A French woman tends to the grave of a 23-year-old Canadian soldier who as buried earlier that day; Bombardier Everitt Ivan Hill of the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, killed during the Battle for Caen. Under his name and date of burial is written ”The French Will Never Forget the Canadians.” Beneath that inscription, on a separate piece of paper, is written in French:
"Rest in peace under the beautiful French sky,
Son of Canada and glorious martyr.
You have given your life for our deliverance —
May your name be forever blessed in Heaven.”
Hill, originally from Little Britain, Ontario, enlisted with the Royal Canadian Artillery on 24 March 1941 and landed in Normandy on D-Day. He was later reburied at Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery near Cintheaux; one of approximately 50,539 Allied casualties in the Battle for Caen. Approximately 226,386 Allied soldiers and between 400,000 to 450,000 Axis soldiers would be killed in the Battle of Normandy. Caen, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 18 July 1944. Image taken by Canadian Army Lt. Ken Bell.
70 years ago today, within an environment of institutional prejudices and against a stubborn German foe, the most famous American service unit of World War II – the Red Ball Express – was born. Throughout most of the War, the predominant assignments given to African-American servicemen was within the Quartermaster and Transportation Corps. Nevertheless, although many African-American soldiers found themselves segregated from white units and relegated to non-combat roles,this did not keep them, or the over 75% African American drivers of the Red Ball Express, out of the fight.
The Red Ball Express – its name taken from a railroad term meaning express freight – was a massive, round-the-clock convoy of supply-trucks, organized in north-western France as an immediate response to the problem of keeping the forward-area elements of the American First and Third Army supplied with petroleum, oil and lubricants (also known as POL supplies). Following the late July 1944 break-out in Normandy, American forces found themselves outpacing the reach of their supply lines. In an effort to solve this crisis – described by war correspondent Ernie Pyle as “a tactician’s hell and a quartermaster’s purgatory” – and bridge the gap between the soldiers at the front and the supply dumps at the Normandy beach-heads, the Red Ball Express was born.
On August 25, 1944, the Red Ball Express highway – two long-distance, one-way ‘loop highway’ routes – was opened at the port town of Cherbourg. Similar to the human circulatory system, the Red Ball highway’s northern route was for delivering supplies and the southern route was for returning convoys, with both routes open only to military traffic. A shortage of trucks and drivers for the Red Ball Express routes saw any non-essential vehicles pressed into service and many ‘volunteers’ – some of whom had never driven any type of automobile before – thrown behind the wheel and transformed overnight into drivers. One Red Ball recruit recalled that ‘Red Ball trucks broke, but they didn’t brake.’ On average, over 900 ‘deuce-and-a-half’ trucks were rolling on the Red Ball Highway at any one time, carrying thousands of tons of supplies forward, fueling the American advance.
Though only in existence for three months, from between August 25th and November 16th, 1944, the importance of the Red Ball Express and the heroic efforts of its drivers was clearly understood by Allied leadership in this, the world’s first “100 percent internal combustion engine war.” Over the course of 83 days, the Red Ball Express and its drivers delivered over 500,000 tons of supplies vital to the American war effort and the liberation of Europe. The Red Ball Express also served as indisputable proof of the quality of African-American soldiers. In an October, 1944 message to the troops, General Eisenhower was not at all faint in his praise for the Red Ball Express’ drivers.
TO: The Officers and Men of the Red Ball Highway
1. In any war, there are two tremendous tasks. That of the combat troops is to fight the enemy. That of the supply troops is to furnish all the material to insure victory. The faster and farther the combat troops advance against the foe, the greater becomes the battle of supply.
2. Supplies are reaching the continent in increasing streams. But the battle to get those supplies to the front becomes daily of mounting importance.
3. The Red Ball Line is the lifeline between combat and supply. To it falls the tremendous task of getting vital supplies from ports and depots to the combat troops, when and where such supplies are needed, material without which the armies might fail.
4. To you drivers and mechanics and your officers, who keep the Red Ball vehicles constantly moving, I wish to express my deep appreciation. You are doing an excellent job.
5. But the struggle is not yet won. So the Red Ball Line must continue the battle it is waging so well, with the knowledge that each truckload which goes through to the combat forces cannot help but bring victory closer.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
General, U. S. Army
The National WWII Museum echoes the words of General Eisenhower and honors the contributions of the brave men of the Red Ball Express and all African-Americans in World War II. The National WWII Museum’s Red Ball Express mobile outreach program, which today ‘delivers’ hands-on programming about World War II history to New Orleans region schools, takes its name in their honor.
This post by Collin Makamson, Family Programs & Outreach Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum
U.S. Army Major Cyrus Menier, a liaison officer who parachuted deep within Vichy France, helps train members of the Maquis (French Resistance). Near Valdrôme, Drôme, Rhône-Alpes, France. July 1944. Image taken by André Gamet.
♛ HISTORY MEME ♛ [4/6] REVOLUTIONS: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising/em>
In 1940, German occupational authorities began to concentrate Poland’s population of over three million Jews into a number of extremely crowded ghettos located in large Polish cities. The largest of these, the Warsaw Ghetto, concentrated approximately 300,000–400,000 people into a densely packed, 3.3 km² central area of Warsaw. Thousands of Jews died due to rampant disease and starvation under SS-und-Polizeiführer Odilo Globocnik and SS-Standartenführer Ludwig Hahn, even before the mass deportations from the Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp began.
When the deportations first began, members of the Jewish resistance movement met and decided not to fight the SS directives, believing that the Jews were being sent to labour camps and not to their deaths. By the end of 1942, Ghetto inhabitants learned that the deportations were part of an extermination process. Many of the remaining Jews decided to revolt.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Yiddish: אױפֿשטאַנד אין װאַרשעװער געטאָ; Polish: powstanie w getcie warszawskim; German: Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto) was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto, and which opposed Nazi Germany’s final effort to transport the remaining Ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp. The most significant portion of the rebellion took place from 19 April, and ended when the poorly armed and supplied resistance was crushed by the Germans, who officially finished their operation to liquidate the Ghetto on 16 May. It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. [x]
Department of Defense film, Nurses in the Army (circa 1940s, 1950s)
Dear Mother and Father,
You have, by this time, received a letter mentioning that I am quartered in the concentration camp at Dachau. It is still undecided whether we will be permitted to describe the conditions here, but I’m writing this now to tell you a little, and will mail it later when we are told we can.
It is difficult to know how to begin. By this time I have recovered from my first emotional shock and am able to write without seeming like a hysterical gibbering idiot. Yet, I know you will hesitate to believe me no matter how objective and focused I try to be. I even find myself trying to deny what I am looking at with my own eyes. Certainly, what I have seen in the past few days will affect my personality for the rest of my life.
My great-grandfather was a Dachau survivor. He also fought at Verdun, in the Greater Poland Uprising and under Pilsudski at Lviv against the Bolsheviks. Out of all these experiences, Dachau was the one he couldn’t talk about without crying. Not even 60 years later.
Paratroopers of the 508th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division, adjust their parachutes prior to their jump behind enemy lines near Utah Beach - 5 June 1944
An RAF bomber crew being debriefed by the squadron intelligence officer on their return from a night raid over Germany, 1941/Cecil Beaton
French Resistance fighters line the streets of Chartres to listen to the speech of leader of the Free French Forces, General Charles de Gaulle, proclaiming the city’s complete liberation from German-occupation. Chartres was liberated on 18 August 1944 by the U.S. Army’s 5th Infantry and 7th Armored Divisions, belonging to XX Corps of the 3rd U.S. Army (United States Army Central). Chartres, Eure-et-Loir, Region of Centre, France. 23 Agust 1944. Image taken by Robert Capa.
Ruth Lee, an American woman of Chinese ancestry who works as a hostess at a Chinese restaurant, displays the flag of the Republic of China while she sunbathes on the beach so that other beach-goers do not mistake her for Japanese in the days following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay and the U.S. declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Miami, Florida, U.S.A. 15 December 1941.