world war ii: allied occupied germany

Witold Pilecki (13 May 1901 – 25 May 1948); codenames Roman Jezierski, Tomasz Serafiński, Druh, Witold, was a Polish cavalryman and intelligence officer. He served as a Rittmeister with the Polish Army during the Polish-Soviet War, the Second Polish Republic and World War II. Pilecki was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska) a resistance group in German-occupied Poland and was later a member of the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa). He was the author of Witold’s Report, the first comprehensive Allied intelligence report on Auschwitz concentration camp and the Holocaust. 

During World War II, he volunteered for a Polish resistance operation that involved being imprisoned in the Auschwitz death camp in order to gather intelligence and later escape. While in the camp, Pilecki organized a resistance movement and, as early as 1941, informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz atrocities. He escaped from the camp in 1943 after nearly two and a half years of imprisonment. Pilecki took part as a combatant in the Warsaw Uprising in August-October, 1944. He remained loyal to the London-based Polish government-in-exile after the Soviet-backed communist takeover of Poland and was arrested for espionage in 1947 by the Stalinist secret police on charges of working for “foreign imperialism”, thought to be a euphemism for British Intelligence. He was executed after a show trial in 1948. Until 1989, information about his exploits and fate was suppressed by the Polish communist regime.

British (left), Soviet (center) and American (right) soldiers shake hands outside the ruins of the Reich Chancellery in Allied-occupied Berlin, almost a year after hostilities ceased. The new Reich Chancellery (German: Reichskanzlei) building was completed in early 1939 and was seriously damaged during the Battle of Berlin and subsequently demolished. Berlin, Germany. 14 April 1946

FRANCE, Colleville-sur-Mer : US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande look out over Omaha Beach during the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, June 6, 2014. The D-Day ceremonies on June 6 this year mark the 70th anniversary since the launch of ‘Operation Overlord’, a vast military operation by Allied forces in Normandy, which turned the tide of World War II, eventually leading to the liberation of occupied France and the end of the war against Nazi Germany. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

Winning the Battle of the Bulge and the "Battle of the Bulge"

In September of 1944, World War II, Allied forces had advanced across France, liberating Paris and pushing the German Army back.  It was then that Allied planners formulated Operation Market Garden, the last push into Germany through occupied Holland with the purpose of ending the war before Christmas.  Market Garden was a bold plan, but is was doomed to failure due to the arrogance of military planners and an underestimation of enemy capabilities.  Market Garden was a failure, and Allied forces were forced to fall back.  At the same time, south of Market Garden, American forces attempted to push into Southern Germany through the Hurtgen Forest.  The resulting battle turned into a quagmire, with American troops making little progress over the upcoming months.  The failures of Market Garden and Hurtgen Forest led to the Battle of the Bulge at the end of December, a massive German counterattack with the goal of pushing back the Allies and forcing them to come to a compromise.  The Allies believed the German Army was finished, and thus were unprepared for a massive German assault. Caught by surprise, Allied forces were short of winter clothing, food, ammunition, and other supplies. Despite these problems, Allied troops held their ground, falling back but not breaking, until eventually the German assault was halted.  The Battle of Bulge was the German Army’s last major offensive of the war, after which, Allied forces would invade Germany, brining an end to the war.

I have to admit something and be very honest, the past few weeks I haven’t been following my diet and exercise plan very well.  I’ve started falling back into old habits.  I have been slipping and eating bad food, and not exercising.  There were a few reasons for this.  First, I moved into a new apartment.  It was a tough move because I work night shift, and we had to move in the day, and I was awake 24 hours straight. I tried to sleep that night after the move, but even though I was exhausted I still couldn’t sleep, so it was more like 30+ hrs being awake.  It took a few days for me to get back into routine, so I was tired for a while.  Secondly, I got sucked into some ridiculous humbuggery at work, basically a childish temper tantrum between two people I work with.  I had nothing to do with it whatsoever except as a bystander, but somehow I’m being dragged into it and being questioned by management over it even though I’ve made it clear I had nothing to do with it, want to stay impartial and don’t want to get involved.  It has been very stressful, and when I get really stressed I eat. For two days I was binge eating.

I have failed many times before because of things like this. I made a mistake and I would have an attitude that was like, “well, I failed, looks like I can’t do this”.  This time is different.  I recognize that I made a mistake, but mistakes never mean the end, rather, they signify a renewal and new beginning. Instead of giving up, I am working to get back on track, and continue on. Soon I will be starting kick boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I love fitness expert Jack Lalanne’s motivational speech “Life is a Battlefield”.  To get the things you want in life and achieve your goals, you have to fight for it everyday. Your enemy is yourself, more specifically the negative aspects of yourself; apathy, depression, anger, laziness, bad habits, and negative thoughts. At some point, you will have failures, you will make mistakes.  Just like any great battle, the enemy will make a counter offensive and try to push you back.  But you can’t give up, just because you made a mistake and had some failures. The Allied soldiers had some failures and defeats in the fall and winter of 1944, they were forced to retreat at the Battle of the Bulge, but they never gave up, they never broke and ran.  They dug in their heals, held the line, fought back, overcame adversity, and pressed forward.

In popular media they always show before and after photos, showing some fat or obese person in the before, and a chiseled and buff person after.  These photos don’t tell the whole story, of the hard work and sacrifice, the changing of attitudes and lifestyle necessary to achieve that.  They also don’t tell about the failures that occur, the struggles and setbacks that happen. They just show a perfect narrative, giving the impression that it’s easy, you can get results fast, next week!  If you are trying to lose weight and get fit like me, know this, it will not go perfectly, there will be failures, mistakes, and setbacks. DO NOT let setbacks destroy your passion and drive.  Do not define yourself by past failures.
Failure is not the end, rather, it is a chance to begin again, learn from your mistakes, and move forward. This principle holds true no matter what situation, whether it is a history changing battle, weight loss, your career, relationships, breaking an addiction, sports, or any aspect of life where you are endeavoring to improve yourself.

Never Again 360

FRANCE, Arromanches-les-Bains : Men dressed in vintage World War II US military uniforms stand next to a Willis jeep, on the beach, in the morning in Arromanches, western France, on June 5, 2014, a day before the start of the D-Day commemorations. The D-Day ceremonies on June 6 this year mark the 70th anniversary since the launch of ‘Operation Overlord’, a vast military operation by Allied forces in Normandy, which turned the tide of World War II, eventually leading to the liberation of occupied France and the end of the war against Nazi Germany. AFP PHOTO / LUDOVIC MARIN

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Marinos Mitralexis, the Hercules of the Sky

On October 28th the Italians launched an invasion of Greece through Albania.  With a huge army and air force the Italians believed they could easily steamroll across Greece and add it to their empire.  However, the Italians did not count on the ferocity and bravery of Greek resistance.  The Italian Air Force especially thought it could sweep the skies, devoting 463 aircraft against the Greek’s mere 77.  Then again, the Italians did not count on the likes of Marinos Mitralexis, who became the most famous Greek fighter pilot of World War II.

On November 2nd, Second Lt. Marinos Mitralexis was the pilot of a PZL P.24 when his unit was scrambled to intercept a flight of 29 Italian bombers headed for Thessaloniki.  The two forces met in an aerial firefight in which three Italian bombers were shot down, while almost half of the others were badly damaged.  Mitralexis himself personally shot down one bomber and damaged another.  Terrified of the ferocious Greek assault, the Italian bombers turned around and retreated back to base.  However, Mitralexis wasn’t done yet.  Lining up his sights on a fleeing bomber, he fired until he ran out of ammo, damaging but not destroying the airplane.  Rather than giving up and breaking off the attack, Mitralexis decided to attempt a daring maneuver.  Slowly inching up on the bomber, Mitralexis rammed the rear section, using his propeller as a buzzsaw to slice off the bomber’s tail fin and rudder.  The bomber spiraled back to the earth, and Mitralexis, whose airplane was still flyable, followed it in.  The bomber made a level crash landing in a nearby field, and Mitralexis landed his fighter right next to it.  Armed with a pistol, Mitralexis took the four man Italian crew prisoner and marched them back to base.

The deeds of Marinos Mitralexis earned him the Gold Cross of Valour, Greece’s second highest award for gallantry.  By April of 1941 the Italian Army had been badly mauled and their campaign in Greece was near collapse.  Unfortunately the Italians requested help from their allies, the Germans.  While the Greeks had put up a stalwart defense against the Italian Army, they were quickly overrun by the German Wehrmacht.  Despite a courageous and determined defense, the Greek military was no match for the technology, size, and tactics of the German war machine.  By May 3rd Greece was overrun and forced to become an occupied nation in the Third Reich.

Marinos Mitalexis managed to escape Greece to North Africa, where he joined up with Allied forces to continue the fight against Italy and Germany.  He had a distinguished career during the war, shooting down five more enemy aircraft and earning the rank of Wing Commander.  In 1948 he was killed in plane crash near the Aegean Sea.

FRANCE, Ranville : British World War II veteran Frederick Glover poses for a photograph as soldiers parachute down during a D-Day commemoration paratroopers launch event in Ranville, northern France, on June 5, 2014, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy. D-Day ceremonies on June 6 this year mark the 70th anniversary of the launch of ‘Operation Overlord’, a vast military operation by Allied forces in Normandy, which turned the tide of World War II, eventually leading to the liberation of occupied France and the end of the war against Nazi Germany. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS BREGARDIS