The first WWII casualty on British soil.

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The first Luftwaffe bombing on British soil took place on November 13,1939 northeast of the mainland of Scotland. at Sullom, Northmavine, Shetland . Of the 8 bombs which were dropped only 4 were dropped on land, the other 4 landed in sea.

Eye witness Laurence Shuardson said the following of the air raid.

I was going to school and I had two miles to walk. I was on top of a hill at a place called Bobby Ratter Loch, when this black pencil like aircraft came from behind me. I could see the people in the aircraft, it was that low. I later found out it was a Dornier 17.

Dornier

As it passed over the guns started firing from Sullum Voe, the shells were dropping in the sea and exploding in the air. I took fright, ran down the hill to see my friends and told them that I wasn’t going to school that day, and then I ran all the way home and hid in a haystack.

The bombs and shells were dropping in the sea and making big splashes. One hit near a village school. My uncle, who was a haulage contractor helping to build the airfield at Sullum Voe, went and picked up a fragment of this bomb. It lay around the house for years as a doorstop.

Apparently the only casualty was a rabbit; and there were pictures in the national press about this rabbit. I was led to believe that the ‘Crazy Gang’ wrote a song called “Run Rabbit, Run” – what truth there is in that I don’t know!! That was the very first bomb dropped in the Second World War.”

Now the song ‘Run Rabbit, Run’ was actually not inspired by the event because it had been around long before the air raid.

The intended target had been  RAF Sullom Voe which was was a Flying boat base and was closely associated with the adjacent airfield of RAF Scatsta. But the base was not hit.

The only fatal casualty was a rabbit, although there may have been 2 dead rabbits. Some people have suggested that these rabbits were planted to underline the complete  incompetence of the Luftwaffe. And to be honest the rabbits did look in good shape especially after being pulled out of a crater.

But against my better judgement I will not be cynical today and will contribute the rabbits as casualties of war.

crater

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Shetland museum archives

 

May 10,1940- The Day that shocked the Netherlands.

War

Perhaps the Dutch government were naive to believe that they would able to stay neutral like they did in WWI. Perhaps they thought they had nothing to fear from the Germans.

However when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark in April 1940, it became clear that neutrality was no protection. Frantically the Dutch started to prepare for war.

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On the th of  May 1940, the Vatican advised the Dutch envoy to the Vatican that the Germans planned to invade France through the low countries. With the blessing of the Pope, the Vatican sent a coded radio message to its nuncios in Brussels and The Hague. The messages were intercepted by the Nazis.

The Dutch didn’t stand a chance against the overwhelming power of the German army.

Hours before dawn on the 10th of May, the Luftwaffe swept over the Netherlands, bombing the defenses around key targets. Around 4:30 AM, more planes followed, dropping paratroopers.

An attack on The Hague was a failure. Paratroopers tried to capture the city and its airfield but were defeated by the Dutch defenders. This prevented the Germans from landing planes full of troops there.

Germany had commenced operation Fall Gelb and attacked the Netherlands, without a declaration of war given before hostilities.

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The Dutch army gave a good fight but after  the devastating bombing of Rotterdam by the Luftwaffe on 14 May, the Germans threatened to bomb other Dutch cities if the Dutch forces refused to surrender. The General Staff knew it could not stop the bombers and ordered the Dutch army to cease hostilities.

It was also deemed essential that Queen Wilhelmina be brought to safety; she left around noon from Hoek van Holland, where a British Irish Guards battalion was present, on HMS Hereward, a British destroyer, but the presence of   sea mines made it too dangerous to try to reach Zealand, she therefore went to England.

hereward

At 05:00 on 15 May a German messenger reached The Hague, inviting Winkelman, the Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of the Netherlands,to Rijsoord for a meeting with von Küchler to negotiate the articles of a written capitulation document. Both quickly agreed on most conditions, Winkelman declaring to have surrendered army, naval and air forces.

Winkelman

Below some photographic impressions of the 10th of May 1940 and the aftermath of what would be the biggest shock to the Netheralnds.

Two downed German luftwaffe planes.One plane is at the side of the road, the other one at the back of the road.

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A German Wehrmacht soldier taking position on the top of the ‘steenberg'(stone mountain) of the Sates mine Maurits in Geleen,shortly after the Germans had crossed the border on May 10.

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Members of a German Propaganda division in Rotterdam May 14,1940.

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Rotterdam in ruins.

Rotterdam

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Rijksmuseum

War History on Line

World War 2 violence in Nijmegen.

nijmegen

On February 22nd, 1944 the people of the Dutch  town of Nijmegen were subjected to an attack which killed more than 750 civilians. One would assume that this awful attack was carried out by the German occupiers , but that was not the case. The attack was carried out by B-24 bombers of the 446th and 453rd Bombardment Group if the United States Army Air force.

B-24

The bombers had been on the way on a mission to bomb the German city of Gotha,where the Gothaer Waggonfabrik aircraft factory was producing Messerschmitt fighters and other Luftwaffe planes.

But due to poor visibility the mission was cancelled and the bombers were told to return to base to the RAF Bungay airbase.

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Initially it was reported that the bombing of Nijmegen had been a mistake, it was said that after the command to abort the Gotha mssion the bombers looked for alternative targets like the German cities of Kleve or Goch which are near the Dutch border.

However in reality the bombers  for targets of opportunity on the way back to Britain. The targets were found in the form of a railway emplacement near Nijmegen, a gasworks in Arnhem, and an industrial area in Enschede.

The devastation caused to of the city centre of Nijmegen was certainly not intented, according to the airmen’s reports. They had dropped the  bombs dropped too early.  a study by Dutch Historian Rosendaal indicated that the bombers were inexperienced. And those were not the only errors: not all the pilots realized they were targeting Nijmegen, nor did they rknowthat Nijmegen was occupied Dutch territory and that it would have needed  special clearance  required to bomb it.

The Germans were quick to use this incident as a propganda tool, They had accused the Dutch government in exile had given the go ahead to bomb Nijmegen.The Germand hung posters in several places  with the text ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies?’

nijmegen propaganda

Their propaganda efforts failed seven months later, the American ground troops were welcomed as heroes by the inhabitants.The propaganda had been counterproductive.

On that day more then 750 civilians were killed, which was close to the  amount of casualties of the bombing of Rotterdam , which was 900,at the start of the war.

monument

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October 5,1942- The Bombing of Geleen.

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October 5th,1942, was one of the darkest if not the darkest days of WWII for my hometown of Geleen, at the time it was a small mining town in the south east of the Netherlands, in the province of Limburg.

Shortly after 21.30 the alarms sounded,warning the population of an imminent attack. The bombing  did happen  between 21:55 and 23:10. But it wasn’t the Luftwaffe but the RAF.

A squadron of 257 RAF bombers were on the way to Aachen in Germany , to bomb the mine’Anna’ in the German city near the Dutch border. However due to bad weather , and limited vision 30 of the 257 bombers had deviated from their course, When they had reached Geleen and  saw the Statesmine ‘Maurits’ they mistakingly believed they had reached Aachen and therefore they dropped their load.

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The bombing resulted in 83 being killed,  57 houses totally destroyed , severely damaging 227 more house and causing further damage to another 1728 homes.

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Additionally  13 coal miners were killed in the raid, the Maurits was heavily damaged and it took fire crews from several cities to help extinguish the fires caused by the bombing. There were even fire crews which came from Rotterdam which is about 200 KM away from the mine to help with the fires.

geleen 3

 

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NIOD

The bombing of Wimbledon-Centre Court

wimbledon

Nothing was sacred and nothing was spared during WWII, not even the hallow grounds of the  All-England  Lawn Tennis Club otherwise known as ;Wimbledon’.

Although the club was closed for all matches in the war years. Rather then having Tennis players run over its lawns civil defense and military personnel made use of  the All-England Club. It  even became home to a small farmyard stocked with rabbits, pigs and hens..

During the six years of war more than 1,000 bombs fell on the borough of Wimbledon, destroying nearly 14,000 homes.

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The Centre Court did not escaped unscathed either, one bomb hit it on on 11 October,1940. Resulting in damage a corner of the competitors’ stand, losing 1200 seats in the stadium. It would take to 1947 before the damage was repaired.

1200

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Bundesacrhiv

 

The bombing of Rotterdam,May 14-1940

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The battle of the Netherlands was really best described in biblical terms, it was a fight between David and Goliath. However in this case David lost.

Valiantly the Dutch fought the Germans for 4 days, Although they were poorly equipped and badly organized they kept fighting and caused significant damage to the Germans.

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But on May 14,1940 when the Luftwaffe virtually destroyed the Netherlands 2nd biggest city and its economical heart,Rotterdam, the Dutch finally succumbed.

This is a picture of how Rotterdam looked like before the war.

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After May 14 1940

Rotterdam

Bombing of Rotterdam

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All together 25.479 dwellings were lost in which 77.607 people were housed. Besides that, 26 hotels, 117 boarding houses and 44 lodgings, in which some 2000 people lived, had been destroyed. In total 79.600 persons, who represented 12,8 % of the population of Rotterdam, were left homeless. Of these people, as from June 15th 1940 onward, 20.887 were accommodated in other municipalities, while others, at that moment, had found a temporary shelter within the boundaries of Rotterdam. A lot of industrial premises were also destroyed: 31 department stores and 2.320 smaller shops, 31 factories and 1.319 workshops, 675 warehouses and storage companies, 1.437 offices, 13 bank buildings and 19 consulates, 69 school buildings and 13 hospitals, 24 churches and 10 charitable institutions, 25 municipal- and government buildings, 4 station buildings, 4 newspaper buildings and 2 museums, 517 cafés and restaurants, 22 cinema’ s and 184 other business accommodations.

Rotterdam 2

Initially, the  government of the Netherlands announced a death toll of approximately 30,000 civilians. This was later found inaccurate.

While the exact number of those killed is still contested, it is believed that around 1,000.

The Dutch military had no effective means of stopping the bombers (the Dutch Air Force had practically ceased to exist and its anti-aircraft guns had been moved to The Hague), so when another similar ultimatum was given in which the Germans threatened to bomb the city of Utrecht, the Dutch government decided to capitulate rather than risk the destruction of another city.

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As a result of the bombing Rotterdam had to be rebuild and is now one of the most modern looking cities in Europe.

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Sources

Brandgrens

WW2Today

The Bombing of Dresden

Dresden, zerstörtes Stadtzentrum

The bombing of Dresden was a British/American aerial bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, that took place during the Second World War in the European Theatre. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city.

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In this British Official Photo, on the night of February 13 and the morning of February 14, 1945, Lancasters of R.A.F. Bomber Command made two very heavy attacks on Dresden, Germany. Heavy bombers of the U.S. 8th Air Force attacked this target the following day. The smoke from fires still burning drifted across Dresden on February 14, 1945.

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In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The incendiary bombs created so much fire that a firestorm developed. The resulting firestorm destroyed 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) of the city center. The more the city burned, the more oxygen was sucked in – and the greater the firestorm became. It is thought that the temperature peaked at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (990 degrees Celsius). The surface of roads melted and fleeing people found that their feet were burned as they ran.

In all, between 22,000 and 40,000 people were killed by the Allied bombing in Dresden. Historians still argue over the number of deaths. However, there were so many refugees in the city at the time that the real figure will almost certainly never be known.

A pile of bodies awaits cremation after the bombing of Dresden, 1945 (2)

A pile of bodies awaits cremation after the firebombing of Dresden, February 1945.

A pile of bodies awaits cremation after the firebombing of Dresden, February 1945.jpg

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The destruction of the city provoked unease in intellectual circles in Britain. According to Max Hastings, by February 1945, attacks upon German cities had become largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war.

dresden_bombed_1945_2

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The Great Yokohama Air Raid

Boeing B-29

An estimated seven or eight thousand people were killed in a single morning on May 29, 1945 in what is now known as the Great Yokohama Air Raid, when B-29s firebombed the city and in just one hour and nine minutes reduced 42% of it to rubble.

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High-altitude, daylight attack on Yokohama urban area. 517 B-29s were escorted by 101 P-51Ds. 2,570 tons of bombs were dispensed, 6.9 square miles burned out

North American P-51 Mustang

79,017 houses were destroyed, and 42 percent of the city area was burnt to ashes. The cities of Japan were vital to the ongoing war effort. Japan dispersed manufacturing to prevent precision attacks from interfering with productions. Small factories were extremely vulnerable to incendiary attack.

Incendiary Raid on Yokohama

Yokohama did escape a fate worse afterwards. It was actually one of the intended targets for the atom bomb.Ironically Nagasaki wasn’t even on the list

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2017-05-29 (1)

 

Oklahoma City bombing-April 19,1995

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On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring 500. (Timothy McVeigh was later convicted of federal murder charges and executed.)

TimothyMcVeighPerryOKApr2195

A cargo truck laden with more than two tons of explosives was detonated in front of Oklahoma City’s nine-story federal building on April 19, 1995 — an act of terrorism that at the time was the worst such attack ever committed on U.S. soil. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children, injured hundreds more and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to structures and vehicles in the downtown area.

This 19 April 1995 file photo shows the north side

Within days, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were arrested and accused of conspiring to destroy the federal building in retribution for the government’s handling of the siege of the Branch Davidian religious group at their compound in Waco, Texas, two years earlier. McVeigh and Nichols were tried and convicted on federal charges, and Nichols was convicted of murder following a separate trial in Oklahoma. McVeigh was sentenced to death and executed and Nichols received multiple life prison sentences.

Terry Lynn Nichols (born April 1, 1955) is an American convicted of being an accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing.

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Prior to his incarceration, he held a variety of short-term jobs, working as a farmer, grain elevator manager, real estate salesman and ranch hand.He met his future conspirator, Timothy McVeigh, during a brief stint in the U.S. Army, which ended in 1989 when he requested a hardship discharge after less than one year of service.In 1994 and 1995, he conspired with McVeigh in the planning and preparation of the Oklahoma City bombing – the truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

After a federal trial in 1997, Nichols was convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter for killing federal law enforcement personnel. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because the jury deadlocked on the death penalty. He was also tried in Oklahoma on state charges of murder in connection with the bombing. He was convicted in 2004 of 161 counts of first degree murder, including one count of fetal homicide;first-degree arson; and conspiracy.As in the federal trial, the state jury deadlocked on imposing the death penalty. He was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole,setting a Guinness World Record and is incarcerated at ADX Florence, a super maximum security prison near Florence, Colorado.

Florence_ADMAX

He shares a cell block that is commonly referred to as “Bombers Row” with Ramzi Yousef and Ted Kaczynski.

Timothy James McVeigh was born in Lockport, New York, the only son and the second of three children of Mildred “Mickey” Noreen (née Hill) and William McVeigh.His Irish American parents divorced when he was ten years old, and he was raised by his father in Pendleton, New York.

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McVeigh claimed to have been a target of bullying at school, and he took refuge in a fantasy world where he imagined retaliating against the bullies. At the end of his life, he stated his belief that the United States government is the ultimate bully

He sought revenge against the federal government for its handling of the 1993 Waco siege, which ended in the deaths of 76 people exactly two years before the bombing,

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as well as for the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident. McVeigh hoped to inspire a revolt against the federal government.

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He was convicted of eleven federal offences and sentenced to death. His execution was carried out in a considerably shorter amount of time than average after his trial, as most convicts on death row in the United States spend an average of fifteen years awaiting execution. Four years after his conviction, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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Timothy_McVeighDeathCert

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Operation Meetinghouse- The Bombing of Tokyo

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“If war with the Japanese does come, we’ll fight mercilessly,” General George C. Marshall told news reporters in an off-the-record briefing on November 15, 1941, three weeks before Pearl Harbor. “Flying Fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won’t be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out.”  More than three years of brutal global warfare would pass before Marshall’s prediction came true, but come true it did on the night of March 9-10, 1945.

 An aerial armada of 334 B-29 bombers took off from newly established bases in the Mariana Islands, bound for Tokyo. In the space of a few hours, they dropped 1,667 tons of napalm-filled incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital, killing more than 100,000 people in a single strike, and injuring several times that number. It was the highest death toll of any air raid during the war, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By comparison, the bombing of Dresden a month earlier had resulted in around 25,000 deaths.
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The charred body of a woman who was carrying a child on her back

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The March 9 raid, code-named “Operation Meetinghouse,” marked a shift in American bombing strategy. It wasn’t B-17 Flying Fortresses that did the job, as Marshall had predicted, but the new long-distance B-29s based in Saipan and Tinian.

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General Curtis LeMay, newly appointed as the head of B-29 operations, called for a change in tactics.

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The high-flying bombers had shown themselves on their first missions to be horribly inaccurate in hitting their targets. At a time when the jet stream was still poorly understood, B-29 crews watched as the high winds at 30,000 feet scattered their bombs as soon as they dropped. That, and the frequent cloud cover over Japan, had led to B-29s hitting their targets, on average, less than 10 percent of the time.wczt1gd

 

For the March 9 raid on Tokyo, LeMay made some key changes. The B-29s would overfly the city’s most densely populated areas at 7,000 feet instead of 30,000 feet, in single file rather than in formation. To reduce the risk from Japanese fighters, they would raid at night (in fact the American bombers met with little resistance). And the B-29s would be stripped of nonessentials, including guns and gunners, to make room for more bombs. “By changing tactics and doubling the bombload per plane,” wrote historian Thomas Searle, LeMay created “a force capable of starting enormous firestorms.
U.S. planners knew the wooden Japanese buildings would burn hot. Army engineers had prepared maps of Tokyo’s most flammable sectors, and had observed Japanese-style houses put to the torch in a mock “Japanese village” constructed at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utahtokyo_inflammable_areas

On the night of the Tokyo raid, 15 square miles of one of the world’s most densely populated urban centers—equivalent to half the area of Manhattan—burned to the ground. More than a million people were left homeless. As historian John Dower described in his 1986 book War Without Mercy, “The heat from the conflagration was so intense that in some places canals boiled, metal melted, and buildings and human beings burst spontaneously into flames.”

Watching Tokyo on March 10 from our Evacuation Home in Ibaraki PrefectureArtist: Hashimoto KimisukeLocation: Yoshinuma (Tsukubane City), Ibaraki PrefectureAge at time of raid: 7

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The Umaya Bridge on the Night of March 10Artist: Fukushima YasusukeLocation: Umaya BridgeAge at time of raid: 6

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For Japan, it was a grisly beginning to the war’s end. According to a postwar U.S. estimate, total civilian casualties in Japan as a result of nine months of air attack were about 806,000, including 330,000 deaths—more than the 780,000 combat casualties suffered by Japanese soldiers

 

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