day in 1944, a group of Allied prisoners of war staged a daring escape
attempt from the German prisoner of war camp at Stalag Luft III. This
camp, located in what is now Poland, held captured Allied pilots mostly
from Britain and the United States. In 1943, an Escape Committee under
the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell of the RAF, supervised
prisoners surreptitiously digging three 30 foot tunnels out of the camp,
which they nicknamed ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’. The tunnels led to
woods beyond the camp and were remarkably sophisticated - lined with
wood, and equipped with rudimentary ventilation and electric lighting.
The successful construction of the tunnels was particularly impressive
as the Stalag Luft III camp was designed to make it extremely difficult
to tunnel out as the barracks were raised and the area had a sandy
subsoil. ‘Tom’ was discovered by the Germans in September 1943, and
‘Dick’ was abandoned to be used as a dirt depository, leaving ‘Harry’ as
the prisoners’ only hope. By the time of the escape, American prisoners
who had assisted in tunneling had been relocated to a different
compound, making the escapeees mostly British and Commonwealth citizens.
200 airmen had planned to make their escape through the ‘Harry’ tunnel,
but on the night of March 24th 1944, only 76 managed to escape the camp
before they were discovered by the guards. However, only three of the
escapees - Norwegians Per Bergsland and Jens Müller and Dutchman Bram
van der Stok -
found their freedom. The remaining 73 were recaptured, and 50 of them,
including Bushell, were executed by the Gestapo on Adolf Hitler’s
orders, while the rest were sent to other camps. While the escape was
generally a failure, it helped boost morale among prisoners of war, and
has become enshrined in popular memory due to its fictionalised depiction
in the 1963 film The Great Escape.
“Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick, and Harry. One will succeed!” - Roger Bushell
this day in 19423 during the Second World War, German troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Stalingrad, thus ending five months of fighting. The battle began in August 1942 during the Nazi invasion of Russia
- codenamed Operation Barbarossa - and Adolf Hitler ordered an attack
on the major city of Stalingrad. Stalingrad became a major playing field
of the war, as Soviet leader Stalin was determined to save the city
which bore his name. Under the leadership of General Paulus, German
bombing destroyed much of the city and troops captured areas through
hand-to-hand urban warfare. In November, Marshal Zhukov assembled six Russian armies
to surround Stalingrad and trap the Germans in the city, barring
provisions and troops from reaching them. Many German soldiers died of
starvation and frostbite following the onset of the harsh Russian
winter, with temperatures down to -30°C, but Hitler insisted they fight
until the last man. After five months, the Russian Red Army claimed
victory when the remaining German troops surrendered in February 1943. 91,000 Germans were taken prisoner, including twenty-two
generals; this was all that remained of the 330,000 strong German force
who arrived at Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad is among the
bloodiest battles of the Second World War, causing nearly two million
casualties. The disaster depleted the
German army’s supply of men and equipment, allowing the Allies to gain
which enabled them to invade Germany and win the war.
“The God of war has gone over to the other side” - Adolf Hitler upon hearing of the German surrender at Stalingrad
this day in 1945, the bombing of Tokyo by the United States Air Forces
began. There had
been raids by B-29 bombers since November 1944, but this was one of the most destructive in history. The raid on the night of
March 9th saw 334 B-29s take off in Operation Meetinghouse, with 279 of
them dropping around 1,700 tons of bombs. 16 square miles of the
Japanese capital were destroyed, around a million were left homeless and
around 100,000 people died as a result of the firestorm. Tokyo saw many
raids such as this, with over 50% of Tokyo being destroyed by the end
of the Second World War. However the firebombing on the night of March
9/10th was the single deadliest air raid of the war; the immediate
deaths were higher than seen at Dresden, Hiroshima or Nagasaki as single
didn’t bother me very much at that time… I suppose if I had lost the
war, I would have been tried as a war criminal…. Every soldier thinks
something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.“ - Curtis LeMay, the American general behind the firebombing campaign
During the battle of Nomonhon (Khalkhin Gol) in 1939, Captain Fujita commanded a Type-94 Anti-Tank gun, and under his supervision, his regiment was able to beat back several Soviet tank offensives, but soon ran out of ammunition, and so when the Russian tanks attacked his position again, he unsheathed his katana, climbed onto a Russian BT-5, opened the copula, pulled out the tank’s commander, and savagely stabbed him to death. He was then severely wounded in his arm by the tank’s gunner who had popped out behind them.
He survived, recevied the Order of the Golden Kite for his bravery in combat, and spent the rest of the war as an instructor training fresh troops.
In terms of [French] soldiers, the habit of being tattooed appears to have been well established by the time of the Revolution. […] Another veteran of the [First French] Empire, with twelve campaigns and fifteen wounds to his name, was given a medical examination and was found to have VIVE LE ROI (‘Long live the king’) tattooed on his right forearm. For political expediency, the veteran quickly had this tattoo amended to read VIVE LE RÔTI (‘Long live roast meat’).
Used in battleships and coast defenses c.1870~1918. 274mm caliber 216kg shells, 434m/s muzzle velocity giving it an estimated 300mm of penetration in wrought iron armor at combat range, breech-loading single shot.
Picture taken c.1885 by Gustave Bourgain onboard a Colbert-class French ironclad, below the center battery.
Note the boarding weapons on racks on the left side of the picture, including cutlasses and Lefaucheux Mle1858 revolvers. The Colbert-class ironclads were also armed with, beside a variety of other naval guns, more than a dozen Hotchkiss 37mm revolving cannons, four 356mm torpedo tubes and a ram.