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Arctic Operation Haudegen Dr. Wilhelm Dege

The weather station where 11 German soldiers were trapped, forgotten by the fallen Nazis.

I thank Klausbernd for bringing this story to Pacific Paratrooper about the last German to surrender.  Not wanting any part of war, Dr. Dege became part of Operation Haudegen….

Weather played an important role during the Second World War. It dictated the outcome of Naval battles and decided the routes of military convoys. Weather and visibility affected photographic reconnaissance and bombing raids. Much of D-day planning revolved around the weather, and the landing itself was delayed by 24 hours because of choppy seas. Weather information was so sensitive that it was transmitted encoded from weather stations.

By August 1941, the Allies had captured many weather stations operated by the Germans on Greenland and on Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway. These stations were critical because the air over Svalbard told a lot about what was coming over the North Atlantic and continental Europe.  Svalbard Archipelago lies in the Arctic Ocean about a thousand kilometres from the North Pole. When Norway came under German occupation in 1940, the Nazis took control of the oil fields and the weather stations there. The Germans made many attempts to set up weather stations on Spitsbergen, but all failed or fell to the Allies.

Geologist Wilhelm Dege, head of Operation Haudegen. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

In September 1944, the Germans set up their last weather station, code named Operation Haudegen, on Nordaustlandet, one of the most remote and northerly of the main islands in Svalbard.  A U-boat and a supply vessel deposited eleven men, along with equipment, arms, ammunitions and supplies on the island and hurriedly retreated back to Norway before they could be discovered by Allied warships. The men set up the weather station and erected two inconspicuous flat-roofed huts using wooden panels and camouflaged with white nets.

Operation Haudegen started in December 1944. Five times a day, the station transmitted encrypted weather forecasts to the German naval command at Tromsø. In addition, once a week, they sent a hydrogen-filled weather balloon to 8,000 meters to obtain data from the upper atmosphere. The remaining time was spent exploring the island and learning about science, geography, philosophy and mathematics from the leader of the expedition, Dr. Wilhelm Dege. The young men built a sauna and helped themselves to the ample food supplies, enjoying delicacies like reindeer meat which most Germans at that time could only dream of in their bomb cellars.

The approximate location of the weather station of Operation Haudegen. Political map of Svalbard by Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock.com

Siegfried Czapka, the 18-year-old radio operator, told the German magazine Der Spiegel in 2010: “It was an unforgettable experience; we had everything but beer.

But of course, life in the Arctic was harsh. Temperatures went well below freezing, there were snow storms and daylight was scarce. Polar bears were another threat. The men had to carry rifles with them every time they went outside. The men had been given rigorous training to deal with the hardship. They learned to ski, rappel down cliffs, build igloos, cook and bake, pull teeth, attend to gunshot wounds, and even amputate frozen limbs.

On May 8, 1945, the men received a message from their commanders in Tromsø that Germany had surrendered and the war was over. They were ordered to dispose of explosives, destroy secret documents and send weather reports unencoded. Then there was complete radio silence. The men tried contacting base but there was no reply. They started transmitting their coordinates on the wave lengths the Allies used but no ship or aircraft appeared. The men had two years worth of ration, but the idea of getting stuck on ice for any amount of time held little appeal. The men worried about their families back in Germany, whether they were still alive or killed by air raids. In desperation, they started transmitting on Allied distress channels.

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Towards the end of August, a reply was received. Norwegian authorities assured the stranded men that a ship would set sail for Spitsbergen in early September. Their joy was boundless when on the night of September 3rd and 4th, a vessel arrived in the fjord near the weather station. It was a seal-hunting ship that was chartered by the Norwegian navy in order to pick up the Germans.

The Norwegians came ashore and they all had a big celebratory meal together. Then the commanding officer of the Germans formally surrendered—four months after the war ended—by handing over his service pistol to the Norwegian captain.

“The Norwegian stared at it and asked ‘Can I keep this then?’, recalled Dr. Eckhard Dege, the son of Wilhelm Dege, the commanding officer. “My father explained that he could because they were surrendering.”

The men were taken to Tromsø where they became prisoners of war for three months. In December 1945, they returned to their homes, to a divided country. Some found themselves on East Germany, others on the West. The men of the unit tried to meet each other, but it became impossible due to the tensions between East and West Germany. It was only 60 years after the incident, that two of the survivors were reunited for a trip to the island.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Bernis Allardyce – Beaumont, TX; US Army, Lt.Colonel (Ret. 25 y.)

Willard Alverson – Grand Rapids, MI; US Army, Korea, Ranger, Colonel (Ret. 31 y.)

Harold ‘Ron’ Hawkins – Tempe, AZ; US Army, Vietnam, 6th Special Forces, Sgt.

Emil ‘Gene’ Jemail – Newport, RI; US Army, 11th Airborne Division / JAG office Austria

James A. McNeill – Brooklyn, NY; USMC, Afghanistan, SSgt., 3rd Marine Logistics Group, KIA (Okinawa, non-combat)

Mavis Poe – Topeka, KS; Civilian US Navy, WWII, driver

Pleasant Rourke Jr. – Charleston, SC; USMC, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Mark Sertich (99) – Duluth, MN; US Army, WWII, ETO  /  world’s oldest ice hockey player

James Weber Jr. – Louisville, KY; US Navy, WWII Corpsman

Catherine Young – Napier, NZ; WRNZ Navy # 234, WWII

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Surrenders in the Pacific

 

Okinawa

Once the Emperor gave his speech for peace, the Japanese gave their surrenders across the Pacific, but not all went as smoothly as the one held on the USS Missouri. As late as 31 August, according to U.S. Intelligence reports, the Japanese refused to believe the surrender reports and ambushed a SRD party and three of the Japanese were killed.

In the Ryukyus, things were far more simple. The senior officer in the Sakishima Gunto, Lt. General Gon Nomi, Toshiro, whose headquarters was on Miyako Shima, had been given authority to conclude a peace treaty for all Army and Navy forces in the Sakishima Gunto, Daito Islands and the islands in the Okinawa Gunto not already under American control. The official papers were signed on 7 September 1945, with General Stillwell presiding.

Gen. Hata at surrender table with the Soviets

General Shunroku Hata and his Army had taken only three weeks in April-May of 1944 to rout 300,000 Chinese soldiers in Honan to secure the Peking-Hankow railroad. He then moved south and then west to meet up with the Japanese forces in French Indochina. The 14th Air Force and the Chinese Air Force could not stop the offensive and by the end of May, General Marshall and the Joint Chiefs of Staff basically wrote off the Chinese Theater. Yet in the end, Gen. Hata signs the surrender.

Lord Louis Mountbatten with MacArthur

12 September, Lord Mountbatten accepted the surrender of all enemy forces in Southeast Asia in Singapore. Once again, the Union Jack was flying over Government House. But, due to Britain’s overstretched resources, Japanese soldiers were used to maintain law and order in the region. Europe’s colonialism was severely damaged and in 1947, Britain granted independence to India and Pakistan.

17 August, American parachutists landed near Nanking on the Wse-hsien interment camp. The Japanese were forced to protect the troopers from the unrest (actually chaos) erupting in the area between Communist and Nationalist armies. On 9 September, General Ho Chin accepted the Japanese surrender of China (except Manchuria, Formosa [now Taiwan] and Indochina north of the 16th parallel in the name of Chiang Kai. Mao’s forces stayed away even though Allied officials were present. By not being at Central Military Academy in Whampoa, he was in violation of the Potsdam accords and went on to accept his own regional surrenders.

Australian & British POWs on Borneo

The British had been slow in retaking Hong Kong and revolts broke out. The POWs were not receiving food and the Chinese population caused riots in the streets. The British civil servants eventually took over while the Japanese kept the order. 16 September, the official surrender took place, but not until November were all Japanese troops in the New Territories relieved, disarmed and repatriated.

After a meeting in Rangoon, Mountbatten arranged for the Allied forces to enter Siam and Indochina. Thirteen days later, he flew his 7th Indian Division to Bangkok to move onward to Saigon. They were to assist the French in securing the southern half of Vietnam again as a French colony. The Americans felt that the French had already bled the country dry over the past century and so here – the start of the Vietnam War that would last until 1974.

Thailand had survived by playing both sides while attempting to appear neutral. Japanese General Hamada, responsible for heinous POW atrocities, committed seppuku.

Indonesia was grateful to the Japanese for throwing out the Dutch and declared their independence. Although British and Dutch troops made attempts to return them to colonization, they resisted. The Americans moved in with orders to disarm the Japanese and then leave. It would take four years of fighting before the Hague would recognize Indonesia as a sovereign country.

Burma disliked the Japanese, but they had given them a taste of independence from the British. They took no part in the surrender proceedings. After the Japanese were shipped home and fighting resumed with the British, the independent nation nation was established 4 January 1948.

India had acquired their own army under the Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere, but not independence. After the war, the British tried in vain to hold the country, but hostility forced them to grant India their freedom in 1947. The transition was overseen by Governor General Mountbatten.

Korea – September 1945 – being relieved of all weapons

In Korea, the Japanese were ordered to sweep Inchon harbor of mines before the American fleet arrived. The Japanese, here again, were needed to maintain order until Koreans could be trained to contain the mobs. Korea had actually been ignored as far as surrender and removal of the Japanese. The U.S. had gone there to disarm the enemy. The end result of the incompetent handling of Korea during and after WWII attributed to the Korean War.

Click on  images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Envelope Art

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Farewell Salutes – 

Michael Bach – Utica, NY; US Army, Korea, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Donald Creedon – New Hartford, NY; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Leo Fitzpatrick – Sharon, MA; US Navy, WWII

Robert Glass – Crosby, MN; US Merchant Marines, WWII, PTO / US Air Force (Ret. 22 y.)

Lewis Holzheimer – Neihart, MT; US Army, WWII, ETO, 60th Infantry Regiment, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Russell Kelly – Seabrook, NH; US Navy, WWII

Willard Marquis – Casper, WY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Louis Orleans – Ft. Collins, CO; US Army, WWII

Martin Sander – Odenton, MD; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Wiley Walker – Canyon, TX; US Army, 1st Calvary Division, Colonel (Ret. 27 y.)

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The Emperor’s Speech

Emperor Hirohito recording his speech

13 August –  two ships, the Pennsylvania and the La Grange were hit by kamikaze carrier planes. All ships in Okinawa harbors were shipped out to ensure their safety. Although the Emperor was at this point demanding peace, the complicated arrangement of their government (Emperor, Premier, Cabinet, Privy Seal, etc. etc.) made it difficult for them to answer the Allies immediately. As Soviet forces, hovering at the 1.5 million mark, launched across Manchuria and approximately 1600 U.S. bombers hit Tokyo.

14 August –  the Emperor made a recording to be played over the Japanese radio stating that their government had surrendered to the Allied powers and to request that his people cooperate with the conquerors. The fanatics, mainly Army officers and also known as die-hards or ultras, attempted to confiscate the prepared discs and claim that the Emperor had been coerced into accepting the Potsdam Declaration.  The Emperor needed to sneak into his bunker to record his speech. People died in this mini revolution and others committed hara-kiri when it failed. Some Japanese pilots continued to fly their Zeros as American planes went over Japan.

The Emperor’s bunker where he recorded his speech.

“To our good and loyal citizens,

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union that our Empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well- being of our subjects is the solemn obligation that has been handed down by our Imperial Ancestors, and we lay it close to the heart.

Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone– the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state and the devoted service of our 100 million people–the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Emperor’s speech.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, and those who met with death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

Reaction to hearing the speech.

The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and suffering to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.

We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, and of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishable of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.

All you, our subjects, we command you to act in accordance with our wishes.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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SHOUT OUT !!!

From Linda, at Shores Acres:

 An Army combat engineer who served in Guam, the Philippines, and Saipan during WWII is turning 93 in April. He loves mail, but rarely gets any, so his family is asking people to send him a card between now and his birthday. You can read the article here. His name is Recil Troxel, and his address is 2684 North Highway 81, Marlow, Oklahoma 73055. It’s legit. If you do a search for his name, the reports about it are all over the tv stations and so on.
He’s suffering from cancer, too. I’ll put a card in the mail this week. It’s not often we actually can do something for a veteran like this.

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Military Humor – 

YIKES !!!!

Automatic pitching machine?????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ward Cook – Clinton, NY; US Army, Vietnam, E-5

Henry Fischer – Seymour, IN; US Army, WWII, Panama

Kevin Hoag – Providence, RI; US Army, Vietnam, Captain, 101st Airborne Division, 2 Bronze Stars, Purple Heart

Merle H. Howe – MI; US Army # 0-131962, Colonel, 128/32nd Infantry Div. Buna hero, KIA North Luzon, (Manila-American Cemetery Plot A/Row 5/Grave 100)

Jay Jakeway – Oklahoma City, OK; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/674th Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Charles Kohler – Astoria, NY; USMC, WWII, China, Cpl.

Rosemary (Bryant) Mariner – San Diego, CA; US Navy, Desert Storm, pilot, Captain (Ret. 24 y.)

Tony Mendez – Eureka, NV; CIA, Cold War, Operation Argo

Joe Sykes – Whangarei, NZ; NZ Army # 36371, WWII, Sgt.

Ruth St.John (101) – Batavia, NY; US Army WAC, WWII, CBI, nurse

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