During WW2, did the USSR re-gauge railways in conquered areas?

During WW2, did the USSR re-gauge railways in conquered areas?

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Basically, Germany uses 1435 mm gauge train track while Russia used 1524 mm. I recently came across this question about the Germans re-gauging the track that they could during their invasion of Russia.

I would like to ask the inverse question now. Did the Russians re-re-gauge it (during the war)? And did they re-gauge any railways in West Poland and Germany proper? What about places like Romania and Yugoslavia?

According to what I read about Russian railroad troops, their operations could be divided in two parts - before the pre-war border and after.

Inside the old Soviet border there were the roads re-gauged by Germans. But those needed no "re-re-gauging" - due to the extensive usage of railroad destroyers by German troops Russian railroad workers were thinking not in terms of re-gauging, but in terms of rebuilding.

A photo of a German railroad destroyer at work and the results:

And another one:

And when there was no time for one of those (they worked at around 7 to 10 kmph), Germans just used explosives.

After the Russian offensive outpaced the ability of German troops' to destroy the usable track behind them (they mostly stuck with destroying the bridges and tunnels), Russian railwaymen did start re-gauging European track to Soviet standard, but this differed by the rolling stock they had on hand - sometimes the roads were restored to European standard so the captured trains could run on them, and then re-gauged again when Soviet-gauge rolling stock arrived.

According to the site of main Russian railroad operator, during the war Russian railroad troops rebuilt ~120000 km of railroad track.

Sources (Russian language, mostly):

1) Кабанов П. А. Стальные перегоны. - М.: Воениздат, 1973

2) https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/schwellenpflug-railroad-plough-1944/

3) https://topwar.ru/78014-putevye-razrushiteli-vtoroy-mirovoy-voyny-sovetskiy-chervyak.html

4) https://topwar.ru/78092-putevye-razrushiteli-vtoroy-mirovoy-voyny-nemeckiy-kryuk.html

Most Western historical literature says the real villains were Stalin's Red Army soldiers who brutalised captured Wehrmacht prisoners, killed outright men from the Waffen SS (After torturing them of course) and what not. The fact is the American, British and Free French armies were no less culpable.

And the savage mentality started from the very top. At the Teheran Conference of the "Big Three" in 1943, Stalin at a dinner on the second day, suggested a toast to eliminating 50,000 men from the German staff. Churchill was aghast at this. Roosevelt, in a humorous tone, suggested killing 49,000 men. His son Elliott chipped in by saying that when the Red Army, American and British rolled into Germany, they would not only wipe out top German soldiers but also thousands of Nazis. The most humane of all, Churchill walked out of the room in anger.

Now if the top leaders harbored such vengeful feelings towards the Germans, such a message that "kill Germans and get away with it" was bound to percolate down to lowest levels of the Allied armies. The Geneva Conventions of 1929 which protected disarmed soldiers were thrown out of the window by all, including the "virtuous" allies.

The Allies captured nearly 11 million German soldiers by the end of the Second World War. Since the bulk of the German army was fighting on the Eastern Front one would expect that the Russians would have taken in most POWs. But surprisingly the Red Army had only 3.1 million POW. The Americans had 3.8 million, the British 3.7 million and even the puny, late comer French had a quarter of a million German prisoners.

It is not surprising that the Russians had lower numbers. Firstly because the Red Army soldiers were killing off all Waffen SS prisoners and even regular German soldiers too were polished off most of the time. Secondly, the German soldiers knew what lay in store for them if captured by the Russians, so before the war ended most rushed off and surrendered to the Americans and the British army.

Among many American units, “take no prisoners” was the motto. For those members of the SS, Wehrmacht and Volkssturm lucky enough to survive capture, death often awaited behind the lines. In the transit from front to rear, hundreds of prisoners were allowed to suffocate, starve or freeze to death in railroad cars.

The Americans herded German POW into a barbed wire fenced in enclosure in millions


But they hardly got a better deal in the hands of the Americans. They were herded in open roofless enclosures called 'Rhineland meadow camps'. The Germans called them Rheinwiesenlager.

These camps were over crowded and feeding them was hardly a top priority for the Americans. This is surprising given the fact that it had enough resources. The German POWs were perhaps purposefully starved. The vengeful feeling that Roosevelt harbored towards Germans had seeped down to lower levels.

According to a personal account of a German prisoner.

According to another German POW.

The British, though starved of resources, treated German prisoners much better. The Americans and French treated them lousy. The death rate in American camps was four times that of British camps. In the French camps it was 20 times compared to the British.

The mortality rate of German POW in French camps was high


The German POW had a bad time in Soviet captivity. More than a third of them died.

This is mainly because of three reasons. First. The prisoners were made to walk. No luxury of transport by train or trucks. These were called "death walks". Considering the distances and harsh climate of Russia, the weakened, disheartened Germans simply collapsed and died. Second. The Russians had little food to feed themselves. Why worry about the bad Germans? Third. The ingrained hatred for Germans in Russian minds. No one care a hoot whether German prisoners lived or died.

The hatred had been born after the ruthless way the German invaders had behaved in occupied Soviet Union in earlier stages of WW2. And had been fed more by the vitriolic writings by Ilya Ehrenberg which was printed and reprinted in Soviet newspapers. Every Red Army soldiers knew them by heart.

Poems by Alexei Surkov called "I hate" and by Konstantin Simonov called "Kill him" added fuel to the fire.

No wonder that surrendered German soldiers were often shot casually. Passing German POW columns were fired upon by drunk Red Army soldiers. They were robbed of all their personal possessions on capture and marched off to Gulags. Those hardy enough to survive fed on rats as the Soviet captors starved them deliberately.

Most remained in the Soviet Union for years and the those who survived were released only after Khrushchev came to power in 1953. They returned to Germany as broken men.

World War II Database

ww2dbase Russia of the World War 2 era was governed by the Soviet Union, or specifically, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic which was the head of the Soviet Union. The new Russian government came to power after the February Revolution of 1917 that overthrew Tsar Nicholas II of Imperialist Russia and the October Revolution of 1917 that placed Vladimir Lenin in power, and the Soviet Union was formed in Dec 1922. Through various industrial and economic reforms, Russia rose to the status of a power. Joseph Stalin, Russia's leader since the late 1920s, kept the Russian political scene relatively stable and kept himself in power by deploying brutal tactics to purge his political enemies. In the 1930s, Western European nations began to build a distrust of the expansionist communist ideology, which included both the Anglo-French alliance as well as German, two sides which would eventually fight against each other in the upcoming European War. A preliminary showdown took place in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where Germany and Russia each supported opposing sides in the conflict and used the Spanish Civil War as testing grounds for new weapons and new tactics. Surprising the world, Russia and Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on 24 Aug 1939, which included a secret clause that divided Eastern Europe between Russia and Germany the clause was activated at the start of the European War as Germany invaded Poland, bringing Russia into WW2 on 17 Sep 1939 on the side of Germany.

ww2dbase In the east, the Japanese Army eyed Russian Siberia along with its resources with envy. After several failed attempts at challenging the Russian forces in the region, plus the shifting favor for a southward expansion, Japan eventually signed a cease fire with Russia. The two countries remained at peace for all but the final few days of World War 2 when Russia broke the treaty and attacked Japan by surprise.

ww2dbase In Northern Europe, Russia engaged in war with Finland in the Winter War over territorial disputes near Leningrad, which played a role in Finland siding with Germany down the road when Germany launched Operation Barbarossa against Russia on 22 Jun 1941.

ww2dbase When Operation Barbarossa began, Russia looked to the Western Allies for help. As the German forces rolled across the Russian borders, initially the Russian troops fell back time after time. But when the siege of Leningrad became stagnant and the attack on Moscow was stalled, Russian troops began to turn the tide. Many consider the Battle of Stalingrad the definitive turning point where the Russian troops dealt their German counterparts a crushing defeat. From that point on, Russia put Germany on the defensive until the Battle of Berlin that ended the war.

ww2dbase In Asia, Russia declared war on Japan on 8 Aug 1945, catching the Japanese by surprise, launching Operation August Storm that speedily captured Manchuria from Japan. The declaration of war on Japan by Russia was among the key factors for Japan's surrender on 14 Aug 1945.

ww2dbase After the war, Russia, as the head of the Soviet Union, emerged as a world power. The countries Russia liberated from Germany became puppet states answering to Moscow, including East Germany. The new found superpower status did not come without a price, however, for Russia suffered the highest number of deaths as a direct result of World War 2 among all nations involved. For decades to come, Russia was to lead the communist countries in the Cold War against United States and her allies.

ww2dbase Source: Wikipedia.

Last Major Update: May 2007

Events Taken Place in Russia
Battle of Lake Khasan29 Jul 1938 - 11 Aug 1938
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact23 Aug 1939
Deportation of Caucasian, Altaic, and Turkish Peoples1 Jan 1940 - 29 Dec 1944
Katyn Massacre and Related Atrocities3 Apr 1940 - 19 May 1940
Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact13 Apr 1941
Operation Silver Fox22 Jun 1941 - 22 Sep 1941
Operation Barbarossa22 Jun 1941 - 30 Sep 1941
Arctic Convoys21 Aug 1941 - 30 May 1945
Siege of Leningrad4 Sep 1941 - 27 Jan 1944
First Moscow Conference29 Sep 1941 - 1 Oct 1941
Battle of Moscow30 Sep 1941 - 7 Jan 1942
Battle of Sevastopol30 Oct 1941 - 4 Jul 1942
Rzhev-Vyazma Offensive and the Demyansk Pocket9 Jan 1942 - 5 May 1942
Battle of Stalingrad17 Jul 1942 - 2 Feb 1943
Caucasus Campaign23 Jul 1942 - 9 Oct 1943
Second Moscow Conference12 Aug 1942 - 17 Aug 1942
Raid on Gorkiy4 Jun 1943 - 1 Jul 1943
Battle of Kursk4 Jul 1943 - 13 Jul 1943
Battle of Belgorod3 Aug 1943 - 14 Aug 1943
Third Moscow Conference18 Oct 1943 - 10 Nov 1943
Deportation of Crimean Tatars18 May 1944 - 1 Jun 1944
Operation Frantic2 Jun 1944 - 22 Sep 1944
Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust24 Jul 1944 - 29 Apr 1945
Fourth Moscow Conference9 Oct 1944 - 19 Oct 1944
Fifth Moscow Conference13 Jan 1945
Yalta Conference4 Feb 1945 - 11 Feb 1945

Chelyabinsk Tractor PlantFactory
Kremlin and Red SquareGovernment Building
Lefortovo PrisonPrison Camp
Leningrad Kirov FactoryFactory
Leningrad Obukhov FactoryFactory
Lubyanka BuildingGovernment Building, Prison Camp
Ostashkov Special CampPrison Camp
Petrozavodsk Concentration CampPrison Camp
Stalingrad Tractor FactoryFactory
Vladivostok Naval Base
Vorkuta Forced Labor CampPrison Camp

Russia in World War II Interactive Map

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. smallz says:
12 Oct 2008 10:18:48 PM

I think it is a little ridiculous to say that the Russians declaring war on Japan had anything to do with Japan surrendering. They attacked Manchuria, they never stepped foot on the mainland. Plus, there was the small act of two nuclear bombs being dropped on Japan by the U.S. So I seriously doubt that a six day offensive had a great deal of sway of Japanese leaders.

2. Suvorov says:
15 Feb 2009 04:23:17 PM

Soviet Tanks was the best in the world thanks god that hitler anderstood Stalins plans and atacked him first preventing Europe or perhaps all planet from the red color.

3. bruninsky says:
5 Apr 2009 05:09:25 PM

I do agree. Japan only surendrered after the atomic bombs. Nothing else.

4. zloykloun says:
7 May 2009 06:41:28 AM

Russians great warriors. Vechnaya slava geroyam!

5. ed says:
12 Sep 2009 06:51:23 AM

I would just ask a question. Does anyone know what the Russian Black Sea assault craft look like. Not the bronekater, but the troop carriers. Or did the bronekaters carry the raiding force as wwll.

6. Bill says:
11 Jan 2010 04:14:46 PM

Present day Russia can be traced back to the
9th Century when the first "Russian Empire"
was founded in (862AD) the Capitol was moved
to Moscow in (1326AD).
Ivan the IV, known as Ivan the Terrable was the first to call himself the "Tsar of all the Russians"
Within 100 years territory grew from what
is European Russia past the Ural Mountains
into Sibera to reach the Pacific.
The Capitol was moved to St. Petersburg in
1712, and once again back to Moscow.
Poland, the Baltic States and Finland were
conquered by Peter the Great the accuisition
of Alaska in 1784 more land was conquered Crimean Region expanded to the Caucasus,
present day Turkmenistan and Kazachstan in
the 1860's. Tsars also took large parts of
China and Manchuria. Russia continued to be ruled by the Tsars, until World War I, the
fall of the Tsar, the October Revolution of 1917, rise of the Communists, World War II,
Defeat of Nazi Germany, Eastern Europe under Communist rule, Cold War and the Collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, to the present day
Russian Federation.
European Russia is not a separate country,
but rather the far western end of todays
Russian Federation. The Russian dividing line
between Europe and Asia is the Ural Mountains.

7. Bill says:
12 Jan 2010 10:42:02 AM

CIS Commonwealth of Independent States an
association of former Soviet republics that
was established in December 1991.
The CIS's functions are to coordinate its
members policies regarding economies,foreign
protection and law enforcement.

Following the South Ossentian War in 2008,
Georgia withdrew from the CIS.

Did you know that the Russian ruble is the only legal tender currency. It is illegal
to pay for goods and services in US Dollars,
except at authorized retail establishments.
30 to 80 Rubles $1.00 to 3.00 US Dollars
1 Ruble 100 Kopeks.

By the end of the 19th Century Russia was
22,400,000 sq.km or (8,600,000 sq.mi) almost
1/6th of the Earth's landmass. The only rival
at the time was the British Empire.
From 1600 to 1900 Russia grew at a rate of
50 square miles a day.
The Russian Empire by 1914 was the largest in
the world, in area from the Artic Ocean to
the Capsian Sea and from the Baltic Sea to
the Pacific Ocean. The Tsars ruled Russia
with an iron fist and brutal towards its own
people, with the fall of the Tsar in 1917
the rise of Communism the people continued to suffer under the fist of Stalin million
were shot,jailed,tortured,sent to the gulags
continued persecution of the Soviet citizen. After Stalin's death in 1953 reforms were
The U.S.S.R. died quietly, 74 years after its
founders vowed that communism would be the wave of the future.
In the 1980's Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
wanted to reform the Soviet Union, changes in
greater freedom would start Nationalism and
Gorbachev underestimated its impact, and the
speed of the nations change, and the rest of
Eastern Europe.
In 1990 many Soviet bloc countries declared
independence from Moscow. Shortages of basic
household goods and foodstuff were growing
changes continued a warning of a coup by
those who wanted to keep the old system, and
were against reforms. By December 1990 the
U.S.S.R. would cease to exist, Gorbachev
resigned afterward the CIS was formed, one
evening the old flag of the U.S.S.R. was
lowered for the last time, and the new colors
replaced it.
Flag of the U.S.S.R. was adopted in Nov.1923 was plain red with a hammer and sickle and
red star in the upper canton.
The color red has always been positive in
Russian Culture the word red (Krasny) is
etymologically related with the Russian words for very good and the best, as well
as beautiful.
The hammer symbolizes the nations industrial
workers (Proletarians), while the sickle
symbolizes the nations agricultural workers
(Peasants) who together formed a State, the
red star represents the Communist Party.
The old Soviet flag has not been banned in
Russia, and it is still being used.
On April 15,1996 Boris Yelysin signed a
Presidental Decree giving the Soviet flag
(called the Victory Banner, after the banner that was raised above the Reichstag on
May 1,1945 in Berlin) status given similar
to the National flag.
The difference is that the hammer and sickle
have been removed from the flag.
On certain holidays, the Victory Banner is
flown along with the Russian flag under
President Putin, the Victory Banner was
adopted as the official flag of the Russian
The Flag of Russia is the traditional colors
of three equal horizontal bands of white top/
azure blue middle/red bottom.

Like all Regimes, Empires and Ideologies
Soviet Communism lasted 74 years. Today Lenin
still remains in his mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square, and the debating still goes on,
as what to do with him, his legacy long
passed into History, but it should continue.
to be remembered.

This information is just an overview, and
does not address contemporary events in detail.

8. Bill says:
12 Jan 2010 03:46:09 PM

It is estmated that 94 million people were
killed under Communist regimes, but then again we will never really know the total
number of people killed.Indroctrination left a legacy of apathy and indefference, the
Communists left Russia severely damaged.
Just what is the legacy of Communism?
In sweden a study found out that only 10% of
students between the ages of 15 to 20 had
heard of the Gulags, while 95% heard about Auschwitz! Communism is not dead, only in
another form their are still States today,
that think Socialism is the way to go, still
brutal regimes that keep its people under
control. Its still a warning to free people everywhere.
It is, what I would say:
A Continuation of Politics by Other Means.

9. Bill says:
12 Jan 2010 04:58:05 PM

Communist movements have caused the deaths
of 110,286,000 people between 1917 to 1987.
Today Communism continues to rule over at
least 1/4th of the world's people. Untold
millions are still killed, and suffer under this system.
Communism in the 20th Century proved to be
one of the most heinous perpetrators of
violence and genocide. By the 1980's 1/3rd
of the world's population lived under
Communism. Political parties have changed
their names and ideologies, but still operate
on the left of the political spectrum.

This information is an overview, and does
not address contemporary events in detail.

The universal concept of freedom:
The freedom of expression and development to
full potential for all. Freedom to acquire
knowledge, the sanctity of life, without freedom of choice there is no creativity.

Government, even in its best state, is but a
necessary evil, in its worst state, an
intolerable one.

These are my opinions alone and do not reflect the views of WW2DB.

10. Bill says:
14 Jan 2010 06:14:46 PM

Russia's Official Name: Russian Federation
Came into effect in 1991 when the Soviet
Union split into (15) Geo-Political parts.

Official Language is Russian, about 75% of the population of Russia is made up of
Slavic origin, However there are (48) other
languages spoken by (120) or so Nationalities

Red Square is a dramatic open cobbled space
in the center of Moscow. Originally the
city's market-place, public gathering for festivals.
The Soviet state turned it into a memorial
cemetery, and built Lenin's mausoleum, that
is still open to the public.

Did you know: That Moscow is situated in the
center of the European part of Russia, at
the very heart of the city, is the Kremlin
the Russian place of command for almost (8)

More About Red Square:
The word "Red" doesn't apply to the color of
the brickwork, neither is it a reference to
The meaning of the word (Krasny) means
"Beautiful" in old russian, but over the
centuries the word changed to mean "Red"
too giving the square's present name.

Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the most
famous in the world. Traveling by train
takes (6) days, covering 5,869 miles or (9,446 Km.) the train stops several times a
day, passes through (8) time zones, from
Moscow to Vladivostok on the Asian Pacific
Coast. The railway was started in 1891, and
took (26) years to build.

11. Bill says:
15 Jan 2010 12:57:28 PM

When the Communists took over one of the
first things they did was to deny liberty and confiscate all personal firearms, to
make sure the people can not resist against
But even the most insidious than the theft
of the peoples weapons, was the theft of
their history. Official Communist Historians
rewrote history, to fit current party lines.
Millions were Murdered, Tortured, Jailed without Due-Process, Starved and Worked to
Death the Gulags.
The rule of fear and terror. Millions in
other Nations lost their freedom, as the
Millions of Russians did.
The Communists Raped Russia,Stole and Looted the Wealth of the Nation.
Communism is the biggest ideology of Mass Murder in the 20th. Century, and continues
to be an ever present evil.
The Communists became experts when it comes
to Mass Murder, Terror and Genocide.
Its really absurd, that some people are still so naive!
The Brutality of Psychchopaths and Paranoid
Shizophrenics who ever they might be:
Pol-Pot, Stalin, Cancescu, Mao Tse Tung Kim Sung and others.
It continues today Revolutionaries whose one
hope, is to overthrow a free Government and
establish what? They have nothing to offer
while on the other hand, free people every-
where have Courage, Devotion and Willingness
as a free people to act against oppression.

12. Bill says:
13 Apr 2010 04:18:53 PM

Communism is the same, no matter what name change some slick person may give it, how
can people still fall for such a big lie, is
beyond me.
Call it Progressive Movement, Social Justice
or the Spreading of Wealth its the same old tune, take from those who have earned wealth
through Enterprise and hard work, and give to
those who will never bring themselves up from
proverty, through self-determination and the
will to give their families a better life.
Study History and the Communist systems, and
the pain and suffering it has fallen on millions. It dosen't take an academic to see
evil in a deranged state.
Why have millions died defending it?.
My question to the Politicians and the all the activist those who say, they really want Social Justice, then I say, cut your own wealth first, and give give it to the less
fortunate. Let's wait and see, let's wait and see.

13. Bill says:
12 Dec 2010 06:31:12 PM

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or
USSR, CCCP was created on December 30, 1922
and ended on December 26, 1991.

Its motto was "Workers of the World Unite!"

On December 21, 1991 eleven former Soviet Republics (with the 12th republic Georgia attending as an observer)with the formation
of the Commonwealth of Independent States, (CIS)the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceases to exist.

The Governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are Independent States, and chose
at that time not to join CIS.
Since 1991 former republics, have applied for membership in NATO.

Former Soviet Warsaw-Pact Countries in Eastern Europe have also become independent, and have applied for membership in NATO.

14. Me says:
25 Jun 2011 12:43:51 AM

Suvorovs thought process is wrong. It was Russias own fault that they provoked Germany into attacking them after they had helped Germany conquer Europe.

15. Anonymous says:
10 Jan 2013 09:52:50 AM

What is the languages spoken in 1937

16. john burns says:
12 Dec 2017 03:53:43 AM

My uncle Patrick Stanton served on the arctic convoys during the war but i don't know which ship he served on. Can you help? Thanks.

17. Anonymus says:
19 Jan 2018 11:53:36 AM

How do you know this stuff and where did you find it?

18. Marlene Krantz says:
12 Apr 2018 05:44:18 PM

Pincus Chykov or Chikoff and Miriam Gubberman. Pincus Chykov was a Russian soldier around 1911 and he had about 8 or 9 brothers and sisters.

19. brandon says:
13 Apr 2018 05:52:35 AM

20. Anonymous says:
15 Oct 2020 11:05:48 AM

This is the most detailed sit about ww2 ever, this helped me so much with my project.

21. Anonymous says:
25 Apr 2021 07:59:38 AM

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Treblinka Concentration Camp: History & Overview

Treblinka was designed as a Nazi extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II. The camp, constructed as part of Operation Reinhard, operated between July 1942 and October 1943 during which time approximately 850,000 men, women and children were murdered, including more than 800,000 Jews.

Before its liberation by the Allies, the retreating German army liquidated the camp and destroyed whatever evidence remained of the atrocities committed within its fences. For many decades, the only evidence of the horrors that took place at Treblinka came from testimonies of Nazi SS-men stationed there as well a few Jewish survivors who were willing to share their stories, but in 2012 forensic archaeologists uncovered previously hidden mass graves at the site that help prove its term as an extermination camp.

Samuel Willenberg, the last of only 67 survivors of the Treblinka extermination camp, passed away in Israel on February 21, 2016, at the age of 93. Willenberg was brought to Treblinka in 1942 at age 19, and survived because he was strong and told the gaurds that he was a builder. Allegedly, he was the only individual on his transport that was not sent to the gas chambers immediately upon arrival. He escaped Treblinka on August 2, 1943 along with 300 others, and survived the massive SS manhunt that recaptured 200 escapees despite being shot in the leg. Following his escape Willenberg returned to Warsaw, Poland, and after finding his father living in hiding outside of the ghetto, he joined the underground resistance and took part in the Warsaw Uprising.

What was Treblinka?

For the first 20 to 25 years after World War II, the survivors of the Holocaust mostly kept silent about their horrendous experiences in the concentration camps. In those years, the only Nazi concentration camp names that were familiar to most Americans were Dachau, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen, the places that were shown in the newsreels in movie theaters following their liberation by American and British troops. Who could ever forget the sight of the naked, emaciated bodies being shoved into mass graves with a bulldozer at Bergen-Belsen? Or Margaret Bourke-White's shocking photographs of the survivors of Buchenwald?

Back then, few people in America had ever heard of Treblinka, a camp hidden in the remote forests of northeastern Poland, along the western border of the Bialystok province. Most Americans believed, up until the mid 1970s, that the majority of the 6 million Jews, who were victims of the Holocaust, had died in the gas chambers at the Dachau camp near Munich, Germany. The only camp mentioned in the 1970s movie "Judgment at Nuremberg" was Dachau.

Now it is known that Dachau and Buchenwald, although horrible places where many people died, were concentration camps (Konzentrationslager), not extermination centers (Vernichtungslager) designed for the express purpose of annihilating all the Jews of Europe. Bergen-Belsen, the most horrible camp of them all, was called an internment camp for prisoner exchange (Aufenthaltslager) and later became a sick camp (Krankenlager) where concentration camp prisoners who were no longer able to work were sent.

According to Raul Hilberg in his book The Destruction of the European Jews, there were six extermination centers, all of them in Poland, including the little-known camp at Treblinka. The other extermination camps were at Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau, all in Russian-liberated Poland. The last two also functioned as forced labor camps (Zwangsarbeitslager), and were still operational when liberated by Russian soldiers towards the end of the war in 1944 and early 1945. The camps at Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Chelmno had already been liquidated by the Germans before the Russians arrived, and there was no remaining evidence of the Nazi atrocities.

An information pamphlet available at the entrance to the former camp site at Treblinka says, "In a relatively short time of its existence the camp took a total of over 800,000 victims of Jews from Poland, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Jugoslavia, Germany and the Soviet Union."

From Warsaw, the route to Treblinka starts with the crossing of the river Vistula, then a turn onto Highway 18 northeast towards Bialystok, the only large town in the Bialystok province, which is the most remote northeast corner of Poland. It is in the Bialystok province that bison still roam, and one can see the last remaining primeval forest and wetlands on the European continent. This area could truly be called the "Wild East" of Poland.

Treblinka is near the Bug River which, during World War II, formed the border between the Nazi occupied General Government of Poland and the zone occupied by the Russians from September 1939 until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941.

Highway 18 is a two-lane concrete road with pedestrian paths on each side. There is heavy traffic of trucks from Belarus (Byelorussia or White Russia) and Estonia traveling west into Poland traffic is slowed down by local Polish farmers driving wagons pulled by tractors or by a lone horse. The terrain is completely flat with farm land on each side of the road but not a fence in sight. Then the road goes through mile after mile of dense forest. During the war these woods were full of Polish and Jewish partisans, who hid there along with escaped Russian Prisoners of War, and fought the Nazis by blowing up bridges and train tracks or placing land mines to kill columns of German soldiers.

At a point 22 kilometers from Treblinka, the route turns southeast off of Highway 18. This new road is a one-lane blacktop with no space on the sides for pedestrians. The road gets progressively worse until the final leg of the journey is pockmarked with pot holes.

The Treblinka camp got its name from the tiny village of Treblinka, the closest town to Malkinia railroad junction, from where trains, carrying thousands of Jews crammed into freight cars, were shunted onto a sidetrack which the Nazis extended to the extermination camp. However, the closest inhabited place on the road to the camp is the equally tiny hamlet of Poniatowa. The road as it nears the camp becomes a one-lane blacktop, badly in need of repair.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland there was a forced labor camp at Poniatowa in November 1943 the Jewish prisoners there were shot after prison revolts and mass escapes at the Treblinka and Sobibor camps alarmed the Nazis.

The village of Treblinka is now almost deserted and the buildings are far more dilapidated than those in Poniatowa. Some of its rural dwellings are so humble that you would not suspect that people still live there if it were not for the lace curtains which are always hung in the windows of these cottages.

Approaching the Treblinka Camp

As you get near the village of Treblinka, there is a line of beautiful chestnut trees alongside the road on the right. You see old men walking along the road, carrying bundles of sticks on their backs. There are farm families digging potatoes and burning the dried potato vines in the fields. Occasionally, you see a stork's nest on a roof near the chimney, or a large ant hill at the edge of a forest, surrounded by a tiny log fence for protection. There are old wooden Catholic churches and white cottages with thatched roofs along the road. Telephone poles are topped with glass insulators, the kind you see for sale in antique stores in America. The farther you travel down this road, the farther you seem to go back in time.

Near Malkinia Junction, the road now has ancient concrete barriers to prevent cars from leaving the road, and quaint old railroad crossing signs. From this junction, a branch line runs south from the Ostbahn (Eastern Railroad line) to the village of Treblinka.

Entrance to Treblinka camp, from inside the camp

Finally you get to a narrow archway over the road, the purpose of which is to keep vehicles larger than 2.5 tons from proceeding beyond this point. Just before you get to the camp, you must cross a one-lane railroad bridge that was formerly used by both trains and cars, but is now used only by cars and pedestrians. According to Martin Gilbert in his book Holocaust Journey, this bridge was rebuilt some time after 1959, after it was destroyed during World War II.

The surface of the bridge is made of wood and the train tracks are not level, which would cause any train using the bridge to list to one side. The tracks of the railroad lines in Germany and Poland were then, and still are today, a different width than the tracks across the eastern border of the Bialystok District in what used to be the Soviet Union, and is now the country of Byelorussia, formerly called White Russia. According to my tour guide, today trains from Germany or Poland must stop at the Bialystok eastern border and change to wider wheels which can run on the tracks in Russia. In 1941, it was necessary for the German invading army to extend the Polish gauge tracks into Russia, as they advanced. The poor condition of the roads in Poland and Russia hampered the advancing Germany troops when their vehicles would become mired in three feet of mud. Three kilometers from Treblinka was located the main railroad line into Russia, through the Bialystok province.

After the joint conquest of Poland by the Germans and the Russians in September 1939, the river Bug (pronounced Boog) became the border between the German section and the Russian section of occupied Poland then the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and conquered the strip of eastern Poland that was formerly occupied by the Russians. Treblinka was in the former Russian section, but by 1942 it was occupied by the Nazis, who were then in a position to put their plan to exterminate the Jews into effect. The other two Operation Reinhard extermination camps (Sobibor and Belzec) were also located along the Bug river border, south of Treblinka.

Memorial stone at entrance to Treblinka

Hardly more than a creek, the Bug is shallow enough in some places so that one can wade across it, and according to historian Martin Gilbert, some refugees, from both sides, did wade across. The movie "Europa, Europa" has a scene in which Jewish refugees are shown walking toward the Russian sector, trying to escape the Nazis in September 1939 by crossing the Bug river on rafts.

The pictures above show the archway, the bridge and the river, taken on the return trip from Treblinka.

The Entrance to the Treblinka Extermination Camp

When you finally arrive at the entrance to the site of the former Treblinka extermination camp, you are on what looks like an old logging road, which goes through another dense forest. If you had wandered into this area by mistake, you might think that you had just entered a campground in a national forest. Everything is quiet and serene with only the sound of a few birds.

The caretaker's house is on the right as you enter, and there is a small wooden building with a sign on it which says Bistro. After my visit to the camp, I stopped there for a cup of tea, but the place was closed. Just beyond the Bistro is a narrow parking lot and a small building where you can buy postcards or a three-page pamphlet printed in several languages.

Line of stones marks boundary line of Treblinka

There is a covered arcade area open to the elements in front of the building, where huge blowups of several famous Holocaust pictures are hung, along with a poster with some information about Janusz Korczak, a Jewish director of an orphanage, who accompanied a group of orphans to the Treblinka camp, and died along with them.

Treblinka Memorial Stones

According to a pamphlet which I purchased at the camp tourist center, "The extermination camp in Treblinka was built in the middle of 1942 near the already existing labour camp. It was surrounded by fence and rows of barbed wire along which there were watchtowers with machine guns every ten metres. The main part of the camp constituted (sic) two buildings in which there were 13 gas chambers altogether. Two thousand people could be put to death at a time in them. Death by suffocation with fumes came after 10 - 15 minutes. First the bodies of the victims were buried, later were cremated on big grates out of doors. The ashes were mixed witch (sic) sand and buried in one spot."

According to Martin Gilbert in his book, Holocaust Journey, the gas chambers at Treblinka utilized carbon monoxide from diesel engines. Many writers say that these diesel engines were obtained from captured Russian submarines, but according to the Nizkor Project, they were large 500 BHP engines from captured Soviet T-34 tanks. At the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi war criminals, the American government charged that the Jews were murdered at Treblinka in "steam chambers," not gas chambers.

Stones recreate railroad ties for the tracks

The pamphlet continues with this information: "Killing took place with great speed. The whole process of killing the people, starting from thier (sic) arrival at the camp railroad till removing the corpses from the gas chambers, lasted about 2 hours. Treblinka was known among the Nazis as an example of good organization of a death camp. It was a real extermination centre."

There is a large memorial stone at the entrance to the cobblestone path up to the virtual cemetery. On the stone is a map showing the gravel pit in the center with the labor camp to the left and the extermination camp to the right. (On a real map, the gravel pit and labor camp are located to the south of the extermination camp.)

Two stones placed at an angle to form a gate into the former camp, and in the foreground 6 memorial stones, set close together, which are located just beyond the stone with the map. Each of the six stones is inscribed with a different language including Hebrew, English and Polish. The inscription says that the camp was in operation from July 1942 to August 1943 and that during that time 800,000 Jews were killed there. It also mentions the Aug. 2, 1943 uprising, calling it the "armed revolt which was crashed (sic) in blood by the Nazi hangmen." It was this uprising, along with those at Sobibor and Warsaw, which motivated the Nazis to liquidate the Jews of Lublin and Poniatowa in November 1943.

The pamphlet says that "After the riot the camp was being slowly liquidated and in November of 1943 it was not existing already." By this time, the Germans were losing the war on the Russian front and were in retreat. The Treblinka camp was completely dismantled and destroyed when it was liquidated. Among the few survivors were those who escaped during the uprising and joined the partisans in the forests.

Large stones mark railroad ties inside the camp

Looking toward the east, on the left side of the cobblestone path as you enter, there is a line of stone markers which delineate the original northern border of the camp. It is so quiet here that the only sound is your own footsteps on the cobblestone path.

Stone Sculptures at Treblinka

According to Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, the Treblinka camp was one of the three Operation Reinhard camps organized by Odilo Globocnik in 1942, after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, to carry out the Nazi plan for systematic extermination of the Jews. Reinhard Heydrich was the man who led the conference on January 20, 1942 at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, where the "Final Solution" for Europe's 11 million Jews was planned. The protocols from the conference used the expression "transportation to the East" as a euphemism to mean the genocidal killing of all the European Jews. The other two Operation Reinhard camps, Sobibor and Belzec, were also located on the eastern border of Poland, to the south of Treblinka. There were no "selections" made at the Operation Reinhard camps, nor at Chelmno. All three Operation Reinhard camps were located on major railroad lines from Poland into Russia.

At this point in the war, the Nazis had penetrated deep inside the Soviet Union, after first taking the lands in eastern Poland which had been conquered by the Russians in Sept. 1939. Treblinka was located in the area of Poland which had been occupied by the Soviet Union from Sept. 1939 until the German invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941.

The railroad tracks go in a straight line to Malkinia Junction from Warsaw and then branch off to Treblinka.

Stones commemorate the victims
from Poland & Czechoslovakia

In 1942 new railroad tracks were built by the Nazis, extending from the village of Treblinka into the extermination camp. At the camp, a storehouse was "disguised as a train station," according to the pamphlet available at the memorial site.

After you pass through the two stones set at an angle to form an entrance gate into the area where the Treblinka camp once stood, you come upon an immense stone sculpture designed to represent the railroad ties on which the tracks were laid on the spur line that the Germans built from Treblinka into the camp. The tracks begin in the wooded area outside the camp boundary line and then make a sharp turn to the left (eastward) into the camp.

Nearby is the end of the railroad spur line with a stone platform to the left. When the camp was in operation, there was a real train platform in this spot and behind it the storehouse, disguised as a train depot, which contained the clothing and other items which the victims had brought with them to the camp. Here lies a line of stones which represent the 10 different countries, including Greece, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and others, from which the Jews were transported by train to be exterminated here in this remote, God-forsaken spot in the forest.

Symbolic Cemetery at Treblinka

Just south of the recreated stone train platform, and in front of you as you are looking southward into the camp with the platform on the left, is the location of the "burial pits for those who died during transportation," according to the camp pamphlet.

Front of stone monument at Treblinka symbolic graveyard

East of the burial pits, according to the pamphlet, was an "execution site (disguised as a hospital)." Farther east and half way up the gentle slope to where the symbolic graveyard now stands, there were "3 old gas chambers" according to the pamphlet, and a short distance to the north of them were built "10 new gas chambers." According to my tour guide, the first gas chambers used carbon monoxide, but later some gas chambers were built which were disguised to look like showers and used the insecticide known as Zyklon B for gassing.

A short distance farther up the slope to the east of the gas chambers was located the "cremation pyres" according to a map in the camp pamphlet. None of the three Operation Reinhard extermination camps, all of which were located on the Polish border, had a crematorium for burning the bodies of the dead. Of the other five extermination camps which were in operation during the same period (Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau), only Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek, which also functioned as forced labor camps, had crematoriums.

Inside the camp lie stones commemorating the Jewish victims from Poland and Czechoslovakia. There are a total of 10 such stones with names of countries on them. According to Martin Gilbert in his book Holocaust Journey, there were 13,000 Jews deported here from the Greek provinces of Macedonia and Thrace, which were then occupied by Bulgaria, so their stone says "Bulgaria." (Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany, along with Rumania, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Finland, Italy, Austria, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.) There is another stone for the 43,000 Greek Jews who were brought here. At the base of the stones, visitors have placed votive candles in metal cans, fresh cut flowers and tiny flags of Israel.

A large granite memorial stone, designed to resemble a Jewish tombstone, which according to the camp pamphlet was built between 1959 and 1963. It is located approximately on the spot where the gas chambers stood, according to the tour guide. A Menorah sits at the top of the tombstone. The large crack down the middle of the stone is part of the design. Surrounding the huge tombstone are some of the 1,700 small stones which represent the villages and towns from whence came the 800,000 victims of this Nazi barbarity.

Stone Honoring Janusz Korczak

Located on a knoll at the top of a gentle slope on the site of the former Treblinka extermination camp is a large circular area with 1,700 stones of various sizes and colors set into concrete, which represent a symbolic cemetery. According to a pamphlet which I purchased at the camp reception center, "The great monument in Treblinka is a homage of the Polish people to those ashes lie under the concrete plates of the symbolic cemetery. It is one of the most tragic monuments of martyrdom in Poland."

My tour guide confirmed that the ashes of the 800,000 people who died here were placed in this area and are now hidden underneath the symbolic cemetery and by the grass and tiny flowers which cover the spot. The map in the camp pamphlet does not specify the exact spot where the ashes were buried.

1,700 stones set in concrete in a circle at the top of Treblinka

The tour guide pointed out one of the 1,700 symbolic stones which represents the city of Kielce in central Poland, where 42 Jews were killed by a mob of Polish citizens in a pogrom on July 4, 1946, long after the Nazi occupation had ended. Today Kielce is a modern industrial city with a population of 210,000, located between Warsaw and Krakow. In 1939, the Jewish population was around 25,000, although until the early 1800s, Jews were barred from living in the city. The 1946 pogrom was the last in Poland after that most of the 300,000 Polish Holocaust survivors fled the country.

There is also a stone for Janusz Korczak, the only person to have an individual stone in the symbolic cemetery. Korczak was a pseudonym for Dr. Henryk Goldzmit. He was a teacher and a social worker who ran an orphanage in Warsaw. He also did a weekly radio show for children, and wrote a series of children's books in which the central character was a boy king named King Matt. In July 1942, he turned down the opportunity to escape from the ghetto, and instead accompanied his orphans to Treblinka where he was murdered along with them. According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Korczak marched with his 192 orphans to the Umschlagplatz with one child carrying the flag of King Matt with the Zionist flag on the other side of it.

Another stone represents the cremation pit where, according to the camp pamphlet, bodies were burned on "grates." The pamphlet calls "melted basalt" set on a "concrete fundamental plate."Four round containers where "eternal flames" can be lit on special occasions. The map in the camp pamphlet shows that there were actually two cremation pyres, located just east of the 10 new gas chambers. The bodies which had been previously buried were dug up and cremated on the orders of Heinrich Himmler, after he visited the camp in 1943, according to Martin Gilbert.

Warsaw Stone

Symbolic grave stone honors victims from (Warsaw)

The largest stone at the symbolic cemetery is the one for Warsaw, from where the largest number of Jews were transported to Treblinka. According to historian Martin Gilbert, there were 265,000 Jews from Warsaw deported to Treblinka. In 1940 the Jewish population of Warsaw and the surrounding area, about 400,000 people, were first crowded into a walled ghetto, then later sent to Treblinka and other camps. According to my tour guide, there are today around 4,000 Jews living in Warsaw, but only 500 of them go to the Synagogue regularly.

The first picture below shows the large stone dedicated to the victims from Warszawa, the Polish name for the city that Americans know as Warsaw. Note the two flags of Israel and the small metal cans holding votive candles, left by recent visitors. This stone is the first one you see, right in front of the large memorial tombstone.

The second picture shows more stones under a majestic tree in the back portion of the symbolic cemetery, behind the simulated cremation pit. According to the map in the camp pamphlet, the area behind the symbolic cremation pit was where the bodies were buried before they were dug up and cremated.

The third picture is a close-up of the stones under the tree. As you can see, very few of the stones have names of the towns they represent. According to my tour guide, many relatives of those who died here come to the symbolic cemetery and are disappointed to find that their village is not named on any of the stones.

Uncovered Mass Graves Site

In January 2012, British forensic archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls uncovered mass graves in the Treblinka camp that were previously hidden underground. Using special, ground-penetrating radar equipment and other advanced technology so as not to cause complications with Jewish law which forbids disturbing burial sites, Colls and her team managed to uncover graves at the camp where it is widely held that the Nazi's murdered more than 850,000 people, the vast majority Jews.

Since the liberation of the Treblinka area by the Allies, Holocaust deniers have harped on the fact that no evidence of the exterminations supposedly carried out at the camp have been found. This new evidence now will help formally disprove those who still believe that the Treblinka camp was nothing more than a transit camp that moved Jews from Poland to the other various concentration camps across Europe.

Only 67 people survived Treblinka. As of March 2014, only two remain alive. [ED]

The research and findings from this study were presented as part of the documentary, 'The Hidden Graves of the Holocaust.'

Sources: Scrap Book Pages Jerusalem Post (January 19, 2012) Wesley Pruden, “The last living witnesses they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror,” Washington Times, (December 12, 2013).

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Why Germany didn't invade Turkey during WW2?

Why the German high command didn't decide to march into Turkey?

I mean, they had taken Greece and Crete and it seemed logical that they could invade Turkey. I think that would have enabled them to attack Russia from two fronts.

So, why didn't they attack Turkey? Or there is something else I am missing?

Thank You, any answer is appreciated :)

Cost benefit analysis. Turkey is kind of big and it would have resulted in tying up a lot of troops with no significant strategic gains. Turkey also did not have deposits of raw materials needed by the German war machine.

Thanks. Seems like that wouldn't have been much good on German war economy. But, in terms of strategy, could it have been beneficial for invading USSR later?

Turkey did not have a good rail network, the logistics would be a nightmare.

They took Greece, because Italy couldn't. Why make more enemies? Turkey wasn't as strong as The Ottomans, but that's like fighting one kangaroo and asking if 20K will join.

Agreed, but doing that they could have opened up another front against USSR isn't it? But yes, I agree to your explanation.

As Pasha Envar discovered in WWI, the invasion route through northeastern Turkey is highly overrated. German logistics were not very good as it was trying to take an army through the mountains would have been a disaster. It also probably would have convinced the Turks to open the straits to any and all Allied traffic.

Many issues as already stated here. The Allies had a hell of time in WWI, so that reputation probably also was taken into consideration. Turkey is also very mountainous in a lot of areas making very hard to get around.

Turkey being neutral prevented access to the Black Sea, so you would think that would be a reason to invade. Romania was in the Axis at the time, so their navy was available to counter any Russian navy in the Black Sea. The Axis actually did move some some vessels by land to the Black Sea.

Overall the Axis' confidence was big enough to not bother with them.

Plus turkey didnt wanna join any war back then.. ww1 was devastating enough

Germany didn't even want to invade Greece, Italy's utter lack of war preparedness (which was mostly germany's fault) forced their hand. Greece ended up being a very annoying liability and troop sink. Germany essentially lost its paratrooper capabilities on Crete. A substantial number of German troops had to be diverted to deal with the Greek situation and general Italian incompetence, which harmed the war effort in Russia.

Numerous Russian commanders (including stalin) attributed their success at stopping the push to Moscow to the Greeks delaying the German advance. At Nuremberg, a Nazi commander attributed a 1-2 month delay in Russia to Greek resistance. The troops that conquered Greece were directly pulled from the front in Russia and then had to be sent back.

The Greek resistance was never thoroughly pacified, and the Germans barely even controlled large parts of the interior. It was a non-productive liability for the Germans until the end of the war.

A new front in Turkey would have lost them the war almost immediately. Turkey had the same terrain advantages as Greece, and offered very little immediate strategic value. They actually did have plans to invade, but those were never really seriously considered.

the tldr here is that Germany didn't invade Turkey because it could not do so in any practical sense.

edit: One other thing. This post used the Greek invasion as a convenient metaphor for what a Turkish invasion would have looked like. But Turkey was not Greece. Their standing army before the war was double that of Greece, their air force many times large, and they were generally a large and more powerful country with significant terrain advantages.

World War II: Operation Barbarossa

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany and its Axis allies began a massive invasion of the Soviet Union named Operation Barbarossa -- some 4.5 million troops launched a surprise attack deployed from German-controlled Poland, Finland, and Romania. Hitler had long had his eye on Soviet resources. Although Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR in 1939, both sides remained suspicious of one another, and the agreement merely gave them more time to prepare for a probable war. Even so, the Soviets were unprepared for the sudden blitzkreig attacks across a border that spanned nearly 2,900 km (1,800 mi), and they suffered horrible losses. Within a single week, German forces advanced 200 miles into Soviet territory, destroyed nearly 4,000 aircraft, and killed, captured, or wounded some 600,000 Red Army troops. By December of 1941, German troops were within sight of Moscow, and they laid siege to the city. But, when the notorious Russian winter (nicknamed "General Winter") set in, German advances came to a halt. By the end of this, one of the largest, deadliest military operations in history, Germany had suffered some 775,000 casualties. More than 800,000 Soviets had been killed, and an additional 6 million Soviet soldiers had been wounded or captured. Despite massive advances, Hitler's plan to conquer the Soviet Union before winter had failed, at great cost, and that failure would prove to be a turning point in the war. (This entry is Part 6 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)

A German infantryman walks toward the body of a killed Soviet soldier and a burning BT-7 light tank in the southern Soviet Union in in 1941, during the early days of Operation Barbarossa. #

(Editor's note, the date in this caption was in error, these rocket launchers were not deployed until later in the war.) Soviet rocket launchers fire as German forces attack the USSR on June 22, 1941. #

An Sd.Kfz-250 half-track in front of German tank units, as they prepare for an attack, on July 21, 1941, somewhere along the Russian warfront, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. #

A German half-track driver inside an armored vehicle in Russia in August of 1941. #

German infantrymen watch enemy movements from their trenches shortly before an advance inside Soviet territory, on July 10, 1941. #

German Stuka dive-bombers, in flight heading towards their target over coastal territory between Dniepr and Crimea, towards the Gate of the Crimea on November 6, 1941. #

German soldiers cross a river, identified as the Don river, in a stormboat, sometime in 1941, during the German invasion of the Caucasus region in the Soviet Union. #

German soldiers move a horse-drawn vehicle over a corduroy road while crossing a wetland area, in October 1941, near Salla on Kola Peninsula, a Soviet-occupied region in northeast Finland. #

With a burning bridge across the Dnieper river in the background, a German sentry keeps watch in the recently-captured city of Kiev, in 1941. #

Machine gunners of the far eastern Red Army in the USSR, during the German invasion of 1941. #

A German bomber, with its starboard engine on fire, goes down over an unknown location, during World War II, in November, 1941. #

Nazi troops lie concealed in the undergrowth during the fighting prior to the capture of Kiev, Ukraine, in 1941. #

Evidence of Soviet resistance in the streets of Rostov, a scene in late 1941, encountered by the Germans as they entered the heavily besieged city. #

Russian soldiers, left, hands clasped to heads, marched back to the rear of the German lines on July 2, 1941, as a column of Nazi troops move up to the front at the start of hostilities between Germany and Russia. #

Russian men and women rescue their humble belongings from their burning homes, said to have been set on fire by the Russians, part of a scorched-earth policy, in a Leningrad suburb on October 21, 1941. #

Reindeer graze on an airfield in Finland on July 26, 1941. In the background a German war plane takes off. #

Heinrich Himmler (left, in glasses), head of the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS, inspects a prisoner-of-war camp in this from 1940-41 in Russia. #

Evidence of the fierce fighting on the Moscow sector of the front is provided in this photo showing what the Germans claim to be some of the 650,000 Russian prisoners which they captured at Bryansk and Vyasma. They are here seen waiting to be transported to a prisoner of war camp somewhere in Russia, on November 2, 1941. #

Adolf Hitler, center, studies a Russian war map with General Field Marshal Walter Von Brauchitsch, left, German commander in chief, and Chief of Staff Col. General Franz Halder, on August 7, 1941. #

German soldiers, supported by armored personnel carriers, move into a burning Russian village at an unknown location during the German invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 26, 1941. #

A huge Russian gun on tracks, likely a 203 mm howitzer M1931, is manned by its crew in a well-concealed position on the Russian front on September 15, 1941. #

Rapidly advancing German forces encountered serious guerrilla resistance behind their front lines. Here, four guerrillas with fixed bayonets and a small machine gun are seen in action, near a small village. #

Red Army soldiers examine war trophies captured in battles with invading Germans, somewhere in Russia, on September 19, 1941. #

A view of the destruction in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on October 3, 1941, after the wave of war had passed over it, the Russians had withdrawn and it was in Nazi hands. #

Five Soviet civilians on a platform, with nooses around their necks, about to be hanged by German soldiers, near the town of Velizh in the Smolensk region, in September of 1941. #

A Finnish troop train passes through a scene of an earlier explosion which wrecked one train, tearing up the rails and embankment, on October 19, 1941. #

Burning houses, ruins and wrecks speak for the ferocity of the battle preceding this moment when German forces entered the stubbornly defended industrial center of Rostov on the lower Don River, in Russia, on November 22, 1941. #

General Heinz Guderian, commander of Germany's Panzergruppe 2, chats with members of a tank crew on the Russian front, on September 3, 1941. #

German soldiers remove one of many Soviet national emblems during their drive to conquer Russia on July 18, 1941. #

A man, his wife, and child are seen after they had left Minsk on August 9, 1941, when the German army swarmed in. The original wartime caption reads, in part: "Hatred for the Nazis burns in the man's eyes as he holds his little child, while his wife, completely exhausted, lies on the pavement." #

German officials claimed that this photo was a long-distance camera view of Leningrad, taken from the Germans' seige lines, on October 1, 1941, the dark shapes in the sky were identified as Soviet aircraft on patrol, but were more likely barrage balloons. This would mark the furthest advance into the city for the Germans, who laid seige to Leningrad for more than two more years, but were unable to fully capture the city. #

A flood of Russian armored cars move toward the front, on October 19, 1941. #

German Army Commander Colonel General Ernst Busch inspects an anti-aircraft gun position, somewhere in Germany, on Sept. 3, 1941. #

Finnish soldiers storm a soviet bunker on August 10, 1941. One of the Soviet bunker's crew surrenders, left. #

German troops make a hasty advance through a blazing Leningrad suburb, in Russia on November 24, 1941. #

Russian prisoners of war, taken by the Germans on July 7, 1941. #

An column of Russian prisoners of war taken during recent fighting in Ukraine, on their way to a Nazi prison camp on September 3, 1941. #

German mechanized troops rest at Stariza, Russia on November 21, 1941, only just evacuated by the Russians, before continuing the fight for Kiev. The gutted buildings in the background testify to the thoroughness of the Russians "scorched earth" policy. #

German infantrymen force their way into a snipers hide-out, where Russians had been firing upon advancing German troops, on September 1, 1941. #

Two Russian soldiers, now prisoners of war, inspect a giant statue of Lenin, somewhere in Russia, torn from its pedestal and smashed by the Germans in their advance, on August 9, 1941. Note the rope round the neck of the statue, left there in symbolic fashion by the Germans. #

German sources described the gloomy looking officer at the right as a captured Russian colonel who is being interrogated by Nazi officers on October 24, 1941. #

Flames shoot high from burning buildings in the background as German troops enter the city of Smolensk, in the central Soviet Union, during their offensive drive onto the capital Moscow, in August of 1941. #

This trainload of men was described by German sources as Soviet prisoners en route to Germany, on October 3, 1941. Several million Soviet soldiers were eventually sent to German prison camps, the majority of whom never returned alive. #

Russian snipers leave their hide-out in a wheat field, somewhere in Russia, on August 27, 1941, watched by German soldiers. In foreground is a disabled soviet tank. #

German infantrymen in heavy winter gear march next to horse-drawn vehicles as they pass through a district near Moscow, in November 1941. Winter conditions strained an already thin supply line, and forced Germany to halt its advance - leaving soldiers exposed to the elements and Soviet counterattacks, resulting in heavy casualties and a serious loss of momentum in the war. #

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The royal coup [ edit | edit source ]

On 23 August 1944, just as the Red Army was penetrating the Moldavian front, King Michael I of Romania led a successful coup with support from opposition politicians and the army. Michael I, who was initially considered to be not much more than a figurehead, was able to successfully depose the Antonescu dictatorship. The King then offered a non-confrontational retreat to German ambassador Manfred von Killinger. But the Germans considered the coup "reversible" and attempted to turn the situation around by military force. The Romanian First, Second (forming), and what little was left of the Third and the Fourth Armies (one corps) were under orders from the King to defend Romania against any German attacks. King Michael offered to put the Romanian Army, which at that point had a strength of nearly 1,000,000 men, Ε] on the side of the Allies.

This resulted in a split of the country between those that still supported Germany and its armies and those that supported the new government, the latter often forming partisan groups and gradually gaining the most support. To the Germans the situation was very precarious as Romanian units had been integrated in the Axis defensive lines: not knowing which units were still loyal to the Axis cause and which ones joined the Soviets or discontinued fighting altogether, defensive lines could suddenly collapse.

King Michael I of Romania led the coup that put Romania on the Allied side.

In a radio broadcast to the Romanian nation and army on the night of 23 August King Michael issued a cease-fire, Ζ] proclaimed Romania's loyalty to the Allies, announced the acceptance of an armistice (to be signed on September 12) Η] offered by Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR, and declared war on Germany. ⎖] The coup accelerated the Red Army's advance into Romania, but did not avert a rapid Soviet occupation and capture of about 130,000 Romanian soldiers, who were transported to the Soviet Union where many perished in prison camps. The armistice was signed three weeks later on 12 September 1944, on terms virtually dictated by the Soviet Union. Ζ] Under the terms of the armistice, Romania announced its unconditional surrender ⎗] to the USSR and was placed under occupation of the Allied forces with the Soviet Union as their representative, in control of media, communication, post, and civil administration behind the front. Ζ] It has been suggested that the coup may have shortened World War II by up to six months, thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives [ citation needed ] . Some attribute the postponement of a formal Allied recognition of the de facto change of orientation until 12 September (the date the armistice was signed in Moscow) to the complexities of the negotiations between the USSR and UK. ⎘]

During the Moscow Conference in October 1944 Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, proposed an agreement to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on how to split up Eastern Europe into spheres of influence after the war. The Soviet Union was offered a 90% share of influence in Romania. ⎙]

The Armistice Agreement of 12 September stipulated in Article 18 that "An Allied Control Commission will be established which will undertake until the conclusion of peace the regulation of and control over the execution of the present terms under the general direction and orders of the Allied (Soviet) High Command, acting on behalf of the Allied Powers. The Annex to Article 18 made clear that "The Romanian Government and their organs shall fulfil all instructions of the Allied Control Commission arising out of the Armistice Agreement." The Agreement also stipulated that the Allied Control Commission would have its seat in Bucharest. In line with Article 14 of the Armistice Agreement, two Romanian People's Tribunals were set up to try suspected war criminals. ⎚]

World War II Database

ww2dbase When North American Aviation President "Dutch" Kindleberger approached Sir Henry Self of the British Supply Committee for the sale of the B-25 Mitchell bombers in 1939, Self responded with a more urgent need for fighters. Self initially asked if North American could produce the Curtiss Tomahawk fighters under license, but Kindleberger responded negatively. Instead, he promised, North American was to deliver a better design, and in less time than what the company would need to gear a new production line for the manufacturing of the Tomahawk design. By Mar 1940, the British ordered 320 of the new Mustang fighters. On 26 Jun 1940, production was expanded when Packard was given a license to build the design with a different, Rolls-Royce Merlin, engine.

ww2dbase It would be interesting to note that, initially, the United States Army Air Corps disliked the new design. Not only that it did not show any interest in purchasing aircraft of this design, it also attempted to block the export to Britain based on its protectionist philosophy. Relieved that USAAC eventually abandoned its effort to lobby against the export, North American promised that two examples would be given to the US Army at no cost. These two examples would be the first to carry the US Army designation P-51.

ww2dbase The first prototype, designated NA-73X, took flight on 26 Oct 1940, merely 117 days after the order was placed. It handled well, and most significantly, offered a long range with its high fuel load. It also had room to house heavier armament than the British Spitfire fighters. The first design suffered some performance drawbacks at high altitudes, but otherwise it still impressed RAF Air Fighter Development Unit's commanding officer.

ww2dbase The first combat action the Mustang fighters participated took place on 10 May 1942, when RAF pilots flew them against German counterparts.

ww2dbase In early 1943, a new Mustang design went into production. Designated Mustang X during prototype stages and P-51B and P-51C Mustang III after production began, these P-51 Mustang fighters equipped with Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 engines had much better performance in high altitudes, something the prior variants lacked. One improvement that had longer lasting effect was the possibility of a drop tank in these Merlin-equipped fighters, which provided the Allies candidates for long-range bomber escorts. Many of these new fighters began arriving in Britain in Aug 1943, while fewer numbers went to Italy late that year. By late 1943, they were the favored fighters to escort bombers on bombing missions deep into Germany. Their high speed also allowed them to pursue German V-1 rockets.

ww2dbase The next stage of development resulted in the P-51D variant, which was considered the definitive Mustang model bubble canopies that provided much greater field of vision and six M2 machine guns were the key characteristics of the P-51D fighters. When they first saw combat over Europe, gunners of US bombers were unfamiliar with their appearance, and there were incidents of bombers firing at their escorting "enemy Bf 109 fighters". By mid-1944, regardless of US Army's initial dislike for this design a few years prior, they quickly became the United States Army Air Forces' primary fighters. While their armament, reliability, and self-sealing tanks were all favorable attributes, the characteristic that the USAAF leadership liked most was the P-51 Mustang fighters' long range, allowing them to escort heavy bombers deep into Germany. The P-51D variant would also become the most widely produced variant of the Mustang design. By the end of 1944, 14 out of the 15 groups of the US Army 8th Air Force flew Mustang fighters of various variants. American pilot Chuck Yeager of later test pilot fame flew a P-51D Mustang fighter at this time, skillfully shooting down a German Me 262 jet fighter during its landing approach, making him the first American to shoot down a German jet fighter.

ww2dbase Two American pilots flying P-51 fighters were awarded the Medal of Honor during WW2, Major James H. Howard of the 354th Fighter Group for action over Germany on 11 Jan 1944 and Major William A. Shomo of the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron for action over the Philippine Islands on 11 Jan 1945.

ww2dbase By late 1944, P-51 Mustang fighters were seen in the China-Burma-India Theater as well. They operated in both ground support and bomber escort roles.

ww2dbase The P-51H variant entered production just before the end of the war, yielding 555 of the fastest production Mustang fighters built, but none of them saw combat during WW2. Because of the lower availability of spare parts, most P-51H fighters would not see much action even during the Korean conflict, unlike their P-51B, C, and D siblings.

ww2dbase After WW2, P-51 Mustang fighters were selected as the main propeller-driven fighter of the US Army Air Forces, but the advent of jet fighters had already eclipsed the design. Nevertheless, they remained in service in 30 countries around the world, and remained in production in the form of a license-built variant by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia until 1948. By 1950, most of the American P-51 fighters, now designated F-51 under a new designation system in the US, were relegated to Air National Guard units. During the Korean War, many F-51 fighters were used as tactical ground attack aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft, particularly of the F-51D variant. After the Chinese-North Korean push that nearly conquered all of South Korea, F-51 Mustang fighters could actually reach targets that their jet counterparts could not.

ww2dbase After the Korean War, the United States continued to employ Mustang aircraft until 1957, then again after 1967 with Mustang aircraft built by Cavalier Air Corporation, which had purchased the design rights from North American in the early 1960s. The last US military use of the F-51 aircraft was in 1968, when the US Army used them as chase aircraft during the development of the YAH-56 Cheyenne helicopter. Many of them continued to be in service abroad, with the Dominican Republic Air Force being the last to retire them, in 1984.

ww2dbase Mustang aircraft were sold to the civilian market as early as immediately after WW2, some for as little as US$1,500. Many of them entered air racing, such as the P-51C aircraft purchased by Paul Mantz, who won the Bendix Air Races in 1946 and 1947 and set a US coast-to-coast record in 1947. Today, Mustang aircraft are among the most sought after "warbird" aircraft on the civilian market, with some transactions exceeding US$1,000,000.

ww2dbase In total, 15,875 units were built, making the P-51 Mustang design the second most-built aircraft in the United States after the P-47 Thunderbolt.

ww2dbase Sources:
Robert Dorr, Fighting Hitler's Jets

Last Major Revision: Sep 2007

26 Jun 1940 Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, United States received the license from Rolls-Royce to build Merlin engines for the P-51 Mustang fighters, with an order at the size of US$130,000,000 being placed. The first Packard-built Merlin engine, designated V-1650-1, would be ready in Aug 1941.
26 Oct 1940 The P-51 Mustang fighter, NA-73X, took its maiden flight.
10 May 1942 P-51 Mustang fighters saw combat for the first time with RAF pilots in the cockpits.
23 Nov 1943 The USAAF commenced operations with the new P-51A fighter in Asia when eight P-51 fighters from Claire Chennault's 23rd Fighter Group escorted B-25 Mitchell bombers in an attack on the Japanese airfield in Shinchiku Prefecture (now Hsinchu), Taiwan.
1 Dec 1943 US IX Fighter Command aircraft began operations from the United Kingdom when 28 P-51B fighters flew a sweep over north-western France. The mission also marked the debut of the Merlin-powered Mustang fighter in USAAF service.
2 Jun 1944 US suttle-bombing between Italy and the USSR (Operation Frantic) began. Under command of Lieutenant General Ira C Eaker, 130 B-17s, escorted by 70 P-51s, bombed the railway marshalling yard at Debreczen (Debrecen), Hungary and landed in the Soviet Union the B-17s at Poltava and Myrhorod, the P-51s at Pyriatyn. 1 B-17 was lost over the target.
6 Jun 1944 Operation Frantic shuttle bombing continued as 104 B-17s and 42 P-51s (having flown to the USSR from Italy on 2 Jun) attacked the airfield at Galați, Romania and returned to Soviet shuttle bases 8 German fighters were shot down and 2 P-51s were lost.
11 Jun 1944 126 B-17s and 60 P-51s departed Russian shuttle bases for Italy to complete the first Operation Frantic operation. On the way, 121 B-17s bombed the Focşani, Romania airfield.
21 Jun 1944 145 B-17s began an Operation Frantic shuttle bombing mission between the United Kingdom and bases in Ukraine. 72 P-38s, 38 P-47s and 57 P-51s escorted the bombers to the target, the synthetic oil plant at Ruhland, Germany. 123 B-17s bombed the primary target while the rest bombed secondary targets. The fighter escort returned to England while fighters based at Pyriatyn, Ukraine relieved them. 1 B-17 was lost to unknown causes and 144 B-17s landed in the USSR, 73 at Poltava and the rest at Myrhorod. During the night, the 73 B-17s at Poltava were attacked for 2 hours by an estimated 75 German bombers led by aircraft dropping flares. 47 B-17s were destroyed and most of the rest were severely damaged. Heavy damage was also suffered by the stores of fuel, ammunition, and ordinance.
22 Jun 1944 Because of the attack on Operation Frantic B-17s at Poltava, Ukraine the night before, the B-17s at Myrhorod and P-51s at Pyriatyn were moved farther east to be returned before departing to bases in Italy once the weather permitted. The move was fortunate as German bombers struck both Pyriatyn and Myrhorod during the night.
25 Jun 1944 Following a visit to British No. 617 Squadron at Woodhall Spa in England, United Kingdom by USAAF Generals Carl Spaatz and James Doolittle, a crated Mustang fighter was delivered as a gift from the United States to Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire. Cheshire wanted to use it that evening for a raid on the V-bomb site at Siracourt, France, and his mechanics worked all day removing the grease and the guns. One hour after the Lancaster bombers had taken off Cheshire followed in the Mustang fighter (which type he had never flown before) and he arrived in time to mark the target at low level for the heavy bombers.
25 Jun 1944 At daybreak, B-17s and P-51s were flown from dispersal bases to Poltava and Myrhorod and loaded and fueled with intentions of bombing the oil refinery at Drohobycz (Drohobych), Poland before proceeding to bases in Italy as part of Operation Frantic’s shuttle-bombing plan. Bad weather canceled the mission until the following day. The aircraft returned to dispersal bases for the night as precaution against air attacks.
26 Jun 1944 72 B-17s departed Poltava and Myrhorod, Ukraine, rendezvoused with 55 P-51s from Pyriatyn, bombed the oil refinery and railway marshalling yard at Drohobycz (Drohobych), Poland (1 returned to the USSR because of mechanical trouble), and then proceeded to Italy as part of Operation Frantic’s shuttle-bombing plan.
2 Jul 1944 41 P-51s, temporarily in Italy while en route from the USSR to the UK during an Operation Frantic shuttle mission, joined Fifteenth Air Force fighters in escorting Fifteenth Air Force bombers against targets in the Budapest, Hungary area, claiming 9 aircraft destroyed and suffering 4 losses.
3 Jul 1944 55 B-17s in Italy on the return leg of an Operation Frantic shuttle mission join Fifteenth Air Force bombers in bombing railway marshalling yards at Arad, Romania. 38 P-51s also on the shuttle run flew escort on the mission. All Operation Frantic aircraft returned to bases in Italy.
5 Jul 1944 70 B-17s on an Operation Frantic shuttle mission (UK-USSR-Italy-UK) flew from bases in Italy and attacked the railway marshalling yard at Beziers, France (along with Fifteenth Air Force B-24s) while on the last leg from Italy to the United Kingdom. 42 P-51s returned to England with the B-17s (of the 11 P-51s remaining in Italy, 10 returned to England the following day and the last several days later).
22 Jul 1944 76 P-38s and 58 P-51s began the second of the Fifteenth Air Force’s Operation Frantic shuttle missions, attacking airfields at Ziliştea (Zilişteanca) and Buzău, Romania (claiming the destruction of 56 enemy aircraft) and landing at Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine.
26 Jul 1944 Fifteenth Air Force fighters on an Operation Frantic shuttle mission leave Ukraine bases, strafed enemy aircraft in the Bucharest-Ploeşti, Romania area, and returned to bases in Italy.
4 Aug 1944 In an attempt to comply with the first direct Soviet request for USAAF air strikes, over 70 P-38s and P-51s left Italy, attacked the airfield and town of Focşani, Romania, and landed at Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine.
6 Aug 1944 In an Operation Frantic mission, 75 B-17s from England bombed aircraft factories at Gdynia and Rahmel, Poland and flew on to bases in Ukraine. 23 B-17s were damaged. Escort was provided by 154 P-51s. 4 P-51s were lost and 1 was damaged beyond repair. Further, 60 fighters from the previous day’s strike took off from Operation Frantic bases in Ukraine, attacked Craiova railway marshalling yard and other railway targets in the Bucharest-Ploesti, Romania area, and landed at bases in Italy.
7 Aug 1944 In accordance with a Soviet request, 55 B-17s and 29 P-51s of the USAAF involved in Operation Frantic flew from bases in Ukraine and attacked an oil refinery at Trzebinia, Poland without loss and returned to Operation Frantic bases in the USSR.
8 Aug 1944 Operation Frantic shuttle missions continued as 78 B-17s with 55 P-51s as escort left bases in Ukraine and bombed airfields in Romania 38 bombed Buzău and 35 bombed Ziliştea. No German fighters were encountered and the force flew on to Italy.
10 Aug 1944 45 P-51s in Italy during an Operation Frantic shuttle mission are dispatched with Fifteenth Air Force aircraft to escort a troop carrier evacuation mission.
12 Aug 1944 The Operation Frantic shuttle-bombing mission UK-USSR-Italy-UK is completed. 72 B-17s took off from bases in Italy and bombed the Toulouse-Francazal Airfield, France before flying on to England. 62 P-51s (part of the shuttle-mission force) and 43 from the UK provide escort no aircraft are lost.
11 Sep 1944 75 B-17s of Operation Frantic shuttle missions left England as part of a larger raid to oil refineries at Chemnitz along with 64 P-51s that continued on and landed in Ukraine.
13 Sep 1944 73 B-17s, escorted by 63 P-51s, continuing the Operation Frantic UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle-bombing mission, took off from Ukraine bases, bombed a steel and armament works at Diósgyőr, Hungary and proceeded to Fifteenth Air Force bases in Italy.
15 Sep 1944 As part of Operation Frantic, 110 B-17s were dispatched from England to drop supplies to Warsaw resistance fighters and then proceed to bases in the USSR but a weather front was encountered over the North Sea and the bombers were recalled. Escort is provided by 149 P-51s and 2 P-51s collided in a cloud and were lost.
17 Sep 1944 An Operation Frantic UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle mission was completed as 72 B-17s and 59 P-51s fly without bombs from Italy to England.
22 Sep 1944 The last Operation Frantic mission ended as 84 B-17s and 51 P-51s return to England from Italy.


MachineryOne Packard Merlin V-1650-7 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12 engine rated at 1,695hp
Armament6x12.7mm machine guns, optional 907kg of bombs or optional 10x127mm rockets
Span11.28 m
Length9.83 m
Height4.17 m
Wing Area21.83 m²
Weight, Empty3,465 kg
Weight, Loaded4,175 kg
Weight, Maximum5,490 kg
Speed, Maximum703 km/h
Speed, Cruising580 km/h
Rate of Climb16.30 m/s
Service Ceiling12,770 m
Range, Maximum2,655 km


MachineryOne Packard Merlin V-1650-9 liquid-cooled supercharged V-12 engine rated at 2,218hp
Armament4x12.7mm Browning machine guns or 6x12.7mm Browning machine guns
Span9.83 m
Length11.28 m
Height3.38 m
Wing Area21.83 m²
Weight, Empty3,195 kg
Weight, Loaded4,310 kg
Weight, Maximum5,215 kg
Speed, Maximum784 km/h
Rate of Climb16.30 m/s
Service Ceiling12,680 m
Range, Maximum1,865 km

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World War II Database

ww2dbase China had been in political turmoil since the 1911 revolution. In fact, civil wars and regional conflicts would continue nearly non-stop into the WW2 era. By 1928, the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, based in the capital of Nanjing, had largely emerged as the strongest faction. In the early- to mid-1930s, Nationalist government was able to significantly improve the country's infrastructure and stabilize the economy. Since the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, sovereignty had slowly been returning to Chinese hands from the European imperial powers, and relationships with the west had also been improving. Foreign nations such as and the Soviet Union and Germany contributed much to the rise of modern China in this period. Behind the steady progress was the Nationalist Party's one-party system, which was maintained by brutal force whenever necessary. Corruption, which was a matter of course in Qing Dynasty China, was inherited by the Nationalist officials, and the party leadership did little to curb such practice.

ww2dbase It was around this time that the Chinese Communist Party was formed. Although later Communist literature would claim a great amount of credit in its efforts to better the lives of the ordinary people and to counter the increasing Japanese demands on China, the truth was that the Communist party was only slightly better than a group of bandits in the 1930s, surviving as the result of the Nationalist Party's agreement with the Soviet Union in return for military aid.

ww2dbase Japan's violation of Chinese sovereignty started as early as 1931 when Japanese troops entered northeastern China, also known as Manchuria, which had a population of about 30,000,000. On 18 Feb 1932, Japan established the puppet nation of Manchukuo, forcibly taking Manchuria away from China. The League of Nations attempted to interfere with Japan's aggression toward China, but failed. With the former Emperor of China, Puyi, nominally at the helm of the puppet nation, Japan used Manchukuo for its rich resources as well as its strategic location to counter Soviet influence in the area. In 1932, Japan attacked the Chinese city of Shanghai, again triumphant over an ineffective League of Nations. The streak of aggression would continue with an invasion of Hebei Province in 1933 and an indirect support of a Mongolian raid into northern China in 1936. Full scale war would finally break out in Jul 1937. Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kaishek, previously stressed the need to unify China by defeating the Communists before dealing with external aggression, was kidnapped during the Xi'an Incident and forced to temporarily ally with the Communists. Such an alliance was nominal at best. At first, the Communists undermined Nationalist efforts against the Japanese so to allow the Japanese to inflict maximum damage on the Nationalists, while the Nationalists moved their best divisions and weapons into reserve for the inevitable future civil war against the Communists. Before long, the two sides would engage in actual fighting against each other, although such clashes would be played down on both sides to avoid damage in reputation.

ww2dbase The city of Shanghai on the Chinese coast fell under Japanese control in Oct 1937, followed by the capital of Nanjing two months later. Japanese troops committed atrocities, with the most brutal example shown with the Rape of Nanjing, where 50,000 to 300,000 Chinese, mostly civilians and prisoners of war, were murdered and 20,000 women of all ages were raped. Japanese bomber crews were equally brutal against the civilians, dropping their payloads purposefully in residential zones and on clearly marked hospitals. Although out-gunned and out-maneuvered by Japanese troops, the Chinese were determined and were resilient. Fighting primarily a defensive war, the Chinese made use of the vastness of China Proper to trap more and more Japanese troops in this large theater as occupation troops, preventing them from being used offensively in the China-Burma-India Theater or as garrison troops in the Pacific War. To partially counter this, the Japanese organized regiments of Manchurian, Mongolian, and Han Chinese military and gendarmerie units to police the conquered territories. The most powerful collaborationist force in China under Japanese control was the military of the puppet state Manchukuo, which fielded a 220,000-strong military with a small air force and a small navy. The general Chinese population who happened to reside near main railways was pressed into Japanese service as well. These civilians were given the responsibility to quickly repair sections of tracks damaged or destroyed by Chinese saboteurs within eight miles of their places of residence failures in doing so quickly would often result in reprisal killings.

ww2dbase At the end of the war, over 2,000,000 Japanese lived in China, most of whom in Manchuria. Nearly all were deported back to Japan after the war.

ww2dbase The eight-year war ended with a great cost on the Chinese population with about 20,000,000 perishing in the conflict, 16,000,000 of that figure civilian. Inflation grew to dangerous levels in the post-war economy, and the situation was worsened by rampant corruption in the Nationalist government. Meanwhile, the Soviet troops that invaded the puppet nation of Manchukuo remained there, providing a safe haven for the Chinese Communists to build up strength and gathered surrendered Japanese equipment. In Mar 1946, the civil war restarted, and a year later the Communist capital of Yenan was taken by the Nationalists, which enjoyed a military advantage and had monetary support from the United States. The Communists quickly turned the tide, however. Through effective propaganda campaigns and popular land reform policies, the Communists secured loyalty from the massive farmer population, thus providing the Communists a nearly unlimited pool of resources from which they could recruit manpower. By late 1947, the Communists had taken control all of northeastern China. Chiang Kaishek suggested an offensive into the northeast, but US Secretary of State George Marshall convinced Chiang to wait, hoping the civil war could end via diplomatic means although a Nationalist offensive might or might not had been successful, the pause meant the Nationalists had now given away any chance of seizing the initiative. In 1948, the Communists launched an offensive of their own into China Proper, rapidly pushing back Nationalists forces. On 31 Jan 1949, Beiping was declared secure by the Communists. On 21 Apr, the Chinese capital of Nanjing fell under Communist control. The Nationalist government first fled to Guangzhou on 23 Apr, then Chongqing on 15 Oct, followed by Chengdu on 25 Nov.

ww2dbase Relocation of the Republic of China to Taiwan

ww2dbase On 10 Dec 1949, the Nationalists abandoned all positions in mainland China and relocated the Republic of China to the island of Taiwan on 10 Dec 1949. The Nationalists were able to secure quantities of gold reserves and various cultural treasures to Taiwan before they could be captured by the Communists. The Republic of China still remains in Taiwan today with the capital in the city of Taipei. Mainland China today is occupied by a new country formed by the Communist forces which claimed victory in 1949 the communist People's Republic of China renamed Beiping ("Northern Peace") to Beijing ("Northern Capital") to serve as its capital.

ww2dbase Administrative Divisions of the Republic of China

ww2dbase Sources:
Jung Chang, Mao
Philip Jowett, China's Wars

Last Major Update: Mar 2010

Bai, ChongxiJiang, DingwenUlaan Huu
Bie, TingfangKong, XiangxiWang, Guangfu
Cai, TingkaiLeng, PeishuWang, Jingwei
Cen, ZeliuLi, JueWang, Mingzhang
Chan, ChakLi, LiWang, Picheng
Chang, Gui FongLi, MiWang, Xiaoting
Chang, YizhouLi, ShouxinWang, Zhi
Chen ChangjieLi, ZongrenWei, Daming
Chen, ChengLiao, YaoxiangWei, Lihuang
Chen, DaqingLim, Bo SengWellington Koo
Chen, GongboLin, SenWong, John
Chen, JieLiu, CuigangWong, Sun-sui
Chen, JitangLiu, ZheshengXi Qia
Chen, MingshuLu, HanXia, Chuzhong
Chen, ShaokuanLuo, YingdeXiao, Yisu
Chen, YiMa, BufangXie, Jieshi
Chen, YiMa, BuluanXue, Yue
Cheng, TianfangMa, BuqingYan, Xishan
Chiang, KaishekMa, ZhanshanYang, Guangsheng
Chin, ArthurMao, YingchuYu, Hanmou
ChoibalsanNemoto, HiroshiYu, Xuezhong
Chu, MinyiPan, Jun ShunYuan, Baokang
Dai, LiPan, YukunYuan, Jinkai
DemchugdongrubPang, BingxunYue, Yiqin
Deng, XihouPuyiZang, Shiyi
Ding, DelongRosenfeld, JacobZang, Xilan
Ding, JianxiuRuan, ZhenduoZhang, Haipeng
Ding, ZhipanShi, SimingZhang, Jinghui
Dong, ZhaoSong, MeilingZhang, Lingfu
Du, YumingSong, TiancaiZhang, Xueliang
Fu, ZuoyiSong, ZheyuanZhang, Zhizhong
Gao, YouxinSong, ZiwenZhao, Chengshou
Gao, ZhihangSu, YuZhao, Dengyu
Gu, ZhutongSun, ChuZheng, Xiaoxu
Han, DeqinSun, DuZhou, Zhikai
Han, FujuSun, LianzhongZhu, Jiaren
He, YingqinSun, LirenZhu, Jiaxun
Ho, Feng-ShanTan, KunHu, SuTang, Enbo
Events Taken Place in China
Jinan Incident3 May 1928
Xinjiang Wars20 Feb 1931 - 30 Oct 1937
Mukden Incident18 Sep 1931 - 19 Sep 1931
Battle of Qiqihar4 Nov 1931 - 18 Nov 1931
Battle of Jinzhou21 Dec 1931 - 3 Jan 1932
Battle of Harbin and Establishment of Manchukuo25 Jan 1932 - 4 Feb 1932
First Battle of Shanghai28 Jan 1932 - 8 Mar 1932
First Battle of Hebei1 Jan 1933 - 22 May 1933
Tauran Incident11 Mar 1936
Battle of Suiyuan20 Oct 1936 - 17 Nov 1936
Xi'an Incident12 Dec 1936 - 24 Dec 1936
Lugou Bridge Incident and Second Battle of Hebei7 Jul 1937 - 8 Aug 1937
Battle of Chahar1 Aug 1937 - 12 Aug 1937
Beiping-Hankou Railway and Tianjin-Pukou Railway Operations1 Aug 1937 - 31 Dec 1937
Second Battle of Shanghai13 Aug 1937 - 9 Nov 1937
Bombing of Shanghai, Chongqing, and other Cities15 Aug 1937 - 23 Aug 1943
Battle of Shanxi1 Sep 1937 - 11 Nov 1937
Battle of Nanjing and the Rape of Nanjing9 Dec 1937 - 31 Jan 1938
Burma Road and the Hump1 Jan 1938 - 10 Nov 1945
Henan Campaign7 Feb 1938 - 10 Jun 1938
Battle of Xuzhou24 Mar 1938 - 1 May 1938
Battle of Xiamen10 May 1938 - 12 May 1938
Battle of Wuhan11 Jun 1938 - 27 Oct 1938
Guangdong Operation12 Oct 1938 - 31 Dec 1938
Battle of Hainan9 Feb 1939 - 12 Feb 1939
Battle of Nanchang17 Mar 1939 - 9 May 1939
Battle of Suixian-Zaoyang20 Apr 1939 - 24 May 1939
Battle of Khalkhin Gol11 May 1939 - 31 Aug 1939
Tianjin Incident14 Jun 1939 - 20 Aug 1939
First Battle of Changsha17 Sep 1939 - 6 Oct 1939
Winter Offensive1 Dec 1939 - 30 Mar 1940
Battle of Wuyuan28 Jan 1940 - 3 Apr 1940
Battle of Zaoyang-Yichang1 May 1940 - 18 Jun 1940
Hundred Regiments Offensive20 Aug 1940 - 30 Sep 1940
Battle of Huangqiao4 Oct 1940 - 10 Oct 1940
Battle of Han River25 Nov 1940 - 30 Nov 1940
New Fourth Army incident5 Jan 1941 - 13 Jan 1941
Battle of South Henan30 Jan 1941 - 1 Mar 1941
Battle of South Shanxi7 May 1941 - 27 May 1941
Second Battle of Changsha6 Sep 1941 - 8 Oct 1941
Third Battle of Changsha24 Dec 1941 - 15 Jan 1942
Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign15 May 1942 - 15 Sep 1942
Battle of Exi5 May 1943 - 11 Jun 1943
Battle of Changde2 Nov 1943 - 20 Dec 1943
Salween Offensive1 Apr 1944 - 27 Jan 1945
Operation Ichigo19 Apr 1944 - 31 Dec 1944
Battle of Zhijiang1 Apr 1945 - 30 Jun 1945
Manchurian Strategic Offensive9 Aug 1945 - 2 Sep 1945
Japan's Surrender14 Aug 1945 - 2 Sep 1945

Hanyang Type 88 Rifle
Ankang AirfieldAirfield
Baishiyi AirfieldAirfield
Chengdu AirfieldAirfield
Chenggong AirfieldAirfield
Chuxiong AirfieldAirfield
Fenghuangshan AirfieldAirfield
Fuzhou ArsenalShipyard
Ganzhou AirfieldAirfield
Guanghan AirfieldAirfield
Guilin AirfieldAirfield
Hanyang ArsenalFactory
Huxian AirfieldAirfield
Jiangnan ArsenalFactory, Shipyard
Jiangwan AirfieldAirfield
Jianqiao AirfieldAirfield
Kaifeng AirfieldAirfield
Kunming AirfieldAirfield
Laohwangping AirfieldAirfield
Leiyun CAMCO FactoryFactory
Liangshan AirfieldAirfield
Liuzhou AirfieldAirfield
Longhua Civilian Assembly CenterPrison Camp
Loping AirfieldAirfield
Luliang AirfieldAirfield
Nanning AirfieldAirfield
Nanyuan AirfieldAirfield
Nanzheng AirfieldAirfield
Pungchacheng AirfieldAirfield
Ryojun Guard DistrictNaval Port
Shuangliu AirfieldAirfield
Suichuan AirfieldAirfield
Tianhe AirfieldAirfield
Weixian Internment CampPrison Camp
Xi'an AirfieldAirfield
Xiangyun AirfieldAirfield
Xinjin AirfieldAirfield
Yangkai AirfieldAirfield
Zhanyi AirfieldAirfield
Zhijiang AirfieldAirfield

China in World War II Interactive Map

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38 Photos of Russia’s Harsh Gulags, Past and Present

Gulag, an acronym of ‘Glavnoye Upravleniye LAGerej,&rsquo meaning ‘Main Camps&rsquo Administration&rsquo was a government agency created under Vladimir Lenin which reached its peak as a Soviet forced labor system during Joseph Stalin&rsquos rule from the 1930s until the 1950s. The camps were home to a wide range of convicts and political prisoners. Inmates were sentenced, often without trial by the NKVD Troika Secret Police.

Gulags were located in isolated areas wherever the economic task at hand dictated their existence. The majority of them were located in northeastern Siberia and in the southeastern Soviet steppes of Kazakhstan.

The Solovki prison was the first corrective labor camp constructed after the Bolshevik Revolution, established in 1918. The conditions in Solovki and the numerous other Gulags were severe. Because the camp administrators too optimistic with their estimates of productivity, they were forced to work longer hours on lower food rations. The over-worked, under-fed prisoners would work even slower and would be given even longer hours with less food, in a disparaging cycle.

Andrei Vyshinsky, a procurator of the Soviet Union, wrote a memorandum to NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov in 1938 which stated: &ldquoAmong the prisoners, there are some so ragged and lice-ridden that they pose a sanitary danger to the rest. These prisoners have deteriorated to the point of losing any resemblance to human beings. Lacking food, they collect orts [refuse] and, according to some prisoners, eat rats and dogs.&rdquo

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, there were at least 476 separate camp administrations. The Russian researcher Galina Ivanova stated that &ldquoto date, Russian historians have discovered and described 476 camps that existed at different times on the territory of the USSR. It is well known that practically every one of them had several branches, many of which were quite large. In addition to the large numbers of camps, there were no less than 2,000 colonies. It would be virtually impossible to reflect the entire mass of Gulag facilities on a map that would also account for the various times of their existence.&rdquo

It is estimated that over 50 million people were sent through the Gulag system. Forced labor is still used as punishment today.

Philosopher Pavel Florensky after being arrested for &ldquoagitation against the Soviet system.&rdquo Florensky was sentenced to ten years of labor in Stalin&rsquos gulags. He would not serve the full ten years. three years after this picture was taken, he was dragged out into the woods and shot. USSR. February 27, 1933. Wikimedia Commons Yuriy Tyutyunnyk, a Ukranian General who fought against the Soviets in the Ukranian-Soviet War. Tyutyunnyk was allowed to live in Soviet Ukraine after the war — until 1929 when Soviet policies changed. He was arrested, taken to Moscow, imprisoned, and killed. USSR. 1929. Wikimedia Commons A gold mine that, during Stalin&rsquos reign, was worked through prison labor. Magadan, USSR. August 20, 1978. Wikimedia Commons A miner who died working in a forced labor camp is put to rest under the ground. Vaygach Island, USSR. 1931. Wikimedia Commons Convicts sleep inside of a sod-covered house in a Siberian gulag. Siberia, USSR. Date unspecified. Library of Congress Not every political prisoner was lucky enough to be sentenced to forced labor. Here, the bodies of thousand of Polish people lie dead in a mass grave. Katyn, Poland. April 30, 1943. Wikimedia Commons Polish families are deported to Siberia as part of the Soviet Union&rsquos relocation plan. Influential families in conquered states would often be forced into labor to help systematically destroy their culture. Poland. 1941. Wikimedia Commons Posters of Stalin and Marx gaze down at the prisoners inside of their sleeping quarters. USSR. Circa 1936-1937. New York Public Library Prisoners at work building the White Sea-Baltic Canal, one of the first major projects in the Soviet Union made entirely through slave labor. 12,000 people died while working amid the harsh conditions at the canal. USSR. 1932. Wikimedia Prisoners at work operating a machine inside of a gulag. USSR. Circa 1936-1937. New York Public Library Prisoners digging clay for the brickyard. Solovki Island, USSR. Circa 1924-1925. Wikimedia Commons Prisoners hammer away at the rocks in the White Sea-Baltic Canal. USSR. Circa 1930-1933. Wikimedia Commons Prisoners in a Soviet gulag dig a ditch while a guard looks on. USSR. Circa 1936-1937. New York Public Library Stalin comes out to inspect the progress on the Moscow Canal, which is being built by imprisoned workers. Moscow, USSR. April 22, 1937. Wikimedia Commons The chiefs of the gulags. These men were responsible for forcing more than 100,000 prisoners to work. USSR. July 1932 Wikimedia Commons The crude lodgings that host a group of prisoners in one of Stalin&rsquos gulags. USSR. Circa 1936-1937. New York Public Library The directors of the gulag camps gather together to celebrate their work. USSR. May 1, 1934. Wikimedia Commons Two Lithuanian political prisoners get ready to go to work in a coal mine. Inta, USSR. 1955. Wikimedia Commons Young boys in a gulag stare at the cameraman from their beds. Molotov, USSR. Date unspecified. David Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies

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