April 15th, 1945 (SUNDAY)
FRANCE: The Eighth Air Force flies Mission 951: 1,348 unescorted bombers are dispatched to visually attack strongpoints on the French Atlantic coast; the first two forces below make the sole operational employment of napalm bomb by the Eighth Air Force against German ground installations (pillboxes, gunpits, tank trenches, and heavy gun emplacements); the results are negligible and HQ recommends its discontinuance against this type of target:
- 492 B-17s hit four strongpoints and flak batteries in the Royan area without loss.
- 341 B-24s hit six strongpoints and flak batteries in the Royan area without loss.
- 442 B-17s hit 9 strongpoints and flak batteries in the Bordeaux/Royan, Pointe Grave and Pointe Courbre area without loss.
US bombers drop "napalm" bombs on German troops at Royan, in the Gironde estuary. (Andy Etherington)
NETHERLANDS: Arnhem is taken by Canadian forces and British infantry.
GERMANY: Liberation of BERGEN-BELSEN: The first British troops entered Bergen- Belsen on Sunday, April 15th 1945, at 3 p.m., led by Brigadier H.L. Glyn Hughes, the Chief Medical Officer of the British Second Army (with anti-tank battery of 63 A/Tk Regt, Royal Artillery.) Brigadier Hughes cried when he saw the horrible conditions of the camp. He later mentioned that "Belsen was unique in its vile treatment of human beings. Nothing like it had happened before in the history of mankind. The victims of this infamous behaviour had been reduced to a condition of sub-human existence" The liberators' most urgent concerns included separating the sick from the living, burying the dead, and caring for the sick.
Hospitals were set up in the barracks and doctors fed the prisoners after determining which could be saved and which could not. Mass graves were dug to bury the thousands of dead. Captain Derrick Sington, who was the first British officer to enter Bergen- Belsen, forced Commandant SS-Captain Josef Kramer and other SS officials to assist in the mass burials as well. After the soldiers cleared the camp of people, the camp was set on fire to help combat the spread of disease.
Bergen-Belsen was a concentration camp in Germany, located between the villages of Bergen and Belsen. Built in 1940, it was a prisoner-of-war camp for French and Belgium prisoners. In 1941, it was renamed Stalag 311 and housed about 20,000 Russian prisoners.
The camp changed its name to Bergen-Belsen and was converted into a concentration camp in 1943. Jews with foreign passports were kept there to be exchanged for German nationals imprisoned abroad, although very few exchanges were made. About 200 Jews were allowed to immigrate to Palestine and about 1,500 Hungarian Jews were allowed to immigrate to Switzerland, both took place under the rubric of exchanges for German nationals.
Bergen-Belsen mainly served as a holding camp for the Jewish prisoners. The camp was divided into eight sections, a detention camp, two women's camps, a special camp, neutrals camps, "star" camp (mainly Dutch prisoners who wore a Star of David on their clothing instead of the camp uniform), Hungarian camp and a tent camp. It was designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, however, by the war's end more than 60,000 prisoners were detained there, due to the large numbers of those evacuated from Auschwitz and other camps from the East. Tens of thousands of prisoners from other camps came to Bergen-Belsen after agonizing death marches.
While Bergen-Belsen contained no gas chambers, more than 35,000 people died of starvation, overwork, disease, brutality and sadistic medical experiments. Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, died of typhus in March 1945, along with other prisoners in a typhus epidemic.
In 1946, Belsen served as the largest displaced person (DP) camp for more than 11,000 Jews; it was the only exclusively Jewish camp in the British zone of Germany. (Russ Folsom)
Merkers: A heavily guarded convoy of US Army trucks moves the Reichsbank gold reserve from the potassium mines here back to the vaults of the Reichsbank in the recently captured city of Frankfurt-am-Main. By mid-August the gold will have been quantified and appraised. The gold is valued at $262,213,000 US dollars. The silver at $270,469 US dollars. (Russell Folsom)
258 Ninth Air Force B-26s and A-26 Invaders bomb marshalling yards at Gunzburg and Ulm (primary targets) and several other targets including 3 marshalling yards; fighters escort the bombers, fly patrols and armed reconnaissance, and support the US 3d Armored Division near Dessau and across the Mulde River near Torten, the 9th Armored Division along the Mulde northwest of Borna, the VIII Corps along Weisse Elster River between Gera and Plauen, the XX Corps astride the Mulde NE of Chemnitz (where the 6th Armored Division awaits Red Army forces), and the 2d Armored Division on the Elbe River near Magdeburg.
FRANCE: US bombers drop "napalm" bombs on German troops at Royan, in the Gironde estuary.
CENTRAL EUROPE: The Fifteenth Air Force dispatches 36 P-38s and 36 P-51s strafe rail communications in the area bounded by Munich, Germany, Salzburg and Linz, Austria, Plzen, Czechoslovakia, and Regensburg, Germany; 12 of the P-38s skip bomb rail targets in the Salzburg-Linz, Austria area, including the Vocklabruck marshalling yard; 8 P-38s furnish top cover for the strafing missions.
ITALY: The Polish II Corps attached to the British 8th Army reaches Sillaro after crossing the River Santerno.
During the night of 14/15 April, Twelfth Air Force A-20s and A-26s concentrate on communications targets in the Po Valley, particularly the Po River crossings; during the day B-25s and B-26s and fighter-bombers concentrate on direct support of the US Fifth and British Eighth Armies drives, hitting troop concentrations, guns, strongpoints, and a variety of targets in areas south of Bologna, around Medicina and Sasso Marconi and at other points in battle areas.
830 Fifteenth Air Force B-17s and B-24s, in support of the US Fifth Army, blast gun positions, supply dumps, troop concentrations, maintenance installations, and German HQ along highways leading from Bologna; 145 P-38s furnish escort; another force of 312 B-17s and B-24s bomb rail diversion bridges at Nervesa della Battaglia, Ponte di Piave, and Casarsa della Delizia, and an ammunition factory and stores at Ghedi; 191 P-51s provide escort. Today's effort is the largest of World War II by the Fifteenth Air Force (most fighters and bombers dispatched and attacking, and the largest bomb tonnage dropped) during a 24-hour period; 1,142 heavy bombers bomb targets.
CHINA: 3 Fourteenth Air Force B-25s knock out the Pa-Ching pontoon bridge, 7 attack a storage depot at Fang-cheng, 4 bomb Tunganhsien, and 3 hit Paoching; 1 B-24 bombs the Canton docks; almost 200 fighter-bombers ranging over all of southern China and up into the northern China plain hit numerous targets including bridges, river shipping, town areas, trucks, railroad traffic, gun positions, storage areas, and general targets of opportunity; the Paoching, Hengyang, Yungfengshih, and Hsihhsiassuchi areas are especially hard hit.
BURMA: Taungdwingyi falls to the British 20th Indian Division.
62 Tenth Air Force) P-38s and P-47s attack troop concentrations and supply areas at Loi-Mwe, Lawksawk, Thongdan, and near Laihka; 312 transport sorties are flown to forward areas.
JAPAN: Okinawa: The US 6th Marine Division engages in hard fighting for Yae Taku Hill.
US Marine Pfc Harold Gonsalves performs actions that will result in him being awarded the MOH. His citation reads that "....while serving as Acting Scout Sergeant with the 4th Battalion, 15th Marines, 6th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain.
Undaunted by the powerfully organized opposition encountered on Motobu Peninsula during the fierce assault waged by his battalion against the Japanese stronghold at Mount Yaetake, Pfc. Gonsalves repeatedly braved the terrific enemy bombardment to aid his forward observation team in directing well-placed artillery fire. When his commanding officer determined to move into the front lines in order to register a more effective bombardment in the enemy's defensive position, he unhesitatingly advanced uphill with the officer and another Marine despite a slashing barrage of enemy mortar and rifle fire. As they reached the front and a Japanese grenade fell close within the group, instantly Pfc. Gonsalves dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting the others from serious and perhaps fatal wounds. Stout-hearted and indomitable, Pfc. Gonsalves readily yielded his own chances of survival that his fellow marines might carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy and his cool decision, prompt action and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the U.S. Naval Service. (Drew Halevy)
US Marines on the Motobu peninsula suffer heavy casualties from Japanese artillery fire.
Off Okinawa, kamikazes damage the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724) and a large support landing ship [LSC(L)] while a Japanese assault demolition boat damages a motor minesweeper (YMS).
Aircraft of fast carrier task force (Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher) attack airfields and aircraft on the ground in southern Kyushu Island; the strike is repeated on 16 April.
During the night of 15/16 April, the Twentieth Air Force flies two missions: (1) Mission 68: 194 B-29 Superfortresses bomb the Kawasaki urban area while 8 others hit targets of opportunity; 12 B-29s are lost. (2) Mission 69: 109 B-29s hit the urban area of Tokyo; 1 B-29 is lost.
FORMOSA: Far East Air Forces B-24s bomb Toyohara, Shinchiku, and Shinshoshi Airfields and B-25s hit the Shoka rail yards.
COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: A battalion of the 151st Infantry Regiment, 38th Infantry Division, lands on Carabao Island at the entrance to Manila Bay; landing is preceded by cruiser/destroyer and aircraft bombardment.
Far East Air Forces B-24s and fighter-bombers bomb island fortifications in Manila Bay, fighter-bombers hit bivouacs and other targets in northern Luzon and support ground forces east of Manila and on Carabao Island. Fighter bombers and B-24s fly support missions for ground forces on Negros and Cebu Islands. On Mindanao Island, B-24s bomb the Davao area and B-25s join USMC F4U Corsairs and SBD Dauntlesses in hitting highways and vehicles.
PACIFIC OCEAN: Submarine
USS Charr (SS-328) lays mines off the Malay Peninsula.
Two Japanese ships are sunk. (1) A guardboat is sunk by U.S. aircraft off Chezhudo, Korea and (2) a mine laid by USAAF B-29 Superfortresses sinks a cargo ship southeast of Hesaki Light, Japan.
ATLANTIC OCEAN: The German submarine U-1235 is sunk in the North Atlantic by destroyer escorts USS Frost (DE-144) and USS Stanton (DE-247). All 57 crewmen on the U-boat are lost.
U.S.A: Top popular hits on the music charts are "My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time" by The Pied Pipers; "I'm Beginning to See the Light" by Harry James and his Orchestra with vocal by Kitty Kallen; "Candy" by Johnny Mercer and Jo Stafford; and "Smoke on the Water" by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
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