The Stories Behind the Locations
Locations Cited in the Paintings
Port Lyautey (known today as Kenitra)
The following shortwave radio message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced Operation Torch to the people of southern Europe and North Africa on the morning of Sunday, November 8, 1942:
"Mes Amis, We come among you to repulse the cruel invaders -- have faith in our words -- help us where you are able. All men who hate tyranny, join with the liberators who at this moment are about to land on your shores. Vive La France eternelle."
The Battle of Port Lyautey began on November 8, 1942. The battle ended with the United States seizure of the port. he operation was under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the western task force was under the command of General George S. Patton. Sub task force GOALPOST was under the command of General Lucian Truscott. Outline plans were drawn up in London for the assault on Port Lyautey by Lt. Gen Truscott and his staff. (Command). Capturing and stocking the airfield at Port Lyautey was the primary mission. Infantry and armored combat teams were at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Primarily this would be the 9th Infantry Division, 60th Infantry Regiment "Go Devils".
Prior to the landings in French Morocco, and after the fall of France in World War II, the US State Department had maintained in French North Africa an unusually large number of very able consular officials. This group was under the leadership of Mr. Robert Murphey, later General Eisenhower's political adviser. From these sources and from the military attache in Tangiers, the US Army obtained much detailed information concerning conditions in Morocco and were placed in contact with loyal Frenchmen who opposed the Vichy regime and were not friendly towards Axis forces.
Two Frenchmen were smuggled into London, Karl Victor Klopet and Jules Malvergne. Klopet had an intimate knowledge of the ports, beaches and coast defenses along the entire coast as a result of living in Casablanca for over 12 years and with tight connections to salvage operations there.Malgergne was familiar with every turn and bar in the Sebou river channel, knew all of the shipping which was engaged in the coastal trade, and provided important information concerning pro-Nazi political sentiment which was stronger in the Port Lyautey area than in any other section of Morocco.
Bizerte was occupied by the Germans during World War II, and was retaken by American troops on May 7, 1943. There are number of war cemeteries in the area for both the allied and axis forces.
In 1956 Tunisia gained independence from France. However, the French did not want to concede control of Bizerte at all given the excellent location and the sizable military installations that had been built over the years. Additionally France was involved in a nasty conflict in Algeria and Bizerte was part of the support plans.
In 1961 Tunisian forces blockaded the area of Bizerte and demanded French withdrawal what was supposed to be a face off turned nasty when a French helicopter took off and was fired upon. This resulted in reinforcements being brought in and when these where fired upon, France took decisive and violent action against the brave but inferior Tunisian forces. Using state of the art weapons and decisive force the French took Bizerte and Menzel Bourguiba, resulting in the loss of life during the three days of 700 Tunisians (1200 wounded) and 24 French (100 wounded).
The world was shocked at the severity of the attack and following meetings at the UN security council along with international pressure on France agreement was reached and the French presence was ended on the 15th october 1963.
Randazzo and Messina
Randazzo is a town and comune of Sicily, Italy, in the province of Catania. It is situated at the northern foot of Mount Etna, 70 km NW of Catania by rail. It is the nearest town to the summit of Etna, and is one of the points from which the ascent may be made. During World War II, Randazzo became a victim of Allied bombings, during which about 76% of its buildings were destroyed or damaged.
Messina , is located in the northeast of Sicily, Italy, on the Strait of Messina, opposite the Italian mainland. Today it is a busy seaport and a commercial and light industrial center. In World War II, the Sicilian campaign ended with the fall of Messina to the Allies on August 17, 1943.
Utah Beach, Coutentin Peninsula and Port of Cherbourg
Utah Beach was the furthest west of the five beaches designated for the D-Day landings in June 1944. Located at the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, it was added by General Dwight Eisenhower to the original D-Day plan to ensure the early capture of the vital port of Cherbourg, at the north of the peninsula. Eisenhower realised that the Allied advance throughout Western Europe would require vast amounts of equipment and that the only major port that could handle this in the initial stages of the war was at Cherbourg.
The target 'Utah Beach' was about three miles wide. Much of it was made up of sandy dunes and the German fortifications here were weak when compared those of Omaha Beach. The land behind the target beach was easily flooded by locks and it is assumed that the Germans believed that the area need not have too much defence as their main defence would be to flood the region when and if the Allies attacked there. There were only four main ways off the beach area and flooding would have severely restricted any form of movement, but especially that of vehicles. The nearest major town for the Allies was Carentan, to the south-west of the beach. Through Carentan ran a main road to the east to Bayeaux, which would link the Allies who landed at Utah to the Allies at Omaha and to Gold, Juno and Sword. This same road ran north-west from Carentan to Valognes. Cherbourg was only 13 miles from Valognes.
The landing at Utah was scheduled for 06.30 and the Allied force came from the US 4th Infantry Division. The plan for Utah included an airborne drop by the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions at various points two to five miles inland of the beach. Those landing on the beach were scheduled to link up with the paratroopers as soon as was possible. The paratroopers were dropped primarily to secure the main road from Valognes to Carentan and to cause general chaos as they dropped at night at 01.30. German commanders did not know if they were a decoy to a main attack elsewhere or the primary attack force in the area. For this reason, the Germans did not know what forces to deploy against the 82nd and 101st - such chaos and uncertainty was perfect for the Allies and precisely why the paratroopers were dropped.
The airborne drop worked well. The sea borne landing did not go to plan – though ironically, a battle against Nature was to be of great value to the Allies. Strong currents meant that the landing craft were taken off of their intended targets on the beach. They landed on the beach, but 2000 meters away from their main landing target. Ironically, this was one of the lesser-defended areas along the entire beach front and the casualties as the Americans came ashore were minimal when compared to Omaha. The most senior American commander on the beach, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt told his men that, “We’ll start the war from here!” and ordered an advance. By midday, the men of the US 4th Infantry had met up with the men from the 101st Airborne unit. German opposition was swiftly dealt with. By the end of the day, the Americans had advanced about four miles inland and they were about one mile from the 82nd at St. Mère-Eglise, some six miles north of Carentan.
On the first full day of the landing at Utah, 20,000 men had been landed and 1,700 military vehicles. Casualties were less than 300 men. Though the war in the Cotentin Peninsula was not yet over, the achievements at Utah were immense, even if Nature had given a helping hand.
Saint-Lô and Cherbourg
Saint-Lô is a commune in north-western France. The German army occupied the town on 17 June 1940. Being a strategic crossroads, Saint-Lô was almost totally destroyed (95% according to common estimates) during the Battle of Normandy in World War II, earning the title of "The Capital of the Ruins" from Samuel Beckett; it was even questioned whether to rebuild it or to leave the ruins intact as a testimony to the bombing. St. Lo was one of the key cities to the opening of the Falaise Gap, ultimately allowing the Allies to expel the Nazis from northern France.
Monschau and the Ardennes Mountain Range
Monschau is a town in the western portion of Germany. The town is located in the hills of the Eifel, within the Hohes Venn – Eifel Nature Park in the narrow valley of the Rur river. The historic town center was not destroyed during World War II, thus the many half-timbered houses and narrow streets have remained nearly unchanged for 300 years
The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive) (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive, launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes Mountains region of Wallonia in Belgium. This German offensive was officially named the Ardennes-Alsace campaign by the U.S. Army, but it is known to the English-speaking general public simply as the Battle of the Bulge, the "bulge" being the initial incursion the Germans put into the Allies' line of advance.
The offensive was planned with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and moving troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Although ULTRA suggested a possible attack and the Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff predicted a major German offensive, the Allies were still caught by surprise. This was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with their own offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance.
Near-complete surprise against a weakly defended section of the Allied line was achieved during heavy overcast weather, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance, particularly around the key town of Bastogne, and terrain favoring the defenders threw the German timetable behind schedule. Allied reinforcements, including General George Patton's Third Army, and improving weather conditions, which permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, sealed the failure of the offensive.
In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line. For the Americans, with about 500,000 to 840,000 mencommitted and some 70,000 to 89,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed, the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that they fought in World War II.
Roer and Rhine Rivers
The U. S. Breakthrough Begins with the Crossing of the Roer: The Ninth Army's crossing of the Roer was a short, violent struggle against the Germans and the river. Forty-five minutes after the night barrage had begun, assault boats and amphibious tractors started across in a great wave. In some of the boats were combat engineers, ferrying cables to moor their pontoon bridges in midstream.
During World War II, Operation Grenade was the plan for the U.S. Ninth Army to cross the Roer (Rur) river in February 1945.
On February 9 the U.S. Ninth Army, under the command of Montgomery's British 21st Army Group since the Battle of the Bulge, was to cross the Roer and link up with the Canadian First Army coming from the Nijmegen area of the Netherlands in Operation Veritable, which had started at 05:00, February 8. However once the Canadians had advanced, the Germans destroyed the dams upstream. This stopped the Americans from crossing as planned. It had been anticipated that the Germans would try to do this, and that General Bradley's American 12th Army Group could capture them in time to stop the flooding.
During the two weeks that the river was flooded, Hitler would not allow Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt to withdraw behind the Rhine, arguing that it would only delay the inevitable fight. He ordered him to fight where his forces stood.
The Ninth Army was finally able to cross the river on February 23. By then other Allied forces were also close to the Rhine. Rundstedt's divisions, which had remained on the west bank of the Rhine, were cut to pieces in the Battle for the Rhineland, and 290,000 men were taken prisoner.
Ruhr Pocket, including the Mulde River
The Ruhr Pocket was a battle of encirclement that took place in late March and early April 1945, near the end of World War II, in the Ruhr Area of Germany. For all intents and purposes, it marked the end of major organized resistance on Nazi Germany's Western Front, as more than 300,000 troops were taken prisoner. In March 1945, Allied Forces crossed the Rhine river. South of the Ruhr, General Omar Bradley's U.S. 12th Army Group's pursuit of the disintegrating German army resulted in the capture of the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine at Remagen by the U.S. First Army. Bradley and his subordinates quickly exploited the crossing made on March 7, 1945, and expanded the bridge head until the bridge collapsed 10 days later.
North of the Ruhr on March 23, 1945, Field Marshal Montgomery's British 21st Army Group launched Operation Plunder and crossed the Rhine at Rees and Wesel. Having crossed the Rhine, both Army Groups fanned out. In the south, the First Army headed northeast and formed the southern pincer of the Ruhr envelopment. In the north, the U.S. Ninth Army, which since the Battle of the Bulge had been assigned to Montgomery's British 21st Army Group, headed southeast, forming the northern pincer.
Facing the Allied armies were the remnants of a shattered Wehrmacht, a few SS training units, and large numbers Volkssturm (militia units for aging men, including some World War I veterans) and Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) units, composed of boys as young as 12.
Lead elements of the two Allied pincers met on April 1, 1945, near Lippstadt. By April 4, the encirclement was completed and the Ninth Army reverted to the command of Bradley's 12th Army Group. Within the Ruhr Pocket about 430,000 German soldiers of Army Group B, which was 21 divisions of the Wehrmacht, and millions of civilians were trapped in cities heavily damaged by numerous bombings.
While the main operations headed further toward central and northern Germany, US forces concentrated on the pocket, taking it section by section. On April 12, 1945, the US First and Ninth armies divided the area coming from the south; the smaller, eastern part surrendered the next day. The western part continued to resist until April 18 and April 21, 1945. Rather than surrender and violate his personal oath to Adolf Hitler that he would fight to the death, the commander, Field Marshal Walter Model, committed suicide in a forest south of the city of Duisburg.
The surviving 325,000 German soldiers from the Ruhr Pocket, and some civilians, were imprisoned in the Rheinwiesenlager.
The Harz Mountain Area
During the Nazi era, the Harz became an important area for the armaments industry. Many factories, important to the war effort, were located here and, as the war neared its conclusion, they were increasingly staffed with forced labour. As a result, the Harz was the location of several hundred forced labour camps and KZs at that time. KZ Dora near Nordhausen in the South Harz became particularly well-known.
In the last weeks of the Second World War, the so-called Harz Fortress (Harzfestung) is worth mentioning. In February/March 1945 the SS Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler, established the Harz Fortress to defend central Germany from the western allies. Its headquarters was at Blankenburg. Amongst the formations mobilised were divisions belonging to the 11th Army, divisions of the Waffen SS and the Volkssturm. When the 1st U.S. Army reached Nordhausen in the southern Harz, and went to advance northwards, it met with resistance, especially in the hills around the towns of Ilfeld and Ellrich. Not until 7 May 1945 did the last formations of the 11th Army and Waffen SS surrender in the mountains of the Harz. Several units of Volkssturm troops fought on against the Americans during May. Seen objectively, the Harz was, however, at the end of the Second World War not a strategic location militarily; the western allies bypassed the Harz relatively effortlessly on their way to Berlin.