Wide Sweep Of World War II Part Two

by Daniel Russ on September 1, 2015

 

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Intelligence Makes The Difference

 

 

Intelligence exchanges between the United States and the United Kingdom made all the difference. Sir Henry Tizzard, an English Chemist and Inventor, also the Rector of the Imperial College had been curating technologies that would help the United States build jets, faster prop planes, detect submarines and aircraft and other advances that would leapfrog Nazi technology.

 

The Tizard Documents, aggregated from The Tizard Mission, officially the British Technical and Scientific Mission made it across the Atlantic on a US submarine and it could have been one of the most important cargoes in the entire war. ONS 5 comprised 42 ships and 16 escorts, (though not all were present at the same time); 13 ships were lost in the course of the 7-day engagement. They contained information about superchargers, jet engines, radar detection, submarine detection, plastic explosive and self-sealing fuel tanks.

 

Before long, British scientists created the first usable underwater submarine detection devices using called quartz piezoelectric crystals called ASDIC devices.

 

In fact, the new technologies launched industrial laboratories on a scale never before seen, or since. The US military built a grand total of 324,750 aircraft during the Second World War. These included 99,950 fighters, 97,810 bombers, 23,928 transport, and 57,623 training aircraft. We manufactured 20,000,000 guns and 20 billion rounds of ammunition. US women entered the workforce in the millions and Rosie the Riveter did more to stop the Japanese and the Nazis than probably any worker around. Over 130,000 people in five years and in twenty states created the atomic bomb.

 

Within a month of the ONS-5 mission in 1943, the Allies were able to detect U-boats and hit them with regularity. Doenitz realized that something significant had changed. A series of counter measures, like the Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen ships and ASDIC, and Radar, cracking the Enigma cipher, and high frequency direction finding (Huff-Duff) turned the tide of battle. The British also created hedgehogs, mortars that fired multiple depth charges at U-boats ahead of their own convoys. The result was a more difficult environment to sink transport and cargo vessels. It was a battle measured in tonnage. During a ten-day period, German coders changes the Enigma signal and sank 82 Allied ships, sending 476,000 tons in the Atlantic. BY may of 1943, the combined efforts to bomb German submarine manufacturing facilities and the advanced in Allied submarine detection convinced Dönitz to remove his U-boat fleets from the north Atlantic.

 

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The Japanese Empire Expands

 

 

In the Pacific, the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor were just the beginning of a massive purloin of lands and sea channels around the Japanese Islands. To give some perspective: here are the series of attacks the Japanese made after Pearl Harbor.

 

December 7, 1941 – Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; also attack the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Thailand, Shanghai and Midway.

 

December 8, 1941 Japanese landed near Singapore and enter Thailand.

 

December 10, 1941 – Japanese invaded the Philippines and also seize Guam.

 

December 11, 1941 – Japanese invaded Burma.

 

December 16, 1941 – Japanese invaded British Borneo.

 

December 18, 1941 – Japanese invaded Hong Kong.

 

December 22, 1941 – Japanese invaded Luzon in the Philippines.

 

December 23, 1941 – General Douglas MacArthur begins a withdrawal from Manila to Bataan; Japanese take Wake Island.

 

December 25, 1941 – British surrendered at Hong Kong.

 

December 26, 1941 – Manila declared an open city.

 

December 27, 1941 – Japanese bombed Manila.

 

January 2, 1942 – the Japanese captured Manila and U.S. Naval base at Cavite.

 

January 7, 1942 – Japanese attack Bataan in the Philippines.

 

January 11, 1942 – Japanese invade Dutch East Indies and Dutch Borneo.

 

January 16, 1942 – Japanese began an advance into Burma.

 

January 18, 1942 – German-Japanese-Italian military agreement was signed in Berlin.

 

January 19, 1942 – Japanese took North Borneo.

 

January 23, 1942 – Japanese took Rabaul on New Britain in the Solomon Islands and also invade Bougainville, the largest island.

 

January 27, 1942 – First Japanese warship was sunk by a U.S. submarine.

 

February 2, 1942 – Japanese invade Java in the Dutch East Indies.

 

February 8/9 – Japanese invade Singapore.

 

February 14, 1942 – Japanese invaded Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies.

 

February 15, 1942 – British surrendered at Singapore.

 

By the middle of 1943, Japan ruled one fifth of the surface of the Earth. Their army was as impervious to attack as the Wehrmacht. They drove back the US, the British, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Canadians and the French with impunity.

 

A bow view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing its Mark 7 16-inch/50-caliber guns off the starboard side during a fire power demonstration.

 

 

The United States Strikes Back

 

 

US war planners were eager to show Japan they meant business. So on April 18th, 1942, 16 Mitchell B-25 bombers took off from the USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo. It was a gutsy move, launching planes that were not meant to fly off of carriers into mission where 15 of them made to China were 69 of the 80 total launch crews were rescued. It embarrassed the Japanese and spread doubt that they could stay away from the US forever.

 

Later in 1942, the US took Midway Island, two large atolls that held runway capable of carrying heavy bombers. The Yorktown was sunk. Only the Enterprise emerged capable of re-entering combat with some short-term repairs. Still, four of the six Japanese carriers who struck at Pearl Harbor were sunk and over 250 planes were lost. 41 Douglas dive Bombers had struck and drove off Nagumo’s fleet, halfway between the Imperial Japanese Empire and the US western coastline.

 

Hirohito new one thing, he had made a big mistake.

 

The US entered the war and Americans arrive in the UK and began staging into the European and North African theaters of battles. While most of the British male population was away at war through the British Empire, young sinewy American boys were in the streets and having a great time. “The problem with the Americans,” the saying goes, “is that they are overpaid, over sexed and over here.”

 

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Strategic Bombing

 

 

But US and British aircrews began bombing Germany in earnest, in what USAF commander Curtis LeMay and British Air Commander Sir Arthur Harris called “Strategic Bombing.” It was an attempt to stop German industry from producing the tools of destruction, the steel factories, ball bearing plants, oil facilities and unfortunately the bedroom communities of the factory workers. It was a slaughter of innocents and massively lethal to the air forces as well. The British has 1135 bombers shot down before they decided to begin night raids. The US introduced the Flying Fortress, the B-17. It had 13 .50 caliber machine guns pointing up, down, forward, backwards and out both sides. Still, these did not do much to halt the incredible attrition rate. Almost 5000 of the 12,000 built were shot down. It was not until the P-51 Mustang escort fighter was introduced that the attrition of US heavy and medium bombers dropped dramatically.

 

The P-51s were a major weapon advantage for the Allies as strategic bombing did continue to reduce German capacity to produce war goods. Once the Luftwaffe could no longer maintain effective defense fleet numbers, the P-51s were freed to attack German oil factories and other strategic targets.

 

In the US, Oklahoma, Texas and California were producing enough oil to fuel much of the Allies war effort.

 

On June 6th, 1944, The United States, Britain and Canada opened a beach head in the Normandy region of France and after months of deadly fighting finally broke out and began to chase Hitler back into Germany.

 

In the West, Germany faced the Americans, the British, The Free French, and The Canadians. In the East, Germany faced Russia’s massive troop formations. In July 1844 Von Rundstedt told General Keitel that German should surrender. Hitler refused. So Hitler’s gambit was to capture the resupply port at Antwerp and slow the Allied advance and then sue for peace. The armored thrust would move ten German divisions between the

The UK Army was in northern Europe and the US Army was in southern Europe. Eisenhower thought the Germans were finished. They were not. Indeed they were still one of the deadliest fighting forces on Earth. Of course the Allies resupply effort bogged down because the new front needed 700 tons of resupply a day and the Wehrmacht it faced need 150 tons of resupply. The Allies and the Nazis were fighting over who would control the Ruhr, which had become a lifeline to the massive invasion force. Of the 700 tons of resupply a day the Allies relied on 250,000 tons of it was petrol. The Red Ball express, a trucking resupply unit that was mostly driven by Black soldiers was at its breaking point. But the routes and roads and railways of resupply were grossly over stretched, the coordination was lackluster and the Germans destroyed as much of the resupply infrastructure they came across whilst retreating.

Hitler informed his command staff that he was going to channel 25 divisions through the Ardennes Forest in a surprise thrust at Antwerp and the Ruhr. His Generals balked. He didn’t care. Of course at first it worked like a charm. First of all he attacked where the Allies least expected it. Secondly the intelligence community at Bletchley Park had already gleaned from reports in the area that a massive German offensive was on the way around the Ardennes Forest but Omar Bradley paid little or no attention to the reports. Thirdly, as German moved through the forest to get into position to invade, they maintained a disciplined quiet by marching at night, pulling socks over their boots to reduce the crunching sounds, and no smoking or flashlights shone at night. Only three divisions, green ones at that, protected the western edge of the forest. Facing those three infantry divisions was Seth Dietrich leading the 6th Panzer army. In the center Von Monteufel led the 5th Panzer army. On the left the German 7th Panzer Army was led by Brandenburg. All told, 150,000 to 175,000 men poured through the forest on December 16th 1944. Also 2600 tanks and 20,000 pieces of artillery moved with the Germans.

 

 

At 5:30 AM on 12/16/ 1944, a twenty minute artillery barrage erupted from the forest that shook the green troops outside. The US 28th division was overrun and almost all were taken prisoner. But the 6th Panzer division couldn’t get around the US 99th. And Monteufel couldn’t get around the US 1st and 3rd Army. US forces successfully stole gas caches that the Germans were hoping to overrun. In fact the Germans were planning to refuel by overrunning Allies depots and stealing the fuel. By the second week, most of the Panzers had run out of gas. In essence, this was the beginning of the end. The Battle of the Bulge resulted in 19,000 US dead and 15,000 POWs. The Germans suffered 100,000 casualties and POWs. 800 German tanks were destroyed. Hundreds of others were abandoned. The Luftwaffe lost 300 aircraft in a deadly back and forth between US and British fighters fending off German close air support. It was one of the largest battles US ground forces ever fought. The Germans fought like there was no tomorrow. And for many, indeed there was no tomorrow

 

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The Killing Fields

 

The staggering number of dead in places we rarely ever hear about.

 

In September 1942 the Wehrmacht surrounded Kiev and killed 616,000 Russians and took 600,000 Russian POWs.  The  Einsatzsgrupen followed Army Group Center. This was an SS division purpose built to kill Jews, Communists, the mentally ill, Slavs and Bolsheviks left behind the advancing German Army. They culled 33,771 Jews out of Kiev, marched them into the woods at Babi Yar and in three days of shooting, killed each of them.

 

In Odessa, they killed 39,000 Jews.

 

In Rumbula Forest outside of Riga they killed 28,000 Jews.  By April of 1945, the Einsatzsgrupen had killed 518,388 Jews and Communists.

 

Of the 5.7 million total Russian POWs the Germans captured, 3.3 million of them died of starvation, cold, disease, torture, work, neglect or outright murder.

 

In the Battle of Stalingrad, 750,000 soldiers died. Over 140,000 civilians died there.

 

In the Battle of Leningrad, as many as 1,000,000 people died just from starvation.

 

In the Singapore Campaign, 85,000 British forces surrender without firing a shot, creating the largest British defeat in history. Most of the soldiers were Indian troops under British command.

 

The US 125,000 man garrison that surrendered saw 75% die in the Bataan Death March where anyone who fell or stumbled was shot or beaten.

 

By 1945, over 8,000,000 foreigners had been captured and brought into Germany as slaves. There were an additional 2 million slaves in German territory already. Most of these people died in captivity.

 

In the Pacific theatre, the Japanese had replevined almost one fifth of the surface of the Earth into their empire. The Japanese Army was working its way westward towards India and had supply problems when the Americans entered the war. So the Japanese had to build railways in the thick jungles of Southeast Asia. 100,000 indigenous people captured and placed into slavery died in forced labor while some 16,000 Allied POWs died making these railways.

 

When the British Army was on the move through India they took control of the railways and truck routes, all the only way people in Eastern Indian shipped into their homes. With no food transportation, as many as 3,000,00 Indians starved to death before anyone even noticed.

 

The Japanese dropped choleric materials on Chinese villages and killed 200,000 that way alone.

 

Over 225,000 Germans died defending Berlin and 78,000 Soviets died taking it.

 

The thing about the death rate in WWII is that you can look in almost any direction and see casualties that simply stun the senses. Battles where the dead outnumber the populations of whole towns. Unidentified bodies, nameless faceless victims of a firestorm of death the liked of which the world will never see again and hopefully that is the case.

 

Perhaps, as some academic sources site, 85 million people died.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robert Matheson September 1, 2015 at 12:12 pm

During the battle the USS Lexington was sunk and the USS Yorktown severely damaged. Only the Enterprise emerged capable of re-entering combat with some short-term repairs.

Dan,

The Lexington was sunk by the Japanese at The Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942. The Yorktown was badly damaged in the same battle, but the Japanese thought they had sunk her. During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the repaired Yorktown joined the Enterprise and Hornet to face the Japanese carrier force under admiral Nagumo. The Yorktown was indeed finally sunk during Midway, but we sunk four of their carriers, the Kaga, Akagi, Soryu, and Hiryu.

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