ww2 history

Members of the Red Warriors – a French street gang part of the ‘80s anti-fascist punk movement, known for violent confrontations with neo-Nazi skinheads

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LGBT Hero: Alan Turing

His name was Alan Turing. Most people still don’t know who he was. That must change. Turing was a prodigiously gifted British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. In fact, Turing is considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. He designed the programming of the world’s first commercial computer. He was also the inventor of the Turing Machine in 1935, a device which even to this day all digital computers are modeled on. Crucially, he was central to the building of The Bombe, an electro-mechanical machine which greatly helped in the breaking of the Enigma code used by the Nazi’s during World War Two. By 1942 his team was decoding up to 39,000 Enigma messages a month. This rose to 84,000, or about two messages decoded every minute. 

Winston Churchill said that Turing’s work shortened the Second World War by at least two years, saving millions of lives. Turing also helped decode the Fish cipher used by the German High Command to transmit messages between Hitler and senior officers in the field. So Turing was an architect, many would say the architect, of the modern world - and he was living in it decades before the rest of us.

Alan Turing was homosexual. He was quite fearlessly homosexual in an era when it was still a crime. When it became known he lost his security clearance. In 1952 he was convicted of acts of ‘gross indecency.’ They gave him a choice between prison or a process they called 'chemical castration.’ The barbaric and pointless process of being injected with female hormones - it gave him female breasts, it rendered him impotent - proved so traumatic it eventually led to his suicide in 1954. He was 41. 

Simo Häyhä - “The White Death”

Häyhä’s count of 542 kills is an all-time record for a sniper in any conflict and was achieved in only 98 days of the ‘Winter War.

The Winter War erupted in 1939 with the Soviet invasion of Finland, and the mild-looking Simo was called into service.
Despite vastly outnumbering the Finns, the Soviet Army suffered massive casualties due to their inexperience, the freezing temperatures and of course, Simo Häyhä, all of 5'3"(1.6002m) tall.

For those 98 days, Häyhä conducted lone missions to the front lines, tormenting the Russians and picking off soldiers one by one, until he was shot and injured by an exploding bullet a few days prior to the war ending. The bullet had crushed his jaw and blown off part of his left cheek.

Häyhä, in many ways, had the perfect preparation for becoming a sniper. He grew up on a rural farm and loved to hunt.
His specialty were foxes, one of the more difficult animals to hunt, due to their small stature, speed and ability to hide. He would test himself with birds which would flee at even the slightest sound, reflection or sudden movement.
He felt no hatred for the enemy, instead, he only concentrated on ensuring his weapon was well supported and stable, and that his personal feelings and emotions would not impinge on his ability as a marksman. Häyhä did not mind spending hours upon hours on his own and would even go to his shooting ‘nests’ at night to ensure they were well hidden and strong.

Especially in the -20 temperatures of the Finnish winter, proper gun maintenance was essential to avoid it jamming. His gun was a Mosin-Nagant M/28-30, one that he had owned before the war, without even a telescopic sight.
Häyhä, when conducting his operations, took every detail into account. He would even pour water into the snow in front of him so that the muzzle blast would not expose his location by disturbing the light snow. (Excerpt by Author Taipo Saarelainen, The White Sniper: Simo Häyhä)

(Simo also kept snow in his mouth while sniping, in order to prevent steamy breaths from giving away his position in the cold air.)

Simo Häyhä passed away in 2002 at the age of 96.

(Photo source - Finnish Military Archives)

(Colorised by Paul Kerestes from Romania)

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Roza Shanina was a Soviet sniper during World War II who was credited with fifty-nine confirmed kills, including twelve soldiers during the Battle of Vilnius.

Lydia Litvak, the White Rose of Stalingrad, a fighter pilot who shot down 13 German aircraft before being killed in action.

Aleksandra Samusenko was a Soviet commander of the T-34 tank and a liaison officer during World War II. She was the only female tankman in the 1st Guards Tank Army.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Red Army Soviet sniper during World War II. Credited with 309 kills, she is regarded as one of the top military snipers of all time and the most successful female sniper in history.

Natalya Meklin fighter pilot of the Soviet Air Force 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, also known as ‘Night Witches’ being formed from women only, awarded a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1945.

Aliya Moldagulova was a Soviet sniper and Soviet Hero of the Soviet Union recipient.

Mariya Dolina was a Soviet pilot, deputy and acting squadron commander of the 125th “Marina M. Raskova” Borisov Guards Bomber Regiment. She was active primarily on the 1st Baltic Front during World War II.