The aftermath

We all know the history of D-Day, so there is no need to retell it here, however I wanted to share a few photos of Saint-Lô, France after the city was retaken. The destruction wrought by the bombardments and constant fighting is incredible to see. Click any image to enlarge.

World War II Military Situation Maps

Military history buffs might want to take a gander at the American Library of Congress’s Geography and Map Division’s World War II Military Situation Maps archive. The World War II Military Situation Maps contains maps showing troop positions beginning on June 6, 1944 to July 26, 1945. Starting with the D-Day Invasion, the maps give daily details on the military campaigns in Western Europe, showing the progress of the Allied Forces as they push towards Germany. Some of the sheets are accompanied by a declassified “G-3 Report” giving detailed information on troop positions for the period 3 Mar. 1945-26 July [... read the rest ...]

Wednesday was the one hundred and ninety-eighth anniversary of the American sacking of York: On this day in history, April 27, 1813, at dawn, an invasion force of 14 ships under the command of Commodore Isaac Chauncey of the US Navy rounds Gibraltar Point and heads for a stretch of beach west of the blockhouse of York, capital of Upper Canada. Each ship is towing a string of flat-bottomed sailing barges, full of 1 700 heavily armed US soldiers and marines led by Brigadier Zebulon Pike [who gave his name to Pike's Peak]. Their intention is to blow up the [... read the rest ...]

Today marks the 94th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Vimy Ridge – one of the epic battles of the first World War. After three days of brutal fighting, Canadians captured and secured the last two strong points, Hill 145 and “the Pimple”, in their objectives. In doing so they inflicted 20,000 casualties on the German Sixth Army, deprived their enemy of what was thought to be an impregnable barrier, and severely damaged the morale of the opposition armies. The Canadian Military History blog has an excellent piece online, complete with situational maps, photographs, and statistics. A sample: [... read the rest ...]

A scene from the Boer war after Kitchener took over in 1900: [T]he war had devolved into a series of guerrilla skirmishes, maddening the British who wanted the Boers to come out in the open and fight like men. Kitchener grew more ruthless. He increased the pressure on the Boer families that Morrison had witnessed during his battery’s “burning trek” and set out to sweep the country clean of everything that could aid the guerrillas – horses, cattle, sheep, and yes, women and children too. But where to put these families whose houses and farms had been destroyed? Certainly they [... read the rest ...]

Mar 142011

Originally posted: May 6, 2006, 6:04 pm. This is the second in a series of three posts excerpting Gary Boegel’s Boys of the Clouds: An Oral History of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion 1942-45. The 1st Canadian para were among the first allied troops to set foot in France on D-Day. Although many of the troops were dropped far from their targeted drop zones, the Battalion still managed to achieve all of their objectives and played a vital role in the overall success of the mission. Here is just a taste of what these soldiers experienced, in their own words. [... read the rest ...]

Mar 072011

Originally posted: April 19, 2006, 4:31 pm. Gary Boegel has given me permission to reprint a few excepts from his oral history of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Boys of the Clouds. I am now over halfway through the 450 page tome, and have been dog-earring stories I particularly enjoy as I make my way though. This first set of excerpts represents some of the veterans’ lighter stories from the weeks and months following the D-Day landings in Normandy. Private Esko Makela B Company, No. 5 Platoon One day when we were dug in on the perimeter of our position, [... read the rest ...]

Feb 242011

It wasn’t all that long ago that Canada could wage war with the best of them. Despite our small population we still managed to deploy tens of thousands of troops as recently as fifty years ago (Korean War). The public school system doesn’t really focus on our military tradition these days – I certainly was oblivious to it for much of my life. Here are some Canadian deployment figures, just in case you’ve never seen them before. Boer War World War I World War II Korean War Gulf War Deployment 7,369 628,736 1,081,865 26,791 4,074 Died 224 66,573 44,927 516 [... read the rest ...]

Feb 062011
The Wilhelm Gustloff

The odds are good that if you ask someone to name the greatest naval disaster in history, they will tell you that it was the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.  They will be no where close. As well known as the Titanic is, the loss of life – 1,503 people – pales in comparison to the number of people who were killed when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by a Russian submarine on January 30th, 1945. With World War II winding down and the German eastern front collapsing before the Russian onslaught, the Wilhelm Gustloff – a luxury [... read the rest ...]

The D-Day Dodgers

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Jan 232011

Below is an anecdote regarding the veterans of the Italian Campaign in World War II. [via The War Amps] From the time Canadian troops landed in Sicily in July 1943, through to the epic battle of Ortona and beyond, the Italian Campaign was front page news. However, after the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944, Italy became the forgotten war. For the rest of the campaign – another year of bitter and bloody struggle – the Canadians toiled in virtual anonymity. The Allied troops in Italy, in a questionable jest, became known as the D-Day Dodgers. The nickname [... read the rest ...]

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