This week in the War, 4–10 December 1944: Phasing out the Blackout

Doreen Buckner draws the curtains in her family's London home to comply with the nightly 'Blackout' [Public domain]

Doreen Buckner draws the curtains in her family’s London home to comply with the nightly ‘Blackout’ [Public domain]

This week in the war throughout the British Isles from 9 December 1944 on, premises were no longer required to be blacked out when the air raid sirens sounded. The Luftwaffe was no longer perceived to be a threat, and light or its absence was irrelevant to the V-1s and V-2s that bombarded London.

The Blackout had begun on 1 September 1939, before Britain had even declared war. Despite the bombing, British morale stayed high, even during the eight months of the Blitz, September 1940–May 1941, which claimed the lives of over 40,000 civilians.

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This week in the War, 27 Nov—3 Dec 1944: Britain’s Home Guard stands down

Recruitment poster for Britain's Home Guard [Public domain]

Recruitment poster for Britain’s Home Guard [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 3 December 1944, Britain’s Home Guard stood down. The Home Guard (originally called the Local Defence Volunteers) had been formed when the British Isles were threatened by invasion.

In 1944, the tables were turned and it was Germany which was threatened with invasion. By October 1944, the Germans had already created the Volkssturm, which was Germany’s version of Britain’s Home Guard.

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This week in the War, 20–26 November 1944: Henry the Fifth—the Movie

Laurence Olivier, photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1939 [Public domain]

Laurence Olivier, photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1939 [Public domain]

Henry V --- from Cassell's History of England, 1902 [Public domain]

Henry V — from Cassell’s History of England, 1902 [Public domain]

This week in the war saw the release, on 22 November 1944, of the movie Henry V—based upon the play by William Shakespeare.

The movie won an Oscar (in 1946) for Laurence Olivier, who was the director and also played the star role.

Many say that Olivier’s Henry V was the first successful screen adaptation of a Shakespearian play. Either way, the movie was a big success.

British audiences made the connection between the current Allied invasion of France (D-Day) and Henry’s invasion of France, which would lead to eventual victory (at the Battle of Agincourt). [Perhaps few made the connection that England’s last war against France had been as recent as July 1940, when the Royal Navy had attacked and sunk French warships in harbour in Algeria.]

 

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This week in the War, 13–19 November 1944: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo—The Movie

Spencer Tracy (left) as Colonel James Doolittle in the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo [Public domain]

Spencer Tracy (left) as Colonel James Doolittle in the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo [Public domain]

Barely two months after the Pearl Harbour attack, the United States began planning a reprisal raid against Japan. The result was the attack against Tokyo and other targets in April 1942.

The so-called Doolittle Raid was led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle who commanded the attacking force of B-25 Mitchell medium bombers flying from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.

This week in the war, 15 November 1944, saw the release of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, the movie that described the story of the raid.

Ellen Lawson (Phyllis Thaxter), wife of flier Ted Lawson (Van Johnson) say goodbye before he ships out to take part in the Doolittle mission in the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo [Public domain]

Ellen Lawson (Phyllis Thaxter), wife of flier Ted Lawson (Van Johnson) say goodbye before he ships out to take part in the Doolittle mission in the movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo [Public domain]

The movie was acclaimed for its authenticity (using actual footage taken from battle) and its attention to the human element.

The movie starred Spencer Tracy in the role of Doolittle. It also starred Van Johnson in the role of Ted Lawson, one of the B-25 pilots, and Phyllis Thaxter as his wife, Ellen.

Lawson was in one of the many planes that ran out of fuel before reaching the pre-arranged landing fields in China. The Chinese helped him to reach safety but not before his wounds required the amputation of a leg.

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In the news: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day—11 November

In Flanders Fields---John McCrae [Public domain, wikimedia commons]Friday 11 November 2016 — 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]

Poppies in Manitoba [Photo: Edith-Mary Smith]

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This week in the War, 6–12 November 1944: United States presidential election makes history

Poster advocating the election of FDR for an unprecedented fourth term in office, 1944 [Public domain]

Poster advocating the election of FDR for an unprecedented fourth term in office, 1944 [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 7 November 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made history by becoming the first (and last) president of the United States to be elected to a fourth term in office.

Roosevelt defeated the Republican challenger, New York governor, Thomas E. Dewey.

During the election campaign, there was much mudslinging and some bizarre claims, including a Republican allegation that Roosevelt had dispatched a US Navy warship to bring home his Scottish Terrier, Fala.

Roosevelt won the election handily, in part due to public confidence inspired by American victories in Europe and the Pacific.

Roosevelt would not complete his term as president. He died on 12 April 1945 and was succeeded in office by his Vice-President, Harry S. Truman.

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This week in the War, 30 Oct–5 Nov 1944: RAF raid Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark

Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark, 1944 [Public domain]

Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark, 1944 [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 31 October 1944, the RAF launched a precision bombing raid against the Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark.

The Danes had appealed to Britain to bomb the headquarters to destroy files that were being used with great effectiveness to combat the Resistance inside Denmark.

The headquarters were located in a dormitory at the University of Aarhus and posed a difficult target since there was a hospital on either side.

Two dozen RAF Mosquito fighter bombers made the 900-mile there-and-back trip across the North Sea and attacked at rooftop height.

Most of the files were destroyed and Gestapo personnel suffered heavy casualties. Aarhus Gestapo chief, SS Sturmbannfuehrer Eugen Schwitzgebel, was killed in the attack.

Danish resistance fighter, Pastor Harald Sandbaek, after been repeatedly tortured by his captors, was buried in the rubble but then escaped in the confusion and eventually made his way to Sweden.

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