It’s V-E Day!

On this day in 1945, both Great Britain and the United States celebrate Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine.

The eighth of May spelled the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms. read more

What Not to Get the Kids for Christmas

by: the Common Constitutionalist:

As Christmas draws near, I thought I might depart, if only for a day, from the political arena where I usually reside, and present something a little less controversial.

Did I say less controversial? Well, you be the judge.

A rare toy figure of Adolf Hitler made for German children  was revealed last year by the son of a World War II soldier for the first time.

The figure of the fascist dictator was part of a collection of toys U.S Private Jerome Beaulier bought at a toy shop in Germany at the end of the war in exchange for cigarettes and chocolate bars.

He mailed them back to his five-year-old son  Jerry, who received them in 1945 and has kept them ever since.

 The four-inch tall Hitler figure is seated in  the front passenger seat of a German army jeep alongside three soldiers.

Nothing Says Merry Christmas like a Tiny Hitler!

Other toys included in the set are an anti-aircraft gun, several field guns, another truck with a huge search light attached and a First World War German biplane. read more

Is a World War III Just Déjà-vu All Over Again

by: the Common Constitutionalist

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Are we prepared for yet another war? We might just get one – and I’m not just being hyperbolic.

To some, the stand-off between North Korea, the United States and our allies in the Pacific feels like déjà-vu all over again.

It is said there is nothing new in the world – at least regarding world events. It is just history that keeps repeating. And to some experts, the tensions between North Korea and America are eerily similar to that of Japan and the U.S. prior to World War II.

There are definitely some similarities and certainly one major difference.

Prior to the run-up to World War II, Japan had been an ally and trading partner of the West – particularly of the U.S. and Great Britain. Japan purchased much of its oil, steel and scrap metal from America.

But after Woodrow Wilson (hate that guy) first denied Japan its share of German reparations from the post World War I Treaty of Versailles, there was a falling out.

Japan had become effectively isolated from the World and they felt threatened. Sound familiar? Mao’s China to the East, Stalin’s Soviet Union to the North, and the once Western Allies to the South. read more

Podcast – A Breakdown and Translation of the Obama Hiroshima Speech

In this episode I discuss President Obama’s speech in the city of Hiroshima, Japan – a speech which was predictably chock full of apologies, moral relativism and guilt over the aggression of the United States. A speech designed to force the uniformed American public and the world to somehow feel that the act of dropping those bombs which ended World War II was our fault. A speech designed to further the left’s goal of unilateral nuclear disarmament. It was a real humdinger! read more

No Professor – The Nazis Killed the Polish Jews!

by: the Common Constitutionalist

So your dream is to send your son or daughter off to an esteemed Ivy League School, where they may receive a superior education and be imparted the knowledge that other colleges just can’t offer.

Well, maybe you should twice about that. Especially if they decide to take a history class taught by professor Jan Gross at Princeton University.
He is a well established Polish-American educator who has also taught at Yale, NYU and in Paris. He also received the Order of Merit from the Polish Government in 1996.

But he may be stripped of that title due a an angry article he wrote in a German Newspaper, Die Welt, where he claimed that the Poles killed more Jews during WWII than did the Nazis.

HUH?

And why would he claim such a thing? It’s because Poland refuses thus far to swing open its doors to Middle Eastern “refugees” the way Germany has. So the professor has determined to make them pay for that decision – even going so far as to say the “hideous face of Poles had roots in the past.”

So let’s just see who killed all those Poles during World War II. read more

The Luckiest Man on Earth

by: the Common Constitutionalist

This is a bit of a departure from my usual writings, but with all the deceit, death and destruction going on, sometimes I get tired of writing about it and I’ll bet you get tired of consuming it. I think we get too wrapped up in it all, and for me, every once in a while, I enjoy reporting something a bit more uplifting.

When asked to describe a lucky person, most would probably say something like a man or woman who won a large sum in the lottery. But no one would guess what happened to this one lucky individual.

Although it happened 70 years ago, I think this guy may be the luckiest man alive. His name is Hishashi Tezuka and he’s 93 years old. During World War II, Tezuka was trained as a pilot. But not just any pilot – a kamikaze pilot.

So how does one become a kamikaze pilot and live to tell about it? The Daily Mail reports that Tezuka was a trained pilot who “joined to be a kamikaze.” read more

D-Day Heroes Return to Normandy

 

They’re iconic images which capture the brutal reality of the D-Day landings 69 years ago today – but they were nearly lost forever.

War photographer Robert Capa took these remarkable close-up photos – named The Magnificent Eleven – which show Allied troops in the second wave landing on Omaha beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The Hungarian bravely took 106 photographs while wading through the water just off the French coast but because of a blunder when processing the film in London, all but 11 of the images were lost.

 
Grainy close-up: A US troop is seen crouching in the water off Omaha Beach, Normandy, as the second wave of troops landed on D-Day in the early hours of June 6, 1944
Grainy close-up: An Allied troop is seen crouching in the water off Omaha Beach, Normandy, as the second wave of troops landed on D-Day in the early hours of June 6

The images were sent to Life magazine’s office in Britain where picture editor John Morris told staff in the dark room to ‘rush!’ as they did the developing.

In their haste, worker Dennis Banks shut the doors on a wooden locker where the film was drying and 95 of the images melted as the negatives were destroyed.

Three whole rolls were lost, and more than half of the fourth.The useless film was tossed in a dustbin that same night and lost forever.

There were no other pictures taken from so close to the frontline landings on D-Day so The Magnificent Eleven provide the only enduring images from Normandy.

 
Storming the beach: The US servicemen run towards the shore as they come under fire from Nazi machine guns. Robert Capa captured these remarkable images from the water
Storming the beach: The servicemen run towards the shore as they come under fire from Nazi machine guns. Robert Capa captured these images from the waterCapa was aboard a landing ship carrying Company E of 16th Regiment, First Infantry of the US Army which landed on Omaha beach in the early hours of June 6.As machine guns were fired all around him, the troops – and the war photographer – waded towards the beach under heavy enemy fire.Omaha beach proved to be the worst killing field of the first day of the invasion, with an estimated 3,000 US soldiers killed within a matter of hours.He later wrote in his book, called Slightly out of Focus: ‘The men from my barge waded in the water. Waist-deep, with rifles ready to shoot, with the invasion obstacles and the smoking beach in the background gangplank to take my first real picture of the invasion.
 
Normandy landing: More US troops can be seen crouching in the water, with their landing crafts in the background just off the shore. Although Capa took 106 pictures, all but 11 of them were destroyed
Normandy landing: More Allied troops can be seen crouching in the water, with their landing crafts in the background just off the shore. Although Capa took 106 pictures, all but 11 of them were destroyed

D-DAY LANDINGS AT OMAHA BEACH

Around 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

There was an initial airbourne assault with 24,000 being parachuted into France before the sea landings began at dawn.

Omaha Beach is five miles long and one of five sections of coastline that troops landed on.

However, they met strong resistance from the German forces who were stationed at strongpoints along the coastline.

The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties on D-Day on Omaha Beach – although around 34,000 troops landed successfully.

The landings were chaotic with boats arriving at the wrong point and others getting into difficulties in the water.

Troops managed only to gain a small foothold on the beach – but they built on their initial breakthrough in the coming days and a harbour was opened at Omaha.

‘The boatswain, who was in an understandable hurry to get the hell out of there, mistook my picture-taking attitude for explicable hesitation, and helped me make up my mind with a well-aimed kick in the rear. The water was cold, and the beach still more than a hundred yards away.’

He dived for cover behind a steel object before heading onward in the water for a disabled American tank as he snapped away furiously.

The photographer held his camera high above his head to stop his precious film being damaged and later ran towards an incoming landing craft. He was hauled aboard and spirited away to England where most of his shots were inadvertently destroyed in the developing room.

Capa, who died in 1954 in Vietnam while working after stepping on a landmine, was wrongly listed as dead in the aftermath of the battle.

But he got away with his pictures – and the remaining 11 were first printed in the US Life magazine on June 19, 1944.

Some of the images are blurred, which the magazine said was because Capa was so excited when he took the photographs he was shaking. It is possible that the damage was instead done in the darkroom.

Steven Spielberg said that when making the D-Day film Saving Private Ryan he ‘did everything’ to make the action scenes look like the stills taken by Capa.

He was famed for the phrase: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough’. And on D-Day he was the only person to get near enough to the frontline to take decent pictures – and survive.

Robert Capa also took pictures of the Spanish Civil War, in Russia in the aftermath of World War II and of the First Indochina War during the course of a distinguished career.

 
Running towards the beach: The second wave of American troops lands on Omaha Beach at dawn on June 6, 1944
Running towards the beach: The second wave of American troops lands on Omaha Beach at dawn on June 6, 1944
 
Bloody conflict: After capturing these pictures, Capa ran towards another landing craft holding his camera above his head so it didn't get wet before climbing aboard. He was spirited away to England so his pictures could be developed
Bloody conflict: After capturing these pictures, Capa ran towards another landing craft holding his camera above his head so it didn’t get wet before climbing aboard. He was spirited away to England so his pictures could be developed

 
D-Day landings: This map shows where in Normandy British, US and Canadian troops landed from on June 6, 1944
D-Day landings: This map shows where in Normandy British, US and Canadian troops landed from on June 6, 1944
 
Landings: Omaha beach, shown here secured after D-Day, was used as a harbour by Allied Troops and an entry-point into France. The initial June 6 landings were chaotic - but the troops were able to build on the small early gains
Landings: Omaha beach, shown here secured after D-Day, was used as a harbor by Allied Troops and an entry-point into France. The initial June 6 landings were chaotic – but the troops were able to build on the small early gains

 

 
Saving Private Ryan: Tom Hanks pictured as Captain John Miller,in a scene from the film reinacting the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as the American forces storm Omaha Beach
Saving Private Ryan: The American forces storm Omaha Beach during the massive D-Day invasion of Normandy
 Inspiration: Steven Spielberg studied on Robert Capa’s images – later named The Magnificent Eleven – of the D-Day landings when he tried to recreate them in his 1998 film Saving Private Ryan

 

 
The yellow sands where the invasion happened: Modern images of Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, where Allied troops first came ashore on June 6, 1944
The yellow sands where the invasion happened: Modern images of Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, where Allied troops first came ashore on June 6, 1944
 The yellow sands where the invasion happened: Modern images of Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, where Allied troops first came ashore on June 6, 1944
 
Arrival: Commando troops are seen walking ashore on another section of beach in the aftermath of the D-Day landings
Arrival: Commando troops are seen walking ashore on another section of beach in the aftermath of the D-Day landings

 
Filming: 'The Monuments Men' filming on the South Coast of England
Cover: Life magazine from June 19, 1944, when Robert Capa's 11 images were published
 D-Day: The famous battle is recreated for a new film ‘The Monuments Men’ on Camber Sands (above). Below: The cover of Life magazine from June 19, 1944, when Robert Capa’s 11 images – later named The Magnificent Eleven – were first published
 
Reenactment: George Clooney films the 'The Monuments Men' D-Day landings on Camber Sands, East Sussex, yesterday, the day before the 69th anniversary
Reenactment: George Clooney films the ‘The Monuments Men’ D-Day landings on Camber Sands, East Sussex, yesterday, the day before the 69th anniversary

 

 
War reenactment: The cast film The Monuments Men on Camber Sands Beach, East Sussex, yesterday
War reenactment: The cast film The Monuments Men on Camber Sands Beach, East Sussex, yesterday

 

 

Back to the frontline: World War II veteran, 88, returns to Normandy 69 years after the D-Day landings

 

A war hero who fought during the Normandy landings is returning to the battlefields that nearly claimed his life to mark the 69th anniversary today.

Ivor Anderson, 88, from Salford, dropped in at Pegasus Bridge, near the village of Ranville, Normandy, overnight on June 5, 1944.

The grandfather-of-two joined the Royal Engineers as an apprentice in 1938 – aged just 14 – but later became part of the 591 Para Squadron.

He returns to the spot where he fought today under a lottery scheme which is paying for World War II veterans to make emotional trips back almost 70 years on.

 
D-Day landings: Ivor Anderson, 88, is seen here (third from the right) at Fairford Aerodrome as he prepares to take off for Normandy on D-Day - June 6th, 1944. Today he is returning to the place where he landed
D-Day landings: Ivor Anderson, 88, is seen here (third from the right) at Fairford Aerodrome as he prepares to take off for Normandy on D-Day – June 6th, 1944. Today he is returning to the place where he landed
 
Then and now: World War II veteran Ivor Anderson, 88, wearing his medals here, is returning to the spot where he landed
Ivor Anderson, 88, pictured aged 18 after he completed his parachute course and was awarded his wings
 Then and now: World War II veteran Ivor Anderson, 88, pictured above wearing his medals and below when he was in the army during the war, is returning to Normandy today
 
Normandy veterans attend a remembrance and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the start of the D-Day landings at Bayeux War Cemetery today
Normandy veterans attend a remembrance and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the start of the D-Day landings at Bayeux War Cemetery today

 

 
Across Normandy, several hundred of the surviving veterans of the Normandy campaign are gathering to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the D-Day landings
Across Normandy, several hundred of the surviving veterans of the Normandy campaign are gathering to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the D-Day landings

Ivor said: ‘We were all in pretty good spirits and there was a good singalong during the first part of the flight. Once over the Channel we all quietened down and made ready for the jump into darkness.

‘Our job was to clear the landing ground for the Allied gliders. We had been told there were broad areas of heavy upright posts all around the bridge region, and it was down to us to wrap explosive charges around these so that gliders could land unobstructed.

‘When I jumped out I had the bren gun strapped to my ankles. We only had 20 minutes and the gliders were coming in at all angles.

‘Our job then was to protect the landing site from anyone who was going to attack it. It was a bit threatening because we were being shelled and mortared the whole time.’

After the mission, Ivor spent five weeks laying mines and helping the infantry, before an incident ended his army involvement.

‘It was a mortar or a shell,’ he said. ‘We were holding a position and we were hit.

‘The next thing I remember is waking up in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. It turned out I had been half buried with shrapnel in my leg, and I was pulled out.’

Ivor, who did his Paratrooper training at Manchester Airport, is having his trip funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Our Heroes Return programme.

The charity scheme allows World War II veterans to make commemorative visits to the places where they fought and served.

Scores of retired soldiers are making the voyage to France today to mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings and pay their respects to fallen comrades.

Ivor added: ‘I go back most years. It’s very poignant, especially at certain places where friends got killed.

‘It’s very sad to see again, but the local people treat us very, very well.’

 
Jim Kelly, 90, was a Royal Marine who landed on Sword Beach on D-Day
Jim Kelly, 90, was a Royal Marine who landed on Sword Beach on D-Day
 
 
A former soldier looks at the headstones of fallen comrades
Veteran Bob Barker, 90, at the Bayeux War Cemetery
 A former soldier looks at the headstones of fallen comrades; right, veteran Bob Barker, 90, at the Bayeux War Cemetery

 

 
Next year, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the landings, is widely expected to be the last time that the veterans will gather in any great number
Next year, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the landings, is widely expected to be the last time that the veterans will gather in any great number

 

 
Veterans (l to r) Victor Urch, 88 and Frank Baugh, 89 (who were in the Royal Navy dropping troops and supplies onto Sword Beach) and Derek Whitehead, 88
Veterans (l to r) Victor Urch, 88 and Frank Baugh, 89 (who were in the Royal Navy dropping troops and supplies onto Sword Beach) and Derek Whitehead, 88 (who was in the Durham Light Infantry and was on Gold Beach on D-Day) share a joke as they walk along what was the British Sword beach at Colleville Montgomery near Caen, France

 

 
Major Edwin Hunt walks up from the beach at Colleville Montgomery yesterday
Major Edwin Hunt walks up from the beach at Colleville Montgomery yesterday
 
Attribution: Rob Cooper, Mail Online 

Veggie Hitler

Hitler’s food taster speaks of Führer’s vegetarian diet

A woman who served as Adolf Hitler’s food taster has claimed that the Führer was a dedicated vegetarian.

Hitler's food taster speaks of Führer's vegetarian diet

Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun. It has been claimed the dictator was a dedicated vegetarian Photo: GETTY

Margot Woelk, 95, said that Hitler ate only the freshest fruit and vegetables during the two and a half years that she was forced to check his food for traces of poison.

During the Second World War, Mrs Woelk, a German citizen whose husband had been sent to fight, was taken by the SS to Hitler’s Eastern Front headquarters in modern-day Poland, known as the “Wolf’s Lair”.

There, she joined a team of a dozen other women whose job it was to protect Hitler from any attempts to poison him.

She said: “Between 11 and 12 o’clock, we had to taste the food, and only after all of us had tried it was it driven to the headquarters by the SS.

“It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him. There was no meat and I do not remember any fish.

“Of course I was afraid. If it had been poisoned I would not be here today. We were forced to eat it, we had no choice.”

Hitler’s apparent enthusiasm for vegetarianism reflected the Nazi obsession with Aryan bodily purity.

A Hitler Youth manual from the 1930’s promoted soy beans, which it called
“Nazi beans” as an alternative to meat.

In 1942, Hitler told Joseph Goebbels that he intended to convert Germany to vegetarianism when he won the war.

But although he referred to meat broth as “corpse tea”, he was not fastidious about declining meat. Dione Lucas, his cook before the war, claimed that he was a fan of stuffed pigeon and he was also known to be partial to Bavarian sausages and the occasional slice of ham.

His table manners also came under scrutiny. In a secret diary, one German soldier wrote: “Hitler eats rapidly, mechanically. He abstractedly bites his fingernails, he runs his index finger back and forth under his nose, and his table manners are little short of shocking.”

Hitler spent 800 days at the Wolf’s Lair between 1941 and November 1944, when he abandoned it as the Russians approached.

Mrs Woelk is believed to be the only surviving member of Hitler’s food tasting team.

Shortly before his camp fell to the Russians, she was smuggled out and helped back to Berlin by a sympathetic soldier.

“He put me on Goebbels’s train and I got out,” she said. It is thought that the other women with whom she worked were shot by the Russians.

In 1946, Mrs Woelk was reunited with her husband, Kurt, whom she had presumed dead. The couple lived together until his death in 1990.

 Attribution: , UK Telegraph

A Pilot Encounter

An American bomber pilot was fighting for his life and the lives of his six wounded crew members when he tried desperately to keep the plane from nose-diving into German territory during World War II.

Adding to his concerns, 2nd Lt. Brown feared a new threat when he spotted a German plane directly next to his plane, so close that the German pilot was looking him directly in the eyes and making big gestures with his hands that only scared Brown more.

The moment was fleeting however, as the German quickly saluted the American plane before peeling away as soon as one of Brown’s men went for the gun turret to attack their enemy.

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Saved: Charlie Brown was the lone pilot controlling an American bomber in 1943 when a German soldier decided not to shoot at the bloodied soldier
Saved: Charlie Brown was the lone pilot controlling an American bomber in 1943 when a German soldier decided not to shoot at the bloodied soldier
Saved: Charlie Brown was the lone pilot controlling an American bomber in 1943 when a German soldier decided not to shoot at the bloodied soldier
Re-enactment: The German plane came purposefully close to the American plane Re-enactment: The German plane came purposefully close to the American plane

The New York  Post details the ensuing struggle that Brown dealt with after he was able to fly and land his battered plane safely and go on to live a happy and full life following the war, all because that German pilot decided to go against orders and spare the Americans.

As soon as he landed, Brown told his commanding officer about the spotting of the German soldier, but he was instructed not to tell anyone else for fear of spreading positive stories of the German enemy.

The kind pilot’s was Franz Stigler, 26-year-old ace pilot who had 22 victories to his name with just one alluding him before being awarded the Knight’s Cross.

His moral compass was more powerful than his need for glory, however, as the lesson he learned from an earlier mentor kept him from shooting at the American plane.

Mercy: Franz Stigler thought it was wrong to shoot at the damaged plane because it was like aiming at a 'parachute'
Mercy: Franz Stigler thought it was wrong to shoot at the damaged plane because it was like aiming at a 'parachute'
Mercy: Franz Stigler thought it was wrong to shoot at  the damaged plane because it was like aiming at a ‘parachute’

His officer told him ‘If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you down myself. You follow the rules of war for you — not for your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity.’

The test of his humanity came when he saw Brown’s plane, trying to fly while half of it’s wing was blown apart and as crew members were rapidly trying to help one another tend to their injuries.

‘For me it would have been the same as shooting at a parachute, I just couldn’t do it,’ Stigler said.

In 1987, more than 40 years after the December 20, 1943 incident, Brown began searching for the man who saved his life even though he had no idea whether his savior was alive, let alone where the man in question was living.

Honoring past moves: Brown and Stigler met with then-Florida governor Jeb Bush in 2001Honoring past moves: Brown and Stigler met with  then-Florida governor Jeb Bush in 2001

Brown bought an ad in a newsletter catering to fighter pilots, saying only that he was searching for the man ‘who saved my  life on Dec. 20, 1943.’

Stigler saw the ad in his new hometown of Vancouver, Canada, and the two men got in touch.

‘It was like meeting a family member, like a brother you haven’t seen for 40 years,’ Brown said at the pair’s first meeting.

Their story, told in the book “A Higher Call”,  ended in 2008 when the two men died within six months of one another, Stigler at age 92 and Brown 87.

Attribution: Daily Mail

Mystery Solved

The mighty drone of 600 bombers filled the night air as they flew the length of eastern England. As planes thundered overhead, people peeped through their blackout curtains to see if they could  glimpse what was then one of the largest bombing forces ever assembled.

On board the Lancasters, Stirlings, Halifaxes and Wellingtons were more than 4,000 airmen — and all knew they stood a very  good chance of not returning to base the following morning.

Among that awesome mass of metal pounding  through the dark sky was a Lancaster bomber with the marking  ED427.

 
Fallen hero: Pilot F O Alec Bone
Fallen hero: Sergeant Norman Foster
Fallen heroes: Respected Flying Officer Alec Bone, upper,  piloted the plane which had seven crew members including flight engineer  Sergeant Norman Foster, lower
 
Target: The men in the Lancaster Bomber were attacking factories in the Czech brewing town Pilsen

Target: The men in the Lancaster Bomber were attacking  factories in the Czech brewing town Pilsen

As part of 49 Squadron, the bomber and its  seven crew had taken off at precisely 21.14 on the evening of April 16, 1943,  from Fiskerton airfield five miles east of Lincoln. It was the second time the  plane’s crew had flown together, and they were hoping this raid would go as  successfully as their bombing of Stuttgart two nights before.

The Lancaster was piloted by Flying Officer  Alexander ‘Alec’ Bone, who, at 31, was by far the oldest and most experienced of  the crew.

An instructor who had taught many Battle of Britain pilots to fly, Bone was one of the most respected and able pilots in all of Bomber Command. A champion fencer, tall and charming, Bone was what we would  today call an alpha male.

The rest of the seven-strong crew — flight  engineer Norman Foster, navigator Cyril Yelland, wireless operator Raymond  White, bomb aimer Raymond Rooney, air gunner Ronald Cope and air gunner Bruce  Watt were aged 19 to 23, and all looked up to Bone.

One of six brothers, his father described him  as ‘the pick of the bunch’, and he was well qualified to command of a bomber  crew.

As he sat at the controls, Bone’s mind might  well have wandered temporarily from the mission to his own recent tragedy. Just  four months earlier, he had lost his wife, Menna, 22, to tuberculosis. He had  received the news of her illness when stationed in Canada, but by the time he  had returned, Menna was already dead and buried.

 
 
On board: Sergeant Ronald Cope
Sergeant Cyril Yelland
On board: Air gunner Sergeant Ronald Cope, pictured  upper, and navigator Sergeant Cyril Yelland, lower

The planes that night had two targets. Fewer  than half the aircraft were heading for various factories in and around Mannheim  some 40 miles south of Frankfurt. Bone’s Lancaster, however, was part of the  larger element heading more than 200 miles further east to the Czech brewing  town of Pilsen, where they were to attack the massive Skoda works that produced  armaments for the Nazis.

After a flight of nearly 800 miles, in which Bone successfully outwitted night fighters and dodged numerous flak batteries,  ED427 safely arrived over what he presumed was the target at around 1.30am on April 17.

Below was a hellish inferno, and Bone would  have felt confident he was dropping his two 1,000lb bombs and one 4,000lb ‘Cookie’ bomb — made of a thin steel casing to carry more explosives, and  devastating in its impact — in the right place.

However, unknown to him, the leading Pathfinder aircraft had dropped their flares which indicated the target in the wrong place: they fell on the harmless village of Dobrany five miles to the south-west of Pilsen.

To make matters more tragic, a nearby psychiatric hospital had been mistaken for the Skoda works, and it took the  brunt of the raid. According to a German casualty report, some 300 patients were killed, and some 1,000 German soldiers and 250 civilians were killed or wounded.

Unfortunately for the Allies, the Skoda works were untouched, and the entire raid — called Operation Frothblower in  recognition of Pilsen’s brewing history — was one of Bomber Command’s biggest  failures.

 
The men were part of a 600 strong squadron of RAF Lancaster bombers - at that time, one of the largest bombing forces ever assembled

The men were part of a 600 strong squadron of RAF  bombers – at that time, one of the largest bombing forces ever assembled
 
Air gunner Bruce Watt
Wireless operator Raymond Charles White, aged 21
Lost: Air gunner Bruce Watt, upper, and Wireless operator  Raymond Charles White, aged 21, lower

This would of course have been unknown to Bone and his crew, who had dropped their payload and were now bearing west for the five-hour flight home.

They were looking forward to breakfast and some sleep, as well as Easter the following weekend. However,  the men of ED427 were never to enjoy another breakfast.

At some point during the flight something went badly wrong, and the Lancaster failed to return. In  the squadron’s operations records book, the bald statement was simply typed: ‘Missing without trace.’

Until last week, nearly 70 years after the raid, the fate of ED427 was still a mystery. But now, thanks to an archaeological excavation in Germany, the truth of what happened can finally be told.

The story that emerges from the German soil is a heart-wrenching tale not only of tragedy, but of incompetence and an unforgiveable bureaucratic slip-up which kept the families of the crew in the dark for decades.

A week after the raid, Wing Commander Johnson of 49 Squadron wrote to Bone’s mother, telling her ‘so far we have received no news of any kind, but you can be sure that as soon as any is received, it will be passed to you immediately’.

No concrete news was ever to come. According  to Bone’s brother, Arthur ‘Alf’ Bone, 91, their mother suspected the worst. ‘I  think she knew he had gone in her mind,’ he says, ‘and I think I did,  too.’

Pieces of history: The team sorted the fragments they found into boxes at the site

Pieces of history: Sixty-nine years after their burning  plane plunged to the ground after being shot by German anti-aircraft fire the  remains of most of the Lancaster bomber crewmen have been recovered.The team  sorted the fragments they found into boxes at the site
 
Burnt out: The remains of a scorched parachute

Burnt out: The remains of a scorched parachute. The site  was discovered by a British military historian and a team of German  archaeologists who spent hours digging a muddy field looking for the RAF crew  after an eye-witness who saw the plane crash guided them to the precise  spot.
Damage: The crater made by the impact of the engineDamage: The crater made by the impact of the engine. A  Rolls Royce engine and landing gear of the World War Two aircraft was found  followed by ‘hundreds’ of fragments of human bones in what would have been the  cockpit

Alf was an RAF pilot as well, and heard  about his brother when he was about to take a Wellington up in a  practice  flight. A telegram was delivered to the cockpit a few minutes  before take off. ‘For the first time, I felt a panic attack,’ Alf  recalls. ‘Alec was so dear to  me. Normally I liked the smell of the  inside of a Wellington, but on that  occasion I just smelled death.’

Alf  idolized Alec. The last time he saw him was in Canada in 1941. ‘I was stationed  at an airfield called Swift’s Current,’ Alf says. ‘One day Alec flew his  two-seater Harvard 120 miles from Moosejaw to pay me a surprise visit.’ Alec told Alf to put on a parachute, and took his brother up in the training  aircraft. ‘We did lots of acrobatics,’ Alf remembers. ‘We dived, climbed, looped  the loop — you name it. I loved it.’

In October 1943, the family received a letter  informing them the Air Council had determined that ‘they must regretfully  conclude that he has lost his life’, and that Alec’s death was presumed to have  occurred on April 17.

For the rest of her life, Alec’s mother lived  in what Alf described as ‘a vacuum’, in which she was never to know what had  happened to her son. Officials of every stripe simply told the families of the crew they had no idea what had happened to ED427.

However, it now emerges the RAF did know what  had happened to the plane and the bodies of its crew but, disgracefully, the families were never told. In October 1946, Squadron-Leader Philip  Laughton-Bramley of the RAF’s Missing Research and Enquiry Unit was investigating the fates of crashed aircraft in the Mannheim area.

Fatal flight: A graphic of the site in Laumersheim, Germany, where the Lancaster crashed 69 years ago

Fatal flight: A graphic of the site in Laumersheim,  Germany, where the Lancaster crashed 69 years ago
 
Birds eye view: An aerial Luftwaffe picture showing the crash site at Laumersheim, GermanyBirds eye view: An aerial Luftwaffe picture showing the  crash site at Laumersheim, Germany

His research took him to the village of  Laumersheim, 14 miles west of Mannheim, where a former police constable told him that on April 16-17 a ‘four-engined aircraft crashed in flames  200 yards  east of the village and exploded on contact with the ground’.

According to the German, the trunk of one body was  found, along with the remains of some six or seven men. The body parts were  removed, but nobody could remember where they had been taken. Laughton-Bramley was persistent, and continued to hunt.

Eventually, he found two graves in the military section of the Mannheim cemetery, whose inscriptions stated that they  contained the bodies of ‘Unknown British flyers shot down in  Laumersheim  17.4.43’, and who were buried on 24 April — the same day Wing Commander Johnson  had written to Mrs Bone.

One can only imagine the terrifying last  moments of ED427. It was almost certainly hit by the flak battery at Frankenthal, five miles from the  crash site. Flying at around 200 miles per  hour, and at a height of  perhaps 10,000 feet, it may well have taken over two minutes to have plummeted to the ground.

Alec Bone, if he had survived the impact of  the flak, would have used all  his considerable skill to try to keep the plane  steady enough to allow the crew to bail out. If anybody could have done it,  Bone could. But clearly the flak battery had done its work too well. Death  would have been instantaneous as the plane ploughed five metres deep into the  soft  earth.

Volunteers dig within the crater, exhuming the fateful planes remains

Excavation: Volunteers dig within the crater, exhuming  the fateful planes remains. The team dug five metres deep in a 100 square metre  area and found sections of the fuselage, cockpit, landing gear, a tyre, a burnt  parachute, tools and ammunition
Commemoration: A minutes silence was held in respect by the volunteers. Members of the Bundeswehr reserve, part of the German army, are in uniform

Commemoration: A minutes silence was held in respect by  the volunteers. Members of the Bundeswehr reserve, part of the German army, are  in uniform
 
It is thought the remains of the men will be buried in the same coffin in a single grave at a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Germany.

Respect: A poppy memorial was erected as a mark of  remembrance. It is thought the remains of the men will be buried in the same  coffin in a single grave at a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Germany

On May 15, 1947, Laughton-Bramley filed his  report to the Air Ministry in London, in  which he concluded that the bodies  were the crew of ED427, and that the  plane had been shot down by flak. For some inexplicable reason —perhaps  simply an oversight — the information was never passed on to the families as it should have been. And so the crew’s poor relatives remained in ignorance.

Light was only shed on the case when, in  2006, military historian Peter  Cunliffe found a copy of the report in  the  Canadian Archives while  researching the raid for his book. A Shaky Do, in the  file of Pilot  Officer Bruce Watt, a Canadian member of ED427’s crew.

Cunliffe made a copy of  Laughton-Bramley’s report, and passed it to the German archaeologist Uwe Benkel, who had been investigating the fate of ED427. It jibed with  the story told by Peter Menges, now 83, who was a child in the next village when the plane was shot down.

‘Peter saw the plane coming down on fire,’ says Mr Benkel, ‘and saw the explosion. His parents didn’t allow him to go and see the plane that night. He went the next morning and the German military were there. From what he saw the majority of the body parts were on the surface and taken away.’

Last week, Benkel and his team unearthed the  remains of Lancaster ED427. Contrary  to Bramley-Laughton’s report, which suggested all the bodies had been  recovered by the Germans in the war, Benkel  says that there were still  body parts in the cockpit. Benkel concludes that they were those of Alec Bone.

For Alf, this finally ends the mystery of what happened to his beloved brother. ‘You  have closed the missing page of our memory book,’ he told Uwe Benkel.

Sacrifice: 53,573 members of Bomber Command were killed during the Second World WarSacrifice: 53,573 members of Bomber Command were killed  during the Second World War
 
Momentous: The men of Bomber Command were witness to events that have shaped our historyMomentous: The men of Bomber Command were witness to  events that have shaped our history

‘My mother would have been so relieved that we at last know something,’ he says.

‘I now want to go and pay my last respects on behalf of the family. My brother was a real professional — we were all amateurs.  He was a gentleman and a gentle man.’

Families of other crew members share that sense of a chapter finally being closed. ‘It is a great relief to know what did happen,’ says Hazel Snedker, 72, the daughter of Sergeant Norman Foster, the plane’s Flight Engineer.

‘At least he will now have a grave with a  headstone.’

The plan is for the remains of all the crew  to be buried together. ‘They flew together and died together,’ says Mr Benkel. ‘It is only right that they should stay together.’

Attribution: Mail Online