AFTER THE BATTLE BOUND VOLUME # 43
The 43rd bound volume of After the Battle (issues 169-172) again features a range of stories from around the world including several main battles.
Jean Paul Pallud describes US Third Army’s operations to cross the Moselle river in north-eastern France in early September 1944. After a series of hard-fought battles for tenuous bridgeheads, the Americans were able to launch an armoured pincer attack that led to the liberation of the city of Nancy.
The story of the capture of the German frontier city of Saarbrücken — told by Karel Margry — can be seen as a follow-up to this battle. Held up by the Siegfried Line and the Ardennes offensive, it was March 1945 before the Americans could wrestle this pivotal city from the Germans — a battle honour for the US 70th Infantry Division.
Meanwhile, further north, the First Canadian Army unleashed Operation ‘Blockbuster’, the massive offensive that followed the push through the dreaded Reichswald forest. While the Canadians suffered heavy casualties in the so-called ‘Hochwald Gap’, British forces advanced on a parallel course, deploying infantry and armour to reach the Rhine under their own steam. We also highlight the story of Canadian Major Fred Tilston, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage in leading his company into an attack on the northern part of the Hochwald Forest.
Turning to the Italian front, Sergio Sparapani recounts the capture of the port city of Ancona by the Polish II Corps in July 1944. This was of great benefit for the Allies because possession of this harbour shortened Eighth Army’s supply lines by over 400 kilometres. For the Poles, Ancona was their second great victory after Monte Cassino the previous May.
Jean Paul Pallud describes the difficult history of the Vichy government in France. Headed by Maréchal Philippe Pétain, the venerated hero of Verdun, and based at the small spa town of Vichy, many French people rallied to the regime, even though it fell into increasing collaboration with the Germans. With the present-day city downplaying its controversial past, this feature also serves as a guide to the wartime locations.
Führerhauptquartier ‘Wehrwolf’, located outside Vinnitsa in the Ukraine, was the easternmost of Hitler’s headquarters. It was also the one where, after the ‘Wolfsschanze’ in Eastern Prussia, he stayed for the longest period. Our authors, Martin Bogaert and Andrew Shvachko, are the first to have systematically surveyed the site.
Three stories deal with the Pacific War. First, David Green recounts the grim tale of Camp 4-B at Naoetsu, Japan, reputed to be the worst POW camp in the whole Pacific. The appalling living conditions, the cruelty of the guards, and the slave labour in nearby factories, produced a very high mortality rate, causing the deaths of one in five of the inmates.
Then Gail Parker tells the story of Australian Sergeant Leonard Siffleet, a member of an Allied spying team captured by the Japanese in the jungle of New Guinea, who was subsequently publicly beheaded — an event that was captured in one of the most-confronting photos to come out of the Pacific war.
Finally, Colonel Charles A. Jones describes the US Pacific Dishonoured Plot in Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Over 25 American servicemen were executed for capital crimes committed in the Pacific and seven of them were buried in a special plot in the barrack cemetery. Colonel Jones documents the seven crimes in detail.
Other stories include that of the accidental explosion of an ammunition train at Catterick Bridge Station in North Yorkshire; the story of American Lieutenant Paul R. Stevenson, who was captured during the American siege of Brest, France, and his subsequent escape, and an update on the exact spot where two of the POWs involved in the famous Great Escape were executed by the Gestapo.ns - the crash of a USAAF C-47B Skytrain. It Happened Here - Oradour sur Glane - the massacre in this French village by the Waffen SS in June 1944.