“The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.” – Stephen E. Ambrose
It is in the spirit of our founder, Stephen E. Ambrose, that director and historian Mark Bielski shares some of the interesting historical events that occurred during WWII and the Civil War in the month of September.
World War II
16 SEPTEMBER The defenders of Warsaw refused a German demand for surrender. After knocking out 60 tanks from the Nazi 4th Panzer Division, the Germans were about to turn around. They were on the verge of losing in the battle of the Bzura when a brilliant flanking attack by General Kutrzeba halted their advance. However, the onslaught of bombs from the Stukas and tank reinforcements from General Gerd von Rundstedt overwhelmed the Polish defenses.
17 SEPTEMBER Soviet troops invaded Poland along the 1300 kilometre border with the USSR as the Polish Army was battling the German Wehrmacht to the west of Warsaw. Josef Stalin had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact at the end of August in a cynical pact with Hitler to divide Poland. According to Prawda, the Poles had violated Soviet airspace and had deprived their Ukrainian and White Russian “colonies” of their rights. Stalin pledged that the German and Russian rule will establish better conditions for Poland’s “political life.” Stay tuned!
SEPTEMBER The German army, the Wehrmacht, had support from Hitler’s allies in the invasion of the Soviet Union. Mussolini sent an entire corps from Italy, Fascist dictator of Romania, Ion Antonescu, supplied nearly 700,000 men in the invasion and there were regiments from Spain, Norway and a Slovak contingent. Stalin was “shocked” at Hitler’s betrayal and withdrew into seclusion as the armies marched into the USSR. On 12 September, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel decreed that Jews in the newly occupied territories were Bolsheviks and his troops should enforce the most ruthless measures.
12 SEPTEMBER Hitler ordered the rescue of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, as his fascist regime was crumbling in Italy. He dispatched his favorite commando, SS captain Otto Skorzeny to execute the Alpine mission. Skorzeny arrived in a glider with specially trained hand-picked paratroopers and pulled Mussolini out of the mountaintop hotel where he had been in hiding. Il Duce immediately set up a new government, the “Republican Fascist Party” and condemned the cowards and traitors who betrayed him.
The Civil War
17 SEPTEMBER The secessionist members of the Maryland legislature planned a meeting in Frederick near the Blue Ridge Mountains. They postponed the meeting after several members were arrested by Federal agents.
13 SEPTEMBER Two soldiers from the 27th Indiana Regiment found Robert E. Lee’s Special Order 191 wrapped around some cigars. The Army of Northern Virginia was moving into Maryland and Major General George B. McClellan now had his opponent’s plans. It was a great opportunity for McClellan but his cautious deployments of his troops cost him a victory. The armies fought to a standstill and Lee withdrew back into Virginia.
18 SEPTEMBER When Confederate General Braxton Bragg moved into north Georgia with his Army of Tennessee, General William Rosecrans moved his Federal Army of the Cumberland into a parallel position near Chickamauga Creek. Neither general was sure of the other army’s intentions. What ensued was the great Battle of Chickamauga. It turned out to be a Confederate victory with great losses on both sides. General George Thomas, the Union general from Virginia, earned his sobriquet, “The Rock of Chickamauga” in marshaling the defensive action.