Interesting Facts and Stories

Louis

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Anton Ludwig August von Mackensen (6 December 1849 – 8 November 1945), was a German soldier and field marshal. He commanded with success during the First World War and became one of the German Empire's most prominent military leaders.



After the Armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year. He retired from the army in 1920 and was made a Prussian state councillor in 1933 by Hermann Göring. Mackensen, a nationalist rather than a National Socialist, frequently appeared at Nazi functions wearing his imperial cavalry uniform and became a major symbol of the integration of the Second and Third Reichs.

In October 1915, Mackensen, in command of the newly formed Army Group Mackensen (Heeresgruppe Mackensen, which included the German 11th army, Austro-Hungarian 3rd army, and Bulgarian 1st army), led a renewed German-Austro-Hungarian-Bulgarian campaign against Serbia. The campaign finally crushed effective military resistance in Serbia but failed to destroy the Serbian army, which, though cut in half, managed to withdraw to Entente-held ports in Albania and, after recuperation and rearmament by the French, reentered fighting on the Macedonian front.

During the fight for Belgrade, the troops of the Central Powers encountered a very stiff resistance, so Mackensen erected a monument to the Serbian soldiers who died defending Belgrade, saying, "We fought against an army that we have heard about only in fairy tales."
 
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Here is the story about Major Dragutin Gavrilovic and his defense of Belgrade in October 1915.

Dragutin Gavrilović (1882-1945) was a notable Serbian and, later, Yugoslav military officer.
Gavrilović was born in Čačak, Serbia, in 1882. After his graduation from the military academy in Belgrade in 1901, he took part in every war the Serbian army fought until World War II.

He is remembered in Serbian history books for his dramatic order to his troops issued on October 7, 1915, the first day of the defense of Belgrade against the Austro-Hungarian and German attack during the First World War. Holding the rank of major, Gavrilović at the time commanded the 2nd battalion of the 10th Cadre Regiment, which, along with a detachment of Belgrade gendarmerie and a group of about 340 volunteers from Syrmia, was defending positions at the very confluence of Sava and Danube, beneath the Kalemegdan Fortress. In the early morning, Austro-Hungarian troops attacked across the rivers after a heavy two-day artillery barrage, but the Serbians in a series of counterattacks trapped the invaders against the Danube in this sector with heavy casualties on both sides. The Serbian position grew worse every minute because of an incessant flow of Austro-Hungarian reinforcements and a vast superiority in artillery, which the Serbs countered by employing close-quarter tactics. Preparing his already decimated troops for a decisive attack, Major Gavrilović addressed them with these words:

"Soldiers, exactly at three o'clock, the enemy is to be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets. The honor of Belgrade, our capital, must not be stained. Soldiers! Heroes! The supreme command has erased our regiment from its records. Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the Fatherland. Therefore, you no longer need to worry about your lives: they no longer exist. So, forward to glory! For the King and the Fatherland! Long live the King, Long live Belgrade!"

The desperate charge that followed, in which Gavrilović was badly wounded, failed to destroy the Austro-Hungarian bridgehead. But the charge and similar acts of bravery and self-sacrifice by Serbian troops and by the inhabitants of Belgrade during the battle earned deep respect from the invaders, who suffered around 10,000 casualties in the course of capturing the city.

Gavrilović was awarded the Serbian war medal, Karadjordje's star, the French Croix de guerre, and many other medals.
In the Second World War, then a colonel in the Yugoslav Royal Army, Gavrilović was captured by the Axis during their invasion of Yugoslavia. He survived the war in a prison camp, later returning to Yugoslavia. Dragutin Gavrilović died in 1945, in Belgrade.

A street stretching along the Danube riverbank in the Dorćol area of Belgrade (where Gavrilović and his men fought) bears the name Major Gavrilović's riverbank in his memory. There are also streets bearing his name in the cities of Niš, Čačak, Valjevo, and Užice.


Major Dragutin Gavrilovic
 

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Raymond J. Bowman (born on April 2, 1924 in Rochester, New York, died April 18, 1945 in Leipzig, Germany) was an American soldier. He gained notoriety because of his death by the photo of reporter Robert Capa. -

Bowman served in Company D of the First Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Regiment. His regiment belonged to the second U.S. Infantry Division ("Indian Heads"), who participated in June 1944 in the Normandy landings. On April 18, 1945 he moved to Leipzig. On this day, Raymond Bowman was killed.

He was with his unit on a balcony of a building (today Jahnallee 61), where he covered as a member of a squad of machine guns to assault the bridge Zeppelin. A German sniper was on top of the bridge Zeppelin shoot on Bowman between the eyes. He died at the time, was only 21 years old.-


R. Bowman body

Robert Capa accompanied the troops as a war reporter and May 5, 1945 sent the pictures to New York. -The photos were published on May 14, 1945 in Life magazine. -

The house in which they were taken has been empty for years and was gutted by fire on New Year's Eve 2011/2012.-


Jahnallee 61
 

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Heinrich Severloh (23 June 1923 – 14 January 2006) was a soldier in the German 352nd Infantry Division, which was stationed in Normandy in 1944. He has been referred to as the “Beast of Omaha Beach” by the media of English speaking countries. He rose to notoriety as a gunner in a machine gun emplacement known as WN 62 “Widerstandsnest 62”. In his autobiography he claimed that in that position he inflicted 1000-2000 casualties while American soldiers were landing on Omaha Beach as part of Operation Overlord.-



The American soldiers have poor tactical positions during the storming of the beach. Between the edge of the water and the dunes, there was a very wide, treacherous strip of sand to cross, which was completely flat and without cover. The advance bombing of the German defensive positions had produced no concrete results. Severloh’s lines of fire almost entirely covered the sections of beach known as Easy Red and Fox Green.-

Severloh was assigned to a Lieutenant Friedrich Frerking as his orderly. While Frerking coordinated the artillery fire of his battery from a bunker, Severloh manned an MG42. He fired on the waves of approaching American GIs with the machine gun and two Karabiner 98k rifles, while comrades kept up a continuous flow of ammunition to him. By 3 p.m., Severloh had fired approximately 12,000 rounds with the machine gun and 400 rounds with the two rifles. He alleges in his autobiography that this resulted in an estimated 1000-2000 American deaths, however this is likely a gross overestimation, since total American casualties on Omaha Beach were approximately 3000.-

Severloh’s service in the Wehrmacht ended on June 7, 1944, when he was taken prisoner by the American forces.-

He had first been sent as a prisoner of war to Boston, USA, where he was held until May 1946. That December, he arrived in Bedfordshire in England, where he helped with the construction of roads. Severloh regained his freedom as the result of a request made by his father to the British military authorities, as Severloh was needed to work in the fields of his parents’ farm.-

David Silva, gravely wounded, possibly by Severloh, on Omaha Beach was contacted by Severloh. In the 1960s, Severloh found David Silva’s name in a book about the invasion. Wishing to find this man that he possibly shot at, Severloh wrote him a letter. Several months later, Severloh discovered that Silva was once more active in the U.S. Army as a military chaplain and was stationed in Karlsruhe, Germany. It was there that they met for the second time. Severloh asked him how he had come to be a chaplain. Silva's answer was: “In the moment when I had to get out of that landing boat and run up into the fire of your machine gun, I cried out to God to help me to get out of this hell alive. I pledged to become a chaplain and as such to help other soldiers.” After living through the war, he was ordained a priest. The erstwhile enemies became good friends and at the 2005 reunion of Allied Forces in Normandy, Severloh and Silva met once more.


David Silva & Hein Severloch

Between the time they first met after the war, until Severloh's death, the two wrote to each other often. Silva is now living in Cleveland, Ohio.-
 

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"Kilroy was here"

This doodle (a head peeking over a wall and the phrase "Kilroy was here") could be seen on walls, vehicles or any place where he had passed American soldiers during the war.

Its most likely origin is in the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.- There he worked Jim Kilroy, to inspect the rivets of steel plates which were built boats.
-
To mark the plates and inspected, Jim escibÃa them the famous phrase ("Kilroy was here"). The ship entered service in a hurry, no time to paint them completely, and when U.S. troops took their overseas destinations could still be seen everywhere the marks made by the inspector.

One of the many legends is that Adolf Hitler believed that Kilroy was an American super spy. Kilroy was here was engraved in the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.-
 
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The U.S. Camel Corps was a mid-nineteenth century experiment by the United States Army in using camels as pack animals in the Southwest United States.

While the camels proved to be hardy and well-suited to travel through the region, the Army declined to adopt them for military use. Horses were frightened of the unfamiliar animals, and their unpleasant dispositions made them difficult to manage.

On June 4, 1856, the Army loaded the camels and they were driven to Camp Verde via Victoria and San Antonio. Reports from initial tests were largely positive. The camels proved to be exceedingly strong, and were able to move quickly across terrain which horses found difficult. Their legendary ability to go without water proved valuable on an 1857 survey mission led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale. He rode a camel from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River and his team used 25 camels on the trip. The survey team took the camels into California, where they were stationed at the Benicia Arsenal.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Camel Corps was mostly forgotten. Handlers had had difficulty with their camels spooking the horses and mules. Beale offered to keep the Army's camels on his property, but Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton rejected the offer. Many of the camels were sold to private owners; others escaped into the desert throughout the West and British Columbia.
 

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Jozef Gabčík (8 April 1912 – 18 June 1942) and Jan Kubiš (24 June 1913 – 18 June 1942) was a Slovak soldiers of Czechoslovak army involved in Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor (Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.-


Jan Kubiš & Jozef Gabčík

Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were airlifted along with seven soldiers from Czechoslovakia’s army-in-exile in the United Kingdom and two other groups named Silver A and Silver B (who had different missions) by a Royal Air Force Halifax of No. 138 Squadron into Czechoslovakia at 10pm on 28 December 1941. In Prague, they contacted several families and anti-Nazi organisations who helped them during the preparations for the assassination.-

On 27 May 1942, at 10:30 AM, Heydrich proceeded on his daily commute from his home in Panenské Břežany to Prague Castle. Gabčík and Kubiš waited at the tram stop on the curve near Bulovka Hospital in Prague 8-Libeň. As Heydrich’s open-topped Mercedes-Benz neared the pair, Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle, trying to open fire, but his Sten gun jammed. Heydrich ordered his driver, SS-Oberscharführer Klein, to stop the car. When Heydrich stood up to try to shoot Gabčík, Kubiš threw a modified anti-tank grenade at the vehicle, and its fragments ripped through the car’s right-rear fender, embedding shrapnel and fibres from the upholstery into Heydrich’s body, even though the grenade failed to enter the car. Kubiš was also injured by the shrapnel.



Heydrich, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, got out of the car, returned fire and tried to chase Gabčík but soon collapsed. Klein returned from his abortive attempt to chase Kubiš, and Heydrich ordered him to chase Gabčík. Klein was shot twice by Gabčík (who was now using his revolver) and wounded in the pursuit.-

The assassins were initially convinced that the attack had failed. Heydrich was rushed to Bulovka Hospital, where it was discovered that he was suffering from blood poisoning. There Heydrich went into shock, dying on the morning of 4 June 1942.-

The Nazi officials in the Protectorate carried out an extensive search for the two men. Eventually, the Germans found them, along with other paratroopers, hiding in Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague. However, after a six-hour gun battle, in which the Germans lost at least 14 killed and 21 wounded, Gabčík and the others, with the exception of Kubiš, who was seriously wounded by a grenade, committed suicide before the Nazis could take them alive in the Church catacombs.
Kubiš was wounded in the gun battle and died shortly after arrival at the hospital.
 

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On June 8, 1967, USS Liberty, a United States Navy electronic intelligence vessel sailing 13 nautical miles (24 km) off Arish (just outside Egypt's territorial waters), was attacked by Israeli jets and torpedo boats, nearly sinking the ship, killing 34 sailors and wounding 171.

Israel said the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and that the ship had been misidentified as the Egyptian vessel El Quseir. Israel apologized for the mistake, and paid compensation to the victims or their families, and to the United States for damage to the ship. After an investigation, the U.S. accepted the explanation that the incident was friendly fire and the issue was closed by the exchange of diplomatic notes in 1987. The surviving crew members still claim, and present some evidence, that the attacks might have been deliberate.-
 

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Willy Coppens (1892-1986) was Belgium's highest-scoring fighter pilot during the First World War, scoring 37 victories by the war's close.

Coppens developed an especial expertise in shooting down enemy observation balloons. Therefore all but two of Coppens' 37 victories were against balloons - regarded as perfectly legitimate by all sides in adding to a pilot's 'kill' total, such attacks being considered an especially hazardous undertaking.-



On 25 April Coppens scored his first victory by downing a Rumpler two seater. On 8 May he finally found his metier, when he shot two balloons down in flames.- A week later, using his usual tactics of close range fire, Coppens cut a balloon loose from its ties. It bounced up beneath him and momentarily carried his Hanriot skyward. After his aircraft fell off the balloon, he restarted its engine and flew back to base. The balloon sagged into an explosion.

Later when on another attackrun, he got shot at from a balloon. He parked his plane on top of the damaged balloon, shutdown his engine in order to protect its propeller, and waited until the balloon to descend to slide off the balloon and fly away.

From then on, Coppens' record was spectacular. Between April and October 1918 he was credited with destroying 34 German observation balloons and three airplanes, nearly as many victories as Belgium's other five aces combined. Unlike most fighter pilots of World War I, who used .303 caliber or 7.92 mm guns, Coppens used a larger bore 11 mm Vickers machine gun, having upgraded his weaponry prior to June 1918.-

On the morning of October 14, 1918, his days as a fighting pilot came to an end near Thourout in northwestern Belgium. Just as he began the attack that would culminate in his 37th victory, Coppens was hit in the left leg by an incendiary bullet. Despite a severed artery and intense pain, he shot down his target and managed to crash land within the safety of his own lines. His badly shattered leg had to be amputated. Before he retired from the army in 1940, Coppens served as a military attaché in France, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland.-

He died on 21 December 1986 aged 94.-
 

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Operation Elster was a nazi german mission to gather intelligence on and sabotage the Manhattan Project during World War II.

U-1230, under the command of the Kptlt. Hans Hilbig, departed Kiel, Germany on Sept, 26, 1944 en route to Norway. After a brief stop she left Horten, Norway on October 8. Her primary mission was to land 2 Abwehr agents, William C. Colepaugh and Erich Gimpel on a remote location on the coast of Maine, USA. Then she was to return to combat patrol off Halifax, Nova Scotia.

51 days later the boat made a landfall on Cape Cod on Nov 27 and then proceeded further to Frenchman's Bay in the Gulf of Maine. Late in the evening on Nov 29 the agents were taken to shore at Hancock Point by 2 members of U-1230's crew in a rubber dinghy.

The men went crossed through snow to reach a nearby road. On the road they were noticed by a high school student who told his father, the local deputy sheriff, who alerted the FBI. The FBI had already been alerted through Enigma decrypts that U-1230 was on a "special mission" and launched a man-hunt in the area. The two agents eluded the hunt and reached New York City.

The men, with $60,000 in cash and small diamonds, made their home in the city but Colepaugh, born and raised in New England, started to have second thoughts. He revealed his mission to a childhood friend and then on 26 Dec, almost a month after the landing, turned himself in to the FBI. He assisted the Bureau to track down and arrest Gimpel, which was captured on 30 Dec in New York City.


Uniformed military police escort Erich Gimpel, right foreground, and William C. Colepaugh, background, into court at Governors Island, N.Y., March 3,1945.

They were both tried for espionage and sentenced to death but after the war President Truman commuted the sentences.
 

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For the filming of Eastern Promises (2007), Viggo Mortensen studied Russian gangsters and their tattoos, and also consulted a documentary on the subject called The Mark of Cain (2000). The tattoos that he wore, according to the New York Daily News, were so realistic that diners in a Russian restaurant in London fell silent out of fear, until Mortensen revealed his identity and admitted the tattoos were for a film. From that day on he washed off his tattoos whenever he went off the set.
 

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Colonel Sir Ronald Thomas Stewart Macpherson (born 4 October 1920) is a Scottish businessman, having previously been a much decorated British Army officer during and after World War II.



In June 1944 Macpherson parachuted down to Nazi-occupied France with Lt Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma, a French officer and a radio operator, where, on Churchill's orders to 'Set Europe ablaze', he was to embark on a remarkable war-time exploit. Apparently eschewing any attempt at stealth, Macpherson landed in full Cameron Highland uniform, including tartan kilt and Sgian-dubh.

"Just as I arrived I heard an excited young Frenchman saying to his boss, 'Chef, chef, there's a French officer and he's brought his wife!" Tommy aged 90, October 5, 2010, quote from The Scotsman newspaper. "Their mistaking me for a woman wearing a skirt was an easy error to make."

His first operation was to delay the advance of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. His group demolished a small bridge, and then held the bridge at Bicteroux for 6 days, despite German attacks. Just 27 men were involved in these operations, of whom 20 were killed. They then switched to attacking road and rail routes between Brive and Montauban, eventually completely stopping railway traffic between Cahors and Souillac, Lot on 1 July. Similar operations continued through July, and following Operation Dragoon (the Allied invasion of Southern France, aimed at capturing Marseille), operations increased in scale. In one attack Macpherson and his men trapped 300 Germans and 100 members of the Milice (Pro-German French forces) in a railway tunnel for several days.

Over the course of the next two months Macpherson killed or captured many German troops and systematically blew apart bridges. He operated from caves and woodland areas with his radio operator. Under the mantle of Agent Quinine, he achieved an operation of some kind virtually every day, his high-profile presence - he brazenly toured the countryside in a black Citroën with a Union Flag pennant on one side and a Croix de Lorraine on the other - infuriating the Nazis to the extent that they placed a 300,000 franc bounty on his head, describing him as "The Kilted Killer, A bandit masquerading as a Scottish officer and extremely dangerous to the citizens of France".
 

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The first navigable submarine appeared in 1620. Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel covered a wooden frame with greased leather to make a watertight, steerable craft for the Royal Navy; within four years he’d produced an “invisible eel” large enough to accommodate 12 oarsmen and remain 15 feet underwater for three hours. It’s said he even took James I on a test dive in the Thames, making him the first monarch to travel underwater.



It’s not clear how Drebbel avoided carbon dioxide buildup. An acquaintance of Robert Boyle (natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor) who had sailed on the sub said the inventor produced a “chemical liquor” that would “cherish the vital flame residing in the heart.” Possibly he had found a way to produce oxygen gas by heating nitre.
 
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