18 February 1944. The RAF, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force plan a joint raid on Amiens Prison, north-western France, to free 700 members of the French Resistance. Under inclement weather, unfit even for a brief practice, 18 Mosquitoes flew across the English Channel at just 15 metres above sea level. Five had to return soon because of engine and radio problems. Down to 13 aircrafts, group captain Charles Pickard went ahead as planned. At around 12:01pm, the Mosquitoes bombed the prison wall to forge an escape route for the prisoners. They then demolished the German guard block, killing many officers. Two Mosquitoes attacked a nearby railways station to keep the German garrison engaged and buy time for the prisoners to escape. While 258 prisoners managed to flee, 155 were captured and another 102 were killed in German fire. Even today, none knows who ordered the raid.
While Hermann Göring earned worldwide infamy for atrocities in World War 2, his brother Albert was a diametrically opposite character, who often risked his life to save the Jews. Albert moved to Austria after the Nazi Party assumed power in Germany, and openly spoke against Adolf Hitler. When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Albert distributed exit visas to the Jewish residents. He also persuaded Hermann to release many prisoners from the labour camps, arguing that they were “good Jews”. Arrested a number of times, Albert used his family connection to get freedom. He even evaded a death warrant in 1944. The lesser-known Göring ran a Skoda factory in Czechoslovakia, where his employees were grateful to him for the way Albert treated them. Despite his philanthropic activities, Albert was jailed for two years after World War 2 ended for his association with Hermann. He found himself unemployable upon release and died penniless. He was recognized much later for his bravery.
27 August, 1941. U-570, a U-boat captained by kapitänleutnant Hans-Joachim Rashmlow, surfaces off-coast in Iceland, and is immediately spotted by British squadron officer James Thompson, while on an anti-submarine patrol. Rashmlow ordered a crash dive but was hit by four depth charges from the Hudson bomber of Thompson. A relatively inexperienced Rashmlow, fearing release of the deadly chlorine gas from his submarine, resurfaced in panic. When the rest of his crew came up on deck, Thompson attacked the U-boat with his plane’s machine guns, radioed for more air crafts, and alerted the navy. By the time the Royal Navy arrived, Rashmlow and his men had destroyed all Enigma machine and code books of the boat. The U-570 was towed to Iceland, where no evidence of chlorine gas was found. It was repaired and recommissioned as HMS Graph in the Royal Navy. The surrender of the U-570 to a bomber, was the only such instance in World War 2.
The battle that triggered World War 2. Gdańsk (then the Free City of Danzig) was the home to a bitter dispute between the Poles and Germans who had inhabited it, since the end of World War 1. In August 1939, German battle tank Schleswig-Holstein entered the town on a goodwill visit. On the early morning of 1 September, it fired the first shots against a Polish garrison of 88 men in the Westerplatte peninsula. Eight minutes later, elite German marines and commandoes joined the attack, and on 3 September, Luftwaffe bombers started pounding the town. Subsequent attacks were failed by the Polish, leading to heavy German casualties. With the rest of the city falling to Germans, Westerplatte became a symbol of resistance. Despite the successful Polish defence, the German army soon reached the outskirts of Warsaw. The Polish garrison at Westerplatte surrendered on 7 September. Though they lost the battle, the valiant Poles won the respect of the Germans, who saluted them as they vacated the town. Only 15-20 Polish died in the fighting while the German casualties were at least 200.
While air-patrolling Dover in Kent in September 1940, RAF pilot officer Eric Lock, engaged three Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 planes and shot down one into the sea. He then attacked another 111 aircraft and used great skill and cool determination to bring it down. In October 1940, Lock was awarded the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his valor and daring act. His award citation states that Lock displayed exemplary courage against mounting odds and destroyed 15 enemy planes in 19 days. Lock was among the most famous RAF aces in Battle of Britain and later earned the Distinguished Service Order. He joined the 611 squadron in June 1941. Lock was shot down while on a mission at Boulogne-sur-Mer in north-western France on 3 August the same year and was never spotted since then.
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