THE MICHIGAN DAILY
TUESDAY, MAY 8, 1945
BRIEF HISTORY OF WAR IN EUROPE:
Victory from Nazis After Being Close to Defeat
By Carl C. Cramer
Associated Press Staff Writer
Germany's dream of world conquest has come to a shatter-
ing end with the collapse of the Reich which Adolf Hitler
boasted was to endure a thousand years.
Ended is the European phase of the second great war of the
century, a war which is estimated to have cost close to $1,000,-
000,000,000 (one trillion) in money and the lives of more than
The collapse of Germany was fore-
shadowed last July 20 when an at-
tempt was made to kill Hitler and
seize power by what the Dictator said
was a small clique of "foolish, crimi-
nally stupid" German officers.
This revolt among Hitler's entour-
age, coming almost exactly a year
after the sorry lackey Benito Musso-
lini had been broken in Italy; the
rapid advance of Russian armies in
the east, the drive of Allied armies
in Italy, and the success of the most
difficult amphibious invasion in his-
tory, the invasion of Normandy, all
suggested that the German army was
approaching a debacle.
At the start, the war looked to the
world, grossly underrating German
preparations, like the throw of a mad
It turned out that the Allies
snatched victory only after hair-
breadth escape from defeat.
Hitler opened it with a razzle-
dazzle of propaganda, secret weap-
ons, armored spearheads, bombing
armadas, parachute troops, fifth col-
umns and political sleight-of-hand
which quickly established him as a
sinister Barnum of war.
Before it ended, merged with the
war in Asia and the Pacific by the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it
had been fought on all the oceans
"In this war there will be no vic-
tors and losers, but merely survivors
and annihilated," Hitler threatened,
and accordingly he set a pace for
ruthlessness and cruelty unpreceden-
ted in modern war.
The conflict became:-
A war of secret battles-long, silent
struggles to smash his invasion fleet
by Britain, to master the submarine
which imperiled the United States
as never before, to crush robot bomb
launching sites in France.
A war of secret weapons--in which
the allies with radar, a brand new
conception of massed fleets of in-
vasion barges, the technique of mass
bombing through clouds, and a host
of inventions, outdid Hitler.
War in the air- in which whole
armies of millions engaged. For the
first .time the capitals of great
nations and scores of other cities
were marked for methodical destruc-
A war of cities-Stalingrad, Lenin-
grad, Odessa, Sevastopol, Cassino-
whose streets and houses were turned
into trenches and forts. A new tech-
nique of battle in the rubble of cities
developed. London was blitzed, and
A war underground between Quis-
lings and armies of resistance, and
a war of psychology in which the
four freedoms and the Atlantic
Charter were used to combat Nazi
A war fought in the extremes of
weather and terrain, from Africa to
the Arctic, in the world's worst bogs
and jungles and most inaccessible
The war saw the advent of the
flying bomb and many different
rocket weapons, the blockbuster,
rapid firing guns which made artil-
lery barrages more intense than ever,
mass mobility of tanks and vehicles,
the air-borne army, the flying battle-
ship, amphibious invasion on a
grander scale than ever.
All this was started about 3 o'clock
on Friday morning, Sept. 1, 1939,
when German armies i n v a d e d
Despising the Poles too much to'
declare war formally, Hitler an-
nounced only that he was answering
"force with force."
With smug conceit he declared, "I
am putting on the uniform (the field
gray of the German army) and I
shall take it off only in victory or
Hitler planned a blitzkreig-a
lightning war-and probably never
expected that England and France
would do more than wage a token
war when they saw the uselessness
of trying to save their ally.
Amazing armored spear he cads
sliced through the Polish cavalry
divisions to the Wisla (Vistula),
trapped a huge army in the Kutno
area west of Warsaw and another
random in the south.
In 18 days Hitler boasted of Vic- 1
tory in a speech at Danzig, though it
was Sept. 27 before Warsaw, battered
to a pulp surrendered. Hitler,
claimed 300,000 prisoners.
Taking cognizance of British pre-;
dictions of a long war-three years-3
Hitler declared he was ready for a'
seven years' war.
The anme day Joachim Von Rib-
for the bombs to fall. None fell.
This was the "phoney war."
On Sept. 3 the French announced
that their army had come "in con-
tact" with the Germans, but the
French preferred to have the Ger-
mans throw themselves on the Mag-
inet Line and struck into German
territory only for a few thousand
yards near Saarbrucken. Their "of-
fensive" never developed.
The British were dropping leaflets
on Germany all winter long as Hit-
ler alternately threatened "total
war" and held out hopes of peace.
Norway and Denmark*. .
On April 9, 1940, the war broke
out with all its fury. Hitler's troops
slipped into Denmark and invaded
Norway by sea and air. A few goose-
stepping soldiers and a military band
marched in and took Oslo. Soldiers
hidden in the holds of previously-
arrived ships seized Narvik, Bergen,
Stavanger, Trondheim and other
The British, caught napping, land-
ed a few thousand Allied troops on
both sides of Trondheim and later
at Narvik, but were forced to with-
draw. On April 30 Hitler proclaimed
a complete victory, and within a
short time Allied troops had with-
Battle of France ***
May 10 the great blow in the west
fell on Holland, Belgium, Luxem-
bourg and France. The fate of Ger-
many would be sealed for 1,000 years
by the outcome, Hitler told his sol-
Swarms of parachutists descended
on the airports near Rotterdam, the
Hague and Amsterdam, seized the
bridge at Moerdijk, south of Rodder-
dam. The vaunted Dutch "water
line" proved ineffectual. Holland fell
in four days.
The Nazis overwhelmed 'the Bel-
gien fort, Eden Emael, and rushed
their columns across the vaunted
Albert Canal near Maastricht.
In three days German tanks sur-
prised the French, seized Sedan and
were racing for the English Channel,
with fleets of motorcyclists spreading
fire and terror ahead of the armored
The Germans reached the Channel
at Abbeville on May 21 and King
Leopold announced the surrender of
his 300,000-man Belgian Army on
Dunkerque, the British epic of
the war, in which a strange ar-
mada of 900 warships, skiffs, tugs
and yachts rescued an army of
337,000 men from the beaches, was
over by June 4.
For four years the Kaiser's armies
had fought to win control of the
Channel ports. Hitler got them in
less than a month.
In vain Gen. Maxime Weygand set
"mousetraps" for tanks along the
Somme. Turning south on June 6,
Hitler brushed aside the vaunted
French army. The Maginot Line was
turned. The French Government.
evacuated Paris June 10, the same
day Mussolini committed his "stab
in the back" and sent troops into the
border area of France, where they
dug in without any attempt to help
Hitler clean up.
Taking over the French Govern-
ment, Marshal Petain announced on
June 17, "with a broken heart," that
he had been compelled to ask Hitler,
as one soldier to another, for an hon-
The high point of the war-for
Hitler-came at Compeigne on
June 21 in the railway car where
Marshall Foch had dictated peace
terms to Germany in 1918, and
France signed an armistice.
Grandly pleased by this revenge
for the "dictates of Versailles," Hitler
visited the tomb of Napoleon.
Battle of Briloilla,. .
Most pol)ular song in Germany
was "We're Sailing Against Britain."
Britain seemed helpless. She had
lost all but a few score guns and
tanks. The RAP was outnumbered.
She fell back on hastily organized
home guards to fight from haystacks
Hastily importing hunting rifles,
old tanks and World War guns from
America, Prime Minister Churchill
hunched his head down between his
great shoulders and declared, "We
will fight on the beaches and the
landing grounds, in the fields, in the
streets. on the hills we wil never
Grimly, 700 Spitfires and Hurri-
canes opposed the entire German air
force. British fighting planes mount-
ing eight guns, and radar, which
gave warning of coming raids, prob-
ably saved the British in the aerial
battle that lasted from August
through May. But 50,000 Britons
died from bombs. Sept. 13, 1940
when the Germans lost 185 planes
and were forced toswitch to night
bombing, has been called one of the
decisive battles of the war-a Water-
loo or Trafalgar.
In September and October the
Germans were assembling their in-
vasion fleet of 3,000 barges and
4,000,000 tons of ships. Not until
1944 did Churchill disclose the rea-
son why the Germans never invaded
England-the invasion fleet was
smashed by the RAF bomber com-
mand before it could leave port.
The Balkans .. .
Mussolini believed the Greek gen-
erals had been bought off and in-
vaded Greece from Albania on Oct.
28, 1940, three hours after a 3 a.m.
ultimatum, and thereupon came one
of the big surprises of the war. In-
stead of wilting, the Greeks fought.
Not merely did they ambush and
slaughter thousands of Italians a
few miles inside Greek territory, but
they captured Corriza and other
strongholds in a counter-invasion.
Hitler, who had not been informed
of Mussolini's plans, let his partner
sweat in his trouble though the win-
ter, one by one, Hungary, Romania
and Bulgaria had fallen into the
Hitler lineup-Romania on Oct. 8,
1940, when German troops moved in
following the iron guard's ouster of
King Carol, Hungary on Nov. 20 when
she joined the Axis alliance, and
Bulgaria on March 1, 1941, when
she signed the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo
Pact. Now the screws were put to
But an uprising upset the Yugo-
slav pact with Hitler, and on Sun-
day morning, April 6, the German
dictator launched his Balkan cam-
paign with a ferocious bombing of
Striking from Bulgaria, the Ger-
mans in three days had broken
across the Vardar Valley severing
the links between Greece and Yugo-
slavia, and had reached the Aegean,
seizing Salonika. In vain a tiny
British force which had been rushed
in from Africa, made a stand at
Thermopylae. The Nazi mechanized
divisions marched into Athens on
April 27 and again the British car-
ried out a costly evacuation, this
time from the Peloponnesus.
The Swastika had floated over 'the
Acropolis only about three weeks
when Hitler struck his most auda-
cious air-borne blow, invading Crete
on May 20. Ten days later the Brit-
ish admitted the loss of the island.
The battle of Africa really started
in the tragic event of July 3, 1940,
when the British attacked the French
fleet at Mers-El-Kebir to prevent
warships of their former allies from
falling into enemy hands.
Six times the battle swept back
and forth across the rim of North
Africa, but in the end the Germans
could not win because they did not
control the Mediterranean. The Ital-
ian fleet soon was driven into hiding.
Marshal Rudolfo Graziani began an
attack on Egypt on Aug. 6, 1940,
simultaneously with an invasion of
British Somaliland. He got no far-
ther than Sidi Barrani, where the
British under Wavell started a light-
ning comeback in December which
reached beyond Bengasi. But the
British fell back even faster in the
spring when' they were forced to send
troops to Greece. Again in Novem-
ber, 1941, the British launched an
offensive which relived Tobruk
shortly before the last Italian strong-
hold in Ethiopia surrendered.
Not long thereafter came Pearl
Harbor, and Hitler declared war on
the United States. His ultimate ex-
tirpation began to loom on the hori-
zon then, for he had turned the
spigot which was to produce a flood
of allied war material and men.
But there still were black days in
store for the Allies, and Sunday,
June 2, 1944 ranks with blackest
of theM all.
On that day Marshal Erwin Romx=
reel's Africa corps took Tobruk in a
surprise thrust which carried him to
within 60 miles of Alexandria. A
junction of German and Japanese
forces on the shores of the Indian
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Ocean was threatened. The Germans
were preparing the summer offensive
which might break the Soviet Union
and which was to take them from
Kharkov to Stalingrad. The Allies
had lost Singapore, The Philippines,
Burma, the Dutch East Indies and
parts of the Aleutians. Australia still
was menaced, despite two Japanese
air-sea defeats in the Coral Sea and
at Midway in May and June.
Almost the brighest spot in the
Allied picture was that only three
weeks before the 'British had car-
ried out their first 1,000 bomber
raid against Cologne.
Air and tank forces rushed to Af-
rica eventually turned the tide, per-
mitting Gen. Sir Bernard L. Mont-
gomery's Eighth Army to score its
greatest victory at El Alamein in
Egypt on Oct. 23, 1942, and begin its
march to meet the American and
British forces of Gen. Dwight D.
Eisenhower which landed in Morocco
and Algeria on Nov. 7.
Trapped on Cap Bon in Tunisia,
the Germans and Italians finally sur-
rendered on May 12, 1943, ending the
battle of Africa, and the stage wasj
set for the invasion of Italy. Axis
casualties in Tunisia were placed
Until Sunday morning, June 22,
1941, everything went well with Hit-
ler's war. That was the day he loosed
his invasion of Russia.
Joined by Finland, Romania, Hun-
gary and Italy; Hitler boasted of the
greatest front in history-2,000 miles
from the Arctic to the Black sea.
Stories from Berlin said the Nazis be-
lieved they would crush Russia in
three to six weeks.
Swiftly the German armies sliced
through Russian-annexed territories
of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Karelia, Bessarabia, swept across
White Russia and the Ukraine.
Before the summer campaign was
done Hitler had trapped one huge
"kettle" of Soviet soldiers after
another, thrown an iron ring about
Leningrad, reached the suburbs of
Moscow, captured Kharkov.
Russia "never again will rise," he
declared in October, launching a
"final assault" on Moscow. Another
final assault was ordered in Novem-
ber. Moscow did not fall. Then, at
the right time, the Russian counter-
offensive was launched. The Ger-
mans were caught in the worst Rus-
sian winter in years, and the retreat
along the Napoleonic Road disaster
In August, 1943, the Germans
reached their highwater mark of
conquest at Stalingrad. It has been
underway ever since, with pauses.
Official Russian figures place Rus-
sian dead, captured and wounded at
5,300,000. German dead and captured
at 7,800,000. The Germans have
claimed as high as 10,000,000 Russian
The Allies invasion of Europe really
began with the attack on Sicily by
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IT'S VOJIR TURN NOW, fhl0Rl'TO
Firs( you sawv fMussolini "bite time duust"'
. . . and now your aily Aidolf amld isa
cohorts are reapiog the rewatrd of all
who would enslave people by tyramuy.
'1(!UR TIME, 1 AIA , COME, IRlOHf fTO!
The : fll might of liberty-Joving nations
is focused upon you with a deteriina-
tion to teach you your lesson with
BEi: SUI , WlIE lRO 'Pt O! We Americans
shall do all in our power to hasten that
day when you, too, shall pay for your
greed, your injustice, your devilish doe-
trine of militarism.
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