Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Memoirs of the Second World War (Part 4)

The next place the Germans struck was Crete.  The geography of the island made its defence difficult.  German paratroopers, gliders, and troop-carriers made an all-out effort, and after heavy fighting, the Germans took the Island.  The British were forced to evacuate thousands of men, and a total of 16,500 were brought back to Egypt.  
General Wavell in North Africa desperately asked for tanks.  His forces were stretched to the limit.  The Iraqis revolted against the British.  But complete victory in that country was quickly gained.  The Australians next captured Damascus, and the Allies occupied Syria.  The battle of Crete, which had cost the British dearly, had ruined the striking power of the German airborne corps.

Nevertheless, Rommel pushed the British back and installed himself Halfaya.  The British operation "Battleaxe" against him failed miserably.  General Wavell was replaced with General Auchinleck.

Hitler was massing troops against Russia, and at 4 AM on June 22nd, Germany declared war against Russia.  The Russian army near the frontier was taken by surprise and quickly overpowered and many Russian planes were caught before they could get into the air.  The Soviets begged Britain for supplies and a second front.  Within a month the Germans had pushed 300 miles into Russia.  But then Hitler and his army disagreed.  The army wanted to concentrate on Moscow, but Hitler determined to split the army into 3 groups to take three different objectives.  With their strength divided, they failed, and the cold Russian winter set in.

The British and Russians invaded Persia.  Theirs was a surprise attack with very few casualties.  A new, peaceful Shah was installed, and Persia was opened as a gateway for supplies to be delivered to the Russians.  

Fighting in North Africa swung in the balance with victories and losses for both sides until finally in December the enemy was in full retreat and there was relief and and rejoicing in the Desert War.  
On December 7th, Churchill heard on the radio that the Japanese had attacked the Americans.  He called President Roosevelt: "Mr. President, what's this about Japan?"  "It's quite true," Roosevelt replied, "they have attacked us at Pearl Harbour.  We are all in the same boat now."

Though sad to hear of the American losses, Churchill was happy to have the Americans on their side.  "Hitler's fate was sealed.  Mussolini's fate was sealed.  The Japanese, they would be ground to powder."  There was "no more doubt about the end."  The War Cabinet authorized a Declaration of War on Japan, and both Houses unanimously agreed on it.  Britain actually declared war on Japan before the U.S. Congress did.  

Part 5 is coming soon!

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