Second World War by Gilbert Martin;

Second World War by Gilbert Martin;

Author:Gilbert, Martin; [Gilbert, Martin]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 1716006
Publisher: Rosetta Books
Published: 2014-01-31T05:00:00+00:00

The Eastern Front and the Red Army advance, July–August 1943

***

On August 22, after several days of stubborn fighting, German forces withdrew from Kharkov, and, for the fourth time in two years, the Ukrainian city changed hands. On the following evening, in Moscow, 224 guns each fired twenty salvoes to salute the troops who had liberated the city.

In a further discussion with Churchill at Quebec on August 23 Roosevelt seemed to take alarm at the turn of the tide in eastern Europe, telling Churchill that he ‘desired’ the troops of the Western Allies ‘to be ready to get to Berlin as soon as did the Russians’. On that day, the American and Russian troops were almost identical distances from Berlin, the Americans at Messina were 1,000 miles from Berlin, the Russians at Orel 950 miles away; yet, despite these great distances, which could surely not be covered for more than a year, Roosevelt showed concern about an eventual conflict of goals between the Soviet Union and the West. Churchill did not disagree.

Berlin was not merely a talking point that August 23; following the destruction of Hamburg, and the death of forty-four thousand of its citizens, at the end of July, British bombers had planned a new series of attacks, this time on Berlin, which were intended to wreak similar havoc. The first of these raids, in what the British were to call the Battle of Berlin, took place on the night of August 23, carried out by more than seven hundred bombers. When the raid was over, 854 people were dead, 102 of whom were foreign workers, and two of whom were Allied prisoners-of-war. British losses among the bomber crews were also high, with 298 airmen killed, and a further 117 taken prisoner and sent to prisoner-of-war camps.

More fortunate than those shot down over Berlin was Staff Sergeant Claude Sharpless, shot down near Toulouse on August 24. As he landed, thirty or more Frenchmen surrounded him, spirited away his tell-tale flying suit, and produced a suit of civilian clothes for him to change into, so that he could go into hiding and be guided southward to the Pyrenees, Spain, and safety.

***

On the Eastern Front, the Red Army followed up the recapture of Kharkov by continuing its advance, capturing Kotelva, sixty miles west of Kharkov, on August 27, and, west of Kursk, entering Sevsk that same day. Also on August 27, a total of 185 American bombers made a massive raid on the German rocket launching site at Éperclecques, on the Channel coast. The moment chosen for the raid was after the concrete had been poured, but before it had time to set; as a result, it was a mass of twisted steel reinforcing girders which hardened within a few days into a useless, distorted mass. The Germans had therefore to begin the construction all over again, and to do so at a new site. Following a meeting between Hitler and Albert Speer a month after the raid, the Chief Engineer of



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