WORLD WAR TWO ON POSTAGE STAMPS CONTINUED



Less than a week after the Roosevelt re-election in the US, Churchill had another reason to be thankful. In a daring attack, which lasted less than an hour, the British navy effectively cut the Italian's navy in half.
The Italian navy, after an action off Calabria, had retreated to the harbour of Taranto. Unable to draw them out, Admiral Cunningham, the British commander decided to go in after them. His plan called for carrier-based torpedo planes to reach the Italians undetected. The attack began at 11.00 pm on November 11 1940. An hour later, the Italians had lost 3 battleships, 2 cruisers and 2 destroyers.
British naval supremacy had been restored in the Mediterranian.
The "Bismark", was launched on February 14 1939 and was intended to be a surface ship to break up the convoy system. For this purpose, the "Bismark" and the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" sailed from Gdansk on the Baltic sea, on May 18 1941. They were sighted in the Skagerrak two days later and HMS "Hood" and HMS "Price of Wales were ordered to the area.When they encountered the German warships at a range of 17 miles, they engaged. The "Hood" fired first on the "Prinz Eugen", but was hit by fire from the "Bismark". It was the "Hood"'s only battle. She blew up with an enormous explosion and only three men of her 1416 crew, survived. After this, HMS "Prince of Wales", withdrew from the fight. On May 26 1941, Fairy Swordfish aircraft from the aircraft carrier HMS "Ark Royal", attacked and hit the "Bismark"'s steering gear with a torpedo. That crippled her and she was finished off, by torpedoes from HMS "Dorsetshire". The "Bismark" finally sank, at 10.40 on May 27, taking 2200 men, including Admiral Lutjens, with her. 110 survivors were picked up by HMS "Dorsetshire".



The Balkans

Romania
During the 1930's, there was a lot of political turmoil in Romania, which created a native Romanian Fascist Party, called the "Iron Guard" with its leader Corneliu Codreanu. King Carol proclaimed himself dictator in 1938, to prevent Codreanu from doing so. When Codreanu became too popular, he was arrested and later on a November night, taken to the forest of Ploesti and with 13 of his followers, strangled. That was the end of the "Iron Guard", for the time being.
In 1940, because Germany was winning, King Carol decided that only Germany could help Romania against her neighbours and declared himself for the Axis. Russia was demanding the return of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. The Hungarians wanted Transylvania and Bulgaria demanded Dobruja. When to Carol's surprise, Hitler ordered Romania to surrender those territories, King Carol was blamed. The re-emerging Iron Guard staged a revolution and brought King Michael on the throne.
The new Prime Minister Antonescu called the "Iron Guard" to power and Romania had exchanged one dictator with another.On October 7 1940, with the consent of the Antonescu regime, two German divisions occupied the Romanian oil fields and Romania became part of the Tripartite Pact on November 23. The "Iron Guard" commemorative stamp reads: Within 18 hours of our victory, we will be connected to the Axis Rome-Berlin.

Bulgaria


King Boris the third, of Bulgaria, became King in 1918 and ruled for 15 years without much interest in politics. When in 1934, the Bulgarian Premier suspended the constitution and set up a military dictatorship, King Boris stepped in and ruled as a dictator himself.
In August 1940, Hitler called a conference in Vienna to settle disputes between the Balkan states. After Romania was compelled to cede the rich wheat area of Dobruja to Bulgaria, King Boris appointed a pro-German Premier and in March 1941 Bulgaria joined the Axis powers, agreeing to immediate occupation of German troops.
In April 1941, Bulgaria declared war on Yugoslavia and Greece. From the Yugoslavian territory she gained Macedonia, while the occupation of Greece, gave her an outlet on the Agean Sea and the isle of Thasos.
Bulgaria declared war on Britain and the USA in December 1941, but never declared war on the USSR.
In 1943, when the tide turned against Germany, Hitler tried to force King Boris to declare war on the Soviet Union, but Boris refused. After returning from a meeting with Hitler in 1943, King Boris died under mysterious circumstances. He was succeeded by his six year old son, Simeon the second, and a more pro-German Government.

Hungary


Admiral Miklos Horthy was elected regent by the Hungarian Assembly in 1920. Under his regime, Hungary became the first nationalist dictatorship after the first world war in Europe, ruthlesly suppressing all political opposition.
In 1938, Hungary acquired some of the Czechoslovakian territory.
Nationalist demands for the return of Transylvania were partially satisfied in 1940, when Germany and Italy awarded Hungary the northern part of that Romanian province.
On June 27 1941, Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union and on December 13 1941, on the USA. The Hungarian army suffered heavy losses on the Eastern Front and even the Vice-Regent Stephen Horthy, son of Admiral Horthy, was shot down while fighting with the Germans.A special mourning stamp was issued.

Yugoslavia and Greece
Once Romania had joined the Tripartite Pact, Hitler tried to get Yugoslavia to do the same. Knowing that that decision would be very unpopular at home, the Regent Prince Paul, hesitated and Hitler gave him an ultimatum: "Five days to sign the pact or face an invasion" On March 25 1941, Yugoslavia signed the pact in Vienna, but when it had to be ratified in Belgrade, the Military staged a "Coup d'Etat". The Government fell, Prince Paul was replaced by the 17 year old King Peter and the agreement was not ratified.
When Hitler first heard of the rebellion in Belgrade, he could not believe it. But then he became so furious, that he ordered the immediate destruction of Yugoslavia as a nation. On April 6 1941, Belgrade was bombed for two days and more than 17000 people died in the raids.
On April 17 1941, Yugoslavia surrendered and the seperation of the nation began. Croatia became independent.Serbia became a German vasal state.Montenegro came under Italian control.
Now that Yugoslavia had been dealt with, Hitler decided to give Mussolini a hand, with his struggle with Greece. The Germans entered Greece from Bulgaria on April 9 and after three days captured the port of Salonika. The Greek army surrendered on April 23 1941.
An Allied force, mainly consisting of Australians and New Zealanders, were evacuated almost as soon as they had landed, leaving much equipment behind.
On April 29 1941, the main evacuation from Greece ended and 25000 Anzac troops were disembarked at Suda Bay on Crete. The German attack on Crete started on May 20 1941, and finished on May 31. About 12000 Allied troops finished up prisoners of war.
Greece paid homage to the defenders of the island by issuing a stamp, that showed the British, Australian and New Zealand flags.

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Roosevelt's Lend Lease Bill, was about a program of military and economic aid given to nations at war with the Axis powers.
In addition to the UK, China and the USSR, 35 other governments received "Lend Lease Aid".
U.S. Ship builders knew, that they were in a race and at first, the Germans were winning. The U-boats sank vessels faster than they could be replaced. By December 1941 however, they were launching a ship a day and a year later, they send them out faster than the Germans could sink them.
During August 1941 a historic joint declaration was made by Roosevelt and Churchill in Placentia Bay, off the coast of Newfoundland.
The declaration became known as the "Atlantic Charter", in which both the USA and the UK declared, that they sought no territorial gains from this war.
On October 31, 1941, the U.S. Navy lost its first warship to the U-boats. USS. "Reuben James" was on escort duty with convoy HX-156, when she was hit by a torpedo from U-boat U-552.
The loss of the "Reuben James" encouraged those Americans, who wanted to join Britain in the war against Germany.
On January 6, 1941 Roosevelt delivered his "State of the Union" address, in which he outlined the four essential freedoms and they are:
  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of want
  3. Freedom of religion and
  4. Freedom of fear
When Rommel and his Afrika Korps landed in Africa, the situation changed completely. Although he was able to drive the British 8th Army back to the Egyptian border, Tobruk remained in Australian and New Zealander's hands. It fell however, on June 21 1941.
The French made a heroic stand at Bir Hakeim
General Bernard Montgomery took command of the 8th Army and defeated Rommel at El Alamein.
The Polish forces were under command of General S. Kopanski.
Greece and Australia commemmorated this event on their stamps.
The French garrison in Africa responded to the call of General de Gaulle, by forming themselves into an army under General Le Clerc. This Army would march and fight for France, whereever possible. Their native soldiers were under command of Felix Eboué and their motto was: "From Chad to the Rhine"


The "Colonne Le Clerc" marched all the way from Equatorial Africa, via Koufra, The Mareth line, Normandy and Paris to Strasbourg.

Malta became a threat to the security of the German Afrika Korps. And with the luftwaffe on Sicily, she became an easy target for them. Ships were sunk on their way to Malta and most of the 47 spitfires that were flown in, were destroyed on landing.
On April 16, 1942, in an unprecedented gesture, King George awarded the "George Cross" (the civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross) to the Island of Malta.
On August 15, 1942, a battered tanker and four other ships unloaded their cargo in Valletta Harbour. If these ships had not been able to reach Malta, Malta would have had to surrender. These ships were led in, by a convoy of 4 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, cruisers and destroyers. Although many ships were lost, Malta was saved from starvation.
On March 27, 1942. British commandoes carried out a daring raid on the biggest drydock in Europe at St.Nazaire. They used a destroyer, HMS "Campbeltown", which had been converted into a delayed action bomb and rammed full speed into the dockgates.

Operation Barbarossa

or the invasion of the USSR

On June 22, 1941, German forces attacked the Soviet Union along a 2880 km front, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Over three million troops were involved and because the Germans did not anticipate a long campaign, they carried no winter clothing or equipment.
Finland joined the German forces and retook the Isthmus of Karelia and the city of Wyborg, which they had to surrender in 1940.

The Baltic states, greeted the Germans as liberators, after their occupation by the Russians, since 1939.
Estonia issued local stamps, that featured the country's name in German and overprinted Russian stamps.
These stamps were soon replaced by official "Hitler heads" overprinted "Ostland", while for the Ukraine and areas east, German stamps were overprinted "Ukraine".

The German propaganda machine worked flat out and in Germany, stamps were cancelled with a special postmark. It featured a map of Europe and a Swastika covered dagger, that pointed east.
The inscription read:"Europe's united front against Bolshevism.

On July 5, 1941, the capital of Bukovina, Cernauti, was back in Romanian hands and by October 18, 1941 Romania annexed the area east of the Dniester and renamed it "Transniestra"
The first anniversary of the occupation of Bessarabia was celebrated with a stamp featuring Bessarabia and the heads of the King, Hitler, Mussolini and Antonescu and a stamp with soldiers on the march.

Later a stamp serie was released to commemorate the battles, that the Romanians had participated in, viz Odessa 1941, Caucasus 1942, Sevastapol 1942 and even the battle, that proved to be the turning point of the war, Stalingrad 1943.
Apart from the mourning stamp of Stephen Horthy, who was shot down over the Eastern front, Hungary did not issue many stamps with war scenes on it.
Ironicly, it issued a stamp in 1953 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad, which featured a Russian soldier and the road from Budapest to Berlin.

Croatia showed her loyalty with a stamp, that showed a German, Croatian and Italian soldier and the text read "Europe's death or life struggle in the East".
She also produced stamps that featured the battles that the Croatian Legion had taken part in, such as The sea of Azov, Sevastapol and Stalingrad.

Slovakia also showed her loyalty to the Axis cause, by issuing a stamp,that showed a line of shields, covered by Slovakian, German, Italian and Croatian insignias.
In 1944, we see a Slovakian mother and her children, taking shelter behind the Slovakian shield, against the flames that were approaching Slovakia.
The Vichy Government in France, prepared legislation to permit French citizens to serve in the German army.
The first contingent left for the Eastern Front in August 1941.

Norway issued official stamps to finance her Legion and so did the Netherlands.
The breakdown of West Europeans in the German Army was:
  1. 50 000 Dutchmen
  2. 42 000 Belgians
  3. 20 000 Frenchmen
  4. 6 000 Norwegians and
  5. 12 000 others

In Belgium, the money for the legionaires was raised by the private sale of stamps by Belgian Fascists.

Fierce fighting took place in Russia, as these Russian stamps show. We see the anti-tank guns, the hand to hand fighting, the snipers in the snow and the trench warfare.
Also in the skies, the Germans found the Russians not so easy to conquer, after the initial partial destruction of the Russian Airforce on the ground.
On October 2, 1941, the German offensive to take Moscow started in perfect weather conditions. On November 15, it had to be postponed, because of 20 degrees frost and strengthening of the Russian defence.
By the end of 1942, the Germans had reached Stalingrad, an important city on the Volga. After very heavy fighting, the Germans were surrounded and had to surrender on January 31,1943. Their losses were so great, that in Germany, Hitler ordered 2 days of national mourning.

After Stalingrad, the Russians went on the offensive and it pushed the Germans all the way back. This issue shows the different towns that were liberated.Such as:
  1. Odessa
  2. Kiev
  3. Brest
  4. Sevastapol
  5. Leningrad
  6. Moscow
  7. Stalingrad

On September 1, 1941, German long range artillery began to bombard Leningrad and although the Germans tried very hard, they were never able to take the city. But no supplies could reach the city either and as a result of the 890 days siege, almost a million people died from starvation and the bombardments.
Another force, that the Germans were up against in Russia, were the Partisans fighting behind the lines.
In order to get to the Partisans, the civilian population were often terrorised.

Also the convoys, that reached Murmansk through the Barents and Arctic Seas, added much to the Russian strength by supplying much needed material and ammunition.
On the left we see the total destruction of Convoy PQ17 and there under a scene of the Battle of the Barents Sea.
The Germans had to keep fighting a rear guard action in Yugoslavia, where Tito, a communist leader, had called for nation wide resistance and when Germany invaded Russia, Tito's Partisan Army came out in open revolt.

The uprising started on different dates in the different parts of Yugoslavia, such as
  1. Serbia July 7, 1941
  2. Macedonia October 11,1941
  3. Croatia July 27,1941 and
  4. Bosnia and Hercegovina July 27,1941

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