aph: world war 2

One of the three Stabskompanie Panzer VI Tigers of s.SS-Pz.Abt.102 moves through a small French village in Normandy, July 1944.

Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102 was formed in 1943 following demand for Heavy Tank Battalions by the Waffen SS to take part in offensive actions on the Eastern Front.

In June 1944 the battalion was sent to Normandy following the D-Day landings and on the 11th July engaged in combat with the advancing British forces west of Caen at and around Hill 112. The battalion took part in a number of defensive stands and counter-attacks throughout the months of July and August but was almost entirely destroyed as the Germans retreated from France. During the retreat the Battalion gradually lost its remaining armour to mechanical failures and fuel shortages. By the time the the Battalion reached Brussels only a single Tiger tank remained, it was subsequently abandoned and disabled by its crew.

The Battalion was withdrawn to Germany to recover and regroup, it was while in Germany that it was renamed Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 502 and rearmed with Tiger II tanks.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI ‘Tiger’ Ausf. E gained a fearsome reputation amongst the Western Allies from its initial deployment in North Africa and Italy. It’s thick armour made it almost impenetrable to any allied anti-tank gun while its own powerful 88mm main gun could cut through almost all allied armour.

Come the D-Day Invasion word of the Tiger tank was widespread and fear amongst allied tankers was real and intense. Dubbed 'Tiger Fever’ allied tankers, particularly American’s whose tanks was still grossly under-armed, were terrified of the prospect of encountering a Tiger tank in combat.

This almost myth-like status has built the Tiger tank a cult-like fan following since, yet its flaws are often over-looked or forgotten.

While generally mechanically reliable it was over-engineered, a trait which did not favour the German war effort especially given their spread across multiple fronts.

It was also incredibly heavy and wide. Its weight rendered many bridges unusable, field maintenance complicated and arduous, transport difficult and its colossal fuel consumption lumbered it with a limited range when travelling under its own power.

By the time of the Normandy invasion the Luftwaffe was on its knees which opened the Tiger tank up to its greatest weakness: Allied air superiority. The Tiger tank was a large and vulnerable target to Allied ground-attack aircraft such as the Hawker Typhoon and P-47 Thunderbolt. The Allied air presence unnerved German tank crews and was a great cause of panic amongst them, this presence proved a massive thorn in the side of the Axis forces not only in France but also Italy.

While the Tiger was a technically impressive tank, its true practical effectiveness was massively hindered by the external factors of war. The totality of its impact was far greater than could be expected of a tank produced in such small numbers (1,347). Much of its notoriety could be more fairly attributed to its psychological impact in the battlefield as opposed to its physical one.

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75th Anniversary of the Women’s Army Corp (WAC)

Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts proposed a bill in May 1941 with the support of Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall to establish the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC). The bill was passed a year later and the first enlisted auxiliaries arrived for training at Fort Des Moines in July 1942. In July 1943, the Reserves was incorporated into the Regular Army and reestablished as the Women’s Army Corp (WAC). During WWII, about 150,000 women served in the WAAC and WAC.

During the war, Eleanor Roosevelt continued the ceaseless activism that had long marked her as America’s most public First Lady. Mrs. Roosevelt was outspoken in her support for gender equality. She championed women’s entrance into the armed services.

During World War II, there was a large push for recruitment of some of the best art students across the country to join the United States Army.  They formed a “deception unit”, or a “ghost army” that appeared to look like a huge mass of soldiers, tanks, trucks and artillery.  However, it was all smoke and mirrors, consisting of inflatable tanks, sound design, and clever applications of fake tank tracks overnight.  Actors also met in pubs, planting false information.  This distracted the enemy from the real troops who were gathering.

To learn more about this fascinating undertaking, which was only de-classified fairly recently, check out the podcast on the subject from 99% Invisible.  (Photo from Retronaut/Mashable, England, c. 1939) 

Oscar Isaac will star in World War II thriller “The Garbo Network” with Bob Cooper and Richard Saperstein’s Storyscape Entertainment launching sales at the Berlin Film Festival. The script for “The Garbo Network” was written by William Wheeler and will be produced by Cooper, Saperstein, Chuck Weinstock, Jason Spire, and Isaac. The film is based on the true story of Juan Pujol Garcia, an eccentric double-agent who, with no military or covert training, somehow persuaded both the Germans and the British to hire him as a spy. His real allegiance was to England, and working closely with MI5, he created a fictional network of 27 spies said to be spread out over England, Scotland, and Ireland. The ruse helped the English to deceive the Germans about the invasion of Normandy.

Garcia is the only man in the history of World War II to receive distinguished medals of honor from opposing sides: the German Iron Cross and the Member of the Order of the British Empire.

“Juan Pujol Garcia is unlike any character we’ve seen on film – he’s a chameleon and a master manipulator, deeply haunted by his past, with an unreadable agenda… and his actions have world-changing consequences,” Cooper said.

Storyscape is also producing Michael Fassbender’s “Entering Hades,” which is set up at Broad Green, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “War Magician,” which is set up at Studio Canal. (via variety.com)