World War II

Russia’s MiG 21: History Lives On

The military aircraft can have a short lifespan. During the World War I, the planes that were state-of-the-art became obsolete shortly after and the similar things happened in the World War II. And with the enhancement of the technology, the fleets of aircraft became passé as well. Also, the fighters that were a top threat in the skies over Korea became poor a few years later. You get the point.

There is the other scenario as well. Some designs managed to stay with us and one of these is the B-52 Stratofortress which took its first flight in 1952, and it is still in service today. The C-130s became operational in 1954, and it is still actively produced in 2018. We have to bear in mind that these are bomber and transport aircraft and it is slightly different when it comes to the fighters. They have the longevity problem, that is obvious, but one plane which is an exception is the MiG-21 Fishbed.

Origin

Source:reddit

The studies for this aircraft started in 1953. Prior to this model, there were MiG-15 and MiG-17 which proved to be very successful, and they showed that combating the Western powers in the sky is possible. The MiG-19 was the first supersonic fighter created by the Soviet Union. At that point, technology advanced quickly, and those fighters which were involved in the Korean War were obsolete by 1955, one of them being MiG-15, capable of some things, but helpless in some other situations. The Russians hoped to improve their fleet with the MiG-21.

The MiG-21 had an internal cannon, and it was able to carry between two and six missiles. It earned the nickname Fishbed by NATO and just like the most fighters, this one would serve for ground attacks since it is able to carry a limited number of bombs and rockets. Instead of equipping this plane with a complex radar, the Soviets controlled it from the ground.

Between 1959 and 1985, the Soviet Union assembled 10,645 Fishbeds. They were followed by China with 2,400 Fishbeds produced between 1966 and 2013, India, with 657 planes constructed under a licensing and technology transfer agreement with Moscow and former Czechoslovakia with 194 units built.

Longevity

Source:airforce-technology.com

Even though MiG-21 came out in the late 1950s, the engineers managed to tackle the problems that could not be cured with time. Thus, the modern jets cannot fly faster or maneuver better than the MiG-21. Sure the modern fighters have the equipment which is much more sophisticated, but they can be perceived as a luxury and they do not make the plane better in the true sense of the word. The Fishbed is a cheap and easy-to-maintain plane that can do it all.

Had Fishbed been produced in the United States, it wouldn’t have been useful. The aircraft has short legs, and it cannot carry a lot of ordnance, but it also lacks the space to accommodate the sophisticated items we have mentioned previously. However, it served its purpose on the Soviet side, and it was a capable ground control intercept fighter. The MiG-21 could fly and fight over battlefields and act as an interceptor, and it did all those things. Even the American pilots praised this plane during the Cold War.

Wars

Source:theaviationist.com

The MiG-21 was never used on the Central Front in a NATO-Warsaw Pact war, but this doesn’t mean that it was just sitting in the backyard. In Vietnam, they took advantage of the United States by cutting through bomber packages before the US fighters could visualize them and attack. They were quite maneuverable, and they could evade the air-to-air missiles, which were not quite developed at the time.

However, on January 2, 1967, a group of F-4 Phantom IIs commanded by pilot Robin Olds tricked the North Vietnamese and shot down several Fishbeds. After the Vietnamese War, the Fishbed was used across the Middle East. The Israeli Defense Force sent their fleet against the Egyptian and Syrian Fishbeds, and they managed to destroy them in the opening days of the Six-Day War. In the War of Attrition, the Fishbeds went against the Israelis and once again in the Yom Kippur War and the Lebanon War as well.

All of this caused people to believe that the MiG-21s were doomed, but the aircraft performed more than adequately in comparable pilot training contexts. The Indian MiG-21s flew in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, the 1971 War, and the Kargil War and proved to be awesome.

Upgrades

As the time passed, the number of MiG-21 decreased, especially as the new models emerged. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it had major consequences on the Russian military strength. Their client states could no longer keep the aircraft in service, and there are still some air forces which use the MiG-21 and the Chinese F/J-7 version of the same aircraft.

Source:youtube

You can find the MiG-21 in 18 air forces. Two of those states are NATO members – Croatia and Romania. Just for comparison, the Fishbed served in 40 additional countries at its peak. As for the Chinese J/F-7, it is still active in 13 states, but four retired this one from service. The Fishbeds which are in service today have been updated, but they still resemble the originals. Nowadays, they have different, much better weapons such as the Magic 2, the Phyton III or the R-60 AAM. Their electronics and communication equipment is upgraded as well, and they are much more precise.

Will the Fishbed live on?

China will no longer produce the J-7, which means that the final MiG-21 version has rolled out of the assembly line. In the meantime, Romania and Croatia are going to dispose of their Fishbeds in the upcoming five years, and as for India, the country will retire the MiG-21 planes.

Despite all of this, the Fishbed will keep going on. A lot of the J-7 and F-7 models are predicted to stay in service for a very long time. For example, Bangladesh purchased the last dozen of F-7 models five years ago, and they will not have to be replaced for quite a while. And we also need to take into consideration the fact that a lot of states and their respective militaries do not have the budget to refresh their forces all the time and buy something more sophisticated than the Fishbed. A hundred-year fighter could never exist, but the MiG-21 could easily reach 60 and even 70, without too many issues.

The first one was produced in 1959. It is not that hard to believe that at least one MiG-21 is going to survive to celebrate the 100th birthday. They are still widely used, and with the few more upgrades down the line, the Fishbed could be going strong in years to come.

Whether this airplane survives the upcoming years and the advancements in technology doesn’t matter at this point because one thing is for sure. The Russian MiG-21 has been problematic for the enemies. Even though it is assembled by the enemies of the United States, America needs to admit that it is one of the most iconic airplanes ever created. This model is definitely going down in the books as one of the best fighters.

Source: nationalinterest.org

The strongest weapons from World War II: Nazi Germany’s King tiger tank

One of the most powerful machines from the World War II is Nazi Germany’s Tiger tank. According to reports, allied tanks were completely powerless to Tigers, that is, it took 5 Sherman tanks to attack Tiger so that one of them would be able to approach and defeat it. The Mark VI,soon became the strongest war weapon on battlefield, also known as Tiger I.

Due to its main purpose of breaching enemy defenses, the tank’s appearance (square, castle-like shape and long cannon) was specially designed to look deadly. Despite its weight, it was able to move pretty quickly. However, Hitler’s designers wanted to improve the weapon, as they considered that its KwK 36 gun was not appropriate and forceful enough for its 88-millimeter cannon. For this reason, soon they focused on building its successor.

Source:wikipedia

Its new, better version was named Tiger II or Konigstiger (King Tiger tank).What TigarII was known for was the cannon. Very precise 88 mm KwK 43 L71 top, 6.3 m long, indicating the L71 mark (71 caliber long). Tiger II was larger than its predecessor. Initially, it was equipped with a binocular TZF 9b / 1telescope, and later with a monocular TZF 9d. The top could rise 14 degrees above the horizontal and could drop 8 degrees below. Thanks to the extremely thick front armor, which was resistant to almost everything the allies had in their arsenal, Tigar II made a significant initial advantage in the confrontation with opponents.King Tigar tank had lots of improvements over the Tigar I. What contributed to Tiger II’s thickness of armor was its sloped armor, whereas Tigar I had vertical armor.

Source:amazonaws.com

The only real threat to this tank were aircrafts that could easily destroy it.

Source: nationalinterest.org

How did Michael Wittmann, Panzer Ace Died?

Michael Wittmann was a legendary tank commander who died in the final years of war. On August 8, 1944, Kurt “Panzer” Meyer was driven in his car to Cintheaux, France, where the front line has been set. The Brits were pushing their attack, and Meyer was in command of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitler Youth which was standing in the way of the enemy.

Hitlerjugend division was an elite SS Panzer group, whose members were mostly drawn from Hitler Youth organization. Highly motivated and well equipped, unlike the regular Wehrmacht units, they were committed several war crimes on their way to Normandy. They were fighting against Allied forces since June 7th, the day after the invasion, and have suffered heavy losses. Panzer Meyer was looking for an opportunity to return the favor to the enemy, and at Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil he thought he finally found it.

When they arrive at the sight, they saw complete chaos. The Germans were fleeing for their lives, and Meyer wanted to change the course of the battle. He exited his car and rallied the troops, and the German forces were back in order. After a while, he and Major Hans Waldmuller drove near the village of Gaumensnil and what they saw from the top of the barn shocked them. The British armored divisions were waiting for the continuation of the attack. They had it all – tanks, half-tracks and Bren carriers that spread from miles in the distance.

It was up to Meyer to stop the Brits, and he knew that the entire region could be lost should they breach the Nazi defenses. It was clear that he didn’t have enough troops to hold them off, so he attacked instead. It was a move in desperation, but Meyer was aware that he would delay the British attack, which could give enough time for the German enforcement to arrive. Meyer had about 20 tanks from SS Panzer Regiment 12, and those were Panzer IV models. However, to balance the odds, heavy Tiger tanks of the 2nd Company were used as well and Michael Wittmann was in command. Even though it seemed a good idea to Meyer, his orders would send Wittmann to his grave.

Who was Michael Wittmann?

Source:militaryimages.net

Wittmann was born on April 22, 1914, just before the start of the World War I and he was just a son of a farmer. He served in the German Army for two years, and he enlisted in the SS. In the first months of the war, Wittmann served in the 1939 Polish campaign and the Balkan invasion in 1940. He became the sergeant in the Operation Barbarossa when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. It didn’t take a long time for Germans to realize that Wittmann had a knack for destroying enemy tanks which is why he joined division’s Tiger tank company.

Tiger was one of the Hitler’s wonder weapons, intended to decisively tip the scales of war in German favor. The tank was a formidable opponent, armed with an 88-mm gun that could pierce anything Allied and Soviet forces could throw against it. Its frontal armor of 100mm meant that not many of its enemies’ tanks could do the same to it. Not everything was great about it, as it was extremely difficult to maintain in the field, it was considered a garage queen. It was also a gas-guzzler, which severely limited its usefulness. The Tiger was so notorious for its breakage that more of them were abandoned due to mechanical failures than they were destroyed by the enemy. He fought at the Battle of Kursk, the most famous tank battle of the World War II.

He received the Knight’s Cross for destroying more than 90 enemy tanks, and he became the commander of the famous company. The Germans moved their forces to Normandy to prevent the enemy invasion, and Wittmann was there as well. His Tiger Tanks caused serious damage to the Allied forces. In the battle near the French village of Villers-Bocage Wittmann’s Tiger was disabled by the British forces, but not before it destroyed a lot of tanks and antitank units. It was one of the most famous tank engagements in the history of warfare. In the span of 15 minutes, Wittmann and his crew destroyed 14 tanks, 15 armored personnel carriers, and two anti-tank guns. Nazi propaganda exploited the battle to its maximum, calling Wittmann panzer ace. For his efforts, he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (the equivalent of the rank of captain) and awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

Operation Totalize and the Ambush

Source:pinterest

The city of Falaise was important for both sides, and the British offensive, called Operation Totalize, was a large action which involved a lot of Allied forces. The complex operation, which we will not study in greater details, went well for the Brits and Canadians who managed to pierce the German lines to a depth of six kilometers. Meyer and Hitler Youth were somewhere on the front lines, and the gap was felt. Remember those tanks and armed divisions Meyer saw from the top of the barn? They were waiting for an airstrike that was planned to completely destroy the Nazis.

At that time Wittmann was just a few minutes away, and he joined the two superiors as they were planning what to do next. As he was preparing for a counter-attack, Wittmann and the two other men saw the first enemy plane fly overhead, dropping the flares. That meant that they had to rush it. And they started moving towards the Allied forces in their tanks.

As they progressed, they were showered with artillery fire which couldn’t do much damage. Occasionally, they would stop to shoot at the Sherman tanks around 1,800 meters away. They managed to destroy some of them, and they continued moving northwest. However, Wittmann and his column of tanks were unaware that A Squadron of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry was to their northeast, hidden in the orchards. Meanwhile, Meyer watched the tanks move, and that was about the time when the bombing started.

In the orchards, Lieutenant James was leading the troops which consisted of three standard Shermans and one Firefly. The Firefly was a British version of the U.S. made Sherman tank. The main difference between Firefly and standard Sherman was a British QF (quick firing) 17-pounder gun mounted in the turret. It was one of the few weapons on Allied side that could reliably penetrate the front armor of German Panther and Tiger tanks. It allowed British armored units to hold their own against superior German units and was one of the most feared tanks fielded on the battlefield in the World War II. They did see Wittmann advancing, but they were waiting for Captain Boarman to arrive so that they could launch an attack. The Tigers were drawing closer, and they were at about 800m from James’ troops. Although Firefly was capable of destroying these tanks, the Shermans still had to wait for them to come closer. And so they waited. Everything was ready to start the attack. The Allied tanks adjusted their position to become more efficient, and they were waiting for the command. Firefly became exposed. After the first few shots, one of the Tigers was already in flames. However, instead of continuing, the Firefly withdrew to take cover within the trees, and it was a smart decision because the Germans missed.

Wittmann’s Death

Source:warfarehistorynetwork.com

The commander of the Firefly was injured, and he couldn’t command the tank. Instead of that, James decided to try his luck in the Firefly which was the best tank they had at that point. They adjusted the position and they were ready for another strike. The tank fired, and for a few moments, they didn’t know whether the shot was on target or not. It turns out that they hit the tank with Wittmann inside and thus ended the life of one of the greatest tank commanders.

However, the battle was far from over. The British forces continued to attack the German Tigers and managed to destroy them. The combat between the tanks is the complex one. Although the Germans had better tanks, they couldn’t do much damage when they were on the attack. Tigers were amazing when stationary and defending, and up to some point, Wittmann was definitely aware that he was going to his grave. As the war progressed, the German tanks had less and less success, especially in the Western front. Their losses were growing significantly, and they couldn’t do anything to stop the Allied forces that pushed the Nazis all the way back to Germany.

It remains a mystery who killed Wittmann and destroyed his tank. Although the British forces fired from proximity, the Canadian units were also nearby, and they may have been firing on the panzers. What we know is that it was the state of complete chaos and the name of the man who killed Wittmann will remain a mystery. Of course, this battle became more notorious after the war. The controversies have arisen years after WWII ended, but the war diary of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry summed the battle up: “Three Tigers in 12 minutes is not bad business.”

Source: warfarehistorynetwork.com

Jagdtiger – The Largest Tank In WWII

Bigger is always better. Or is it? In the Second World War, Nazis decided to improve their weapons so they glued the 128-millimeter antiaircraft gun to their biggest tank and they got the Jagdtiger, the largest tank in the entire war. Even though the size could have frightened the enemies, it was the only thing scary about this machine.

The Germans produced new weaponry all the time, and they were assembling a bunch of turretless assault guns and tank destroyers based on every major tank chassis. These were less capable in the operations due to the lack of the turret, but they were quite movable and great for an ambush. Moreover, they could carry large amounts of armor and guns to the battlefield. Since it had no turret, the Germans saw the opportunity to add the 128-millimeter gun.

The result was the Jagdtiger, the tank which was 11 meters long and 3 meters tall. When fully loaded, the tank weighed 83 tons, which was too much even back in the 1940s. The front end of this beast provided full protection, but the panzer was vulnerable from every other side. Since it was too heavy, the tank could reach speeds of only nine mph, while the range was 50-75 miles depending on terrain. The 690 horsepower engine lacked the power to move this heavy structure. As for the gun, it had only 10 degrees traverse to either side and it took too much time to reload it.

Source:nationalinterest.org

Back in the day, Tiger ace Otto Carius didn’t like the “secret weapon that could still save Germany.” In his autobiography, Tigers in the Mud, Carius wrote: “Any large traversing of the cannon had to be effected by movement of the entire vehicle. Because of that, transmissions and steering differentials were soon out of order. . . . A better idea for the travel lock of the eight-meter long cannon of our ‘Hunting Tiger’ was also necessary. It had to be removed from outside during contact with the enemy. Locking down the barrel during a road march was necessary, of course. Otherwise the mountain brackets would have been worn out too quickly, and exact aiming would have been impossible. . . . We discovered that the cannon, because of its enormous length, was battered about so much as a result of even a short move off the road that its alignment no longer agreed with that of the optics.”

Near the end of the war, between February 1944 and May 1945, the factory in St. Valentin Austria assembled approximately 85 chassis for the Jagdtiger. Most of these chassis were equipped with nine-wheel suspension, but a small number used the eight-wheel Porsche-designed configuration. Even though the entire structures were prepared, the guns were lacking.

Source:pinterest

While it can be said that these war machines were flawed, when positioned well, these tanks could do a whole lot of damage. They were deadly, but the opportunities to destroy the enemies lacked severely, and that was one of the reasons Jugdtigers were almost useless. Still, the tanks proved their worth in the Battle of the Ruhr in 1945 and British officer George Forty described what he saw in his book German Tanks of World War II.

“I remember vividly coming across what seemed to be an entire regiment of Sherman tanks which had been completely annihilated. There were Shermans lying in heaps everywhere one looked, turrets blown off, hulls ripped apart, most had clearly been brewed up. . . . They had been advancing with the grain of the country and had clearly been taken by surprise from a flank. The follow-up echelon had then turned right-handed towards their tormentor, but had found little cover along their new line of advance. The author of all this carnage was one single Jagdtiger, whose immense bulk still occupied a perfect fire position in a farmyard at the top of a commanding hill feature.”

Source: nationalinterest.org

WW2 Quotes – The Best Quotes From World War II

The World War II, also known as the Second World War was the second global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The war was waged between two opposing military alliances: The Allies and the Axis. To date, this conflict remains remembered as the most significant military conflict in history. It directly involved over 30 countries and 100 million people. It was also the deadliest one as the number of people that lost lives during WW2 varies between 50 and 85 million.

This war had many massive battles, led by famous generals and military leaders. The countries involved had some of the most distinguished leaders in their histories. After their deaths, they weren’t only remembered as strong characters, but their words echo today same as they did back in the 40s. Here we are going to talk about some of the best WW2 quotes that remain remembered by many people. Another way for this unfortunate war to be remembered is by buying WW2 aviator wing as this piece represents the Axis aviator skull.

Here Are The Best WW2 Quotes

Neville Chamberlain – 3 September 1939

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by eleven o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you that no such understanding has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

Winston Churchill – 13 May 1940

“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Winston Churchill – 4 June 1940

“We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

Adolf Hitler – 5 June 1940

“Dunkirk has fallen… with it has ended the greatest battle of world history. Soldiers! My confidence in you knew no bounds. You have not disappointed me.”

Winston Churchill – September 1940

“Never in the field of human conflict, has so much, been owed by so many, to so few!”

Benito Mussolini – (to Adolf Hitler) 28 October 1940

“Fuhrer, we are on the march! Victorious Italian troops crossed the Greco-Albanian frontier at dawn today!”

Benito Mussolini
Source: footage.framepool.com

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 30 October 1940

“I shall say it again and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Adolf Hitler – March 1941

“The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness.”

Adolf Hitler on Churchill, May 1941

“As a soldier he is a bad politician and as a politician is an equally bad soldier.”

Source: www.biography.com

Benito Mussolini – to his son-in-law, 10 June 1941

“I’ve had my fill of Hitler. These conferences called by a ringing of a bell are not to my liking; the bell is rung when people call their servants. And besides, what kind of conferences are these? For five hours I am forced to listen to a monologue which is quite fruitless and boring.”

Josef Stalin – July 1941

“The Red Army and Navy and the whole Soviet people must fight for every inch of Soviet soil, fight to the last drop of blood for our towns and villages…onward, to victory!”

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 8 December 1941

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 9 December 1941

“We are now in this war. We are all in it, all the way.”

Source: providencemag.com

Admiral Halsey – December 1941

“Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell!”

Japanese Army Slogan

“To die for the Emperor is to live forever.”

Adolf Hitler – January 1942

“Everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it’s half Judaized, and the other half n*grified.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 23 February 1942

“This war is a new kind of war. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air lane in the world.”

Source: www.biography.com

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 23 April 1942

“People die, but books never die.”

Emperor Hirohito of Japan, 29 April 1942

“The fruits of victory are tumbling into our mouths too quickly.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 6 May 1942

“Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever.”

Winston Churchill – 10 November 1942

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Source: english.kyodonews.net

Adolf Hitler – 5 July 1943

“Soldiers of the Reich! This day you are to take part in an offensive of such importance that the whole future of the war may depend on its outcome.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower – 6 June 1944

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower – June 6, 1944

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

Source: www.thoughtco.com

Adolf Hitler – August 1944

“Defend Paris to the last, destroy all bridges over the Seine and devastate the city.”

Arthur “Bomber” Harris – 29 March 1945

“Attacks on cities are strategically justified in so far as they tend to shorten the war and so preserve the lives of allied soldiers.”

Adolf Hitler – March 1945

“If the war is lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue a most primitive existence. On the contrary, it will be better to destroy things ourselves because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation [Russia]. Besides, those who remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have been killed.”

Harry S. Truman – 13 April 1945

“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.”

Source: www.historyinanhour.com

The Life of Victor Emmanuel III

Who was Victor Emmanuel III? In 1900, Umberto I, who was the king of Italy, was assassinated and he was succeeded by Victor Emmanuel III. While his reign was a long one, we cannot quite say that it was prosperous. It ended in 1946, which means that he led Italy through two World Wars as well as the rise of Benito Mussolini and the fascists.

Brief Overview

Victor Emmanuel III was born on November 11, 1869. He was a short man, and Mussolini referred to him as the “little sardine,” whereas Wilhelm II, the German Kaiser called him dwarf. Italy unified in 1871, but it was a fragmented society even after this event. The coalition governments were weak and non-influential which means that the entire peninsula was fraught with corruption and poverty. As a king, Victor Emmanuel III was more concerned with the money than the current affairs at the time.

World War I

Source:20thcenturyhistory11a.files.wordpress.com

Italy was a part of the Triple Alliance since 1882, and the other two countries were Germany and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. However, when the war started in 1914, Italy was neutral at first, but their position of neutrality didn’t last long as they entered the war one year later. To everyone’s surprise, they turned their backs on their long-term allies and joined the Triple Entente comprising of Russia, GB, and France. The King of Italy was anxious to join the war because he wanted Italy’s reputation to improve.

The rise of Mussolini

Source:historykey.com

After the war, Italy continued to struggle with corruption while its people lived at the poverty line. Various movements were growing stronger, and the war was waging in the streets of Italy between anarchists, communists, and socialists, while on the brinks of society a new movement was being formed, threatening to engulf everyone who opposed it.

The fascists were led by Benito Mussolini who was in charge of the March on Rome with the demands for the new government to be formed. Initially, Victor Emmanuel III was disinterested, but Mussolini managed to convince him that such move would benefit the country. At one point, when fascist critic Giacomo Matteotti was murdered, it was believed that it would represent Mussolini’s demise, but he managed to stay afloat, partly thanks to the king who feared that the socialists might take over the power. After that, Victor Emmanuel III was marginalized and Mussolini assumed the position of the most powerful man in the country.

World War II

Source:pinterest

While Victor Emmanuel III wanted to enter the World War I, he wanted Italy to stay away from conflicts in the Second World War. However, Mussolini was too powerful to be stopped and he declared war on France and Great Britain in 1940, joining Germany and later Japan. Initially, Italy and Germany advanced, conquering territories, in Europe and northern Africa but in July 1943, Italy surrendered and the Italian Fascist Grand Council voted 19 to 8 to remove Mussolini from power. Mussolini tried to convince the king that the voting was not constitutional, but Victor Emmanuel III responded: “My dear Duce, it’s no longer any good. Italy has gone to bits… The soldiers don’t want to fight any more… At this moment you are the most hated man in Italy.”

Victor Emmanuel signed the armistice with the Allies on September 8th, and after that, he fled to the town of Brindisi from where he declared war on Germany.

Republic

One year after the World War II ended, so did the reign of Victor Emmanuel III. He was forced to leave his country and move to Egypt. He named his son Umberto II as his heir but on a national referendum in Italy, the people voted in favor of becoming a republic with 54.3 percent. With Victor Emmanuel III the Kingdom of Italy ended. He died in exile in 1947 at the age of 78. His son Umberto II continued his life in Switzerland where he died in 1983.

Source: historyinanhour.com

Battle of Kursk – The most misremembered battle of the World War II

The image of a Russian steppe filled with the hulks of burning Panther and Tiger tanks is the first thing that comes to mind when the Battle of Kursk is mentioned. Yet, many historians agree that image may be a wrong one.

Don’t get me wrong, Kursk was one of the greatest battles in human history, which saw more than three million men and approximately 8,000 tanks squaring off on a small patch of southern Russia. The battle lasted for almost two months if we add the Russian counter-offensive and included some epic tank clashes, like Prokhorovka battle, which is lauded as the greatest tank battle in history. This is just another myth about Kursk, which was ultimately proven wrong.

The reason for so many inaccuracies was that the original reports on the battle were heavily influenced by propaganda from both sides. Russians tried to make their victory even more significant, while Germans needed an excuse for the defeat they suffered. Only when the secret Soviet archives were opened after the fall of the Soviet Union, did the truth came out. Before we dwell into that, let’s see some background.

Source:dailyhistory.org

After the debacle at Stalingrad, the German army was in full retreat in southern Russia. The gap in German lines caused by the Soviet offensive threatened to collapse the entire front. It was only when Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was appointed the commander of the newly formed Army Group South and reinforced with the fresh II SS Panzer Korps from France that the Soviet steamroller was stopped, with massive casualties at both sides. The new front lines created a huge salient around Kursk, separating Army Groups Center and South.

German High Command, faced with allied landings in North Africa and an imminent threat of a second front opening up in Europe, was faced with a dilemma. It needed a victory on the Eastern front, a one that would allow it to prepare for the invasion of France and hopefully repulse Allied forces with enough losses that another invasion would be unthinkable. Manstein first proposed a defensive plan, one that would wait for the inevitable Russian attack and then flank it, destroying the enemy’s mechanized forces. Hitler rejected this, fearing the political repercussions of the defensive stance against Soviets.

Mainstein then proposed a plan that would ultimately become Operation Citadel, although even he wasn’t convinced Wehrmacht had enough strength left to carry it out. The plan envisioned two trusts at the Kursk salient, aimed at cutting it off and destroying it, thus opening a wast breach in Soviet defenses, which would be exploited by the fast-moving German panzers.

What German planners didn’t take into account is that anybody with a map could see that Kursk is the obvious target of the German attack and Soviets have spared no effort in creating the largest fortified area the world has ever seen. Miles after miles of fortifications spread across the steppe, blocking every possible line of attack. Not only that, but massive reserves were placed just behind the front lines, ready to pounce once the German offensive has exhausted itself.

To make things worse for Germans, Hitler refused to order the attack in May, deciding instead to wait for the new German tanks to reach the frontlines, thus granting Soviets another month to fortify, which they used to full effect.

Source:telegraph.co.uk

Once newly minted Panthers, Tigers, and Elephants were in position, Germany unleashed its panzers. In total, some 800,000 men, 3,000 tanks, and almost 10,000 artillery pieces sprang into action on a vast Russian steppe. They were met with 1.9 million men, more than 5,000 tanks, and 25,000 artillery pieces on the Soviet side. In the air, 2,000 Luftwaffe aircraft fought for the air supremacy against roughly half that of the VVS.

The northern pincer didn’t fare so well, becoming bogged down on the first day, despite having 89 new Elephant tank destroyers. The southern pincer, led by the II SS Panzer Korps managed to breakthrough the Soviet defense after a bloody battle, only to be met by the Soviet Fifth Guards Tank Army near the village of Prokhorovka. Some 290 German tanks clashed with more than 600 Soviet tanks in the morning of the July 12th. The result of the two-day battle was a clear German victory, who lost less than 50 tanks while managing to destroy between 300 and 400 Soviet ones. Furthermore, Germans were left in the possession of the battlefield, meaning that they managed to salvage a vast majority of both their and Soviet damaged tanks, reducing their losses even more. It was the events almost 2,000 miles away that decided the fate of the Kursk battle.

On July 10th 1943, Allied forces began the invasion of Sicily. Panicking, Hitler decided to transfer all SS and many Wehrmacht panzer divisions from Russia to Italy, in order to protect Germany’s southern flank, thus effectively ending Operation Citadel.

Soviet then started their counteroffensive, with fresh troops and tanks and managed to push Germans back on 2,000 kilometers wide front, inflicting heavy losses on Germans and forever ending Hitler’s dreams of conquering the Soviet Union.

In the end, it is worth saying that allies didn’t plan Operation Husky and landings on Sicily in support of the Soviets during the Battle of Kursk. It was a mere coincidence that two battles happened simultaneously, yet the effect was immediate and expected one. A significant portion of the German troops, especially very valuable panzer units, were transferred to Italy, thus allowing Soviet counteroffensive to be so successful. Of course, without the bravery and sacrifice of the Red Army, none of it would be possible in the first place.

Another popular myth about the Battle of Kursk is that Prokhorovka is the largest tank battle in history. That title goes to Battle of Brody, where in June 1941, 3,500 Soviet tanks tried to counter-attack German forces consisting of 750 tanks, only to suffer a defeat and heavy losses of more than 800 tanks.

Source:nationalinterest.org

The bottom line is that, while Battle of Kursk is a significant German defeat, it didn’t play such a vital role as propagandists on both sides wanted us to believe. One thing is true, it was the last major German offensive on the Eastern front. After Kursk, Germany was never in a position to amass such quantities of men and equipment as to challenge the Red Army.

Source: nationalinterest.org