The Brute of the Battlefield
The German PzKfw VI "Tiger" tank

Project 60: A Day-by-Day Diary of WWII 

Remembering the First Fight Against Fascism

Americans from the 1st Infantry Division "The Big Red One" come ashore on D-Day in Sicily

June 29, 1943

Operation CARTWHEEL, the first major offensive in the Pacific, opens as US Marines land on New Guinea near Lae. The goal of the offensive is the major military strongpoint at Rabul. Meanwhile, US Navy cruisers and destroyers bombard Japanese positions at Shortland.

Roosevelt appointed Herbert Pell as the representative of the United States on the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes.

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June 30, 1943

Operation CARTWHEEL continues as American forces land on Rendova, Vangunu,  Sasavele, Baraulu, and Torbriand in the New Georgia group. The vanguard of the attack came from 6000 men of the 43rd Infantry Division. The attack on Rendova went well as the garrison was surprised. Harassing fire from Japanese coastal guns on nearby Munda Point and air raids were an annoyance, but didn?t hinder the American buildup. Vangunu island proved to be a tougher fight.

McKechnie Force, a mix of Australians and Americans land at Nassau Bay in New Guinea. Japanese resistance was very serious.

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July 1, 1943

Hitler addresses his major commanders at his ?Wolf?s Lair? headquarters in Rastenburg, briefing them on the upcoming offensive against the Kursk salient. He sets July 4 for the offensive to begin.

Marines in the Solomon Islands capture Viru Harbor.

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July 2, 1943

American forces reinforce their positions at Rendova as Japanese naval forces bombard the position during the night.

The US 15th Air Force launches a series of heavy raids against airfield in southern Italy in preparation for the invasion of Sicily.

The US 8th Air Force started operating over 1000 heavy bombers from English air fields for the first time in the war.

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July 3, 1943

In heavy fighting Australian forces break through Japanese positions around Mudo, New Guinea, linking up with the American forces at Nassau Bay.

American forces land at Munda on New Georgia. No resistance is met.

Soviet air attacks on German airfields cause heavy damage and disrupt preparations for the coming offensive against the Kursk bulge. German leaders delay the opening of the attack by an additional day to recover from the attacks.

Bomber command continues its terror attacks against German cities, this time hitting Cologne. 6563 planes took part in the raid which succeeded in destroying 2200 homes and 20 factories were destroyed, along with killing 588 civilians.

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July 4, 1943

US forces meet heavy Japanese resistance between Zanana and Munda on New Georgia.

In preparation for the offensives at Kursk to start the next day, German forces launch a series of ?reconnaissance in force? to drive in the Russian outpost lines.

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July 5, 1943 - OPERATION CITADEL, the German Summer Offensive at Kursk Opens

After much delay and preparation, the Germans launch their summer offensive against the huge bulge in the front centered around Kursk. OPERATION CITADEL called for attacks on the northern and southern shoulders of the bulge by the bulk of the German?s panzer forces. The 9th Army (Gerneal Model) was to strike the northern shoulder while the 4th Panzer Army (Generals Hoth) and Army Detachment Kempf struck from the south. In all, 37 divisions (11 of them panzer divisions) totaling nearly a million soldiers, 2500 tanks, 10,000 guns and rocket launchers, and 1800 aircraft were unleashed against the Soviets.

The location and timing of the German attack were well known to the Soviets. Through various intercepts and intelligence sources, the Russians knew what the Germans planned and acted accordingly. They too massed huge reserves and built intricate and deep (in some places up to 200 miles) defensive positions. Once the attack began, the Soviets planned to wear the Germans down by forcing them to contend with successive lines of strong defenses not only from guns and men, but mines, wire and entrenchments. The northern flank was guarded by the Central Front (General Rokossovsky) while the southern flank was guarded by the Voronezh Front (General Vatutin). The Steppe Front (General Konev) was held in reserve while Marshal Zhukov retained overall control as the STAVKA representative.

The Germans were well aware of these preparations, but their arrogant belief in their imagined superiority over the Russians had not diminished despite the set backs of the winter at Stalingrad. One reason for the delay in the attack, and the confidence in success was the deployment of new weapons. Many of the German Panzer formations had been reinforced with the powerful new weapons. Four new armored fighting vehicles would see action here. The ?Tiger? tank (actually introduced during the last winter) was very heavily armored and carried the feared 88mm gun. A very fast and heavily armored new main battle tank, the  ?Panther?, mounting a long 75mm gun as powerful as the Tiger?s 88, was also introduced. Finally, a massively armed and armored assault gun, the ?Elephant?, mounting a long 88mm gun (more powerful than the Tiger?s), was also included in the new arsenal to bust through the Russian antitank positions. Finally, the Germans introduced a lightly armored, but powerfully armed (a long 88mm gun) assault gun, called the ?Nashorn? for dealing at long range with the Soviet tanks.

Surprisingly, for the Germans anyway, the opening attacks began with Soviet attacks. The Russians had known the place and time of the attack. They launched a massive air assault against the German rear areas to disrupt the coming attack. However, this was met by effective fighter defenses which defeated the  attacks and left the Russians with little air support for the first few days of the offensive. The Soviets had better luck with their artillery, hitting known German artillery postions particularly hard. The attacks also badly disrupted the German movements toward the front. The attack was delayed by 2-3 hours to allow time to regroup.

On the northern side of the bulge, 9th Army opened the attack with an 80 minute barrage starting at 0435. This was followed by an infantry assault by the 23 Corps into the positions of the 148th and 8th Rifle Divisions. Meanwhile, the 41st and 47th Panzer Corps, heavily supported from the air, struck the 15th and 81st Rifle Divisions. None of these attacks gained more than 8 kilometers (5 miles) at a cost of 200 tanks (20% of their total strength.

On the southern side of the bulge, the offensive would be conducted by the 4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf. The attacks by 4th Panzer were spearheaded by two very powerful formations - the 48th (nearly 600 tanks) and 2nd SS Panzer Corps (over 600 tanks). Both planned to attack along roads which converged on the town of Oboian and then  Kursk. AD Kempf was to attack in the Belgorod area and secure the eastern flank of the offensive.

When the attacks finally got underway, 48th Panzer Corps (3rd, 11th and Grosse Deutschland Panzer Divisions, supported by 100 new Panther tanks of the 10th Brigade) the attacks quickly became bogged down in the extensive mine fields. The 10th Brigade had further problems in that early morning rain had turned their march route into a quagmire. The formation did manage to extract itself and make limited advances, but failed to reach its first day objective of the Psel River.

The attack of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps faired better. The 52nd Guard Rifle Division fought valiantly but was unable to withstand the onslaught of the SS troopers and was force back to the second line 20 kilometers to the rear.

AD Kempf attacked across the Northern Donets river east of Belograd. The Soviet 7th Guard Army defended the line well and the fighting was very severe. At the end of the day, the Germans carved a bridgehead 3-6 kilometers deep and 12km wide across the river.

Both Vatutuin (in the south) and Rokossovsky (in the north) committed large groups of anti-tank gun units and armor to thicken their already formidable defenses. Vatutin order a 1000 tanks forward from the 2nd and 5th Guard Tank Corps.

In other war news?

The Americans land a regiment at Rice Anchorage on New Georgia, while heavy fighting is reported on the road between Zanana and Munda..

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July 6, 1943 - The Kursk Offensive Continues

Major attacks began again midday in the south. A small salient containing the 67th and 52nd Guard Rifle Division had developed the previous day between the 48th and 2nd SS Panzer Corps. 48th Panzer Corps (the GD division in particular) dealt with these units, forcing them to withdraw with serious losses. However, when the advance hit the second echelon positions, GD was stopped cold. Meanwhile, 3rd Panzer Division reached the Psel River only to discover that rain and steep muddy banks made fording the river impossible. This redirected the attacks to the east where elements of the 3rd Mechanized Corp (1st Tank Army) were engaged in heavy fighting and serious losses were sustained by both sides. By the end of the day, the Corps had lost 30% of its armor strength.

2nd SS Panzer Corps ran into the 5th Guard Tank Corps when its attacks resumed. The very formidable formation forced the Russians to engage in a fighting withdrawal. Meanwhile, the 2nd Guard Tank Corp struck the right (eastern) flank of the Germans forcing the 3rd SS Panzer Division to redirect its efforts on that axis.

Further to the east, Army Detachment Kempf had three of its panzer divisions (6th, 7th and 19th) attacking in a northeasterly direction. The attackers succeeded in pushing back the left flank of the 81st Guard Rifle Divisions, but stopped dead in its tracks upon reaching the backup positions occupied by the 73rd and 78th Guard Rifle Divisions. Several Antitank Gun Brigades were dispatched to the new line.

Fighting to the north in the 9th Army secotor was stalemated. Soviet armored formations counterattacked forcing the Germans to defend their meager gains of the previous day. The attacks came in uncoordinated and the Germans were able to deal with the attacks. Analysis after the fact indicated that Rokossovsky had committed his armor before the Germans were sufficiently worn down.

Although gains against Vatutin?s forces in the south were limited during the day, his formations were becoming very thin on the ground. More infantry and antitank formations were ordered forward. Additionally, the 2nd and 10th Tank Corps (5th Guard Tank Army) were ordered to begin forming in the Prokorovka area northeast of the German axis of attack.

In other war news ?

In an attempt to reinforce the Solomons, a Japanese destroyer group brings 3000 troops to Vila. An American naval force under Admiral Ainsworth (3 cruisers and 4 destroyers) engages the Japanese force of 10 destroyers in the Kula Gulf. The action started at 0200 when the US cruisers concentrated fire on the Niizuki and quickly sunk her, but the light cruiser Helena took three hits and began to sink. Five other Japanese destroyers were heavily damaged and the Nagatsuki ran aground and was finished off the next day by US dive bombers. Despite the losses, the Japanese landed 850 troops.

A US Navy task force (4 cruisers and 4 destroyers) under Admiral Giffen bombards Japanese positions on Kiska Island.

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July 7, 1943 - The Kursk battles rage on

In the north, Model?s forces concentrated their attacks in the area around Ponyri. 18th Panzer and 292nd Infantry Divisions hit the 307th Rifle division and were initially repulsed. A full day of heavy fighting in the village saw sections of the town change hands several times. By the end of the day, the town was split between the two combatants. Meanwhile, the 41st Panzer Corps struck toward Ol?Khovatka, an area surrounded by dominant high ground, only to be met by elements of the 2nd Tank Army. Both sides suffered serious losses and neither gained their objectives in the stallmate.

In the south, Army Detachment Kempf continued to make modest headway against the 7th Guard Army. Four additional infantry divisions were assigned to shore up the Soviet positions. On the other (western) flank, 48th Panzer Corps was attempting to move forward only to be confronted by large tank formations Vatutuin was hoping to attack with. A large salient had developed between 2nd SS Panzer Corps right (east) and AG Kempf?s left (west) flank. 3rd SS Panzer was dispatched to guard that vulnerable position, leaving only the 1st and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions for attacks. Because of the serious resistance on the road to Oboian, these formations redirected to the northeast and advanced, making modest progress, toward Prokorovka.

Over the battlefield, the air battle became desperate. German forces were concentrating on their ground support efforts and the Red Air Force had recovered from their initial trouncing at the optining of the offensive to contest the Germans. The Soviet fighter sweeps took a serious toll on the bomb laden German planes.

In other war news ?

The Battle of the South Atlantic continues as German submarine U-185 sinks three merchant ships off the coast of Brazil.

Australian forces capture Observation Hill near Mubo in New Guinea.

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July 8, 1943 - Fighting at Kursk continues

Model?s 9th Army makes an all out effort to make an impression on the Russian defenses in the north. The 4th panzer Division, the last fresh panzer unit in the army is committed to the attack along with all available air support. After a bitter day of fighting with heavy losses reported by both sides, no appreciable movement is seen in the front line.

To the south, 4th Panzer Army continues its attacks. On the left (west), 48th Panzer Corp, with the GD Panzer Division in the lead, struck directly up the Oboian road. The battered 3rd Mechanized Corp was unable to contain the German attacks and grudgingly gave ground. 6th Tank Corp struck the left flank of GD which distracted the Germans long enough for Vatutin to organize fresh troops in front of the main attack, which prevented the Germans from obtaining a clean breakthrough.

To the east, 2nd SS Panzer Corps started the days attacks by redirecting their attacks away from the Oboian axis toward Prokorovka to the northeast. The attack started at the same time Vatutin planned an attack by the 10th Tank Corps into what he though would b e the german right flank. Instead, the two forces met in a meeting engagement. Both sides took grevious losses in men and machines in the insuing battle which raged for most of the day.

Army Detachment Kempf advanced 8 kilometers north, capturing Melikhovo, finally breaking cleanly through the first defense lines of the 7th Guards Army. The Soviet Guardsmen simply withdrew to the second line in good order and redoubled their efforts to harass the German right (east).

This fourth day of battle brought German domination in the air to an end. The Luftwaffee was no longer able to automatically gain air superiority over a spot on the  battlefield and roving swarms of Red fighters struck hard against the German planes. The Germans were able to  execute a mere 650 sorties to the Soviet 1500.

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July 9, 1943 - German frustration at Kursk begins to show

Fighting at Kursk had taken on a significant and, for the Germans, a frustrating pattern. Unlike the previous two summers, the Russians did not collapse when subjected to the German armored onslaught. This summer the Germans were confronted by an enemy who contested every inch of ground and when forced to withdraw did so in good order to freshly prepared defenses. More worrisome, the Soviets had shown to be very aggressive in hammering the flanks of the German attacks. The confident, swaggering, fa?ade of invincibility was beginning to show cracks as the battle dragged on.

Vatutin was determined to stop the Germans. He ordered both the 5th Guards Tank and 5th Guard Armies to concentrate in the Prokorovka area and prepare for a coordinated attack against the Germans. He also heavily reinforced his right (west) facing the 48th Panzer Corps with  fresh anti-tank brigades and infantry division. He also committed the fresh 69th Army in front of Kempf between the 7th and 6th Guards Armies.

The Germans continued to drive forward. In the north, the attacks by 9th Army were on the wain. Despite desperate attempts to crack the Russian, lines, no headway was made and losses were high.

To the south, Army Detachment Kempf made little progress being faced by fresh reinforcements. 2nd SS Panzer Corps made some progress on the road to Prokorovka, pushing the depleted formations of the 3rd Mechanized and 10th Tank Corps ahead of them while the battered 2nd Tank Corps harassed their flank.

The main effort for the day came from 48th Panzer Corps up the Oboian road. With all of the air support that could be mustered. The unit, spearheaded by the GD Panzer Division pushed forward making good progress. That progress came to an abrupt end at Novoselovka when they ran into heavily reinforced 309th Rifle Division. Meanwhile, the 6th Tank Corp continued to attack the German flank

In other war news ?

A German air raid against England succeeds in hitting the movie theater in East Grinstead, killing 12 civilians.

Heavy fighting is reported between US and Japanese forces on the approaches to Munda on New Georgia. Both sides begin the task of reinforcing as Americans send reinforcements to Rendova and the Japanese send reinforcements to Kolombangara.

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July 10, 1943 - OPERATION HUSKY, the Invasion of Sicily Begins

Shortly after midnight, 147 C-47s with their gliders in tow bucked 30-35mph winds heading toward Sicily. They would be the vanguard of the greatest sea borne invasion the world had yet seen.  Regrettably, everything fell apart quickly. The slow transports were met by heavy anti-aircraft fire as they came in. Sixty-nine of the gliders were released early and could not reach land, drowning 252 soldiers. Two more transports were shot out of the sky and 10 turned back without releasing their tows. Twelve of the gliders did manage to land at the correct place.


While this was taking place, a reinforced regiment (3045 men) from the US 82nd Airborne Division were heading toward their landing zones behind Gela. The plan for this force was to fly over Malta and then make a turn to the left and head into Sicily. Most of the inexperience flight crews missed Malta (even though it was lit up like a Christmas tree to assist navigation this night) and the paratroops came in out of formation and widely scattered. This coupled with the high winds resulted in many injuries as well as exacerbating the scatter.


In the predawn hours, the largest invasion fleet ever assembled to date (1200 ships in all) headed toward the island. Unlike every other sea borne invasion, this one had no preliminary bombardment. It was hoped that the allies would be able to achieve tactical surprise upon hitting the beach. To a large extent, this was the case.


The British 8th Army (under General Montgomery) landed just south of Syracuse, spearheaded by commandos and Special Air Service (SAS) units as well as elements of the XXX Corps and XIII Corps. Heavy surf made navigation for the small landing craft difficult and many missed their designated target beaches (some by as much as 6000 yards). However, there was little resistance and the landings went well.

The US 7th Army (under General Patton) made their landings west of (on the left flank) of the British in the Gulf of Gela. The initial landings included rangers and elements of the 3rd, 1st and 45th Infantry Divisions. The only mishap of this landing was the destruction of the destroyer Maddox which was sunk by a Stuka dive bomber.

The response of the Axis was poor. Italian coastal units surrendered en masse. Mobile reserve groups were slow to react to the invasion. Italian Mobile Group ?E? was the first to attack and hit the town of Gela around 0900. The 16th Infantry Regiment, supported by fire from the cruiser Boise  stopped the attack and forced the Italians to retreat.

The Germans had two divisions on the island, the 15th Panzer Grenadier and the ?Herman Goering? (HG) Panzer Division. The former was a well-trained and experienced unit but except for a kampfgruupe facing the British, they were not in a position to have an impact on D-Day. The HG Division however, was in an excellent position to crush the American beachhead. Although they were extremely well equipped (including 14 Tiger tanks), they were ineptly led. Their counterattack did not get organized until the afternoon. They too were met by naval gunfire and the men of the ?Big Red One? and retreated in considerable disorder.

By the end of the first day, the Allies were well established on shore, although somewhat disorganized and scattered.

The battle at Kursk grinds on.

In the north, Model?s 9th Army attack grinds on, but the attacks are half hearted and it becomes obvious to all that they have failed. The offensive on this sector is terminated. The Germans lost over 400 tanks and took 50,000 casualties for no apparent gain.

The badly depleted 48th Panzer Corp made attacks to clear their flanks on this day. 3rd Panzer Division attack the remnants of the 6th Tank Corp, while GD Panzer Division attacked the 10th Tank Corps. Meanwhile, the 11th Panzer Division struck up the Oboian road and began relieving 1st SS Panzer Division of some of its line so that it could be concentrated further east.

On the other flank, Army Detachment Kempf still attempted to move north but had to contend with attacks on its right and left flanks as well and made limited gains.

In the center, it had been decided that the 2nd SS Panzer Corps would be concentrated for an all out attack on the Porokorvka axis. As 1st and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions regrouped, 3rd SS Panzer was to establish a bridgehead over the Psel River. The initial attack failed, but in the afternoon, all three divisions lunged forward and the corps was able to establish jump off positions for the attack tomorrow.

Vatutin was not inactive on this day. He had begun to replace his armored formations with fresh infantry/antitank units. This was done to allow time to rest and refit his worn formations while preparing for the counter blow at Prokorovka.

And in other news ?

Japanese and American forces link up in New Guinea cutting off the Japanese defenders at Mubo.

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July 11, 1943  

The fight at Kursk approaches its climax as the Germans redouble their efforts to break Vatutin?s lines south of Kursk. 48th Panzer Corp on the left (west) probes the Russian infantry and antitank formations making limited progress. On the right (east), Army Detachment Kempf was able to concentrate its armor and make a 12-kilometer drive north toward Prokorovka and forcing the Russians to abandon several previously formidable positions. In the center, 2nd SS Panzer Corps advances toward Prokoravka. The 1st SS Panzer Division advances up the road with 2nd SS on its right and 3rd SS on its left across the Psel River. The advance comes to a sudden stop as the 1st SS troopers run into the elite and fresh 9th Airborne Division outside the town.

As reinforcements come slowly ashore, the Axis forces in the American sector attempt to make a coordinated attack against the beaches. The Italian Livorno Division and the HG Panzer Division manage to make a reasonably coordinated attack in the Gela area. This attack was initially met by the small bands of General Gavin?s paratroops along the Biazza Ridge. Vastly outgunned and outnumbered, the American paratroops beat back the HG tankers. In the center, the HG Panzer Division column was making for Gela. This attack was met by naval gunfire. The destroyer Beatty alone fired 800 rounds of 5? high explosive into the advancing Germans. However, they continued on and were only stopped by the direct fire from the 1st Division?s own artillery which was set up on the beaches south of Gela. On the left, Darby?s Rangers were confronted with the Italian attack. This attack was broken up by fire from the cruiser Savannah (ordered up by Patton himself). Upon leaving the rangers, Patton said, ?kill every one of those bastards.?

IN the British sector, the only organized fighting force was a group of 15th Panzer Grenadiers (KG Schmalz). These few Germans had all they could handle in making a fighting withdraw in front of the British army. The British on the other hand were having a difficult time in dealing with all of the Italians surrendering to them and in securing Syracuse.

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July 12, 1943 - The largest tank battle in history is fought at Prokorovka

As Army Detachment Kempf continues to make progress in their drive toward Prokorovka and 48th Panzer Corps struggles toward Odoain all eyes turn to the developments southwest of Prokorovka.

The Germans started their attack at dawn. Simultaneously, the Soviets had launched their massed armor forward. Nearly 2500 tanks would clash in this titanic battle. The terrain in this area is gently rolling which reduced visibility to a few hundred yards. This resulted in extremely short engagement ranges, typically around 200 meters. This coupled with Vatutin?s orders that his tankers should race their tanks to point blank range so they had a chance to penetrate the Tiger and Panther tanks armor guaranteed massive carnage.

The only formation to make headway for the Germans was the 3rd SS Panzer on their left. They were able to break through the screening force and advance several kilometers on one side west side of the Psel River. Vatutin through fresh formations in front of the onrushing enemy, but they were stopped only when attacks on their left flank forced them to react in that direction.

On the other side of the river, 1st SS Panzer was fighting for its life. Trapped between the Psel River and a railroad embankment to the east, the division could not maneuver and became entangled in a deadly short range duel with the Soviet armor. The carnage was catastrophic as the two behemoths ground themselves to dust.

On the left, 2nd SS Panzer became entangled with 2nd Guard Tank Corps. Like their comrades to the west, these two formations also devoured one another in the fires of battle.

The fighting came to an end as tremendous thunderstorms moved into the area. The bloody ground was further soaked by the rain turning the battlefield into a massive quagmire. Both sides had huge losses. Half of the tanks which started the day?s fight were no burning wrecks.

As devastating as the losses suffered were, the death kneel for the German offensive came from a different direction. Further to the north opposite Orel, the Bryansk and West Fronts began a massive offensive. This coupled with the invasion at Sicily forced the Germans to call an end to the slaughter at Kursk. For the first time in the war, a deliberate and thoroughly planned German offensive had failed to achieve even an operational, let alone a strategic breakthrough. The invincibility of the German army was shattered on the Russian steppes at Kursk.

In other news ?

The bulk of the 15th Panzer Division arrived on the left (west) flank of the American sector and began applying pressure against the 3rd Infantry Division. By this time Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored Division (CCA/2 Armored) had arrived to support the 3rd. The HG Panzer Division was withdrawing but still in contact with the US 1st and 45th Divisions. In the British sector, the 8th Army continued to advance nearly unopposed as the regimental kampfgruppe (KG Schmalz) from the 15th Panzer Grenidiers remained the only organized resistance. The Italian army in Sicily continued to disintegrate.

Bomber Commands campaign in the Rhur came to an end on this night. All toll, 43 raids were conducted against the towns of the Ruhr at a cost of 1000 British aircraft.

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Editor's Corner Archive:

Hitler's Angel "The story of Prescott Bush and his association with the Nazis begins just before the end of World War I..."

The Past Through Tomorrow "It is quite frightening to realize just how similar our nation?s actions have been and appear to be heading when compared this way..."

Afghanistan and Vietnam: When the ?war against terrorism? began, many knowledgeable people warned that our operations in Afghanistan would turn into another Vietnam.

Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out - "If we are serious about taking the war to the enemy, it is time to look ..."

The First Fight Against Fascism - We must remember the Spanish Civil War also.

Arguing Victory - "... Each nation who fought against fascist tyranny in WWII brought with it part of whole needed to defeat that evil..." 

War, Glory, Honor and Remembrance - "War is a brutal and savage insult on human society..."

The First Casualty... in time of war, those in power are even more inclined to hide the truth, since that truth is often manifest in the most gruesome and terrible acts.  

Those wishing to contribute items. stories or comments should contact D.A. Friedrichs

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