Posts Tagged ‘Second’

British and Japanese veterans shake hands in Second World War reconciliation event

November 12th, 2015

Mr Welland presented Mr Urayama and Mr Mikio Kinoshita, who served as a sergeant in the Japanese Railway Construction Army on the infamous Burma Railway, with photos of the Battle of Kohima memorial.

In return, Mr Urayama gave the British veteran a specially made tie, while Mr Kinoshita presented him with a traditional wooden doll made by his daughter.

Mr Welland, from Colchester, served in a special forces unit in Norway before being transferred to the Far East with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and sent to halt the Japanese advance into India.

The twin clashes of Imphal and Kohima were fought between early April and late June 1944 and involved heavily outnumbered British and Indian troops desperately fighting to deny the Japanese attackers the high ground.

The Japanese were forced to retreat south and the battle is considered the turning point in the land war in south-east Asia because it demonstrated that the Japanese were not invincible.

Mr Welland admitted that he suffered nightmares for many years after the war and recalled stepping over countless bodies on the battlefield. He travelled to Japan for the first time last year after meeting the daughter of a Japanese veteran at a meeting of the Burma Star Association.

The year, he attended a Remembrance Day memorial service on Wednesday at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in the Hodogaya district of Yokohama, and said he intended to return to build bridges with more Japanese veterans in the future.

“I want to keep doing things like this for a few more years, if I can,” he said. “It just keeps getting better.”


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Germany still paying pensions to Spain’s Nazi volunteers during Second World War

November 5th, 2015

The German government has continued to pay pensions to Spaniards who volunteered to fight for the Nazis in the Second World War.

Berlin is still honouring an agreement made with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, whose regime encouraged volunteers to sign up to fight for Hitler against Communist Russia between 1941 and 1943.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question by Left-wing MP Andrej Hunko, Angela Merkel’s government admitted that it was still paying out over €100,000 (£71,000) a year in pensions to survivors and relatives of troops from the so-called Blue Division, in whose ranks Spanish volunteers fought on the Eastern Front.

The current annual bill to German taxpayers stands at €107,352, which is granted to 41 veterans who were wounded while fighting for the Nazis, eight widows of former fighters, and one orphan of a Blue Division volunteer.

Mr Hunko, of The Left (Die Linke) party, said it was “a scandal that 70 years after the war, Germany is still paying more than €100,000 a year to Nazi collaborators”.

He added: “At that time, those people volunteered to join the German fascists to fight on their side in the war of extermination in eastern Europe. For me it is incomprehensible that the German government should stick to those payments when so many victims of the war are still waiting today for their rightful compensation.”

The agreement to pay pensions to Blue Division veterans was made between Franco’s government and the Federal Republic of Germany in 1962.

The German government said that 47,000 Spanish volunteers had fought for Nazi Germany under an agreement between Hitler and Franco, part of a deal which prevented Spain from entering the war too quickly after the three-year civil war won by Franco’s fascist forces in 1939 with help from Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini’s Italy.

The written answer also said that 22,000 Blue Division members were either killed, wounded or declared missing in action during the war, without dividing the different groups of casualties. Other estimates put Spanish dead on the Eastern Front at around 5,000.


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Miss Italy second gaffe

September 24th, 2015

 Alice Sabatini smiles after being crowned Miss Italy 2015

Italy was allied with Germany at the time, and that year, they invaded unoccupied Vichy France. Hundreds of Italians died for the fascist cause in the brutal North African campaign, including in the long retreat from the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. And more than 20,000 Italians died in the Battle of Stalingrad that year, many during the bloody defeat of the Italian 8th Army in Russia near the Don River.

Miss Sabatini’s strange desire to relive one of the continent’s bloodiest years triggered a swift and savage online barrage of satirical memes. Twitter montages featured the brunette beauty queen smiling as she sashayed in her bikini through war-ravaged battlefields. An Italian satirist known as “The Jackal” produced a spoof video that quickly went viral.

But Miss Sabatini’s unorthodox response didn’t seem to damage her standing in the pageant, which she won based on both judge’s scores and viewer call-in votes.

The jokes at the 18-year-old’s expense prompted one of the pageant’s judges, Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender actress and politician, to call for more comprehension of the gaffe. “Try to imagine the emotions of a young woman who had all the spotlight on her: She panicked.”

Miss Sabatini on Tuesday defended her comments, saying she was nervous and caught off guard as the first contestant to be asked the question, but had meant to express admiration for her great grandmother, who is still alive and always recalls the Second World War.

“I would have liked to live through what she had gone through in those years,” Ms. Sabatini was reported as saying in an interview published in Urban Post. “For better and for worse.”


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How Donald Duck helped win Second World War – and beat Mickey to the job

August 30th, 2015

A BBC Radio 4 documentary is to explore how Disney helped the Allied war effort with a series of films dedicated to educating Americans on what they could do to help at home.

Other films showed public information such as how to collect war bonds, and attempted to explain how Nazis were indoctrinated.

The documentary, presented by former Disney cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and to be broadcast on September 2, will explore the question: “Why did Donald Duck get drafted?”

How Dad’s Army nearly became a casualty of BBC battle

It has been made to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, and will interview historians as well as featuring archive audio from Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald.

The final show will detail how Walt Disney Studios helped the US government spread their messages by using favourite cartoon characters in newly-created films.

They included The Spirit Of 43, which saw Donald praise the benefits of income tax, The Fuhrer’s Face, in which Donald has a nightmare he works in a Nazi artillery factory, and Commando Duck, in which he destroys a Japanese command base.

“He was a duck who was very typical of an American,” said Clarence Nash, in a clip featured on the show. “He would express his opinions real well, you know?”

Brian Sibley, who has written books on Disney and Mickey Mouse, told the programme: “Mickey Mouse was very important to Disney. It was his lucky talisman, he’d built a studio really on the back of the success he’d had with Mickey Mouse.

“I don’t think he wanted him tarnished, really, with having him involved in propaganda.

“Certainly not the way in which Donald Duck was involved.

“He was irascible, he was apt to fly off the handle, lose his temper.

If you wanted a character to stand up to Hitler, you couldn’t have one better than Donald Duck.

“Mickey was always used for slightly more reserved roles. He would be an ARP warden with a tin hat, telling people to ‘put that light out’. That kind of thing.”

At the time, the use of Donald was described as the equivalent of “MGM giving Clark Gable”. Polls shortly afterwards found 37 per cent of the American public did indeed feel more inspired to pay their taxes.

Disney himself is said to have been inspired to contribute after serving as an ambulance driver in First World War France, fibbing about his age.

He was rumoured to have been put on Hitler’s “personal hit list” as a result of the studio’s wartime efforts.

A Radio 4 spokesman said: “This documentary explores how the iconic Californian studio became a war plant in the 1940s, which churned out ground-breaking military training films and propaganda shorts, educational posters and leaflets, along with insignias for troops to help boost morale on the frontline.”

The programme will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday, September 2 at 11am.


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UK’s biggest Second World War air raid shelter reveals life on Home Front

April 10th, 2015

Howard Green, the museum’s duty officer, said: “Chestergate, the street outside was busiest east-west routet the town; even at the levels of 1930s traffic it was too narrow. The long term was to cover over the River Mersey, which is where the M62 is.

“But in the interim, they decided to buy properties there and demolish them for widening and straightening.

“A lot of the older properties backing into the cliff had cellars and it seemed a pity to seal them up. There were things to be done, so there was talk of joining them together as an underground car park.

“The other thing was that in the lead up to the Second World War, local authorities had to establish public air raid shelters in towns.

“So they decided to join cellars together, get the grant for the air raid shelters, then they could get the money back twice by letting out the parking spaces.”

The biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK attracted terrified victims of the blitz from across Cheshire and Lancashire at the height of the war. The tunnels, dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport were state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people.

Unfortunately for the council at the time, the car park proved impossible after the engineering survey.

Mr Green said: “The official capacity was 3,850, so outside they painted 4,000, but what they didn’t advertise was that they thought they could squeeze twice as many in if needs be.

“They were used extensively by people from Manchester and Salford, and even as far as Eccles.

“Stockport was less of a target, and the underground shelters were a particularly safe place, so they came on a regular basis, what they did was introduce season tickets, they were issued to locals, although you could write in if you had difficult circumstances. We still have some letters from people in Manchester who’d been bombed out several times.

The biggest purpose built air raid shelter in the UK attracted terrified victims of the blitz from across Cheshire and Lancashire at the height of the war. The tunnels, dug into the sandstone cliffs running alongside the river Mersey in Stockport were state of the art in 1930s Britain, with electric lighting and flush toilets, and could hold up to 6,500 people.

“It was really only a way of damping down demand, nobody was denied entrance in an alert.

“In the winter of 1940 and 41, it went up to 6,500, with another four sets of tunnel shelters. Once they had the format right, it was something that could be done elsewhere in the town, where they could get into red sandstone.

“If you know where to look you can see the blocked up tunnels of one set of shelters on the other side, where the M62 goes through Stockport; further back into hillside, you can see the tunnel cut short and bricked off.

“People are always surprised by is the extent of them, and just how much thought and planning went into them, we’ve had German visitors saying our government did nothing as elaborate.

“There were first aid posts, electric lighting and flush toilets, which people living in back to back cottages of town centres wouldn’t have had at home.”


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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.


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Heir to Japanese throne appeals for ‘correct’ Second World War history

February 23rd, 2015

Naruhito, the crown prince, used a press conference marking his 55th birthday on Monday to express opinions that would be considered mild elsewhere but are a rare example of Japan’s imperial family passing comment on the nation’s elected leaders.

“I myself did not experience the war, but it is important to look back on the past humbly and to correctly pass down tragic experiences and the history behind Japan to generations that have no direct knowledge of the war, at a time when memories of the war are about to fade”, the prince said.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, has expressed his intention to rewrite the constitution before he steps down, with sections concerning Japan’s right to use its military the most likely to be altered.

The prince also pointed out that the world is marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and expressed hopes that this year “will be an opportunity to take the preciousness of peace to heart and to renew our determination to pursue peace”.

“The imperial family very rarely wades into politics, but it is very hard to believe that this is not a planned and calculated comment that has been approved by the Imperial Household Agency,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at the Japan campus of Temple University, told The Telegraph.

“Clearly the agency believes Mr Abe has gone too far and that it will be bad for the nation if he continues to take the line that Japan did nothing wrong in the early decades of the last century”, he said.

“The agency will be particularly keen to avoid any new questions being raised about the imperial family’s role in and responsibility for Japan’s colonial occupations and the war”, he added.


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David Cameron defends Second World War RAF ‘heroes’ of Dresden raid

February 19th, 2015

The comments sparked criticism from Tory MPs who called the remarks “bizarre” and “an insult” to the young men who risked their lives.

“On the issue of the work of Bomber Command in the Second World War, I think that Bomber Command played an absolutely vital role in our war effort,” Mr Cameron said in a question and answer session at the Port of Felixstowe.

“One of the things I was very proud to do as Prime Minister was to make sure the people who served in Bomber Command got proper recognition with a new clasp on their medals.

“And it was a great honour to hand out some of those medals to people who have waited for many, many years for the recognition I think they deserve.

“I’m very lucky to occasionally get to jog around St James Park in London and I always stop and look up at the Bomber Command memorial that has been so recently built and dedicated and stop and think about those very brave people who took enormous risks with incredible loss of life on our behalf to save Europe, to save Britain from fascism, from Hitler.

The Bomber Command monument in Green Park (ALAMY)

“To me the people who served in bomber command are heroes of our country and they played a very important role in the Second World War.”

Up to 25,000 civilians were killed in a vast firestorm with hurricane-strength winds during the raid of 13-15 February 1945. Critics have said the raid, the most controversial British action of the war, was needless, given the closeness of victory. Defenders of the raid point to the large number of German armament factories in the city.

The comments contrasted with the tone taken by Archbishop Welby at a service to remember the bombings earlier this month.

“Much debate surrounds this most controversial raid of the allied bombing campaign. Whatever the arguments, events here 70 years ago left a deep wound and diminished all our humanity. So as a follower of Jesus I stand here among you with a profound feeling of regret and deep sorrow,” he said.

Tory MP Philip Davies criticised the comments, saying: “These remarks do sound to me like an apology. For the Archbishop to make an apology for our defeat of Hitler is bizarre. I would have thought the last thing we should be doing is apologising. We should be praised for defeating Hitler. These words are an insult to the young men who gave their lives in the defeat of Germany.”


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Beautiful landmarks destroyed by Second World War bombs – and resurrected

February 16th, 2015

Frauenkirche (Dresden, Germany)

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the fire-bombing of Dresden (13-15 February 1945) – the concerted Allied air attack which effectively removed its target from the map of Europe. It remains one of the most controversial passages of the Second World War.

The assault left up to 25,000 dead (the figure is hard to quantify), and destroyed much of the Baroque centre of what was arguably Germany’s most beautiful city. Buildings lost to the flames included the glorious Frauenkirche – a huge-domed church, built in 1743, which withstood both nights (even acting as a bomb shelter) – but collapsed in the terrible heat caused by the sustained explosions, its dome falling at 10am on February 15.

It ‘stood’ as a ruin for five decades under the Communist authorities in the post-war German Democratic Republic – the image above shows the remnants of the church in January 1952. However, like all the buildings in this gallery, is also a resurrection tale…

By Chris Leadbeater

Picture: AFP/GETTY


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Eating for Victory: original Second World War ration recipes

January 9th, 2015

When rationing was introduced in January 1940, the Ministry of Food distributed various leaflets to the public. They fell into different categories: some explained new ingredients such as dried eggs, while others offered helpful guides to making the most of the rations.


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