Japan searches for Second World War soldiers’ remains in sealed caves of Palau

March 29th, 2015

A team of experts took five days last week to clear their way into just one small cave with a 7ft opening.

Archaeologists found a set of bones which are believed to be human and will be taken back to Japan for testing.

“They found some bones while they were clearing the entrance of the cave,” Bernadette Carreon, a local journalist, told ABC Radio. “They did not use heavy equipment because they have to make it clear of heavy ordnance. When it’s clear, the archaeologists can go in and start bone collection.”


Marines smoke cigarettes, but keep their weapons close in a blasted landscape of Peleliu Island, Palau during WWII

The attempt to find the bodies has been welcomed in Japan and is part of an effort to end a brutal chapter from the war, in which US marines were pitted against Japanese troops who had set up their defences in the intricate labyrinth of heavily fortified caves and underground bunkers. It is still regarded as one of the harshest conflicts in the history of the marines.

Unlike previous battles in the Pacific, the Japanese did not focus their defence on using suicide charges to prevent the Americans from establishing a beachhead.

Instead, the Japanese forces largely allowed the marines to land but staged their defence from inside the caves.

The Japanese, who had occupied Palau for about 30 years, had spent decades using dynamite and axes to enlarge existing caves on Peleliu and blast out new ones. The caves and their entrances were then heavily camouflaged.

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The US forces expected the battle in September 1944 to last only four or five days. “It will be a hard-fought quickie,” predicted William Rupertus, the US marine commander. It took more than 10 weeks.

More than 1,600 US soldiers were killed during the battle, which ended with the marines blowing up many of the caves, leaving thousands of the enemy trapped inside. Shortly before the Americans finally seized the small island in late November, Col Kunio Nakagawa, the Japanese commander, atoned for his defeat by committing ritual suicide in his post.

About 35 Japanese soldiers remained hiding in the caves until April 1947, more than 18 months after the war officially ended. They were the last troops to surrender.

Keiji Nagai, 93, and Kiyokazu Tsuchida, 95, two of the 35 soldiers who surrendered in 1947, met the Japanese emperor and empress earlier this month to provide an account of the hand-to-hand combat they experienced during the battle. The empress quietly told Mr Nagai: “You went through a lot.”

Authorities began collecting the remains at various locations around the island in 1953, but Japanese authorities say 2,600 soldiers have yet to be found. The bodies are believed to be holed up inside about 200 caves which were deemed dangerous and left sealed to prevent public access. About 450 Japanese soldiers survived the battle and later helped to direct the authorities to the site of graves.


The island of Peleliu (Alamy)

The entire island has become something of a monument to the battle, with unexploded bombs a constant threat to residents and tourists. Following the war, Japan created a peace park which included a Shinto shrine with the inscription “To all countries’ unknown soldiers”.

Officials in Palau have worked closely with Japan to try to recover the remaining bodies and return them to the families of the soldiers. Some representatives of the families of the Japanese soldiers have assisted with the search.

Sachio Kageyama, from a group representing families and fellow soldiers of those who fought on the island, told The Japan Times: “I hope the forthcoming visit by the emperor will pave the way for [further] collection of remains.”

Palau, a remote cluster of islands east of the Philippines with a population of about 21,000, was the scene of heavy fighting during the war. The fierce battle at Peleliu was over an airfield now deemed of questionable strategic value by most historians.

The search for the bodies has also focused on a long-lost mass grave on the western side of the island, close to where the current cave search is being conducted.

US military documents indicating the cemetery’s location were found two years ago at a naval museum in California. The documents included a map created in January 1945 which says “Japanese cemetery” and points to the centre of the island. A separate report from a construction battalion says that logs were placed on the site to prevent people disturbing the graves. US officials reportedly told Palau in 1994 that a mass grave was located near Nakagawa’s grave.

US experts have also been searching Palau’s coral reefs, lagoons and islands for planes that were lost in the conflict. Last year, underwater robots were used to find two warplanes on the ocean floor.


World War Two

Giant WWII bomb dug up by builders in London

March 27th, 2015

Second World War bomb blown up in Hackney’s Clissold Park
Dramatic footage of WW2 bomb raid emerges

The Met is warning the disruption could last for a long time yet as experts attempt to safely dispose of the potentially volatile device.

A Met Police spokesman said: “The device is huge – it is a big fuss. Self-evidently from the nature of the operation, it is a big one, it is being dealt with but it could be problematic.

“We are on the case along with partner agencies but this could take a very long time. We will be issuing a further statement shortly.”

A member of the Royal Logistic Corps Bomb Disposal team at the scene (Jamie Lorriman)

A spokesman for London Fire Brigade, which has crews at the scene assisting bomb disposal units and the police, said the operation was likely to be a protracted one.

He said: “A large number of people have been evacuated from that area including homes and businesses as a precaution.

“We are assisting at the incident and it is likely to be a protracted one that could go on for some time.

“Whether that is due to the nature of the device or some other difficulty we’re not sure. We are on the scene to ensure it is as safe as possible.”

Police and Royal Logistic Corps Bomb Disposal Unit securing the area (LNP)

A Scotland Yard spokesman added: “At this early stage, the unexploded bomb is thought to be approximately 5ft long and 1000lbs in weight.

“A cordon and a wider exclusion zone of 400 meters has been put in place as a precaution, whilst we deal with the incident.

“We are working with colleagues from the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and Southwark Council who are also on scene.

“There a number of road closures and traffic diversions in the area.”

A wartime digaram show different German bomb sizes


World War Two

The Nazi jungle hideaway in Argentina used by Hitlers henchmen, in pictures

March 26th, 2015

The first pictures have been released of the Nazi relics that persuaded archaeologists they had found a hide-out for escaping German leaders deep in an Argentinian jungle. A team of archaeologists from the University of Buenos Aires Urban Archaeology Centre spent months exploring the Teyu Cuare provincial park, in the Misiones region of northern Argentina.

Picture: AFP/Getty


World War Two

Six weeks of Blenheim Summer

March 26th, 2015

Alastair also writes about the kindness, sadness and desperation of the French people, many of whom were refugees. On one occasion, he recalls how his camp tent became a delivery suite for a young woman who gave birth on his flying jacket. On another, in the streets of Chartres in the early hours of the morning, saddened by the air of resignation amongst all the refugees, he entered the city’s cathedral for a moment of calm. To his amazement, he found himself gazing at thousands of candles, lit as far as the eye could see, and hundreds of refugees gently worshipping. Alastair wrote: ‘I felt growing in me a hope of eventual peace and of right prevailing in the end’.

Alastair wanted his comrades to be remembered, but feared that history would eclipse the Battle of France because it was a story of ‘failure’. He was right – the disasters of the Battle of France are being overlooked. I have come to realise how little understood is this episode of World War Two. Even less known is an event which occurred on 17 June 1940 – the day before the Battle of France ended – the sinking of the troopship Lancastria. This tragedy was the largest single loss of life for British forces in the whole of World War Two. It was also Britain’s worst ever maritime disaster, claiming more victims than the sinking of the Titanic and Lusitania combined.

Lancastria was stationed off the coast of St Nazaire, packed with war-weary troops and refugees fleeing from a country that was politically divided, economically bereft and physically shattered. Despite attempts at a headcount, no complete manifest was kept and there were chaotic scenes as thousands clambered aboard, seeing Lancastria as their escape route. She then suffered three direct hits from a German bomber and quickly sank. It is not known precisely how many perished that day, but estimates suggest it was at least four thousand.

Thus began one of the biggest cover-ups of World War Two. Churchill himself immediately placed a D-notice on the event, preventing news of the tragedy from reaching an already demoralised British public. To this day, the wreck is still not a designated war grave.

Why haven’t the stories of the Battle of France and the sinking of Lancastria become part of our military folklore, alongside the Battle of Britain, the Evacuation of Dunkirk, El Alamein and the D-Day Landings? I think if Alastair were asked this question he would say it is because the Battle of France was a defeat. However, surely the sacrifice of men who are part of a battle lost is every bit as important as the sacrifice made by those whose fights are ultimately won?

Alastair was captured by Germans after being shot down a fourth time on 14 July 1940 and he spent the rest of war in captivity, making various escape attempts. The Battle of Britain had begun a few days earlier. Mercifully, its outcome was very different. In spite of terrible losses, British strength and determination overcame the enemy. But this year, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, we should also take time to remember events which took place in France some weeks earlier, especially all those who fought as bravely as my grandfather and those who died on Lancastria. They deserve nothing less.

The official launch of Blenheim Summer will be at the RAF Club this evening. The book tells the story of the Battle of France through the eyes of Alastair Panton who was an RAF Reconnaissance pilot during these difficult days, seventy-five years ago.

Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer by Alastair and Victoria Panton is published by Biteback priced £16.99. To order your copy for £14.99 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk


World War Two

Army experts safely destroy WWII Bermondsey bomb

March 25th, 2015

Army experts safely explode the bomb at a quarry in Kent. Credit: Ministry of Defence

SAT Lester, of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Royal Logistic Corps, said: “This bomb was a live munition in a dangerous condition. It had been disturbed by some pretty heavy building machinery, which is never a good thing. Bombs don’t like being bashed around.

“But once we’d uncovered it, we knew what we were dealing with and it was just a question of solving the puzzle quickly so we could get it away and the good residents of Bermondsey back in their homes.

“We knew we had to get it away to dispose of it safely because trying to deal onsite with a bomb that size, even under a controlled explosion, would cause significant damage to buildings, (and) property, and the risk of major loss of life in such a highly populated part of the city was very high.”

Buildings around The Grange were evacuated as British Army bomb disposal experts and engineers built a protective “igloo” around the 5ft (1.5m) device to protect the surrounding buildings in case of accidental detonation.


Bomb disposal teams from Shorncliffe Troop 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Royal Logistic Corps and Sappers from 33 Engineer Regiment Explosive Ordnance Disposal were involved in excavating the device (MoD)

The igloo was created from Hesco blast walls, like those used to build Camp Bastion and other military bases in Afghanistan during the conflict there.

The bomb was excavated last night by teams who had previously worked on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. It was then transported to a site in Kent owned by Brett Aggregates for the detonation, allowing people in Bermondsey to return to their homes last night.

On Wednesday night, Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, tweeted: “Thank u 2 members of the Armed Forces & all involved in moving the £UXB 2 Kent today & grateful 2 local £Bermondsey residents 4 patience.”


World War Two

Massive Nazi bomb threatens to destroy London homes

March 24th, 2015

Army experts are therefore having to dig around the bomb in order to gain access and defuse it.

They have surrounded it with an ‘igloo’ of special sandbags in order to absorb some of the impact should it accidentally go off.

But locals were left in no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation with police them they could be killed if they attempted to remain in their homes.

A police officer explains the situation to a local (National)

In a leaflet the Metropolitan Police said: “The Army bomb disposal team have advised that, if the bomb explodes, buildings in the 200-metre zone will be significantly damaged and those close to the bomb will be destroyed. Remaining in your home is placing your life at significant risk.”

Local Southwark councillor Lucas Green denied claims that the police were causing unnecessary panic insisting: “This area lived through the Blitz once and it still remembers how to handle itself in a similar situation.

“There’s the danger that people may think everything is OK. But the serious work begins now.”

Southwark council re-homed around 100 people on Monday night, while the Red Cross helped to provide food and other supplies to vulnerable people who had been affected.

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Map of Nazi bombs dropped on London

While it is unclear how long the operation to make the device safe will take, it is understood the plan is to load it on to an army truck and take it away where it can be safely detonated.

The bomb was found on the old site of the Southwark Irish Pensioners Centre.

Mr Green tweeted: “Seems our OAPs are hard as nails, drinking tea on top of a 1,000lb bomb for 70 years.”


The bomb was discovered in Bermondsey (Sgt Rupert Frere RLC/Crown Copyright)


A member of the Royal Logistic Corps Bomb Disposal team at the scene (Jamie Lorriman)

Local resident, Mary Chrisfield, 84, who was just eight years old when The Blitz began, said she could never have imagined she would be directly affected by the bombings 80 years after the war ended.

She said: “I remember my uncles reading about The Blitz to me from the newspaper. There was still damage visible when I moved to Bermondsey in 1950. I remember the front of St Joseph’s Cathedral was in ruins.

“I’ve lived through the time of the Blitz and people telling me about it in the years after. I never thought reading about it in the newspapers all those years ago that I would be affected by it directly.

“It is strange to think that the bombs are still here but even stranger to think they are impacting on London all this time later.”

London Fire Brigade said that between 2009 and 2014 it was called to seven unexploded Second World War bombs and five unexploded hand grenades.


Police and Royal Logistic Corps Bomb Disposal Unit securing the area (LNP)

Meanwhile an alert was sparked close to Gatwick Airport after workmen discovered another unexploded shell.

The 70-year-old ordnance was discovered underneath a tree by workmen digging up a stretch of land between the North and South terminals at the West Sussex airport.

A cordon was thrown around the area and the Perimeter Road North was closed to traffic while the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team carried out a controlled explosion.

A police spokesman said: “At 9.30am a Second World War munition, possibly an unexploded shell, was discovered close to the police dog training ground at Gatwick Airport.

“A tree appeared to have grown around the device, suggesting it had been there for a considerable time.”

Inspector Andy Richardson, from Sussex Police, said: “The passenger shuttle between the north and south terminals was temporarily disrupted for a while but flights were not affected.

A wartime digaram show different German bomb sizes


World War Two

Leaders’ snub of Moscow victory parade ‘insult to soldiers’, says Russia

March 24th, 2015

Veterans during the 60th anniversary parade through Red Square in 2005 (Getty Images)

Downing Street announced earlier this month that Mr Cameron would not go to Moscow.

A spokesman for David Cameron said at the time: “We will be considering our representation in light of our ongoing discussions with Russia, and our concerns about their activity. We don’t have plans for the Prime Minister to attend, and I’m sure we will set out who will represent the government in due course.”

He and other European leaders are thought to be boycotting the event in protest at Russia’s alleged aggression in Ukraine. Barack Obama, the US president, has also refused to go, citing a tight schedule.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said last week that he had received an invitation but would not attend because his “presence at a military parade beside the current aggressors and the person who uses weapons against civilians eastern in Ukraine would be, for me to put it mildly, too ambiguous”.

Ironically, Mr Chizhov’s scolding of EU leaders was uttered as Russian authorities said they would be taking measures to intercept any of their own Second World War veterans who tried to get on to Red Square on May 9 without being officially invited to the ceremonies.

The Kommersant newspaper said that only one veteran and a companion from each Russian region would be allowed on to the tribune.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend an event a day later (AFP)

Veterans who turn up in Moscow without invitations to the parade will be able to take part in other events to mark the occasion and will be helped to find cheap accommodation, city officials said.

Milos Zeman, the Czech president, is thought to be the only EU leader who has so far confirmed he will be at the May 9 parade.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minster, said last week that 26 world leaders had confirmed their attendance. Among them are leaders from China, India, Cuba and North Korea.

Last week, Mr Putin said that May 9 was a “day of glory, a day of pride for our entire nation, a day of supreme veneration of the victorious generation”.

The president said there were now “attempts at distorting the events of that war”, some of them “downright ravings”, in order “to undermine Russia’s power and moral authority”. He did not give details.

German forces surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945, with all hostilities scheduled to cease at 23.01 Central European Time the next day. That was already the early hours of May 9 to the east in Moscow, which marks Victory Day on that date, rather than the May 8 V-E Day celebrated in the US, Britain and other parts of Europe.


World War Two

Hitler flower painting to be auctioned for $30,000

March 23rd, 2015

Anyone doubting the banality of evil would be wise to take a long look at this 1912 watercolour by Adolf Hitler, which is due to be auctioned on March 26 with a starting price of $ 30,000.

The painting, a still life of flowers in a pitcher, features Hitler’s signature, and is being sold by Nate D Saunders, a memorabilia collector.

The previous owner has not been identified. It is thought that Hitler would have been 24 or 25 at the time of painting.

The Telegraph’s art critic Alastair Smart says of the piece, “The work is of no intrinsic, artistic worth whatsoever. The only vague point of interest might be that, unlike the iffy watercolours of Vienna city we associate with Hitler the painter, this rarity is an iffy watercolour of a pitcher of azalias.”

The watercolour features Hitler’s signature

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The last Hitler painting sold at auction was an architectural watercolour of Munich Hall, which sold for $ 161,000 in 2014.

This painting signed by A. Hitler is called “The Old City Hall”

Hitler began painting in 1908 when he moved to Vienna. He was twice rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art, but had a supporter in Samuel Morgenstern, a Jewish art dealer, who sold several of Hitler’s paintings to wealthy Viennese Jewish clients.

Hitler moved to Munich in 1913, having been unable to make a living as a painter.

The Nazis later seized Morgenstern’s gallery, and he was deported to the Lodz Ghetto, where he died in 1943. This flower painting has Morgenstern’s stamp on the back.

Evacuation of the sick and aged by horse-drawn cart, 1942, Lodz Ghetto (Henryk Ross/Copyright Art Gallery of Ontario)


World War Two

Britain revives Margaret Thatcher’s free market fund in struggle against Vladimir Putin

March 20th, 2015

Mr Cameron’s Good Governance Fund opens up a new diplomatic front in Britain’s confrontation with the Kremlin.

The scheme is modelled on Margaret Thatcher’s Know How Fund, which was credited with successfully Westernising the economies of Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Some £5 million of the £20 million fund, which will count towards Britain’s overseas aid obligation, has already been earmarked for reforming Ukraine. The programmes will work on sectors such as energy, banking and policing and will be run by British government officials and development experts from bodies such as the World Bank.

Margaret Thatcher with Mikhail Gorbachev

The root of the current crisis was the corruption and cronyism of the Yanukovich administration that led to civil unrest in Kiev, only to be exploited by Putin, Britain has assessed.

“We’ve said we would support these countries on a transition to democracy, and it cannot just be words,” said a British official.

“When they are facing some intimidation from Russia, we should be standing alongside them with concrete help.”

Mr Cameron unveiled the proposals over a working dinner of the European Council on Thursday night.

He warned his counterparts not to relax sanctions on Russian officials and businesses until the terms of the Minsk ceasefire are implemented in full, including withdrawing heavy Russian weaponry.

Member states are split on the measures, which are due for renewal in July.

Mr Cameron said the EU must show “intent” to Putin, who is reassuring his allies that restrictions on movement and capital will soon pass.

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He is understood to have ridiculed proposals from Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, for the creation of an European Union army to confront Russia.

“We shouldn’t be indulging in those fantasies when we’ve got a credible strategy weapon in the form of economic sanctions, not soldiers,” said a British official.

Daila Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian president, called for sanctions to be “deepened” in light of the deployment of nuclear armed missiles to the Russian enclave of Kalningrad. It is part of drills ordered by Putin involving thousands of troops, bomber aircraft and warships.

“Look at Kaliningrad”, she said. “Russia has deployed there nuclear missiles ‘Iskander’ that can even reach Berlin.”

Russia was accused of violating the sovereignty of yet another neighbour on Wednesday after President Putin signed a treaty incorporating the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia – a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

Georgia, the EU, and Nato denounced the move which sees the tiny state’s military merged with Russia and the economy placed in the hands of Moscow.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, said that the treaty “violates Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and blatantly contradicts the principles of international law”.

Russia gained control over the breakaway region, which split from Georgia in the early 1990s, in the 2008 war.


World War Two

Footage captures US air raids on Japan in dying days of WWII

March 17th, 2015

In one sequence, filmed on July 24, 1945, US forces attack the Imperial Japanese Navy’s aircraft carrier Amagi as it sits at anchor off Kure, Japan’s most important naval base during the war.

The footage also shows attacks on the heavy cruiser Tone and Oyodo, a light cruiser, with near misses clearly rippling out on the surface of Etajima Bay.

The grainy images also show rocket attacks on land targets, including factories manufacturing aircraft in Kure, while another clip, shot through the rear canopy of the US aircraft, shows a pall of smoke rising above the Kure Naval Arsenal after a raid on June 22, 1945. The war ended less than two months later.

Japanese records indicate that 162 B-29 Superfortress bombers attacked Kure shipyard – the home port of the battleship Yamato, which had only been sunk in April 1945 – dropping more than 700 tons of bombs.

“As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we are hoping to pass down to younger generations the reality of war by collecting important wartime footage”, Soei Hirata, head of the civic group, told the Asahi.


World War Two