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WWII Timeline – Fall 1940

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1940 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1940

October 3, 1940

Vichy France passed its own version of the Nuremberg Laws against the Jews.

October 7, 1940

Nazis invaded Romania, with their Jewish population of 34,000, with the pretext of protecting its oil fields from the British.

October 12, 1940

After many previous postponements, the Germans again postponed Operation Sea Lion until Spring of 1941.

October 22, 1940

Twenty-nine thousand German Jews were deported from Baden, the Saar, and Alsace-Lorraine into Vichy France.

October 23, 1940

Spain’s Fascist leader, Francisco Franco, met with Adolf Hitler at the Hendaye Railway Station near the Spanish-French border in Hendaye, France. In the seven- to nine-hour meeting, Franco and Hitler could not come to an agreement for the conditions for Spain to join the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The only outcome of the meeting was the signing of a secret agreement in which Franco committed to entering the war at a future date he would choose and Hitler gave vague guarantees that Spain would receive “territories in Africa.”

October 28, 1940

Italy invaded Greece from Albania, which Mussolini justified by claiming that Greece had attacked Albania.

In Great Britain, 489,000 children were evacuated from the London area.

October 31, 1940

The Battle of Britain air war ended in defeat for Nazi Germany and proved Great Britain’s air superiority.

November 1940

The Krakow Ghetto was sealed off with 70,000 Jews inside.

November 5, 1940

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected to his third term as U.S. president.

November 11/12, 1940

The Battle of Taranto took place overnight between British naval forces and Italian naval forces. The British Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history using aerial torpedoes from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in the Mediterranean Sea against the battle fleet of the Italian Royal Navy anchored in the harbour of Taranto. The raid crippled the Italian fleet at Taranto. The Japanese noted the superiority of naval aviation over the big guns of the battleships as they planned their Pearl Harbor attack.

November 14/15, 1940

The city of Coventry, England was bombed many times during WWII, but the most devastating attacks occurred on the evening of November 14 and continued into the morning of November 15.

November 20, 1940

Hungary joined the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

November 22, 1940

The Greeks defeated the Italian 9th Army.

November 23, 1940

Romania joined the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, Japan, and Hungary.

November 24, 1940

Slovakia joined the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, and Romania.

December 9/10, 1940

The British began a western desert offensive in North Africa against the Italians.

December 29/30, 1940

President Roosevelt delivered his Arsenal of Democracy speech on December 29 in a radio broadcast to the United States, Europe, and Japan in which he pledged to supply Great Britain with war materials. He began his address at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time from Washington D.C.

Before his re-election, Roosevelt pledged during the campaign that America would not declare war on the Axis unless it were attacked. He held to that promise, but during his almost forty minute speech, made a case to provide military support to Great Britain and warned,

If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the high seas. … It is no exaggeration to say that all of us, in all the Americas, would be living at the point of a gun.

On the evening of that same day, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) firebombed London. Keep in mind, London is five hours ahead of Washington, D.C. I don’t know what time the bombing started in London that evening, but it likely started before Roosevelt started his radio address.

It was London’s most devastating air raid of the Blitz at the hands of the Nazis and the resulting fire from approximately 100,000 bombs dropped from one hundred thirty-six German bombers became known as the Second Great Fire of London. The raid focused on a part of the city with churches, offices, warehouses, and other non-residential buildings.

Hundreds of fires burned in London, but firefighters saved much of the city from the destruction caused by the exploding bombs even as the bombs rained down all around them, and even while hindered by a water shortage. St. Paul’s Cathedral was in the midst of the smoke and flames and could not be seen well during the firefight, but in the end, when the flames died down and the smoke cleared, the cathedral still stood.

Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize–winning American journalist and war correspondent, witnessed the raid in London and wrote,

Into the dark shadowed spaces below us, while we watched, whole batches of incendiary bombs fell. We saw two dozen go off in two seconds. They flashed terrifically, then quickly simmered down to pin points of dazzling white, burning ferociously…

The greatest of all the fires was directly in front of us. Flames seemed to whip hundreds of feet into the air. Pinkish-white smoke ballooned upward in a great cloud, and out of this cloud there gradually took shape—so faintly at first that we weren’t sure we saw correctly—the gigantic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s was surrounded by fire, but it came through. It stood there in its enormous proportions—growing slowly clearer and clearer, the way objects take shape at dawn. It was like a picture of some miraculous figure that appears before peace-hungry soldiers on a battlefield.

Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on the island of Iejima, Japan (then called Ie Shima) during the Battle of Okinawa on April 18, 1945.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Battle of Taranto

Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy Speech

Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy Speech

Worst Air Raid on London

Second Great Fire of London

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1940

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

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The Grafton Underwood Airfield – Runways and Hardstands

In WWII, the 384th Bomb Group was based in the UK village of Grafton Underwood’s back yard. Seventy-plus years later, most of the war-era buildings are long gone, but their foundations lie sleeping, waiting to be uncovered and made visible again by the hands and aching backs of many who seek to commemorate this important place and the lives who passed through here during the long-ago war.

As the earth attempts to reclaim her once-peaceful space and erase the existence of the use of her land for war, efforts are ongoing to save what time has not yet destroyed or man has not yet demolished so that the history of this place will be remembered by future generations, generations of sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who served here.

We must not forget what happened here and why the people came to use this land for this purpose. We must remember their great deeds of valor, the lives lost, the lives saved, and learn a lesson about sacrifice and freedom.

The main reason for the 384th Bomb Group’s existence at Grafton Underwood revolved around the airfield’s runways, the point of take-off for mission targets and the point of return for the B-17’s and the weary crews that came home.

Take-off was normally early morning. Very early or the previous overnight, the ground crews readied the B-17’s with final repairs, filling fuel tanks, and loading bombs and ammunition.

After breakfast and briefing, the airmen arrived at their designated aircraft and performed final preparations for the day’s missions. The pilots ran through their checklists, the gunners checked the guns, and the navigators and bombardiers studied the route and coordinates for the bomb drop. Pilots started the engines and watched for the flare signalling departure.

The 384th Bomb Group’s first commander, Budd Peaslee, shared his memories of these mornings in the closing words of his 1963 book, Heritage of Valor. Commander Peaslee described not the look of the airfield, but the sound and feel of it when the 384th war machine was in full force and preparing for battle.

Commander Peaslee likened the sound of the B-17 engines to “musical thunder” and described the taxi and take-off of the flying fortresses as causing the “very earth to tremble.” He pronounced the source of the sound as “seeming to emanate from all things, visible and invisible,” and he compared the B-17’s “great deep-throated engines” to their later jet replacements’ “flat, toneless roar.”

Eighteen years after the 384th left Grafton Underwood at the end of the war, Peaslee described the runways as “ancient” and “weed-choked.” But those runways have not disappeared to this day. Fifty-six years past the publication of his book, and seventy-four years past the end of the war, the runways just north of the village can still be seen in satellite images.

After all of the B-17’s departed for the day’s mission and the business of waiting for their return began, the runway, though now silent, was the center of the group’s universe, the ultimate determiner of the mission’s success or failure.

On paper, the success of the mission was determined by how close the bombs had come to their targets and what kind of destruction the formation had brought to the enemy’s door. In reality, if one B-17 or one man had been lost and not returned to touch down on the runway or sleep in his bunk that night, the loss would be felt exponentially throughout the base, from crew mates, to cooks, to the Commander.

As soon as the last of the B-17’s wheels left the morning mist-covered ground, thoughts would turn to wonder how many would not return today. What familiar faces around the base would be no more? Eating, sleeping, socializing, and any other function of human life was secondary to the take-off and return of the B-17’s and their crews. The runway symbolized why the airmen were there, why the ground crews were there, and why the people of Grafton Underwood had to share the backyard of their pleasant village with this instrument of war.

This year’s 384th Bomb Group reunion will be the group’s eleventh junket to Grafton Underwood and other nearby WWII sites and will be my first. I will be able to see and stand upon the runways of which I have only imagined, have read about, and have seen in photos and on maps.

This map of the runways and hardstands was obtained from the archives at RAF Hendon and donated by Kevin Flecknor and Robin Dodson.

Site No. 1 Airfield – Runways and Hardstands

The runways and the fifty hardstands, where the aircraft stood ready, are detailed on the map as Site No. 1 Airfield.

The 384th Bomb Group was made up of four bombardment squadrons – 544, 545, 546, and 547. Each had a separate area of hardstands for their designated ships.

  • The 544th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 1 – 9, 49, and 50.
  • The 545th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 10 – 23.
  • The 546th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 24 – 35, and 41.
  • The 547th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 36 – 40, and 42 – 48.

Though the numbering system of division looks a little disjointed in a list, a review of where the hardstands are placed on the map will show why the division was made as it was. What’s not clear is why the number of hardstands was not more equally divided between squadrons. The 544th Bomb Squadron had the least amount, eleven, and the 545th Bomb Squad had the most, fourteen.

Thanks to Google Earth, we can see what the airfield map looks like superimposed on a map of the area today.

Image © 2018 Google

Note: Click on the images to open to full screen. (Then use your browser Back button to return to this post). 

Special Thanks to 384th Bomb Group Volunteers

The map of the runways and hardstands was obtained from the archives at RAF Hendon and donated by Kevin Flecknor and Robin Dodson. Hardstand identifications provided by Mark Meehl.

Note: The boxed numbers indicate the runway identifiers (magnetic compass heading to nearest 10 degrees).

Friends of the 384th

To view the progress of the Grafton Underwood Airfield building preservation and site cleanup and maintenance, please join the Friends of the 384th on Facebook.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Summer 1940

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1940 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1940

July 1, 1940

German U-boats attacked merchant ships in the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign of WWII, lasting from 1939 to 1945.

The French government of Prime Minister Marshal Philippe Pétain moved to Vichy, France.

July 5, 1940

Great Britain and the French Vichy government broke off diplomatic relations.

July 10, 1940

The Battle of Britain began. After the fall of France, the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) conducted unremitting and highly destructive air raids over Britain from July through September 1940. The British Royal Air Force (RAF) successfully defended Great Britain in what has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.

July 14-15, 1940

The Soviet Union engineered a Communist coup d’états in the Baltic States after their June occupation.

July 17, 1940

The first French anti-Jewish laws were decreed by Vichy government Prime Minister Marshal Philippe Pétain. The laws were not mandated by Germany. They affected metropolitan France and its overseas territories. The measures designated Jews as a lower class and deprived them of citizenship and a right to hold public office. Many Jews were first confined to the Drancy Internment Camp before being deported for extermination in Nazi concentration camps.

July 23, 1940

Per the Soviet-German non-aggression agreement (also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) of August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union officially absorbed Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

August 3-6, 1940

The Soviet Union annexed the Baltic States as Soviet Republics after their June occupation.

August 3-19, 1940

The Italians occupied British Somaliland in East Africa.

August 8, 1940

Romania introduced anti-Jewish measures restricting education and employment, then later began “Romanianization” of Jewish businesses.

August 13, 1940

The German bombing of British airfields began. Eagle Day (Adlertag) was the first day of Operation Eagle Attack (Unternehmen Adlerangriff), the codename for the Nazi Luftwaffe operation to destroy the British Royal Air Force. It was an attempt to gain air superiority in preparation for the invasion of Britain by sea, code named Operation Sea Lion. The main target was RAF Fighter Command. The attack caused significant damage and casualties on the ground, but did not cause enough damage to the British Fighter Command’s ability to defend British air space.

August 15, 1940

Air battles and daylight raids over Britain continued.

Franz Rademacher, head of the Jewish Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ordered Adolf Eichmann to start the resettlement of a million Jews per year for four years to Madagascar as a police state under the SS. The “Madagascar Plan” project was later abandoned.

August 17, 1940

Hitler declared a blockade of the British Isles.

August 23/24, 1940

The first German air raids began on Central London.

August 25/26, 1940

In retaliation of the air raids on London, the first British RAF air raid on Berlin was carried out.

August 30, 1940

The Second Vienna Award was the second territorial dispute arbitrated by Germany and Italy. It assigned the territory of North Transylvania from Romania to Hungary. Losing North Transylvania forced Romanian King Carol to abdicate the throne to his son, Michael, and brought the dictatorship of Fascist General Ion Antonescu and his Iron Guards to power.

September 4, 1940

The America First Committee was established with the goal of keeping the United States out of WWII. Aviator Charles Lindberg was one of the most famous of it’s 800,000 members. The committee was disbanded four days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

September 7, 1940

The German Blitz against Great Britain began when the Luftwaffe began targeting civilian rather than British military targets.

September 13, 1940

Italian forces invaded British-controlled Egypt from Italian-controlled Libya.

September 15, 1940

The Blitz continued with German air raids on London, Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester.

September 16, 1940

The United States military conscription bill passed and the first U.S. peacetime draft was enacted.

September 27, 1940

Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite (Axis) Pact, an economic and military alliance. The “Axis powers” formally took the name after the Tripartite Pact was signed.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Madagascar Plan

Vichy anti-Jewish legislation

Adlertag

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1940

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Follow Up: How Many Airmen Made Up a B-17 Crew in WWII

Some new information about the change in structure to B-17 crews during WWII has come to my attention from two 384th Bomb Group Association volunteers, Researcher and Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson and Historian John Edwards.

My original post, How Many Airmen Made Up a B-17 Crew in WWII, was published July 3, 2019.

Keith found a document that was simply titled “Administration” and marked SECRET that offered an interesting theory, one I had never considered. He identified the document as one from the 447th Bomb Group based in Rattlesden, Suffolk, England from the inclusion of a second topic on the same page titled Beautification Program, which mentioned the Ground Executive of the station, Lt. Col. Wilfred Beaver.

The topic regarding crew makeup was titled Nine Man Crew. It read (with a few minor typographical corrections and some format changes for readability),

On 20 July 1944, a program was instituted to reduce the weight of combat aircraft. With a decrease in weight, the operational efficiency of our planes would increase. As a part of the weight reduction program one waist gunner was removed from each plane.

The obvious result was a plethora of surplus gunners assigned to the Group. Measures were established to eliminate all excess gunner personnel. In order to best utilize the services of surplus gunners who were not permanent members of combat crews and not required as gunners for operations, it was necessary to accomplish one of the following:

  1. Release surplus gunners to the Zone of the Interior, if they had already completed 25 or more missions.
  2. Reclassify surplus gunners to other ground military occupational specialties in which they were skilled. (Absorption of these men in vacancies afforded in the various Tables of Organization of units on the Station was mainly the problem here encountered.)
  3. Transfer to other commands in this Theater where gunners were needed.

At the present time, a surplus still exists on this Station, but the process of depletion has been inaugurated.

I had not considered that the weight of one gunner, probably in the range of 130 to 150 pounds or more, plus the weight of his flying gear, could have made that much difference to the amount of fuel a B-17 would use over the course of a mission.

According to The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft by David Donald, as noted in Wikipedia, the empty weight of a B-17G is 36,135 pounds. Gross weight, and I’m not quite sure what that entails, is noted at 54,000 pounds. Maximum takeoff weight is 65,500 pounds.

The inclusion of one extra 150-pound gunner seems pretty insignificant to me, but perhaps being able to carry another 150 pounds of ammo or bombs, or being just a little lighter to increase air speed, was more important than an additional gunner to defend the ship, especially since the improvement of American fighter planes reduced the incidence of enemy fighters attacking the formation at that point in the war.

The amount of fuel that could be placed in the tank of a B-17 was limited and that fuel limit in combination with the weight of the ship would directly affect the distance the formation could travel into enemy territory. By reducing the weight of the aircraft, the formation could reach further targets. Well, maybe that does make more sense than I initially considered.

The 384th Bomb Group had instituted the change in crew makeup from ten to nine by reducing the number of waist gunners from two to one several months before the 477th, in the middle of May 1944. Keith noted that,

I am certain that reduction in crew size would have been a directive from 8th AF level with maybe some wiggle room for implementation at the lower echelons.

At Keith’s suggestion, I also asked John Edwards to weigh in on the subject and he added his insight, first on crew requirements,

Crew requirements were levied on the training air forces in the ZOI [Zone of the Interior] by the GHQ AAF [Army Air Forces Group Headquarters] as received from the combatant numbered air forces. This would be a request for crews. AAF would approve the requested strength based on the air war plan and the numbered air force’s mission.

After deciding how much of the pie each AF could have, the AAF issued broad goals for the number of pilots by type and navigators and bombardiers in proportion. The personnel allocations would be to fill the pipeline to each AF and how best to reach the manpower allocation for each.

and then regarding crew composition,

Crew composition was a different issue. When the B-29 training program kicked off in April 1944, AAF realized that a dedicated crew and a certain composition was required compared with the other four engine types. This impacted B-17 and B-24 crews.

Procurement policies were changed as the war went on to either increase or decrease the flow of personnel in the pipeline in specific specialties. When the first big change in crew number occurred, it was based on the bombardier vs. the togglier. A change in tactics by 8AF [the 8th Air Force] revised crew composition.

Now when 10 guys become 9, that was further based on a tactical change in that the effective box formations negated the need for two waist gunners. That would mean the crew composition in summer 44 was an average 9 guys which meant a gunner would be the TOG [togglier] so you had a net loss of one guy.

Early on, each B-17 in the mission formation had a specially trained bombardier who would take over flying the aircraft from the pilot at the IP, the Initial Point of the bomb run, and continue to do so until he spotted the target and dropped his bombs, at which point he would return control of the aircraft to the pilot.

Later in the war, only the lead aircraft in the formation had to carry a qualified bombardier and the remaining aircraft were manned by either trained bombardiers or toggliers, who would watch for the lead bombardier to drop his bombs and follow suit by toggling the switch to drop theirs.

Toggliers and non-lead bombardiers did not take control of the aircraft from the pilot during the bomb run and most often toggliers were not officers, but were enlisted men, likely surplus waist gunners, who sat in the bombardier seat and released the bombs with the formation.

This change also led to many officers who were originally trained as bombardiers, but didn’t qualify as lead bombardiers, to retrain to become navigators rather than waste their talents as button-pushers.

John continued,

Now in theater the CCRC [Combat Crew Replacement Center] or later RCD [Replacement or Reinforcement Control Depot] would make the assignments for crews based on personnel allocations according to TO&E [Table of Orgainization and Equipment] strengths.

From there, the AF would allocate crews by division then on down the line to the group. At this point, the big change occurs – each group HQ would create the operational crew composition based on it’s needs (like the other levels and assuming all these ideas agreed and 8AF correctly stated the requirement AND the ZOI filled it that way).

As a rough rule, each group could do as they pleased within the manning construct of the TO&E. The group started getting 9 man crews in late February just at or about other groups did, but remember, the personnel pipeline was filled with 1943 trained guys (whole crews) and groups still being trained up in the states.

In the end of all this, you still have the mission change requirement increase [from 25 to 30 to 35 missions required to finish a tour] so there are more ‘bodies’ on hand to fill up crews, rebuild them or create spares pools.

Note

In researching this subject, I became curious about the Combatant Numbered Air Forces. I happened to find a document online in PDF format named Air Force Combat Units of WWII edited by Maurer Maurer, originally published in 1961, and reprinted by the Office of Air Force History in Washington, D.C. in 1983.

Starting on this 520-page document’s page 457 (page 471 of the PDF file) is a description of each of the numbered Air Forces 1 – 15 and 20. Check the index at the end for the un-numbered Air Forces, as well. This comprehensive document covers not only the Air Forces, but the Commands, Divisions, Wings, and Groups – see the Table of Contents on the document’s page xiii (PDF file page 13).

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Spring 1940

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1940 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1940

April and May 1940

Soviet secret police committed a series of mass executions of Polish military and intelligence officers in April and May of 1940 in several areas. Because of the later discovery of the first mass graves in the Katyn Forest, the executions have come to be known as the Katyn Forest Massacre. The number of victims has been estimated to be about 22,000.

April 5, 1940

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain unwisely claimed,

Hitler has missed the bus, a German invasion of the West is now unlikely to succeed.

April 9, 1940

The Nazis invaded Denmark, with a Jewish population of 8,000, and Norway, with a Jewish population of 2,000.  Denmark surrendered the day of, or day after, the attack. Norwegian leader Vidkun Quisling moved to create a pro-Nazi government.

April 27, 1940

Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

April 30, 1940

The gates were closed on the Lodz Ghetto in occupied Poland, sealing it off from the outside world with estimates ranging from 164,000 to 230,000 Jews locked inside. Lodz was reported to be one of the largest ghettos in all of German-occupied Europe, second only to the Warsaw Ghetto.

May 1, 1940

Rudolf Höss was selected as Kommandant of Auschwitz.

May 7, 1940

President Roosevelt directed the U. S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet to remain at the ready off the coast of Hawaii.

May 10, 1940

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister.

The Nazis invaded France, with a Jewish population of 350,000, Belgium, with a Jewish population of 65,000, the Netherlands, with a Jewish population of 140,000, and Luxembourg, with a Jewish population of 3,500. Hitler feared that the Allies were planning to use the neutral nations as staging areas for attacks on Germany.

The first RAF (British Royal Air Force) bombing raids over Germany targeted communication centers.

May 12, 1940

England and Scotland began detaining German and Austrian men, and eventually Italian men, ages sixteen to sixty, in interment camps.

May 13, 1940

New British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made his “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech in the House of Commons,

I would say to the House as I have said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” You ask, what is our policy? I will say: it is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

The Nazis established bridgeheads (the strategically important area of ground around the end of a bridge which is sought to be defended) across the Meuse River in Belgium.

The Netherlands’ Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch royal family arrived in London, establishing themselves in exile after fleeing the Hague.

May 15, 1940

The Dutch Army of the Netherlands surrendered to the Nazis.

May 20, 1940

The largest concentration camp of the Nazis, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, was established.

May 26, 1940

Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British, French, and Belgian troops surrounded by the Axis powers from Dunkirk, France began.

May 27, 1940

Germany captured the port city of Calais, France, which is twenty-six miles across the English Channel from Dover, England.

May 28, 1940

Belgium surrendered to the Nazis.

June 3, 1940

The Nazis bombed Paris, and two hundred fifty Parisian citizens died from the air assault of two hundred Luftwaffe planes.

The Dunkirk evacuation ended with the total rescue of 224,686 British troops, and 121,445 French and Belgian troops.

Franz Rademacher sent out the first of several memos on the “Madagascar Project.”

June 4, 1940

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ended a speech before the House of Commons with,

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

June 8, 1940

The British aircraft carrier, HMS Glorious, and its escort of two destroyers, the HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent, were sunk by German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. More than 1,500 sailors were lost on the three British ships.

June 9, 1940

Norway surrendered to the Nazis.

June 10, 1940

Italy declared war on Britain and France.

Canada declared war on Italy.

June 14, 1940

South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand joined Canada in declaring war on Italy.

The Nazis marched into Paris, beginning a four-year occupation. All remaining British troops in France were ordered to return to England.

The Soviet Union occupied the Baltic States June 14–18.

June 15, 1940

The U. S. Congress continued to refuse to intervene in the war in Europe despite pleas from France and Britain.

June 16, 1940

Marshal Philippe Pétain replaced Paul Reynaud as French Prime Minister.

Italy sank the British submarines Grampus and Orpheus.

June 17, 1940

Five Luftwaffe bombers attacked the Cunard luxury ocean liner Lancastria, which was being used to transport troops, of which 2,500 died.

The U. S. Navy requested $4 billion from Congress to build an Atlantic fleet equal in strength to its Pacific fleet.

June 18, 1940

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met in Munich. Hitler did not offer the large tracts of French land that Mussolini expected to be granted.

June 21, 1940

Italy invaded southern France.

June 22, 1940

France surrendered to and signed an armistice with Nazi Germany. In the agreement, Germany would occupy the northern half of France and the entire Atlantic coastline. A collaborationist regime with its capital in Vichy would be established in southern France,

June 23, 1940

Adolf Hitler toured Paris accompanied by architect Albert Speer.

June 28, 1940

Britain recognized General Charles de Gaulle, in exile in London, as the Free French leader.

The Soviet Union forced Romania to cede the eastern province of Bessarabia and the northern half of Bukovina to the Soviet Ukraine.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Winston Churchill Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat Speech

Winston Churchill Beaches Speech

The Katyn Forrest Massacre

Civilian Internment

The Sinking of the HMS Glorious

Franz Rademacher’s Madagascar Project

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1940

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

What Does It Mean?

Recently, a reader I was assisting in her search for information regarding the WWII service of her grandmother’s cousin ran across a military abbreviation with which I was not familiar, EUS. I began an internet search for the meaning of EUS. I expected the usual overwhelming list of responses from Mr. Google, but my search returned very few results. I should have known, but didn’t think of it beforehand, that Fred Preller provides that information on his 384th Bomb Group website in a very nice table of MACR and AR abbreviations.

And by the way, MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report and AR stands for Accident Report.

Common WWII Military Abbreviations

 Abbreviation  Meaning
 ALW  Alive and well
 ASN  Army Serial Number
 DED  Missing and presumed (Declared) Dead, (Public Law 490)
 DL  Dead List
 DNB  Died, Non-Battle due to sickness or non-combat injury
 DOW  Died Of Wounds
 DOWRIA  Died Of Wounds Received In Action
 EUS  Evacuated to the United States
 EVD  Evaded (or escaped)
 FOD  Finding Of Death (same as DED)
 INT  Interned in neutral country
 IO  Initial Only, referring to a name
 KIA  Killed In Action
 KILD  Killed In Line of Duty
 KMAC  Killed, Mid Air Collision
 LWA  Lightly Wounded In Action
 MIA  Missing In Action
 NMI  No Middle Initial, referring to a name
 NOK  Next Of Kin
 POW  Prisoner Of War
 RMC  Returned to Military Control
 RTD  Returned To Duty
 SWA  Seriously Wounded in Action
 WIA  Wounded In Action

All of the above are from Fred’s list with the exception of KMAC, which I added as it pertains to the eight men aboard my dad’s B-17 who died in the mid-air collision on September 28, 1944.

In my search for the meaning of EUS, I did run across another very extensive list provided on the 416th Bomb Group’s website. (Scroll down to the MACR and AAR Crewmember Status table). You may not run into these abbreviations very often, but if there’s something you can’t find on Fred’s list, check the 416th’s. They actually present three different lists on the page:

  • Descriptions for some common WWII Acronyms, Abbreviations and Codes used by the 416th BG during WWII
  • MACR and AAR Crewmember Status
  • Enlisted and Officer Rank

The 416th’s list notes that the primary sources of their abbreviations list come from:

Hopefully, between these resources, most abbreviations we WWII researchers run across will be included, but I know not all will. I’m still looking for the meaning of CPF!

Links to Abbreviation Tables

Fred Preller’s 384th Bomb Group Site’s MACR and AR Explainer Table

416th Bomb Group Site’s Lexicon

Fold 3 Abbreviations

Aviation Archaeology Action Codes

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Winter 1940

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1940 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1940

January 1940

The antisemitic newspaper, Der Stürmer, quoted its publisher and prominent member of the Nazi party, Julius Streicher,

The time is near when a machine will go into motion which is going to prepare a grave for the world’s criminal – Judah – from which there will be no resurrection.

January 8, 1940

Butter, sugar, and bacon rationing began in Britain.

January 9, 1940

SS chief of Danzig and West Prussia, Richard Hildebrandt, told Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler that he instructed his troops to execute more than four thousand mentally ill Polish citizens.

The British ocean liner MV Dunbar Castle, with a crew of one hundred fifty and forty-eight passengers, hit a German mine and foundered off the English coast. The captain and two of the crew were killed, and two storekeepers were missing, but no other lives were lost.

January 16, 1940

Adolf Hitler issued orders to postpone his attack in the west until Spring.

January 21, 1940

The British destroyer HMS Exmouth was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Moray Firth. Capt. R. S. Benson, fifteen officers, and one hundred seventy-three crew were killed.

January 24, 1940

Chief of Nazi Gestapo Reinhard Heydrich was appointed to oversee the evacuation of all Jews from the Reich.

January 25, 1940

The Nazis selected the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) near Krakow, Poland for the site of a new concentration camp.

February 10, 1940

In Czechoslovakia, the Nazis prohibited Jewish-owned businesses from selling art, jewels, and precious metals, and forced the closure of Jewish-owned textile and leather shops.

February 12, 1940

The first German Jews were deported into occupied Poland.

Paper rationing began in Britain.

February 14, 1940

Britain declared it would outfit all merchant ships with guns.

February 15, 1940

Germany declared it would treat all British merchant ships as hostile combatants.

February 29, 1940

Food and gas rationing began in France.

March 7, 1940

The Cunard luxury ocean liner Queen Elizabeth safely reached New York after a harrowing crossing of the German U-boat infested Atlantic.

March 12, 1940

Finland signed a peace treaty with the Soviets and ceded the northern shores of Lake Lagoda and the small Finnish coastline on the Arctic Sea to the Soviet Union. The cost of the Russian aggression which resulted in the treaty was 25,000 Finnish lives and nearly 70,000 Soviet lives. After the end of hostilities, a half million Finns left the Soviet-occupied territory.

Seventy-two of one thousand German Jews deported to Poland died during an eighteen hour march in a blizzard in Lublin, Poland.

March 14, 1940

Hermann Göring ordered all German citizens to relinquish all metals that could be turned into war materials.

March 16, 1940

The Nazis bombed the Scapa Flow (a body of water in the Orkney Islands) naval base near Scotland.

March 18, 1940

Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met to discuss Italy’s entry into the war. They determined that Mussolini’s troops would attack France.

March 30, 1940

Japan established a Chinese puppet government controlled by Wang Ching-wei, a defector from the Nationalist cause, in Nanking. The US refused to recognize it.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Loss of the MV Dunbar Castle

Loss of the HMS Exmouth

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1939

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

How Many Airmen Made Up a B-17 Crew in WWII

Ask anyone how many airmen made up a B-17 crew in WWII, and you’ll likely get a response of ‘ten.’ The ten airmen on the crew would be,

  1. Pilot
  2. Co-pilot
  3. Navigator
  4. Bombardier
  5. Top turret gunner/Engineer
  6. Radio operator
  7. Ball turret gunner
  8. Tail gunner
  9. Right Waist/flexible gunner
  10. Left Waist/flexible gunner

When my dad was completing his crew training at the Ardmore Army Air Field in Ardmore, Oklahoma in the Spring of 1944, his crew – the John Oliver Buslee crew – trained as a crew of ten. They flew to England, delivering a new B-17 to the 8th Air Force, as a crew of ten. They were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group as a crew of ten.

But on the date of their first mission on August 4, 1944, the Buslee crew flew as a crew of nine. With a more experienced pilot lending a hand to pilot John Buslee, David Albrecht was bumped out of his co-pilot seat onto another crew, another B-17.

And, following a change in the makeup of B-17 air crews on combat missions out of England, only one waist gunner manned the waist guns of the plane. Buslee crew waist gunner Lenard Bryant was selected to fly that first mission, leaving my dad as the only member of his crew behind on the ground that day.

If Dad didn’t awaken when the rest of the enlisted men on his crew got that tap on the shoulder rousing them from sleep that morning, he probably awoke to find himself alone in his barracks.

What a letdown that must have been for my father that day, and a blow to his morale, to be the only man on his crew left out of the action. He got his chance the next day, August 5, 1944, and probably wished he had been grounded for that one, too. His ship, The Tremblin’ Gremlin, returned from Langenhagen, Germany with 106 flak holes, and the bombardier lost his life on that mission.

At that point in the war, American fighter planes were providing more protection to the formation from the German fighter planes, and waist gunners were deemed to be needed less to defend the formation. The radio operator was expected to man the left waist gun in time of need.

So, wondering at what point the group began flying missions with only one waist gunner, I looked it up in the 384th Bomb Group website’s mission database. On May 15, 1944, Mission 108, target NOBALL (V-1 Launch Site) of CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) in Mimoyecques, France, two waist gunners manned the waist, defending the ship. On the 384th’s next mission four days later on May 19, 1944, Mission 109, to an industrial target in Berlin, the waist held only one waist gunner on most of the ships.

When my dad and his crew of ten were training in Ardmore, the 384th had already changed their crew makeup on missions to be a crew of nine, with only one waist gunner. Of course, at the time Dad and his crewmates were in training on the B-17, they didn’t know if they would be assigned to the European theater or the Pacific theater. I don’t know if the number of B-17 crew members differed between the theaters, but to me, that’s one possible explanation as to why the military would keep training crews of ten and then reduce them to crews of nine before entering combat.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Fall 1939

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1939 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1939

October 1939

In October of 1939 in Germany, Adolf Hitler ordered widespread “mercy killings” by gassings of the sick and disabled. Code named “Aktion T4,” an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Germans were murdered under this action during the next two years. It was a euthanasia program with the goal to eliminate “life unworthy of life.” The first focus was on newborn babies and very young children.

The Reich Health Ministry required midwives and doctors to fill out a questionnaire and register children up to the age of three who were deemed to be mentally retarded or physically deformed. Three medical experts reviewed the questionnaires, and without examining the children or any of their other medical records, decided whether each child would be allowed to live.

All three experts had to agree for a child to be transferred to the “Children’s Specialty Department” where those deemed mentally retarded or physically deformed would be euthanized by injection or allowed to gradually starve to death. If the decision was not unanimous, the child would be observed until a unanimous decision could be reached.

The program soon expanded to include older disabled children and adults. A decree directly from Hitler, back dated to September 1, increased

the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such manner that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death.

The euthanasia program was expanded further with the questionnaires used in mental institutions, hospitals, and other institutions for the chronically ill. Patients suffering from a host of diseases and conditions, and those who had been housed in institutions continuously for five or more years, or were judged criminally insane fell under the program’s guidelines. Also those who were not German citizens or were not of German or related blood, including Jews, Negroes, and Gypsies were included.

Eventually the program was headed by SS man Christian Wirth and six killing centers were established, including a well known psychiatric clinic at Hadamar and a former prison at Brandenburg, where the first Nazi experimental gassings took place. These served as training centers for the SS, and the technical knowledge and experience was used to create the extermination camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other concentration camps in Hitler’s goal to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Europe.

October 5, 1939

In September, more than 500,000 Polish troops fought the Nazis. Most were taken prisoner, but 100,000 died fighting or fled Poland. On this date, the remainder of the Polish army surrendered to Nazi Germany.

October 6, 1939

Hitler declared victory over Poland and accused Poland of initiating hostilities.

Hitler called for peace with Britain and France and insisted he had no ambitions towards them or Belgium, Holland, and several others.

Hitler issued a proclamation on the isolation of Jews.

October 9, 1939

Hitler issued orders for the creation of an invasion plan of France and the Low Countries, after calling for peace only three days earlier.

The German battleship Deutschland captured the American cargo ship City of Flint, which was carrying farming supplies to England.

October 12, 1939

The Nazis began the consolidation of Jews in Germany’s occupied territory. Jews were evacuated from Vienna. Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were sent to Poland.

October 14, 1939

A German U-boat (submarine) torpedoed and sank Britain’s HMS Royal Oak battleship while it was anchored in Scapa Flow (a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland), killing 883.

October 21, 1939

The United States budgeted $6,000 for atomic experiments.

October 26, 1939

Hans Frank was appointed Nazi Gauleiter (Governor General) of Poland.

A forced labor decree was issued for all Polish Jews from age fourteen to sixty.

October 28, 1939

An amendment to the US Neutrality Act allowing the sale of arms to besieged allies passed the US Senate.

November 1, 1939

Western Poland officially became part of the German Reich. (Date alternately reported as October 19, 1939).

November 3, 1939

Eastern Poland officially became part of the Soviet Union.

November 4, 1939

The amendment to the US Neutrality Act, passed by the US Senate on October 28, cleared the US House of Representatives and was signed by President Roosevelt. It required that arms were not transported by American ships.

Jews in Warsaw were all moved into a ghetto.

November 8, 1939

In a Munich beer hall, at the annual meeting of the veterans of the 1923 Nazi Putsch, a concealed bomb exploded, killing nine. It was an assassination attempt against Hitler, but he had left the beer hall twenty minutes earlier.

November 23, 1939

All Jews over age ten living in Nazi-occupied Poland were ordered to wear yellow stars symbolizing the Star of David.

November 28, 1939

The Australian government agreed to send troops to Europe.

November 30, 1939

The Soviet Union invaded Finland, initiating the “Winter War.”

December 1939

Adolf Eichmann took over Section IV B4 of the Gestapo, dealing solely with Jewish affairs and evacuations. (See link below to Eichmann biography).

December 14, 1939

The League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union following its aggression against Finland.

December 17, 1939

The British Royal Navy engaged the German warship Graf Spee off the coast of Uruguay. After a particularly long battle, the captain of the damaged Graf Spee scuttled her near Montevideo.

December 18, 1939

Canada sent more than 7,000 troops to Britain to assist the Allies and the first of them arrived in Britain on this date.

December 24, 1939

Pope Pius XII made a Christmas appeal for peace.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

The History Place Biography of Adolf Eichmann

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1939

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

The Next Generation Meets

On Sunday, June 2, 2019, the children of the waist gunners of both ships involved in the 384th Bomb Group’s mid-air collision of September 28, 1944 over Magdeburg, Germany met for the first time.

L to R: George Edwin Farrar, Cindy Farrar Bryan, Harry Allen Liniger, Jr., and Harry Allen Liniger, Sr.

That’s me, Cindy Farrar Bryan, daughter of George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew, on the left and Harry Liniger, Jr., son of Harry Allen Liniger, Sr. of the Brodie crew, on the right. Harry is pointing to his dad’s name on a plaque in the garden of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA. The plaque is dedicated to the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group.

On September 28, 1944, the 384th Bomb Group flew their Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, two B-17’s collided, the Buslee crew’s 43-37822 and the Brodie crew’s 42-31222 (also known as “Lazy Daisy.”)

The only survivors of the Brodie crew were navigator George Hawkins, tail gunner Wilfred Miller, and waist gunner Harry Liniger.

The front section of the nose of the Brodie crew’s “Lazy Daisy” was carried away, and with it, the togglier. Hawkins managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun. Waist gunner Harry Liniger was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. The explosion also severed the tail of the ship and tail gunner Wilfred Miller rode the tail assembly down and later chuted from the tail section.

The only survivor of the Buslee crew was waist gunner George Edwin Farrar, my dad.  He believed that the other ship must have hit right in the center of their ship, as they were knocked half in-to.  At the time they were struck, Dad was knocked unconscious and fell about 25,000 feet, before he knew he was even out of the ship.

Both Liniger and Farrar (and also Miller) were confined as POWs in Stalag Luft IV and survived the 500-mile, 86-day Black March across Germany to their liberation in May 1945. Hawkins was so severely injured in the collision that he was confined to the hospital during the whole of his time as a prisoner of war.

Now that Harry and I have finally met, we’d like one day to meet the children of George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, the only other survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg. To those children, if you feel the same, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

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