Sunday, 27 February 2011

Adding insult to injury

Following D-Day, all Canadian infantry regiments in Europe travelled with rabbis who performed Jewish rites on captured Nazis. Leave it to the Canadians to find a perfectly ironic form of humiliation that's totally and utterly legal.

Monday, 21 February 2011

False Alarm In LA

In late February 1942, an unknown object was seen in the sky above LA. The day before, a Japanese submarine had bombed the American oil field of Ellwood so the Americans were on edge.

Immediately, the sky was lit up by search lights and the anti-aircraft guns were fired almost at once. Whatever was in the sky was unharmed, but several buildings in LA were destroyed by the anti-aircraft guns, and six American civilians were killed, plus many more injured.

To this day it's unclear exactly what was seen above the city that day, but it quickly became clear that it was not hostile, and 'all clear' was declared at 4:14 in the morning, the panic was passed off as a case of 'war nerves'.

Friday, 18 February 2011


Everyone knows D-Day, literally everyone, but there was another, similar and no less significant landing in the South of France on the 14th of August, it was known as Operation Dragoon. It lacked the widespread international support as D-Day (Greek, Australian, New Zealander, Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Czech, Luxembourgish and Norwegian troops took part in D-Day), but was still an important battle.

Dragoon lacked the staggering success of Juno Beach, or the abysmal failure of Omaha Beach, and as such, remains largely unknown to this day. The allies lost 130,000 men, mostly French, whereas the Germans lost a meagre 7,000. Despite the heavy cost in men, the territorial gains by the allies were invaluable.
American soldiers coming ashore.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


The IRA (Irish Republican Army) is a terrorist organization which supports Irish independence that plagued the British isles for over 50 years. Their main objective during WW2 (and for years before and after) was to reunite Northern Ireland with Eire. With the outbreak of the war, the IRA and the Germans found themselves with a common enemy; the British.

The IRA conducted many attacks against the British totally regardless of the war with Germany, but they also actively worked with the Germans against the British.

IRA Soldiers in traditional getup
When the war broke out the IRA was already engaged in what they called 'The S-Plan' against the UK which involved the planting and detonating various explosives. The bombs had reduced in frequency in the run up to the war; this was purely coincidentally however. The first attack of The S-Plan during the war was a group of mail bombs that went off in Euston Station, and another bomb in Birmingham in February 1940, there were no reported casualties from this. Just over a week later, more bombs detonated in Birmingham, again, not killing anyone. Nine days later, there was another series of explosions in the West of London, killing thirteen people. This fatal attack was the last bombing in The S-Plan.

Another series of IRA attacks was The Northern Campaign. This started roughly three years after the outbreak of war. It lasted about two years and was largely insignificant. The IRA lost 3 men during the campaign, whereas the British lost 4 men, plus loads of supplies and infrastructure. The campaign more or less fizzled out in 1944.

The Germans picked up in the IRA-British conflict and exploited it, mainly for intelligence. The intel gathered by the Germans was fairly trivial, but not totally insignificant.

A man named Seamus O'Donovan was the leader of the German-IRA collaborations, he was a staunch IRA man who had fought in the Irish War Of Independence a few years earlier. He had set up relations with the Nazis long before the outbreak of war, but Seamus had a keen eye for politics and could see war coming over the horizon. In his diary, he wrote on the 28th of August, 1939 that "England would be at war with Germany within a week.". The Germans referred to him as V-Held, German for 'agent hero'. One of his lesser known feats was inventing various IEDs used by the IRA in their various campaigns, many of which he used during the Northern Campaign, in which he actively participated. At one point during the campaign, he got into a firefight with British soldiers who caught him planting explosives. He was by himself against five British soldiers, all of which he successfully held off with suppressive fire, wounding two and routing the rest.

All in all, the IRA made very little difference to the war, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

American Brawls

The Americans were often stationed overseas during the war. It was far from uncommon for allied troops in the Pacific to go on leave to Australia or New Zealand. The Americans were not always good guests however. They caused two major riots on allied soil over the course of the war.

The first scuffle was in Brisbane in November 1942, when drunken American soldiers confronted Australian civilians on the street. Stories remain varied regarding just who said or did what but in just over an hour, over 5,000 people were brawling in the streets. Military policemen on both sides shed their armbands to get involved. The fight continued well into the next day with many, many injuries on both sides. One Australian soldier was shot in the chest, killing him instantly, he was the only fatality.

The next such conflict was in 1943 in Wellington, New Zealand. Some American soldiers began stopping Maori (Indigenous New Zealanders) from entering the club they were at; claiming that they were 'dirtying the club'. The New Zealanders, caucasian and otherwise, rallied against the Americans. The fight lasted two hours, consisted of over 2,500 people and resulted in two American deaths, plus countless injuries.

This second riot was symbolic of American military racism at the time, which also manifested itself in the Zoot Suit riots in the same year.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The White Death

Snipers played a pivotal role in the second world war, with the best sniper of the whole conflict being
Simo Hayha, a Finnish soldier during the 1939-1940 Winter War against Russia.

He joined the Finnish army in 1925 and was entered into active service the day the war began. He spent his service going into the woods with a few days worth of supplies, then covering himself in sometimes up to two feet of snow and hiding, waiting for Russian troops. His best was 25 kills in one day.

The Russians called him 'The White Death' and were so terrified of him that they launched heavy artillery barrages at locations where they thought he might be; they'd rather expend artillery shells than risk their men fighting him.

One Soviet got lucky and hit Simo in the face with an explosive bullet, ending his career, but not his life. The White Death was down and out, but he had already killed 720 Soviets in less than 100 days. EVERY kill was a clean headshot... done WITHOUT a telescopic sight of any kind.

Simo retired after The Winter War; unable to join in the rest of WWII due to his face injury. He lived in Finland until his death at age 97.
Simo 'White Death' Hayha in his usual facemask.

Monday, 14 February 2011

HMS Campbeltown

In May 28th 1942, the British conducted a commando raid against Nazi-occupied France. The British wanted to strike at this target as it was the only major German controlled dock on the Atlantic. British commandos landed in the dock and proceeded to wreak havoc. Eventually, having caused considerable damage, yet having not totally destroyed the dock, the commandos retreated having lost 169 men.

The HSM Campbeltown, run aground
in the docks, minutes before it exploded
They left behind the HMS Campbeltown, an obsolete battleship that was originally American but was transferred to the British in 1940. It sat in the dock, seemingly abandoned until around noon, when the ship exploded, destroying the dock and killing 239 Germans soldiers and 251 French civilians.

The ship had been intentionally packed with explosives and left as a sort of time-bomb in the docks. All in all, the raid was a great success.