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1st Marine Raider Battalion

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July 21, 1944

Hitler to Germany: "I'm still alive."

On this day in 1944, Adolf Hitler takes to the airwaves to announce that the attempt on his life has failed and that "accounts will be settled."

Hitler had survived the bomb blast that was meant to take his life. He had suffered punctured eardrums, some burns and minor wounds, but nothing that would keep him from regaining control of the government and finding the rebels. In fact, the coup d'etat that was to accompany the assassination of Hitler was put down in a mere 11 1/2 hours. In Berlin, Army Major Otto Remer, believed to be apolitical by the conspirators and willing to carry out any orders given him, was told that the Fuhrer was dead and that he, Remer, was to arrest Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. But Goebbels had other news for Remer-Hitler was alive. And he proved it, by getting the leader on the phone (the rebels had forgotten to cut the phone lines). Hitler then gave Remer direct orders to put down any army rebellion and to follow only his orders or those of Goebbels or Himmler. Remer let Goebbels go. The SS then snapped into action, arriving in Berlin, now in chaos, just in time to convince many high German officers to remain loyal to Hitler.

Arrests, torture sessions, executions, and suicides followed. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who actually planted the explosive in the room with Hitler and who had insisted to his co-conspirators that "the explosion was as if a 15-millimeter shell had hit. No one in that room can still be alive." But it was Stauffenberg who would not be alive for much longer; he was shot dead the very day of the attempt by a pro-Hitler officer. The plot was completely undone.

Now Hitler had to restore calm and confidence to the German civilian population. At 1 a.m., July 21, Hitler's voice broke through the radio airwaves: "I am unhurt and well.... A very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible...and stupid officers had concocted a plot to eliminate me.... It is a gang of criminal elements which will be destroyed without mercy. I therefore give orders now that no military authority...is to obey orders from this crew of usurpers.... This time we shall settle account with them in the manner to which we National Socialists are accustomed."

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July 25, 1943

Mussolini falls from power

On this day in 1943, Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy, is voted out of power by his own Grand Council and arrested upon leaving a meeting with King Vittorio Emanuele, who tells Il Duce that the war is lost. Mussolini responded to it all with an uncharacteristic meekness.

During the evening of July 24 and the early hours of the 25th, the Grand Council of the fascist government met to discuss the immediate future of Italy. While all in attendance were jittery about countermanding their leader, Mussolini was sick, tired, and overwhelmed by the military reverses suffered by the Italian military. He seemed to be looking for a way out of power. One of the more reasonable within the Council, Dino Grandi, argued that the dictatorship had brought Italy to the brink of military disaster, elevated incompetents to levels of power, and alienated large portions of the population. He proposed a vote to transfer some of the leader's power to the king. The motion was passed, with Mussolini barely reacting. While some extremists balked, and would later try to convince Mussolini to have those who voted with Grandi arrested, Il Duce was simply paralyzed, unable to choose any course of action.

Shortly after the Grand Council vote, Mussolini, groggy and unshaven, kept his routine 20-minute meeting with the king, during which he normally updated Victor Emanuele on the current state of affairs. This morning, the king informed Mussolini that General Pietro Badoglio would assume the powers of prime minister and that the war was all but lost for the Italians. Mussolini offered no objection. Upon leaving the meeting, he was arrested by the police, who had been secretly planning a pretext to remove the leader for quite some time. They now had the Council vote of "no confidence" as their formal rationale. Assured of his personal safety, Mussolini acquiesced to this too, as he had to everything else leading up to this pitiful denouement. When news of Mussolini's arrest was made public, relief seemed to be the prevailing mood. There was no attempt by fellow fascists to rescue him from the penal settlement on the island of Ponza to which he was committed. The only remaining question was whether Italy would continue to fight alongside its German allies or surrender to the Allies.

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July 26, 1941

United States freezes Japanese assets

On this day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt seizes all Japanese assets in the United States in retaliation for the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China.

On July 24, Tokyo decided to strengthen its position in terms of its invasion of China by moving through Southeast Asia. Given that France had long occupied parts of the region, and Germany, a Japanese ally, now controlled most of France through Petain's puppet government, France "agreed" to the occupation of its Indo-China colonies. Japan followed up by occupying Cam Ranh naval base, 800 miles from the Philippines, where Americans had troops, and the British base at Singapore.

President Roosevelt swung into action by freezing all Japanese assets in America. Britain and the Dutch East Indies followed suit. The result: Japan lost access to three-fourths of its overseas trade and 88 percent of its imported oil. Japan's oil reserves were only sufficient to last three years, and only half that time if it went to war and consumed fuel at a more frenzied pace. Japan's immediate response was to occupy Saigon, again with Vichy France's acquiescence. If Japan could gain control of Southeast Asia, including Malaya, it could also control the region's rubber and tin production--a serious blow to the West, which imported such materials from the East. Japan was now faced with a dilemma: back off of its occupation of Southeast Asia and hope the oil embargo would be eased--or seize the oil and further antagonize the West, even into war.

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28 July 1918:

Brigadier General John A. Lejeune assumed command of the 2d Division, U.S. Army in France, and remained in that capacity until August 1919 when the unit was demobilized. He was the first Marine officer to hold an Army divisional command, and following the Armistice, he led his division in the march into Germany

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1 August 1944: After nine days of fighting in a battle termed "the perfect amphibious operation of World War II," MajGen Harry Schmidt, commander of V Amphibious Corps, declared the island of Tinian secured. The combination of surprise, heavy preassault bombardment, and effective logistical support was responsible for Tinian's recapture with a much lower casualty rate (344 killed and 1550 wounded) than had been experienced in previous landings.

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August 3, 1940

Italians move on British Somaliland

On this day in 1940, Italy begins its offensive against the British colony of Somaliland, in East Africa, territory contiguous with Italian Somaliland.

Italy had occupied parts of East Africa since 1936 and by 1940, when it officially entered the war, had troops far outnumbering British forces in the region. Despite their numerical superiority, the Italians had been slow to make offensive moves for fear that the British blockade in North Africa would make it impossible to get much-needed supplies, such as fuel and weapons, to sustain long engagements. But if Italy was to make greater territorial gains, it had to act, while British numbers were still relatively small.

After several forays a few miles into Sudan and Kenya, the Italians were ready for a bigger push: British Somaliland. The rationale was that it was actually a defensive move. Afraid that the British could enter Italian-occupied Ethiopia through French Somaliland, the Duke of Aosta (who was also Viceroy of Ethiopia and supreme Italian military commander of the region) ordered an invasion of British Somaliland. The British defenders at the garrison put up a fierce struggle; although they had to eventually withdraw, they inflicted 2,000 casualties on the Italian forces, while suffering only 250 of their own.

Italy would not enter the Somaliland capital, Berbera, until August 19, while Britain built up its African forces in Kenya. The war for East Africa was not over.

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3 August 1950: Eight Corsairs of VMF-214, the famed "Black Sheep" squadron of World War II, launched from the USS SICILY and executed the first Marine aviation mission in the Korean War in a raid against enemy installations near Inchon. After the F4Us delivered their incendiary bombs and rockets on their targets, the Marines concluded their greeting to the Communist troops with a series of strafing runs.

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August 5, 1944

Hundreds of Jews are freed from forced labor in Warsaw

On this day in 1944, Polish insurgents liberate a German forced-labor camp in Warsaw, freeing 348 Jewish prisoners, who join in a general uprising against the German occupiers of the city.

As the Red Army advanced on Warsaw in July, Polish patriots, still loyal to their government-in-exile back in London, prepared to overthrow their German occupiers. On July 29, the Polish Home Army (underground), the People's Army (a communist guerilla movement), and armed civilians took back two-thirds of Warsaw from the Germans. On August 4, the Germans counterattacked, mowing down Polish civilians with machine-gun fire. By August 5, more than 15,000 Poles were dead. The Polish command cried to the Allies for help. Churchill telegraphed Stalin, informing him that the British intended to drop ammunition and other supplies into the southwest quarter of Warsaw to aid the insurgents. The prime minister asked Stalin to aid in the insurgents' cause. Stalin balked, claiming the insurgency was too insignificant to waste time with.

Britain succeeded to getting some aid to the Polish patriots, but the Germans also succeeded-in dropping incendiary bombs. The Poles fought on, and on August 5 they freed Jewish forced laborers who then joined in the battle, some of whom formed a special platoon dedicated solely to repairing captured German tanks for use in the struggle.

The Poles would battle on for weeks against German reinforcements, and without Soviet help, as Joseph Stalin had his own plans for Poland.

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