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WARTIME OFFICIAL MAGA ZIN E OF TH E AUSTR ALIAN WAR M E MORIAL | ISSU E 77 | SU M M E R 2017

AXIS ASCENDANT EXPLODING THE MYTH

A JAPANESE INVASION?

SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST

The Nazi regime was committed to a strategy with many flaws

Why the proposed invasion of Australia was never a realistic scheme

Remembering survivors from Europe who made new lives in postwar Australia

$8.95 INC GST

Nazis on the move


www.awm.gov.au/shop Shop online at the Australian War Memorial Fighting Figh g mon onst ster ers: s: an inti int mate te his isto tory r of the San anda daka an trag age edy edy Richard Braith t waite e Only y six esc scapees su urv rvived the San and dakan de deat ath at h ma m rc rche hess of 19 945 4 in North Borneo, th the e wo wors rstt at rs a roci city ty ever in nflicted d on Austtralian sol Au oldi d ers. s 1,7 787 Ausstrral a ia ian n an and d 64 6411 Br Brit itis ish h pr pris isoners of war per erisshed. d Fi F gh ghti ting ng mo on nst ster erss use er es a rang ge of sou ourc rces rc es frrom m dif i fe fere rent n cou ount ntri r es to ex exam a in ne th his is ext xttra raor o dinary and or t ag tr agic ic sto tory ry.. Softt cov So over er, ph p otog ogra raph phs, s 530 pag ages es. 978 978192 19 533 192 53 376 763 3 $44. $4 4.00 00 pl plus us possta tage ge

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Browse through our extensive range of books, posters, DVDs, CDs, gifts, memorabilia and more. Shop online today or contact the Australian War Memorial’s eSales Unit. www.awm.gov.au/shop Phone: (02) 6243 4555 (select option 2) Email: esales@awm.gov.au


CONTENTS ISSUE 77, SUMMER 2017

10

20

28

34

BLITZKRIEG – EXPLODING THE MYTH

GRINDING TO A HALT

SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST

PEARL HARBOR 75 YEARS ON

The Nazi regime was committed to a strategy that had many flaws built into it.

Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, had more than a determined enemy to cope with.

Remembering survivors from Hitler’s Europe who made new lives in postwar Australia.

The famous battle is still open to new interpretations.

BY JAMES HOLLAND

BY DAVID STAHEL

BY LACHLAN GRANT

BY JONATHAN PARSHALL

44 A JAPANESE INVASION?

A proposed invasion of Australia was never a realistic proposition. BY STEVEN BULLARD

50 FIGHTING FOR TIME

The Japanese driving charge proved too much for British and Commonwealth forces in the Malayan campaign.

60

BY GARTH PRATTEN

R EGU LA R FEATU R E S 02 REFLECTIONS

Dr Brendan Nelson AO 03 MAIL CALL

Your letters 05 COLLECTION INSIGHTS

Flags of our foes

06 BRIEFING

An unusual Axis ornament 08 IN THE PICTURE

Prisoners in Japan 58 FRIENDS OF THE MEMORIAL

67 SPINNING THE REELS

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

One catastrophic night in the battle for Singapore. BY XAVIER FOWLER

Japanese footage found in Indonesia 68 BOOK REVIEWS 70 BEHIND THE SCENES 72 LAST POST

Lance Corporal John Hill

OUR NEXT ISSUE Issue 78 (April 2017: Middle East deployments

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 01


REFLECTIONS

FROM THE DIRECTOR, DR BRENDAN NELSON AO

ABOUT WARTIME The opinions expressed in Wartime are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian War Memorial or Hardie Grant Media. It is not the intention of the publisher to sensationalise human tragedy that is the result

02 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

of war, nor to promote militaristic or chauvinistic sentiment, but to offer truthful, readable and entertaining stories that reflect the Australian experience of war. © All material appearing in Wartime is copyright. Reproduction in whole or part must be approved

Supervising Editor Ashley Ekins Editor Andrew McDonald Contributing Editors Lachlan Grant and Karl James Manager Emma Campbell Photograph Research Lachlan Grant, Michael Kelly, Emma Campbell, Annabel McWhinnie and the AWM Multimedia Unit. Image sales (02) 6243 4542 Memorial Editorial Staff Lachlan Grant, Karl James, Michael Kelly, Aaron Pegram Editorial Contributions The Editor, Wartime Australian War Memorial GPO Box 345, Canberra ACT 2601 E: wartime@awm.gov.au General Enquiries Australian War Memorial T: (02) 6243 4211

Wartime is published for the Australian War Memorial by Hardie Grant Media Level 7, 45 Jones Street, Ultimo, NSW 2007 T: (02) 9857 3700 W: www.hardiegrant.com.au Deputy Managing Director Clare Brundle Publisher Alison Crocker Managing Editor Sophie Hull Art Director Dan Morley Designer Geraldine Lanzarone Ad Manager Francesca MacKay Production Jamie Galsim Print Off set Alpine Printing Subscriptions Magshop 136 116

WARTIME OFFICIAL MAGA ZINE OF TH E AUSTR ALIAN WAR MEMORIAL | ISSU E 77 | SU M M E R 2017

AXIS ASCENDANT Nazis on the move

EXPLODING THE MYTH

A JAPANESE INVASION?

SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST

The Nazi regime was committed to a strategy that had many flaws built into it

Why the proposed invasion of Australia was never a realistic scheme

Remembering survivors from Europe who made new lives in postwar Australia

$8.95 INC GST

T

he most important year in Australia’s history was 1788. The British First Fleet arrived: 1,500 people, half of them convicts, in eleven small ships. It devastated millennia of rich Indigenous custodianship, but in the face of extraordinary adversity, it gave birth to the Australia we have become. While 1901 was a truly seminal moment, the next most important year was 1942. As the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, they also landed on the Malay Peninsula. Just over two months later, Britain’s “fortress Singapore” had fallen, with 15,000 Australians condemned to years of extreme privation as prisoners (plus 7,000 taken in the islands). Days later, the first of 96 Japanese attacks on the Australian mainland commenced with the bombing of Darwin. There was the gripping struggle at Kokoda, desperation at Isurava, and finally repulsion of the Japanese at Milne Bay … then Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, Midway, the Bismarck Sea, and Japanese midget submarines in Sydney Harbour. On the stepping stones of courage and sacrifice, with our key ally the United States, Australians defended our nation across land, sea and air. The biggest mass mobilisation in our history was no mere extension of the First World War,

nor was it about Australia’s place in the world. Our vital interests were at stake. Notwithstanding immense damage done to the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese could have gone further. Across the Atlantic, conquering all before him except RAF Fighter Command, Hitler repeated the mistake of Napoleon. In attacking the Russians, he opened up a second front over a vast, hostile terrain and so sowed the seeds for an eventual Allied victory. Although it is fashionable in some quarters to be critical of the United States and Australia’s alliance with it, not a day should go by in this country without our giving thanks for American sacrifice in the Pacific from 1942 until the end of the war: 300,000 casualties, 103,000 dead. American presence in the western Pacific has since been the bedrock for our security and economic prosperity, including a re-emergent China. The Australian War Memorial tells our history, but it has much more to do with our future. It is not until international visitors come to the Memorial that they appreciate why Australia is an ally of the United States instead of “just good friends”. The Memorial has decided to substantially increase the presence of the Holocaust in its galleries. Critics have asked me, “Why are you doing this? Australia didn’t have much to do with the Holocaust.” Beyond direct Australian experience – including the mass migration to Australia of eastern Europeans and survivors after the war – we are part of humankind. The murder of six million people has everything to do with us. In a world grappling with mass migration, refugees, victimisation of ethnic and religious minorities, and euthanasia, determining what is right lies in understanding our human past. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls …”

Cover image: Adolf Hitler in Paris on 28 June 1940, shortly after France formally surrendered to Nazi Germany. IWM HU 3266 by the publisher. Every effort has been made to determine and contact holders of copyright for materials used in Wartime. The Memorial welcomes advice concerning omission. Indigenous readers are advised that this magazine contains stories and images of deceased people.


MAI L CALL

WRITE TO

WARTIME

YOUR LETTERS

The Editor, Wartime Australian War Memorial GPO Box 345 Canberra ACT 2601 E: wartime@awm.gov.au

Left behind in South Africa? Thank you so much for a most interesting edition of Wartime (76). I sat down and read the whole thing from cover to cover. Well done. I think what I liked most was that the stories were about the most amazing people, and that the historians have been detectives as well to find out the true facts of Indigenous service. Is it true that the Indigenous soldiers who fought in the Boer War were not allowed back into their own country because of the “White Australia” policy? I’ve read that someone was trying to find out about Indigenous families that are still in South Africa. FELICITY MULLINS

Editor: The story that Aboriginal men who served in the Boer War were left behind in South Africa has received some media coverage in recent years. However, clear evidence to confirm such claims is yet to be produced, which raises doubts about their veracity. By contrast, the service records of every identified Aboriginal serviceman who served in the Boer War have been digitised by the National Archives of Australia and are available on their website. These archival records indicate that each of these men who enlisted for service in the Boer War returned to Australia following the conflict. Their story is told in the For Country, for Nation exhibition currently at the Australian War Memorial.

Image: AWM P04669.191

Owen again Trevor Long is correct (Mail Call, Issue 76): the photo of Buddy Lea was taken on the pre-embarkation exercise in 1966 at Tin Can Bay. It’s in the 6RAR First Tour book. When we arrived in Vietnam, almost all Owen guns were handed in and AR15s issued. Very few Owens were carried on ops, though one can be seen in the “day after” photos from Long Tan, carried by Medic “Geordy” Richardson. Besides, since when did a photographer get in front of a soldier “moving into a Viet Cong village”? DAVE SABBEN

Late-night flight I joined Qantas as cabin crew in May 1965 when the first five of 300 troop charters commenced operating from Richmond RAAF Base (Wartime Issue 75). Once the new Sydney terminal opened at Mascot in May 1970, family were able to go to the gate where troops boarded. This furphy about political demonstrations has been beat up over the years, as the airport was well protected by local police before check in, the federal police, Qantas security, and MPs if required. Yes, we had to be eagle-eyed at Saigon – as our aircraft had our pressure hulls damaged several times by the sharp edges of the flatbed trucks. ALAN KITCHEN, Qantas Skippy Squadron, 1965–2002

THE MEMORIAL

ONLINE

Lieutenant Thomas Guivarra I read with interest Issue 75 of Wartime, in particular the article about Indigenous service in Vietnam. The author says that in supporting arms and corps, the highest rank obtained by an Indigenous serviceman “appears to have been Warrant Offi cer Class 1”. The author fails to mention aviation, however. Second Lieutenant Thomas W. Guivarra MID, of Torres Strait Islander descent, served with 161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight in 1966 (pictured above, centre). He appears on the cover of Possums and bird dogs by Peter Nolan. After a career in Army Aviation, he retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

FRANK E. GUIVARRA

The most comprehensive collection of Australian military history is available on the Australian War Memorial’s website: www.awm.gov.au. It contains 200,000 photographs, 102,800 names of Australia’s war dead, details of 8,000 private records, items available at the Memorial shop and much more.

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 03


75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOMBING OF DARWIN. FEB 19 - 26, 2017.

DISCOVER YESTERDAY. ENJOY TODAY. DO DARWIN.

The largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia was the bombing of Darwin in 1942. More bombs were dropped on Darwin than Pearl Harbour. Today, Darwin is at the holiday frontline. Take yourself back in time at Australia’s newest military heritage attraction, the Bombing of Darwin Harbour experience, or explore the many other military heritage sites throughout the Top End. Book now, regret never.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Darwin Tourist Facility

Darwin Waterfront Precinct


COLLECTION

INSIGHTS

THE MEMORIAL HOLDS AN EXTENSIVE COLLECTION OF CAPTURED ENEMY FLAGS IN ITS COLLECTION. THESE INCLUDE FLAGS OF “ALL THE KING’S ENEMIES” THAT THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY FOUGHT DURING 1941 AND 1942: IN ORDER, THE ITALIANS, GERMANS, VICHY FRENCH AND JAPANESE. BY GARTH O’CONNELL

One of the German Panzer III tanks destroyed during the early stages of the Siege of Tobruk. The officer with the field glasses is Colonel J.W. Crawford of the 2/17th Infantry Battalion. AWM 020606

This large German aerial recognition flag was taken in April 1941 from the first Panzer knocked out by Australian soldiers at Tobruk. The soldier who captured it, Corporal Archie Gordon Campbell, was later killed in the Z Special Unit attack on Singapore, Operation Rimau. AWM REL/21218

This autographed good luck flag, originally carried by Japanese soldier Miyake Yoshio, was captured by Private Norman William Smith during the Malaya Singapore campaign of 1941–42. Taken prisoner after the fall of Singapore, Smith hid the flag for the remainder of the war in a “Mae West” vest that he used as a pillow. AWM REL/04411

This Italian naval ensign was taken from the mast outside Navy House, Tobruk, on 22 January 1941. The flag was removed by Corporal Eldrick Stuart “Larry” Grant of 2/4th Infantry Battalion, AIF, who ran his Australian slouch hat up in its place. AWM REL 32366

During the short but bloody campaign in Lebanon and Syria against the Nazi-aligned Vichy French forces in mid-1941, this flag was removed from the French Radio Orient transmission tower near Khalde by Captain Arthur “Lin” Cameron of the 2/5th Battalion. AWM REL/11840

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 05


FROM TOOTHPASTE TUBES: AN A XIS ORNA MENT

KERRY NEALE Assistant Curator, Military Heraldry and Technology

06 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

AWM REL33406; REL33406 (detail)

BRIEFING

Captain Sydney Levine served in the Militia as a dental surgeon from June 1940. He was first posted to the Army Dental Centre at Ingleburn, NSW, where he checked the dental health of recruits. He then transferred to 17th Field Ambulance, based at Bathurst, NSW. While there, he regularly visited the prisoner-of-war camp at Cowra to provide dental services to the inmates. It was on one of these visits that a grateful Italian prisoner presented him with this superbly crafted desk ornament. The eagle clasping a Roman fasces is made from thin sheet lead or alloy taken from used toothpaste tubes. Fasces are a bundle of rods (usually with a projecting axe blade) that were carried in ancient Rome as a symbol of a magistrate’s power. It later became an emblem of authority in Fascist Italy. Below the fasces are the symbols of the three Axis allies, each contained within a decorated wreath – the Nazi swastika, the Italian coat of arms and the Japanese rising sun. Each symbol is mounted on a coloured backing made from plastic toothbrush handles. The reverse is inscribed “Ricordo della mia prigionia [in memory of my imprisonment] / Australia Covra 23–3–42 anno xx E.F.” The words after the date translate as “year 20 of the Fascist Era”, using the Fascists’ own calendar that began with their ascent to power. Construction of the Cowra camp was not completed until well into 1944, so the unknown maker of this desk ornament was likely working on it while living in a tent with just the most basic tools and supplies. In August 1942, Levine enlisted in the AIF, serving with 117th Field Ambulance and 114th Convalescent Depot before being promoted to major in November 1942 and appointed Officer Commanding the 58th Army Dental Unit. Levine later commanded dental units in New Guinea and New Britain, before his discharge from the army on 5 September 1945.


In Memoriam Privatee Robe Privat Robertt Poatte, ki kill lled d in i Afghanistan 29 August 2012

WAR IN THE SAND PIT Perspectives and Lessons from Australia’s War in Afghanistan and Iraq 2001-2014

Two-Day Conference: 12-13 May 2017

Monash Centre, Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane In the wake of al-Qaeda’s attacks on the United States in September 2001 Australia embarked on a military-led campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The conference includes a gathering of an impressive array of speakers involved ÄYZ[OHUKH[[OLUH[PVUHSVWLYH[PVUHSHUK tactical levels.

history. This conference will pose some thought provoking questions and push for some coherent answers.

Speakers include Robert Hill, Ric Smith, Dan McDaniel, Mick Ryan, Chris Westwood, Anthony Rawlins, Peter What happened? How well did we Jones, Jim Molan, Col Speedie, David But few, if any, envisaged it would turn \UKLYZ[HUK [OL UH[\YL VM [OL ÄNO[& >O` Savage, Michael Crane, Mick Lehmann, out to be Australia’s longest war. How did Australia contribute the way it did? Peter Daniel, Dan Marston, Garth did this happen? This conference, drawing Were there other viable approaches? Did Pratten, William Maley, Peter Leahy and on key participants and decision makers, Australia’s contribution add value to the John Blaxland. explores how it came about that between coalitions? What lessons can be learned 2001 and 2014 over 50,000 members of for the future? This two-day conference Session chairs include Karen Middleton, Ben Roberts-Smith, John Cantwell, James the Australian Defence Force fought in will examine these and other questions. Brown, Alan Ryan and Craig Stockings. the Middle East Area of Operations... ‘War in the Sand Pit’. A select group of key participants and decision makers in the events of that This event is proudly sponsored by To date, little is known and few works period are gathering together to place into Military History and Heritage Victoria, the have been written about Australia’s [OL W\ISPJ YLJVYK KPɈLYLU[ WLYZWLJ[P]LZ Strategic and Defence Studies Centre SVUNLZ[ VM TPSP[HY` JVUÅPJ[Z >P[O [OL and responses to many questions for (in the Bell School, College of Asia and 6ɉJPHS /PZ[VY` MVY [OLZL ^HYZ Z[PSS ZVTL [OL ILULÄ[ VM OPZ[VY` HUK ZJOVSHYZOPW [OL 7HJPÄJ H[ [OL (\Z[YHSPHU 5H[PVUHS years away it is time to undertake some ;OPZ UH[PVUHSS` ZPNUPÄJHU[ L]LU[ PZ UV[ [V University), and the Returned and Services League Queensland Branch. preliminary analysis of this period in our be missed.

For more information and to register for the Conference go to mhhv.org.au


IN THE

PICTURE

S OU V E N I R OF Z E N T SUJ I In 2001 the Memorial was offered a set of photographs in a quite unusual format. Groups of Allied prisoners of war at Zentsuji camp on Shikoku island, Japan, are seated in a row, showing three to six men on each print. The prisoners were Dutch, American, British and Australian. Most of the men have signed across their own image, and the backs of the prints carefully record names, nationality and profession. Most of the images in the collection are in this strip style, but others are beautifully lit and composed. This collection of 71 prints was acquired by Captain John McCallum of the 2/2nd Battalion, who also got the men to sign their images. They are believed to be prisoner identity photographs taken by their captors. This practice seems to have been a rarity in Japanese camps; the photographs demonstrate an unexpected skill and finesse, given the conditions. Zentsuji had been set up as a “propaganda camp” for officers, and 08 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

these images may well have been part of an attempt to show that prisoners were generally well treated. However, conditions in the camp were not so good as these images would suggest, and deteriorated after the first year. Captain Sandy Robertson left Zentsuji diabetic and blind in one eye. He was however able to resume his medical career, working as a paediatrician in Double Bay, NSW. After the war, John McCallum married Sister Helen Baker of 2/1 Australian Hospital, whom he had known before the war. She reported that her husband had bought these photographs early in his incarceration, and kept them safe for many years before his death in 1987. Helen McCallum donated them to the Memorial in 2001. A treasured set of images, they provide an unusual insight into the prisonerof-war experience. JOANNE SMEDLEY Curator, Photographs, Film and Sound

Top: Captain John McCallum on right. P04017.011 Middle left: John Scanlan, Commanding Officer of Lark Force, with Lieutenant Ray Tyrrell, Royal Australian Artillery. AWM P04017.067

Middle right: Captain Sandy Robertson, right, 2/10th Field Ambulance. AWM P04017.062

Bottom: Sister Helen Baker at 2/1 General Hospital. AWM 091965


Your military coin collection starts here Official Australian legal tender and finished to the Royal Australian Mint’s quality standard, the special military commemorative coins mark significant periods of conflict and remember those who have fallen.

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Blitzkrieg

exploding the myth The Nazi regime was committed to a strategy that had many flaws built into it. BY JAMES HOLLAND

J

une 1941 was a momentous month in world history: on the 22nd, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the biggest clash of arms the world had ever seen. Until that point, the narrative of the war has suggested, Germany was a largely unstoppable military machine – yet a fresh look at those opening years shows it was not all one-way traffic in favour of the Third Reich. Rather, the cracks were already showing. War is understood to be fought on three levels: the strategic includes the high-level aims and goals; the tactical, which is the coal-face of war, the actual fighting. The third is the operational – the means by which the first two levels connect, the supply of war, the logistics – which relies on a nation’s ability to produce tanks or aircraft and deliver them to the front line. Such a construct is a slightly artificial way of looking at conflict, and yet those three levels do nonetheless encapsulate what is involved in war.

10 | WARTIME ISSUE 77


BLITZKRIEG: GERMAN STRATEGY

An iconic weapon of Blitzkrieg, German Stuka dive-bombers fly over Poland at the start of the war in September 1939. AWM P02018.004


A simpler way of looking at it is like this: at the top are the war leaders – such as Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt or Mussolini – and their commanders. They have their overall aims for their countries. At the bottom is the man in his tank or plane, or the infantryman with his rifle or machine-gun. Watch any movie, or read any book on the subject and the chances are the focus will be on these people – after all, what’s interesting about the middle level, the factories, or nuts and bolts? If the supply of war is ever mentioned, it is almost as an aside or afterthought, and often much of what is said about this aspect is based on assumed knowledge rather than genuine research. The Tiger was the best tank of the war, for example; or the German MG42 was the pre-eminent small-arms weapon. Were they, though? Says who? And once such notions are challenged, fascinating and often revelatory answers start to emerge – answers that begin to alter long-held views of the war. Far from being dull, study of the operational level reveals 12 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

equally rich human drama, and involves the overcoming of seemingly overwhelming odds, personality clashes, political beliefs, ineptitude, breathtaking skill and vision, and even courage.

Another angle This rebalancing of the narrative also helps provide greater clarity about the major combatants in the war and reveals a startlingly different picture from the familiar story of those opening years of the conflict. Britain began the war with a very small army, not because of the government’s appeasement policy, but because it made no real sense to have a large one. Britain’s ally was France, which had a vast reserve army that could be mobilised in a trice. The United Kingdom was a democracy: throughout much of the 1930s, the population would not have put up with conscription, a prerequisite for a large army. Finally, because the UK was a comparatively small island, housing, training and moving a large army was no easy matter – and expensive. On

the other hand, the Royal Navy was the world’s biggest, as was Britain’s merchant fleet, and her global trading empire was also the largest the world had ever known. Britain’s access to the world’s resources was unparalleled. Great emphasis had also been laid on air power, which was growing all the time. Even after the fall of France in June 1940, the government agreed to cap the British Army at 55 divisions; Germany had invaded France and the Low Countries with 135. When the new, enlarged British Army was called upon to fight, it would do so using technology and mechanisation as far as possible; those men at the coal-face of the fighting would be kept to a bare minimum. The thinking was that the larger the army, the greater the casualties. If machinery and technology could be used instead, and save lives, then so much the better. The last war, in 1914–18, had shown the British that large armies were inherently inefficient. Britain had resisted the urge to sue for terms with Germany in May and early June 1940, as France was collapsing and


The last war had shown the British that large armies were inherently inefficient.

the tiny British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was beginning its evacuation from Dunkirk. The British – and this included senior commanders and politicians – had been utterly shocked by the easy defeat of France, Britain’s greatest ally. Panic had gripped British leaders, but the new prime minister, Winston Churchill, had persuaded his War Cabinet and then the wider nation to fight on. He had realised there could be neither compromise nor trust with Hitler and that, actually, Britain had much in her favour: the English Channel, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force (RAF), the world’s first-ever fully coordinated air defence system and, at the time the Luftwaffe launched its all-out attack on the RAF on 13 August, nearly 2 million troops on the ground. Once the initial invasion crisis had passed, there was an increased belief that eventually Nazi Germany could be defeated. In a long and attritional war, Britain believed, it would surely win because its access to resources – oil, food, steel and so on – was so much better than that of Germany.

The British strategy was therefore a simple one: to fight on and to use shipping, global clout and the world’s resources slowly but surely to claw back, grinding down Germany through economic blockade, increased bombing and a steady tightening of the economic noose, which was what they had done in the First World War. Key to this was going to be the harnessing of her fellow democracy in the West, the United States. British investment in the fledgling American armaments industry was a key part of this strategy; the US could not be expected to massproduce tanks, aircraft and weapons immediately, but Britain was confident of holding out until such time as these assets could be brought to bear. It was an entirely reasonable and pragmatic approach. If Germany had severed Britain’s supply lines effectively, then the country – and the free world – really would have been in trouble; but by May 1941 the Royal Navy, with the help of the small but growing Royal Canadian Navy and the RAF, had definitely

Above: German troops move along a road in Poland, September 1939. AWM P02018.002

Below: Troops of the British Expeditionary Force, weary after their heroic stand at Dunkirk, wading out to one of the rescue ships which will take them back to England, 28 May 1940. AWM 101169

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 13


and by the summer of 1941, that was a fight that was most definitely being won: by stronger naval forces and by increasingly superior technology too. What’s more, across the Atlantic, American factories were whirring into life, its armed forces were growing, and public opinion starting to shift with a newly re-elected president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was determined Nazi Germany should be defeated. Thus, by the middle of 1941 there was no reason for Britain to be especially downhearted, despite the defeats in Greece and Crete. Or put it another way: those first years of war had not been entirely one-way traffic for Germany by any stretch of the imagination.

French shortcomings

got the upper hand. The surface fleet of the Kriegsmarine (the German navy) had been largely destroyed or neutralised, first in Norway in the spring of 1940 and then in May 1941 when the mighty Bismarck had been sunk, while the U-boat force had not proved large enough to make a really serious impact. Incredibly, during all of 1940, when the Royal Navy had been on anti-invasion watch and trans-Atlantic convoys at their most vulnerable, there had never been more than 13 U-boats operating at one time. In January 1941, there had been just six. Furthermore, a German Enigma coding machine, as well as a book of codes, had been captured without the German High 14 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

Command knowing. Increasingly, British cryptanalysts were beginning to break coded German communications. On land, Britain had been able to harness troops and supplies from the Empire, including from Australia, and defeat the Italian threat in Egypt, the Suez Canal, the Middle East and East Africa. The intervention of German forces in the Mediterranean had tipped the balance partially back in favour of the Axis, and British forces, defeated in Greece and on Crete, had been driven back across Libya and into Egypt. None of this territory threatened the sovereignty of Britain, however. Only the battle raging in the Atlantic could possibly bring that about

Germany was the largest country in Europe, and in 1939 had, along with France, the largest army and the biggest air force in the world. The truly significant battle of those early years of the war was that against France. It was the shock defeat of this leading nation that was so remarkable, especially considering France had bigger, better tanks and more of them, more artillery pieces, and that generally it is easier to defend than to attack. Victories against Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia and Greece were impressive but, militarily, these nations were significantly inferior, and Germany had been allowed to defeat them one by one. What the world saw was dive-bombing Stukas, columns of tanks and armoured cars, and confident, ruthless young men. The speed of operation and emphatic nature of these victories ensured that Germany gained an unparalleled reputation for military fire-power, force and fury. Certainly, the French had few answers to this onslaught, despite having many advantages. They were highly industrialised and mechanised, their agriculture was the most productive in Europe (there had been no rationing in France before the 1940 armistice) and their army was both vast and well equipped. Their navy was stronger than that of Germany, their air force not appreciably smaller than the Luftwaffe, and they had useful overseas possessions which brought with them both resources and manpower – something denied to Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, they were politically fractious, which made successive prime ministers impotent and unable


BLITZKRIEG: GERMAN STRATEGY to galvanize the large number of disparate coalition partners, which had a knock-on effect for the military. The generals, most of whom were ageing, out of touch and lacking political direction, had been desperately trying to avoid any kind of conflict on French soil. Memories of the First World War, and especially Verdun, were still very fresh. Despite ill-conceived joint plans with the British to take the war to Scandinavia and sever Germany’s iron ore supply, it was once again northern France that bore the brunt of the German attack when it came. The trouble was that the French commanders had assumed this new war would be fought rather like the last: that is, long, attritional and largely static. Consequently, the French armed forces were trained for defence and not for a mobile war at pace. They had the best tanks, the most guns and millions of men, but they had overlooked the importance of swift communications. There were not enough radios and, once refugees started to clog the roads and Stukas were dive-bombing and breaking telephone lines, French divisions, corps and armies were unable to communicate with one another with the kind of speed that was needed to

coordinate an effective defence. Nor were the men trained to think on their feet. As a result, the German spearhead, in their lightly armed Panzers but with large numbers of radios, ran rings around them. When the crust of the French defence was broken, few of the poilus, as their soldiers were known, knew what to do. Far too many put up their hands in surrender before firing barely a shot. Suddenly, France had fallen and an armistice with the Germans was signed – but at least a generation of young men had been saved. Or so they thought at the time.

German strategy and resources

Left: A pioneer of mechanised warfare, General Heinz Guderian, in his command vehicle during the invasion of France, May 1940. An Enigma code machine is in the foreground. IWM 29100

Above: The German Navy Narvik Campaign arm shield, awarded to participants in the capture of the Norwegian port of Narvik, 9 April to 9 June 1940. The occupation of Norway deprived Britain of its final toehold on the Continent. AWM RELAWM30359.001

There could be no doubting the stunning and overwhelming speed of the German victory against France, but it was, nonetheless, as much about French failings as it was about German brilliance. Had the line at Sedan or at Dinant held, as it could so easily have done – or had the French responded to reconnaissance reports and heavily bombed the Ardennes while the bulk of German armour was gridlocked trying to get through – things might have been very different. It was not to be, however.

A French machine gunner in a camouflaged defence post on the Rhine frontier. AWM P02018.009

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 15


The stunning German victories had, however, hidden some rather serious shortcomings. Germany had traditionally practised rapid wars of manoeuvre, known as Bewegungskrieg, in which they brought to bear overwhelming superiority at the point of attack, or Schwerpunkt. The idea was to knock their enemy off balance with this lightning-quick thrust, then equally swiftly envelop their foe in an encirclement and annihilate them. This was known as the Kesselschlact, or “cauldron battle”, and was something Prussian armies, and more recently German armies, had always practised – because they were all too aware that they were not suited to a long, drawnout conflict of attrition. This was because of Germany’s geographical position in the heart of Europe and its inherent lack of natural resources. No country had all the resources needed for war-making, but while Britain and France could easily import what they lacked, this was not the case for Germany. Largely landlocked, it had a narrow border onto the North Sea and a slightly larger coastline facing into the Baltic, a sea of many islands and narrow channels. This meant that in terms of access to the world’s oceans, the principal means of getting goods to and from a country, Germany could be very easily blockaded – which was precisely what Britain had been doing since the start of the war. The truth was that Germany was very under-mechanised, despite the photographs and film footage of columns of Panzers. At the outbreak of the war, it had been one of the least automotive of all the world’s leading powers. In May 1940, only 16 of the 135 divisions employed had been motorised at all: the vast majority of German troops moved around on their own two feet or by using horses and carts. This meant that all other aspects of society were under-mechanised too, including agriculture. The German agricultural system was inefficient: there were not enough tractors or other modern farm machinery, and most farms were small. As a result, Germany did not have enough food to feed its people sufficiently. Nor did it have enough oil, or iron ore, or copper or bauxite, or a host of other resources that were essential for sustained armed conflict. These shortages were nothing new, which was why Germany had 16 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

Germany had traditionally favoured short, sharp wars ... whenever it had to fight a long and drawn-out war, the odds were dramatically stacked against it.

traditionally favoured short, sharp wars in which overwhelming and emphatic victory was the swift result. Sometimes it worked, such as against Austria in 1866 and France in 1870, and sometimes it did not – France in 1914, for example. The point was this: whenever Germany had to fight a long and drawn-out war, the odds were dramatically stacked against it. This was why, on the eve of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Germany’s future hung by a thread. Crushing France had been a spectacular achievement, and back home in Germany most people believed the war had been won. After all, with France defeated and the British Expeditionary Force overwhelmed too, surely there was only one course left for Great Britain: to come to the peace table and sue for terms. But Hitler and his generals were looking at the situation through the narrow prism of their own world-view – one in which land power was everything. Britain, as an island nation, and with tentacles that

reached around the globe as a direct result of sea-power, looked at things from a different perspective. The Royal Navy, for example, was not called the Senior Service for nothing. By contrast, the Kriegsmarine was most definitely the junior service in the minds of Hitler and most Germans. When Britain showed no sign of talking terms, and instead not only fought on but repulsed the mighty Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain (July–September 1940), this threw Hitler’s plans into complete disarray. His intention had always been to turn east, because there, in the farmlands of Ukraine and the steppes beyond, lay the food he required and resources he needed. Britain and other powers used the world’s sea-lanes, but Nazi Germany would use railways and maybe, one day, highways and even oil pipelines. That was some way in the future, however, and his strategy had been to neutralise the threat from the West, build up his forces once more, and then, when he was ready, strike into the Soviet Union. The trouble was that Britain had not been neutralised. Her army was growing once more, bolstered by the 400 million people in the Empire and Dominions, and her factories were producing more tanks and aircraft than those in Germany. France and the Low Countries should have been providing the extra capacity Germany needed, but the Nazis had already asset-stripped those countries. By the end of 1940, France, the most motorised European nation, had just 8 per cent of the vehicles it had had at the start of the year because the Germans had taken most of them. This meant France’s workforce was no longer as efficient and, because reserves of resources had been swallowed by Germany, factories could no longer function at pre-occupation levels. To make matters worse for Germany, hovering in the background was the USA, which had begun the war both isolationist and with an insignificant army and even smaller air force. Nearly two years on, however, with President Roosevelt newly elected for an historic third term and quite openly hostile to Germany, there was no doubting that America posed a potentially enormous, and war-changing, threat. By the summer of 1941, US factories were starting to gear up and produce arms that were being shipped across the Atlantic to Britain. There was not a senior


BLITZKRIEG: GERMAN STRATEGY

German alive who did not understand that fighting a war on two fronts, as they had been forced to do in the First World War, was potentially fatal – and yet that was precisely what Hitler was about to inflict on his forces, with Britain still in the war and with the United States now hovering in the wings. America was not an official ally of Britain, but had quite clearly pinned her colours to the Allied mast. The United States was the leading oil producer in the world, had a massive workforce, an economy that was growing, and the space and technology to out-produce any other country on the planet. In contrast, Germany’s primary ally, Italy, had proved considerably more of a hindrance than a help. It had even fewer natural resources than Germany, was effectively locked into the Mediterranean, its armed forces were outmoded and ill-trained, and whether it be against the British Dominion and Empire forces in Egypt, Libya and East Africa, or against the Greeks in the Balkans, its armies had

Above: The strength and support of the Empire and the Dominions was Britain’s greatest asset during the war. Troops from the Victorian 2/14th Battalion on their way to Sydney before embarking for overseas service, 14 October 1940. AWM 004755 Below: Jackboots (Marschstiefel) were worn by German soldiers. AWM REL/06925

suffered one ignominious defeat after another. Mussolini, the Fascist dictator, had promised to fight a parallel war in the Mediterranean sphere that would be separate from that of Germany. And that had been what Hitler had wanted: for Italy to fight her own battles, but above all to protect Germany’s southern flank – after all, the last thing Hitler needed was to fight a war on three fronts, let alone two.

Hitler’s plan Yet Italian failures had forced the Führer to send precious forces and resources to Mussolini’s rescue, in Libya and then in the Balkans. What’s more, this diversion to the south came on top of the Luftwaffe’s failure in the Battle of Britain. This strategic disaster ensured there could be no possibility of invading England in the near future, and proved that their invasion plans had come a cropper at the first hurdle. Hitler’s grand strategy had been simple enough: destroy Poland, then, once France and Britain had WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 17


BLITZKRIEG: GERMAN STRATEGY declared war, destroy them too. With Britain and France subdued, the threat from the United States would be significantly tempered; after all, there would be no springboard from which American forces could, should they ever try it, break into Nazi-held continental Europe. With his western flank therefore secure, he could take his time to build up strength and prepare for the clash that was both materially and ideologically the most important to him: with the Soviet Union. Two birds would be killed with one stone: Communism would be crushed and the USSR, with its space, farmland and resources, would be subsumed into the German Reich. Yet by the end of 1940, this strategy was already veering off course. Defeating France had been only half the job and this was a war in which

Enjoying his success, Adolf Hitler visited Paris on 28 June 1940, shortly after France formally surrendered to Nazi Germany. With the fall of France, Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone against Hitler. IWM HU 3266

only complete victory would do. Britain remained, blockading Germany, drawing troops into the Mediterranean, bombing German cities (albeit not very effectively) and, by May 1941, crushing the Kriegsmarine’s surface fleet as an effective fighting force. Despite horror stories of Allied convoys being mauled by U-boats, some 85 per cent of them were getting through unscathed, and Germany was not coming close to throttling Britain’s supply lines. Yet to defeat Britain, Germany had to win the battle of the Atlantic. In June 1941, they were still falling some way short of that goal. Thus, with Britain still very much in the war, Hitler turned his thoughts eastwards much earlier than he had originally planned. This change of strategy had been unavoidable. Now, he planned to invade the Soviet Union in

the summer of 1941 in another lightning strike. After all, it had worked against one of the most sophisticated nations in the world, so how hard could it be, against a Red Army full of inferior Untermenschen? German forces would strike hard and fast and obliterate the Red Army in a matter of weeks. With victory in the east, Germany could then turn back west and deal with Britain once and for all. That was the plan, but it was another massively high-risk gamble, because it meant Germany would be forced to fight on two fronts – something that even Hitler recognised was not a good idea; it was a lesson from history none of his senior commanders wanted to take a chance on again. Nor could they expect Britain to sit back quietly and watch as Hitler’s armies rolled east. Already, British intervention in the Mediterranean, and Italian shortcomings, had forced Hitler (to his mind, at any rate) to intervene in the Balkans and in Greece and Crete too. These campaigns, although they had been victorious, not only put back plans for the attack in the east by a month, they also deprived German forces of men, matériel and, perhaps most importantly of all, air transports; some 250 had been lost over Crete alone, a large number that could not be replaced in time. Operation Barbarossa was due to be the largest clash of arms the world had ever witnessed and, once again, German victory depended entirely on speed of manoeuvre and the ability of the forces assembled to smash the Red Army completely. Quite simply, nothing less would do. All too soon, however, Barbarossa unravelled and the days of German Blitzkrieg victories were over. •

ABOUT THE

AUTHOR

James Holland is a historian, writer, and broadcaster. His histories include Battle of Britain, Dam Busters and Burma ’44. He has written nine works of historical fiction, including the Jack Tanner novels, and is currently writing a three-volume new history of the Second World War in the West.

18 | WARTIME ISSUE 77


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GRINDING T O A H A LT Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, had more than a determined enemy to cope with. BY DAVID STAHEL

In the fast-moving German offensive, infantry often did not have the protection of armoured troop carriers and sometimes rode on their own tanks. AWM 044593

20 | WARTIME ISSUE 77


H

itler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 was in many respects the most important decision of the Second World War. Germany’s Ostheer (eastern army) outnumbered the Red Army in the western military districts by a ratio of 1:1.14 (2,743,000 to 3,050,000) – and this was without the addition of German allies on the Eastern Front. Finland and Romania supported the invasion with more than half a million troops between them, while more would arrive in the course of the summer from Italy (62,000), Hungary (45,000) and Slovakia (36,000). German troops were also far better trained and led at the tactical and operational levels, while their doctrine of Bewegungskrieg (war of movement) outperformed the Red Army at almost every level. Operation Barbarossa also achieved tactical surprise across the length of the frontier because, in spite of numerous warnings, Stalin stubbornly refused to believe that Hitler would attack without first issuing an ultimatum. Yet the Ostheer would not only fail to defeat the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, but that failure would have disastrous implications for the whole German war effort. In the early hours of 22 June 1941 the Luftwaffe relentlessly hit Soviet road, rail and communication centres, leaving the defending Soviet armies without the ability to send or receive orders. At first light, aggressive German tank formations added to the chaos by rapidly exploiting the confusion and pressing deep into the Soviet rear. In the central part of the front, many Soviet commanders had no idea where the front line was or that they were in fact being encircled in what the Germans called the Kessel – a huge “cauldron” the size of present-day Belarus. When the pocket closed at Minsk just over a week into the war, the Germans would take almost 300,000 prisoners in this one section of the front. Additionally some 2,585 Soviet tanks and 1,449 guns had been destroyed or captured. WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 21


Within the German high command, confidence in a rapid victory reigned supreme. By early July 1941 the German army’s intelligence department (Foreign Armies East) reported that just 15 to 20 Soviet infantry divisions and about six armoured divisions remained active north of the Ukraine. The road to Moscow appeared almost open, causing the Chief of the Army General Staff, Franz Halder, to write in his diary on 3 July: “On the whole one can already now say that the objective to destroy the mass of the Russian army in front of the Dvina and Dnepr [Rivers] has been accomplished … Thus it is probably not too much to say, when 22 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

That failure would have disastrous implications for the whole German war effort.

I claim that the campaign against Russia was won within fourteen days.” However, Halder was badly mistaken. The essential objective upon which Operation Barbarossa was conceived – the destruction of Soviet power in the east – was far from being achieved. Indeed the opposite was true. By the end of 1941 the Wehrmacht’s offensive power was seriously eroded in the east, while the Red Army actually grew in size over the course of the year. On 22 June 1941 the Red Army numbered 5,373,000 men; by 31 August, in spite of its summer losses, it had grown to 6,889,000 and by 31 December 1941 the army had reached an estimated eight


BARBAROSSA: AXIS POWERS Throughout 1941 Soviet forces attempted numerous counteroffensives. Here German infantry prepare to defend in a quickly prepared position. AWM 044591

Helsinki Leningrad Tallinn

Kalinin

Riga

Moscow

Königsberg

Vilnius

ARMY GROUP NORTH

Smolensk Minsk

Warsaw

WESTERN FRONT

Kursk

ARMY GROUP CENTRE Kiev

Krakow

Kharkov

ARMY GROUP SOUTH Front lines Encircled and destroyed Soviet armies 0

Odessa

500 Kilometres

Summer–autumn campaign, 22 June – 30 September 1941.

million men. How was this possible? On the eve of the German invasion, the Red Army possessed a mobilisation base of 14 million men. By the end of June, 5.3 million reservists had been called up, with further mobilisations following in succession. In late June and July 1941, no less than 13 new field armies appeared, with 19 more raised in August, five in September, seven in October and eleven in November. In less than six months the Soviets had raised some 55 new field armies, which was a rate of force generation never equalled before or since. These new reserve armies were not as wellequipped or as well-trained as the

professional armies they replaced, but as the German mobile forces weakened, more and more of the front settled down to positional warfare, allowing the new Soviet armies time to improve. As the German mobile forces relentlessly advanced during the early weeks of Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army was not in fact their main impediment. Soviet roads accounted for far greater destruction, which was soon exacerbated by the Ostheer’s deficiency in spare parts and field repair facilities. Just one week into the campaign the 7th Panzer Division had lost a hefty 50 per cent of all its Mark II and III tanks, while the Mark IV tanks

had suffered 75 per cent losses. These tanks were certainly not total losses, but they took time to repair and they were breaking down faster than they could be put back on the road. By 7 July the 18th and 3rd Panzer Divisions were at 35 per cent combat readiness, while the 4th and 17th Panzer Divisions were at 60 per cent strength. At this point in the war Germany’s losses in material generally remained low, but the central importance of the tank and its alarming rate of attrition made its losses particularly critical. With production capacity in Germany still relatively meagre, and Hitler’s determination to hold back all new WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 23


During the early weeks of Operation Barbarossa, German infantry divisions were force-marched for up to 18 hours a day. AWM 044599

tanks for future operations, the basis of Germany’s battlefield mobility and striking power was threatened out of all proportion to the numerical strength of its other arms. Germany’s fleet of wheeled vehicles was similarly affected by the terrible roads, and because they constituted the mainstay of supply for the Panzer divisions, their losses compounded the problems of keeping the advance moving. Alexander Cohrs wrote in his diary on 5 July of “very bad roads, full of holes” and continued: Some [vehicles] tipped over. Luckily none in our company. After 18 kilometres of marching on foot I sat on an armoured vehicle. It tipped so much that it balanced on two wheels, while the other two temporarily stood in the air; still it did not tip over. Along the way was a moor where the vehicles had to make a big detour … one by one vehicles got 24 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

stuck or even turned over, resulting in delays and a slow tempo. It was not just the poor condition of the Soviet roads that accounted for vehicle losses; long distance movement in the east also led to second-order problems. Only a tiny percentage of Soviet roads were sealed, and in the west of the country most roads were nothing more than sandy tracks, which threw up clouds of dust with every passing vehicle. The long columns of German tanks, trucks and staff cars created what Claus Hansmann called “a sandstorm … that blacked out the sun”. For man, machine and horse the dust proved a torment, while the very roads upon which the German Blitzkrieg depended had become the primary factor in slowing their drive. On 6 July Wilhelm Prüller, who served in a motorised division, wrote in his diary:

The advance goes very slowly. Numerous obstacles keep slowing down our charge. You can’t really call what we’re on “a road”. It’s better than this in the tiniest hamlet in Germany. And we’re marching on a main road! The shoulders of the road are all muddy from the previous rain – you sink up to your knees – but in the middle of the road there’s dust already … each vehicle [is] surrounded by an impenetrable cloud of dust. The dust soon overwhelmed the inadequate air filters and then penetrated the engines, initially increasing oil consumption, and ultimately immobilising the engines altogether. General Heinz Guderian, who commanded the second largest Panzer group on the Eastern Front, noted the striking rate of attrition which movement in the east exacted on his forces. Having started the


BARBAROSSA: AXIS POWERS war in the east with 953 tanks of all models, by 29 July the total had sunk to 286 tanks – only 30 per cent of the original strength. As his Panzer group’s war diary noted with underlining, “this figure is exceedingly low.” Relative to Germany, Soviet tank losses were much higher in June and July 1941, but one must bear in mind that while the Ostheer invaded with some 3,500 Panzers the Red Army started the war with an incredible 23,767 tanks. This reflected Soviet tank production since the 1920s and therefore included many models that were obsolete on the modern battlefield. In fact no less than 15,000 tanks were of the older T-26 and BT series, and estimates suggest that the great majority of these were in need of some form of repair. Adding to this the untrained crews, the severe lack of ammunition, fuel and spare parts – as well as the absence of supporting arms such as air cover – it is small wonder that Soviet tanks littered the battlefields, if they even made it that far. So the apparently astounding German successes, suggested by the sheer numbers of Soviet tanks destroyed, are better understood as a Soviet disaster waiting to happen. Put simply, inept Soviet planning and direction played a major role in handing the Germans their first major victory, because the vast quantities of old and outdated equipment inflate the notion of Operation Barbarossa’s success. In reality, even in the absence of certain Soviet blunders, not much could probably have been expected from the great bulk of the Soviet mechanised arm. However, of fundamental importance to the future of the war was the production of new tanks – and in this regard the Soviet leadership acted with astute resolve. In the face of the unrelenting German advance, an enormous evacuation of Soviet industry was undertaken, ensuring the economic durability of the Soviet war effort. Accomplished in extraordinary time and under the most adverse circumstances, including aerial attacks from the Luftwaffe, hundreds of factories were simply uprooted, transported into the interior and rapidly reassembled. Between July and November 1941, 1,523 industrial enterprises were moved to the Volga region, Siberia or Central Asia – in total, some 1.5 million railway wagon loads.

Even more remarkable, the production of vital war materials actually increased in the second half of 1941, with official production quotas in some cases, such as tanks, being exceeded. Indeed, in 1941 the Soviet Union produced more tanks than Germany and 66 per cent of these were of the newer T-34 and KV-1 variety, which were better than anything Germany was then producing. Soviet industry also turned out more aircraft and a great deal more artillery pieces in 1941 than Germany, helping to meet the most immediate needs of the army. After the encirclement at Minsk, the struggling German Panzer forces threw everything into closing a second pocket at Smolensk, some 600 kilometres east of their starting point. The problem, however, was that the German Panzer and motorised forces were operating at such great depth (so far from their starting point) that they were completely unsupported by the marching infantry, which constituted the vast bulk of the Ostheer. As one high level memorandum stated in early July: The problem, appearing from now on in its full magnitude, which must be the constant worry of all responsible departments of the army group commands … is the daily widening of the distance between the Panzer groups and the [infantry] armies. While until now this distance has had relatively little effect, the early renewal of the advance by the Panzer groups, with an objective over 500 km away, will have the result that 100 to 200-km-long stretches behind the Panzer groups are more or less empty of German troops. That these extensive areas are traversed by the Panzer troops almost entirely by road, means that everywhere there are still strong enemy elements roaming, and a constant danger exists to the supply and communications of the Panzer groups. Indeed the German army was attempting something unique in modern military history: advancing a major element of their supply apparatus ahead of the bulk of the army into what was essentially still hostile territory. Inevitably, losses were heavy. Another implication of the battle of Smolensk was the unexpected strength of the new Soviet forces arriving at the front. By the end of July it was all too clear that the earlier German intelligence reports had been badly mistaken and that the overextended Panzer forces were now

TIMELINE OF THE RUSSIAN ARMY 1941 22 June 5,373,000 troops

31 August 6,889,000 troops

31 December 8 million troops

Despite 2,663,000 killed and 3,350,000 taken prisoner throughout the year

confronting serious pressure from the east without the backbone of infantry to support them. Of course the absence of infantry at the front was not for want of tremendous exertion; the brutal reputation of the Wehrmacht was well earned in attempting to bridge the gap. For the infantrymen this meant forced marches of punishing duration with little time for sleep or rest. As one corps commander observed on 11 July: “Yesterday one regiment marched 54, another 47 km. To do that once is possible. To do that having already had numerous marches of 30–40 km with more to come, that is something else, it makes it tremendous.” The individual accounts of the soldiers forced to endure this torment are even more explicit. Harold Henry wrote home of the terrible strain he was under after a march of 45 kilometres. WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 25


We’re wet through all over, sweat is running down our faces in wide streams – not just sweat, but sometimes tears too, tears of helpless rage, desperation and pain, squeezed out of us by this inhuman effort. No one can tell me that someone who isn’t an infantryman can possibly imagine what we’re going through here. Alexander Cohrs wrote in his diary on 1 July that the demands of the march that day had led to the loss of three men in his company, one of whom died. Cohrs explained that the men were lost “not as a consequence of battle, but from exhaustion resulting from the exertions.” Cohrs then related the physical and mental rigours of the march, concluding: “Towards the end, when one is fighting painfully against collapse, one occasionally hears words of suicide.” Of course, when the infantry divisions did arrive at the front they were typically exhausted; but in spite of having been force marched hundreds of kilometres in only a matter weeks, they were then immediately pressed into defensive battles with a resurgent Red Army. Some historians have questioned why in August 1941 German forces did not rapidly press on the final 300 kilometres from Smolensk to Moscow, and others have even described this as the lost opportunity that led to the failure of Operation Barbarossa. In fact the Panzer forces were desperately working to restore their numbers and build up enough supplies to sustain another distant offensive. Yet both of these objectives were hampered by the fact that the Panzers were constantly being recalled into the front lines to support the hard-pressed German infantry. Indeed, throughout August and the first half of September, the Red Army launched a succession of costly offensives on the central part of the front that did not seize much ground, but led to thousands of dead and wounded on both sides. Just how many were lost is illustrated by the fighting for the Yel’nya salient, which German forces seized in the third week of July and ultimately lost again in early September. The German 137th Infantry Division, for example, suffered almost 2,000 casualties (including dead, wounded and missing) at Yel’nya between 18 August and 5 September, while the 263rd Infantry Division lost 1,200 men in a single week. By 5 September these two divisions had sustained over 8,000 casualties 26 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

Right: A burning Soviet BT-7 tank. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-020-1268-36

The Red Army started the war with an incredible 23,767 tanks. This included many models that were obsolete on the modern battlefield ... and in need of some repair.

between them since the start of the war. Nor were these divisions outstanding exceptions. By early September 1941 there were 14 German divisions on the Eastern Front that had sustained over 4,000 casualties; a further 40 had losses in excess of 3,000 men, and another 30 divisions counted over 2,000 dead and wounded each. Berndt Tessen von Heydebreck, who arrived on the Eastern Front at the start of September as a replacement for the 7th Infantry Division, described what he found upon reaching his unit. “Found out that of a whole company only twenty men were left. Among the wounded was the company commander ... Static warfare, just like the World War … The men are covered with dirt from head to foot.

Their clothes are in tatters and their faces unshaven. Immense casualties.” Soviet losses in the fighting for Yel’nya were even higher, with the loss of 31,853 men, or one third of the total force committed to the offensive. What the summer fighting illustrates is that in spite of Germany’s impressive gains, it had failed to shatter Soviet resistance and its offensive was stalling. There can be no question that the Red Army suffered appalling losses, but it went on holding the line while replacing those losses. The Germans lost less in terms of men and equipment, but these were crucial to their overall war aims. The weeks of costly fighting around Smolensk tied up the bulk of Germany’s tanks on the


BARBAROSSA: AXIS POWERS

Eastern Front, costing irreplaceable time and slowing their deployment on the flanks to help seize objectives in the north (Leningrad) and south (Kiev). It would not be until early October that the offensive in the centre could be renewed with Operation Typhoon. Yet even after all their efforts to raise tank numbers, if we compare the numerical strength of Army Group Centre’s twelve veteran Panzer divisions on 22 June and 2 October we see a 70 per cent drop in strength, from 2,476 to 750 tanks. The weather was also changing with the onset of cold and wet nights, foreshadowing the coming autumn rains and causing many German soldiers to wonder when their (nonexistent) winter clothing would arrive.

Without having achieved victory in the summer campaign, Operation Barbarossa’s failure had wide-ranging implications. The war could no longer be ended in 1941, and an attritional struggle on the scale of the fighting in the east was far beyond Germany’s long-term economic capacity, especially given the demands of air and sea warfare against Great Britain. These predetermined that Germany would have significantly less men, equipment and raw materials to overcome its far better resourced enemies. In many respects, therefore, Operation Barbarossa was not just Germany’s failure to defeat the Soviet Union, it was to be Germany’s failure to win the Second World War. •

ABOUT THE

AUTHOR

David Stahel is a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Canberra. He is the author of numerous books on Hitler’s war in the east, including Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s defeat in the east (2009, Kiev 1941 2012, Operation Typhoon 2013 and The Battle for Moscow 2015.

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 27


SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST Remembering survivors from Hitler’s Europe who made new lives in postwar Australia. BY LACHLAN GRANT

H

aving survived the horrors of war in Europe, later in life Rosie Bruell (née Stern) reflected on the day in 1947 that she arrived in Australia to start a new life: When we arrived in Sydney it was a crisp, nice, sunny day … I stood on the deck and I saw this beautiful bridge, and the harbour and everything, and I thought, I really felt like a phoenix, risen from the ashes. And I felt, this will be my home: no turning back. And I achieved it, I really achieved it. On Bruell’s 23rd birthday, 19 March 1944, her homeland of Hungary was occupied by the Germans. A consequence of the Nazi occupation was the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews – including Rosie – to Auschwitz. Most of the Hungarian arrivals at Auschwitz were sent straight to their deaths in the camp’s gas chambers. Rosie was saved from this fate and after six weeks at Auschwitz she was sent to the BergenBelsen concentration camp. There she remained until the liberation of the 28 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

camp by British soldiers in April 1945. Rosie’s story is told in the new Holocaust display in the Australian War Memorial’s Second World War Gallery. The Holocaust reveals the extremes of humanity’s capacity for evil, as well as the spirit of endurance and survival. The display represents the Holocaust through the experiences of survivors who made new lives in postwar Australia. It includes artworks by the Australian official war artist Alan Moore, who accompanied British troops as they liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp. The display features items from the Memorial’s own collection, as well as items that have been loaned with great generosity by the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne. The Holocaust was the statesponsored persecution and murder of six million European Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators during the Second World War. Other groups and minorities targeted by Nazi ideological policies include Polish and Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war,

Roma and Sinti peoples (“gypsies”), the disabled, and homosexuals. Drawing upon Social Darwinist and eugenicist ideas about race and the nation state, Nazism was an ideology that combined pseudoscientific racism and antiSemitism with the reactionary anticommunism of fascism. Positioning the German people as a master “Aryan” race, which in Hitler’s words had been “chosen by destiny” to dominate Europe, the Nazis maintained that “inferior” races, such as the Jews, were “parasitic” and worthy of destruction. Through the introduction of genocidal policies of mass murder and conquest, the Nazis aimed to change the demographics of Europe to create a “New Order”. When Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party came to power on 30 January 1933, Germany’s Jewish community was immediately targeted. Boycotts of Jewish businesses were swiftly followed by a purge of Jewish employees from the civil service. In 1935 the Nuremburg


Laws stripped German Jews of their citizenship. Over the night of 9–10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“night of broken glass”) saw a wave of violence sweep over the country as synagogues were set ablaze, Jewish shops were vandalised, and thousands of Jewish men were taken into custody. One young man taken into custody following Kristallnacht was the 18-yearold Franz Goldstein. He had cycled to work in the morning and was arrested without charge at his place of work. He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he suffered under the terribly cramped conditions and sadistic SS guards. He kept a diary, which he later translated into English. One entry reads: “Toward midnight SS men came in to have some fun. They fetched men out of their bunks, tortured them and chased them with their bloodhounds.” Concentration camps had been established in Germany as early as 1933. The first, at Dachau, was initially used for political

Above: Bernard Slawik, Bunk beds in Janowska concentration camp (c. 1942–46, pencil on paper, 16 x 23 cm). AWM ART90350 Below: A bar mitzvah at Nagykanizsa, Hungary, in 1932. Of these children, only four are known to have survived the Holocaust. Rosie Stern is in the back row, second from right. Her younger brother Tamas-Antal (Tommy) Stern is in the front centre. He was deported and killed alongside his parents in Auschwitz. Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, courtesy of Rosie Bruell and family.

WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 29


prisoners. Later concentration and labour camps were established at places such as Buchenwald, BergenBelsen, and Theresienstadt. After his release from custody in February 1939, Goldstein’s parents sponsored him and his sister to emigrate to Britain. He left Germany in April 1939 and anglicised his name to Frank Golding. Following the outbreak of war, Golding enlisted in the British army and served in North Africa and in the liberation of Europe. He lost contact with his parents, and on his return to Germany with the liberating Allied armies, Golding could find no trace of his parents or their family possessions and property. He later learned that his mother and father had been murdered in Auschwitz. Frank and his sister were the only members of his family to survive. Frank returned to Britain after the war, married, and in 1949 emigrated to Australia. Raising a nonJewish family, Frank never spoke to his wife or children about his experience of the Holocaust or the fate of his family in Germany. It was only after his death in 1975 that his family found a trunk full of artefacts revealing his life story. Some of these objects, including Frank’s Buchenwald diary, feature in the display. Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, and then again after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, more Jewish communities fell under German occupation. Waging a “war of annihilation” in the east, Nazi Germany introduced official polices of mass murder to create Lebensraum or “living space” for future German settlement of occupied territories. Jews faced relocation, or were confined to ghettos, or to concentration or labour camps. They died in their thousands from deliberate starvation, disease, and mass killings. Various methods of systematic execution were undertaken by German security, police, and military units, and deeply rooted anti-Semitism was inflamed throughout the Germanoccupied territories. By January 1942, in what was called the “Final Solution to the Jewish question”, Hitler’s regime had committed to killing Europe’s Jews in specially built extermination camps. These camps – that include Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, and AuschwitzBirkenau – adopted the technology and efficiency of industrial production for the processing and destruction of human beings. 30 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

Above: Frank Golding in his British army uniform. He enlisted in the British Army and served in North Africa and Europe. Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, courtesy of Lee Hassan, Peter Golding and families.

Top right: Frank Golding’s diary covers his internment in Buchenwald. This copy was translated by him in England in 1940. Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, courtesy of Lee Hassan, Peter Golding and families.

Below right: This cloth Star of David was worn by Irma Hanner as a child in Germany; it says “Jew”. She was nine when the war began, and believes she lost her childhood to the Nazi regime. Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, courtesy of Irmgard Hanner and family.

One family story told in the gallery is that of Bernard and Alma Slawik. They had only recently wed when their lives were shattered by the war. After the German invasion of Poland, Bernard and Alma – both Jewish – walked from Warsaw to their home city of Lvov. When Lvov was occupied in 1941, Bernard was interned at Janowska concentration camp. He later escaped, using forged identity papers stating he was a Polish Catholic, and managed to find his wife. Alma had made her way back to Warsaw, where she also survived with a forged identity. Their daughter, Eva, was born in Lvov and at seven months was given to local Catholic families to take care of her and keep her identity secret. The family was reunited after war’s end and moved to Sweden before emigrating to Australia in 1948. Bernard kept a series of drawings documenting his family’s experience of the Holocaust. They form a most significant series in the Memorial’s display, documenting just one family’s story of survival. Separation from one’s family was described by Arthur Matzner as the “saddest moment”. Arthur and his wife Friderika were sent from their home in Prague to the camp inside the fortress of Theresienstadt in June 1943. Later they were sent to Auschwitz. Of their separation, Arthur wrote: The parting was very sad; I did not know when I would see her again. In October 1944 on my thirtieth birthday I was sent away without my wife … [At Auschwitz] two officers of the SS selected people, [sending them] to the left or the right. I was with those saved from the gas chambers … Through a large gateway we came to the camp … An SS took my wristwatch and wedding ring, putting them in his pocket. I knew better than to protest. Human life was without a price. A woman watched us passing by, but an SS shot her as it was forbidden to stand there. Nobody cried out in protest. It was a “normal” happening. We reached a place with showers, and had to take our clothes off … An SS took my gold chain, and, against my begging, photos of my wife, which he tore into pieces. Personal papers were also gone … In Auschwitz, we newcomers were seeing the high flames from the crematoria; we were told about the gas chambers and learned about sadistic SS murders, beatings and maiming. Friderika was later sent to work in an aircraft factory in Freiberg. After


HOLOCAUST: SURVIVORS

the camp was liberated by American troops on 9 May 1945, she made her way back to Prague on foot, wearing a skirt she had made from curtains from an SS barracks. She was reunited with Arthur nine weeks later when he too returned to Prague. From Auschwitz, Arthur had been sent to work at hard labour in Kaufering, a sub-camp of Dachau. He weighed just 44 kilograms at the end of the war. The Matzners emigrated to Australia in 1949 where Arthur forged a distinguished career as general services manager at Royal Melbourne Hospital. Many victims of the Holocaust were children. Irma Hanner from Dresden was nine years old when the war began. In 1942 she was imprisoned at Theresienstadt. The Germans went to great lengths to present Theresienstadt to the outside world as a model camp where inmates lived in relative comfort. Such pretences were far from the reality, which for internees was miserable and brutal. Hanner recalled one such incident: “One day, eleven young men

escaped. When they could not be found, the children were marched out of the ghetto to a big field and had to stand all day in heavy rain, cold, while the Germans kept counting. They did catch them, and they hanged them in front of the whole camp.” Hanner’s mother, sent to Ravensbrück, did not survive the war. Of 250 fellow pupils from her school, Hanner was one of only five to survive. Later in life she reflected on this time: “I was full of hate after the war, full of hate; I really was. I lost my childhood, I lost my youth, I lost my family. For years after the war, I couldn’t cry and now, now I can’t stop it. A lot of people who helped me didn’t make it themselves.” With no family left in Germany, Hanner emigrated by herself to Australia in 1948, aged 18, and later married a fellow Holocaust survivor. Like Hanner, Abram Goldberg and Cesia Amatensztajn were both children when the war started. Both were born in the Polish city of Łódź and spent some of the war in the city’s ghetto.

It was a tough upbringing. Goldberg recalled an occasion when he saw sick children being thrown out of a second floor window of a hospital. “I could never recover from it, the sights I saw. I never saw anything like I saw then, I was coming face to face with this barbaric treatment of human beings.” Abram was deported with his mother to Auschwitz. Separated from Abram when they arrived, his mother was sent straight to the gas chambers. He later said of this time: “I never lost hope because losing hope would be the end.” WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 31


Top: Identity document issued to Abram Goldberg after liberation. He was 14 when the war began: “I never gave up hope because losing hope would be the end.” Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, courtesy of Abram and Cesia Goldberg and family.

Below: Cesia Amatensztajn’s identification as a prisoner in Bergen-Belsen. Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, courtesy of Abram and Cesia Goldberg and family.

32 | WARTIME ISSUE 77

Abram spent several months in Auschwitz before being sent to a series of camps in Germany. He returned to Poland after the war. Cesia had also been in the ghetto at Łódź, where she worked at a shoe factory, and had also been deported to Auschwitz. Later she was sent to Bergen-Belsen. The two met in Poland after the end of the war and were married. They left Poland together to settle in Australia. Irma, Abram and Cesia all still reside in Melbourne today, where they devote much of their time to volunteering at Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre and discussing their life experiences with students. As the Allies advanced toward Germany, the Nazis began moving surviving prisoners deep into German territory in an attempt to destroy all evidence of the Holocaust and the war industries supported by forced labour. Prisoners were transported or marched to other camps, with many dying along the way from starvation, exposure, exhaustion and disease. Others were shot as they became too weak to walk. Bergen-Belsen was one of many receiving camps and soon became overcrowded. With little food, water or shelter, Bergen-Belsen was consumed by diseases such as typhoid, typhus and dysentery, leading to the deaths of many thousands of internees. When Bergen-Belsen was liberated on 15 April 1945 by British troops, among the liberators was an Australian official war artist, Alan Moore. His artworks depicting the scenes of Bergen-Belsen following liberation became part of

the Memorial’s collection and are among the most significant displayed throughout the galleries. After the German surrender and the liberation of the camps, many survivors were classified as “displaced persons” and were kept in camps administered by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. The physical and psychological trauma of their experiences would continue to haunt survivors and their families. Many suffered long-term ill health from the effects of the malnutrition, physical labour, disease and beatings experienced in the camps. Some returned home to discover their families killed, their possessions stolen, or their homes no longer there. Many states in central and eastern Europe were now under communist rule and anti-Semitism remained prevalent. Thousands left Europe to start new lives elsewhere. Many would choose Australia. As a survivor from Czechoslovakia later reflected: “I was so tired of the war, I said I would go as far away from Europe as I can … to Australia.” In 1945 Australian Minister for Immigration Arthur Calwell established the Close Relatives Reunion Scheme, which allowed for the immigration of Holocaust survivors who had family members in Australia. The Australian Jewish Welfare Society also helped survivors obtain permits and assisted in starting their new lives in Australia. As happened in other nations, a quota was imposed, and the program has since been criticised for its limitations. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 35,000 European Jews arrived in Australia between 1945 and 1960. Arriving with nothing, they embraced their new lives and many made substantial contributions to Australian society. The democratic values and freedoms they found in Australian society, many of which we take for granted, meant so much to those who had been denied even the most basic of human rights. •

ABOUT THE

AUTHOR

Dr Lachlan Grant is a Senior Historian at the Australian War Memorial.


FACING TWO FRONTS THE FIGHT FOR RESPECT How did war become a platform for advocating the civil rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Indigenous Australians have served in the Australian military since Federation. Their role was signiďŹ cant, yet often unrecognised. For some, armed service provided equality. For others, discrimination.

A digital exhibition on show at the National Archives of Australia from 23 March 2017

naa.gov.au

Joe McGinness’ service record and photograph, 1942. NAA: B883, DX977

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75 YE ARS ON The famous battle remains important, but is still open to new interpretations. BY JONATHAN PARSHALL


PEARL HARBOR: MYTHS

T

he 75th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 invites reconsideration of some common myths. This involves looking at how Japan achieved that surprise, and the evolution of the Japanese carrier force; the tactical proficiency of the air attack on US warships; and the notion of a possible third-wave strike against Pearl Harbor’s fuel tanks.

Achieving operational surprise

The detonation of the forward magazine of the destroyer USS Shaw. Despite extensive damage, she was repaired and back at Pearl Harbor by August 1942. Naval History and Heritage Command

The smoke hadn’t even begun to clear over Oahu, Hawaii, when the Americans began looking for answers – and scapegoats – as to how the Japanese could have achieved such complete surprise against them. Almost inevitably, Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Walter Short, the naval and army commanders on the island, paid for the catastrophe with their careers. The finger-pointing didn’t stop there, though, and down through the years gallons of conspiracy-theory ink have been shed, suggesting President Roosevelt knew the attack was coming and welcomed it. But in fact the reasons behind Japan’s achievement of operational surprise are relatively straightforward. The sheer scale of the attack – six carriers and more than 400 aircraft – was perhaps the most stunning aspect of the entire operation. Not only did the Japanese assault the naval anchorage, they simultaneously destroyed American airpower at every major airfield on the island. The US Navy had occasionally contemplated the possibility of a Japanese carrier raid against Pearl Harbor. But to the Americans – whose carriers still operated singly, not in groups – a “raid” implied a single attack wave by perhaps one or maybe two flight decks. The magnitude of Japan’s massive assault was difficult to take in. During Admiral Thomas C. Hart’s 1944 inquiry into the 7 December attack, Rear Admiral Arthur Davis – Admiral Kimmel’s staff air officer – was forced to admit that he had not realised “to what a high degree of WARTIME ISSUE 77 | 35


Image: Andrew Snelgar, Mumbun and Ngurranwun, 2016 (detail)

E XHI BIT I TIION ON N OW OP E N SPECIAL EXHIBITIONS GALLE GALLER RY FREE AWM.GOV.AU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories of military service in times of war and peace are told in this new exhibition at the Australian War Memorial. For Country, for Nation draws inspiration from cultural traditions and symbols of the warriorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s discipline, knowledge, leadership, and skill.


Profile for Hardie Grant Publishing

Wartime Summer 2017  

Wartime Summer 2017  

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