A timeline on gold reserves, and Russia, and WW2
One of the main issues in the Second World War, that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention,
was the background to how everyone was paying for everything.
Just been reading more also of the background in Russia at the time, so thought I'd pop
this page together.
Stalin (1878-1953), at the start of World War 2 had just completed the Great Purge, as it was called.
When capital punishment was abolished in Russia in February 1917, Russian troops formed "soldier committees" and everywhere men were refusing to obey their officers.
Lenin (1870-1924) sued for peace in December 1917 as German troops rapidly advanced.
However, the ongoing civil war, particularly down in the Ukraine, only really stopped when Stalin reinstated the death penalty and started executing "traitors and terrorists", increasing it to the rate of 1,000 per day in 1937. Probably one million and more were executed as a result. It mostly ended in the middle of 1938.
Stalin's Pact with Adolf Hitler
With so much civil war instability solved, Stalin formed a treaty with Hitler in 1939.
Russia would reign east of Poland and supply Germany with all necessary war materials as Hitler conquered the West.
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) despised Russia, ruled by the same "Jewish financiers" that he saw in the US and London, but he needed its help. Stalin bent over backwards, in some ways, to supply Hitler, doubtless he remembered what had happened in 1917.
There were some problems regarding payment though, and non-delivery in mid-1940.
When Hitler formed the treaty with Japan at the end of 1940, Stalin said he wanted in.
Germany then sent its terms for what Russia would be expected to do, Russia replied with adjusted terms, and Germany then never replied back.
Interestingly, German leaders were in discussions with Finland, a small country in population, but who shared a 1300 km border and disputed territory alongside Russia. Stalin had invaded Finland on 30 Nov 1939 in the "Winter War", resulting in Finland having to cede border areas to Russia on 12 Mar 1940. Finland was now ready to take back that land with the assistance of Germany, in the Continuation War, that lasted 25 June 1941 until an armistice with Moscow (and the UK) was signed on 19 September 1944.
On 22nd June 1941, Hitler invaded, declaring that Russia would collapse like a "house of cards" just like it did in 1917, and indeed, caught quite unprepared, by September the Russians had retreated right up to Moscow, yes, where apparently all the gold was.
While announcing to the world that Moscow was now his, Hitler failed to take it during the Battle for Moscow (Oct-Dec 1941). He was running short of oil supplies, and he turned south to the Ukraine to consolidate his considerable victories into southern Russia. Yes, in all the confusion, he was far too overextended, and by now there were huge numbers of Russians ready and willing to die for their homeland. The German war machine was heaps more efficient when it came to war, but Hitler's pride, his arrogance, was doubtless his undoing.
Other WW2 Fields of Operation
Click here to go to the Battle of France and Battle of Britain in May-September 1940 and Winston Churchill's speeches.
Click here for Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chat on May 27 1941 calling on the US, in fact all of North and South America, to stand with Britain against the Nazis, to defend the "Freedom of the Seas", and that the only thing to fear was "fear itself". He famously contrasted this "Second World War" (no longer just a "European War") with the "First World War" (previously referred to generally as the "Great War").
Click here to go to the Battle in the Pacific with Japan, their attack on Hawaii in December 1941.
Click here to go to the 1942 North Africa campaign against Italy, and the fall of Mussolini.
Fall of Adolf Hitler 1942-1945
The following comes mainly from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In 1942, as far as mainland Europe was concerned, the German army had been victorious in an almost unbroken chain of battlefield successes. Europe lay under German domination.
After a successful German advance into southern Russia in the summer of 1942, the battle for the city of Stalingrad proved a turning point. Soviet forces launched a counteroffensive against the Germans arrayed at Stalingrad in mid-November 1942. They quickly encircled an entire German army, more than 220,000 soldiers. In February 1943, after months of fierce fighting and heavy casualties, the surviving German forces — only about 91,000 soldiers — surrendered.
After Stalingrad, Soviet forces remained on the offensive for the remainder of the war, despite some temporary setbacks. A last German offensive at Kursk, 450 kms south-west of Moscow, failed in the summer of 1943. The Soviets pushed the Germans back to the banks of the Dnieper River in 1943 and then, by the summer of 1944, to the borders of East Prussia a country at that time on the north east of Poland. In January 1945, a new offensive brought Soviet forces to the banks of the Oder, in eastern Germany.
On 27th January the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, 50kms south-west of Kraków in southern Poland, was liberated by the Russian Army.
From their bridgehead across the Oder River, Soviet forces launched a massive final offensive toward Berlin in mid-April 1945. The German capital was encircled on April 25. That same day, Soviet forces linked up with their American counterparts attacking from the west at Torgau, on the Elbe River in central Germany. In Berlin itself, heavy fighting took place in the northern and southern suburbs of the city.
As Soviet forces neared his command bunker in central Berlin on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Within days, Berlin fell to the Soviets. The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally in the west on May 7 and in the east on May 9, 1945. May 8, 1945, was proclaimed Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day).
Mussolini and the West
- 7 Aug 1942: Bernard Montgomery appointed as commander of the army in Egypt in the British North African Campaign.
- 23 Oct 1942: Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt proves to be a turning point to this war.
- 13 May 1943: Italian-German forces in North Africa surrender to the allies.
- 9 July 1943: Sicily invaded by British, US and Canadian troops under the command of Montgomery and US General Patton. City of Syracuse falls the next day.
- 25 July 1943: Italian Prime Minister and dictator, Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) meets with the King Victor Emmanuel in Rome. On the previous day, his council had voted to restore direct control to the king. The king accordingly ordered his resignation as leader, and following the meeting, his arrest by the carabinieri (police-soldiers). The new Prime Minister, Pietro Badoglio, sets in motion steps towards an armistice with US General Eisenhower.
- 27th July 1943: Back in Sicily, Italian and German troops make plans to evacuate the island. Evacuation begins 1st August.
- 17th August 1943: Last German forces have been evacuated from Messina (on the northern tip of the island) and it is now occupied by the allies.
- 3rd September 1943: Armistice signed between USA and Italy.
- 8th September 1943: Most of the Italian army had still not been informed of the armistice. German troops move into Italy in large numbers, massacring some troops, taking over. On 9th September, the king and PM flee from Rome to Brindisi in the south-east. On 12th September, takeover is completed and Mussolini has been freed from his prison.
- 23rd September 1943: Mussolini is appointed by Hitler to be Duce (Leader) of the Italian Social Republic in the far north of the country.
- 13th October 1943: The Prime Minister of Italy declares Italy to be at war with Nazi Germany.
- 4th June 1944: Rome taken by the Allies.
- 19th August 1944: In the north, following the Normandy landings on 6th June, Allies reach Paris. Last German garrison surrenders there on 25th August.
- 2nd September 1944: Allies reach Belgium. Brussels falls by 8th September. However, German counter-attacks that winter slow down the Allies advance, enabling the Russians to reach Berlin first in April 1945.
- 28 April 1945: Mussolini arrested in Northern Italy, while attempting to flee on a bus. Executed by firing squad.
- 29 April 1945: In his last will and testament, Adolf Hitler named Karl Dönitz, at the time the Commander-in-chief of the Navy, his successor as Head of State, with a message sent by telegram via his personal secretary Martin Bormann to Dönitz and General Jodl (and Heinrich Himmler) at Rheinsberg, 75km north-west of Berlin. Hitler subsequently committed suicide on 30 April, followed by Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, on 1st May, with Dönitz fleeing to Flensburg, just south of Denmark.
- 4 May: Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, representing Dönitz, surrendered all German forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northwestern Germany to Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath, southeast of Hamburg.
- 7 May: On Dönitz's instructions, Colonel-General Alfred Jodl signed the German Instrument of Unconditional Surrender on 7 May 1945 in Reims France in the presence of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower with "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 23:01 hours Central European Time on 8 May 1945."
Battle in the Pacific, the Western Allies vs Japan
Over in the east Japan invaded French Indochina (Vietnam) in September 1940.
Following a period of preparation, Japan attacked Hawaii on 7 December 1941 destroying many US planes, ships, then simultaneously invaded Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaya, Thailand on the 8th.
Rabaul (on New Britain island in New Guinea) fell in January 1942, Singapore was bombed and surrendered 15 February, followed by Rangoon (Yangon) capital city of Burma (Myanmar) 7 March, then Jakarta in Indonesia on 9 March. On 17 March, US General Douglas Macarthur who had been stationed in the Philippines as a military advisor since 1935, was flown from Mindanao (in the south) to Darwin with the famous words "I will return". Manila (its capital) surrendered on 6 May 1942.
However Japan's plans to take Port Moresby by sea were thwarted at the Battle of the Coral Sea on 8 May.
Also its plans were thwarted on 4 June to establish a base on the island of Midway (with a view to later taking Hawaii).
But on 21 July Japan established beachheads at Buna and Gona villages on the north side of Papua, preparing to take Port Moresby over the mountain range via the Kokoda Trail. Defended, with difficulty, by Australian troops.
Note, Australia's base of operations during the Pacific War was initially in Melbourne after February 1942, shifting to Brisbane on 21 July, lasting three years. US Commander in Chief was the aforementioned Douglas Macarthur, with his headquarters based in the AMP building in Queen Street, later renamed Macarthur Chambers in his honour.
- During August and particularly on 14th September 1942, Japan was defeated at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands following the capture of Henderson Airfield (today Honiara Airport) by US Marines. It caused authorities in Japan to tell its army in PNG to "back off" from making an imminent attack on Port Moresby on 26 September. Fighting continued on northern beaches, Lae freed in September 1943, Aitape and Madang April 1944, while Wewak and Rabaul weakened till war end in 1945.
- 17th October 1944: Battle of Leyte in the Philippines with General Macarthur returning (as promised) on 20th October. Taken by the Allies on 26th December.
- 13th December 1944: Mindoro in the Philippines falls to the Allies over a 3 day battle.
- 3rd February 1945: Manila is invaded by the Allies and taken on March 3.
- 19th February 1945: Battle of Iwo Jima (tiny island south of Japan). Captured by the Allies 26th March with 6,800 US soldiers killed and 18,000 Japanese killed or missing.
- 10th March 1945: Bombing Raid of Tokyo early morning following leaflet warnings on 1st March. Firebombing by over 200 Boeing heavy bombers burned out much of eastern Tokyo, with about 100,000 killed, mostly civilians, and one million left homeless.
- 1st April 1945: Battle of Okinawa (another tiny island but with about 300,000 local residents). Captured by the Allies 22nd June with 12,520 US soldiers killed in action, 77,000 Japanese soldiers killed, and possibly over 100,000 residents killed through the cruel use of them by the Japanese as human shields. Seen as the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. Portrayal of battle shown in the Mel Gibson movie "Hacksaw Ridge".
- May 1945: Over in Burma, British troops take Rangoon
US troops now make plans for a ground invasion of Japan to be carried out in November 1945.
- 6th August 1945: US first drop an atom bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later US drop a second atom bomb on Nagasaki.
- 8th August 1945: USSR declare war on Japan, and invade Manchuria.
- 12th August 1945: Emperor of Japan informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. Announced on 15th August and formally signed on 2nd September. The November ground invasion by US troops was accordingly called off.
Lastly a Postscript on Battle of Britain in 1940 from Wikipedia
plus some of Winston Churchill's speeches.
- 3rd September 1939: Declaration of war on Germany by England and France with the German invasion of Poland. With minimal warfare initially, often referred to as the Phoney War. Denmark and Norway were invaded on 9th April 1940, with King Christian of Denmark surrendering to Germany the same day. Incidentally, that decision meant he retained his throne, and much of his administration, and later in the war was able to assist thousands of Jewish refugees escape to Sweden. In Norway, Oslo in the south was captured, with Vidkun Quisling, leader of Norway's pro-German National Party, becoming the new leader. A provisional capital in Norway's north, Tromsø, was established for the royal family on 1st May as Norwegian troops fought on with British and French assistance.
On 10th May 1940 German troops invaded Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, marking the beginning of the Battle of France. The same day UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned the premiership, although he retained the leadership of the Conservative Party until October that year, when ill health from cancer forced him to resign from that as well. But on 10th May, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the UK. On 14th May, the Netherlands surrendered, with Queen Wilhelmina and her government safely escaping to London.
- 26th May: Evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk commences, with King Leopold III of Belgium surrendering "somewhat prematurely" it was felt by many, on 27th May. With the strong disapproval of his government, who escaped eventually to England, Leopold, being a widower and having children from his earlier marriage, remained in Belgium where he remarried, as a prisoner throughout the war. Afterwards, following accusations of being a "collaborationist", his brother acted temporarily as regent of Belgium until 1950, followed by Leopold's formal abdication in favour of his son, Baudouin.
- 4th June: Back to 1940. Winston Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches" speech in House of Commons
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
- 5th June: The first sizeable air raids came on the night of 5-6 June, when around thirty aircraft attacked airfields and other targets near the east coast. This was repeated on the following two nights, then a lull until the French armistice. During this period northern Norway fell to Germany, with King Haakon VII, his royal house and the Norwegian government relocating to London on 7th June. Sweden, similar to Portugal and Spain, remained neutral throughout the war, with many Norwegians also escaping to Sweden.
- 18th June: Winston Churchill's "Finest Hour" speech in House of Commons
What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour"
- 22nd June: Armistice, suspension of hostilities, signed in France. Small scale nightly raids on British airfields and other targets recommence.
- 10th July: 120 German bombers and fighters struck a British shipping convoy in the English Channel, while 70 more bombers attacked dockyard installations in South Wales. This day is regarded as the official commencement of the Battle of Britain.
- 8th August: Escalation of coastal targets — ports, the aircraft industry and RAF airfields. On this day three separate attacks, each of about 100 enemy aircraft, directed against a convoy off the Isle of Wight, sunk and damaged several ships. All raids were engaged by RAF Fighters, and fifty-two enemy aircraft were shot down, with a further fourteen unconfirmed. RAF casualties amounted to seventeen fighters, a Blenheim engaged on a training flight, and several pilots rescued.
- 20th August: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" speech in House of Commons, referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force crews who were now fighting a pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe, with Britain expecting an invasion at any moment by sea and land, as well as by air. Pilots who fought in the battle have been known as The Few ever since.
- 24th August: Attacks escalate on RAF Fighter Command's inland stations. On this day the Luftwaffe — accidentally, it's now believed — dropped bombs on central London instead of the docks. Hitler had expressly forbidden 'Terror raids' on Britain or the bombing of London. He had long hoped that he could somehow arrange a peace with Britain. Nine people were killed. Churchill and the War Cabinet decided to order an immediate strike by Bomber Command on Berlin. The following night more than 70 planes flew out to attack the heart of Nazi Germany. That raid, and those on subsequent nights, provoked a significant change in strategy in the air offensive against Britain.
Until now the bombing had been confined to broadly military targets, with the emphasis on airfields and aircraft factories. But on 4th September, stung by these attacks, Hitler promised to retaliate in like fashion.
- 7th September: The Blitz. German bombers made the first co-ordinated attack on London.
- 15th September: Two massive waves of German attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF. Sixty German and twenty-six RAF aircraft were shot down on the day. The action was seen as the climax of the Battle of Britain and the day is commemorated as Battle of Britain Day.
- 17th September: Two days after the German defeat Hitler postponed preparations for the invasion of Britain. Henceforth, in the face of mounting losses in men, aircraft and the lack of adequate replacements, the Luftwaffe ended large scale daylight bomber raids. Fighter bomber raids (light bombers) continued their daytime attacks up to the end of October. Then nighttime bombing only to May 1941, after which Hitler diverted the German airforce to the east and north with his plans to invade Russia. Intermittent raids came from 1941 to 1943, then a 'Baby Blitz' November 1943 to January 1944, finally a campaign of guided missiles V1 (cruise missiles) and V2 (ballistic missiles) between June 1944 to March 1945, following the Normandy invasion.
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