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Lesser-Known Facts of World War II - page 3 of 6.

This 6 page series provides some of these facts and stories:

  1. Pre-War to 1939 and during 1940
  2. during 1941
  3. during 1942
  4. during 1943
  5. during 1944 and 1945
  6. More Lesser-Known Facts of WWII.



In January, 1942, Britain had a total of 19 German spies working as double agents. These had been 'turned' under threat of execution and agreed to work against their homeland. Others, who were of the more fanatical type, were hanged at Wandsworth Prison. Among the 19 were two Norwegians, John Helge and Tor Glad who were put ashore at Crovie, near Banff in the north of Scotland in April, 1941. Codenamed Mutt and Jeff, they had no intention no spying for Germany where they were trained. Soon after landing they gave themselves up to the Scottish police. Jeff, who failed to convince the authorities that he was genuine, was interred on the Isle of Man. Mutt was put to work as a double agent, feeding the Germans false information and ended up in a British army unit attached to an American regiment disarming German troops still in Norway. Jeff (Tor Glad) when he returned to Norway was put on trial as a German spy but after a discreet word from London's MI5 he was set free.


The first raid of the war by the US Airforce on Germany itself was on January 27, 1942. A mixed force of some 90 Fortresses and Liberators attacked the U-boat base at Wilhelmshaven. Only 53 bombers managed to reach the target three of which were lost.


CICERO. The code name for the spy Elyese Bazna, an Albanian valet employed by the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir Hughe Knachbull-Hugessenin in the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. While working there he used a duplicate key to open the Ambassador's black dispatch box and photographed all the documents he found there to pass on to the Germans. These included minutes of the Teheran and Cairo Conferences and plans for the D-day invasion. In all, he was paid 300,000 British pounds for all the information he delivered. Often referred to as 'The spy of the century', when he tried to use this money to build a hotel, he discovered the notes to be counterfeit. He later wrote his memoirs which earned him quite a large sum but he died in poverty.

RICHARD SORGE. A German national born in Baku, Russia and educated in Berlin where he became a communist spy and a Nazi party member. He posed as the German Foreign Correspondent of the newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung and established contact with the German Embassy in Tokyo from where he obtained details of Nazi intentions against the Soviet Union. These he passed on to the Soviet KGB. The information he passed on that Japan would not attack the Soviet Union resulted in Stalin withdrawing his Siberian divisions to the defense of Moscow. Arrested later by the Japanese police, he was reported executed in Tokyo on October 9, 1944, in Sugamo Prison. In 1964, Sorge was posthumously awarded the title 'Hero of the Soviet Union'. He is buried in the Reien Cemetery in Fuchu City, Tokyo.

REINHARD GEHLEN. German Army general and commander of an intelligence unit which in 1945 surrendered to the US Forces, complete with men and intelligence files on the Soviet Union. He then worked for the Americans on espionage operations against the Soviets. Known as the 'Gehlen Organization' it had its headquarters at Pullach near Munich. Through this organization the Allies were able to hunt down many upper echelon Nazis in hiding. Gehlen retired in 1968 and his memoirs 'Der Dienst' (The Service) was published in 1971. His spy network was then renamed the 'German Federal Intelligence Service'.

LEOPOLD TREPPER. Jewish, of polish nationality, Trepper was the leader of the Red Orchestra spy network, a Soviet organization operating in Belgium and France. It was the KGBs principle source of information from occupied Europe. After his arrest in Paris by the Gestapo, he agreed to play a double game but given the freedom he was allowed, he escaped in June 1943 and went into hiding for the rest of the war. His own family, 48 members in all, were arrested and exterminated. Trepper survived the war and returned to Moscow where he faced court and had to serve ten years in a Soviet prison. On his return to Warsaw he started life again as a publisher of Jewish and classical literature. In 1974 he went to live in Jerusalem and there he published his autobiography 'The Great Game'. In 1982, he died in Israel at the age of 77.

ALEXANDER RADO. A Hungarian and also a Colonel of the Red Army. He set up a spy network in Switzerland known as 'The Lucy Ring', the most successful spy organization in World War II supplying the Soviets with advance information of German intentions in the east. In January, 1945, Rado was ordered to report to Moscow. Knowing that he had embezzled something like 50,000 dollars, which was sent to him to run his network, he disappeared when the plane taking him to Moscow made a stop in Cairo. Eventually the KGB caught up with him and he spent the next twelve years in a Siberian work camp. On his release, he took a job as Professor of Geography at the University of Budapest in 1966.

ALEXANDER FOOTE. An Englishman recruited by the British communist party in 1938. In 1940, he was ordered to go to Geneva as radio operator for Alexander Rado. Until the end of 1944 he had coded and transmitted thousands of messages to Moscow. In December 1944, he reported to the Russian Embassy in Paris with a briefcase full of secret information. Ordered to report to the 'centre' in Moscow, he arrived alone (Rado having left the plane in Cairo) to a warm welcome. In 1947, he began to loose his illusions about Russia and when posted to Berlin he presented himself to the authorities in the British sector. As at 1967, Foote was working for the British Government.

RUDOLF ROESSLER. A German, dedicated to the overthrow of Hitler. As an exile in Switzerland he maintained contact wit many of his friends from WW1 who had joined the German army and had attained high positions. All were opposed to Hitler and decided that all details of Hitler's conferences would be forwarded on to their friend Roessler. In 1941, Roessler became a Soviet Agent and joined up with Rado and the Lucy Ring. All through 1940 an avalanche of details poured from the OKW headquarters at Zossen and transmitted by Foote to Moscow. The successes of the Red Army on the Eastern Front were due mainly to 'Lucy'. Roessler died in 1958 without revealing his sources in the German High Command. He lies buried in the Swiss cemetery at Kreiens, outside Lucerne.

FRITZ KOLBE.  An official in Hitler's Foreign Ministry, he copied and supplied around 2,600 secret documents to Allen Dulles, head of the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in Switzerland. When he heard of the Nazi Euthanasia Program he decided to rally his friends and fight against the regime. In some of the documents he smuggled out of Von Ribbentrop's office were crucial facts concerning the V-1 and V-2 rockets and where the Germans expected the Allies to land in Normandy. It was Kolbe who exposed the spy 'Cicero' in the British Embassy in Turkey. "The risks he took were incalculable" wrote Allen Dulles after the war. Treated like a leper in post-war Germany the present Government has honoured him by naming a conference room in the new Foreign Ministry after him. MI-6 singled him out as "the prize intelligence source of the war".  Fritz Kolbe died in Switzerland in 1971.


At the request of Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi Reich Main Security Office, heads of fifteen various organizations assembled in a villa on the shores of the Wannsee Lake in Berlin on Tuesday, January 20, 1942. Here they planned history's most hideous crime, the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question' (Die Endlösung) in other words, the ways and means to kill off all the Jews of Europe, estimated to be around six million. In the event, the Nazis succeeded in disposing of millions Jews in the concentration camps of Europe. (The minutes of this conference has mysteriously disappeared) The villa, at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, was built in 1914 and in January, 1992, the 50th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, the Villa was opened to the public as a memorial and education centre.

Since 1951 Germany has paid out over sixty billion dollars to Jews throughout the world as compensation for their families that suffered during World War11. There were around four million claims and today outstanding claims are still being put forward but about eighty percent have already been rejected, most of which were by non-existent Holocaust survivors out to maximize their own wealth.  While this is going on, Jewish organizations around the world are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in building museums and memorials in practically every country on earth.

The villa at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee. The Conference was held in the downstairs dining room on the left.


In November, 1942, during one of the coldest winters of the war, a total of 110,000 Polish residents were expelled from the area of Zamosc, near Lublin, their destination being forced labour in Germany. These included 30,000 children, 5,000 of whom were considered suitable for Germanization and were taken care of by the Brown Sisters of the Lebensborn organization. Thousands more died of cold and hunger in the overcrowded trucks and trains taking them to Germany. The area around Zamosc was decided by Himmler to be the first large area of German settlement in Poland. It was hoped that within ten years about three million Germans would be settled in the territory administrated exclusively by the SS.


On a list of countries drawn up by Adolf Eichmann and presented to the Wannsee Conference, England is mentioned with its 330,000 Jews and political figures, all marked for deportation to the Nazi extermination camps in Poland after the proposed German takeover of the British Isles. On top of the list is the name Winston Churchill.


In May, 1942, the first prototype of Pluto (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) was tested across the River Medway and a month later across the Firth Of Clyde in Scotland. The first of these 75 mm diameter pipes was laid to France on August 12, 1944, under the English Channel via the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, France, a distance of 130 kilometres. In England, fuel for these pipes was pumped through a 1,600 kilometre network of pipelines from the ports of Liverpool and Bristol. Operation 'Pluto' was considered one of the greatest engineering feats in the history of war. As the Allied Armies advanced into Germany, 17 other pipelines were laid from Dungeness to the Pas-de-Calais and eventually reached as far as the River Rhine. In January, 1945, 300 tons of gasoline were pumped to France and in March this had reached 3,000 tons. By the end of the war a total of over 781 million litres had been supplied to the war machines of the Allied armies of liberation.


On July 21st, 1942, a Japanese force of 2,000 men landed on the north coast of Papua, their main objective being Port Moresby 96 kilometres away over rugged mountain terrain through a path now known as the Kokoda Track. Port Moresby was vital to the defence of Australia and important for the Japanese from which to launch a bombing attack on northern Australia.  Approaching within 40 kms of their objective the tide was turned  when Australian forces, in a series of costly engagements, under appalling conditions in miles of ankle-deep mud, incessant rain and mosquitoes before forcing the enemy back the way they had come. In the later phase of the campaign the Australians were aided by the US 32nd Division which had established  a base south of Buna which was captured on January 2nd. 1943. In one engagement at Oivi-Gorari, involving close hand to hand combat, the Australians lost 121 dead and over 225 wounded, the Japanese at least 430 dead. The Kokoda campaign was perhaps the most significant battle ever fought by Australians in World War 2. The 4 month battle cost the Australians  625 men killed and well over 1,000 wounded. At the southern end of the track is the Romana war cemetery containing 3,778 graves where 3,069 known and 237 unknown Australians  are buried. Also buried here are 443 Allied soldiers and airmen.


One of the most fantastic ideas to come out of WWII was to build an iceberg aircraft supercarrier. Gaining the support of Churchill and Mountbatten, British inventor Geoffrey Pyke set out to build a prototype on Patricia Lake near Jasper in Canada, where it could be naturally frozen. The steel hull structure was filled with a compound of paper pulp and sea water which was frozen to produce a substance called 'Pykecrete' after the inventor. Pykecrete was almost as strong as concrete. The actual carrier, to be named HMS Habakkuk (after the Old Testament prophet) when built, could be up to 4,000 feet long, 600 feet wide, 130 feet high with ice walls 40 feet thick constructed from 280,000 blocks of ice and weigh anything up to one million tons. Pipes, circulating cold air from a refrigeratation plant inside the berg, would keep the ice from melting. It would be driven by 26 electric drive motors giving it a speed of around 6 knots. By 1943, technical problems meant that the vessel would not be ready until 1945 which was too late to be of any use in the Battle of the Atlantic where convoys were sailing part way to Britain without air cover. The model on Patricia Lake was eventually scuttled after the ice took almost a year to melt. A commemorative plaque was placed on the lake's shore in 1989. Sadly, the inventor Geoffrey Pyke, committed suicide in 1948 with an overdose of sleeping tablets.

A possible design for the HMS Habakkuk, shown next to an Iowa-class battleship and a Nimitz-class supercarrier.

A possible design for Geoffrey Pyke's iceberg aircraft supercarrier, HMS Habakkuk. To give a sense of scale, shown here next to an Iowa-class battleship (lower right) and a Nimitz-class supercarrier (upper left).


The codename given to the powerful 500 KW transmitter which was purchased from America for use in broadcasting propaganda on the German controlled wavelengths. It cost Britain £111,801, 4 shillings and 10 pence to buy the apparatus from the RCA factory in Camden, New Jersey. Another sum of £16,000 was spent to prepare the site and erect the masts near Crowborough in Essex. The transmitter first became operational on November 8, 1942.


During the period 1939 to 1942, twenty Blenheim fighter-bombers were shot down through mis-identification by RAF pilots and anti-aircraft fire (Seven were shot down by Hurricanes). This resulted in the deaths of thirty-two aircrew with seven others injured. Nineteen other aircraft were damaged by being fired upon by mistake.


 August 23, 1942, At Izbushensky on the River Don. The Italian Savoia Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Bettoni, and consisting of 600 mounted Italian troops, charged against 2,000 Soviet troops who had opened a breach between the German 6th Army and the Italian Army. The Italian Lancers destroyed two Soviet Infantry armoured vehicles before being forced to withdraw with slight losses, about thirty-two casualties. Another cavalry charge took place in Croatia on October, 17, 1942. The Italian Alessandra Regiment attacked around 4,000 Partisans that had encircled the Italian 81 Blackshirt Battalion of 850 men. Several charges were made before a breakthrough was made in the three Partisan's defensive Lines. Casualties were high among the Partisans but both the Alessandria Regiment and the Blackshirt Battalion made it out intact.


An attempt by the Americans to cause a volcano to re-erupt ended in failure. In 1942, the Tavorvur Volcano on Matupi Island, Rabaul, erupted and caused great concern for the Japanese occupation troops. To cause greater concern, the Americans purchased from the British Government two 'earthquake' bombs of the type invented by Barnes Wallis for the Ruhr Dams raid. The two bombs, together with a number of 2000 pounders, were dropped on the gaping mouth of the still smoking volcano. Both bombs missed the target and buried themselves in the sand near the end of the runway on the nearby Lukunai airstrip. In 1970, the two bombs were discovered unexploded. The Australian Navy was informed and the bombs were detonated.


Heinrich Himmler, the notorious Chief of the SS, had his nephew, SS 1st Lieutenant Hans Himmler, demoted and sentenced to death for revealing SS secrets while drunk. The sentence was commuted and he was sent to the front as a parachutist. He was again charged with making derogatory remarks about the regime and sent to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich where he was finally 'liquidated' as a homosexual.

CHANNEL DASH (February 11-13, 1942)

A great embarrassment for the British Government was the dash through the English Channel in broad daylight by the three German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen. As the convoy sailed from the port of Brest towards Boulogne (Operation Cerberus), they were attacked by six Swordfish torpedo bombers of the Fleet Air Arm 825 Squadron commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eugene Esmonde. No hits were made, all the six Swordfish planes being shot down. Of the 18 men of the Swordfish squadron, only five survived. Lt. Cdr. Esmonde was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Of the 242 RAF planes dispatched to attack the convoy only 39 were known to have to have dropped their bombs on the ships but not one found its target. An attack by destroyers from Harwich was also unsuccessful. The Scharnhorst (Vice Admiral Ciliax) was damaged by two mines during the operation and Gneisenau hit a mine in the attempt to reach Germany, but early on the 13th Scharnhorst docked safely at her home base at Wilhelmshaven. Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen reached Brunsbüttel with Gneisenau continuing through the Kiel Canal to dry dock at Kiel. (The Prinz Eugen survived the war and was used in the Atom Bomb trials in the Pacific.)


On the evening of February 23, 1942, Japanese submarine I-17, captained by Commander Nishino Kozo, surfaced a mile off-shore just west of the  Californian town of Goleta, twelve miles west of Santa Barbara.  At 7.18 pm the submarines two 5.5-inch guns started firing, the target was the Ellwood Oil Field facilities onshore.  For the next twenty minutes, about 25 shells were fired at the refinery and pump house buildings where workers dropped what they were doing and fled the area. Very little serious damage was done before the I-17 left the scene and moved south. This was the first enemy attack on US soil since the War of 1812 when the British assaulted Fort Bowyer in Alalama. (Today, a sign, erected by the Goleta Valley Historical Society, marks the spot where the attack took place.)

RENAULT TRAGEDY (March 3 / 4, 1942)

A mixed force of around 200 Royal Air Force bombers attacked the Renault car factory at Boulogne-Ballancourt near Paris which was manufacturing engines for the German Panzer tanks. This was considered by the French Government as collaboration with the enemy. In near perfect conditions with a full moon the leading bombers attacked from a few hundred feet  scoring direct hits on the huge factory. Poor bomb aiming by the following aircraft caused many of the bombs to land on the workers apartments nearby. A total 367 French workers died in this tragedy and around 1,500 were wounded. After the war Renault was arrested and charged with aiding the enemy but died some months later in mysterious circumstances.


On  March 3, 1942, the FBI was ordered to round up about 8,000 foreign seamen who had deserted their ships while in US ports. They included around 3,000 Norwegians and 3,000 Greeks. The rest were Swedes, Dutch, Danes and British. They were asked to return to their ships or face deportation or internment.


American disc jockeys were banned from playing listeners requests in 1942. The War Department explained that enemy agents might use the format as codes to pass military information on to their superiors.


Code name for the British commando raid on the French port of Saint Nazaire on March 28, 1942.  The 356 metre long Normandy Dry Dock and surrounding installations was the target for the 257 Army Commandos and 345 Royal Navy men who took part. The plan was to blow up the lock gates by ramming a ship, packed with explosives, straight into the gates themselves. The ship chosen for this task was an old lend-lease 1919-built American destroyer, USS Buchanan, renamed HMS Campbelltown. Internally she was stripped of all unnecessary equipment to accommodate four and a half tons of explosives made up of 24 depth-charges timed to explode at a certain time.

At 1.30am, and racing full speed ahead, the Campbeltown ploughed through the anti-torpedo nets and crashed into the lock gates with such force that her bows were peeled back some forty feet. Firmly wedged on the gate, her bows projecting over the top, crew and commandos made a hasty departure to wreck havoc on electrical and pumping installations around the dock. As daylight broke, scores of enemy officers and men swarmed all over the ship but failed to find the explosives. At 10.35am a terrific explosion rocked the dockside as the Campbelltown exploded, ripping the ship and the lock gates apart and killing most of the German officers and men on deck. The Normandy Dock was not brought back into operation until 1948. Of the 611 Commandos who went into action, 169 lost their lives. Some 200 were captured and made prisoner, five escaped and made it safely back to England through Spain. Five men were awarded the Victoria Cross, one posthumously, for outstanding heroism during Operation Chariot.


The area around Imber on the Salisbury Plain in England, comprising of around 91,000 acres, is the traditional training ground for the British Army. On April 13, 1942, during a demonstration of fire-power from a squadron of Hurricanes, the pilot of the 6th plane to make the attack inadvertently fired into the crowd of invited military spectators. He had mistaken the spectators for the rows of dummy soldiers placed on the ground as if in marching order.

The demonstration was immediately cancelled and all aircraft ordered to return to base. Fifteen minutes later some thirty military and civilian ambulances arrived to convey the dead and injured to hospitals. Twenty five officers and men were killed and seventy one injured. The Hurricane pilot, just approaching his 21st birthday, was found guilty of an error of judgement by the Court of Inquiry. (On June 28, 1942, seventy-six days after the tragic incident, he was shot down and reported missing in a sortie over Cherbourg.)

The 25 people killed in this tragedy are now commemorated on a memorial plaque in the Garrison Church in Warminster.


A total of 64 American nurses were captured when Bataan and Corrigidor fell to the Japanese on May 7, 1942. None took part in the Bataan Death March but were sent to the big civilian internment camp at Santo Tomas University on Rizal Avenue and the Los Banos internment camp in Manila. In the camps, 3,768 American and Allied male and female civilians, including survivors of US merchant ships, were interned during the war. Around 390 of these prisoners died from starvation and disease.

They were liberated on February 3, 1945, by elements of the US 44th Tank Battalion whose lead tank crashed through the locked gates of the compound and accepted the surrender of the camp from the Commandant, Colonel Hayashi. The Los Banos Internment Camp, containing 2,147 prisoners, was liberated on February 23, 1945, by troops of the US 11th Airborne Division supported by Filipino guerrillas. All the nurses survived the war. Altogether eighty-three US Army and Navy nurses became prisoners of war while serving in the Pacific area. Throughout World War II over 59,000 American nurses, including 479 black nurses, served in all theatres. A total of 201 nurses died, sixteen died as a direct result of enemy fire.


 Over 1,000 miles south-east of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) lie the Cocus group of islands, consisting of 27 separate islands and atolls. In March, 1942, the Japanese had invaded Java and from there had started bombing Ceylon. Fearing that the Cocos Islands may be attacked, a consignment of troops from the Ceylon Garrison Artillery were sent to the island to set up a number of gun batteries. From the comfort of the Ceylon Garrison to the hardships of life on a remote island without any facilities of any kind, was more than than some of the soldiers could take. A mutiny was planned and on the night of May 8 / 9, 1942, Bombardier G.H. Fernando, Commander of the Guard, and a few accomplices, attempted to overpower the guards and lock them up. During the melee, one guard was killed and a white officer wounded. Fernando had planned to overpower the gun batteries and then contact the Japanese forces for help. However the attempt failed and three days later a Field General Court-Martial was held in which 15 men were arraigned on charges of causing a mutiny.

Seven of the accused, including Fernando, were sentenced to death but in only three cases was the sentence carried out. Three were acquitted and the rest sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from one year to seven years. The hangings took place on August 5, 1942. The three soldiers of the Ceylon Garrison were the only members of the British Armed Forces to die on the gallows during World War II for the crime of mutiny. The execution order was signed by the British Commander-in Chief, India, General Sir Archibald Wavell.


On the night of May 30/31, 1942, the Royal Air Force launched its first 1,000 plane bomber raid of the war. The original target was to be Hamburg but bad weather over Germany caused a cancellation. Three days later the cathedral city of Cologne was attacked by a force of 1,046 bombers that took off from 52 airfields in England (Operation Millennium). A total of 1,455 tons of bombs was dropped by the 898 planes which actually attacked the city. Two-thirds of this tonnage being incendiaries. Forty-one British planes were lost and twelve badly damaged, never to fly again. Amazingly only two mid-air collision took place resulting in the loss of four bombers. In the blazing city 486 people had died and 5,027 injured, 18,432 buildings of all kinds were destroyed or badly damaged resulting in 59,100 citizens being made homeless. Next day, RAF Mosquito fighter-bombers flew over the still burning city on their first operational mission to photograph the damage. Around 300 acres of the city's centre had been destroyed in this, the 105th air raid on Germany's fourth largest city.

The second 1,000 plane bomber raid was conducted against the city of Essen  in the Ruhr on June 1-2, 1942. This was not as successful as the raid on Cologne. It was on Essen that the first 8,000 pound 'Blockbuster' bomb was dropped from a Hanley Page Halifax bomber of 76 Squadron. (A total of 6,176 Halifax bombers were built during the war.)

The third 1,000 bomber raid was against the city of Bremen on June 12, 1942. There were no more RAF 1,000 bomber raids after Bremen, the aircraft were urgently needed to fight the U-boat war in the Atlantic. In the five month period during the bombing of the Ruhr, 872 planes failed to return to their home base. This involved almost 6,000 crewmen. On top of this, 2,126 bombers were severely damaged, many crash-landing on their return to England. (It has been calculated that during the war a total of 1,533,714 tons of Allied bombs were dropped on Europe.)

Parts of Cologne's cathedral still smoulders the morning after the firestorm caused by the British 1,000 plane night raid. The Cathedral took 632 years to build, from 1284 to 1880.


The bombing of German cities had a curious effect on how people dressed. Afraid that their best clothes could be lost or burned, German women preferred to wear them on all occasions. In the air-raid shelters, particularly in the Ruhr, it seemed that every woman owned a fur coat!


The Royal Air Force and the United States 8th Air Force, used around 180 airfields scattered all over Britain. These airfields had over 4,000 miles of run-ways and taxi-ways. There was a saying at the time that "a pilot could fly from Lands End (in south-west England) to John O' Groats (in the north-east of Scotland) without getting off the ground!"


On June 5, 1942, the United States declared war on Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania. In December, 1941, these three nations had declared war on the US. President Roosevelt said "I realize that the three governments took this action (to collaborate with Nazi Germany) not upon their own initiative or in response to the wishes of their own people but as instruments of Hitler.''


On August 22, 1942, Brazil declared war on Germany and was the only South American state to send troops overseas. In Europe these troops were known as the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. It consisted of around 25,000 men. Brazil was the only country in the European theatre not to have segregated troops. During the Italian campaign the 1st Brazilian Division was the only division to capture a whole German division, the 148th Reserve Infantry Division, near the city of Fornovo on 28th April, 1945. The 148th Division included 2 generals, 892 officers and 14,700 troops. Total casualties for the Brazilian forces were 443 killed and 2,046 wounded.


Between June 12 and 16, 1942, eight German secret agents were landed on the US east coast. Four were sent ashore from the German submarine U-202 near Amagansert on Long Island. Another four were landed at Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville on Florida's Atlantic coast from the U-boat U-584. Their mission, to destroy a cryolite factory in Philadelphia. All had arranged to meet on July 4th in Cincinnati. A number of these agents were German-Americans trained by the Abwehr at their sabotage training school near Berlin. However, one of the team, a greedy unscrupulous ex-waiter named George John Dasch, and his team-mate Ernest Peter Burger, betrayed the whole operation to the FBI. Dasch carried on his person the sum of $160,000 which was to be used for expenses during their stay in the US. He was determined that the cash would stay in his own pocket. Soon after contacting the FBI, all eight agents were arrested.

At their secret military trial, Dasch and Burger received lengthy jail sentences but the money was taken off Dasch and deposited in the US Treasury Department vaults. The other six agents met their date with destiny in the eighteen year old electric chair in a room on the fourth floor of Washington's District Jail. In 1948, after serving six years of their sentence, Dasch and Burger were deported back to Germany.


In 1942, Japan commenced building the world's biggest submarines. The 400 foot long I-400 series had a displacement of 3,530 tons and were intended to destroy the Pacific exit of the Panama Canal. They could cruise 37,500 miles and dive to a depth of 325 feet. Each of the I-400s could carry three specially designed seaplane bombers which were dismantled and stored in a watertight hanger inside the submarine. Only three were completed before the end of the Pacific war and survived the massive American bombing of Japan's naval bases. All three were captured and destroyed by the Americans in April, 1946.

The colossal Sen-Toku class I-400 submarine carried three two-seat Aichi M6A1 floatplane torpedo-bombers. After the surrender, this one is being berthed next to a group of US subs. The US tender USS Proteus is visible in the background.

general vlasov CAPTURED

On July 12, 1942, one of Stalin's favourite generals, General Andrey Vlasov, was captured by the Germans. He was decorated with the 'Order of the Soviet Union' for his defence of Moscow. In the P.O.W. camps, while a prisoner of war, Vlasov, seeing a great future for himself only in the event of a German victory, began to raise an army of volunteers from other Russian prisoners who were willing to fight alongside the Germans against Stalin. It was called 'The Russian Army of Liberation'. Many of these volunteers were forced by the Germans to join, it was either a case of join the Vlasov army or starve to death. Many of Vlasov's troops, while fighting in Czechoslovakia, deserted their German masters and joined up with the Czech Resistance movement. After the war, General Vlasov was returned to the USSR where he was tried for treason, sentenced to death, and hanged.


The first Australian victory over the seemingly invincible Japanese Army. The Battle of Milne Bay (August 25 to September 6, 1942) on the eastern tip of New Guinea, was one of the great turning points of the Pacific war. Australian troops of the 2/12 Battalion, some just back from the fighting in the Middle East, fought an eleven day battle in jungle rain and mud, against an enemy force and for the first time in the Pacific war, beat them. The Japanese pulled out of Milne Bay on the 5th of September. Soon after the Japanese landings the Australian troops discovered, at a place called the KB Mission, several bodies of their comrades, who had been taken prisoner by the Japanese, tied to trees and stabbed full of holes. They had been used for bayonet practice.

After this brutal discovery, no more prisoners were taken by the Australians during the battle. In the fierce hand to hand fighting for the airstrips, where bayonets were used as much as guns, Japanese soldiers had the habit of lying amongst the dead corpses and then rising up to shoot the Aussie soldiers as they passed. Soon both sides were bayoneting every dead body they came across just to make sure they were indeed dead. At Milne Bay the cost in Australian lives was high - 161 men were killed. Some 750 Japanese perished. No Australian prisoner lived to tell the tale; all were executed. The Battle of Milne Bay was the first Japanese defeat on land during the Pacific War.


Olga Yamschchikova of the Red Air Force, became the first woman night fighter pilot to score a kill. On September 24, 1942, she shot down a JU-88 bomber over Stalingrad. Olga was a member of the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, an all women unit which during the war flew 4,419 combat missions and shot down 38 enemy aircraft. Nearly a million Soviet women served in the armed forces during the war. Most were volunteers and were replacements for the great number of losses of Soviet soldiers. Only a small portion however were directly involved in actual combat.


Code name for the seaborne assault on the town and port of Dieppe on the French coast on August 19, 1942. The plan was to test the German defences, destroy certain military targets and to occupy the town and surrounding area for one day and then re-embark and return to England. The troops chosen for this action were around 5,000 Canadians from the Canadian 2nd Division who were becoming bored and wanted to see some real action. Some hundreds of British and fifty American commandos were to accompany them and land on eight different points on the enemy held coast.

Landing on the shingle covered Puys beach at daylight, with no smoke cover, men of the Royal Regiment of Canada were cut to pieces by machine gun fire from pillboxes manned by the German defenders. Out of 27 officers and 516 men, only 3 officers and 57 men survived to get back to England. Twenty-eight Churchill tanks, intended to support the infantry, were all lost in the sea or bogged down on the shingle beach. By 9am, realising that the assault was a failure, the Army Commanders decided that the only alternative was to withdraw. By the afternoon, after nine long terrible hours, the survivors were on their way home leaving behind 215 officers and 3,164 men, some 2,000 being taken prisoner and including 570 wounded. The Commandos lost 24 officers and 223 other ranks. The Royal Air force lost 106 aircraft and the German Luftwaffe, 48 planes. The lessons learned at Dieppe were put to good use during the coming Allied invasion of French Moroco in North Africa in November and later at Salerno. (On September 1, 1944, the 2nd Canadian Division returned to Dieppe to take over the town after the Germans had given up without a fight. Survivors of the 1942 raid staged a victory march-past over the ground they had once fought for. The wheel had turned full circle.)


On December 5, 1942, three naval trawlers, commissioned as anti-submarine warfare vessels, HMS Canna, HMS Bengali and HMS Spaniard  were berthed in the harbour at Lagos when a petrol spill caught fire engulfing the three ships. One by one they exploded and in the process killed around 200 people. Fishing trawlers were used extensively during the war on escort duties and mine sweeping.


Code name for the Bletchley Park operation in which coded messages from the German secret military cipher machine Enigma, invented by a German engineer named Arthur Scherbius, were decoded and read. (Codes were first read by the Polish cryptologists Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski as early as 1933.) The military version was adopted by the German Army in 1929 and by the Luftwaffe in 1934. Any reference to Ultra in the press was officially banned during the war and after. It was not until 1974 that much of the Ultra material was declassified. In 1945, high ranking military officers in Britain were sworn never to reveal that the code had been broken because it would give the Germans the chance to say they "were not well and fairly beaten, no possible excuse must be given to explain away their complete defeat by force of arms". About 80% of the staff at Bletchley Park were female, mostly W.R.E.N.S. and W.A.A.F.S. The breaking of the Enigma code was undoubtly the greatest intelligence coup of the entire war, thanks to the brilliant mind of mathematician Alan Turing and the Polish cryptologists. The first machine was built at the Post Office Research Department and arrived at Bletchley Park in 1943. Altogether, ten were built, each comprising 2,500 thermionic valves.

Would our great commanders in the field have been so successful without the influence of Ultra? It is not generally accepted that at the same time the Germans were reading the British naval code and had been doing so since 1936! Up till late 1942, neither side knew that their naval codes were being read. When it finally dawned on them, new ciphers were introduced. A veil of secrecy still hangs over Ultra. Until the official records in the Public Records Office are opened the many hidden secrets of the Enigma story must remain just that ... an enigma!

Wrens (members of the Women's Royal Naval Service) at Bletchley Park in 1942, operating Colossus, the world's first electronic programmable computer.

MOVIE GOERS. In 1942, Berlin had around 400 movie theatres. Paid admissions to these cinemas totalled 7,279,383 which brought in an income of 6,653,226 Reichsmarks. The main films shown were the Nazi propaganda films such as Jud Suss, Ohm Kruger, The Eternal Jew, Campaign in Poland, Victory in the West, Kolberg, and I Accuse (Ich Kage An). By June 1944, around five hundred movie theatres in Germany had been destroyed by Allied Bombing.

AIR-RAID CASUALTIES. For the first five months of 1942, air raid casualties in Britain were 1,526 killed and 1,572 injured. The next seven months till the end of December the casualties were 1,754 killed and 2,531 injured.

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All text researched and compiled by George Duncan. Website by Columbus.