The Sword of Stalingrad is presented by Churchill (on behalf of King George VI) to Joseph Stalin, who received it on behalf of the citizens of Stalingrad; Tehran Conference, November 1943 [Public domain]
This week in the war, 28 November 1943, saw the start of the Tehran conference where the ‘Big Three,’ Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met to confer on the future conduct of the war. (Rumours—all unsubstantiated—have persisted that SS officer Otto Skorzeny
was to have headed an operation to assassinate the three Allied leaders but that the operation was deemed unpractical and later called off.)
Churchill used the occasion to present the ‘Sword of Stalingrad’ (made in Sheffield) to Joseph Stalin to honour the heroic defense of Stalingrad.
Items agreed upon at the conference included the decision to try to persuade Turkey to enter the war on the Allied side, a decision to provide arms to the Yugoslavian partisans, and the decisions to launch Operation Overlord (the invasion of northern France) and Operation Dragoon (the invasion of southern France) in 1944.
US marines storm Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands, November 1943 [Public domain, US Govt 1943, wiki]
This week in the war, on 20 November 1943, more than a hundred American warships and transports approached Tawara Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.
After bombardment by the battleships USS Maryland and USS Mississippi and further bombardment by aircraft, the first wave of US marines attempted to land on Betio Island, the most heavily defended section of the atoll. The reef proved a formidable obstacle. A second wave of marines followed soon after and there was bloody fighting when they reached the beach.
The Japanese defenders had a wide range of heavy weapons, including tanks, and were well-positioned in hidden pillboxes and bunkers. American casualties were high. The Marines were to suffer over 3,000 casualties by the time their hold on Betio Island was secure. Japanese (and Korean) losses were even greater.
Wednesday 11 November 2015—Remembrance Day
Once again, we gather to remember that eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the guns fell silent and the Great War ended.
It is time to honour and remember the veterans of all wars and to hear the words of John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields recited beside cenotaphs and war memorials around the world.
Poppies in Manitoba [Photo: Edith-Mary Smith]
War memorial in Oyonnax [Author: Jejecam, GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.2, Wikimedia]
This week in the war, on 11 November 1943, the resistance fighters of the Maquis
in the Ain department of the Rhone-Alpes region of France occupied the town of Oyonnax for a few hours.
To commemorate the Armistice of 1918, they marched to the war memorial and laid a wreath of flowers in the form of the Cross of Lorraine—the symbol of Free France and the struggle for liberation from the Nazi occupiers.
The inscription on the wreath read: Les vainqueurs de demain à ceux de 14–18 (From the conquerors of tomorrow to those of 14–18).
Before leaving, the members of the Maquis joined with the townsfolk in singing the Marseillaise.
Soviet infantry march along a street in Kiev, November 1943 [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
This week in the war, the Soviet’s 3rd Guards Tank Army
entered Kiev—the Soviet Union’s third largest city. One day later, on 6 November 1943, the city fell to the Soviet Army. By that time the Germans had withdrawn after destroying many of Kiev’s ancient buildings.
Jewish survivors who had been in hiding in Kiev described how tens of thousands of the city’s Jewish citizens had been murdered by the Nazis.
Posted in World War II
A scene from Max Reinhardt’s 1935 movie, A Midsummer Night’s Dream [Public domain]
Austrian-born actor and director Max Reinhardt died this week in the war, on 30 October 1943.
During his early years as a stage director in Austria-Hungary and later in Berlin he was considered one of the most original and innovative figures in European theatre. His plays were sometimes staged in circuses, cathedrals or amphitheatres and made use of contrasting light and shade to bring out an element of fantasy.
Being Jewish, Reinhardt left Germany in 1933, when the Nazis came to power. Eventually, he settled in the United States.
His one Hollywood movie was his 1935 film version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The cast of stars included James Cagney (in the role of Bottom), Mickey Rooney (as Puck), and Olivia de Havilland (as the beautiful Hermia). She is on the right in the scene above. Four years later, she would star as Melanie in the blockbuster Gone with the Wind.
British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, talks with US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull [Public domain]
This week in the war, the Moscow conference of foreign ministers began on 18 October 1943.
British Foreign minister, Anthony Eden, and US Secretary of state, Cordell Hull, met with their Soviet counterpart, Vyacheslav Molotov.
By the time the conference had ended, it had been agreed that a ‘European Advisory Commission’ be established and that Austria would once again become an independent country (i.e. independent from Germany). The principle of unconditional surrender (for Germany) was confirmed.