Just a shortie today to let you know that I arrived safely last night, after traveling 14 hours – and 444 miles. It was some ride, but we saved a day. The day was beautiful for driving and we really crossed Germany. We went by a new route – through the Ruhr and saw what the RAF had done – and it was plenty.
|Alfred Krupp and what's left of the famous munition works|
Essen, Germany - April 1945
We passed thru Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg etc and crossed the Rhine South of Wesel. We got here at 2200 and had to scout around for a hotel.
|Greg's approximate route|
(A) Halle, (B) Dortmund, (C) Essen, (D) Duisburg, (E) Brussels
Today we’ll take it easy, bathe, rest and look around. Gosh, darling, I do wish you were with me rather than another officer. What a time we could have! But I’d just as soon be home and we’d have just as much fun there – because love knows no boundaries – and boy – do I love you, sweetheart! All for now. Regards and
|Russians in the outskirts of Berlin, 21 April 1945|
From BBC On This Day comes this:
Russian troops have captured some outlying suburbs of Berlin at the beginning of what promises to be a bitter battle for control of the city. The Red Army approached the German capital from three directions, north, east and south-east. The northeastern suburb of Weissensee is the closest to the center being only three miles away.To hear the BBC radio report on this subject, click here.
The Nazi minister of propaganda, Josef Goebbels, has issued a statement saying Berlin will be defended to the last. He said anyone who showed cowardice, hoisted the white flag or attempted sabotage would be treated as outlaws.
The Germans are understood to be terrified of what might happen to them if Berlin falls into Soviet hands. Since 1941 Nazi forces have laid waste to large parts of the Soviet Union. The Soviet troops under Marshal Georgi Zhukov are pushing towards Berlin from the north and east and Marshal Ivan Konev and his forces from the south. They are both keen to achieve the honor of capturing Berlin, the heart of the Nazi movement.
American forces are also pushing towards Berlin from the west and are now said to be only hours away from joining up with Russian troops.
Reports from Berlin say shells have begun to fall in the center of the city. Correspondents say they have been fired from southern positions, taking the Germans by surprise. They had been expecting Marshal Konev's forces to press on towards Prague and Dresden. The Russian advance has been supported by its air force. Although the weather has been poor it has not stopped its low-level attack aircraft, the Stormoviks, sweeping the enemy lines and the improved Soviet dive-bombers are also halting counter-attacks.
The final assault on Berlin began on the night of 15/16 April when Soviet forces launched a powerful artillery barrage against the German forces dug in west of the Oder River and to the east of the city in an area known as the Seelow Heights. A German military spokesman said they were attacking under what he called a permanent "air umbrella" with "fresh Soviet troops coming forward as though on a conveyor belt."
After two days of fighting and failing to make any significant breakthrough at Seelow, however, Marshal Konev's forces were ordered south and Marshal Zhukov's to the north thus bypassing the German 9th Army at Seelow and surrounding Berlin.
Hitler is reported to have celebrated his birthday yesterday in his underground bunker in the city, cut off from the reality of the fighting above his head.
Reports say Ivan Konev's forces to the south of Berlin have taken more than 10,000 prisoners in the past four days. They also claim to have captured 96 aircraft and more than 150 tanks and self-propelled guns.
Marshal Ivan Konev
Marshal Zhukov's troops, heading from the north and east, claim to have taken more than 13,000 prisoners. They have captured 60 aircraft and more than 100 tanks and self-propelled guns.
Marshal Georgi Zhukov
But in their haste to capture Berlin many Soviet soldiers have also been killed and tanks lost.
From How Stuff Works comes this:
Soviet Union troops encircled Berlin on 21 April 1945. With 2.5 million men, the Soviets faced one million German troops, including about 45,000 male youth and elderly. The Germans were also greatly outnumbered in artillery, tanks, and planes. "The amount of equipment deployed for the Berlin operation," a Soviet Union soldier remarked, "was so huge I simply cannot describe it and I was there." Enormous firepower was brought to bear, but the Soviets discovered that many forward German positions had been abandoned before the bombardment. The German command pulled troops tightly around Berlin for a final, doomed defense of the city.Also on this day, Field Marshal Model, victor at Arnhem and now Commander-in-Chief of German Army Group B, having (on 15 April) ordered the youngeset and oldest soldiers to be discharged from the army and make their own way home as civilians, committed suicide rather than surrender and be tried by the Russians as a war criminal.