Tuesday, April 21, 2015

82nd Airborne, Ste. Mere-Eglise

     Colourised by Johnny Sirlande

     82nd Airborne Division soldier Elmer.W. Habbs of Delaware resting next to signpost for the French town of Ste. Mere-Eglise as troops advance on the 2nd day of the Allied invasion of Normandy, 8 June 1944.

     The American airborne landings in Normandy were the first United States combat operations during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944. Around 13,100 paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day. As the opening maneuver of Operation Neptune (the assault operation for Overlord) the American airborne divisions were delivered to the continent in two parachute and six glider missions.

     Both airborne divisions were part of the U.S. VII Corps and provided it support in its mission of capturing Cherbourg as soon as possible to provide the Allies with a port of supply. The specific missions of the airborne divisions were to block approaches into the vicinity of the amphibious landing at Utah Beach, to capture causeway exits off the beaches, and to establish crossings over the Douve River at Carentan to assist the U.S. V Corps in merging the two American beachheads.

     The assault did not succeed in blocking the approaches to Utah for three days. Numerous factors played a part, most of which dealt with excessive scattering of the drops. Despite this, German forces were unable to exploit the chaos. Many German units made a tenacious defense of their strong-points, but all were systematically defeated within the week

Friday, April 10, 2015

Croatian Do-17Z and Pilot

Colourised by Doug Banks
A Croatian Oberfeldwebel pilot of 10.(kroatische)/Kampfgeschwader 3 standing by his Dornier Do 17Z on the Eastern Front, ca. October 1941.
     The Croatian Air Force Legion (Croatian: Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Legija), or HZL, also known as the Croatian Legion, was a foreign volunteer unit of the Luftwaffe raised from volunteers drawn from the Independent State of Croatia. When formed in August 1941 it was designated 10.(kroatische)/Kampfgeschwader 3 and began training at the Grosse Kampfflieger Schule 3, in Greifswald, Germany, the squadron was equipped with Dornier Do 17Z aircraft.
    When it arrived on the Eastern Front on 25 October 1941, their first area of operations was near Vitebsk, Belarus. The rest of the Bomber Squadron's assignments were in the Northern Sector of the Eastern Front, including the bombing of Leningrad and Moscow. On 9 November 1941, the Squadron was congratulated by Feldmarschall Kesselring for its actions thus far. The Squadron moved its base to Agram (Zagreb), Croatia in March 1942.
     Officially redesignated 15.(kroatische)/Kampfgeschwader 53 in June 1942 while based at Agram. The unit began moving about from base to base from June until December 1942. The exact areas are uncertain, but one base was at Korowje-Selo, Russia and another was at Seschtschinskaya, Russia. After flying some 1,500 sorties on the Eastern Front, the Squadron and its aircraft were re-deployed to Croatia in December 1942, to help combat the growing Yugoslav Partisan threat to the Axis forces on the Yugoslav Front. The unit was disbanded in June 1944 and the men of the unit were used to form the bomber wing of the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske, ZNDH), and was designated 1./(Kroat.)KG after having flown its nine Dornier Do 17Z bombers from Russia back to Croatia. The Dorniers proved a welcome addition to the strike power of the Axis forces fighting the Yugoslav Partisans on the Yugoslav Front.
     The Dornier Do 17, sometimes referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift ("flying pencil"), was a German light bomber produced by Claudius Dornier's company, Dornier Flugzeugwerke. It was designed as a Schnellbomber ("fast bomber"), a light bomber which, in theory, would be so
fast that it could outrun defending fighter aircraft.

Dornier Do 17Z of 15.(kroatische)/Kampfgeschwader 53

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Private, US 7th Infantry Division

Colourised by Doug Banks
Private First Class Terry Paul Moore of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was number one Browning Automatic Rifleman in 2nd Platoon, Company 'F', 184th Infantry Regiment of the US 7th Infantry Division. Seen here lighting his first cigarette of the day on the island of Okinawa soon after the dawn attack on the town of Yonabaru in the early morning of the 22 May 1945.
     Photograph taken by William Eugene Smith for the 'Life' magazine edition published on the 18th of June 1945.
     W. Eugene Smith was tasked with the job of recording the working day of Infantryman Terry Moore, a typical foot soldier who had helped win the battle for the island of Okinawa from the Japanese.
     Private First Class Moore got through it unscathed but photographer Eugene Smith was badly injured whilst taking photos during a mortar attack, he was reported to have said that he wanted to be in the same spot as the guy he was photographing.
     Eugene Smith's account: "It was late in the afternoon when the artillery we'd been expecting opened up on us. They had us zeroed in and we just lay and took it. I could see the bursts puffing up around us and to our rear and they were getting better. Terry lay a few yards away, I adjusted my camera, judged the footage and waited. I wanted to show Terry under close mortar hits, it was part of his day. The trouble with taking photographs when the air is full of lead is that you have to stand up when anyone with any sense is lying down and trying to disappear right into the earth. I got to my feet .....
     The next thing I remember was a spiral ringing in my ears and I knew I was regaining consciousness. I knew I had been hit but I didn't hurt. I heard the cry, "Medic, medic, over here, the photographer!"
     Smith had been hit by a shell fragment from a mortar, which had gone through his left hand and into his face.

Soldiers of the 2/New Zealand Expeditionary Force

Colourised by Paul Reynolds
     Soldiers of the 2/New Zealand Expeditionary Force, trout fishing with rifles near the Syrian and Turkish border, while on rest leave, 9th July 1942 (They were recalled to North Africa soon afterwards) .
     From November 1941, the 2/New Zealand Expeditionary Force was heavily involved in the North African Campaign. As part of Operation Crusader, New Zealand troops relieved Tobruk after the city had been besieged by the German Afrika Korps. Subsequently, the New Zealand government insisted that the Division be withdrawn to Syria to recover – 879 men were killed and 1700 wounded in Operation Crusader, the most costly battle the Division fought in the Second World War. In late June 1942, the Afrika Korps captured Tobruk, and the 2/New Zealand Expeditionary Force was recalled from Syria. The Korps' advance was halted by the Allies in the First Battle of El Alamein, where New Zealand troops captured Ruweisat Ridge in a successful night attack. Heavy casualties were suffered by the two New Zealand brigades involved as they were attacked by German tanks, with several thousand men taken prisoner. Charles Upham earned a bar for his Victoria Cross in this battle. Subsequent fighting, including the Second Battle of El Alamein resulted in German retreat from the area. On 13 May 1943, the North African campaign ended, with the surrender of the last 275,000 Axis troops in Tunisia. On the 15th the Division began the withdrawal back to Egypt and by 1 June the division was back in Maadi and Helwan, on standby for use in Europe. Total New Zealand losses since November 1941, were 2,989 killed, 7,000 wounded and 4,041 taken prisoner. New Zealand troops were transferred to Italy later in the year and participated in the taking of the country from Germany.
     Photograph taken by M D Elias.

German Submarine U-505

Colourised by Doug Banks
     The German Submarine U-505 (Type IXC) captured at sea off the coast of Río de Oro, Western Sahara, West Africa on the 4th of June 1944 by a US carrier task group which had sunk two of U-505's sister boats from Lorient only a few weeks earlier.
     The carrier in question was the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal, which, in conjunction with four destroyers, formed hunter-killer Task Group 22.3. The group was commanded by Captain Daniel V. Gallery, one of the most talented and determined American sub hunting skippers of the war.
     On that day, shortly after 11 a.m., U-505's faulty sound detection equipment picked up faint propeller noises. When their captain Oblt.z.S. Lange rose to periscope depth to investigate, the sight he saw made his blood run cold. U-505 was in the midst of a carrier task group and about to be attacked by three destroyers and several aircraft. The boat immediately dived, but freakish water conditions allowed the aircraft to see the sub and use bursts from its .50-caliber machine guns to mark her submerged position for the destroyers.
     'They really gave it to us!' crewman Hans Goebeler remembers. 'They fired hedgehogs and about 64 depth charges at us. The explosions were the biggest I ever heard. One depth charge was so close it damaged torpedoes stored in the upper deck. Other depth charges jammed our main rudder and diving planes. Lange managed to fire one torpedo, but soon there was nothing for us to do but surface and abandon ship before she sank for good.
     Believing U-505 to be seriously damaged, Lange ordered his crew to abandon ship. This order was obeyed so promptly that scuttling was not completed.
     A boarding party from the escort destroyer USS Pillsbury safely secured U-505, it attempted to take her in tow, but collided repeatedly with her and had to move away with three compartments flooded. Instead, a second boarding party from Guadalcanal rigged a towline from the aircraft carrier to the U-boat.
     After three days of towing, Guadalcanal transferred U-505 to the fleet tug Abnaki (ATF-96). On Monday the 19th of June, U-505 entered Port Royal Bay, Bermuda, after a tow of 1,700 nautical miles (3,150 km; 1,960 mi).
     This action was the first time the U.S. Navy had captured an enemy vessel at sea since the War of 1812. 58 prisoners were taken from U-505, three of them wounded (including Lange); only one of the crew was killed in the action.

Maoris of 'C' Company, 28th Maori Battalion, 2nd New Zealand Division

Colourised by Doug Banks

     Maoris of 'C' Company, 28th Maori Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Division perform the 'Haka' (ancestral war dance) for the visit of King George II of Greece, his wife the Queen, his cousin Prince Peter and Major General Freyberg. At an army training camp at Helwan in Egypt. In the early evening of the 25th of June 1941.

     The four men in the foreground are, l to r: John Manuel (from Rangitukia, KIA 15/12/41), Maaka (Bill) White (Wharekahika, KIA 23/11/41), Te Kooti (Scotty) Reihana (Rangitukia, WIA), Rangi Henderson (Te Araroa, KIA 26/3/43).
      King George of Greece was visiting the New Zealand troops that had assisted he and his family in escaping from Crete, the previous month. (see '42nd Street' below).

 'The Battle of 42nd Street' - a line running south from Suda Bay to the foothills of the Malaxa escarpment.

      On the morning of the 27th of May the Australians and New Zealanders formed the rearguard of the Commonwealth force retreating southward toward the evacuation beaches at Sfakia. The troops on '42nd Street' looked out from the cover of an earth bank through closely planted olive groves toward a creek, which the desert-wise Australians called a "wadi". Their commanding officers conferred, agreeing that if the Germans came close they would attempt a counter-attack.
      As the Germans approached, two of the 2/7th's companies suddenly charged, shouting and firing, taking the Germans in their flank. New Zealanders of the 28th (Maori) Battalion quickly joined in the attack. Startled by men erupting from dense cover, the Germans ran before the Australians.
      The charge at '42nd Street' stopped the 5th Alpine Division (5.Gebirgsjäger-Division) for the rest of the day: 200 Germans and four Australians died on the 2/8th's front, with the Maoris estimating that they had killed another 80 Germans. That afternoon, though, '42nd Street's' defenders saw mountain troops moving across the foothills of the escarpment. Staying would lead to encirclement and the defenders withdrew to join the columns trudging south. Five days later, after the tortuous retreat through the White Mountains, the 2/7th reluctantly surrendered on the cliffs above Sfakia.

Regimental Sergeant Major Evans of the 12th Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment

Colourised by Paul Reynolds

     Regimental Sergeant Major Evans of the 12th Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment examines captured German helmets in Hamminkeln, Germany, 25th March 1945.

 The airborne bridgehead operation over the Rhine – 'Operation Varsity'.

     The battalion deployed by glider on the 24th of March 1945 and succeeded in its task of capturing Hamminkeln with the loss of 140 men killed, wounded or missing.
     The following day the battalion pushed out of the Rhine bridgehead with a troop of Churchill tanks and a troop of self-propelled anti-tank guns in support . The group encountered enemy forces after two miles and took 60 prisoners. Later that day they successfully secured the high ground overlooking Brunen but in doing so sustained a further 6 killed and 11 wounded.
     On the 2nd of April the battalion was involved in heavy fighting securing Lengerich and suffered a further twelve killed and four wounded. However, in two days it captured over 100 Germans.
     The battalion suffered a rare set back when 'D' and 'B' Companies crossed the River Weser on 6 April with no anti-tank guns or mortar support and encountered Panther tanks. In the resulting engagement 51 men of 'D' Coy were captured by the enemy. Generally, the boot remained on the other foot as the 6th Airborne continued its advance, and from 16 to 18 April the battalion captured over 150 enemy, as well as liberating Allied POWs and foreign farm labourers.
     The battalion continued its advance to the Baltic coast, and the war diary notes that in the 41 days to 4 May, just under half of the 369 mile advance was travelled by the battalion on foot. It finished up at Hohen Viecheln on the Schweriner See about 10 miles south of Wismar.