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2 May 1943
War at Sea
German submarine U-465 sunk with all hands in the Bay of Biscay
During the 1930s, dance halls were popular venues for socializing, swing dancing and easing the economic stress of the Great Depression. Nowhere was this more true than in the uptown Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem, home of the famed Harlem Renaissance.
Style-conscious Harlem dancers began wearing loose-fitting clothes that accentuated their movements. Men donned baggy trousers with cuffs carefully tapered to prevent tripping long jackets with heavily padded shoulders and wide lapels long, glittering watch chains and hats ranging from porkpies and fedoras to broad-brimmed sombreros.
The image of these so-called “zoot suits” spread quickly and was popularized by performers such as Cab Calloway, who, in his Hepster’s Dictionary, called the zoot suit “the ultimate in clothes. The only totally and truly American civilian suit.”
British–American military staffs agreed during their meetings in Washington in January–March 1941 (the ABC-1 Conversations) to exchange military missions to facilitate planning for the eventuality of American entry in the war.  Major General James E. Chaney, an Army Air Corps officer, arrived in the United Kingdom on 18 May 1941, and on the following day, Headquarters, Special Observer Group (SPOBS), was established in London.  SPOBS also had the role of studying British use of Lend Lease supplies.  His formal title was the Special Army Observer in the United Kingdom and head of SPOBS. After the United States entered the war, SPOBS was succeeded by United States Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI), actually SPOBS under a new name. At the time of the ARCADIA Conference, December 1941 – January 1942, the decision was made to place the MAGNET forces (U.S. Forces for Northern Ireland) under the command of Maj. Gen. E.L. Daley, and make him in turn responsible to General Chaney, designated as CG, USAFBI. On 5 May 1942, Maj. Gen. John C. H. Lee became Commanding General, Services of Supply, U.S. Army Forces British Isles, and later deputy theater commander, ETOUSA.  On 8 June 1942, the United States Department of War officially established ETOUSA in its place. Its mission was to conduct planning for the eventual retaking of Europe and to exercise administrative and operational control over U.S. forces.
The 133rd Infantry Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division was the first United States Army unit sent to Europe in World War II. The first battalion arrived in Belfast in late January 1942, followed by the rest of the regiment in February. These units were designated as U.S. Army Northern Ireland Forces, later incorporated within the European Theater of Operations. The 133rd and 168th Infantry Regiments trained in the peat bogs, and performed border guard patrols between British Northern Ireland and the neutral Irish Free State. The remaining unit of the division, the 135th Infantry Regiment, arrived in May 1942.
From February 1944 the operational command was the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) which as an Allied command also had operational control of British and all other allied land forces and tactical airforces in the European theatre. Until SHAEF was operational ETOUSA liaised closely with the British in the planning and organising of Operation Overlord.
U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower had multiple command appointments he replaced Chaney in late June 1942, but in November he also commanded the Allied forces in Operation Torch through AFHQ. Operation Torch—the invasion of French North Africa—involving the 9th, 3rd Infantry and the 2nd Armored Divisions, initiated on 8 November 1942, was the first ground combat operations for the United States in World War II. 
Eisenhower then relinquished command of ETOUSA to Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews in February 1943, who was killed in an air crash in May. He was replaced by Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, former Chief of the Armored Force. In December 1943 it was announced that Eisenhower would be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In January 1944 he resumed command of ETOUSA and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. (Note that Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) was the headquarters of the Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, whereas the AFHQ was the headquarters of only the Allied forces.) He served in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945. From February 1944, SHAEF was the operational command and ETOUSA administrative command.
Some units were transferred between operational commands and administrative commands at different times. For example, the American 6th Army Group, which was set up under the Mediterranean Theater of Operations to oversee Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France between Toulon and Cannes, was passed to SHAEF (and into ETO) a month after the invasion which took place on 15 August 1944.
By the end of 1944, Eisenhower, through SHAEF, commanded three powerful Allied army groups. In the north British 21st Army Group commanded by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery ("Monty"), in the middle the American 12th Army Group commanded by General Omar N. Bradley, and in the South the American 6th Army Group commanded by Devers. The British 21st Army Group and French elements of the 6th Army Group were not part of ETOUSA, but by that stage of the war most of the operational forces under the command of SHAEF were American.
The ETOUSA planning staff in London was usually referred to by its Army Post Office number, "APO 887". After the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, ETOUSA became briefly U.S. Armed Forces Europe, then U.S. Forces, European Theater (USFET), and then, eventually, United States Army Europe.
Albert Coady Wedemeyer was chief author of the Victory Program, published three months before the U.S. entered the war in 1941, which advocated the defeat of the German armies on the European continent. When the U.S. entered the war after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the U.S. was at war with both Japan and Germany, a "Europe first" a modified version of his plan was adopted by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Under the German first policy, the plan was expanded to include the blueprint for the Normandy landings.
ETOUSA became United States Forces European Theater (USFET) from 1 July 1945 to 15 March 1947 and then European Command (EUCOM) 15 March 1947 to 1 August 1952. On August 1, 1952 the United States European Command (USEUCOM) was established with General Matthew Ridgway in command. Ridgway served concurrently as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) for NATO. USEUCOM absorbed all functions and elements of EUCOM and additionally assumed control of all US Air Force and US Navy forces in Europe.
The 16 officially recognized US military campaigns in the European Theater of Operations are: 
Military Naturalization During WWII
Henry B. Hazard, designated representative
of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, swears in Lt. Steve Pissanos,
Plainfield, N.J. as a citizen of the United
States in London, England. Lt Pissanos was
the first person to receive citizenship in the
European Theatre of Operations (May 3,
After the United States entered World War II Congress acted to provide for the expedited naturalization of noncitizens serving honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Second War Powers Act of 1942 (56 Stat. 182, 186) exempted noncitizen service members from naturalization requirements related to age, race, residence, any educational tests, fees, filing a declaration of intention, and enemy alien status. Later, a 1944 statute (58 Stat. 885) also eliminated the requirement for proof of lawful entry to the U.S.
Noncitizen service members who wished to naturalize still needed to show that they had served honorably, had good moral character, were attached to the principals of the Constitution, and had a favorable disposition toward the good order and happiness of the United States. No member of the military was forced to naturalize and service members did not “automatically” gain citizenship upon joining the Armed Forces. To become a citizen, a naturalizing service member needed to file a petition for naturalization and swear the required Oath of Allegiance.
During the War the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) oversaw the campaign to naturalize members of U.S. Armed Forces. Stateside, the INS worked with the military to identify noncitizen soldiers who wished to naturalize, helped soldiers complete the required petition, and organized swearing ceremonies. In many cases INS officials traveled to military camps to process large groups of soldier petitions. Because petitioners needed to swear the Oath of Allegiance in open court, a naturalization judge would then open a session of court at the camp and swear in the soldiers onsite.
The Second War Powers Act of 1942 also authorized the first overseas naturalizations in the nation’s history. Under its provisions, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization could authorize designated representatives to naturalize members of the Armed Forces serving outside of the U.S. This eliminated the need for soldiers stationed overseas to swear the oath in open court and, for the first time, allowed administrative officials to perform naturalizations. The Commissioner designated representatives from the Department of State and U.S. District Attorney’s Office, but INS officials conducted the majority of overseas naturalizations.
On December 4, 1942, INS Assistant Commissioner Thomas B. Shoemaker (who served as INS’s first designated representative for overseas naturalization) naturalized James A. Finnell Hoey in the Panama Canal Zone, making Hoey the first person to receive U.S. citizenship abroad. Over the next year Shoemaker went on to naturalize 289 service members overseas.
Over the course of the war, Henry B. Hazard, INS Director of Research and Educational Services, performed more overseas naturalizations than any other INS official—by a wide margin. Between February, 1943 and early 1945, Hazard traveled nearly 100,000 miles and visited six continents in order to naturalize 6,574 service members. This made him responsible for the vast majority of INS’s overseas naturalization (INS agency officials performed a total of 7,178 overseas naturalizations) and nearly half of alloverseas naturalizations during WWII (all designated government officials performed a total of13,587 overseas naturalizations) 1 . On April 3, 1946, the War Department recognized Hazard’s wartime service by awarding him the Medal of Freedom.
Hazard chronicled his wartime experiences in a series of articles for the Immigration and Naturalization Service periodical Monthly Review, including summaries of his earliest overseas naturalization trips (PDF, 226.14 KB) , his work in the Pacific Theater (PDF, 219.1 KB) , and a postwar reflection (PDF, 344.84 KB) . In October 1948, the Monthly Review also published INS Commissioner Watson B. Miller’s summary report on the Foreign Born in the U.S. military during WWII (PDF, 760.88 KB) .
*Full text issues of the Immigration and Naturalization Service Monthly Review are available through the USCIS History Library’s online catalog.
10 Most Daring, Dashing, Devastating Bombing Raids (WWII)
On May 17, 1943, the famous 617 Squadron of the RAF conducted a raid against dams on the Eder, Mohne, and Rohr rivers in Germany, using brilliantly designed special “bouncing bombs.” An incredible achievement in ingenuity and bravery, the 19 Lancaster bombers destroyed 2 dams and damaged a third, but lost 8 aircraft in the process, a measure of just how daring this raid really was. Here we list 10 of the most spectacular bombing raids of all time (but specifically of World War II), some famous and some infamous.
10. Dresden Firebombing, February 13-15, 1945.
Commemorated in the Kurt Vonnegut novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, massive air raids, the first raid consisting of 722 heavy bombers of the RAF and another 527 heavy bombers of the USAAF (plus well over 700 US P-51 Mustang fighters), destroyed the City of Dresden by a fiendish mix of high explosive and incendiary bombs, blowing and burning the city to rubble. Despite the war winding down and Dresden supposedly being a non-military city, the allies destroyed about 1600 acres of the heart of the city, killing about 25,000 people in the process. Most of those killed were civilians, making this raid possibly the most controversial bombing raid of the European theater. Nazi claims of 500,000 people killed, and other estimates as high as 200,000 dead have been refuted by recent investigation. Still, a beautiful city of dubious military value at that point in the war was gutted, and the debate continues. To make matters worse, the Czech city of Prague was accidentally bombed by 60 American B-17’s. On February 14th alone, there were 2100 US planes over eastern Germany! Incredibly, only 6 British bombers were lost and only 1 American bomber was lost. Of those British bombers, 3 were lost by being hit by bombs dropped from other bombers. Allied planners have fiercely defended the choice to bomb Dresden, pointing out various military facilities or installations of military value.
9. Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
The Japanese opened hostilities with the US by an unannounced attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii against US ships, planes and shore facilities. Employing 6 aircraft carriers launching 353 airplanes and 5 midget submarines launched by larger subs, the Japanese managed to sink 4 of the 8 battleships in the harbor and damage the other 4, sink 2 other ships and damage another 9 ships, destroy 188 airplanes and damage another 159, kill 2403 Americans and wound another 1178. Japanese losses were a relatively minor 29 aircraft destroyed with the loss of 65 airmen and sailors. All 5 midget subs were lost. This uneven score makes this surprise attack one of the most successful bombing missions of all time, and yet what the Japanese did not accomplish, failing to sink the US aircraft carriers and destroy the maintenance docks, torpedo storage, and fuel reserves, had more of an impact on the war than what they actually did destroy.
8. Fire Bombing of Tokyo, March 9-10, 1945.
In the deadliest single raid against the Japanese capital, 279 (of the 334 that took off) US B-29 bombers blasted Tokyo with mostly incendiary bombs, both napalm and napalm/phosphorus types. Burning the largely wooden city to the ground killed as many as 100,000 people and15.8 square miles of the city destroyed. in just this one raid, making it possibly the most deadly and destructive bombing raid in history. The city of Tokyo was targeted numerous other times, with as many as 200,000 total killed and a million made homeless. The US lost 14 bombers.
7. Adlertag (Eagle Day), August 13, 1940.
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered his air force (Luftwaffe) to destroy the British RAF in an aerial campaign of bombing that would draw the RAF fighters into the air where they could be destroyed. This campaign was kicked off with what was to be a spectacular German victory called Eagle Day, but resulted in failure to destroy the RAF, which continued to successfully defend Britain through the entire war. Adlertag was the beginning of what is known as The Battle of Britain. In attacks against numerous targets, the Luftwaffe employed their entire repertoire of bombers and fighters, while the RAF used mostly Hurricane and Spitfire fighters in defense. German losses were about 48 aircraft lost and another 39 severely damaged, while the British lost 14 fighters and 11 bombers, with a further 47 planes destroyed on the ground. In the war of attrition that followed, Germany could not sustain the losses in aircraft and aircrew while the RAF could and did. The Luftwaffe had around 2000 aircraft (about 1000 each of bombers and fighters) with at least 300 partaking in attacks on Eagle Day, while the RAF could only field about 675 aircraft of all types.
6. Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, August 9, 1945.
Although the success of the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing was encouraging, the weapon dropped on Nagasaki was an entirely different type, utilizing Plutonium in an implosion type of detonation with a significantly more powerful explosion, about 21kt vs. 16kt for the Hiroshima bomb. Bad weather, a faulty fuel pump, failed rendezvous with an accompanying B-29 all made the harrowing mission that much more dangerous as running out of fuel became a primary concern. Poor visibility resulted in a change of targets, but the alternate target, Nagasaki, was also under cloud cover. Rather than scrub the mission and try to return to base carrying the heavy weapon (10,300 pounds), quite possibly resulting in having to ditch the plane, bomb and all, made for the hard decision to defy orders and drop the bomb using radar aiming with no visual sight of the target. The bomb was successfully detonated and the bombers escaped the blast, but the aiming point was missed by at least 2 miles, reducing the damage and death to a still incredible 30,000 to 40,000 people killed in an instant, with many more thousands dying later of injuries, burns, and radiation.
5. Operation Carthage (Gestapo Headquarters Raid), March 21, 1945.
In an effort to free prisoners of the Gestapo (German secret police) in Copenhagen, Denmark before the Nazi’s could execute them all in the face of advancing allied armies, 18 British Mosquito light bombers were sent to destroy the Gestapo headquarters building in a precision attack. Another 30 American P-51 Mustang fighters would provide escort and suppression of enemy anti-aircraft fire during the raid. While the bombing of the headquarters went well, with 18 prisoners (resistance fighters) freed, collateral damage included the death of 125 Danish civilians (86 school kids) as well as 8 Danish prisoners and another 47 Danes working in the building. German losses were 55 men. Allied losses included 6 aircraft and 10 aircrew (9 killed, 1 captured), making this a particularly dangerous raid for the Mosquitoes. A similar raid against Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark took place on October 31, 1944, when 25 Mosquitoes hit the Gestapo building, killing about 200 Gestapo personnel and perhaps 30 Danes, but destroying a large quantity of Gestapo files.
4. Ploesti Raid (Operation Tidal Wave), August 1, 1943.
With petroleum supply and refining being a critical cog in the German war machine, it made sense for the Allies to target oil and fuel production sources. Ploesti, Romania, was a primary source of petroleum products for Germany and thus became a high priority target of Allied bombers. When 177 B-24 Liberator heavy bombers of the USAAF set out on a major raid on August 1, 1943, the aircrew knew they would be facing fierce defenses. Little did they realize that the raid would be the costliest in American aviation history, with 53 bombers destroyed, 55 more damaged, and 660 men lost (440 killed and 220 captured or missing). The horrible day is remembered as “Black Sunday” by US aviators, 5 of whom earned the Medal of Honor on that raid. German losses were a paltry 3 fighter planes and only 16 men killed. Within a few weeks of the raid, output of petroleum products was actually higher than before the bombing! One of the B-24’s that made it back to base was found to have 365 bullet holes in it.
3. Operation Chastise, May 16-17, 1943.
Utilizing highly specialized cylindrical bombs carried horizontally in a special carriage that rotated the bombs backwards at over 500 rpm, allowing them to skip across the reservoirs’ surface and then rolling down the face of the dam, staying up against the structure until reaching the prescribed depth and then blowing up, this mission was a technical masterpiece. Perfect altitude was maintained by special synchronized spotlights, and only after much debate and discussion about the allocation of resources was the raid finally approved. Heavy defenses cost the bombers dearly, with 53 men lost with the 8 bombers destroyed. The versatility of the Lancaster heavy bomber was showcased by this raid, as well as other raids where the “Lanc’s” dropped enormous bombs (10,000 and 20,000 pounders) that no other bomber of the time could have delivered.
2. Doolittle Raid, April 18, 1942.
After the devastating sneak attack against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US military in the Pacific was reeling, as was the shocked and furious American public. With one Japanese success after another, the US finally mounted an offensive action by flying 16 stripped down B-25B Mitchell twin engine medium bombers off the deck of the USS Hornet, something that had never been done at that time. The bombers, led by the famous military and civilian pilot Jimmy Doolittle, bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities causing light damage, but giving America a tremendous boost in morale. At the same time, the Japanese public and military were dealt a crushing blow in morale, and for the rest of the war numerous Japanese fighter planes were diverted from front line theaters to defend the homeland against potential future raids. The dangerous nature of the raid, accepted as a possible suicide venture, is demonstrated by the loss of 15 of the 16 bombers, and the deaths of 7 of the 80 airmen involved. (3 died in action, 4 died in captivity, 3 of which were executed). Another 4 crewmen lived out the war as POW’s.
1. Atomic bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945.
As no bomber had ever dropped an actual Atomic Bomb, not even in practice, the crew of the B-29 “Enola Gay” had to hope the scientists had calculated correctly that they could release the weapon and escape the blast area before being incinerated. With no fighter escort and flying in broad daylight, the Enola Gay and its chase planes (another 2 B-29‘s) were also highly susceptible to interception. As it was, the bomb was delivered precisely on target with devastating results, virtually destroying the city and killing as many as 100,000 people. Both B-29’s returned safely, but with constant reminders the rest of their lives of the death and devastation they had delivered that fateful day.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other raids would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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2 May 1943 - History
J. M. Satterthwaite reviewed the history of the Emporia trail in his Douglass Tribune, August 21, 1942. "One line of the trail went up the Cottonwood [to] about Cedar Point, came over the hills and down Cole creek, to the Walnut valley," the article reported. "Another route crossed the Cottonwood below the Falls, running over the hills to the south fork, and then through . . . Matfield Green, and over the summits to Sycamore Springs where the Walnut started thence down the Walnut through Chelsea." The route was widely used by immigrants in 1870 when Emporia was the end of the Santa Fe railroad.
Articles relating to Kansas history in recent issues of the Kansas City (Mo.) Times included: "Friends of Old Days in Kansas Saw Budding Genius of Negro Scientist [Dr. George Washington Carver]," by Paul I. Wellman, September 9, 1942 "Trails of a Pioneer Indian Chief Crossed in the Grand Lake Region [Cayuga Springs, Last Home and Burial Ground of Mathias Splitlog, One of Founders of Wyandotte, Kan.]," by J. P. Gilday, September 15 "When Smuggler, Pride of Olathe, Won Fastest Race Ever Trotted," by Jessie Hodges, October 8 "Kansas in the War Effort," November 3 "Abilene's 'Ike' Eisenhower Shines as Soldier, Scholar and Statesman," November 9 "Kansas Is Planning To Do Something With War Plants When Peace Returns," by Cecil Howes, February 3, 1943 "K. U. History Professor [Dr. James C. Malin] Concludes That John Brown Was a Bad Man [See Kansas Historical Quarterly, V. XII, pp. 110, 111]," by Paul I. Wellman, February 18, and "The Hills of `Old Town, [Kansas City, Mo.] Challenged and Evoked Spirit of the Pioneers," by J. P. Gilday, March 10.
Cecil Howes, head of the Topeka bureau of the Kansas City (Mo.) Star, wrote on the following Kansas historical subjects in the Star in recent months: "Kansas Small-Town Papers Always Gather a Bumper Crop of Personals," September 10, 1942 "One Man [J. W. F. Hughes of Topeka] Survives Kansas Political Uprisings of a Half Century Ago," September 23 "More About the Meaning of Kansas Place Names," September 25 "Lift Some of the Mystery of a. Rare John Brown Portrait [Picture in Governor's Office in Topeka]," September 27 "How Kansans of the Territorial Days Went About Getting Divorces," October 3 "Topekans Went in For Snappy Means of Locomotion in 1869," October 9 "Early Blackouts by Kansas Pioneers When Indians Were the Enemy," October
KANSAS HISTORY IN THE PRESS
㺐 "Sound on the Goose Question," October 20 "A Kansas Fund From Pioneer Days Is Helping to Win the War," October 23 "Good Samaritans of Kansas Farming Communities Are Pictured," November 4 "More About the Names of Kansas Towns," November 6 "Ghost Towns [Shawnee county]," November 12 "Soybean Production Was Known Early in Kansas But Only in Late Years Has It Become a Standard Crop," November 14 "The Story of the [Mrs. Kate A.] Aplington Art Gallery of Kansas," November 17 "Horace Greeley, Friend of Early Day Kansas, Didn't Like Some of the Rawness of the State When He Toured the Area," November 20 "Long Has the Contention Over Liquor in Kansas Been an Issue," November 24 "Kansas Began Early to Boost Itself Before the Rest of the Nation," November 27, and "Once Upon a Time There Was a `Gold Rush' in Kansas," December 11.
On October 8, 1942, the Hays Daily News published a thirty-two page "Hospitality Special" expressing the good will of residents of Hays "toward all those who temporarily will reside in this city and near the new Hays-Walker airfield until the new military base, now under construction, is completed." Included in the edition were two articles of historical interest: "Life and Death Struggles of Early Days on Plains Recalled by Pioneer," as recorded by Mrs. Mildred Cass Beason of Quinter, and "George Grant, Victoria Colonist, First to Bring Angus [Cattle] to Kansas."
The early history of Freemasonry in Lawrence was sketched by Dr. Edward Bumgardner in the Lawrence Daily Journal-World, October 28, 1942. Lawrence Lodge No. 6 was organized in 1855 and Acacia Lodge No. 9 in 1867. A more extensive history of Acacia lodge by Doctor Bumgardner was a feature of the seventy-fifth anniversary souvenir booklet issued late in 1942. It contained the roster of elective officers and names of all the members from the organization of Acacia to September 10, 1942.
A brief review of the life of the late Kate Stephens of Lawrence, by K. W. Davidson, was printed in the Topeka Daily Capital, November 15, 1942. Miss Stephens, a former professor at the University of Kansas, died in 1938. The university has recently announced receipt of a bequest of $30,000 from her estate, "the income from which is to be used to perpetuate the cultural idealism symbolized by the donor and the passion for justice which burned in the heart of and motivated the life of Judge Nelson Timothy Stephens, father of Kate, who was the founder of the university school of law."
220 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
The Russell Methodist Church observed the seventieth anniversary of its founding with a dinner meeting November 19, 1942. A history of the church, prepared by Judge J. C. Ruppenthal for the occasion, was published in the Russell Record of November 23. The Rev. John Connor, a circuit rider and local preacher of Ellsworth, organized the first class of fourteen members in Russell on December 19, 1872, according to Judge Ruppenthal.
"First Stranger Creek Bridge Built in 1857, It Is Claimed," was the title of an article in the Leavenworth Times, December 1, 1942, featuring a brief sketch of William Crutchfield, builder of the bridge, who was a prominent figure in early Kansas affairs.
The following Kansas historical subjects were discussed by Victor Murdock in the Wichita (Evening) Eagle in recent months: "First Wichita Attempt at Navigating the Air Not Attended With Success," January 4, 1943 "Movements in Money That Marked First Days in the Life of Wichita," January 5 "Talking Machine Arrival in Wichita Followed by Large Development Stage," January 9 "Incident of Big Blizzard That Brought a Blackout to Whole Prairie Region," January 11 "Food Was Put to Bed to Save From Freezing in Fiercest of Storms," January 12 "Wichita Was Hit Early by the Jersey Cow Craze Which Swept the Nation," January 15 "Early Day Cattleman Left Vivid Description of Experience in 1871-72," January 16 "Launching of Wichita Seventy-Three Years Ago Had Military Background," January 19 "An Architectural Style in Early Wichita Homes That Did Not Continue," January 28 "Vision of the Pioneer Seeking to Penetrate Future of the Prairies," February 3 "Early Figures Spurred Wichita at the Start to New Hope and Effort," February 5 "Early Zoological Start Was Made by Wichita With Prairie Animals," February 8 "First Sight of Wichita by Gen. William Hazen Seventy-four Years Ago," February 15 "When Wichita Town-lots Began Changing Hands With Advance in Prices," February 16 "Detailed Account Left of Late Big Bison Hunt in This Prairie Region," February 17 "Eagerness of Pioneers to Win From Prairies All Natural Resources," February 22 "Starting New Township Here in Sedgwick County Seventy Odd Years Ago," February 25 "Lone Tree Was Landmark Out West of Early Wichita Much in Traveler's Eye," February 26 "Wichita Showed Stamina When Three Years Old in Meeting First Panic," March 2 "Hints That Wichita Had From Older Sister City, Humboldt on the Neosho," March 3 "Correspondent of Eagle Who Wrote Able Account of a Buffalo Hunt Here," March 4 "Appear
KANSAS HISTORY IN THE PRESS 221
ance of Intuition in Some City-Builders in Picking a Winning Town," March 5 "When Little Arkansas Had Three Separate Names From Its Source to Mouth [Elcah, Ho-cah-hah-shinker, and Ute-cha-og-ra]," March 6 "Last Big Experience City of Wichita Had With the Buffalo Herds," March 11 "After Getting Railroad Wichita Busied Itself Letting Shippers Know," March 12 "City Most Lusty Infant at Its Third Birthday Wichita Visitors Noted," March 13 "When Capt. and Mrs. King From Big Texas Ranch Paid Wichita a Visit," March 19 "Inspiration to Industry That Wichita Caught Up From the Early Prairies," March 25 "Memory of Henry Tisdale, Prairie Pioneer of Vision, William Allen White Has," March 26 "Ugly Prairie Storms That Made Most Notable November in Year 1868," March 29 "In the Frontier Vanguard of the Prairie Invasion Were Saw and Grist Mill," April 1 "Famous Turkey Roost on Cimarron River Named For [Gen. Phil.] Sheridan," April 3 "Big Change in Cooking in Early Kansas Times Took Legs Off Skillet," April 6 "Experience of Pioneers With Their Livestock in Developing the Land," April 7 "Springs Gave Glamor to Dreams of Future in the Prairie Pioneers," April 13 "Isolation of Pioneers on the Vast Prairies Had Its Fascinations," April 15 "Early Wichita's Pride Over Its Possession of the Sixth Meridian," April 23, and "Thomas C. Battey, Early Traveler Over the Prairies, Wrote Down Details of His Trip This Way in 1871," April 30.
The origin of the town names of Westmoreland, Wamego, Rossville, St. Marys, Onaga, Havensville, Alma, Eskridge, Holton, Louisville, Silver Lake, Seneca, Manhattan and Topeka was recalled by Frank A. Miller, editor and publisher of the St. Marys Star, in the issue of January I4, 1943.
Interesting information on early-day Baxter Springs and the Baxter family, for whom the town was named, was contributed by Dolph Shaner to the Joplin (Mo.) Globe, January 17 and February 7, 1943. The Andreas-Cutler History of Kansas (1883), p. 1I61, reports the town was named for "A." Baxter, but Mr. Shaner's article, based on reminiscences of the late Barton J. Morrow, of Neosho, Mo., in 1926, and information from C. C. Baxter, a grandson who now lives at Dublin, Tex., shows that "John J." or "John L." Baxter was head of the family. "John J." Baxter was listed in the census of Kansas territory in 1857 as a resident of McGee (now Cherokee) county. He appeared again as "John J.," this time with
222 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
the names of his children, in the census of 1860, but the grandson reports the name as "John L."
"Santa Fe Trail Across Kansas Helped Save Great Northwest Territory for U. S. Just 100 Years Ago," was the title of an article by Henry L. Carey in the Hutchinson News-Herald, January 24, 1943.
Articles of historical interest to Kansans in recent issues of the Kansas City (Mo.) Star were: "Dave Payne, the Oklahoma Boomer, Gets a Permanent Memorial in New Biography [See Kansas Historical Quarterly, V. XII, pp. 111-I12]," by Paul I. Wellman, February 1, 1943 "William Allen White Takes a Brief Pause For Birthday Interview at 75," by Elmont Waite, February 10 "The Soldier From Junction City [Maj. Gen. John C. H. Lee, commander of Service of Supply] Who Must Deliver Goods For Eisenhower," by Marcel Wallenstein, February 20 "Long Service of Kansas Women [Miss Anna Speck and Miss Edith Wood] Ended by the Merit System," February 28 "Leaders of Industry Are Studying War at Ft. Leavenworth's Service School," March 4.
"Larned's First Newspaper Made Its Appearance in '73," was the title of an article in The Daily Tiller and Toiler, of Larned, March 17, 1943. The first paper, the Press, appeared June 10, 1873, and was described by Mrs. Isabel Worrell Ball writing in the Larned Eagle Optic, November 17, 1899. Brief biographical mention of Mrs. Ball was also included in the article. "Old St. John History," by Melba Cornwell Budge, and a page article by Miss Maude Doran entitled "Early History of Stafford County," with pictures of the county's three courthouse buildings, were features of the St. John News, March 18, 1943.
The "Pioneer Story" of Ezekiel Lafayette Smith, who settled in Crawford county November 11, 1871, was reviewed by his daughterin-law, Mrs. Lena Martin Smith, in a three-column article in the Girard Press, March 25, 1943.
A history of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Kansas and Adjacent States of the United Lutheran Church was featured in the Topeka Daily Capital, May 2, 1943. The synod was organized at a convention in Topeka November 5, 1868, and then consisted of eight churches with a membership of 261.
World War II Today: May 5
Germans advance north to Trondheim.
Norwegian government-in-exile established in London.
Major General Bernard Freyberg VC, is appointed by General Wavell to command approximately 40,000 British, New Zealand, Australian and Greek troops which are stationed on Crete. While a strong force on paper, these troops have virtually no artillery or tanks and are very disorganised after their hurried evacuation from Greece.
Emperor Haile Selassie returns to Addis Ababa 5 years after his country was occupied by the Italians.
Convoy PQ-15 arrives at Murmansk.
British forces land at Diego Suarez and Antsirene on Vichy French held Madagascar in an pre-emptive strike to stop the Japanese from using it as an advanced base.
The Japanese advance into China along the Burma Road.
Japanese troops make amphibious landings against the US-Filipino garrison on Corregidor.
The main Japanese striking force which is built around the carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku, enters the Coral Sea and bombs Port Moresby.
Japanese begin preporations to invade Midway and the Aleutian Islands.
British forces break through the defenses of the 5th Panzerarmee to the South of Tunis.
The Russians launch their attack the fortress city of Sevastopol in the Crimea.
The U.S. Third Army prepares to drive on to Prague.
German troops in Holland surrender to Canadian army.
German forces in Denmark surrender.
A civilian uprising begins in Prague and is aided by defecting units of the anti-Bolshevist Vlasov Army.
Admiral von Friedeburg arrives at General Eisenhower’s HQ in Rheims. General Blaskowitz, the German C-in-C of the Netherlands, surrenders at a ceremony in the small Dutch town of Wagenungen in the presence of Prince Bernhard. The first British victory salvo of war is fired at 3pm from Montgomery’s HQ. Amsterdam is liberated. Eisenhower announces the capitulation of German Army Group ‘C’, which was covering the front from Linz to Swiss frontier. The U.S. Third Army takes Pilsen, Karlsbad and prepares to drive towards Prague.
Mauthausen concentration camp is liberated.
Reverend Archie Mitchell and his wife and five children discover a deflated Japanese balloon containing a bomb that had been let loose in the West Winds traveling over the pacific to land in Oregon. It killed the wife and children, the only civilian casualties of the war on the continental United States.
Battle of Kursk: Germany’s Lost Victory in World War II
Following their disastrous defeat at Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-43, the German armed forces launched a climactic offensive in the East known as Operation Citadel on July 4,1943. The climax of Operation Citadel, the Battle of Kursk, involved as many as 6,000 tanks, 4,000 aircraft and 2 million fighting men and is remembered as the greatest tank battle in history. The high-water mark of the battle was the massive armor engagement at Prochorovka (also spelled Prokhorovka), which began on July 12. But while historians have categorized Prochorovka as a victory of improved Soviet tactics over German firepower and heavy tanks, new evidence casts the struggle at the ‘gully of death’ in a very different light.
The Germans’ goal during Citadel was to pinch off a large salient in the Eastern Front that extended 70 miles toward the west. Field Marshal Günther von Kluge’s Army Group Center would attack from the north flank of the bulge, with Colonel General Walther Model’s Ninth Army leading the effort, General Hans Zorn’s XLVI Panzer Corps on the right flank and Maj. Gen. Josef Harpe’s XLI Panzer Corps on the left. General Joachim Lemelsen’s XLVII Panzer Corps planned to drive toward Kursk and meet up with Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South, Col. Gen. Hermann Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army and the Kempf Army, commanded by General Werner Kempf.
Opposing the German forces were the Soviet Central Front, led by General Konstantin K. Rokossovsky, and the Voronezh Front, led by General Nikolai F. Vatutin. The Central Front, with the right wing strengthened by Lt. Gen. Nikolai P. Pukhov’s Thirteenth Army and Lt. Gen. I.V. Galinin’s Seventeenth Army, was to defend the northern sector. To the south, the Voronezh Front faced the German Army Group South with three armies and two in reserve. The Sixth Guards Army, led by Lt. Gen. Mikhail N. Chistyakov, and the Seventh Guards Army, led by Lt. Gen. M. S. Shumilov, held the center and left wing. East of Kursk, Col. Gen. Ivan S. Konev’s Steppe Military District (renamed Steppe Front on July 10, 1943) was to hold German breakthroughs, then mount the counteroffensive.
If their plan succeeded, the Germans would encircle and destroy more than five Soviet armies. Such a victory would have forced the Soviets to delay their operations and might have allowed the Wehrmacht desperately needed breathing room on the Eastern Front. Model’s Ninth Army never came close to breaking the Soviet defenses in the north, however, and soon became deadlocked in a war of attrition that it could not win. On the southern flank, Kempf’s III Panzer Corps, commanded by General Hermann Breith, also encountered tough Soviet resistance. By July 11, however, Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army was in position to capture the town of Prochorovka, secure a bridgehead over the Psel River and advance on Oboyan. The Psel was the last natural barrier between Manstein’s panzers and Kursk. The Fourth Panzer Army’s attack on the town was led by SS General Paul Hausser’s II SS Panzer Corps, General Otto von Knobelsdorff’s XLVIII Panzer Corps and General Ott’s LII Army Corps. Hausser’s corps was made up of three panzer divisions–the 1st Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (Adolf Hitler’s bodyguard), 2nd SS Das Reich (The Empire) and 3rd SS Totenkopf (Death’s Head). Although all three were technically Panzergrenadier divisions, each had more than 100 tanks when Citadel began. Knobelsdorff’s corps was composed of the 167th and 332nd infantry divisions, the 3rd and 11th panzer divisions, Panzergrenadier Division Grossdeutschland and Panther Brigade Decker, and Ott’s corps contained the 25th and 57th infantry divisions.
Opposing Hausser at Prochorovka was the newly arrived and reinforced Fifth Guards Tank Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Pavel A. Rotmistrov. The Fifth Guards was the Soviet strategic armored reserve in the south, the last significant uncommitted armored formation in the sector, with more than 650 tanks. The Soviet operational armored reserve, General Mikhail E. Katukov’s First Tank Army, was already in action against Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army south of the Psel. Katukov’s army had been unable to prevent the Germans from reaching the river, however. His VI Tank Corps, originally equipped with more than 200 tanks, had only 50 left by July 10 and 11, and the other two corps of Katukov’s army also had sustained serious losses. On July 10, the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf, commanded by SS Maj. Gen. Hermann Priess, had established a bridgehead over the Psel, west of Prochorovka. By July 11, the division’s panzer group had crossed the river on pontoon bridges and reached the bridgehead. What was left of Katukov’s armor regrouped to oppose the XLVIII Panzer Corps below Oboyan or counterattack the Psel bridgehead. Reinforced with the XXXIII Rifle Corps and X Tank Corps, Katukov launched continuous attacks on the Totenkopf units on the north bank of the river.
During the evening of July 11, Hausser readied his divisions for an assault on Prochorovka. Totenkopf anchored the left flank of the corps, while Leibstandarte, commanded by SS Maj. Gen. Theodore Wisch, was in the center, assembled west of the town between a rail line and the Psel. Das Reich, commanded by SS Lt. Gen. Walter Krüger, moved into its attack zone on the corps’ right flank, which was several kilometers south of Tetrevino and southwest of Prochorovka.
While Hausser’s SS divisions prepared for battle, there was feverish activity in the Soviet camp as well. On July 11, the Fifth Guards Tank Army arrived in the Prochorovka area, having begun its march on July 7 from assembly areas nearly 200 miles to the east. The army consisted of the XVIII and XXIX Tank Corps and the V Guards Mechanized Corps. Rotmistrov’s 650 tanks were reinforced by the II Tank Corps and II Guards Tank Corps, increasing its strength to about 850 tanks, 500 of which were T-34s. The Fifth Guards’ primary mission was to lead the main post-Kursk counteroffensive, known as Operation Rumyantsev, and its secondary mission was as defensive insurance in the south. The commitment of Rotmistrov’s army at such an early date is stark evidence of Soviet concern about the situation on the Psel. The Fifth Guards’ arrival at the Psel set the stage for the Battle of Prochorovka.
Prochorovka is one of the best-known of the many battles on the Eastern Front during World War II. It has been covered in articles, books and televised historical documentaries, but these accounts vary in accuracy some are merely incomplete, while others border on fiction. In the generally accepted version of the battle, the three SS divisions attacked Prochorovka shoulder to shoulder, jammed into the terrain between the Psel and the railroad. A total of 500 to 700 German tanks, including dozens of Panzerkampfwagen Mark V Panther medium tanks with 75mm guns and Panzerkampfwagen Mark VI Tiger heavy tanks with deadly 88mm cannons, lumbered forward while hundreds of nimble Soviet T-34 medium tanks raced into the midst of the SS armor and threw the Germans into confusion. The Soviets closed with the panzers, negating the Tigers’ 88mm guns, outmaneuvered the German armor and knocked out hundreds of German tanks. The Soviet tank force’s audacious tactics resulted in a disastrous defeat for the Germans, and the disorganized SS divisions withdrew, leaving 400 destroyed tanks behind, including between 70 and 100 Tigers and many Panthers. Those losses smashed the SS divisions’ fighting power, and as a result Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army had no chance to achieve even a partial victory in the south.
While it makes a dramatic story, nearly all of this battle scenario is essentially myth. Careful study of the daily tank strength reports and combat records of II SS Panzer Corps–available on microfilm at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.–provides information that forces a historical reappraisal of the battle. These records show, first of all, that Hausser’s corps began with far fewer tanks than previously believed and, more important, that they suffered only moderate losses on July 12, 1943. As those reports were intended to allow the corps commander to assess the combat strength of his divisions, they can be considered reasonably accurate. Considering that information, it seems that the Germans may have been near a limited success on the southern flank of the salient.
The number of SS tanks actually involved in the battle has been variously reported as high as 700 by some authorities, while others have estimated between 300 to 600. Even before the Battle of Kursk began, however, the II SS Panzer Corps never had 500 tanks, much less 700. On July 4, the day before Operation Citadel was launched, Hausser’s three divisions possessed a total of 327 tanks between them, plus a number of command tanks. By July 11, the II SS Panzer Corps had a total of 211 operational tanks–Totenkopf had 94 tanks, Leibstandarte had only 56 and Das Reich possessed just 61. Damaged tanks or tanks undergoing repairs are not listed. Only 15 Tiger tanks were still in action at Prochorovka, and there were no SS Panthers available. The battalions that were equipped with Panthers were still training in Germany in July 1943.
On July 13, the day after the Battle of Prochorovka, Fourth Panzer Army reports declared that the II SS Panzer Corps had 163 operational tanks, a net loss of only 48 tanks. Actual losses were somewhat heavier, the discrepancy due to the gain of repaired tanks returned to action. Closer study of the losses of each type of tank reveals that the corps lost about 70 tanks on July 12. In contrast, Soviet tank losses, long assumed to be moderate, were actually catastrophic. In 1984, a history of the Fifth Guards Tank Army written by Rotmistrov himself revealed that on July 13 the army lost 400 tanks to repairable damage. He gave no figure for tanks that were destroyed or not available for salvage. Evidence suggests that there were hundreds of additional Soviet tanks lost. Several German accounts mention that Hausser had to use chalk to mark and count the huge jumble of 93 knocked-out Soviet tanks in the Leibstandarte sector alone. Other Soviet sources say the tank strength of the army on July 13 was 150 to 200, a loss of about 650 tanks. Those losses brought a caustic rebuke from Josef Stalin. Subsequently, the depleted Fifth Guards Tank Army did not resume offensive action, and Rotmistrov ordered his remaining tanks to dig in among the infantry positions west of the town.
Another misconception about the battle is the image of all three SS divisions attacking shoulder to shoulder through the narrow lane between the Psel and the rail line west of Prochorovka. Only Leibstandarte was aligned directly west of the town, and it was the only division to attack the town itself. The II SS Panzer Corps zone of battle, contrary to the impression given in many accounts, was approximately nine miles wide, with Totenkopf on the left flank, Leibstandarte in the center and Das Reich on the right flank. Totenkopf‘s armor was committed primarily to the Psel bridgehead and in defensive action against Soviet attacks on the Psel bridges. In fact, only Leibstandarte actually advanced into the corridor west of Prochorovka, and then only after it had thrown back initial Soviet attacks.
Early on July 12, Leibstandarte units reported a great deal of loud motor noise, which indicated massing Soviet armor. Soon after 5 a.m., hundreds of Soviet tanks, carrying infantry, rolled out of Prochorovka and its environs in groups of 40 to 50. Waves of T-34 and T-70 tanks advanced at high speed in a charge straight at the startled Germans. When machine-gun fire, armor-piercing shells and artillery fire struck the T-34s, the Soviet infantry jumped off and sought cover. Leaving their infantry behind, the T-34s rolled on. Those Soviet tanks that survived the initial clash with SS armor continued a linear advance and were destroyed by the Germans.
When the initial Soviet attack paused, Leibstandarte pushed its armor toward the town and collided with elements of Rotmistrov’s reserve armor. A Soviet attack by the 181st Tank Regiment was defeated by several SS Tigers, one of which, the 13th (heavy) Company of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment, was commanded by 2nd Lt. Michael Wittmann, the most successful tank commander of the war. Wittmann’s group was advancing in flank support of the German main attack when it was engaged by the Soviet tank regiment at long range. The Soviet charge, straight at the Tigers over open ground, was suicidal. The frontal armor of the Tiger was impervious to the 76mm guns of the T-34s at any great distance. The field was soon littered with burning T-34s and T-70s. None of the Tigers were lost, but the 181st Tank Regiment was annihilated. Late in the day, Rotmistrov committed his last reserves, elements of the V Mechanized Corps, which finally halted Leibstandarte.
Das Reich began its attack from several kilometers southwest of Prochorovka and was quickly engaged by aggressive battle groups of the II Tank Corps and II Guards Tank Corps. Fierce, somewhat confused fighting broke out all along the German division’s axis of advance. Battle groups of 20 to 40 Soviet tanks, supported by infantry and ground-attack planes, collided with Das Reich regimental spearheads. Rotmistrov continued to throw armor against the division, and combat raged throughout the day, with heavy losses of Soviet armor. Das Reich continued to push slowly eastward, advancing into the night while suffering relatively light tank losses.
Meanwhile, on the left flank, Soviet First Tank Army elements unsuccessfully tried to crush Totenkopf‘s bridgehead. The SS division fought off the XXXI and X Tank Corps, supported by elements of the XXXIII Rifle Corps. In spite of the Soviet attacks, Totenkopf‘s panzer group drove toward a road that ran from the village of Kartaschevka, southeast across the river and into Prochorovka.
The fighting, characterized by massive losses of Soviet armor, continued throughout July 12 without a decisive success by either side–contrary to the accounts given in many well-known studies of the Eastern Front, which state that the fighting ended on July 12 with a decisive German defeat. These authors describe the battlefield as littered with hundreds of destroyed German tanks and report that the Soviets overran the SS tank repair units. In fact, the fighting continued around Prochorovka for several more days. Das Reich continued to push slowly eastward in the area south of the town until July 16. That advance enabled the III Panzer Corps to link up with the SS division on July 14 and encircle several Soviet rifle divisions south of Prochorovka. Totenkopf eventually reached the KartaschevkaProchorovka road, and the division took several tactically important hills on the north edge of its perimeter as well. Those successes were not exploited, however, due to decisions made by Adolf Hitler.
After receiving the news of the Allied invasion of Sicily, as well as reports of impending Soviet attacks on the Mius River and at Izyum, Hitler decided to cancel Operation Citadel. Manstein argued that he should be allowed to finish off the two Soviet tank armies. He had unused reserves, consisting of three experienced panzer divisions of XXIV Panzer Corps, in position for quick commitment. That corps could have been used to attack the Fifth Guards Tank Army in its flank, to break out from the Psel bridgehead or to cross the Psel east of Prochorovka. All of the available Soviet armor in the south was committed and could not be withdrawn without causing a collapse of the Soviet defenses. Manstein correctly realized that he had the opportunity to destroy the Soviet operational and strategic armor in the Prochorovka area.
Hitler could not be persuaded to continue the attack, however. Instead, he dispersed the divisions of the II SS Panzer Corps to deal with the anticipated Soviet diversionary attacks south of the BelgorodKharkov sector. On the night of July 17-18, the corps withdrew from its positions around Prochorovka. Thus, the battle for Prochorovka ended, not because of German tank losses (Hausser had over 200 operational tanks on July 17) but because Hitler lacked the will to continue the offensive. The SS panzer divisions were still full of fight in fact, two of them continued to fight effectively in southern Russia for the rest of the summer.
Leibstandarte was ordered to Italy, but Das Reich and Totenkopf remained in the East. Those two divisions and the 3rd Panzer Division, which replaced Leibstandarte, were transferred to the Sixth Army area, where they conducted a counterattack from July 31 to August 2 that eliminated a strong Soviet bridgehead at the Mius River. Without pause, the three divisions were then transferred to the Bogodukhov sector in early August 1943. Under the command of the III Panzer Corps, they were joined by another unit, the Fifth SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking. During three weeks of constant combat, the four divisions played a major role in stopping the main Soviet post-Kursk counteroffensive, Operation Rumyantsev. They fought Rotmistrov’s Fifth Guards Tank Army, rebuilt to 503 tanks strong, and major portions of the First Tank Army, now at 542 tanks.
By the end of the month, Rotmistrov had less than 100 tanks still running. Katukov had only 120 tanks still in action by the last week of August. While at no time did any of the German divisions have more than 55 tanks in operation, they repeatedly blunted the thrusts of the two Soviet tank armies, which were also reinforced by several rifle corps.
Totenkopf repeatedly cut off and defeated all of the First Tank Army’s thrusts toward the KharkovPoltava rail line. Das Reich threw back two Soviet tank corps south of Bogodukhov and blunted Rotmistrov’s last major attack west of Kharkov, and the III Panzer Corps halted Operation Rumyantsev.
After Kharkov itself fell, however, the German front gradually collapsed. The Soviets regrouped, committed additional strong reserves and renewed their attack toward the strategically important Dnepr River. Army Group South was subsequently forced to abandon much of southern Ukraine in a race for the safety of the Dnepr. Despite the remarkable efforts of the German army and Waffen SS panzer divisions during July and August, the Germans were too weak to hold the KharkovBelgorodPoltava sector after their summer losses.
It is apparent from their operations during the late summer that the SS panzer divisions were not destroyed at Prochorovka. This reassessment of the battle provides food for thought regarding possible German successes if Manstein’s panzer reserves had been utilized as he had intended.
To what extent the course of events in Russia would have been changed is, of course, unknown, but it is interesting to speculate. If Army Group South’s panzer reserve had been used to encircle and destroy the Fifth Guards Tank Army and the First Tank Army, the outcome of the war in Russia might have been significantly different. Although it was beyond the German army’s capabilities to force a military end to the war by the summer of 1943, a limited victory in the south could have resulted in a delay of Soviet strategic operations for months or perhaps longer. It is doubtful, however, that this pause would have lasted long enough for the Germans to transfer enough forces to the West to defeat the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion.
But one fact is beyond any question, regardless of the number of tanks possessed by the Germans or Soviets or what might have been possible. Due to Hausser’s panzer corps’ failure to take Prochorovka on July 12 and the subsequent misuse of German panzer reserves, the momentum of the Fourth Panzer Army was slowed dramatically. When Hitler abandoned Operation Citadel on July 13, the Germans’ last opportunity to influence events on a strategic level in the East was lost.
It is interesting that the information regarding German tank losses at Prochorovka has not been made available before now. Due to the lack of crucial primary-source information–especially the records of the II SS Panzer Corps on the Eastern Front–there had been no evidence to correct the erroneous accounts and impressions given in previous studies of the Eastern Front.
Waffen SS formations’ records of their Eastern Front operations were not declassified until 19781981. By that time, many of the major works about the Eastern Front had already been published. Later authors accepted the accounts of the battle as given in the earlier books and failed to conduct additional research. As a result, one of the best known of all Eastern Front battles has never been understood properly. Prochorovka was believed to have been a significant German defeat but was actually a stunning reversal for the Soviets because they suffered enormous tank losses.
As Manstein suggested, Prochorovka may truly have been a lost German victory, thanks to decisions made by Hitler. It was fortunate for the Allied cause that the German dictator, a foremost proponent of the value of will, lost his own will to fight in southern Ukraine in July 1943. Had he allowed Manstein to continue the attack on the two Soviet tank armies in the Prochorovka area, Manstein might have achieved a victory even more damaging to the Soviets than the counterattack that had recaptured Kharkov in March 1943.
This article was written by George M. Nipe, Jr. and originally appeared in the February 1998 issue of World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!
Ultra–The Misunderstood Allied Secret Weapon
THE FULL CONTRIBUTION OF INTELLIGENCE to the winning of World War II is clear only now, nearly 75 years after that conflict. Over the intervening decades it has been discovered that throughout the war the intelligence services of the Western powers (particularly the British) intercepted, broke, and read significant portions of the German military’s top-secret message traffic. That cryptographic intelligence, disseminated to Allied commanders under the code name Ultra, played a significant role in the effort to defeat the Germans and achieve an Allied victory.
The breaking of the high-level German codes began with the efforts of the Polish secret service in the interwar period. By creating a copy of the basic German enciphering machine, the Poles managed to read German signal traffic throughout the 1930s with varying degrees of success. However, shortly before the Munich conference in September 1938, the Germans made alterations to their enciphering machine–the so-called Enigma machine–and in mid-September, darkness closed over German message traffic. The Poles continued their work, however, and after France and Britain’s guarantee of Polish independence in March 1939, they passed along to the British what they had thus far achieved. Considerable cooperation had also existed earlier between the Poles and the French. Building on what they had learned from their Continental allies, British cryptanalysts finally cracked some of the German codes in April 1940, just before the great offensive against France and the Low Countries.
Other successes soon followed and gave Allied intelligence officers and commanders valuable insights into German intentions and capabilities. Nevertheless, the British were only able to break a small proportion of the specific codes used by the Wehrmacht. At the end of 1943, the Kriegsmarine, for example, used up to 40 different ciphers, all requiring different Enigma machine settings. During the Battle of the Atlantic, the transmissions from U-boats to shore and from the commander of submarines to his boats received the highest priorities from cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, the location of the British decoding efforts in Europe.
Even with the exceptional resources available there and at that time, it took experts several days and in some cases up to a week to find solutions for a particular day’s settings on the Enigma machine. The task of getting invaluable intelligence information out to the field where it could be of direct help was, of course, immensely difficult, especially given fears that if the Germans found out that their codes were being compromised on a daily basis, Ultra intelligence would dry up.
In 1940 during the Battle of Britain, this need for concealment was not great, but as the war spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, it became an increasing problem. Accordingly, the British and their American allies evolved a carefully segregated intelligence system that limited the flow of Ultra to a select number of senior officers. The Ultra information dissemination process lay outside normal intelligence channels. For example, the intelligence officers of the Eighth Air Force would not be aware of the existence of Ultra and would therefore not know the duties of the Ultra liaison officers. Those officers, in turn, would forward Ultra intelligence only to the commanders of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. The system seems to have worked, for the Germans never caught on to how extensively their ciphers had been compromised.
Unfortunately, there were drawbacks. Intelligence is used only if it reaches those who understand its significance. Three specific incidents underline this point with great clarity. The first occurred in early September 1944, as Allied armies pursued the beaten Wehrmacht to the Third Reich’s frontiers. On September 5, Bletchley Park made the following decryption available to Allied commanders in Western Europe:
For rest and refit of panzer formations, Heeresgruppe Baker [Army Group B] ordered afternoon fourth [September 4] to remain in operation with battleworthy elements: two panzer, one-six panzer [Second, Sixteenth Panzer Divisions], nine SS and one nought [Ninth, Tenth] SS panzer divisions, elements not operating to be transferred by AOK [controlling army] five for rest and refit in area Venloo-Arnhem-Hertogenbosch.
This intelligence, along with a second confirmation on September 6, indicated that at the very time when the British-planned Operation Market-Garden was moving forward, some of Germany’s best panzer divisions would be refitting in the town selected as the goal of the British First Airborne Division and the operation’s final objective on the Rhine–Arnhem. Putting this message together with intelligence that soon emerged from the Dutch underground in Holland that SS panzer units were refitting in the neighborhood of Arnhem, Allied commanders should have recognized that Operation Market-Garden had little prospect of success. Unfortunately, they did not put these pieces together, and officers at the highest level at Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery’s headquarters who had access to Ultra also failed to draw the correct conclusions.
A second example comes from a period three months after Operation Market-Garden, in December 1944. An unfortunate result of the rush to publish after the existence of Ultra became known to the public in the early 1970s has been the appearance of a number of legends. One of the most persistent is the belief that Ultra gave no advance warning to Allied commanders in December 1944 that the Germans were about to launch a major thrust through the Ardennes. Admittedly, Hitler’s intuition suggested to him that German security had been compromised and led him to undertake a series of unprecedented measures to veil the Ardennes attack. Still, there were overt indications even in the high-level codes about German operational intentions. Ultra, however, pointed to a number of other indicators. These suggested that the Wehrmacht was moving supplies of ammunition and fuel into the region behind the Ardennes. Since the Germans were desperately low on such materiel, the allocations of resources could only portend major operations to come in the Ardennes. The German high command had no reason to expect that the Allies were planning to launch a major offensive in this area, especially since they were so obviously trying to kick in the door to the Reich at so many other points. Unfortunately, the mood in the higher Allied headquarters and in intelligence circles was euphoric–the war was almost over, and the Germans could not possibly launch an offensive.
The third case of Ultra information not being used occurred during the Battle of the Atlantic. By 1943 the Allies were using Ultra, when available, in moving their convoys across the North Atlantic, so that the great formations of merchant shipping could avoid submarine patrol lines. In one particular case, decodings had picked up a heavy concentration of German submarines north of the Azores. Thus, a major convoy of aviation fuel tankers from the refineries at Trinidad to the Mediterranean was rerouted to the south of the Azores. Unfortunately, because his escorts needed refueling and the weather was better north of those islands, the convoy commander disregarded his instructions, sailed north of the Azores, and ran smack into the U-boats. Only two tankers reached port. What made the episode even more surprising was the fact that the convoy commander had just served a tour of duty in the Admiralty’s convoy and routing section, where he surely must have had some awareness of the reasons for rerouting convoys.
If some commanders occasionally misused Ultra intelligence, such instances were the exception rather than the rule. It is, however, difficult to assess Ultra’s full impact on the conflict. At times, particularly early in the war, no matter how much Ultra informed the British of German intentions, the Wehrmacht’s overwhelming superiority made successful use of the information virtually impossible. For example, decoded Enigma messages in the spring of 1941 warned the British about German intentions against the Balkan states, first Greece and then–after the anti-German coup in Yugoslavia–against that country as well. Such intelligence, of course, was of extremely limited value due to the overwhelming forces that Hitler deployed in the region.
On the other hand, the intercepts and decrypts in the summers of 1941 and 1942 gave the British government, and Churchill in particular, an accurate picture of Erwin Rommel’s tank strength. That information indicated that the British army had considerable superiority in numbers in the North African theater against the Afrika Korps. These quantitative returns could not indicate, however, such factors as the technological superiority of German tanks and particularly the qualitative edge in doctrine and training that the Germans enjoyed. The intercepts, however, explain why Churchill kept consistent pressure on British Eighth Army commanders to attack the Afrika Korps.
In war, so many factors other than good intelligence impinge on operations that it is difficult to single out any one battle or period in which Ultra alone was of decisive import. Yet there was least one instance in which decrypted German codes did play a decisive role in mitigating enemy capabilities.
By the first half of 1941, as more and more U-boats were coming on line, the German submarine force was beginning to have a shattering impact on the trade routes on which the survival of Britain depended. The number of of British, Allied, and neutral ships sunk climbed ominously upward.
Through spring 1941, the British had had little luck in solving the Kriegsmarine’s ciphers. But in mid-May 1941, they captured not only a German weather trawler with considerable material detailing settings for naval codes but also a U-boat, U-110, with its cipher machine and all accompanying material. With these seizures, British intelligence gained the navy Enigma settings for the next two months. As a result, the British were able to break into U-boat message traffic at the end of May. Because German submarines were closely controlled from shore, and a massive amount of signaling went back and forth to coordinate movement of ‘wolfpacks (groups of U-boats), the British gained invaluable information ranging from the number of U-boats available, to tactical dispositions and patrol lines. Moreover, once they had two months’ experience reading the naval message traffic, British cryptologists continued breaking submarine transmissions for the next five months. The impact of this intelligence on the Battle of the Atlantic was immediate and crucial.
The dramatic decline in sinkings (compared with those that had occurred during the first five months of 1941) cannot be explained other than that Ultra gave the British a crucial edge over their undersea opponents. No new technology, no increase in escorts, and no extension of air coverage can be credited. Ultra alone made the difference.
Unfortunately for the Anglo-American powers, within two months of the United States’ entry into the war the Germans introduced an entirely new Enigma key setting, Triton, that closed off Ultra decryptions for the remainder of 1942. Thus, right when the vulnerable eastern and southern coasts of the United States opened up to U-boat attacks, Ultra intelligence on German intentions and operations ceased. Direction-finding intelligence was available, of course, but it remained of limited assistance. The Battle of the Atlantic in 1942 was a disaster for the Allies.
When the Germans turned their full attention back to the North Atlantic in early 1943, enormous convoy battles occurred with increasing frequency. Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz had nearly 100 submarines in the North Atlantic. In opposition, the Allies possessed greater numbers of escort vessels, including escort carriers whose aircraft now made the shadowing of convoys by U-boats almost impossible. Moreover, long-range aircraft from Newfoundland, Iceland, and Northern Ireland were reaching farther into the Atlantic.
At the beginning of 1943, the Allied naval commanders enjoyed one further advantage. Bletchley Park had once again broken the German naval ciphers. That intelligence was not quite as useful as the Ultra intelligence of 1941 that had allowed the British to steer convoys around U-boat concentrations. At times, the Allies were able to carry out similar evasive operations, but the number of German submarines at sea at any given point made such maneuvers increasingly difficult and often impossible. From March to May 1943, the U-boat onslaught badly battered Allied convoys. In May, however, the Allies smashed the U-boat threat so decisively that Dönitz ended the battle. Ultra intelligence played a major role in the turnaround. Because of increases in Allied escort strength and long-range aircraft patrols, one must hesitate in identifying Ultra as decisive by itself. Yet the leading German expert on the Battle of the Atlantic, Jrgen Rohwer, does note:
I am sure that without the work of many unknown experts at Bletchley Park…the turning point of the Battle of the Atlantic could not have come as it did in May 1943, but months, perhaps many months, later. In that case the Allied invasion of Normandy could not have been possible in June 1944, and there would have ensued a chain of developments very different from the ones which we have experienced.
Belatedly, Ultra began affecting the air war on both the tactical and the strategic levels. British decoding capabilities during the Battle of Britain did not provide major help to Fighter Command. Similarly, for the first three years of Bomber Command’s war over the Continent, Ultra yielded little useful intelligence. On the other hand, throughout 1942 and 1943, Ultra provided valuable insights into what the Germans and Italians were doing in the Mediterranean and supplied Allied naval and air commanders with detailed, specific information on the movement of Axis convoys from Italy to North Africa. By March 1943, Anglo-American air forces operating in the Mediterranean had succeeded in shutting down Axis seaborne convoys to Tunisia. Allied information was so good, in fact, that after a convoy had been hit, the German air corps located in Tunisia reported to its higher headquarters, ironically in a message that was intercepted and decoded:
The enemy activity today in the air and on the sea must in [the] view of Fliegerkorps Tunis, lead to the conclusion that the course envisaged for convoy D and C was betrayed to the enemy. At 0845 hours a comparatively strong four-engine aircraft formation was north of Bizerte. Also a warship formation consisting of light cruisers and destroyers lay north of Bizerte, although no enemy warships had been sighted in the sea area for weeks.
As was to be the case throughout the war, the Germans then drew the conclusion that traitors either in their own high command or elsewhere–in this case, in the Commando Supremo, the Italian high command–had betrayed the course of the convoys.
In the battles for control of the air over Sicily, Ultra proved equally beneficial. It enabled the Allies to take advantage of German fuel and ammunition shortages and to spot Axis dispositions on the airfields of Sicily and southern Italy.
In regard to U.S. strategic bombing, however, Ultra may have exerted a counterproductive influence in 1943. Luftwaffe message-traffic intercepts indicated quite correctly how seriously Allied air attacks were affecting the German air wing, but these intercepts may have prompted Lt. Gen. Ira Eaker, the U.S. Eighth Air Force’s commander, to go to the well once too often. The second great attack on Schweinfurt in October 1943, as well as the other great bomber raids of that month, proved disastrous for the Eighth Air Force crews who flew the missions. The Eighth lost sixty bombers in the Schweinfurt run.
Moreover, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ theories about the vulnerability of the German economy to precision bombing proved somewhat unrealistic. While bomber attacks did inflict heavy damage on German aircraft factories, the industry was in no sense destroyed. Likewise, attacks on ball-bearing plants failed to have a decisive impact. True, damage to Schweinfurt caused the Germans some difficulties, but the batterings that the Eighth’s bombers sustained in the August and October raids were such that, despite intelligence information that the Germans would be back in business quickly, the Eighth could not afford to again repeat the mission.
In 1944, however, the Eighth’s capabilities and target selection changed. Most important, the Eighth Air Force received long-range fighter support to make deep penetration raids possible. The initial emphasis in American strategic bombing attacks in late winter and early spring 1944 lay first on hitting the German aircraft industry and then on preparing the way for the invasion of the Continent. In May, Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, commander in chief of U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, persuaded Allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower that he possessed sufficient bomber strength to support both the invasion and a new offensive that would be aimed at taking out Germany’s oil industry. In attacking that industry, Spaatz hit the Germans at their most vulnerable economic point. Not only did attacks on the oil facilities have an immediate impact on the Wehrmacht’s mobility, but fuel shortages soon prevented the Germans from training a new generation of pilots to replace those who were lost in the air battles of the spring.
On May 12, 1944, 935 B-24s attacked synthetic oil plants throughout Germany. Almost immediately, the Eighth’s commanders received confirmation from Ultra that these strikes had threatened Germany’s strategic position. On May 16, Bletchley Park forwarded to the Eighth an intercept canceling a general staff order that Luftflotten (Air Fleets) 1 and 6 surrender five heavy and four light or medium flak batteries each to Luftflotte 3, which was defending France. Those flak batteries were to move instead to protect the hydrogenation plant at Troglitz, a crucial German synthetic fuel facility. In addition, four heavy flak batteries from Oschersleben, four from Wiener Neustadt, and two from Leipzig-Erla, where they were defending aircraft factories, were ordered to move to defend other synthetic fuel plants.
This major reallocation of air defense resources was a clear indication of German worries about Allied attacks on the oil industry. On May 21, another Ultra decrypt noted: Consumption of mineral oil in every form [must] be substantially reduced…in view of effects of Allied action in Rumania and on German hydrogenation plants extensive failures in mineral oil production and a considerable reduction in the June allocation of fuel, oil, etc., were to be expected. On May 28 and 29, 1944, the Eighth Air Force returned to launch another attack on the oil industry. These two attacks, combined with raids that the Italy-based Fifteenth Air Force had launched against Ploesti, reduced German fuel production by 50 percent. On June 6, Bletchley Park passed along the following decrypted statement:
Following according to OKL [German Air Force high command] on Fifth [of June]. As a result of renewed interference with production of aircraft fuel by Allied actions, most essential requirements for training and carrying out production plans can scarcely be covered by quantities of aircraft fuel available. Baker four allocations only possible to air officers for bombers, fighters and ground attack, and director general of supply. No other quota holders can be considered in June. To assure defense of Reich and to prevent gradual collapse of German air force in east, it has been necessary to break into OKW [German Armed Forces high command] reserves.
Throughout the summer, German engineers and construction gangs scrambled to put Germany’s oil plants back together. Allied bombers, however, promptly returned to undo their efforts. During the remainder of the year, Allied eyes, particularly those of American bomber commanders, remained fixed on Germany’s oil production. The punishing, sustained bombing attacks prevented the Germans from ever making a lasting recovery in production of synthetic fuel. Clearly, Ultra played a major role in keeping the focus of the bombing effort on those fuel plants. Albert Speer, the German minister of armaments and munitions, had warned Hitler after the first attack in May 1944: The enemy has struck us at one of our weakest points. If they persist at it this time, we will no longer have any fuel production worth mentioning. Our one hope is that the other side has an air force general staff as scatterbrained as ours.
Speer’s hopes were not realized, largely because Ultra relayed to Allied air commanders the size and successes of German reconstruction efforts, as well as the enormous damage and dislocations to Germany’s military forces that the bombing of the oil industry was causing. The intelligence officer who handled Ultra messages at the Eighth Air Force reported after the war that the intercepts indicated that shortages were general and not local. This fact, he testified, convinced all concerned that the air offensive had uncovered a weak spot in the German economy and led to [the] exploitation of this weakness to the fullest extent.
On the level of tactical intelligence, during the execution of Operation Overlord, Ultra also provided immensely useful information. Intercepts revealed a clear picture of German efforts and successes in attempting to repair damage that the Allied air campaign was causing to the railroad system of northern France. A mid-May staff appreciation signed by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander in chief West, warned that the Allies were aiming at the systematic destruction of the railway system and that the attacks had already hampered supply and troop movements. Ultra intelligence made clear to Allied tactical air commanders how effective the attacks on the bridge network throughout the invasion area were and the difficulties that German motorized and mechanized units were having in moving forward even at night.
Ultra also gave Western intelligence a glimpse of the location and strength of German fighter units, as well as the effectiveness of attacks carried out by Allied tactical aircraft on German air bases. Furthermore, these intercepts indicated when the Germans had completed repairs on damaged fields or whether they had decided to abandon operations permanently at particular locations. Armed with this information, the Allies pursued an intensive, well-orchestrated campaign that destroyed the Germans’ base structure near the English Channel and invasion beaches. These attacks forced the Germans to abandon efforts to prepare bases close to the Channel and instead to select airfields far to the southeast, thereby disrupting German plans to reinforce Luftflotte 3 in response to the cross-Channel invasion. When the Germans did begin a postinvasion buildup of Luftflotte 3, the destruction of forward operating bases forced it to select new and inadequately prepared sites for reinforcements arriving from the Reich. Ultra intercepts proceeded to pick up information on much of the move, which indicated bases and arrival times for the reinforcing aircraft. Another substantial contribution of Ultra to Allied success was its use in conjunction with air-to-ground attacks. Ultra intercepts on June 9 and 10 revealed to Allied intelligence the exact location of General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg’s Panzer Group West headquarters. Obligingly, the Germans left their vehicles and radio equipment in the open. The subsequent air attack not only destroyed most of Panzer Group West’s communications equipment but also killed seventeen officers, including the chief of staff. The strike effectively eliminated the headquarters and robbed the Germans of the only army organization they had in the West that was capable of handling large numbers of mobile divisions.
Why were the British able to break some of the most important German codes with such great regularity and thereby achieve such an impact on the course of the war? The Germans seem to have realized midway through the conflict that the Allies were receiving highly accurate intelligence about their intentions. Nevertheless, like postwar historians, they looked everywhere but at their own encrypted transmissions. Enthralled with the technological expertise that had gone into the construction of Enigma, the Germans excluded the possibility that the British could decrypt their signals. After the sinking of the great battleship Bismarck in May 1941 and the rapid clearance of the supply ships sent out ahead of her from the high seas, the Kriegsmarine did order an inquiry. Headed by a signals man (obviously with a vested interest in the results), the board of inquiry determined that the British could not possibly have compromised the Enigma system. Rather, the panel chose to blame the disaster on the machinations of the fiendishly clever British secret services. By 1943, the success of British anti-submarine measures in the Atlantic once again aroused German suspicions that their ciphers had been compromised. In fact, the commander of U-boats suggested to German naval intelligence that the British Admiralty had broken the codes: B.D.U [the commander of U-boats] was invariably informed [in reply] that the ciphers were absolutely secure. Decrypting, if possible at all, could only be achieved with such an expenditure of effort and after so long a period of time that the results would be valueless. One British officer serving at Bletchley Park recalled that German cryptographic experts were asked to take a fresh look at the impregnability of the Enigma. I heard that the result of this ‘fresh look’ appeared in our decodes, and that it was an emphatic reassertion of impregnability.
The Germans made a bad situation worse by failing to take even the most basic security measures to protect their ciphers. In fact, a significant portion of Bletchley Park’s success was due to procedural mistakes that the Germans made in their message traffic. Among basic errors, the Germans started in midwar to reuse the discriminate and key sheets from previous months rather than generate new random selection tables. If that were not enough, they (particularly the Luftwaffe) provided a constant source of cribs, which were the presumed decrypted meanings of sections of intercepted text. They enabled the British to determine Enigma settings for codes already broken. The cribs turned up in the numerous, lengthy, and stereotyped official headings normally on routine reports and orders, all sent at regular times throughout the day. According to Gordon Welchman, who served at Bletchley Park for most of the war, We developed a very friendly feeling for a German officer who sat in the Qattara Depression in North Africa for quite a long time reporting every day with the utmost regularity that he had nothing to report.
The German navy proved no less susceptible to such mistakes. Dönitz’s close control of the U-boat war in the Atlantic depended on an enormous volume of radio traffic. The volume itself was of inestimable help to the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park. Although the Germans introduced a fourth rotor into the Enigma in March 1943, thereby threatening once again to impose a blackout on their North Atlantic operations, the new machines employed only a small fraction of their technical possibilities. Unfortunately for the U-boats, there was also considerable overlap between old and new Enigmas. As a result of these and other technical errors, the British were back into U-boat radio transmissions within ten days of the changeover. Furthermore, at about the same time, Bletchley Park decrypted a signal to U-boat headquarters indicating that the Germans were breaking the Allied merchant code.
One final incident should serve to underline the high price of German carelessness where security discipline was concerned. Bismarck had broken out into the central Atlantic in May 1941 on a raiding expedition. After sinking the battle cruiser HMS Hood, the battleship managed to slip away from shadowing British cruisers. The pursuing British admiral decided at 1800 hours on May 25 that the German battleship was making for Brest. Within an hour, the Admiralty had confirmation of that opinion through a Luftwaffe, not Kriegsmarine, intercept. Luftwaffe authorities had radioed their chief of staff, then visiting Athens during the German invasion of Crete, that Bismarck was heading for Brest.
Obviously, there are important lessons that we can draw from these German errors. To begin with, as Patrick Beesly, who worked closely with the naval Ultra throughout the war, notes, While each nation accepted the fact that its own cryptanalysts could read at least some of their enemy’s ciphers, they were curiously blind to the fact that they themselves were being subjected to exactly the same form of eavesdropping. Above all, the Germans seem to have been overly impressed with their presumed superiority in technology. Thus, not only did they make elemental mistakes in their communications discipline, but they arrogantly refused to believe that their enemies might have technological and intelligence capabilities comparable to their own.
In recent years, considerable interest has arisen regarding German operational and tactical competence on the field of battle. There is an important subheading to that competence. While historians and military analysts tell us that the Germans were extraordinarily proficient in the operational and tactical spheres, we should also recognize that the Germans were incredibly sloppy and careless in the fields of intelligence, communications, and logistics, and consistently (and ironically) held their opponents in contempt in those fields. We would be wise to examine the German example closely in all aspects of World War II. We can learn much from the Germans’ high level of competence in the tactical and operational fields. Equally, we have much to learn from their failures in other areas. Above all, the German defeat in World War II suggests that to underestimate the capabilities and intelligence of one’s enemies is to suffer dangerous and damaging consequences to one’s own forces. MHQ
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2002 issue (Vol. 14, No. 3) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Ultra–The Misunderstood Allied Secret Weapon
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