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david leigh-smith
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On This Day…December 22nd

December 22, 2018 · in News · · 26 Comments

Polikarpov I-15 biplanes under repair in Moscow, 22 Dec 1941. The I-15 was nicknamed ‘Chaika’ (seagull) due to the gulled shape of the upper wing.

Always partial to a carrier. This is the USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) as she enters Pearl Harbor, 22 Dec 1943. Originally laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser ‘New Haven’ (CL-76), she was finished as an aircraft carrier, reclassified and renamed Belleau Wood in honour of the Battle of Belleau Wood (1918) in France World War I.

This picture was taken in Vukovar in Dec22nd, 1992 and the kids in the photo are most likely ethnic Serbs. Vukovar came under the control of the Yugoslav People’s Army in November of 1991. At that point most ethnic Croats fled the city. The tank in the background also points to this fact since the JNA was far better armed than the budding Croatian army.

Keeping the carrier theme, this is battleship HMS Valliant as seen from the flight deck of HMS Illustrious, practice shooting during exercises in the Indian Ocean, 22nd December 1942. In the foreground are several Fairey Fulmars and I think the aircraft to the stern are Martlets?

Avro Lancaster GP-W (ED437) flying from RAF Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire, UK. December 22nd 1943. The crew; Tommy Graham, Jack Watson, Jimmy Horne, Bob Winfield, Don Chick, George Landridge, and Harry Goldberg were tragically lost on Operations just four months later, on 27th April 1944.

A man and his dog. Russian front, December 22nd, 1943. Don’t think much of either’s odds.

In Bastogne, 22nd of December, German General Luttwitz sent word to General McAuliffe, commander of the 101st. He was supremely confident that the Nazis would retake the city, telling McAuliffe that his only option was surrender. Infuriated, McAuliffe wrote a simple response. Famously, all it said was “Nuts!” Confused, the messenger asked for an explanation. He was told that it was the equivalent of “Go to Hell!” - I believe it was a little more...frank than that.
Soon after, some of American General Patton’s Third Army, primarily the 4th Armored Division’s 37th Armor Battalion, arrived to relieve them and aid them in punching through the line. McAuliffe went on the offensive, launching a significant counterattack that would force the German army to retreat. This choke point created would allow the Allies to send supplies throughout the area, signing the ultimate fate of the Third Reich. Merry Christmas, indeed.

The arrival of Santa Claus by V-bomber at Gaydon RAF station in 1964. He had called in at a party arranged for a Children's Home, Warwick, UK, 22nd December 1964.

26 responses

  1. Nice set Dave. #8 I'll bet the dog was fine...great survivors dogs.
    I'd love to see a shot of my personal favourite carrier HMS Victorious if one came up

    • Hi Neil. Given the Germany army situation In Russia at that time, I suspect you are correct in that the dog had more chance of survival than his owner.

      Here’s a photo of the HMS Victorious from December 1943 - exact date unknown...

      • This is HMS Victorious, not Illustrious, during her cruise with the USN as "USS Robin" in the first half of 1943 after the US lost Hornet and was reduced to two carriers (Enterprise and Saratoga). Victorious operated with Saratoga for the central Solomons campaign, March-June 1943. Note the modified round-down at the stern to make her compatible with USN operations. Also the airplanes (light colored ones are USN F4F-4s and TBF-1s; dark ones are Martlet IVs) all have US stars. That's also a USN AO she's refueling from USN-style.

        • Just edited as you posted this, Tom. Was responding to Neil hoping for a photo of the Victorious. I read about the changes to the round down that extended her flight deck but didn’t know why until I read this post.

          Thanks for the detail. Marvellous.

        • "Note the modified round-down at the stern to make her compatible with USN operations."
          That "round-down" is on the bow, not the stern.
          Dick, AO-USN

  2. A few years ago a group of us did a Battle of the Bulge tour. It is incredibly moving to see places that you only have heard or read about. My Grandfather was in the 69th Infantry and went through this area in early 45. I still get goose bumps thinking about his stories, and then having actually visited these places. While in Belgium we visited Patton's grave, presiding over his 3rd Army. The site of the Malmedy massacre is like anyone's front yard. There are tanks scattered through out the area that were abandoned during the final days of conflict. The locals do a great job of keeping them fresh looking for us tourists. There are 'Dragons Teeth' still prominent along the border of Germany, while over grown, are ghostly reminders of the not too distant past. The town of Bastogne is full of tourist locations, including General McAuliffe's headquarters where he issued his famous reply "NUTS". The HBO show 'Band of Brothers' really boosted the areas tourism and opened a lot of places that probably weren't visited too frequently. There are still fox holes everywhere, especially in Foy. Pretty incredible.

    7 attached images. Click to enlarge.

    • Wow Jim. That must have been awe inspiring to walk in the shadows of the greatest generation. Someday God willing, I might be able to take the trip too. It would really be great to see some of the places where our ancestors served.

      Thanks for posting this.

  3. Memorable el episodio de Bastongne. Fotos que hacen pensar ...gracias David.

  4. Amazing pics, Jim and I really appreciate you sharing them. Those dragon’s teeth are really evocative, and the fox holes send a shiver though you.

  5. You bet...really cool seeing your photos and how much the landscape and buildings really haven't changed.

  6. Amazing post, truly.

  7. Thanks, David. In turn, I am truly thankful for your support on these posts. I hope all is well with you, my brother.

    • All is well, and on the upswing, albeit step by step. Wartime Christmas pics can seem fitting--an odd paradox of the sublime and the havoc-ridden. I was thinking of you this morning, humming this old tune...

      "Still, still, still" are hardly fitting for the Ardennes, 1944. On the other hand, what time or place is better suited? Are carols merely to affirm, or are they also to evoke?

      May a refreshing stillness overtake you in these days, my brother.

  8. Thanks, David. Deeply appreciate your thoughts. A “refreshing stillness” indeed, now that is a wish to really focus the mind.

    Beautiful video and deeply appreciated.

  9. Hey, that’s MY Serb Santa ?

  10. Those Polikarpovs are actually I-152s (I-15bis) with separate upper wings. Nice stuff as usual.

  11. The Bastogne episode in BoB where they were getting shelled in the forest with tree bursts was truly terrifying - they really did that one right.

  12. Loved (if that’s the right word) that particular episode. It really captured something of the cold, the fear, the utterly primitive conditions. And the humanity.

  13. Nice set of photos from all. To me the best episode of BoB, is when the 1st Sargent is told that he was the one keeping the company together.

    • I agree with you Robert. I'm not bashing officers, but more often than not it's the non coms (NCO's) that get things done, and are the "glue" that keeps the unit together. Most of the time we had good officers, on occasion excellent ones, and every once in the while we had the "not so good" too.

      Thankfully the every once in a while didn't happen all that often and was the exception rather than the rule.

      Not everyone knows this, but in the US Armed Services, the Officers wear their rank on their shoulders on their "dress" uniforms (class A's). This is because they shoulder the responsibility for getting the mission done.

      The Enlisted ranks wear their ranks on their sleeves because they provide the muscle to get the mission done.

      (Or something very close to this)

  14. Another great posting David ! The stories behind the pictures are a great read.

    I sincerely thank you.

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