September 4th, 1944
UNITED KINGDOM: London: The cabinet has decided today that all Russians captured by the British forces will be sent back to the Soviet Union whether they want to go or not. There are something like 12,000 Soviet citizens being held in camps in Britain, and they are arriving at the rate of 2,000 a week from France.
Some of these prisoners are men who chose to fight with the Germans because of their hatred of Communism, but many were forcibly conscripted from prisoner-of-war camps and sent to build and man the defences in France. Their presence has been the source of growing friction between Russia and Britain.
Submarine HMS Sidon launched.
Frigate HMCS Ribble
arrived Londonderry to join EG-26.
ÉIRE: An RN Fairey Swordfish crashes at Carracastle, County Mayo. (Jack McKillop)
BELGIUM: The British 11th Armoured Division enters Antwerp, one of Europe's largest seaports. Antwerp's docks are undamaged, but the Germans control part of the 70-mile (113 kilometer) waterway leading to the city. 11th Armoured are ordered to halt because it is outstripping its 300-mile-long supply line. It fails to push to take important canal crossings to dominate the approaches to the port.
The British also take Louvain.
Machine gunner Private Gino Merli (1924-2002)of the US 1st Infantry Division's 18th Infantry is one of 14 men who set up a roadblock near the village of Sars la Bruyere, a few miles from the French border.
At least 100 German soldiers came down a cobblestone road, and their fire knocked out one of the Americans' two machine-gun positions. Private Merli and his assistant gunner killed several members of the German patrol from the surviving machine-gun position, but then Private Merli's assistant was killed by return fire.
The remaining members of his unit retreated or were killed, wounded or captured.
Refusing to abandon his position, Private Merli was alone in his foxhole at midnight, and he held off several more German attacks, expending about 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
Once, when continuing to fire would have given Private Merli's position away, a group of Germans approached his foxhole and saw what appeared to be two dead soldiers inside. The body of Private Merli's assistant gunner was on top, and he was lying below, pretending to be dead.
The Germans prodded Private Merli in the buttocks with their bayonets, inflicting four wounds, but he did not cry out. Satisfied that he was dead, the German soldiers departed. Then Private Merli began firing again.
At daybreak, the remnants of the German patrol surrendered after American troops opened a counter-assault. Private Merli then jumped from his gun pit, having survived with a finger wound and the four bayonet wounds. (MOH)
FRANCE: USAAF Ninth Air Force: Bad weather prevents bomber activity; fighters fly armed reconnaissance over Belgium, eastern France, Luxembourg, and eastern and central Germany, and defensive night patrols over western and northwestern France.
Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt is named Commander in Chief
West by Adolf Hitler.
General Eisenhower states the general objectives of the Allied armies. The Canadian 1 Army and British 2 Army along with the U.S. First Army are given the task of advancing toward the Ruhr. The U.S. Third Army will drive to the Saar.
The British liberate Lille in northern France while Patton's U.S. Third Army refuels, storms across the Moselle River and pushes toward Nancy, capital of the French province of Lorraine.
In southern France, the U.S. VI Corps and French II Corps
continue their advance on Besancon and Dijon. (Jack McKillop)
U-2344 laid down
U-3007 launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
FINLAND: The Russian-Finnish cease fire is agreed to and is effective immediately. A delegation leaves Finland for Russia to negotiate the Peace Treaty. The Finnish troops cease hostilities at 7 am. as ordered, but the Soviet troops keep on fighting until the tomorrow morning. The reason is in PM Hackzell's oversight making the Finnish agreement to Soviet conditions public. As he accidentally forgot to mention that Finland will break the relations with Germany, the Soviet view was that Finland hasn't fullfilled all the conditions. The matter is clarified, but the time this hassle takes delays the sending of Soviet orders to cease hostilities, and most of the Soviet formations receive them late.
There are several skirmishes and artillery actions this day, and Finns lose 99 men killed this first day of peace. But finally the Continuation War is over. Its cost to Finland is about 65 000 killed or missing and 145 000 wounded out of total population of 3,8 million in 1939. When the losses of the Winter War of 1939-40 and the coming Lappland War against Germans are added, the WWII kills almost 90,000 Finns.
The Finnish peace delegation goes to Moscow on 7 Sept and the Peace Treaty is signed on 19 September. (Mikko Härmeinen)
EASTERN FRONT: Brasnov and Senaia
are taken by the Soviet Army.
USAAF OPERATIONS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
* Twelfth Air Force: In Italy, B-25s and B-26s hit several road and railroad bridges and tunnel in the Po Valley while fighter-bombers strike pontoon bridges, roads, bridges, and motor transport in preparation for an Allied ground assault on the Gothic Line; during the night of 3/4 September A-20s on armed reconnaissance of the Po Valley bomb vehicles in the Turin-Milan areas; fighters fly armed reconnaissance and offensive patrols in the Po Valley and the Rhone Valley in France.
* Fifteenth Air Force: In Italy, almost 400 B-17s and B-24s, with fighter escort, attack submarines in Genoa harbor and hit communications in northern Italy including the Avisio viaduct, marshalling yards at Trento, Bronzola, and Ora, and railroad bridges at Ora, Casarsa della Delizia, and Latisana. (Jack McKillop)
USAAF OPERATIONS IN THE CHINA-BURMA-INDIA THEATER OF OPERATIONS
* Tenth Air Force: 24 B-24s haul 32,000 US gallons (121,133 liters) of fuel to Kunming, China; and though heavy rains curtail combat operations, 9 P-47 Thunderbolts attack Bhamo and Myothit, Burma.
* Fourteenth Air Force: In China, 12 B-25s blast sampan, barge, and motor launch concentrations in the Kweiyang area; 6 B-25s, with P-51 Mustang support, pound the Paishul and Lingling areas, considerably damaging the town of Lingling and killing an estimated 60 soldiers and 10 horses; 100+ P-40s and P-51s on armed reconnaissance kill large numbers of troops and horses, pound river and road traffic, and a variety of other targets of opportunity in the eastern Burma-southwestern China region around Changning and Lungling and throughout areas mainly to the south of the Tungting Lake-Yangtze River section of inland southeastern China, mainly around Hengyang, Lingling, Leiyang, Yangtien, and Kiyang. (Jack McKillop)
USAAF OPERATIONS IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (Seventh Air Force): 5 B-24s, on armed reconnaissance, snooper mission, and training flights, bomb Iwo Jima Island, Marcus Island in the North Pacific, Yap Island, and Pagan Island. P-47s hit Pagan Island with rockets and strafing attacks. In the Marshall Islands, B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll strike Wotje Atoll. (Jack McKillop)
PACIFIC OCEAN: USN submarine USS Bowfin (SS-287) sinks a Japanese guardboat in the North Pacific. (Jack McKillop)
USAAF OPERATIONS IN THE SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA (Far East Air Forces): Bad weather cancels most large-scale operations. In New Guinea, A-20s and B-25s hit Urarom Airfield and fighter-bombers attack Moemi and hit Napido. During the night of 4/5 September B-24s bomb Kendari Airfield on Celebes Island. (Jack McKillop)
USAAF OPERATIONS IN ALASKA (Eleventh Air Force): In the Kurile Islands, 6 B-25s fly an antishipping sweep close to Paramushiru Island and draw shore-based AA fire; 8 fighters intercept but there are no losses on either side. (Jack McKillop)
U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Everett F
Larson laid down
Light cruiser USS Youngston laid down.
Minesweepers USS Fancy and Fixity launched
Destroyer escorts USS Bray and Walton commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
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