disturbing. The actual atrocities or the fact it was covered up and immunity was given or the fact that some of these’scientists’ were actually medical doctors, who subscribed to the principle of “First do no harm”

The amounts of graphic pictures relating to Unit 731 are staggering, but most of them were just too horrendous to include in this blog.

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Part 6 of Little Know WWII facts

The US Ghost Army.

ANGLETERRE - GUERRE - LEURRE

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The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the U.S Army: to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a “traveling road show” utilizing inflatable tanks, sound trucks, fake radio transmissions and pretence. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Their story was kept secret for more than 40 years after the war, and elements of it remain classified.

Corporal Wojtek

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During World War II, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps had an unusual soldier among its ranks, a 440-pound Syrian bear named Wojtek.

Wojtek first came to the company as a cub, but over the course of the war he matured and was given the rank of corporal in the Polish army.

The bear became a major morale boost to the troops.

Everyone knows that some of the last fighting men in Berlin were SS troops who knew death was certain upon surrender. What everyone doesn’t know is that the last fighting troops in Berlin were…..French and Norwegian. Around 350 men of the SS Charlemagne as well as the surviving members of the SS Norland division were fighting in the basement of the Reichstag as long as possible.

Eventually the 12.8cm guns from the nearby Flak tower fired on the Reichstag collapsing part of the building and killing some of the SS men. From this though, the surviving members were able to escape and disappear into the city. Although fewer then 50 French SS members were ever found it is believed that many ditched their uniforms for regular Wehrmacht ones. Of the ones that were found they were turned over to the French army and executed. When the French General asked the soldIers what they were doing in a foreign uniform, one soldier quipped back why are you in one? (the general was wearing an American uniform at the time).

On the 14th of April 1945, U-1206 eventually sank due to a malfunctioning toilet on the submarine.

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During the Winter War the Soviets attempted to use paratroopers without parachutes. The idea was the plane would slow down to 100mph and the soldiers were to jump from 100 feet off the ground. The Soviets believed they would land safely in the large snow covered fields in northern Finland. The idea was scrapped when testing “volunteers” took roughly 30% casualties between fatalities and other injuries.

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The German city of Konstanz (at the German-Swiss border) was never bombed by the Allied Forces as it left all its lights on at night. Allied bombers thought it was a city in Switzerland.

Dogs were used in World War II to find where the enemy was hiding.The Marine Corps found they were crucial in preventing ambushes by the other side.

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Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel peace price in 1939.The Nazi dictator was nominated in 1939 by Swedish lawmaker EGC Brandt for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is meant to promote “fraternity between nations” and global disarmament. Brandt later withdrew the nomination, saying it was meant as satire. This just shows that anyone can be nominated — it doesn’t say anything about their chances of actually winning

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In the last moments before the end of World War I, Private Henry Tandey fought in a battle near the French town of Marcoing, when a wounded enemy soldier entered his line of fire.The battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Tandey resigned to the inevitable.  “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” said Tandey, “so I let him go.”

The young German soldier nodded in thanks and the two men took diverging paths, that day and in history, that young German soldier was Adolf Hitler.

 

In 1945 Stalin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Halvdant Koht, a historian and former foreign minister. He was also in the Nobel committee.

In 1948 Stalin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Professor Wladislav Rieger of Charles University, Prague.

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Unsinkable Sam

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Well among the heart wrenching stories that flood World War II, this particular one is quite the opposite. Sam, the cat, first served on a German war ship to rid of it of rats but soon the ship was torpedoed. He was found on a floating plank and served on two other British ships all receiving the same treatment and Sam did the regular of floating on planks till found. This Veteran Cat soon retired after the war in Belfast

Forced sex

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In order to expand his “master race”, that of Aryan blood, Hitler ordered all women, even unmarried girls who were as old as 15 to get impregnated. He forbade contraception and offered medals and incentives to those women who had more children. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels even produced magazines, posters and nudie flicks promoting “healthy eroticism” to support this desperate cause.

Chichijima incident-Cannibalism in WWII and George H.W. Bush’s remarkable survival.

This story is best to be categorized as creepy. There is one other story I came across which is creepier ,about an allied Army unit stationed in neutral Switzerland, where a soldier, Private Reginald, had complete gone insane in and kidnapped and ate several children. But I could not find any evidence if this actually happened or if it was just a ghost story told by some grandfather.

However the Chichijima incident did really happen and it does include cannibalism. One of the survivors,  is George H.W. Bush , the 41st President of the USA.In fact he was only 1 of the 2 survivors

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The Chichijima incident  occurred in late 1944, when Japanese soldiers killed and consumed five American airmen on Chichi Jima, in the Bonin Islands.

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George H. W. Bush, then a 20-year-old pilot, was among nine airmen who escaped from their planes after being shot down during bombing raids on Chichi Jima, a tiny island 700 miles (1,100 km) south of Tokyo, in September 1944. Bush was the only one to evade capture by the Japanese. After the war it was discovered that the captured airmen had been beaten and tortured before being executed. The airmen were beheaded on the orders of Lt Gen. Yoshio Tachibana.

 

 

 

American authorities claimed that Japanese officers then ate parts of the bodies of four of the men.

Lt. George Bush was a 20-year-old pilot when in the waning days of the war (September 1944) his Avenger airplane was shot down by Japanese forces.

 

 

 

In a decision which almost certainly saved his life, Bush ditched his burning plane further from the island than other crews. Retired squadron mate Charlie Bynum recalls:

“We saw him in the water. And we saw the Japanese boats coming out from land to pick him up. They had guns on them”

Bush managed to scramble onto a life raft while American planes launched a hail of fire at Japanese boats which had set out to capture the downed airman. The Americans drove back the Japanese boats and Bush, who was vomiting and bleeding from a head wound (his head struck the tail of the airplane as he exited the aircraft), was rescued from the waters by a US submarine (the USS Finback).

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Details of Bush’s crash and rescue have long been known to Americans – he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. What was not known, was that Bush’s downed comrades made the mistake of swimming to the island’s shore where a fate worse than death awaited them.

It was originally believed that eight other men from the downed aircrafts had simply disappeared while trying to swim to the island’s shore. When details of their true demise were discovered during war crime trials in Guam, the files of the missing soldiers were sealed sparing their families further grief. It was found that those who had been captured on the island were tortured, beaten, and executed. Some were beheaded with swords while others were stabbed repeatedly with bayonets and sharpened bamboo stakes. Some were bludgeoned to death. After the brutal execution, the men were butchered by island surgeons, cooked, and eaten by battalions and senior Japanese officers. In at least one instance, it is believed that in order to keep the meat fresh, the victim was kept alive and extremities amputated one-by-one.

The names of the eight aviators executed are:

Navy Aviation Radioman Jimmy Dye, from Mount Ephraim, New Jersey
Navy Pilot Floyd Hall from Sedalia, Missouri
Navy Aviation Radioman Marve Mershon from Los Angeles, California
Marine Pilot Warren Earl Vaughn from Childress, Texas
Navy Aviation Radioman Dick Woellhof from Clay Center, Kansas
Aviation Gunners Grady York from Jacksonville, Florida
Navy Aviation Gunner Glenn Frazier from Athol, Kansas
Navy Pilot Warren Hindenlang of Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The pictures below are of Marvie Mershon and Warren E Vaughan, I believe.

 

 

 

The ninth aviator, Navy Pilot William L. Connell from Seattle, Washington was held as a Prisoner of War until the end of hostilities in September 1945..

This case was investigated in 1947 in a war crimes trial, and of 30 Japanese soldiers prosecuted, five (Maj. Matoba, Gen. Tachibana, Adm. Mori, Capt. Yoshii, and Dr. Teraki) were found guilty.Tachibana was sentenced to death, and hanged.n his book Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, James Bradley details several instances of cannibalism of World War II Allied prisoners by their Japanese captors.The author claims that this included not only ritual cannibalization of the livers of freshly killed prisoners, but also the cannibalization-for-sustenance of living prisoners over the course of several days, amputating limbs only as needed to keep the meat fresh.

Later interviews suggest George Bush Sr. was greatly troubled over his survival (he did not learn about the cannibalism until many years later).  In 2004, the former President returned to Chichi Jima island with a film crew to recreate the harrowing rescue at Chichi Jima. He recalled that while on the submarine, he wondered why he had survived while others had perished on the island.

 

 

 

 

 

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Battle for Castle Itter

Castle-Itter

The Battle for Castle Itter is the only battle during WWII where the allies fought alongside the Wehrmacht.In early May 1945, American and German soldiers fought together against the Nazi SS to free prominent French prisoners of war..

The Battle for Castle Itter in the Austrian North Tyrol village of Itter was fought on 5 May 1945, in the last days of the European Theater of World War II.

Troops of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the 12th Armored Division of the US XXI Corps led by Captain John C. “Jack” Lee, Jr.

Captain John

, a number of Wehrmacht soldiers, and recently freed French VIPs defended Castle Itter against an attacking force from the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division until relief from the American 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division of XXI Corps arrived.

The French prisoners included former prime ministers, generals and a tennis star. It may have been the only battle in the war in which Americans and Germans fought side-by-side. Popular accounts of the battle have called it the “strangest” battle of World War II.

Itter Castle (in German, Schloss Itter) is a small castle situated on a hill near the village of Itter in Austria.After the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria, the German government officially leased the castle in late 1940 from its owner, Franz Grüner.

The castle was seized from Grüner by SS Lieutenant General Oswald Pohl under the orders of Heinrich Himmler on 7 February 1943.

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The transformation of the castle into a prison camp was completed by 25 April 1943, and the facility was placed under the administration of the Dachau concentration camp.

The prison was established to contain high-profile prisoners valuable to the Reich.Notable prisoners included tennis player Jean Borotra, former prime ministers Édouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud,former commanders-in-chief Maxime Weygand, and Maurice Gamelin,Charles de Gaulle’s elder sister Marie-Agnès Cailliau,right-wing leader and closet French resistance member François de La Rocque, and trade union leader Léon Jouhaux.

Besides the French VIP prisoners, the castle held a number of Eastern European prisoners detached from Dachau, who were used for maintenance and other menial work.

In May 1945, the last days of the war in Europe, the German guards at Schloss Itter fled. But the French prisoners were trapped, as the woods around the castle were full of roaming units of the Waffen SS and Gestapo secret police.

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The French sent out two prisoners on bicycles to find help.

On 3 May, Zvonimir Čučković, an imprisoned Yugoslav communist resistance member who worked as a handyman at the prison,left the castle on the pretense of an errand for commander Sebastian Wimmer. He carried with him a letter in English seeking Allied assistance he was to give to the first American he encountered.

The town of Wörgl lay 8 kilometres (5 miles) down the mountains, but was still occupied by German troops. Čučković instead pressed on up the Inn River valley towards Innsbruck 64 km (40 mi) distant. Late that evening he reached the outskirts of the city and encountered an advance party of the 409th Infantry Regiment of the American 103rd Infantry Division of the US VI Corps and informed them of the castle’s prisoners.[18] They were unable to authorize a rescue on their own but promised Čučković an answer from their headquarters unit by morning of 4 May.

At dawn a heavily armored rescue was mounted, but was stopped by heavy shelling just past Jenbach around halfway to Itter, then recalled by superiors for encroaching into territory of the U.S. 36th Division to the east; only two jeeps of ancillary personnel continued.

Upon Čučković’s failure to return and fearing for his life after the 2 May death at the Castle of the fleeing last commander of Dachau, Eduard Weiter, Wimmer abandoned his post. The SS-Totenkopfverbände guards departed the castle soon after, with the prisoners taking control of the castle and arming themselves with the weaponry that remained.

Failing to learn of Čučković’s effort, prison leaders accepted the offer of its Czech cook, Andreas Krobot, to bicycle to Wörgl mid-day on 4 May in hopes of reaching help there. Armed with a similar note he succeeded in contacting Austrian resistance in that town, which had recently been abandoned by Wehrmacht forces but reoccupied by roving SS. He was taken to Major Josef Gangl, commander of the remains of a unit of Wehrmacht soldiers who had defied an order to retreat and instead thrown in with the local resistance, being made its head.

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Gangl had intended to free the castle prisoners, but was unwilling to sacrifice the few troops he had in a suicidal attack on a heavily defended fortress manned by the SS; instead, he was conserving them to protect local residents from SS reprisals, in which troops shot at any window displaying either a white or Austrian flag and summarily executed males as deserters, traitors, and defeatists. His hopes were pinned on the Americans reaching Wörgl promptly and surrendering to them. Instead, he would now have to approach them under a white flag to ask for their help.

Around the same time, a reconnaissance unit of four Sherman tanks of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the 12th Armored Division of the US XXI Corps,

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under the command of Captain Lee, had reached Kufstein, Austria, 13 km (8 mi) to the north. There, in the main platz, it idled while waiting for the 12th to be relieved by the 36th Infantry Division. Asked to provide relief by Gangl, Lee did not hesitate, volunteering to lead the rescue mission and immediately earning permission from his HQ.

After a personal reconnaissance of the Castle with Gangl in the major’s Kübelwagen,

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Lee left two of his tanks behind but conscripted five more and supporting infantry from the recently arrived 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th. En route, Lee was forced to send the reinforcements back when a bridge proved too tenuous for the entire column to cross once, let alone twice. Leaving one of his tanks behind to guard it, he set back off accompanied only by 14 American soldiers, Gangl, and a driver, and a truck carrying ten former German artillerymen.6 km (4 mi) from the castle, they defeated a party of SS troops that had been attempting to set up a roadblock.

In the meanwhile, the French prisoners had requested an SS officer they had befriended during his convalescence from wounds in Itter, Kurt-Siegfried Schrader, to take charge of their defense. Upon Lee’s arrival at the Castle, prisoners greeted the rescuing force warmly but were disappointed at its small size.Lee placed the men under his command in defensive positions around the castle, and positioned his tank, “Besotten Jenny”, at the main entrance.

Lee had ordered the French prisoners to hide, but they remained outside and fought alongside the American and Wehrmacht soldiers. Throughout the night, the defenders were harried by a reconnaissance force sent to assess their strength and probe the fortress for weaknesses. In the morning of 5 May, a force of 100–150 Waffen-SS launched their attack.Before the main assault began, Gangl was able to phone Alois Mayr, the Austrian resistance leader in Wörgl and request reinforcements; only two more German soldiers under his command and a teenage Austrian resistance member, Hans Waltl, could be spared, who quickly drove to the castle.The Sherman tank provided machine-gun fire support until it was destroyed by German fire from an 88 mm gun; it was occupied at the time only by a radioman seeking to repair the tank’s faulty unit, who escaped without injury.

Meanwhile, by early afternoon, word had finally reached the 142nd of the desperation of the defenders’ plight and a relief force was dispatched.[29] Aware he had been unable to give its superior complete information on the enemy and its disposition before communications had been severed, Lee accepted tennis great Borotra’s gallant offer to vault the castle wall and run the gauntlet of SS strongpoints and ambushes to deliver it.[30] He succeeded, requested a uniform, then joined the force as it made haste to reach the prison before its defenders fired their last rounds of ammunition.

The relief force arrived around 16:00 and the SS were promptly defeated.Some 100 SS prisoners were reportedly taken.The French prisoners were evacuated towards France that evening,reaching Paris on 10 May.

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For his service defending the castle, Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross.

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Gangl died during the battlet from a sniper’s bullet while trying to move former French prime minister Reynaud out of harm’s way, but was honored as an Austrian national hero and had a street in Wörgl named after him.

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The Authot Stephen Harding wrote a book about the event with the title ” the Last Battle”

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