Skip to comments.6,720 TONS HIT REICH IN 24 HOURS; RUSSIANS RIP LINE NEAR TARNOPOL (3/24/44)
Posted on 03/24/2014 4:40:41 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
* The war in Italy is off the front page today.
Allied POWs stage “great escape”
Friday, March 24, 1944 www.onwar.com
In Germany... The great escape from Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner of war camp near Sagan, takes place during the night (March 24-25). Of 76 Allied airmen who take part, 50 are recaptured and executed. In 1963, a movie titled “The Great Escape” (staring Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn and Charles Bronson) is released based on this event.
In Burma... General Orde Wingate, commanding the Chindit forces, is killed in an airplane accident at age 41. The senior Chindits commander, Lentaigne, replaces him.
On the Eastern Front... Soviet forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front continue to advance. Southeast of Tarnopol, Chertkov and Zaleschik are captured. Forces of 3rd Ukrainian Front (Malinovski) take Voznesensk, northeast of Nikolayev.
Over Germany... During the night a thousand plane raid on Berlin is carried out by Bomber Command. Heavy damage is reported in Berlin but many bombers are blown off course and more than 50 are shot down by German Flak defenses. A total of 73 bombers are lost in all operations (including a diversionary attack on Kiel). Flight Sergeant Alkemade jumps, without a parachute, from a burning RAF Lancaster bomber at 5486 meters above western Germany and lands safely in a snow drift.
In Occupied Italy... German authorities execute 336 Italian civilians (including Jews) near Rome in reprisal for partisan activities. The event becomes known as the Ardeatine Caves massacre.
In the Solomon Islands... On Bougainville, significant Japanese resistance ends. American forces do not attempt to clear the Japanese remnants from the island. Over the course of the past few weeks, Japanese casualties are estimated at 8000 while the US forces have suffered about 300 casualties.
March 24th, 1944 (FRIDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Pit owners and miners’ leaders today signed a new four-year deal to secure peace and higher output un Britain’s coalfields. Under a government-sponsored plan, piece-rate wages will be more closely related to output and there will be job security until 194. About one in 20 miners will also be graded as “skilled craftsmen” able to earn well over £5 a week. Union leaders appealed tonight for a return to work by 60,000 South Yorkshire miners in dispute over their home coal allowance.
FRANCE: Airfields are attacked in the morning by 181 Eighth Air Force B-24s and 220 Ninth Air Force B-26s. In the afternoon, 146 Ninth Air Force bombers hit a marshalling yard. These aircraft are escorted by 841 Eighth and Ninth Air Force fighters.
The full weight of the Heer with massive air support, has succeeded in defeating 465 Resistance fighters of the French Maquis on the plateau of Glieres. The widespread presence of the Maquis has become a continuing source of irritation and frustration to the Vichy and German authorities.
The first attack by the Vichy Milice was a failure; but today several battalions of German soldiers, backed by the Milice, are being used in the offensive. The majority of prisoners are reported to have been brutally tortured before being executed.
GERMANY: 222 Eighth Air Force B-17s, escorted by 540 fighters, bomb Schweinfurt and Frankfurt. This is the third raid to hit Frankfurt since 18 March.
Stalag Luft III: They have been working on it for two years and now, just after dusk, the moment has arrived for the Allied airmen held in the German PoW camp at Sagan, 80 miles south-east of Berlin. The last few feet of earth are removed and the first prisoners climb out into the wood beyond the barbed wire. The 365-foot tunnel, with air vents and underground railway for moving debris, is the brain child of a Canadian mining engineer and Spitfire pilot, Wally Moody.
Two by two the men leave the tunnel and move off in different directions: south for Czechoslovakia, west for the attempt to pick up a train, and north for Baltic ports and Scandinavia. From time to time the ground beneath their feet shudders under the impact of the 4,000-pound bombs that their RAF comrades are dropping on Germany. They move warily, for the camp guard is doubled during air raids.
As dawn begins to break, a guard, startled by movement close by, fires a shot that raises the alarm. Guards, some in night clothes, swarm through the camp; 76 P oWs have escaped.
ITALY: 132 Fifteenth Air Force B-24s bomb marshalling yards at Rimini and several other targets while Twelfth Air Force A-20s, A-36s, B-25s, P-40s and P-47s bomb supply and bivouac areas, bridges, troop concentrations, etc. As part of Operation STRANGLE, the aerial interdiction of the German supply lines, aerial attacks by Allied aircraft have completely severed the rail lines from northern Italy to Rome and no rail cars enter Rome until the Allied occupation in June 1944.
Rome: In a bloody and brutal night of savagery, the SS avenged the deaths of 33 of its men in a communist partisan bombing by killing 335 hostages - ten Italians for every German. The bomb exploded in Rome’s Via Rasella as a German police unit was marching past.
The victims, drawn mostly from Rome’s Jewish population, had been picked from a Gestapo jail or were being detained by the Wehrmacht. They were taken by lorry to the Ardeatine Caves outside the city. Before the war the caves were mined for the volcanic material known as tuff for use in cement production. There, by torchlight, the shootings began. As the dead piled up, executioners and victims were forced to stand on bodies. The youngest victim was 15. Engineers sealed the caves. (Tony Morano)
The only person to be punished for it was Herbert Kappler, the SS officer in charge of German police and security services in Rome during the war. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1948.
BURMA: Major General Orde Charles Wingate is killed flying in a B-25 Mitchell of the First ir Commando on a return flight from the Chindit base “Broadway” Burma to India. He is replaced by General Lentaigne. The weather was bad with sudden rainstorms. The RAF had grounded its planes, but the 41 year old Wingate insisted on flying - dying, as he had lived, ignoring official advice. Some of his Chindits are grieving. Others are celebrating. In death as in life he produced mixed reactions.
An unstable crusader who had found a cause, Wingate had first achieved fame for his irregular skills, and notoriety for his brutality, in Ethiopia. His staff so hated him that when he failed to commit suicide with a razor in protest at the “betrayal of Ethiopia”, Colonel Hugh Boustead said: “Bloody fool, why didn’t you use a revolver?”
Yet after Wingate had put his ideas on long-range penetration into practice in Burma, Churchill wanted this “man of genius and audacity” in command.
Operation Thursday, launched three weeks ago, was designed to cut off the Japanese army in north-east Burma, and threaten its rear. Within ten days Brigadier Mike Calvert’s 77th Brigade has captured Mawlu, cut all rail and road links with north-east Burma and established “strongholds” supplied by air. But Brigadier Bernard Fergusson’s 16th Brigade, exhausted after a five-week march from Ledo, has failed to take the main Japanese supply base at Indaw.
Meanwhile, on the Imphal plain, Slim is mustering his forces to try to hold off against Mutaguchi’s two divisions advancing on Imphal, Kohima and Dimapur. While the Japanese complain that they haven’t seen their own air force in weeks. Slim has airlifted the 5th Indian Division over from the Arakan. More troops are pouring into the area from Manipur.
But the Chindits, their charismatic leader gone, are no longer sure of their objective. Having been told to cut off the Japanese facing China, Wingate appears to have decided, against orders, to shift his forces west and cut off the Japanese facing Imphal. He was well-known for never writing anything down or confiding in his subordinates; his plans, whatever they were, are a mystery, scattered over a rain-soaked Imphal hillside.
Air Commando Combat Mission N0. 37 1:40 Flight Time Broadway, Burma to Hailakandi, Assam. Took off at sunrise and flew directly to home base. Japanese aircraft attacked Broadway minutes after we had left the area.
Notes: Broadway, located in Northern Burma, was the code name for the place where the glider force landed during Operation Thursday. Personnel from the glider forces made the field serviceable for transport aircraft i.e. C-47s. *By Thursday of March 11 7,023 men, 132 horses, 994 mules and 220 tons of supplies had been airlifted into this base without Japanese interference. *Military History Series 86-1 First Air Comando Group Any Place, Any Time, Any Where (Chuck Baisden)
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Bougainville: 300 Japanese died today as 2,000 troops launched a suicidal attack against the Allied beach-head at Torokina, on Bougainville Island. The attack reflects Japan’s increasingly desperate situation in the Solomons. Its main base for the area, at Rabaul, was bombed today for the 50th day in succession, with Allied planes dropping 150 tons of explosives on Rabaul’s three airfields. The daytime offensive at Torokina was rebuffed, with US losses given as four dead and 47 wounded.
JAPAN: US Battleships under Admiral Lee bombard Okinawa.
The item on the Etherington.com diary about the movie “The Clock” shouldn’t be there. It was released in 1945. I am not sure about the bombardment of Okinawa. I didn’t see anything about that on Adm. Nimitz diary.
Sounds like we are really making some progress here!
“the brain child of a Canadian mining engineer and Spitfire pilot, Wally Moody.”
The man’s name was Wally Floody.
Flight Lieutenant Wally Floody OBE (born Clarke Wallace Chant Floody) (April 28, 1918 Chatham, Ontario, Canada September 25, 1989Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
In 1936 Wally Floody moved to Northern Ontario where he worked at the Preston East Dome Mines in Timmins as a mucker, shoveling rock and mud into carts to be hauled up to the surface before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. Wally flew Spitfires in 401 Squadron until he was shot down and became a Prisoner of War on October 28th 1941. For four years, Wally had made many escape attempts and dug a number of tunnels before being sent to Stalag Luft III where his greatest escape took place. Wally designed and built three tunnels called “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry”, both going 30ft below the ground, heading straight for the woods. Unfortunetly one of the tunnels was discovered and Wally got sent to a different POW Camp before the escape began. When the War was reaching the end,
In 1963 Wally was hired as the Technical advisor for John Sturges’s Motion Picture version of Paul Brickhill’s Novel “The Great Escape”. He returned to Germany where he worked full time for a whole year making sure the film was authentic to the actual escape. Wally Floody died of natural causes in 1998.
He was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) after World War II in 1945 after building and designing the Tunnels from the Great Escape.
An unstable crusader who had found a cause, Wingate had first achieved fame for his irregular skills, and notoriety for his brutality, in Ethiopia. His staff so hated him that when he failed to commit suicide with a razor in protest at the betrayal of Ethiopia, Colonel Hugh Boustead said: Bloody fool, why didnt you use a revolver?
A deranged genius, down in flames.
Allied Siege Guns Open Up on Cassino
“The big siege guns, their barrels nearly ten inches in diameter, were wheeled into action on the fiftieth day of the battle of Cassino after repeated aerial bombings and long-range shellings had failed to root the Germans out of their burrows in Cassino and its surrounding hills.”
Homer, do you havethe wrong year on the battleship bombardment of Okinawa? I know we’re running wild in the Central Pacific right now sending battleships to Okinawa seems a bit audacious.
See my reply #8. Mr. Etherington went off the rails a bit on today’s diary entry.
I remember going to see “The Great Escape” at the Vogue Theater in Broad Ripple with my two older brothers. It was a memorable movie for a four year old kid.
Note the very curious references to “right wing” and “left wing” leaders at odds with Mayor Laguardia.
In fact, it’s a typical case of lunatic-left versus reasonable government, but you’d never know that by reading the Times.
When it became apparent that Germany was never going to be in a position to invade India, the Germans dumped him on the Japanese.
The Japanese formed an Indian National Army from prisoners of Indian Army units captured in Malaya and Singapore, which are being used in this offensive.
Bose had some crazy idea that if the Japanese could get on Indian soil he could spark some kind of uprising against the British. Of course, seeing how Japan had dealt with other countries in its "Co-Prosperity Sphere," the Indians were even less enthusiastic about the Japanese than they were about the British.
Local commanders were decidedly pessimistic about the operation, but high command and Tokyo made them do it. The Times map reveals the same thing a modern satellite map shows - Imphal is surrounded by miles and miles of rugged, heavily forested terrain with an almost nonexistent road net in 1944. It's perfect terrain for defenders. Even if Imphal had fallen, many miles of this terrain stood between the Japanese and the Bengal plain. It was a doomed operation. Between casualties of war and disease and malnutrition, the Japanese Army ordered into the attack was destroyed as a viable fighting unit.
The Germans built the camp where they did because of the extremely sandy soil. They thought the prisoners would never be able to tunnel in it. They were wrong.
And isn't Steve McQueen the epitome of cool?
Burma was a cheap satellite for Japan. They only used four divisions to take it, and added a fifth later. It was the roadblock to effective supply to China and a roadblock to the British thinking about retaking Malaya, Singapore and threatening the NEI. The five divisions have been steadily holding out for the past two years. It’s a strategic keystone to the western end of their Empire, and it only cost them five divisions.
Now the Japanese decide to throw them away with the stupid invasion of India. As you pointed out, there is absolutely no logistical support for this invasion. The terrain that made it so easy to defend Burma also makes it bad as an offensive base. The Japanese divisions will starve to death at Imphal, and from that time on the Allies will have a much easier time re-occupying Burma.
And you make a good point about the starvation situation and Japan’s Indian “allies.” If the Japanese soldiers are starving, what do you think they are giving the Indians as rations? If anything, the Japanese are looking at their Indian allies as “livestock.”
Destroying this Army will finally allow the Allies to make some headway in Burma, where they had been confounded by this relatively small force for two years.