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Alpine Front, Winter 1944-45

Alpine Front, Winter 1944-45

Alpine Front, Winter 1944-45


US troops fighting on the Alpine Front, some time during the winter of 1944-45. This was one of the quieter fronts, with US troops facing east from France and German troops west from Italy.


World War Photos

German Soldier with Flamethrower Somewhere in Russia 1941 wehrmacht soldiers with a machine gun MG 34 and mortar Wehrmacht troops MG 34 post with Zieloptik Wehrmacht soldiers 1941 Kowno Eastern Front
Wehrmacht soldiers of the 19. Panzer-Division with MG34 Dimitrijewka Eastern Front July 1942 US 9th Division Captured German Soldiers POW Pull Wounded February 1945 gulaschkanone wehrmacht field kitchen 2 Fallschirmjagers Chania Kreta
Smiling German Boy Soldier after His Capture in Caen 1944 Wehrmacht soldier Eastern Front Wehrmacht Soldiers Cleaning Mauser 98k Rifles wehrmacht soldier with a machine gun MG34
Wehrmacht German Cavalry Troops Ford Stream During Advance in Poland 1939 wehrmacht soldier with Zeltbahn Stahlhelm Gasmaskenbuchse Wehrmacht soldiers in action Eastern Front Wehrmacht observer in a trench on the Eastern front 1942
wehrmacht soldiers and Hiwi of Grenadier Regiment 460 Eastern Front Wehrmacht soldier with handgranaten Battle Weary German Troops in Stahlhelm in Trench Kiev 1941 Eastern Front Wehrmacht Pioneer Troops In Action with Flame Thrower
German Officer with MP38 submachine gun Wehrmacht Infantry Cross Bridge by Bombed French Town gulaschkanone wehrmacht field kitchen Fallschirmjagers of 1 Fallschirmjagerdivision carry wooden boxed land mines for planting near the Nettuno area of the Anzio beachhead 1944
Wehrmacht soldiers Winter Camouflage Eastern Front Hungry German Soldiers 80th Division POW’s Eat February 1945 Germany German soldiers and machine gun MG 34 with optical scope Wehrmacht soldiers with russian POW
Wehrmacht soldiers on MG 34 machine gun post German Troops in Action During Street Fighting in Kovno 1941 Unternehmen Barbarossa German Boy Soldier after his Capture in Italy 1944 German Soldiers Surrender to Russians Troops at Stalingrad 1942
Combat Snapshot Wounded German Soldiers POW’s Luxembourg Moselle 1945 wehrmacht soldiers with handgranaten in a trench on the Eastern front First German Soldiers Captured in Battle for Aachen 1944 Wehrmacht Troops and Medic Bus with Red Cross
German Soldiers and Burning Soviet Tank on Eastern Front 1941 Wehrmacht soldiers with hand grenades and K98 Eastern Front wehrmacht troops with Maschinengewehr 34 1941 German soldiers with machine gun MG 34
German Soldiers Digging Trenches on Leningrad Front 1941 Wehrmacht young soldiers 1945 wehrmacht soldiers with Stahlhelm and Morser mortar Wehrmacht soldier 47
wehrmacht troops Wehrmacht troops 13 wehrmacht soldier luftwaffe greece wehrmacht troops
wehrmacht troops in Italy Afrika korps DAK in Afrika german troops Fallschirmjagers Knochensack Springerhelmet Granate wehrmacht soldier awarded
wehrmacht soldier and car Wehrmacht soldier 8 Wehrmacht soldier with MG34 2 Wehrmacht Funkgerat Fernmelder
Wehrmacht troops 41 Wehrmacht troops 22 wehrmacht troops Wehrmacht troops with Pak
Wehrmacht radio team in field Wehrmacht Cabriolet car wehrmacht troops Wehrmacht soldier with MG34
Wehrmacht soldiers in trenches 2 Afrika Korps Soldier with Captured British Truck Wehrmacht Funkgerat Fallschirmjager German Paratroopers
Afrika korps DAK in Afrika german troops and Feldkuche Wehrmacht troops – 142 Wehrmacht Officers 17 Wehrmacht soldiers 27
Wehrmacht Soldiers with MG34 AA Machine Gun Set Up on Railway Car wehrmacht soldier wehrmacht troops wehrmacht soldier in winter
German soldiers POW Wehrmacht soldier 5 Gulaschkanone Feldkuche Bahnhof Smolensk wehrmacht soldiers
Afrika korps soldier Wehrmacht soldiers 24 German soldier with MG34 machine gun Wehrmacht soldiers riding on a tractor
wehrmacht troops in russia wehrmacht soldiers and radio Fallschirmjager Italy 1944 Gulaschkanone Wehrmacht
wehrmacht soldier in trench wehrmacht soldier MG34 Feldfunkgerat Wehrmacht Wehrmacht troops 472
wehrmacht varia soldatenkino Wehrmacht troops Eastern Front 12 wehrmacht soldiers Wehrmacht soldiers Granatwerfer mortar
Wehrmacht troops 79 Wehrmacht soldiers 1944 Maschenfunker Wehrmacht troops Afrika korps DAK in Afrika german troops and tent
Luftwaffe soldiers with Flakkampfabzeichen wehrmacht soldiers wehrmacht soldiers Wehrmacht soldiers in Russia
Wehrmacht soldiers and POW in Russia Fallschirmjager WW2 Paratrooper with Helmet Wehrmacht soldiers wehrmacht soldier with grenade
Afrika korps DAK trenches wehrmacht soldiers Wehrmacht soldiers 16 Wehrmacht Soldaten mit Funk Funkgerat
wehrmacht troops in trench russia Fallschirmjager in Chania Kreta May 1941 MP40 Afrika korps DAK german troops and tent wehrmacht soldiers on airfield with aa mg
wehrmacht soldiers in trench Afrika korps DAK in Afrika tent Wehrmacht soldiers Portait Fallschirmjagers
Wehrmacht soldiers Wehrmacht soldier with Stahlhelm Portrait Oblt Lehmann Chef 8 Flak Rgt 24 Artemowsk Russia wehrmacht soldiers Russia
Wehrmacht troops Eastern Front 17 Wehrmacht soldiers 2 wehrmacht soldiers and car Wehrmacht Funkwagen
Wehrmacht Afrika Korps Soldiers with MG34 Machine Gun wehrmacht troops wehrmacht troops Wehrmacht soldiers in trenches
Wehrmacht soldiers 21 Fallschirmjager parade Wehrmacht soldiers with 8cm Granatwerfer Gr.W 34 wehrmacht soldiers
Fallschirmjager Paratroopers Wehrmacht Landser Gasmaske and Stahlhelm wehrmacht troops Afrika korps DAK in Afrika officers
wehrmacht troops italy Afrika korps DAK in Afrika German soldier with dog Wehrmacht Troops Digging in by Russian Town wehrmacht soldiers
wehrmacht soldiers parade wehrmacht soldier Fallschirmjager with mauser 98k Afrika korps DAK soldier
Wehrmacht troops 47a Wehrmacht Afrika Korps soldier with EKII Ribbon by Truck in Desert wehrmacht bmw motor and Balkans pow Knight’s Cross Holder (Ritterkreuzträger) Major der Reserve Gustav Hippler
Wehrmacht radio squad Wehrmacht soldiers in Russia and Panzer Attrappe Wehrmacht troops 62

Photos of Wehrmacht soldiers taken during World War 2.

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vehicle models: 92
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ships: 49

World War Photos 2013-2021, contact: info(at)worldwarphotos.info

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World War Photos

/> Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 334, during field exercises /> Panzer VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 509, tank number 113 eastern front /> Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 233 (2nd Company, 3rd Platoon, 3rd vehicle) /> WW2 german tank Tiger I
/> Tiger tank number 300 of schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 /> Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 334, during field trials Panzer VI Tiger code S02 of Schwere Panzerkompanie SS-Panzer Regiment 2 Das Reich Eastern front /> Tiger tank 112 of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503
/> Tiger eastern front winter /> Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 506, tank number 13 German Tiger tank of the 2/Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502. Eastern Front winter Panzer VI Tiger of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505, tank number 231
Tiger Ausf. H1 of 8./SS-Panzerregiment 2 Das Reich, tank number 800 rail transport 1943 /> Panzer VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 311 (3rd Company, 1st Platoon, 1st vehicle) Tiger number 223 Schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 102. France 1944 /> Tiger I Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502 eastern front
Tiger number 114, 505 Schwere Panzer Abteilung Eastern Front 1943 /> Tiger 𔄛” from of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502 – Eastern Front 1943 /> Tiger S14 of the Schwere Panzerkompanie SS-Panzer Regiment 2 Das Reich – Kursk 1943 /> Panzer VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 321 (3rd Company, 2nd Platoon, 1st vehicle) eastern front
/> Tigers I of the Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502, Eastern Front /> Tiger I tank Afrika Korps DAK Captured Tiger I number 131 of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 504, Afrika Korps Tunisia 1943 /> Porsche Tiger (P), prototype VK4501 (P)
/> Tiger tank number 222 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 503 and soldiers. Palais Rohan, Strasbourg. /> Crew and Tiger I number 321 of schwere Panzer Abteilung 505 – Eastern Front 1943 /> German Tiger I number 222 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502 – winter camouflage eastern front 1943 /> Tiger befehls code “B”, 507 Schwere Panzer Abteilung, Russia 1944
German Tiger tank number 300 of schwere Panzer Abteilung 503, Eastern Front Early production Tiger I of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502, commander Lt. Meyer – winter camouflage eastern front 2 Tiger I tank from schwere Panzer Abteilung 508 Rome 1944 3 Panzer VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 504, Ponte Dirillo Sicily
Damaged Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 313 Tiger I number 223 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 winter camo, Eastern Front 3 German Tiger tank 8 Tigers on SSyms 80t Plaformwagen
Tiger I tank turret Destroyed Tiger tank 121 s.Pz.Abt. 501 North Africa 1943 Tiger tank Italy Tiger I tank (with zimmerit) of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 Italy 1944
Late Tiger �” of schwere Panzer Abteilung 503, Normandy 1944. Tank with zimmerit Destroyed Tiger I number 121 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 Afrika Korps DAK Tunisia Destroyed Tiger I Ausf E (Late) with Zimmerit, 1944/45 Crew of s.Pz.Abt. 503 removes the turret from Tiger tank �”
Tiger I number 223 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 winter camo, Eastern Front 2 Tiger zimmerit rail transport Villers Bocage destroyed Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of 1/schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101 – Normandy 1944 Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 311 – Normandy 1944
Tiger I tank, hull during production 1942/1943 Panzer VI Tiger S24 from schwere Panzerkompanie SS-Panzer Regiment 2 “Das Reich” Kursk 1943 Tiger I tank of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508, Italy 1944 7 Villers Bocage destroyed Panzer IV and Panzer VI Tiger #112 of the 1/schwere SS-Panzerabteilung 101
Tiger I of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508, Rome Vittoriano Italy PzKpfw VI Tiger with zimmerit of the schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508. Villa Bonnaza Italy Panzer VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 501, tank number 211 winter camo Eastern front Tiger I tank of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 Italy 1944
Tiger of the Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501, tank number 324. Eastern front Tigers 331 and 332 from schwere Panzerabteilung 503 Tiger I tank code A2 of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 Italy 1944 9 Tiger I tank of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 504, Sicily 1943
Tiger I tank code A2 of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 Italy 1944 2 Tiger I tank Italy 1944 1 Tiger tank 121 of the of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505, Orscha Tiger I of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 tank Italy 1944
Tiger of schwere Panzerabteilung 503, Tarnopol 1944 Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 205 – Normandy June1944 Tiger I tank of schwere Panzerabteilung 508 near Rome 1944 2 Tiger number 831 of the SS Division Das Reich
Tiger tank 324 of the of schwere Panzerabteilung 503 Tiger I 222 of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101- Normandy France Tiger I with zimmerit number 332, of schwere Panzerabteilung 504, Massa Lombarda Italy Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 211 – Normandy 1944
Early Tiger tank 7 Tiger tank tracks – �” of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, 1943 Camouflaged Tiger tank of 1/schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101- Villers Bocage France 1944 Tiger of the 4./SS-Panzer Regiment 3 Totenkopf, tank number 413. Winter camouflage
Abandoned Tiger I with zimmerit, schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508, Italy front view Heavy tank Tiger I of the Schwere Panzer Abteilung 505 Tiger tank 217 of of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 – winter camo Tiger I number 223 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 winter camo eastern front
Tiger turret Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 232 – Normandy July 1944 Tiger tank 24 Tiger turret 5 depot
German panzerman inspect a non-penetrating hit to the Tiger’s front armor (3/sPzAbt 503) Tiger tank 26 Tiger code A12 of the III Battalion Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland 1944 Tiger I, Nashorn number 211 and Sherman tank Italy 1944
Tiger I ausf H1 “Strolch”, of the Tigergruppe “Meyer”, Anzio-Nettuno Italy, March 1944 Villers Bocage destroyed Tiger Ausf E of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 111 – Battle of Villers-Bocage Normandy 1944 Tiger I near Tarnopol 1944, Eastern Front 1944 Abandoned Tiger (late model) with steel road wheels and zimmerit
Tiger with Zimmerit, Eastern Front, Tarnopol 1944, Tiger I tank number 2 of 2/schwere Panzerabteilung 508, track change – Anzio Italy 1944 Early Tiger I with transport tracks, 1942-1943 Tiger turret 5
Tiger tank 23 Tiger I tank with zimmerit Tiger tank 3 Tiger tank 5
Tiger I tank number 2 of 2/schwere Panzerabteilung 508 Anzio Italy 1944 Tiger tanks of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502 France Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of the schwere 3/SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 311 – Normandy 1944 Tiger tank 17
Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505 Tiger with gas bottles Waffen SS Tiger with zimmerit of the schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102 1944 Early Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger code S01 of the Schwere Panzerkompanie SS-Panzer Regiment 2 Das Reich
Tiger Ausf E of 2/Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 213. France 1944 Panzer VI Tiger code S33 of Schwere Panzerkompanie SS-Panzer Regiment 2 Das Reich, Shitomir fall 1943 Tiger I tank of the 3/schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 near Rome, 1944 Damaged Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, tank number 313 2
Tigers being transported to the front on specially designed flatbed rail cars Tiger tank of the schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502 during trianing, France Summer 1943 Villers Bocage Soldat and Panzer VI Tiger tank Tiger I number 134 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 winter camo eastern front
Tiger I code �” of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505, winter Russia Tiger I of the schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508. Italy 1944 Tiger Ausführung E of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 111 – Villers-Bocage Normandy 1944 befehls Tiger code B of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 507, Eastern front 1944
Tiger winter camo Russia 2 Detail of the turret of Tiger I with zimmerit Tiger tank of the Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502 (502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion), winter camouflage Tiger tank turret
Captured Tiger I number 712 of Schwere Abteilung 501 Afrika Korps Tunisia German heavy tank Tiger 121 of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 501, Tunisia, North Africa WW2 Tiger I tank Tiger I tank Italy 1944 5
Tiger I tank of the 3/schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 in Rome 1944 4 Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of 3/schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101, tank number 331 – Normandy 1944 Tiger I number 5 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 506 winter camouflage Tiger 232 of the Schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 101 towing Tiger 231, 14 June 1944, Normandy
Panzer VI Tiger Ausf E of 3/schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101. Normandy 1944 Tiger I number 132 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501, provisional winter camouflage, Eastern Front WW2 Tiger tank Tiger tank turret 2
Tiger code 231 of Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102 with zimmerit, France Late PzKpfw VI Tiger Ausf. E of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 506, tank number 10 Tiger I number 221 and 224 of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 winter camo eastern front Early production Tiger I of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 502, commander Lt. Meyer – winter camouflage eastern front
Tiger tank 13 Abandoned Tiger (late model) with steel road wheels and zimmerit 2 Tiger I tank code II of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505 Tiger tank 11

Tiger I german heavy tank. German designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf.E, often shortened to Tiger.
Gun: 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56. Max armor: 120 mm. Production: 1347 tanks.

Site statistics:
photos of World War 2 : over 31500
aircraft models: 184
tank models: 95
vehicle models: 92
gun models: 5
units: 2
ships: 49

World War Photos 2013-2021, contact: info(at)worldwarphotos.info

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Operation Barbarossa

Designed by Hitler, the plan for invading the Soviet Union called for the use of three large army groups. Army Group North was to march through the Baltic Republics and capture Leningrad. In Poland, Army Group Center was to drive east to Smolensk, then on to Moscow. Army Group South was ordered to attack into the Ukraine, capture Kiev, and then turn towards the oil fields of the Caucasus. All told, the plan called for the use of 3.3 million German soldiers, as well as an additional 1 million from Axis nations such as Italy, Romania, and Hungary. While the German High Command (OKW) advocated for a direct strike on Moscow with the bulk of their forces, Hitler insisted on capturing the Baltics and Ukraine as well.


1944–45: The Second Front [ edit | edit source ]

Normandy [ edit | edit source ]

Routes taken by the D-Day invasion

On 6 June 1944, the Allies began Operation Overlord (also known as "D-Day") – the long-awaited liberation of France. The deception plans, Operations Fortitude and Bodyguard, had the Germans convinced that the invasion would occur in the Pas-de-Calais, while the real target was Normandy. Following two months of slow fighting in hedgerow country, Operation Cobra allowed the Americans to break out at the western end of the lodgement. Soon after, the Allies were racing across France. They encircled around 200,000 Germans in the Falaise pocket. As had so often happened on the Eastern Front Hitler refused to allow a strategic withdrawal until it was too late. Approximately 150,000 Germans were able to escape from the Falaise pocket, but they left behind most of their irreplaceable equipment and 50,000 Germans were killed or taken prisoner. The Allies had been arguing about whether to advance on a broad-front or a narrow-front from before D-Day. Β] If the British had broken out of the Normandy bridge-head around Caen when they launched Operation Goodwood and pushed along the coast, facts on the ground might have turned the argument in favour of a narrow front. However, as the breakout took place during Operation Cobra at the western end of the bridge-head, the 21st Army Group that included the British and Canadian forces swung east and headed for Belgium, the Netherlands and Northern Germany, while the US Twelfth Army Group advanced to their south via eastern France, Luxembourg and the Ruhr Area, rapidly fanning out into a broad front. As this was the strategy favoured by supreme Allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower and most of the rest of the American high command, it became the strategy which was adopted.

Liberation of France [ edit | edit source ]

On 15 August the Allies launched Operation Dragoon – the invasion of Southern France between Toulon and Cannes. The US Seventh Army and the French First Army, making up the US 6th Army Group, rapidly consolidated this beachhead and liberated southern France in two weeks they then moved north up the Rhone valley. Their advance only slowed down as they encountered regrouped and entrenched German troops in the Vosges Mountains.

The Germans in France were now faced by three powerful Allied army groups: in the north the British 21st Army Group commanded by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, in the center the American 12th Army Group, commanded by General Omar Bradley and to the south the US 6th Army Group commanded by Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers. By mid-September, the 6th Army Group, advancing from the south, came into contact with Bradley's formations advancing from the west and overall control of Devers' force passed from AFHQ in the Mediterranean so that all three army groups came under Eisenhower's central command at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces).

Under the onslaught in both the north and south of France, the German Army fell back. On 19 August, the French Resistance (FFI) organised a general uprising and the liberation of Paris took place on 25 August when general Dietrich von Choltitz accepted the French ultimatum and surrendered to general Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, commander of the Free French 2nd Armored Division, ignoring orders from Hitler that Paris should be held to the last and destroyed. The liberation of northern France and the Benelux countries was of special significance for the inhabitants of London and the southeast of England, because it denied the Germans launch sites for their mobile V-1 and V-2 Vergeltungswaffen (reprisal weapons).

Unfortunately for the Allies, the Germans took special care to thoroughly wreck all port facilities before they could be captured. [ when? ] [ citation needed ] As the Allies advanced across France, their supply lines stretched to breaking point. The Red Ball Express, the Allied trucking effort, was simply unable to transport enough supplies from the port facilities in Normandy all the way to the front line, which by September, was close to the German border.

Major German units in the French southwest that had not been committed in Normandy withdrew, either eastwards towards Alsace (sometimes directly across the US 6th Army's advance) or into the ports with the intention of denying them to the Allies. These latter groups were not thought worth much effort and were left "to rot", with the exception of Bordeaux, which was liberated in May 1945 by French forces under General Edgard de Larminat (Operation Venerable). Γ]

Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine [ edit | edit source ]

Fighting on the Western front seemed to stabilize, and the Allied advance stalled in front of the Siegfried Line (Westwall) and the southern reaches of the Rhine. Starting in early September, the Americans began slow and bloody fighting through the Hurtgen Forest ("Passchendaele with tree bursts"—Hemingway) to breach the Line. The port of Antwerp was liberated on 4 September by the British 11th Armoured Division. However, it lay at the end of the long Scheldt Estuary, and so it could not be used until its approaches were clear of heavily fortified German positions. The Breskens pocket on the southern bank of the Scheldt was cleared with heavy casualties by Canadian and Polish forces in Operation Switchback, during the Battle of the Scheldt. This was followed by a tedious campaign to clear a peninsula dominating the estuary, and finally, the amphibious assault on Walcheren Island in November. The campaign to clear the Scheldt Estuary was a decisive victory for the First Canadian Army and the rest of the Allies, as it allowed a greatly improved delivery of supplies directly from Antwerp, which was far closer to the front than the Normandy beaches.

American troops cross the Siegfried Line into Germany

In October the Americans decided that they could not just invest Aachen and let it fall in a slow siege, because it threatened the flanks of the U.S. Ninth Army. [ citation needed ] As it was the first major German city to face capture, Hitler ordered that the city be held at all costs. [ citation needed ] In the resulting battle, the city was taken, at a cost of 5,000 casualties on both sides, with an additional 5,600 German prisoners. [ citation needed ]

South of the Ardennes, US forces fought from September until mid-December to push the Germans out of Lorraine and from behind the Siegfried Line. The crossing of the Moselle River and the capture of the fortress of Metz proved difficult for the US troops in the face of German reinforcements, supply shortages, and unfavorable weather. [ citation needed ] During September and October, the Allied 6th Army Group (U.S. Seventh Army and French First Army) fought a difficult campaign through the Vosges Mountains that was marked by dogged German resistance and slow advances. In November, however, the German front snapped under the pressure, resulting in sudden Allied advances that liberated Belfort, Mulhouse, and Strasbourg, and placed Allied forces along the Rhine River. The Germans managed to hold a large bridgehead (the Colmar Pocket), on the western bank of the Rhine and centered around the city of Colmar. On 16 November the Allies started a large scale autumn offensive called Operation Queen. With its main thrust again through the Hürtgen Forest, the offensive drove the Allies to the Rur River, but failed in its core objectives to capture the Rur dams and pave the way towards the Rhine. The Allied operations were then succeeded by the German Ardennes offensive.

Operation Market Garden [ edit | edit source ]

The British Field-Marshal Montgomery persuaded Allied High Command to launch a bold attack, Operation Market Garden which he hoped would get the Allies across the Rhine and create the narrow-front he favoured. Paratroopers would fly in from Britain and take bridges over the main rivers of the German-occupied Netherlands in three main cities, Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem. The British XXX Corps would punch through the German lines along the Maas-Schelde Kanal and link up with American paratroopers in Eindhoven. If all went well XXX Corps would advance into Germany without any remaining major obstacles. XXX Corps was able to advance beyond six of the seven paratrooper-held bridges, but was unable to link up with the troops near the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. The result was the near-destruction of the British 1st Airborne Division. The offensive ended with Arnhem remaining in German hands and the Allies holding an extended salient from the Belgian border to the area between Nijmegen and Arnhem.

Winter counter-offensives [ edit | edit source ]

American soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge

The Germans had been preparing a massive counter-attack in the West since the Allied breakout from Normandy. The plan called Wacht am Rhein ("Watch on the Rhine") was to attack through the Ardennes and swing North to Antwerp, splitting the American and British armies. The attack started on 16 December in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Defending the Ardennes were troops of the US First Army. Initial successes in bad weather, which gave them cover from the Allied air forces, resulted in a German penetration of over 50 miles (80 km) to within less than 10 miles (16 km) of the Meuse. Having been taken by surprise, the Allies regrouped and the Germans were stopped by a combined air and land counter-attack which eventually pushed them back to their starting points by 25 January 1945.

The Germans launched a second, smaller offensive (Nordwind) into Alsace on New Year's Day, 1945. Aiming to recapture Strasbourg, the Germans attacked the 6th Army Group at multiple points. Because the Allied lines had become severely stretched in response to the crisis in the Ardennes, holding and throwing back the Nordwind offensive was a costly affair that lasted almost four weeks. The culmination of Allied counter-attacks restored the front line to the area of the German border and collapsed the Colmar Pocket.

Invasion of Germany [ edit | edit source ]

In January 1945 the German bridgehead over the river Roer between Heinsberg and Roermond was cleared during Operation Blackcock, followed by the pincer movement of the First Canadian Army in Operation Veritable advancing from the Nijmegen area of the Netherlands and the US Ninth Army crossing the Rur (Roer) in Operation Grenade was planned to start on 8 February 1945, but it was delayed by two weeks when the Germans flooded the river valley by destroying the dam gates upstream. During the two weeks that the river was flooded, Hitler would not allow Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt from withdrawing east behind the Rhine, arguing that it would only delay the inevitable. Hitler ordered him to fight where his forces stood.

By the time the water had subsided and the US Ninth Army was able to cross the Roer on 23 February, other Allied forces were also close to the Rhine's west bank. Von Rundstedt's divisions which had remained on the west bank, were cut to pieces in the 'battle of the Rhineland', - 280,000 men were taken prisoner. With a large number of men captured, the stubborn German resistance during the Allied campaign to reach the Rhine in February and March 1945 had been costly. Total losses reached an estimated 400,000 men. Δ]

US soldiers cross the Rhine river in assault boats

  • The crossing of the Rhine was achieved at four points: One was an opportunity taken by US forces when the Germans failed to blow up the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen, one crossing was a hasty assault, and two crossings were planned. Bradley and his subordinates quickly exploited the Remagen crossing made on 7 March and expanded the bridgehead into a full scale crossing.
  • Bradley told General Patton whose U.S. Third Army had been fighting through the Palatinate, to "take the Rhine on the run". Ε] The Third Army did just that on the night of 22 March, crossing the river with a hasty assault south of Mainz at Oppenheim.
  • In the North Operation Plunder was the name given to the assault crossing of the Rhine at Rees and Wesel by the British 21st Army Group on the night of 23 March. It included the largest airborne operation in history, which was codenamed Operation Varsity. At the point the British crossed the river, it is twice as wide, with a far higher volume of water, than the points where the Americans crossed and Montgomery decided it could only be crossed with a carefully planned operation. [citation needed]
  • In the Allied 6th Army Group area, the US Seventh Army assaulted across the Rhine in the area between Mannheim and Worms on 26 March. Ζ] A fifth crossing on a much smaller scale was later achieved by the French First Army at Speyer. Η]

US soldiers advance through the hazy ruins of Waldenburg, Germany, April 1945

Once the Allies had crossed the Rhine, the British fanned out northeast towards Hamburg crossing the river Elbe and on towards Denmark and the Baltic. British forces captured Bremen on 26 April after a week of combat. ⎖] British and Canadian paratroopers reached the Baltic city of Wismar just ahead of Soviet forces on 2 May. The US Ninth Army, which had remained under British command since the battle of the Bulge, went south as the northern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement as well as pushing elements east. XIX Corps of the Ninth Army captured Magdeburg on 18 April and the US XIII Corps to the north occupied Stendal. ⎗]

The US 12th Army Group fanned out, the First Army went north as the southern pincer of the Ruhr encirclement. On 4  April the encirclement was completed and the Ninth Army reverted to the command of Bradley's 12th Army Group. The German Army Group B commanded by Field Marshal Walther Model was trapped in the Ruhr Pocket and 300,000 soldiers became POWs. The Ninth and First American armies then turned east and pushed to the Elbe river by mid-April. During the push east, the cities of Frankfurt am Main, Kassel, Magdeburg, Halle and Leipzig were strongly defended by ad hoc German garrisons made up of regular troops, Flak units, Volkssturm and armed Nazi Party auxiliaries. Generals Eisenhower and Bradley concluded that pushing beyond the Elbe made no sense since eastern Germany was destined in any case to be occupied by the Red Army. The First and Ninth Armies stopped along the Elbe and Mulde rivers, making contact with Soviet forces near the Elbe in late April. The US Third Army had fanned out to the east into western Czechoslovakia and southeast into eastern Bavaria and northern Austria. By V-E Day, the US 12th Army Group was a force of four armies (First, Third, Ninth and Fifteenth) that numbered over 1.3 million men. ⎘]

End of the Third Reich [ edit | edit source ]

The US 6th Army Group fanned out to the southwest, passing to the east of Switzerland through Bavaria and into Austria and northern Italy. [ when? ] .The Black Forest and Baden were overrun by the French First Army. [ when? ] Determined stands were made in April by German forces at Heilbronn, Nuremberg, and Munich but were overcome after several days. [ when? ] Elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division were the first Allied troops to arrive at Berchtesgaden, which they secured, while the French 2nd Armoured Division seized the Berghof (Hitler's Alpine residence) on 4 May 1945. German Army Group G surrendered to US forces at Haar, in Bavaria, on 5 May. Field Marshal Montgomery took the German military surrender of all German forces in The Netherlands, northwest Germany and Denmark on Lüneburg Heath, an area between the cities of Hamburg, Hanover and Bremen, on 4 May 1945. As the operational commander of some of these forces [ vague ] [ Clarification needed ]

On 7 May at his headquarters in Rheims, Eisenhower took the unconditional surrender of all German forces to the western Allies and the Soviet Union, ⎙] from the German Chief-of-Staff, General Alfred Jodl, who signed the first general instrument of surrender at 0241 hours. General Franz Böhme announced the unconditional surrender of German troops in Norway. Operations ceased at 2301 hours Central European time (CET) on 8 May. On that same day Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, as head of OKW and Jodl's superior, was brought to Marshal Georgy K. Zhukov in Karlshorst and signed another instrument of surrender that was essentially identical to that signed in Rheims with two minor additions requested by the Soviets. ⎚]

The 1944–45 campaign in hindsight [ edit | edit source ]

While the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces represented a resounding success for the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, ⎛] the path to this outcome was influenced by the strategic decisions of both sides. In retrospect, it is clear that particular factors and choices strongly affected the pace and course of the campaign on the Western Front.

  • The Allied deception as to where the D-Day landings would take place was very successful, with the majority of the German command convinced the landings would take place in the Calais area. For their part, the Germans underestimated Allied willingness to risk an amphibious assault over a route longer than the shortest path across the English Channel. While the Allies meticulously planned the landings, they failed to assess the countryside immediately beyond the beaches, ⎜] which resulted in the Germans very successfully using the hedgerow country (Bocage) as a system of natural defensive works that took the Allies two months to clear at a staggering cost in infantry casualties. ⎝] Historians have also asserted that the US Army should have landed on the eastern end of the Normandy beaches and formed the northern wing of Allied forces in Northwest Europe. ⎞]⎟] The primary support for this argument was that the mobility of American forces could have been better used in the more open terrain and most direct route to Berlin that the northern approach offered. As it was, the pre-invasion basing of troops in Britain determined the arrangement of the landing forces.
  • While the Germans had reason to occasionally doubt Allied military proficiency, ⎠] it is clear they too often underestimated Allied competency. In its most damaging expression, this habit of underestimation led to the rejection of any notion that the Allies might have broken German military ciphers, most famously the Enigma code. The ability to monitor German military communications was an Allied strategic asset of the highest order. Less dramatically, the Germans often underestimated Allied troop proficiency, a habit that resulted in occasional sharp defeats for overconfident German units. ⎡]⎢]
  • Manpower strongly affected the course of the campaign. The German ability to form a cohesive defensive line (the so-called "Miracle in the West") after the disaster their forces endured in Normandy was due almost entirely to the ability of the Ersatzheer (Replacement Army) to deploy large numbers of new troops quickly. These inexperienced soldiers were paired with seasoned veterans who swiftly helped to transform the replacements into combat units deemed sufficiently competent to defend fortified positions. Thus, while the Allies took large numbers of German prisoners during their advance from Normandy to the German border, they underestimated the ability of the Germans to reconstitute their forces under very disadvantageous circumstances. ⎣] The Allies also seriously underestimated the infantry casualties their forces would suffer in northwest Europe and the number of divisions that would be required to win the campaign. The Allies lost 776,294 men in dead or wounded in western Europe between 1944–45 ⎤] and British manpower shortages became so grave that two infantry divisions had to be disbanded, while the Americans were forced to shake excess personnel out of their logistical and Army Air Force units in order to bring rifle units up to strength. ⎥]⎦] Shortages of American manpower were strongly aggravated by a tendency to attack head-on regardless of circumstances, ⎧] a habit that was particularly in evidence during the months of fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. ⎨]⎩] The Allied logistical crisis that dominated their operations between September and December 1944 had the further pernicious effect of limiting the number of divisions in Britain that could be moved onto the continent to reinforce the front, since the Allies were only able to supply a limited number of divisions east of the Seine. After the Allies mastered the logistical crisis, the Americans diverted divisions bound for the Pacific Theater in a belated realization that more divisions were needed for operations in Europe.
  • While the Germans achieved strategic surprise with their offensive in the Ardennes, the Panzer divisions that had been so painstakingly rebuilt could have been more profitably used to defend the Siegfried Line and the Rhineland, or perhaps, in the defense of Berlin against the Red Army. ⎪] The German thrust failed to shatter their enemies' alliance and cost Germany high casualties and equipment losses she could ill-afford. This folly was repeated in Alsace in January, but with the added disadvantage this time that the Allies were expecting the attack.

The Allies made serious errors and questionable uses of their forces several times during the course of operations in 1944–45.

  • Upon breaking out of Normandy in August, the Americans committed two armored divisions to operations in Brittany when they were badly needed for the pursuit of the German army across France. While the port of Brest, was ultimately captured by the Americans, it required the services of an American corps for an entire month and ultimately did little for the Allied effort because the Germans so thoroughly damaged the port before it was captured. ⎫]
  • Out of fear that two wings of their forces might collide, the Allies failed to definitively close the Falaise Gap in August, allowing trapped German forces to escape to the east. ⎬] Although the operations around Falaise trapped a considerable number of Germans, experienced German units evaded Allied forces and were available to reconstitute a cohesive front along the Siegfried Line.
  • Although British forces conducted a brilliant pursuit across northern France that resulted in the liberation of the critically important port of Antwerp in early September, they failed to promptly clear the Scheldt Estuary. ⎭]⎮] The Germans immediately grasped the significance of the Scheldt Estuary and moved in troops to conduct a lengthy defense. ⎯]⎰] The Allied failure to swiftly clear the Scheldt Estuary meant that the port could not be used until 28 November, and strongly contributed to the lengthy logistical crisis that hamstrung Allied operations for four months. Operation Market-Garden was a double failure in the sense that the resources used for it would have been more profitably committed to clearing the Scheldt Estuary instead of carving out an extended salient that did nothing but stretch an already over-extended Allied front line. ⎱]
  • Despite a grave shortage of riflemen, American operations in front of the Siegfried Line, particularly in the US First Army's area, were characterized by bloody frontal assaults. ⎧] Stubbornness and misplaced notions that the US Army could not allow itself to abandon unprofitable operations ⎡]⎫] saw five infantry divisions decimated in the Hürtgen Forest fighting, with the attack being abandoned only in December after the German attack in the Ardennes. The concentration of divisions in the Hürtgen Forest–Aachen area also forced a corresponding lack of concentration along the Ardennes front, with the result that only four US divisions were initially available in the Ardennes to face a German offensive that was 26 divisions strong.
  • When, in November, the Allies enjoyed significant success in 6th Army Group's area, General Eisenhower refused to reinforce the success and even forbade his commanders in the south from attempting to assault across the Rhine in the area of Strasbourg while the German defenses were in disarray. ⎲] This lack of bold enterprise ⎳] was a by-product of Eisenhower's decision to conduct limited-objective attacks on a broad front even though the Allies lacked a sufficient number of divisions to both man a broad front and concentrate enough combat power in chosen areas to achieve breakthroughs. ⎴]⎵] And there were other instances of cautious Allied generalship. ⎶]⎷]
  • After crossing the Rhine, Allied force deployments were tainted by misplaced priorities, ⎸]⎹] a lack of firm direction from supreme political echelons, ⎺]⎻] and to some extent, by exaggerated fears of German capabilities. ⎼]⎽] When American troops reached the Elbe River in mid-April, Eisenhower unilaterally decided that Berlin was no longer a significant military objective. ⎾] The official US Army history has defended this decision by stating that Eisenhower knew that Berlin would be within the Soviet zone of post-war Germany and saw no reason to fight for land that would have to be given to the Soviets after the war. ⎿] Other histories of the campaign have been less generous, assessing that it was a political decision which sacrificed certain military advantages. ⏀]⏁] Eisenhower pointed out to George S. Patton, the third Army commander, that Berlin was of no military strategic value and would take up a lot of resources to occupy and asked Patton "Who would want it?" Patton replied "I think history will answer that question for you." Unswayed by Patton, Simpson (the commander of the US Ninth Army), or even Winston Churchill, Eisenhower ordered US forces to halt along the Elbe and Mulde rivers. ⏂] Thus, these spearheads were practically immobilized while the war continued for three more weeks. Simultaneously, General Bradley considered the Germans trapped in the Ruhr Pocket to be the most significant threat and committed surprisingly large numbers of US troops to collapse (as opposed to containing) the pocket, instead of reinforcing his troops at the Elbe River. ⏃] As a consequence of Eisenhower's decision, the British 21st Army Group was ordered to drive northeast towards Hamburg instead of proceeding due east in the direction of Berlin. Finally, the Allies proved curiously gullible about German propaganda, claiming the existence of a "National Redoubt" in the Alpine hinterlands of Bavaria and Austria. ⏄] Fearing a large-scale last stand by the Nazis in this so-called redoubt, General Eisenhower directed no less than three field armies to clear southern Germany at a time when the largest groups of German forces stood to the east, not the south, of General Eisenhower's troops. Fortunately for the Allies, the German Army of April 1945 was in no position to exploit troop concentrations and movements of questionable merit.

Thus, while the Allies enjoyed a great victory, on occasion their prosecution of the campaign afforded their German adversaries opportunities that prolonged the fighting unnecessarily. ⏅] ⏆]


Jagdpanzer 38 production

Due to the limited space inside the Jagdpanzer 38 and the desire to keep the profile of the vehicle low, the gun mount was not bolted to the floor of the vehicle. Instead, a gun cradle mount was fixed to the glacis plate. The gun had to be installed off-center, to the right of the vehicle. This enabled the driver, gunner, and loader‘s positions to be on the left side of the vehicle, in line, one behind the other. The commander sat on the right side of the vehicle, at the rear of the fighting compartment, directly behind the gun, with his hatch above him. He did not have access to an armored cupola.

The gun was mounted to the right of the vehicle. This restricted its traverse to only 5° left and 11° right. To engage targets outside this narrow 16° traverse range, the whole vehicle would have to be moved. The off-center gun meant that there was too much weight on the right track and suspension. To the vehicle did not tilt towards the right, 850 kg of crew and equipment had to be placed on the left side of the gun as a counterbalance.

If all the hatches were closed, the crew had limited visibility, especially to the side and rear of the vehicle. The driver had two angled periscopes that protruded out of the upper glacis plate under a protective armored cover. The gunner was provided with a forward-looking Selbstfahrlafetten-Zielfernrohr 1a (Sfl.ZF 1a) periscope gun sight. The loader had a periscope to look out for threats on the left side of the vehicle. The roof machine gun was aimed by looking through a periscope. It could rotate 360°. The commander had access to a rearward-looking periscope. If the commander’s hatch was closed, he had no forward vision. It would only be kept closed in extreme emergencies, such as during an artillery or mortar barrage. Also available was a Scherenfernohrs 14Z (Sf.14Z) scissor telescope which poked out the top of the open roof hatch which had a magnification of 8 x 10.


History of Ski Boots

In the beginning, Norwegian farmers and hunters used their daily work shoes when skiing. Until the 1840s, the typical ski binding was a simple leather strap that passed across the front of the boot. The main design concern was to keep the inside of the boot dry, so the socks could do their job of insulating the foot. Water repellency depended on tough top-grain leather liberally slathered with a mixture of wax and animal fat. This combination of a flexible boot, simple binding, and skis without steel edges was useful mainly for running across meadows and gently rolling woodland, and an occasional sporting ski jump. The simple forefoot strap imposed a limit on running performance: If the skier kicked back too briskly, the boot could slip backward out of the strap. Saami skiers—the original Lapplanders—had a solution for this: They built a vertical lip onto the toe of their reindeer-hide boot, to keep it from sliding back through the binding strap (photo left). Sometimes this lip became an exaggerated curled-up toe Santa’s elves are often depicted wearing Saami boots.

When skiing became a sport, and skiers began to tackle steeper hillsides and real jumps, skiers needed better control of both steering and edging. Bindings grew stiffer, with the invention around 1840 of the heel strap to pull the boot firmly forward into the toe strap. Sondre Norheim and his friends, for instance, devised a heel-strap binding of braided willow. When Fridtjof Nansen equipped his team for the 1888 crossing of Greenland, the Saami-style toe was still in use, but a buckle loop had been added to keep the heel strap in place.

The toe strap then evolved into the rigid steel toe iron, and the heel strap became more robust in order to push the boot firmly into the toe iron. These developments required a boot with a stiffer, heavier sole, usually reinforced with a wooden shank to resist crumpling under the forward pressure of the heel strap. The heavy sole was extended front and back to provide purchase for the toe iron and heel strap. Climbing boots of the era were made on a similar pattern to accommodate crampons, but had steel cleats or calks nailed to the soles for traction, which would have destroyed any wooden ski top in short order.

From village cobbler to mass production

Until the 1870s, all of these boots were handmade by local cobblers. Mass production of military boots, nailed and screwed together mechanically, became common in England during the Napoleonic Wars, and during America’s Civil War, Union troops were equipped with mass-produced boots made to the first-ever standard sizing system. These developments didn’t really affect ski boot design. Because climbers and skiers ordered their boots from someone they knew in the village, nearly all ski boots were, in fact, custom made—the cobbler measured your foot before starting work.

This changed with the introduction, in the United States, of industrial sewing machines and mass-produced shoes and boots (photo left). The key inventions were the Goodyear welt, developed beginning in 1865 by mechanics working for Charles Goodyear, Jr. and the automatic lasting machine, patented in 1883 by Jan Matzeliger. The inventions were promptly put to work in New England’s mill towns. By 1876, the G.H. Bass boot factory in Portland, Maine, cranked out a thousand pairs of shoes and work boots every day. European shoe factories sprang up using the new industrial sewing equipment, and by 1885 companies in Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy shipped thousands of shoes and boots daily. Around the turn of the century, the first mass-produced leather ski boots appeared in sporting goods catalogs.

The first alpine boots

For a quarter century thereafter, the typical ski boot was just a lace-up work boot with a roomy box toe (to accommodate those wool socks) and an extended sole to mate with the heel-strap binding of the era. Then, in 1928, the Swiss ski racer Guido Reuge invented a cable binding designed to hold the heel down for alpine skiing. He named the binding after the Kandahar series of alpine ski races. The powerful steel cable and front-throw adjuster cranked hard on the boot sole, which had to be stiffened considerably. At this point, alpine ski boot design diverged from nordic boots. Boots for cross-country racing and ski jumping needed a flexible sole. But because alpine racing didn’t require the boot to flex at the ball of the foot, the sole could be built with a stiff full-length shank. And because alpine skiers wanted the foot held firmly down on the ski, bootmakers created an instep strap (photo right). Coincidentally, 1928 was the year the mountaineer Rudolf Lettner invented the segmented steel edge for alpine skis. Suddenly, skis could be controlled on steep and icy faces—if your boots were stiff enough to drive the edges.

Most skiers used inexpensive mass-produced ski boots, but racers, instructors and wealthier sportsmen ordered their boots custom-made, from ski-town cobblers in the Alps. A few of these craftsmen, like Peter Limmer Sr., set up shop in America.

After World War II, custom bootmakers developed the double boot, with a soft and comfy lace-up inner boot protected and stiffened by a thick bull-hide outer casing laced with heavy-duty corset hooks (photo left). The complex design was difficult to reproduce with machines, and the European cottage industry adapted to mass production of hand-stitched leather boots. Companies like Henke in Switzerland, Le Trappeur in France and Nordica in Italy employed hundreds of workers to export hand-stitched boots.

With the commercialization of ski boots came the first serious marketing campaigns, and the first athlete endorsements. In 1950, when the Nordica shoe factory in Montebelluna, Italy, sold its first ski boots, the company had the good fortune to equip Zeno Colò, who won two World Championships at Aspen that winter. The publicity put Nordica on the map.

Even with several layers, leather boots were not very waterproof, warm or durable. If you skied more than a few days a year, boots quickly grew soft and sloppy. An aggressive skier needed new boots each winter, an expensive proposition. It was possible to soak leather in glue and make it stiff as a board, but then the boot couldn’t be laced closed, and wouldn’t adapt to the shape of the foot. Even reinforced boots got wet and softened steadily. Like many top racers, Jean-Claude Killy loaned boots to friends for breaking in. When the boots were “seasoned”—comfortable but not yet soft—they were good for a few races. Something better was needed.

Buckles and wedeln

A partial solution to making boots stiffer and more durable arrived in 1954, when Swiss bike racer and stunt pilot Hans Martin patented the ski boot buckle. His original patent specified a quick-adjust “lacing system” with overlapping boot flaps, to allow loosening for climbing and tightening for descents. Martin licensed the patent to Henke, and went to work helping to design their boots (photo left). The buckle was far more powerful than any set of laces and could close a very stiff boot. Quick, short turns became possible, and the tail-wagging wedeln technique became popular in ski schools around the world. To make boots even stiffer, bootmakers added internal plastic heel cups and cuff reinforcements.

Plastics and edging power

Then, during the half-decade from 1966 to 1972, everything changed. By 1962, European bootmakers were experimenting with sheets of plastic laminated to the outer leather for waterproofing and improved durability. At the same time, Bob Lange and Dave Luensmann made the first vacuum-molded plastic boot shell (photo right), and the following year figured out how to mold it from liquid urethane (see “50 Years of Lange” in the March-April 2015 issue of Skiing History). Nordica’s Aldo Vaccari—a chemical engineer by training—saw the Lange boot and quickly figured out how to replace hand-stitching of the sole with a waterproof polyurethane outsole, permanently bonded to the leather upper, using high-speed injection molding machinery. This was a big improvement, quickly adopted by competing factories (photo left). It superseded eighty years of lasting machinery based on sewing-machine technology.

But the real revolution occurred in 1966, when Lange equipped the Canadian ski team with plastic boots for the Alpine World Championships in Portillo (see “Fifty Years of Lange,” March-April 2015). The boots were a sensation—it quickly became clear that laterally stiff plastic boots dramatically improved edging power on ice, and that they would dominate racing (photo right). At the 1968 Olympics, Jean-Claude Killy won three gold medals in his leather Le Trappeur boots, but eight of the remaining 15 medals were won in Langes. Leather boots soon disappeared from racing. Nordica introduced its first all-plastic boot that year. Neighboring boot factories in Montebelluna rushed to make “plastic” boots with urethane-coated leather. By the following year full-bore injection-molded boots were available from Kastinger and Peter Kennedy, Rosemount was shipping its fiberglass boot, and Mel Dalebout offered a magnesium shell.

Spoilers and avalement

Meanwhile, French racers developed a new technique using knee flex to absorb or “swallow” the cross-under portion of turn initiation. This was dubbed avalement, French for swallowing. The move demanded full use of the ski tail in powering the turn exit, and that required a higher boot back. Trappeur was probably the first to equip some of its leather boots with a modest high-back, beginning around 1967. Before the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, “spoilers” appeared on racing boots, including the stovepipe Lange Comp and sleek leather Nordica Sapporo (photo left) and plastic Olympic, designed by Sven Coomer (see “Master Boot Laster,” May-June 2014). By 1973, driven mainly by Coomer at Nordica, the fully modern ski boot had emerged, with its removable and customizable innerboot, overlap or external-tongue closure, and hinged cuff with a high-back spoiler (photo right). Plastic boots didn’t break in like leather, and required “flow” materials or some form of adaptable or injected foam to conform comfortably to the infinite variety of foot shapes.

There were significant departures from this model: the warm and comfortable rear entry boot, first sold by Freyrie, Montan and Heschung in 1968, had a good run beginning with Hanson in 1971, and accounted for 80 percent of all boots sold by 1987. But racers weren’t impressed, preferring the closer shell-to-foot fit of overlap designs. Most factories kept a few overlap race models in production, and by 1990 most high-performance boots returned to that model. In 1980, half a dozen factories introduced innovative knee-high boots, which proved both comfortable and powerful—but the ski pants of the era didn’t fit over the tops, so ski shops quit selling them after a year.

There were also some design improvements. A huge step forward came when ski boot sole shapes standardized in the 1970s. It meant that ski bindings finally had a reliably consistent mechanical surface to grasp. Driven by international standard-setting organizations, binding design consolidated around a well-understood set of engineering principles, and the rate of lower-leg injuries dropped by 90 percent.

In the late ‘70s, Mel Dalebout invented the detachable and cantable outsole. Sven Coomer developed the custom-fit “orthotic” insole to improve power, comfort and precision in any boot, and then, in 1983, working for Koflach, he introduced the power strap, which had the effect of a fifth buckle at the top, bringing the effective tongue height to mid-shin (photo left). Henke introduced the three-piece shell (“bathtub” lower shell, external tongue, upper cuff) with the Strato in 1971, and the concept took off with the introduction of Nordica’s Comp 3 (1978) and Raichle's Flexon (1980). That Raichle is still in production under K2’s Full Tilt brand. Over the decades, several attempts were made to popularize soft and comfortable “walking” boots that could slip into a supportive exoskeleton for skiing (Ramer, Bataille, Nava). Denny Hanson finally made it work with the new Apex brand.

As technical editor of SKI Magazine for 20 years, Seth Masia witnessed much of the modern evolution of ski equipment. He wishes to thank Gary Neptune for providing sample boots for photography, from the Neptune Mountaineering collection.


Racing Across France

Following the Allied breakout, the German front in Normandy collapsed, with troops retreating east. Attempts to form a line at the Seine were thwarted by the rapid advances of Patton's Third Army. Moving at breakneck speed, often against little or no resistance, Allied forces raced across France, liberating Paris on August 25, 1944. The speed of the Allied advance soon began to place significant strains on their increasingly long supply lines. To combat this issue, the "Red Ball Express" was formed to rush supplies to the front. Using nearly 6,000 trucks, the Red Ball Express operated until the opening of the port of Antwerp in November 1944.


The Severe Winter in Europe 1941–42: The Large-scale Circulation, Cut-off Lows, and Blocking

The winter of 1941–42 is known as the coldest European winter of the 20th Century. The temperature was much below normal from the beginning of January until the end of March 1942. Blockings and cut-off lows were frequent, particularly during January and February 1942.

The role of quasi-stationary waves during this winter has been studied by decomposing the 500-mb geopotential height data in a low-pass, filtered, quasi-stationary part and a traveling part. The phase of the quasi-stationary wave was such that a ridge was present over the eastern Atlantic and a trough over western Russia throughout most of the winter. As a result, the majority of migratory cyclones that approached Europe from the west were steered either south toward the Mediterranian or north of Scandinavia.

The synoptic course of events during an outbreak of unusually cold air from the northeast at the end of January 1942 is described in some detail. Some comments are given on how the severe winter weather affected the war in the USSR.

The winter of 1941–42 is known as the coldest European winter of the 20th Century. The temperature was much below normal from the beginning of January until the end of March 1942. Blockings and cut-off lows were frequent, particularly during January and February 1942.

The role of quasi-stationary waves during this winter has been studied by decomposing the 500-mb geopotential height data in a low-pass, filtered, quasi-stationary part and a traveling part. The phase of the quasi-stationary wave was such that a ridge was present over the eastern Atlantic and a trough over western Russia throughout most of the winter. As a result, the majority of migratory cyclones that approached Europe from the west were steered either south toward the Mediterranian or north of Scandinavia.

The synoptic course of events during an outbreak of unusually cold air from the northeast at the end of January 1942 is described in some detail. Some comments are given on how the severe winter weather affected the war in the USSR.


The GOOD

Soviet T-34 Tank – Antonov14 – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5

One of the best tank designs in history, the T-34 medium tank was designed between 1936 and 1940, just in time for the Second World War. With its wide tracks and reliable engine, it traveled well across the broken terrain and shell-shattered battlefields of the Eastern Front.

Its sloped armor and low turret made it less vulnerable to the Germans than many of its Soviet sister tanks. It initially carried a high-velocity 76.2mm gun, later upgraded to 85mm.

Soviet T-34 on the Eastern Front.

Mass production let the Soviets flood battlefields with these reliable, hard fighting tanks. 11,000 were built in 1944 alone. The T-34 played a significant part in the USSR’s victory against Germany.

Soviet KV-1 Heavy Tank. It’s armor was too thick for early war German Tanks to penetrate.

Designed in 1938 and entering service in 1940, the KV-1 was designed to break through fixed defenses. It was equipped with a 76.2mm gun which could fire high explosive armor-piercing shells, a reliable diesel engine, and the toughest possible armor.

The KV series tanks were useful in the Winter War against Finland in 1940 but proved vulnerable against the heavier firepower of German high-velocity guns, which could break through their armor despite its regular improvements. Their suspension was frail and unreliable, often failing in difficult circumstances. 13,000 KVs were built in steadily improving designs. In the late war, the KVs were replaced by the IS series.

Soviet KV-1 on the Eastern Front.


How Finland Lost World War II to the Soviets, But Won Peace

In 1940, the Finns had the upper hand. Four years later, the Evil Empire struck back.

Befuddled Soviet riflemen floundering through deep snow and sub-zero temperatures while they froze to death. Russian tanks and their hapless crews set ablaze by Molotov cocktails. Soviet paratroopers jumping from airplanes without parachutes, hoping that a snowbank will cushion their fall.

These are the enduring images of Russia and Finland at war. Though the story about Soviet paratroopers jumping without parachutes is apparently a myth, the popular story of the Russo-Finnish conflict of World War Two remains a David versus Goliath tale of outnumbered but nimble Finnish ski troops zipping around massive but clumsy Soviet divisions. It's a sort of Nordic version of the Confederate narrative of the Civil War, with Jeb Stuart's cavalry making fools of the inept Yankees.

There is much truth to this. The Winter War of 1939–40, in which Stalin invaded Finland to grab border territories and possibly to turn it into a Communist state, was a disaster for the Soviets. The Soviet Union, with a population of 200 million, should not overcome 3.7 million Finns without breaking a sweat. But the Soviet armies, crippled by Stalin's purges, performed so abysmally that Hitler—as well as America, Britain and France—were convinced that the Soviet Union would collapse like a house of cards after the German invasion of June 1941.

Though the Finns were eventually worn down so much that they ceded the border lands to Stalin, Finland maintained its independence, and also gained the admiration of a world that saw a small, democratic nation standing up to an aggressive bully.

But the Soviet debacle of the Winter War is not the end of the story. Less well known is how the Soviets took their revenge in 1944.

Though Finland had allied with Nazi Germany soon after Operation Barbarossa began, in what is called the Continuation War, the Finns were not quite enthusiastic about participating in Hitler's crusade against Bolshevism. Desperate to maintain good relations with Britain (which halfheartedly declared war on Finland in December 1941) and a sympathetic America (which never did declare war), the Finns initially focused on regaining its territories lost in the Winter War. While Finland did tentatively advance beyond the 1939 border, including partnering with the Germans in an abortive expedition to capture the vital Lend-Lease port of Murmansk, the Russo-Finnish front was relatively quiet compared to the bloodbaths further south at Moscow and Stalingrad. There hesitation was practical: the Finns quickly discovered that attempting to dislodge the Red Army from the forests and lakes of northern Russia was a much bloodier proposition than defending against the Red Army on Finnish territory. Losing seventy-five thousand casualties between June and December 1941 was a painful reminder that taking down the Russian bear was too expensive for the little Arctic fox.

Too expensive also was remaining Hitler's ally as the war turned against Germany. Soon after the Germans surrendered at Stalingrad, Finland secretly entered negotiations with Moscow to leave the war. However, by June 1944, the negotiations had gone nowhere, and neither had Finnish military capability. "During the war very little had changed regarding the organization, equipment or tactics of Finnish forces," according to the book Finland at War: The Continuation and Lapland Wars 1941–45. "Their weaponry had been slightly modernized by employing captured Soviet equipment or by refitting the mostly outdated items bought from the Germans."

The Finnish Army was stuck in 1939, but the Red Army most certainly was not. The Soviet troops that attacked on June 9, 1944 across the Karelian Isthmus and Lake Ladoga, near Leningrad, were a battle-hardened force well-equipped with modern tanks and artillery.

"This time, having learnt the bitter lessons from the Winter War, the Soviets took their attack preparations seriously," notes Finland at War. "The operations on the isthmus were preceded by a thorough phase of reconnaissance and planning. The defenses at the front line were well known to Stavka [the Soviet high command] while spies and extensive aerial photography provided information about positions deep behind the lines."

The Soviets used the same tactics that had decimated the Germans. On a narrow front, they massed two hundred and sixty thousand men, 630 tanks and 7,500 guns in twenty-four infantry divisions backed by numerous tank and artillery formations, as well as more than a thousand aircraft. The Finns had just forty-four thousand men on the front lines of the offensive and another thirty-two thousand in reserve, armed with just a few tanks and obsolete antitank weapons. Ever since the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, the German armies on the Eastern Front had been relentlessly driven back by Soviet offensive after Soviet offensive. If Hitler's SS panzer divisions couldn't stop the Russian steamroller, neither could the Finns, who retreated back to their fortified lines. In 1940, the Mannerheim Line had stymied the Soviets. By 1944, cracking fortifications had become a routine procedure for the Red Army.

Yet just as in 1940, the plucky Finns could fight like tigers. By mid-July, the Soviet offensive had been halted. At the Battle of Tali-Ihantala from June 25 to July 9, 1944, fifty thousand Finns repelled one hundred and fifty thousand Soviets backed by 600 tanks, while inflicting three times as many casualties as they suffered. A less robust defense could have resulted in Finland becoming just another occupied Communist satellite like Poland or Romania, but Stalin decided that the price of conquering the Finns was just too high at a time when the Red Army needed all the troops it could get to drive on Berlin.

Nonetheless, the peace terms that Finland accepted in September 1944 were harsh. The territory the Soviets had captured in 1940 and then lost in 1941 would be restored, plus Finland would cede the Petsamo peninsula and pay $300 million in reparations. Moscow also demanded that the two hundred and ten thousand German troops in Finland withdraw according to a tight deadline that was impossible to meet. The Soviets demanded that the Finns force the Germans out, which led to some sporadic fighting between Finnish forces and their former allies.

Who won the Continuation War? Both sides could claim victory. The Soviets had redeemed the humiliation of the Winter War with a powerful, well-planned offensive that knocked Finland out of the war.

However, Finland had again managed to maintain its independence and remain a democratic nation on the borders of the Soviet Union. "Finlandization" became the newest word in the postwar diplomatic lexicon, meaning a small state that carefully maintains its neutrality in order not to antagonize the superpower next door. Yet compared to Hungary or the Baltic States, neutrality was preferable to occupation by Red Army bayonets. Though Finland did ally with Hitler, it emerged from the war without the shame of collaboration, partly because it refused Nazi demands to turn over Finnish Jews.

Finland lost World War Two, yet by maintaining its independence and identity, it managed to win the peace.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: Finnish image of an attack in World War II. Public domain


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