1804 North Africa: US naval forces attack the heavily defended harbor of Tripoli. Extract from journal kept on board the US Frigate USS Constitution by Captain Edward Preble:
Made the signal for the Gun Boats and Bombs to attack the Batteries & Town from the West, when they immediately opened a tremendous fire within half cannon shot of the Town & less than that distance of a Battery of 7 heavy 24 pounders this Battery in less than two hours was silenc'd excepting one Gun I presume the others were dismounted as the Walls were almost totally destroyed, the Bombs were well and effectually employed by Lt. Comdt. Dent & Lt. Robinson of the Constitution, Lt. Robinson from a dangerous position he took, threw 28 shells into the Town, but the well directed fire of heavy artillery from the Enemy obliged him to shift his station not however until the cloths of every [sic] man in the Boat was wet through with the spray of sea which the Enemies shot threw them over. [For further details, Click here.]
1815 Napoleon Bonaparte sets sail for St. Helena, in the South Atlantic, to spend the remainder of his days in exile. (AP)
1876 USA: Thomas A. Edison receives a patent for the mimeograph. (AP)
Albert Kesselring, the son of school teacher, was born in Bayreuth, Germany, on 8th August, 1881. He joined the German Army in 1904 and became an officer cadet in the 2nd Bavarian Foot Artillery Regiment at Metz.
During the First World War Kesselring was transferred to the German Army Air Service where he trained as a balloon observer. While in this post he developed a close friendship with Hermann Goering.
Kesselring remained in the armed forces and was promoted to major general in 1932. The following year he joined the recently established Luftwaffe where he served under Erhard Miltch. In June 1936, despite the objections of Miltch, Goering appointed Kesselring as the organization's chief of staff.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Kesselring became commander of 1st Air Fleet and provided air support to General Fedor von Bock and Army Group North in the invasion of Poland. The following year he moved to the 2nd Air Fleet and supported the infantry in the invasions of Belgium, Holland and France. Despite criticisms for his performance during the Dunkirk evacuations, Kesselring was made a field marshal on 19th July 1940.
During Operation Barbarossa Kesselring and his 2nd Air Fleet supported General Fedor von Bock and Army Group Centre in the invasion of the Soviet Union. He then moved to be commander of all German land and air forces in the Mediterranean. On 10th May he ordered the mass bombing of Malta. However, he was forced to abandon the campaign eleven days later when Adolf Hitler decided that the Luftwaffe had to concentrate its efforts in the Soviet Union.
Kesselring remained in North Africa where he supported General Erwin Rommel in the Desert War. On 10th November 1942 Kesselring was appointed to serve under Benito Mussolini as deputy commander of Italian forces. In this position he was unable to prevent the loss of Tunisia and Sicily.
In August 1943, Kesselring led the retreat from the southern regions of Italy. In September his troops came close to stopping General Mark Clark establishing a beachhead at Salerno. He also secured all airfields around Rome that resulted in the Allies calling off their planned airborne assault. Throughout the winter of 1943-4 Kesselring successfully contained the Anzio beachhead.
In the winter of 1943, Kesselring withdrew his forces to what became known as the Gustav Line on the Italian peninsula south of Rome. Organized along the Garigliano and Rapido rivers it included Monte Cassino, a hilltop site of a sixth-century Benedictine monastery. Defended by 15 German divisions the line was fortified with gun pits, concrete bunkers, turreted machine-gun emplacements, barbed-wire and minefields.
On 25th October 1944, Kesselring was seriously injured when his car collided with a gun coming out of a side road. He was in hospital for three months and his command in Italy was taken over by General Heinrich Vietinghoff. When he recovered Adolf Hitler named Kesselring as supreme commander in the south of the country.
Kesselring, the only one of the early field marshals not to be sacked by Hitler, was taken prisoner on 6th May 1945. Tried as a war criminal he was found guilty on 6th May 1947 and condemned to death. Soon afterwards this sentence was commuted to life in prison and was released for health reasons in October 1952. The following year he published his autobiography, A Soldier to the Last Day (1953). Albert Kesselring died on 16th July 1960.(Spartacus)
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist:
Paul von Kleist, the son of mathematics teacher, was born in Hessen, Germany, on 8th August, 1881. He joined the German Army in 1900 and the following year was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Royal Field Artillery Regiment.
Kleist attended the cavalry school in Hanover (1908-09) and the Berlin War Academy (1910-12). By the outbreak of the First World War Kleist was captain of cavalry (Rittmeister) of the 1st Prince's Own Hussar Regiment. He was sent to the Eastern Front and commanded a cavalry squadron at Tannenberg in 1914.
In October 1915 Kleist was promoted to staff officer with the 85th Infantry Division. He continued to serve in Russia and in 1917 became Chief of Staff of the Guards Cavalry Division. After the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty in 1918 Kleist was transferred to the Western Front.
After the war Kleist was Staff Officer with the 13th Cavalry Regiment (1920-23), Instructor of Tactics at the Cavalry School at Hanover (1923-26) and Chief of Staff of the 2nd Cavalry Division (1927-28) where he replaced Gerd von Rundstedt. He then served as Chief of Staff of Wehrkreis III (1928-31) and in 1932 was promoted to the rank of major general.
Kleist was appointed general of cavalry in August 1936 and supervised Germany's military expansion in Silesia. He was known to hold anti-Nazi views and in February 1938 General Heinrich von Brauchitsch forced him into retirement.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Kleist was recalled to duty and during the invasion of Poland he commanded the XXII Corps under General Siegmund List. Kleist captured the oil fields near Lvov and linked up with General Heinz Guderian at Bug River on 17th September, 1939.
Although Adolf Hitler had doubts about Kleist's political loyalty he had a high regard for his military abilities and on 29th February, 1940, appointed him commander of the main panzer forces for the Western Offensive. Kleist began the offensive on 9th May, 1940. Following the Manstein Plan, Kleist's troops attacked through the wooded hills of the Ardennes.
Kleist wanted to move cautiously but General Heinz Guderian, who commanded the 1st, 2nd and 10th Panzer divisions, moved at great speed and crossed the Meuse near Sedan on 14th May. Kleist now ordered Guderian to halt until the arrival of General Siegmund List and his 12th Army. Guderian disagreed with Kleist's view that the panzers needed the support of the infantry. After a heated argument with Kleist, who had the support of his superiors, Gerd von Rundstedt and Heinrich von Brauchitsch, on 17th May 1940, Guderian threatened to resign. Kleist responded by sacking Guderian.
Adolf Hitler was unwilling to lose this brilliant commander and General Siegmund List was ordered to intervene and managed to persuade Kleist that Guderian should return to duty. Guderian got his way and his troops rushed ahead and reached the English Channel at Abbeville on 21st May 1940.
Boulogne was taken on 23rd May but later that day Hitler called a halt arguing that the rapid advance was jeopardizing the whole campaign. Kleist supported Hitler's decision but Heinz Guderian was furious who argued that this would stop the German Army cutting off the escape of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from Dunkirk.
In July 1940, Kleist was given command of the 1st Panzer Group and sent to invade Bulgaria. The attack was a success and he entered Belgrade on 12th April, 1941.
During Operation Barbarossa Kleist led five panzer divisions and nine other divisions. He drove into Ukraine destroying almost 20 divisions of the Red Army before wheeling north to join Heinz Guderian in the encirclement of Kiev. He then headed north and on 20th November 1941 entered Rostov. However, with the temperature dropping to -20 C, Kleist had difficulties with his tanks and under pressure from General Semen Timoshenko and his troops was forced to retreat.
Kleist returned to the offensive in the summer of 1942 when he penetrated Russian defences along the Kuban River before moving deep into the Caucasus. However, once again, he was forced to retreat during the winter and by February 1943, he was having difficulty holding on to the Crimea.
The Red Army launched a new counter-offensive in March 1944 and Kleist, now head of Army Group A, was pushed further back and had to set up his headquarters at Nikolayev near Odessa. Adolf Hitler had now lost confidence in Kleist and General Erich von Manstein. He remarked that "I can't trust Kleist or Manstein. They're intelligent but they are not National Socialists." On 29th March 1944, they were both recalled to Germany and sacked.
Kleist was arrested by the Gestapo after the July Plot. Although his cousin was one of the main conspirators they were unable to find any information that directly linked Kleist to the attempt on Hitler's life and he was released.
Kleist lived in retirement in the village of Mitterfels in Bavaria until being taken into custody by the US 26th Infantry Division on 25th April 1945. He was turned over to Josip Tito in Yugoslavia and in 1946 he was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment.
In 1948, Kleist was extradited to the Soviet Union and sent to Wladimir Prison Camp. Paul von Kleist died of arteriosclerosis at Wladimir on 15th October, 1954.(Spartacus )
1914 World War I: French troops advance to Mulhouse in Alsace. The city was occupied by French troops, but they were forced to withdraw two days later in the Battle of Mulhouse.
1915 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment continue to occupy a position at Fromelles—pictured above in a drawing by Hitler—on a level field with water channels, willow trees and willow stalks; in the distance, towards the enemy lines, lies an insignificant wood with barbed wire entanglements. Under the direction of their defense-minded commander, Lieutenant General Gustav Scanzoni von Lichtenfels, the regiment works ceaselessly day and night to further fortify their position at Fromelles while fighting off repeated assaults by the enemy. [For further details, Click here.]
1916 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler endures trench warfare in Flanders (Artois) with 3 Company, 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment. [For further details, Click here.]
1917 World War I: List Regiment (July 22-September 8): Dispatch Runner Gefreiter Adolf Hitler serves at the front with 3 Company, 16 Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment during Phase 2 operations in Flanders. Most of their time in the trenches, gas masks are worn, while attacked by British bombers, and while tanks—a new terror witnessed for the very first time in this campaign by most—attempt to advance over a long front through seas of mud. [For further details, Click here.]
1918 World War I: Various: Battle of Amiens:
Battle of Amiens:The Battle of Amiens (also known as the "Third Battle of Picardy"), the opening phase of the Allied offensive later known as the "Hundred Days Offensive," begins. Allied forces advance over seven miles on this first day, one of the greatest advances of the war, and it will ultimately lead to the end of the war. The battle is also notable for its effects on both sides' morale and the large number of surrendering German forces. Amiens is one of the first major battles involving armored warfare, and marks the end of trench warfare on the Western Front. Erich Ludendorff will describe this day as "the black day of the German Army." [For further details, Click here]
List Regiment (July 20-August 4): Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16th RIR continues building a new line of defenses on the site of the failed Second Battle of the Marne. [For further details, Click here.]
1919 Treaty of Rawalpindi signed at a peace conference between Afghanistan and India.
1923 Weimar: Inflation: German Chancellor Dr. Wilhelm Carl Josef Cuno, in order to meet the drop of the mark to 5,500,000 to the dollar, proposes an unlimited gold loan, a gold tax, and a general tax to finance the passive resistance in the Ruhr. (THP) "The French invasion of the Ruhr in January, 1923, caused Cuno political problems. His policy of passive resistance was unpopular in Germany.
1929 Weimar: The German airship Graf Zeppelin begins the first airship flight around the Earth:
The global flight would begin in Friedrichshafen and proceed to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Lakehurst would then mark as the official starting point of the journey as stipulated in the contract drawn up by Hearst [an American businessman]. From Lakehurst back to Friedrichshafen, to Tokyo and then to San Francisco, Los Angeles and back to Lakehurst. Although the Graf was not the first aircraft to circle the globe, it was by far the fastest. What took months for a British military, heavy bomber to do, with many breakdowns and hardships, the Graf did in 12 days and 11 minutes in comfort and style with a full passenger load over much previously uncharted land. The trip was a complete success and the world, particularly the US, caught Zeppelin Mania. Once safely moored at Lakehurst, Dr. Eckener was treated to a ticker-tape parade in his honor in New York City and the news papers would dub him the "Magellan of the Air".
1933 Holocaust: A Nazi decree grants Staatenlose (stateless) status to some 10,000 Jews of eastern European origin who had been deprived of their German citizenship in July.
And the fulfillment of this first demand will then open up the way for all the other reforms. And here is one thing that perhaps distinguishes us from you [Austrians] as far as our programme is concerned, although it is very much in the spirit of things: our attitude to the Jewish problem.
For us, this is not a problem you can turn a blind eye to-one to be solved by small concessions. For us, it is a problem of whether our nation can ever recover its health, whether the Jewish spirit can ever really be eradicated. Don't be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don't think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst. (Applause) D Irving,The War Path: Hitler's Germany 1933-1939. Papermac, 1978, p.xxi (accessed 03.08.09)
Zionism: The World Zionist Congress debates the partitioning of Palestine. Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion defend the plan.
Following the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in Palestine during the Spring of 1936, the British Government dispatched a Royal Commission to investigate a possible solution to the Arab-Zionist conflict. The central recommendation of the Peel Commission (known after its chairperson) was the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Congress was called upon to determine the position of the Zionist movement towards this scheme.
Holocaust: Romania: The government prohibits the singing of Hatikvah (the Zionist anthem, later Israel's national anthem) in Jewish schools. (THP)
Witnesses: From an order by the Secret State Police at Berlin:
The Reich Minister of Justice had informed me that he does not share the opinion voiced by subordinate departments on various occasions according to which the arrest of the Bibelforscher (Jehovah's Witnesses) after they have served a sentence is supposed to jeopardize the authority of the law courts. He is fully aware of the necessity for measures by the State Police after the sentence has been served. He asks, however, not to bring the Bibelforscher into Protective custody under circumstances detrimental to the respect of the law courts . . . . If information regarding the impending release of a Bibelforscher from arrest is received from the authorities carrying out the sentence, my decision regarding the ordering of measures by the State Police will be asked for without delay in accordance with my circular decree dated 22. 4. 3Y, so that transfer to a concentration camp can take place immediately after the sentence has been served. Should a transfer into concentration camp immediately after the serving of the sentence not be possible, Bibelforscher will be detained in police prisons.
1937 China: The Japanese Army occupies Beijing.[See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]
1938 Holocaust: Mauthausen, the first concentration camp in Austria, goes into operation:
Nazi Germany incorporated Austria in the Anschluss of March 11-13, 1938. Shortly thereafter, Reichsfuehrer-SS (SS chief) Heinrich Himmler, SS General Oswald Pohl, the chief of the SS Administration and Business Offices, and SS General Theodor Eicke, the Inspector of Concentration Camps, inspected a site they thought suitable for the establishment of a concentration camp to incarcerate, as Upper Austrian Nazi Party district leader August Eigruber put it, "traitors to the people from all over Austria." The site was on the bank of the Danube River, near the Wiener Graben stone quarry, which was owned by the city of Vienna. It was located about three miles from the town of Mauthausen in Upper Austria, 12.5 miles southeast of Linz.
At the end of April 1938, the SS founded a company, German Earth and Stone Works Inc. (Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke, GmbH-DESt), to exploit the granite which they intended to extract with concentration camp labor. In August 1938, the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps transferred approximately 300 prisoners, mostly Austrians and virtually all convicted repeat offenders or persons whom the Nazi regime classified as "asocials" from Dachau concentration camp to the Mauthausen site in order to begin construction of the new camp. By the end of 1938, Mauthausen held nearly 1,000 prisoners, still virtually all convicted criminals and asocials. Three months into World War II in December 1939, the number had increased to over 2,600 prisoners, primarily convicted criminals, "asocials," political opponents, and religious conscientious objectors, such as Jehovah's Witnesses.
An estimated 197,464 prisoners passed through the Mauthausen camp system between August 1938 and May 1945. At least 95,000 died there. More than 14,000 were Jewish. (Holocaust Encyclopedia).
1939 Winston Churchill makes a fifteen-minute radio broadcast to America, warning of the increasingly serious threat of war in Europe and the likelihood of American involvement. "This is the time to fight — to speak — to attack!"
1940 World War II: The Luftwaffe begins a series of daylight air raids on Great Britain.[See: Why Did Hitler Lose The Battle of Britain?]
1941 World War II: Various:
Barbarossa: Armeegruppe Mitte ends the battle of encirclement at Uman, taking 103,000 Soviet prisoners.
By 8 August 1941, the Soviet resistance had generally stopped. Remnants of 20 divisions from the 6th Army and the 12th Army were trapped. German sources after the war reportedly about 103,000 troops were taken prisoner. Included among officers taken prisoner were commanders of both the 6th and 12th armies, four corps commanders, and eleven division commanders.
Holocaust: Several hundred Jewish men and women are executed by the Waffen-SS and Ukrainian militia at Byelaya Tserkov (Bialacerkiew) in the Ukraine. The children of those murdered are locked in a building on the edge of the village. (see August 19, 22) (THP)
Wunderwaffen: Eight Special Guards Mortar regiments are commissioned personally by Stalin. Before the end of the year, there will be eight regiments all told, with 37 independent battalions in service, deploying some 554 launchers. (Harford) [See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]
1942 World War II: Various:
Marines on Guadalcanal overrun the airstrip—which is soon renamed Henderson Field. .John Mielke recalls their last stand:
We got together and were holding a position on the reverse slope of the ridge. At that time, there was a moment of panic. Around the base of the ridge, some paratroopers were retiring from their position because they knew we were there. They were calling out the password. One of the things you fear more than anything else is panic. We were cussing them out and giving them a real hard time. As they moved along, I felt sorry for them. I wasn't afraid. Fortunately, they were turned around [by the officers], and many of these men returned to their holes and died there.[See: Guadlcanal Diary.]
German saboteurs executed in Washington:
During World War II, six German saboteurs who secretly entered the United States on a mission to attack its civil infrastructure are executed by the United States for spying. Two other saboteurs who disclosed the plot to the FBI and aided U.S. authorities in their manhunt for their collaborators were imprisoned.
In 1942, under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's orders, the defense branch of the German Military Intelligence Corps initiated a program to infiltrate the United States and destroy industrial plants, bridges, railroads, waterworks, and Jewish-owned department stores. The Nazis hoped that sabotage teams would be able to slip into America at the rate of one or two every six weeks. The first two teams, made up of eight Germans who had all lived in the United States before the war, departed the German submarine base at Lorient, France, in late May.
Just before midnight on June 12, in a heavy fog, a German submarine reached the American coast off Amagansett, Long Island, and deployed a team who rowed ashore in an inflatable boat. Just as the Germans finished burying their explosives in the sand, John C. Cullen, a young U.S. Coast Guardsman, came upon them during his regular patrol of the beach. The leader of the team, George Dasch, bribed the suspicious Cullen, and he accepted the money, promising to keep quiet. However, as soon as he passed safely back into the fog, he sprinted the two miles back to the Coast Guard station and informed his superiors of his discovery. After retrieving the German supplies from the beach, the Coast Guard called the FBI, which launched a massive manhunt for the saboteurs, who had fled to New York City.
Although unaware that the FBI was looking for them, Dasch and another saboteur, Ernest Burger, decided to turn themselves in and betray their colleagues, perhaps because they feared capture was inevitable after the botched landing. On July 15, Dasch called the FBI in New York, but they failed to take his claims seriously, so he decided to travel to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. On July 18, the same day that a second four-man team successfully landed at Ponte Verdra Beach, Florida, Dasch turned himself in. He agreed to help the FBI capture the rest of the saboteurs.
Burger and the rest of the Long Island team were picked up by June 22, and by June 27 the whole of the Florida team was arrested. To preserve wartime secrecy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a special military tribunal consisting of seven generals to try the saboteurs. At the end of July, Dasch was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Burger was sentenced to hard labor for life, and the other six Germans were sentenced to die. The six condemned saboteurs were executed by electric chair in Washington, D.C., on August 8. In 1944, two other German spies were caught after a landing in Maine. No other instances of German sabotage within wartime America has come to light.
In 1948, Dasch and Burger were freed by order of President Harry Truman, and they both returned to Germany.(History.com)[See: Espionage de lux.]
Riegner Telegram alerts world about Nazi Holocaust:
On 8 August 1942, the World Jewish Congress representative in Geneva, Gerhart M. Riegner, sent a telegram to British and American diplomats providing them with reliable information about Hitler’s plans to annihilate millions of European Jews. The telegram was the first authoritative word that the Nazis actually had a coordinated extermination plan.
A few days before, Riegner had received a phone call from a friend at the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland with news that a German industrialist had told him of a plan being discussed by Hitler to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The cable he then sent to British and American diplomats in Switzerland read as follows:
"Received alarming report about plan being discussed and considered in Fuehrer headquarters to exterminate at one fell swoop all Jews in German-controlled countries comprising three and a half to four million after deportation and concentration in the east thus solving Jewish question once and for all stop campaign planned for autumn methods being discussed including hydrocyanic acid."
Riegner urged the US vice consul in Geneva to inform the administration in Washington of the plan and to transmit the contents of the telegram to Stephen Wise, president of the World Jewish Congress and a personal friend of US President Franklin Roosevelt.
However, Wise received Riegner’s alarming message only three weeks later, on 28 August 1942. The WJC president immediately relayed it to the US authorities (picture), but the telegram was largely met with disbelief, despite preexisting evidence for mass executions. The US State Department considered it "a wild rumor, fueled by Jewish anxieties", while the British Foreign Office refused to forward the telegram for the time being and called for the allegations to be investigated first.
It was only on 25 November 1942 that the State Department contacted WJC President Wise, confirming Riegner's report and granting Wise permission to release the news about the Holocaust to the world. It took a further 14 months until, in January 1944, President Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board whose aim was to try to save Jews. "Since my first telegram, 18 months had passed during which time the inexorable massacre continued and millions of Jews were sacrificed," Riegner wrote in his memoirs.
For the rest of his life, Riegner was haunted by the knowledge that many of the six million Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps could have been saved if the United States and Britain had acted promptly on his warning dispatched from Switzerland. "Never did I feel so strongly the sense of abandonment, powerlessness and loneliness as when I sent messages of disaster and horror to the free world, and no one believed me," Riegner recalled in his memoirs. [For further details, Click here.]
1943 World War II: Stalin to FDR:
Contrary to our expectations, the Germans launched their offensive in July, not in June, and now fighting is in full swing on the Soviet-German front. The Soviet armies have, as you know, repulsed the July offensive of the Hitlerites, switched to the offensive, taking Orel and Belgogrod, and are still pressing the enemy . . . .
I hope you will appreciate that in these circumstances I cannot start on a distant journey . . . . I have no objection to Mr. Churchill attending the conference and to the bipartite conference being turned into a tripartite one. I still hold this view provided you have no objections . . . .
I take this opportunity to congratulate you and the Anglo-American forces on their outstanding success in Sicily, which had led to the fall of Mussolini and his gang.
1944 World War II: Various: Polish tank crews, together with Canadians, launch Operation Totalize in Normandy—striking at SS armored forces along the Caen-Falaise Road.
Further west, fighting raged on the US front. Adolph Hitler ordered his troops to launch a large-scale attack on Mortain and Avranches, an insane project. Warned by British intelligence, US General Omar Bradley and British General Bernard Montgomery immediately saw in this tactical mistake an opportunity to seize. They would let the German division enter a narrow lane, a gap that the Allies would then close, completely surrounding the enemy. To make this possible, Canadian troops needed to pierce the German lines that stood in their way south east of Caen. This was the goal of Operation Totalize.
Death: Erwin von Witzleben:
Erwin von Witzleben was born in Breslau, Germany on 4th December, 1881. He joined the German Army in March 1901 as a second lieutenant in the 7th Grenadier Regiment.
On the outbreak of the First World War Witzleben he was appointed Adjutant of the 19th Reserve Brigade. He served on the Western Front where he won the Iron Cross. In April 1917, Witzleben assumed command of a battalion in the 6th Infantry. The following year he became General Staff Officer to the 108th Infantry Division.
Witzleben remained in the army and in January 1921 was given command of the 8th Machine Gun Company. He was on the General Staff of the Wehrkries IV (1922-25), 12th Cavalry Regiment (1925-26) and Infantry Command III (1926-28). W became Chief of Staff of Wehrkries IV (1929-31) and commander of the 8th Infantry Regiment (1931-33).
In 1934 Witzleben was promoted to major general and appointed commander of Wehrkries III, replacing General Werner von Fitsch, who was named Commander in Chief of the Army.
An opponent of Adolf Hitler and his government in Nazi Germany, Witzleben joined with Erich von Manstein, Wilhelm Leeb and Gerd von Rundstedt to demand a military inquiry into the death of Kurt von Schleicher following the Night of the Long Knives. However, the Defence Minister, Werner von Blomberg, refused to allow it to take place.
Witzleben was furious when his friend, General Werner von Fitsch, was dismissed as Commander in Chief of the Army on a trumped up charge of homosexuality. He was now a staunch anti-Nazi who began considering the possibility of a military coup against Hitler. The Gestapo became aware of his criticisms of Hitler and in 1938 he was forced to take early retirement. Witzleben plotted with anti-Nazis such as Ludwig Beck, Franz Halder, Wilhelm Canaris, Hans Oster, Wolf von Helldorf, Kurt Hammerstein-Equord and Erich Hoepner and they considered the possibility of a military coup.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Witzleben was recalled to the German Army. In the invasion of France Witzleben commanded the 1st Army. His troops broke through the Maginot Line in June, 1940 and then occupied Alsace-Lorraine. As a result of this action Witzleben was promoted to the rank of field marshal.
Witzleben remained in France and after the failure of the Operation Barbarossa he once again began plotting against Adolf Hitler. The Gestapo was informed that he was once again being critical of the government and in 1942 Witzleben was called back to Germany and retired.
Witzleben spent the next two years at his country estate. He kept in touch with anti-Nazis and in 1944 became involved in the July Plot. After Claus von Stauffenberg planted the bomb the conspirators thought that Hitler had been killed and Witzleben was installed as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Erich Hoepner as Commander of the Home Army.
On 21st July, 1944 Witzleben was arrested and during his trial he was humiliated by being forced to appear in court without his belt and false teeth. Erwin von Witzleben was found guilty of treason and on 8th August, 1944 was executed by being hung by piano wire from a meat hook.(Spartacus)
Truman signs United Nations Charter:
President Harry S. Truman signs the United Nations Charter and the United States becomes the first nation to complete the ratification process and join the new international organization. Although hopes were high at the time that the United Nations would serve as an arbiter of international disputes, the organization also served as the scene for some memorable Cold War clashes. [For further details, Click here]
War against Japan: The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, devastating the city of Nagasaki.
War against Japan: Soviets declare war on Japan; invade Manchuria:
On this day in 1945, the Soviet Union officially declares war on Japan, pouring more than 1 million Soviet soldiers into Japanese-occupied Manchuria, northeastern China, to take on the 700,000-strong Japanese army.
The dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima by the Americans did not have the effect intended: unconditional surrender by Japan. Half of the Japanese inner Cabinet, called the Supreme War Direction Council, refused to surrender unless guarantees about Japan's future were given by the Allies, especially regarding the position of the emperor, Hirohito. The only Japanese civilians who even knew what happened at Hiroshima were either dead or suffering terribly.
Japan had not been too worried about the Soviet Union, so busy with the Germans on the Eastern front. The Japanese army went so far as to believe that they would not have to engage a Soviet attack until spring 1946. But the Soviets surprised them with their invasion of Manchuria, an assault so strong (of the 850 Japanese soldiers engaged at Pingyanchen, 650 were killed or wounded within the first two days of fighting) that Emperor Hirohito began to plead with his War Council to reconsider surrender. The recalcitrant members began to waver.
War crimes: The London Agreement is signed by the Allies, enabling the prosecution of war criminals. (Maser II)
Many Soviet scientists suddenly find themselves unwillingly made members of the "Inter-ministerial Commission" and sent to Berlin. There, they tour German plants and facilities, advising on what should be shipped back to the USSR and what should be destroyed. (Menaul)
Nuremberg Tribunal:Waffen-SS Sturmbannfuehrer (Nazi Judge) Dr Georg Konrad Morgen testifies on behalf of the SS, an indicted criminal organization:
Morgen: I was asked whether from my impressions of the concentration camps I gained the idea that they were extermination camps. I had to say that I could not get this impression. I did not mean to say that the concentration camps were sanatoria or a paradise for the prisoners. If they had been that, my investigations would have been senseless. Through these investigations I gained insight into the extremely dark and dismal side of the concentration camps. The concentration camps were establishments which, to put it mildly, were bound to give rise to crimes as a result of the application of a false principle. When I say the principle was at fault, I mean the following:
The prisoner was sent to the concentration camp through the Reich Security Main Office. A political agency decided about his freedom, and its decision was final. Thereby the prisoner was deprived of all legal rights. Once in the concentration camp, it was almost impossible to regain freedom, although at regular intervals the cases were reviewed. The procedure was so complicated that, aside from exceptional instances, the great majority could have no hope. The camp, the Reich Security Main Office, and the agency which had assigned the individual to the camp, had to agree to his release. Only if these three, agencies reached an agreement could a release be effected. Thereby, not only the reason for the arrest was taken into consideration, but through a monstrous order of SS Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl the production side was also important. If a prisoner was needed in the camp because he was a good man, even though all conditions for release existed, he could not be released. The concentration camps were surrounded by a sphere of secrecy.
USA: Aviation: The first prototype of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker, the first nuclear weapon delivery vehicle to be mass-produced, flies for the first time. [For further information, click here.]
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