World War II from #AtoZChallenge – Q is for Quisling the Puppet

WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

Q

On February 2, 1942, Vidkun Quisling, a collaborator with the German occupiers of Norway, is established as prime minister of a puppet government.

On April 9, 1940, German warships entered major Norwegian ports, from Narvik to Oslo, deployed thousands of German troops, and occupied Norway. German forces were able to slip through the mines Britain had laid around Norwegian ports because local garrisons were ordered to allow the Germans to land unopposed. The order came from a Norwegian commander, Vidkun Quisling, who was loyal to Norway’s pro-fascist former foreign minister.

Hours after the invasion, the German minister in Oslo demanded Norway’s surrender. The Norwegian government refused, and the Germans responded with a parachute invasion. In September 1940, “commissarial counselors” in the control of the Germans replaced Norway’s administrative council. Chief of these “counselors” was Quisling, who was given dictatorial powers and who proceeded to earn the enmity of Norwegians as he sent thousands of people to German concentration camps and executed members of the resistance movement.

On the right Adolf Hitler meets his puppet Vidkun Quisling In office 1 February 1942 – 9 May 1945 as Norways Minister President of Norway.

On the right Adolf Hitler meets his puppet Vidkun Quisling In office 1 February 1942 – 9 May 1945 as Norways Minister President of Norway.

On February 1, 1942, the commissarial counselors formed a formal government loyal to Germany, with Quisling as its prime minister. When Germany finally surrendered in May 1945, Quisling was arrested by Norway’s Allied liberators, tried for treason, and executed. His name continues to be a synonym for “traitor.”

 

Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge – The Year of the Dragon

Submitted for Sunday Photo Fiction

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The Assignment: The idea of Photo Fiction is write a story of around 100-200 words (which is also called Flash Fiction) based on a photo as a prompt. In this particular photo fiction, the story must be based on the photo below. You can read stories posted by others or add you story by clicking on the link above.

Credit: Al Forbes

Credit: Al Forbes

The Year of the Dragon

“Mom I want pork-fried rice,” said Kim.

“Do you want some soup too?

“Look at the dragon!” Kim pointed at an elaborate painting on the wall of the restaurant.

“It is very colorful. You know you were born in the year of the dragon.”

Kim’s face showed her puzzlement.

“It is from the Chinese Zodiac. It is made up of a circle of 12 animals. Besides the dragon, there is the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.”

“And mine is the dragon?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh here it is.” Kim looked down at the pictures on her placemat. “What does it say Mom?”

“It says you are stately, proud and passionate.” Mary thought about the daily ritual of Kim racing into the kitchen to show her coloring pages. The child doesn’t walk, she runs.

“What is your Zodiac mom?”

“I was born in the year of the rabbit.”

“And what about Daddy?”

“The year of the rat,” thought Mary. She said, “He was born in the year of the tiger.”

“I’m going to keep this placemat clean and show it to daddy this weekend.”

“I’m sure he’ll like that.?

The World’s Outstanding Women (WOW): #AtoZChallenge American Women Were Codebreakers Too

WOMENS-symbol

Today is the A to Z Challenge’s third Sunday break for the month but since I usually post every day or just about, I thought I’d write one of my normal Saturday segments.

Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways.  In WOW, I usually highlight one of these remarkable women and write about their life from birth to the grave.  Last week I wrote about the wonderful women codebreakers of Bletchley Park.  One of the readers of my blog pointed out that American women were involved in codebreaking too.  Today I write about American women who contributed to the war effort through science and mathematics but only about that aspect of their life.

Anges Meyer Driscoll

Agnes_meyer_driscollAgnes Meyer Driscoll (July 24, 1889 – September 16, 1971) was, known as Miss Aggie or Madame X, an American cryptanalyst during both World War I and World War II.  One Navy admiral described her as “without peer as a cryptanalyst”. Meyer attended Otterbein College from 1907-1909. In 1911 she received a B.A. degree from Ohio State University, majoring in mathematics and physics, while also to some extent studying foreign languages, statistics, and music.  She was fluent in English, French, German, Latin, and Japanese. From her earliest days as a college student, she pursued technical and scientific studies. After graduation, she moved to Amarillo, Texas, where she was director of music at a military academy, and, later, chair of the mathematics department at the local high school.

On June 22, 1918, about one year after America entered World War I, Agnes Meyer enlisted in the United States Navy – America had just started allowing women to enlist. She was recruited at the highest possible rank of chief yeoman and after a stint in the Postal Cable and Censorship Office she was assigned to the Code and Signal section of the Director of Naval Communications. After the war ended she made use of an option to continue working her post as a civilian. Except for a two-year hiatus, when she worked for a private firm, she would remain a leading cryptanalyst for the U.S. Navy until 1949.

Her efforts were not limited to manual systems; she was involved also in the emerging machine technology of the time, which was being applied both to making and breaking ciphers. In her first days in the Code and Signal section, she co-developed one of the U.S. Navy’s cipher machines, the “CM.” This cipher machine would become a standard enciphering device for the Navy in the 1920s. In 1923, Agnes solved a puzzle published in a magazine that was advertised as impossible. The creators, fledgling Hebern Electric Code Company was attempting to create a cipher machine; He offered her a job as technical advisor which she left the Navy to take. She worked on developing an early cipher machine. Although Hebern’s company ultimately failed, its work in rotor technology would affect machine cryptography for years to come. She returned to the navy in the spring of 1924. In August 1924 she married Michael Driscoll, a Washington, D.C. lawyer.

In early 1935, Agnes Driscoll led the attack on the Japanese M-1 cipher machine (also known to the U.S. as the ORANGE machine), used to encrypt the messages of Japanese naval attaches around the world. At the same time Agnes sponsored the introduction of early machine support for cryptanalysis against Japanese naval code systems.

In her thirty-year career, Agnes Driscoll and Lieutenant Joseph Rochefort broke Japanese Navy manual codes—the Red Book Code in after 3 years of work in 1926, and the Blue Book Code in 1930, and in 1940 she made critical inroads into JN-25, (Remember codebreaking for Battle of Midway) the Japanese fleet’s operational code, which the U.S. Navy exploited after the attack on Pearl Harbor for the rest of the Pacific War. She would be unable to finish this work, however, because she was transferred to a team working to break the German naval Enigma cipher.

After getting the work against JN-25 started, Driscoll headed up a new group to attack the German Enigma ciphers using a catalog approach. Unfortunately the U.S. and U.K. did not communicate effectively and her approach was both fruitless and had been tried by the British who determined it was unlikely to work. Ultimately this work was superseded by the US-UK cryptologic exchanges of 1942-43. She worked under Laurance Safford and Joseph Rochefort.  In 1943 she worked with a team to break the Japanese cipher Coral. It was broken two months later, although Driscoll is said to have had little influence on the project. In 1945 she appears to have worked on attacking Russian ciphers.

Mrs. Driscoll was part of the navy contingent that joined the new national cryptologic agencies, firstly the Armed Forces Security Agency in 1949 and then the National Security Agency in 1952. While with the Armed Forces Security Agency she may or may not have contributed to attacking a cipher called Verona.  She retired from Armed Forces Security Agency in 1959.  She died in 1971 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Elizebeth Friedman

Elizebeth Friedman

Elizebeth Smith Friedman (August 26, 1892 – October 31, 1980) was a cryptanalyst and author, and a pioneer in U.S. cryptography. She has been dubbed “America’s first female cryptanalyst”.  She was the wife of William F. Friedman, a notable cryptographer credited with numerous contributions to cryptology, whom she introduced to the field. She also enjoyed many successes in her own right.

After briefly attending The College of Wooster in Ohio, she graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan with a major in English literature and was also a member of Pi Beta Phi. Having exhibited her interest in languages, she had also studied Latin, Greek, and German, and minored “in a great many other things.” Only she and one other sibling were privileged to attend college.

At Riverbank Laboratories Friedman found one of the first such facilities in the US to seriously study cryptography and other subjects. Through the work of the Friedmans, much historical information on secret writing was gathered. Until the World War I creation of MI8, the Army’s Cipher Bureau, Riverbank was the only facility in the US seriously capable of solving enciphered messages. Military cryptography had been officially deemphasized after the Civil War. During World War I, several US Government departments asked Riverbank Labs for help or sent personnel for training. Among those was Agnes Meyer Driscoll who came on behalf of the Navy.

Among the staff of fifteen at Riverbank was the man Elizebeth would marry in May 1917: William F. Friedman. The couple worked together for the next four years or so in the only significant cryptographic facility in the country, save Herbert Yardley’s ‘Black Chamber’. In 1921 Mr. and Mrs. Friedman left Riverbank to work for the War Department in Washington, D.C.  Mrs. Friedman’s employment as a cryptanalyst for the U.S. Navy followed in 1923, which led to her subsequent positions with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureaux of Prohibition and of Customs. Her career at both is quite significant and embraces cryptography against international smuggling and drug running in various parts of the world. The smugglers and runners resorted to encrypted radio messages to support their operations, presuming they would be able to communicate securely.   It was work under the Volstead Act (Prohibition) that consumed her skills in the 1920s.

Finally, Mrs. Friedman left her mark on the life of one of espionage’s most notorious spies, Velvalee Dickinson, whose path to and role in espionage are noteworthy. Following high school and some college, Velvalee married the head of a brokerage firm that had Japanese-American clients. The Dickinson’ interest in Japan grew so much that they joined the Japanese-American Society, where they began to rub shoulders with members of the Japanese consulate. When the brokerage firm’s success suffered a downturn, so too did the Dickinson’ role as proponents of good Japanese-American relations. At some point, the couple became spies for Japan. Velvalee became a major player, and her successful doll shop was a cover for her espionage. Known as the “Doll Woman,” she corresponded with Japanese agents using the names of women she found in her business correspondence.

This would be her downfall. Her correspondence, which contained encoded material addressing significant naval vessel movement in Pearl Harbor, was analyzed and solved by Mrs. Friedman. This analysis resulted in a guilty verdict against Mrs. Dickinson.

Although Mrs. Friedman worked closely with her husband as part of a team, many of her contributions to cryptology were unique. She deciphered many encoded messages throughout the Prohibition years and solved many notable cases singlehandedly, including some codes which were written in Mandarin Chinese.

During World War II Mrs Friedman’s Coast Guard unit was transferred to the Navy where they solved a difficult Enigma machine code used by German Naval Intelligence.

After World War II, Mrs. Friedman became a consultant to and created communications security systems for the International Monetary Fund.  Mrs. Friedman died on October 31, 1980 in Plainfield, New Jersey, at the age of 88.

Ann Caracristi

women_caracristiAnn Caracristi came to work as a cryptanalyst with the Army Signal Intelligence Service in 1942. Initially, she sorted Japanese Army messages but quickly advanced to cryptanalysis and then supervision. She helped pioneer the application of early computers in cryptanalysis and established a laboratory for studying new communications phenomena.

Her expertise and professionalism responding to tough intelligence problems brought her rapid advancement at NSA. In 1959, she was promoted to supergrade and in 1975, she became the first woman at NSA to be promoted to GS-18. She was the first woman to be named NSA Deputy Director in 1980. Also in 1980, she received the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the DoD’s highest civilian honor. After her retirement, she served on many intelligence community panels and boards.

In addition, the following link is an article from Wheaton College and their code breakers http://wheatoncollege.edu/quarterly/2011/03/17/code-breakers-secret-service/

A World War II from #AtoZChallenge Extra – Doolittle’s Raid

 WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

The letter D in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge was several days ago but today is the 73 year anniversary of Doolittle’s Raid so please enjoy this A to Z Extra.

DOOLITTLE’S RAID

On April 18, 1942, just a little over four months since Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor, the United States conducted an air raid against Tokyo, Japan and surrounding areas.  Known as Doolittle’s Raid and Toyko Raid, it was the first air raid to strike the Japanese home islands.  This raid demonstrated to Japan that they are vulnerable too and served as a retaliation for the 7 December 1941 attack in Hawaii.  It also gave a much needed boost to U.S. morale and damaged Japanese morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Force.

Crew No. 1 in front of B-25 #40-2344 on the deck of USS Hornet, 18 April 1942. From left to right: (front row) Lt. Col. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; (back row) Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 1 in front of B-25 #40-2344 on the deck of USS Hornet, 18 April 1942. From left to right: (front row) Lt. Col. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; (back row) Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men.

A U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchell bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) during the "Doolittle Raid". Original description: "Take off from the deck of the USS HORNET of an Army B-25 on its way to take part in first U.S. air raid on Japan. Doolittle Raid, April 1942."

A U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchell bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) during the “Doolittle Raid”. Original description: “Take off from the deck of the USS HORNET of an Army B-25 on its way to take part in first U.S. air raid on Japan. Doolittle Raid, April 1942.”

B-25 Mitchells aboard the USS Hornet during the raid

B-25 Mitchells aboard the USS Hornet during the raid

The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China—landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen of the aircraft reached China, and the other one landed in the Soviet Union. All but three of the crew survived, but all the aircraft were lost. Eight crewmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of these were executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union at Vladivostok was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year. Fourteen crews, except for one crewman, returned either to the United States or to American forces.

James H. Doolittle wires Japanese (peace) medals to a bomb. Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF Wires a Japanese medal to a bomb, for "return" to its originators in the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese Home Islands, April 1942. Photographed on board USS Hornet (CV-8), shortly before LtCol. Doolittle's B-25 bombers were launched to attack Japan. Photo #: NH 102457

James H. Doolittle wires Japanese (peace) medals to a bomb. Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF Wires a Japanese medal to a bomb, for “return” to its originators in the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese Home Islands, April 1942. Photographed on board USS Hornet (CV-8), shortly before LtCol. Doolittle’s B-25 bombers were launched to attack Japan. Photo #: NH 102457

After the raid, the Japanese Imperial Army conducted a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China, in an operation now known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, searching for the surviving American airmen and applying retribution on the Chinese who aided them, in an effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan.

The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it succeeded in its goal of raising American morale and casting doubt in Japan on the ability of its military leaders to defend their home islands. It also contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific—an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway. Doolittle, who initially believed that loss of all his aircraft would lead to his being court-martialled, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two steps to Brigadier General.

 James Doolittle died at the age of 96 on 27 September 1993 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

USS Hornet (CV-8), the aircraft carrier that launched Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo also participated in the Battle of Midway and the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid. In the Solomon Islands campaign she was involved in the capture and defense of Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where she was irreparably damaged and sunk. Hornet was in service for a year and six days and was the last US fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire. For these actions, she was awarded four service stars, a citation for the Doolittle Raid in 1995, and her Torpedo Squadron 8 received a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism for the Battle of Midway.

World War II from #AtoZChallenge – P is for Philippines

WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

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P

The Commonwealth of the Philippines was invaded by the Empire of Japan in December 1941 shortly after Japan’s declaration of war upon the United States of America.  The United States controlled the Philippines at the time and possessed important military bases there. The combined American-Filipino army was defeated by April 1942, but guerrilla resistance against the Japanese continued throughout the war. Uncaptured Filipino army units, a communist insurgency and supporting American agents all played a role in the resistance. Due to the huge number of islands, the Japanese did not occupy them all. Japanese control over the countryside and smaller towns was often tenuous at best. Allied forces liberated the islands from Japanese control in 1944, in a naval invasion.  To write about the Philippines in the Second World War would take a significant commitment beyond the scope of the A to Z Challenge.  Today, for P is for the Philippines, I present one of the most significant battles, the Battle of the Philippine Sea known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

The Battle of Philippine Sea – the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

Map of Battle of the Philippine Sea

Map of Battle of the Philippine Sea

 

There were eleven US aircraft carriers involved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (or the Great Mariana Turkey Shoot). They belonged to Task Force 58, under Marc Andrew Mitscher. Five of them were fleet carriers (USS Yorktown CV-10, Hornet CV-12, Enterprise CV-6, Lexington CV-16, Essex CV-9) and the six remainder were light carriers (Bataan CVL-29, Belleau Wood CVL-24, Langley CVL-27, Cowpens CV-25, San Jacinto CVL-30, Pinceton CVL-23). They were escorted and protected by seven fast battleships and several cruisers and destroyers. Each of the fleet carriers could carry up to 100 aircraft, which included fighters and dive bombers, such as the F6F Hellcat and TBF Avenger respectively.

Nearly every Japanese aircraft was shot down in the great air battles of 19 June that became commonly known as “The Marianas Turkey Shoot”. As the Japanese Mobile Fleet fled in defeat on 20 June, the carriers launched long-range airstrikes that sank Japanese aircraft carrier Hiyō and so damaged two tankers that they were abandoned and scuttled. Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa’s own flag log for 20 June 1944 showed his surviving carrier air power as only 35 operational aircraft out of the 430 planes with which he had commenced the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa

Aircraft from Japanese carrier striking force attacked our sea forces covering the Saipan operation in the first stage of the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The enemy attack continued for several hours. The Japanese aircraft were intercepted and a high percentage of them shot down. Enemy losses for the day: 402 aircraft, all but 17 of which were destroyed in the air; two carriers damaged. Our losses: 17 aircraft and superficial damage to two carriers and a battleship.

Aircraft from our carriers attacked the Japanese carrier striking force, in the second stage of the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Japanese losses: 1 aircraft carrier, 1 light aircraft carrier, 2 destroyers, 1 tanker sunk; 1 aircraft carrier, 1 destroyer and 1 tanker possibly sunk; 1 aircraft carrier, 1 or 2 light aircraft carriers, 1 battle­ ship, 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 1 destroyer and 3 tankers damaged. 26 Japanese aircraft were shot down. Our losses: 93 aircraft (many of the personnel were rescued from these planes, a large percentage of which had been forced to land on the water in the darkness that night).  From this date until 7 July Guam and Rota were attacked each day by at least one strike from our carrier forces. On that day continued heavy surface bombardment‑coordinated with the air strikes‑began.

According to the ship’s log for the USS Hornet (CV-12)’s bombers were credited with sinking the Japanese carrier Shokaku and damaging another carrier and cruiser.  Hornet fighters splashed 52 Japanese planes in the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”  Other sources credit U.S.S. Cavalla (SS-244), a submarine with the sinking of the Shokaku.

shokakusink

The Sinking of Shokaku

 

Lt. Alexander Vraciu downed six Japanese dive bombers in a single mission, June 19, 1944.

Lt. Alexander Vraciu downed six Japanese dive bombers in a single mission, June 19, 1944.

Japanese ships under attack during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Photo Credit: US Navy

The ships of Task Force 58 at anchor at Ulithi Atoll in the Pacific — one of the most powerful naval fleets ever assembled in history. Photo Credit: US Navy

turkey-42

Clearly June was a successful month for the USS Hornet (CV-12) and the entire Task Force 58.  The Battle of the Philipine Sea is among the top battles of the war in the Pacific.  Labeled as a carrier vs carrier battle, the Battle of the Philippine Sea was crucial in abolishing the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ability to organize large-scale carrier action.  While Japan suffered a heavier loss – three aircraft carriers, up to 645 aircraft, and hundreds of pilots – the training of US pilots and crew was accredited with a lighter loss for the United States.

World War II from #AtoZChallenge #NaPoWriMo – O is for Omaha Beach

 

WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

O

OMAHA BEACH
By Peter A. Thomas

When we went in, the beach had been taken
The living fought on, the dead forsaken
We were dropped into water up to our shoulders
We waded in – a group of green soldiers
Onto that thin strip of beach
So many had tried to reach.
They were the ones who went in first
Among the machine gun fire and shell burst
The went to watery graves
Sinking under the waves
The water was red
Red from the dead
Red from the dying
In agony crying
Those who made the land
Were not able to stand
They fell on the sand
Writhing in pain
Screaming for help in vain.

Every advantage was on the hill
They murdered our men at will
The rain of death from the cliffs never stopped
But we just kept coming in from the sea
Wave after wave, as far as you could see
Sheer courage and determination
Not believing they were done
Dictated the victory that day.
Others in the future will say
When they stand on that mighty height
And look down on that thin strip of beach
They’ll say, “I don’t see how they ever did it.”
They fought for every inch of it
Up the sides of that fortified wall
Over the tops of those cliffs so tall.

I’ll never forget that beach
I’ll never forget the men
In the ships
In the air and on the land
And those who died on the sand
And in the water.
They lie now beneath thousands of white crosses
And Stars of David
Above the beach
Those wonderful soldiers who died so young
They died so we
Could be free

How can we ever forget what they did
We honor them this day
We salute them
And we humbly beseech
Dear God, bless the men who died on
Omaha Beach.

Source of poem: http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org/omaha-beach-by-peter-thomas

Tank landing ships unloading supplies on Omaha Beach, preparing for the break-out from Normandy

Tank landing ships unloading supplies on Omaha Beach, preparing for the break-out from Normandy

Omaha Beach was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II. Omaha is located on the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel, and is 5 miles (8 km) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary.

D-Day assault map of the Normandy region and the north-western coast of France. Utah and Omaha are separated by the Douve River, whose mouth is clear in the coastline notch (or "corner") of the map.

D-Day assault map of the Normandy region and the north-western coast of France. Utah and Omaha are separated by the Douve River, whose mouth is clear in the coastline notch (or “corner”) of the map.

Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east at Gold with the American landing to the west at Utah, thus providing a continuous lodgment on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine.

Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport and naval artillery support provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the British Royal Navy.

On D-Day, the untested 29th Infantry Division, along with nine companies of U.S. Army Rangers redirected from Pointe du Hoc, were to assault the western half of the beach. The battle-hardened 1st Infantry Division was given the eastern half. The initial assault waves, consisting of tanks, infantry, and combat engineer forces, were carefully planned to reduce the coastal defenses and allow the larger ships of the follow-up waves to land.

An officer observes Omaha as his landing craft approaches the Norman coast.

An officer observes Omaha as his landing craft approaches the Norman coast.

The primary objective at Omaha was to secure a beachhead of some five miles (eight kilometres) depth, between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River, linking with the British landings at Gold to the east, and reaching the area of Isigny to the west to link up with VII Corps landing at Utah. Opposing the landings was the German 352nd Infantry Division, a large portion of whom were teenagers, though they were supplemented by veterans who had fought on the Eastern Front. The 352nd had never had any battalion or regimental training. Of the 12,020 men of the division, only 6,800 were experienced combat troops, detailed to defend a 33-mile-long (53-kilometre) front. The Germans were largely deployed in strongpoints along the coast—the German strategy was based on defeating any seaborne assault at the water line. Nevertheless, Allied calculations indicated that Omaha’s defenses were three times as strong as those they had encountered during the Battle of Kwajalein, and its defenders were four times as many.

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.

The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing US troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles; later landings bunched up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits off the beach. This caused further problems and consequent delays for later landings. Small penetrations were eventually achieved by groups of survivors making improvised assaults, scaling the bluffs between the most heavily defended points. By the end of the day, two small isolated footholds had been won, which were subsequently exploited against weaker defenses further inland, thus achieving the original D-Day objectives over the following days.

World War II from #AtoZChallenge – N is for Night and Fog Decree

 

WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

 

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N

Night and Fog or Nacht und Nebel in German was a directive issued by Adolf Hitler on 7 December 1941.  Yes, the same day that Imperial Japan Attack the United States in Pearl Harbor.

Adolf Hitler 1941

Adolf Hitler 1941

The directive was originally intended to flush out all political activists and resistance helpers.  Generally anyone Hitler thought would endanger German security throughout Nazi Germany’s occupied territories.  Three months later Armed Forces High Command Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel expanded it to include all persons in occupied countries who had been taken into custody and were still alive eight days later; they were subsequently handed over to the Gestapo. The decree was meant to intimidate local populations into submission by denying friends and families of the missing any knowledge of their whereabouts or their fate. The prisoners were secretly transported to Germany, and vanished without a trace. In 1945, the seized Sicherheitsdienst (SD) (Nazi Security Service) records were found to include merely names and the initials NN (Nacht und Nebel); even the sites of graves were unchronicled. To this day, it is not known how many thousands of people disappeared as a result of this order.

Commemorative plaque of the French victims at Hinzert concentration camp, using the expressions "Nacht und Nebel" and "NN-Deported"

Commemorative plaque of the French victims at Hinzert concentration camp, using the expressions “Nacht und Nebel” and “NN-Deported”

After the war, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg held that the disappearances committed as part of the Nacht und Nebel program were war crimes which violated both the Hague Conventions (similar to the Geneva Conventions) and customary international law.

Background

Hitler and his high level staff decided they would not conform to any rules like the Geneva Convention.  Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler issued the following instructions to the Gestapo:

After lengthy consideration, it is the will of the Führer that the measures taken against those who are guilty of offenses against the Reich or against the occupation forces in occupied areas should be altered. The Führer is of the opinion that in such cases penal servitude or even a hard labor sentence for life will be regarded as a sign of weakness. An effective and lasting deterrent can be achieved only by the death penalty or by taking measures which will leave the family and the population uncertain as to the ate of the offender. Deportation to Germany serves this purpose.

Nearly a week later on 12 December 1941, Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel issued a directive to explain Hitler’s orders:

Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals do not know the fate of the criminal.

In a letter he wrote in February 1942, Keitel stated that any prisoners not executed within eight days were to be transported to Germany secretly and endure further treatment there.  He felt that these measures would have the desired deterrent effect because the prisoners will vanish without a trace and no information would be given out as to their whereabouts or their fate.

Night and Fog prisoners were usually arrested in the middle of the night and quickly transported hundreds of miles away to be questioned and if they survived, they were put into concentration camps.  Through 30 April 1944, at least 6.639 person, mostly from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway, were captured under the Nacht und Nebel orders.

The program made it far more difficult to bring charges against Germany.  You can’t be charged for ill treatment of prisoners if the victim can’t be located to know their fate.  In the beginning, the citizens of Germany didn’t know this was occurring so the Nazis could keep the public ignorant.

Treatment of Prisoners

Head shaved, thin cotton dress, wooden sandals and a triangular black headcloth was the uniform of a Nacht und Nebel prisoner.  These prisoners were marked by broad red bands; on their backs and both trouser legs was a cross, with the letter NN to its right. With these emblems, it was possible to recognize the class of prisoner and allowed the Nazis to evaluate the prison population.  They were herded like animals and often transported to different prisons in dirty trucks with no food or water.

Night and Fog

Night and Fog

The average day in the camps started at 5:00 am and lasted for 12 hours with very limited break for a less than adequate meal.  Often the prisoners would be forced to stand for hours in freezing or wet conditions.  If they became ill and could not work, they were taken and exterminated.

Result

In the end, all the Nazi propaganda was not enough to hide the crimes. On 23 November 1944 when the French entered one of the Nacht und Nebel facilities they discovered a chamber where victims were hung by their writres from hooks so as to accommodate the process of pumping Zyklon-B gas into the room.

Defendants at Nuremberg Trials: The Nuremberg Trials were a series of trials held in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945–46 where former Nazi leaders were tried as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal. The indictment filed against them contained four counts: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes and " a common plan or conspiracy to commit" the criminal acts listed in the first three counts. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

Defendants at Nuremberg Trials: The Nuremberg Trials were a series of trials held in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945–46 where former Nazi leaders were tried as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal. The indictment filed against them contained four counts: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ” a common plan or conspiracy to commit” the criminal acts listed in the first three counts. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

During the Nuremberg Trials, Keitel testified that of all the illegal orders he carried out, the Night and Fog Decree was the worst of them all.  For his crimes, including Nacht und Nebel, Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel was hung.

World War II from #AtoZChallenge #NaPoWriMo – M is for Messages Personnels

WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

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M

Chanson d’automne

By Paul Verlaine

Les sanglots longs

Des violons

De l’automne

Blessent mon cœur

D’une langueur

Monotone.

Tout suffocant

Et blême, quand

Sonne l’heure,

Je me souviens

Des jours anciens

Et je pleure;

Et je m’en vais

Au vent mauvais

Qui m’emporte

Deçà, delà,

Pareil à la

Feuille morte.

Autumn Song

Translation (by C. F. MacIntyre)

With long sobs

the violin-throbs

of autumn wound

my heart with languorous

and monotonous sound

Choking and pale

when I mind the tale

the hours keep,

my memory strays

down other days

and I weep;

and I let me go

where ill winds blow,

now here, now there,

harried and sped,

even as a dead

leaf, anywhere.

MESSAGES PERSONNELS

Si le message retenu passait à 13h00 , il fallait se préparer pour un parachutage la nuit même. Le message devait être rediffusé à 17h00 et 21h00 pour ... GOOGLE TRANSLATOR If the selected messages going at 13:00, it was necessary to prepare for a drop that night. The message was to be rebroadcast at 17:00 and 21:00 ...

Si le message retenu passait à 13h00 , il fallait se préparer pour un parachutage la nuit même. Le message devait être rediffusé à 17h00 et 21h00 pour … GOOGLE TRANSLATOR If the selected messages going at 13:00, it was necessary to prepare for a drop that night. The message was to be rebroadcast at 17:00 and 21:00 …

This is so cool.  You are probably wondering why I included the French poem and its translation with today’s post.  You will see.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when I searched for a World War 2 word to write about for “M” and I found Messages Personnels.  Everyone knows how well-known and respected the British Broadcasting Corporation is in the world.  I now give them even more respect.  During the Nazi occupation of France, your average citizen would listen to the BBC and pay no mind to some of the statements being broadcast by the commentators.  Why would they?  The messages were meaningless to them.  Members of the French Resistance were listening.  They listened because the messages were code.  Millions of listeners throughout Nazi occupied Europe, at great peril to themselves, secretly listened to the news broadcasts every night at 7.30 and 9pm. The programs were introduced by the first measure of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, three dots and a dash, V-for- Victory. Then followed what was known as ‘messages personnels’ coded instructions to all resistance groups to prepare them for the Allied landings in Normandy. To the informed, the so called meaningless messages could mean prepare to blow up a section of railway line at such and such a point, or prepare to receive an incoming SOE agent at a certain landing strip. With the approach of D-day and the long awaited moment of Liberation approached, the most awaited message was the first two lines from the Paul Verlaine couplet. The first, sent on June 1, was an alert message “The long sobs of the violins of Autumn”. The second, an action message “Soothes my heart with a monotonous languor”. This summoned all resistance groups to arise immediately throughout France.

Sentence: “Saint Liguori founded Naples”
Terrain name: “Caracole”
Area: St Pons, Hérault
Meaning: Parachute drop of weapons and agents
Maquis concerned: Latourette – Bertrand

Sentence: “Yvette likes big carrots”
Terrain name: “Naphtalene”
Area: Le Vignan-Montdardier, Gard
Meaning: Parachute drop of weapons
Maquis concerned: Aigounal – Cévennes

Sentence: “The tall blond man is called Bill”
Terrain name: “Rabelais”
Area: Pezenas, Hérault
Meaning: Parachute drop of weapons
Maquis concerned: Caux – Linarès

3 June: “The time of fighting will come…” announced D-Day and was the order to start railway sabotage operations in the west.

4 June: “The long sobs of autumn violins…”: a strophe from Verlaine’s Autumn Song gave Resistance fighters the order to step up sabotage of railway and telecommunications facilities that had not yet been destroyed.

5 June: “…wounding my heart with a monotonous languour”: The second part of the strophe had just been broadcast on BBC radio in London. General mobilisation of all networks and start of the offensive: attacks on munitions dumps, transmission stations, the rail network and German convoys.

World War II from #AtoZChallenge – L is for Leningrad Under Siege

 

 WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

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L

“Leningrad”
A song by Billy Joel

Viktor was born in the spring of ’44
And never saw his father anymore
A child of sacrifice, a child of war
Another son who never had a father after Leningrad

Went off to school and learned to serve the state
Followed the rules and drank his vodka straight
The only way to live was drown the hate
A Russian life was very sad
And such was life in Leningrad

I was born in ’49
A cold war kid in McCarthy time
Stop ’em all at the 38th Parallel
Blast those yellow reds to hell
And cold war kids were hard to kill
Under their desks in an air raid drill
Haven’t they heard we won the war
What do they keep on fighting for?

Viktor was sent to some Red Army town
Served out his time, became a circus clown
The greatest happiness he’d ever found
Was making Russian children glad
And children lived in Leningrad

But children lived in Levittown
And hid in the shelters underground
Until the Soviets turned their ships around
And tore the Cuban missiles down
And in that bright October sun
We knew our childhood days were done
And I watched my friends go off to war
What do they keep on fighting for?

And so my child and I came to this place
To meet him eye to eye and face to face
He made my daughter laugh, then we embraced
We never knew what friends we had
Until we came to Leningrad

  

Leningraders on Nevsky Prospekt during the siege, 1942

Leningraders on Nevsky Prospekt during the siege, 1942

In 1914 Saint Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia was renamed Petrograd.  In 1924, it was changed again to Leningrad.  Today and since 1991, it is Saint Petersburg again.

For 872 days of that history, Leningrad was under siege by the German Army Group North. Finland assisted Germany. A siege is defined as a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside.  It is also referred to as a blockade.  The siege started on 8 September 1941 when the last road to the city was severed and didn’t end until 27 January 1944.  It was the  longest and most destructive siege in history and the most costly in terms of casualties.

Casualties and losses
Nazi Germany Army Group North: 1941: 85,371 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
1942: 267,327 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
1943: 205,937 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
1944: 21,350 total casualties (KIA, WIA, MIA)
Total: 579,985 casualtiesKIA – Killed in Action, WIA – Wounded in Action, MIA – Missing in Action.
Soviet Union Northern Front:
1,017,881 killed, captured or missing
2,418,185 wounded and sick
Total: 3,436,066 casualties
Civilians:
642,000 during the siege, 400,000 at evacuations

In Operation Barbarossa (Germany’s code name for its invasion of Russia), the capture of Leningrad was one of Germany’s strategic goals and the main target of the Army Group North.  Leningrad was an industrial center which produced 11% of the Soviet industrial output. There were many rumors about what Hitler planned to do with Leningrad when he finished conquering it but in the end it was apparent that his plans were to destroy the city and its population. (Pure evil).  The following directive was issued to the Army Group North:

“After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban center. […] Following the city’s encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot and should not be solved by us. In this war for our very existence, we can have no interest in maintaining even a part of this very large urban population.”

 

"Leningrad Siege May 1942 - January 1943" by Memnon335bc - Own work by uploader, simplified work based on map 28 from the M. M. Minasjan/ M. L. Altgowsen (u.a.): Die Geschichte des Großen Vaterländischen Krieges der Sowjetunion, Bd.2, Deutscher Militärverlag, Berlin (Ost) 1965. (Kartenband). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leningrad_Siege_May_1942_-_January_1943.png#/media/File:Leningrad_Siege_May_1942_-_January_1943.png

“Leningrad Siege May 1942 – January 1943″ by Memnon335bc – Own work by uploader, simplified work based on map 28 from the M. M. Minasjan/ M. L. Altgowsen (u.a.): Die Geschichte des Großen Vaterländischen Krieges der Sowjetunion, Bd.2, Deutscher Militärverlag, Berlin (Ost) 1965. (Kartenband). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leningrad_Siege_May_1942_-_January_1943.png# /media/File:Leningrad_Siege_May_1942_-_January_1943.pn

As I started reading material online for this post, I find that there is just too much information for one post.  I was about to chuck it and find a different L word.  I finally found a timeline that would be a concise way of telling the story of the siege supplemented with photographs.

1941

  • April: Hitler intends to occupy and then destroy Leningrad, according to plan Barbarossa (Germany’s code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union) and Generalplan Ost (Secret Nazi plan for the colonization of Central and Eastern Europe).
  • 22 June: The Axis powers’ invasion of Soviet Union begins with Operation Barbarossa.
Soviet children during a German air raid in the first days of the war, June 1941, by RIA Novosti archive

Soviet children during a German air raid in the first days of the war, June 1941, by RIA Novosti archive

  • 23 June: Leningrad commander M. Popov, sends his second in command to reconnoitre defensive positions south of Leningrad.
  • 29 June: Construction of the Luga defence fortifications begins together with evacuation of children and women.
  • June–July: Over 300,000 civilian refugees from Pskov and Novgorod escaping from the advancing Germans come to Leningrad for shelter. The armies of the North-Western Front join the front lines at Leningrad. Total military strength with reserves and volunteers reaches 2 million men involved on all sides of the emerging battle.
  • 19–23 July: First attack on Leningrad by Army Group North is stopped 100 km (62 mi) south of the city.
  • 27 July: Hitler visits Army Group North, angry at the delay. He orders Field Marshal von Leeb to take Leningrad by December.
  • 31 July: Finns attack the Soviet 23rd Army at the Karelian Isthmus, eventually reaching northern pre-Winter War Finnish-Soviet border.
  • 20 August – 8 September: Artillery bombardments of Leningrad hit industries, schools, hospitals and civilian houses.
  • 21 August: Hitler’s Directive No.34 orders “Encirclement of Leningrad in conjunction with the Finns.”
  • 20–27 August: Evacuation of civilians is blocked by attacks on railways and other exits from Leningrad.
  • 31 August: Finnish forces go on the defensive and straighten their front line. This involves crossing the 1939 pre-Winter War border and occupation of municipalities of Kirjasalo and Beloostrov.
  • 6 September: German High Command’s Alfred Jodl fails to persuade Finns to continue offensive against Leningrad.
  • 2–9 September: Finns capture the Beloostrov and Kirjasalo salients and conduct defensive preparations.
  • 8 September: Land encirclement of Leningrad is completed when the German forces reach the shores of Lake Ladoga.
  • 10 September: Joseph Stalin appoints General Zhukov to replace Marshal Voroshilov as Leningrad Front commander.
  • 12 September: The largest food depot in Leningrad, the Badajevski General Store, is destroyed by a German bomb.
  • 15 September: von Leeb has to remove the 4th Panzer Group from the front lines and transfer it to Army Group Center for the Moscow offensive.
  • 19 September: German troops are stopped 10 km (6.2 mi) from Leningrad. Citizens join the fighting at the defence lines.
  • 22 September: Hitler directs that “Leningrad must be erased from the face of the Earth”.
  • 22 September: Hitler declares, “….we have no interest in saving lives of the civilian population.”
  • 8 November: Hitler states in a speech at Munich: “Leningrad must die of starvation.”
The diary of Tanya Savicheva, a girl of 11, her notes about starvation and deaths of her sister, then grandmother, then brother, then uncle, then another uncle, then mother. The last three notes say "Savichevs died", "Everyone died" and "Only Tanya is left." She died of progressive dystrophy shortly after the siege. Her diary was shown at the Nuremberg trials.

The diary of Tanya Savicheva, a girl of 11, her notes about starvation and deaths of her sister, then grandmother, then brother, then uncle, then another uncle, then mother. The last three notes say “Savichevs died”, “Everyone died” and “Only Tanya is left.” She died of progressive dystrophy shortly after the siege. Her diary was shown at the Nuremberg trials.

  • 10 November: Soviet counter-attack begins, forcing Germans to retreat from Tikhvin back to the Volkhov River by 30 December, preventing them from joining Finnish forces stationed at the Svir River east of Leningrad.
  • December: Winston Churchill wrote in his diary “Leningrad is encircled, but not taken.”
  • 6 December: Great Britain declared war on Finland. This was followed by declaration of war from Canada, Australia, India and New Zealand.

1942

Three men burying victims of Leningrad's siege in 1942

Three men burying victims of Leningrad’s siege in 1942

  • 7 January: Soviet Lyuban Offensive Operation is launched; it lasts 16 weeks and is unsuccessful, resulting in the loss of the 2nd Shock Army.
  • January: Soviets launch battle for the Nevsky Pyatachok bridgehead in an attempt to break the siege. This battle lasts until May 1943, but is only partially successful. Very heavy casualties are experienced by both sides.
  • 4–30 April: Luftwaffe operation Eis Stoß (ice impact) fails to sink Baltic Fleet ships iced in at Leningrad.
  • June–September: New German railway-mounted artillery bombards Leningrad with 800 kg (1,800 lb) shells.
  • August: The Spanish Blue Division (División Azul) transferred to Leningrad.
  • 14 August – 27 October: Naval Detachment K clashes with Leningrad supply route on Lake Ladoga.
  • 19 August: Soviets begin an eight-week-long Sinyavino Offensive, which fails to lift the siege, but thwarts German offensive plans (Nordlicht).

1943

By the beginning of 1943 the situation surrounded by German troops of Leningrad remained very difficult. The troops of the Leningrad Front and Baltic Fleet ...

By the beginning of 1943 the situation surrounded by German troops of Leningrad remained very difficult. The troops of the Leningrad Front and Baltic Fleet …

  • January–December: Increased artillery bombardments of Leningrad.
  • 12–30 January: Operation Iskra penetrates the siege by opening a land corridor along the coast of Lake Ladoga into the city. The blockade is broken.
  • 10 February – 1 April: The unsuccessful Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda attempts to lift the siege.

1944

  • 14 January – 1 March: Several Soviet offensive operations begin, aimed at ending the siege.
  • 27 January: Siege of Leningrad ends. Germans forces pushed 60–100 km away from the city.
  • January: Before retreating the German armies loot and destroy the historical Palaces of the Tsars, such as the Catherine Palace, Peterhof Palace, the Gatchina and the Strelna. Many other historic landmarks and homes in the suburbs of St. Petersburg are looted and then destroyed, and a large number of valuable art collections are moved to Nazi Germany.
Nazi storage of looted objects

Nazi storage of looted objects

  • During the siege, 3,200 residential buildings, 9,000 wooden houses (burned), 840 factories and plants were destroyed in Leningrad and suburbs

World War II from #AtoZChallenge #NaPoWriMo – K is for Kamikaze

 

 

WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

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K

Kamikaze [kah-mi-kah-zee]

Emperor’s country
Sad lives
Of brave warriors
Pile up

Following duty
Turn to death
Turn to life again
There is honor

January 2, 1945
Mabalacat Base, Philippines
Shinpu (Kamikaze) Special Attack Corps Kyokujitsu Squadron
Lieutenant Junior Grade Tadasu Fukino


A poem translated by Bill Gordon,  April 2012.  A kamikaze pilot will often write a death poem and letters to his family before the mission.

St__Lo_First_Kamikaze_attack_sl1a

“Within one to one and one-half minutes (of the kamikaze strike) an explosion occurred on the hanger deck, which puffed smoke and flame through the hole in the deck and, I believe, bulged the flight deck near and aft of the hole. This was followed in a matter of seconds by a much more violent explosion, which rolled back a part of the flight deck bursting through aft of the original hole.” Action Report, USS ST LO (CVE 63) F.J. McKenna, Captain, USN, Commanding Source: http://www.bosamar.com/kami/sl1.html credited there to USN

The Japanese first deployed the kamikaze known as the “Devine Wind” suicide bombers against American warships was on October 25, 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  I did see some information online about them being used before this date including at Pearl Harbor but I guess the full scale use of Kamikaze was in October 1944.

Source:  http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-kamikaze-attack-of-the-war-begins

I wrote about the Battle of Leyte Gulf in seven parts on my other blog USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Fathers Untold War Story and you can read about that battle starting HERE.

Japanese naval captain, Motoharu Okamura declared:

“I firmly believe that the only way to swing the war in our favor is to resort to crash-dive attacks with our planes… There will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country.”

The first kamikaze force was made up of 24 volunteer pilots from Japan’s 201st Navy Air Group.

Source:  BBC.com.  These are Kamikaze pilots but I don't know for sure that they were the first.

Source: BBC.com. These are Kamikaze pilots but I don’t know for sure that they were the first.

Their targets were the U.S. escort carriers and one was struck, the USS St. Lo (photograph above) and 100 American’s were killed.  The Japanese plane was a A6M Zero fighter.  In total, Kamikazes took down 34 ships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf but in doing so, more than 5,000 kamikaze pilots died.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero

Mitsubishi A6M Zero

For kamikaze raids, both conventional aircraft like the zero and specially designed planes, called Ohka (“Cherry Blossom”).  The American’s name for them was Baka (“Fool”) because the US saw it as an act of desperation. It was a rocket-powered plane attached to the belly of a bomber.

An Ohka Model 11 discovered April 1945 at Yontan airfield, Okinawa

An Ohka Model 11 discovered April 1945 at Yontan airfield, Okinawa

Was it an act of desperation in the last year of the war?  More than 1,321 Japanese aircraft crash-dived into Allied warships during the war.  While about 3,000 Americans and British died from these attacks, the extension damage did not prevent the Allied capture of the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The Culture

Chiran high school girls wave farewell with cherry blossom branches to departing kamikaze pilot in a Ki-43-IIIa Hayabusa

Chiran high school girls wave farewell with cherry blossom branches to departing kamikaze pilot in a Ki-43-IIIa Hayabusa

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze

Ceremonies were carried out before kamikaze pilots departed on their final mission:

  • The Kamikaze shared ceremonial cups of sake or water known as “mizu no sakazuki”.
  • Many Army officer Kamikaze took their swords with them
  • The kamikaze, like all Japanese aviators flying over unfriendly territory, were issued (or purchased, if they were officers) a Nambu pistol with which to end their lives if they risked being captured.
  • Like all Army and Navy servicemen, the Kamikaze would wear their senninbari, a “belt of a thousand stitches” given to them by their mothers.
  • They composed and read a death poem, a tradition stemming from the samurai, who did it before committing seppuku.
  • Pilots carried prayers from their families and were given military decorations.
  • The Kamikaze were escorted by other pilots whose function was to protect the Kamikaze to their destination and report on the results.
  • Kamikaze pilots who were unable to complete their mission (due to mechanical failure, interception, etc.) were stigmatized in the years following the war but this began to diminish about 50 years after the war.

Poem by Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki 

Matome Ugaki served the last six months of World War II as Commander of the Sixth Air Fleet, headquartered at Kanoya Air Base near the southern tip of mainland Japan. From there he directed mass kamikaze attacks, called “special attacks” in Japanese, against the American fleet off Okinawa.

On May 11, 1945, the Japanese Navy and Army executed a joint operation named Kikusui No. 6, one of ten mass kamikaze attacks carried out between April 6 and June 22, 1945. On the date of Kikusui No. 6 operation, Ugaki wrote a poem about the many special attack (kamikaze) pilots who had perished:

Flowers of the special attack are falling
When the spring is leaving.
Gone with the spring
Are young boys like cherry blossoms.
Gone are the blossoms,
Leaving cherry trees only with leaves.