Hitler's Third Reich and World War II in the News is a daily edited review of WWII articles - including German WW2 militaria - providing thought-provoking collection of hand-picked WW2 information.

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Accidents and Disasters during World War II

Major accidents and disasters during the Second World War.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: WW2 crashes, Nazi Gold, WW2 Archives, World War II Weather.

SS Athenia survivor Florence Roseman remembers her night of terror in 1939
Aboard a lifeboat, watching the SS Athenia get farther away, Florence Roseman did not know if she was going to live to be 15. Roseman was 14 years old when a German U-boat fired 3 torpedoes against the SS Athenia in Sept. 3, 1939, marking the first German attack on a British ship in World War II, just after 8 hours after the war was declared. It was about 7 p.m., after dinner that Roseman decided to take a walk on the deck. As Roseman walked into the deck, she heard an explosion and witnessed two people being blown up into the air and landing lifeless on the deck: "When it stopped rocking, the whole ship seemed to shake. You could feel it sink just a little bit in the water."
(stowsentry.com)

Hurricane pilot killed 25 spectators thinking they were dummies during a tactical demo on 13 April 1942 in Imber
A 70th anniversary memorial plaque which remembers the victims of a "friendly fire" incident in Wiltshire in World War II is to be unveiled. 25 military personnel were killed when a Hurricane fighter pilot fired on spectators during a tactical demo on 13 April 1942 in Imber. The pilot had mistaken them for dummies in poor visibility. The tactical air demonstration of fire power in 1942 took place on Imber Downs with a squadron of 6 Hurricane aircraft. The pilot of the sixth plane to pass over the area mistook spectators for a row of dummy soldiers placed on the ground and opened fire. 25 officers were killed and 71 injured.
(bbc.co.uk)

WWII munitions explosion in Port Chicago sparked the largest mass mutiny trial in US Navy history
The biggest WWII homefront disaster took place in Port Chicago, near San Francisco as a munitions explosion killed 320 people, injured 390 and sparked the biggest mass mutiny trial in U.S. Navy history. On July 17, 1944 Port Chicago - where the Navy took ordnance off railroad cars and loaded them onto ships - was ready to blow, in more ways than one. The E.A. Bryan, a 440-foot-long Liberty ship was being filled with munitions. 1,400 enlisted men did the dangerous work. All were black - their morale was "extremely low" - banned from other jobs by racist policies that prevailed in the U.S. Navy and American society.
(latimes.com)

RMS Lancastria: Forgotten disaster which claimed more lives than the combined losses on Titanic and Lusitania
Britain's worst ever maritime disaster, the sinking of the troopship RMS Lancastria, which claimed 4000-6000 lives, has all but been erased from history. But survivors and campaigners are keeping the memory alive. The sinking of RMS Lancastria in 1940, a disaster which claimed more lives than the Titanic and the Lusitania combined, almost disappeared from history, because the British government banned any announcements of the disaster through the D-Notice system. On 17 June 1940 the RMS Lancastria - rescuing troops from the French port of St Nazaire - received 3 hits from a Junkers 88 bomber and sank in 20 minutes.
(bbc.co.uk)

In 1940 Arandora Star - carrying Italians and Germans arrested in UK - was torpedoed
In 1940 a ship called the Arandora Star was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German U-boat (U47). It was a tragedy which profoundly affected the Italian community in Wales, and many other Italians in London and Scotland. Arandora Star was carrying Italians and Germans who had been arrested after the start of World War II. After Mussolini declared war against Britain in June 1940, Winston Churchill stated "collar the lot" and Italian shop, café and restaurant owners were arrested as Axis nationals. "The Arandora Star is talked about openly now in a way it never has been in the past," says Nick Servini.
(bbc.co.uk)

In 1944 Mount Vesuvius erupted - Forcing the USS Philadelphia to retreat
In 1944, Mount Vesuvius erupted for 5 days. So frightening was the volcano known for its burial of Pompeii that the USS Philadelphia retreated for the only time during its 8 years in service. But, that was a ship at sea and it was able to flee easily. Forces on the ground weren't so fortunate. By March 23, most of the 340th Bombardment Groups B-25 Mitchells were covered in hot ash that burned the control surfaces and melted or glazed the plexiglass, 78-88 planes were lost.
(symonsez)

For some training exercise Operation Tiger was more horrifying than D-Day itself
To some of the soldiers Operation Tiger was more traumatic than D-Day itself. 3 American veterans travelled to the Westcountry to pay tribute to 1,000 fallen comrades on the anniversary of the massacre - one of the costliest WW2 exercises in terms of loss of life. 65 years ago Paul Gerolstein was hanging from a cargo net off the coast of South Devon, attempting to drag his colleagues to safety. Operation Tiger should have been a practice operation to prepare US troops for the D-Day landings. After the increase in activity in Lyme Bay was picked up by the Germans, the slow convoy was torpedoed by E-boats.
(thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk)

D-Day: Ten soldiers lay wounded on the beach. One of our tanks rolled straight over
In the extract from a book (Never Surrender: Lost Voices Of A Generation At War 1939-1945), marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2, the 1944 D-Day is remembered. --- Bill Millin, with 45 Commando, saw 10-12 injured British soldiers lay across a road leading from the beach. Then a flail tank come to detonate the mines. "The commander couldn't see them and his tank came straight on and crushed its way up ... over the top of the soldiers." One grim sight was seeing a flame thrower burn out the Germans in pill-boxes. Harry Reid never understood why there were so many wireless operators, until he learned that "they expected 50% casualties on the landing."
(dailymail.co.uk)

Divers locate wreck of St Briac - The worst WWII maritime disaster in Dundee
Divers have located the wreck of a ship that sank off the Angus coast with the loss of 47 lives in Dundee's worst WW2 maritime disaster. The St Briac, a Fleet Air Arm target vessel attached to HMS Condor at Arbroath, sailed out of Dundee on March 12, 1942, only to sink hours later after hitting a mine. The former cross-channel ferry (active in the evacuation of Dunkirk before being hired by the Admiralty in June 1941) had lost power and drifted into a British minefield 20 miles east of Arbroath. 6 of the crew were killed in the initial explosion and the remainder forced to abandon ship as the St Briac sank.
(thecourier.co.uk)

Kapooka tragedy: History 'silent' on devastating Australian wartime accident
One of the Australia's most devastating wartime accidents has been airbrushed from the pages of military history. The Kapooka tragedy left 26 young Diggers dead in a bunker in May 1945. The trainee army sappers perished when an explosives lesson went wrong. Only one soldier, Allan Bartlett, was found alive, embedded in the dirt wall of the destroyed bunker. The disaster was followed by the Australia's largest military funeral as 7000 people turned out. But then it was left out from the Anzac story, with the tragedy excluded from official war histories, says historian Peter Rushbrook.
(theaustralian)

The Bethnal Green Tube: One of worst civilian disasters in UK during WWII
Victims of the Bethnal Green Tube disaster in London have been recalled at its 65th anniversary service. Alf Morris spoke about his memories of the deadly crush - one of Britain's worst civilian disasters during World War II. 3 March, 1943: a crowd was descending the steps into Bethnal Green underground station to take shelter from an air-raid. All of a sudden, they surged forward and in the crush 173 people were killed. The incident was censored and it took years for the truth to be revealed. It was later realized that people were startled after hearing a new type of anti-aircraft rocket being launched nearby.
(bbc)

World War II train disaster which officially never happened
The train had crossed 50 miles in 8 hours, rarely moving as fast as 10 mph. It was pulled by an aged British locomotive and had its 45 cars completely filled with American soldiers and equipment. Suddenly the train began to pick up speed, and the soldiers cheered: moving at last. The speed kept increasing until the locomotive crashed through a barricade at the end of the railway line in St. Valery-en-Caux. Troop cars stacked up and 89 Americans died. 152 got permanent injuries. George Shirk was aboard the train with the 1471st Engineer Maintenance Company and he has been trying for years to get the U.S. govt to honor those who died, but formally the crash never happened.
(tribune-democrat)

Tragic World War II crash of RAF Liberator JT985 remembered
It was one of the single worst Allied air disasters in World War II: 27 airmen lost in the June 1945 crash of RAF Liberator JT985 flown by a Canadian crew - a tragedy deepened by the fact that the war they'd all been fighting for years was already over. Bound for the Pacific battlefront, the Liberator went down with engine failure along the Dorset coast. 62 years later the families of the fallen and a representative from the Canadian High Commission in London will gather to unveil a poignant memorial marking the sacrifice. A stone bench will invite visitors to "pause a while and think of those who gave their lives."
(canada)

Anniversary of the Salina Tragedy: German POWs killed by US guard
July 8, is the 62nd anniversary of what military historians have called "The Salina Tragedy," when 9 German POWs were killed by a U.S. Army prison guard. The incident happened shortly after midnight, 2 months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, when the prisoners were waiting to be repatriated. Private Clarence Bertucci relieved the guard of a watchtower and proceeded to fire a .30 caliber machine gun into the tents used to accommodate the prisoners. The spray of bullets penetrated 30 tents. He killed 6 men on site, and 3 died later. 20 more were wounded. Fellow guards overpowered Bertucci as he reloaded.
(richfieldreaper)

Nazi raccoon predators conquered all Europe except UK
In 1934, top Nazi party official Hermann Goering received a request from the Reich Forestry Service. A fur farm was seeking permission to release a batch of critters into the wild to "enrich the local fauna" and give hunters something new to shoot at. Goering approved the request and uncorked a disaster that is still spreading. The imported North American raccoon quickly took a liking to the forests of Germany. Encountering no natural predators the creatures multiplied and have stymied all attempts to prevent them from overtaking the Continent. British tabloids have warned that it's only a matter of time until the "Nazi raccoons" cross the English Channel.
(dw-world.de)

The worst friendly-fire incident: RAF killed 7,000 Nazi camps survivors   (Article no longer available from the original source)
In the worst friendly-fire incident in history Royal Air Force killed more than 7,000 survivors of Nazi camps who were crowded onto ships in Lybeck harbor. The ragged masses stood no chance against the guns of their liberators. This tragic mistake occurred one day before the British accepted the surrender of all German forces in the region. Reports of the incident were hushed up, as world prepared to celebrate the Allied victory in Europe. Despite the bitter irony of dying in hellish fires on sinking ships just hours before liberation, the tragedy was quickly forgotten or resolutely ignored. The RAF records of the disaster are sealed until 2045.
(jpost)

Movie about Allied torpedoing of refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff
Germans are marking the 62nd anniversary of history's worst sea disaster: the Allied torpedoing of a German refugee and troop ship in the closing days of WW2 that claimed 9,000 lives, mostly women and children. In what would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, a major German tv broadcaster has plans for a movie about a long-forgotten incident which was an embarrassment for the Allies. In what has become an annual ritual in recent years, German media is devoting coverage to the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff on Jan 30, 1945, as the Red Army crossed the eastern border of the Third Reich.
(cruisingtalk.com)

The worst WW2 civilian disaster - Rocket testing caused panic   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The worst civilian disaster of World War Two happened in the East End, and now a pair of architects wants to mark the tragedy with a huge bronze 'floating' staircase. On March 3 1943, 173 people were crushed to death on a staircase at tube station, after panic broke out. The air raid siren had gone off just after 8pm that evening, and hundreds of people were queuing to get into the station. But it was not a German bomb that caused the disaster. The unfamiliar and terrifying sound of rockets being tested nearby caused the crowd to panic and surge forward, tripping on the dark, wet staircase and creating a deathly crush.
(eastlondonadvertiser)


See also:
WW2 crashes
Nazi Gold
WW2 Archives
World War II Weather.