Sunday, August 25, 2013

Over the Top! Trench Combat in World War One

In our last post, we took a look at scenes of trench life in the First World War. Now we'll take a glance at a trench-launched attack by Allied forces against the German trench lines. 

The Allied Plan: dislodge the Germans from their forward trench lines by attacking over the open stretch of ground known as no-mans land. Once a forest, the trees have been leveled by heavy artillery bombardments.

The German Plan: Hold back all allied attacks by raking the empty expanse of no-man's land with machine gun fire the moment the Allied soldiers come out of their trenches. 
Attacks against trenches were often met with failure. Here, French troops in 1916 are mown down by machine gun fire in an attempt to break the German lines in the battle for Verdun, France.
Americans also had machine guns. Here, an American in a machine gun nest keep watch for a suspected German attack in 1918.

Launching the attack! In the trench lines of Northern France, Allied soldiers go over the top in an attack against the German trenches across the field. Armed with rifles with attached bayonets, American infantrymen charge in the foreground while French soldiers attack from their lines in the background, recognizable by their bluish wool coats.

Now, as the Allied soldiers launch their attack, a German sentry spots movement from his post and quickly alerts his comrades.


This German is armed with a Mauser bolt-action rife. Near his hand rests a hand grenade with a wooden throwing handle, often called a "stick grenade" or "potato masher".

The Allies press on through a storm of shot and shell, while the Germans try to thwart their efforts.

At close range, grenades are thrown between the two contesting armies.

The allies reach the German lines and open fire before jumping in, capturing the trench!

Driving the Germans out, Allied soldiers race down the zig-zagging earth channels to flush out the enemy.

Clearing the trench of the Germans, the Allies have gained a toehold in the German trench system. Even if they only captured twenty-five yards worth of German trench line and hold it, it is considered a tentative victory.
We hope you enjoyed this post!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Trenches of World War I

In this post, we'll take a look into scenes of trench warfare in World War I.
In 1914, every superpower in Europe went to war after a dispute between Austria and Serbia escalated into a multi-national conflict. The first World War, or "the Great War" as it was known then, would last until 1918. Up until 1914, the great armies of Europe fought battles over open ground, but the invention of rapid-fire rifles and machine guns forced the soldiers of the allied and central powers to dig into the contested European countryside for protection.

A French soldier walks through a trench line in 1914, shortly after the wars outbreak. The French army did not wear camouflage, but instead gray or blue overcoats over sky blue or red pants.
Here, a French Algerian colonial soldier keeps watch over the stretch of no-man's land between the lines.

He is armed with a French machine-gun that would be used throughout the war, though it was known for malfunctioning.

Four years after the wars start, the Americans entered the conflict on the Allied power's side against Germany, Turkey, Austria and Bulgaria. The Trenches were still the main tactic in combat.
Machine gunners guard the approaches facing the enemy trenches.

Daily life in the rain-soaked trenches was very hard. Rats, lice and disease infested the soldier's living conditions,

While constant enemy shelling rained down on the soldiers relentlessly, wrecking havoc on the soldier's nerves, morale and earthen dugouts.

While trenches were dirty, hazardous and at times death traps, they none the less provided basic protection from the storm of lead and steel the enemy rained down on them. But both sides knew they could not stay in their trenches forever; sooner or later, they would have to attack the enemy lines to dislodge them if they want to make any headway in the war. Leaving the relative protection of a trench line and attacking the enemy lines head-on was called "going over the top".
In their trench in Northwest France, German troops prepare for a suspected attack against their lines from the Allied forces of Great Britain, France or their powerful ally, the United States.
More updates to come soon!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The War in Korea

A North Korean soldier
in the Korean War, 1950-1953
After the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War, the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the American and Russian armies. The Koreans wanted to have their country reconstructed as one unified Korean nation after thirty five years of Japanese occupation; but they could not decide if Korea should be a democracy, like the United States, or if they should unanimously accept the Communist model of Government introduced by the Soviet Union. The American and Soviet Governments decided to divide Korea along the 38th parallel, allowing the two halves of Korea to be governed by separate methods.
The Koreans, however, were dissatisfied with this arrangement. In 1950, five years after the end of World War II, the Soviet-backed North Korean army crossed the 38th Parallel in a campaign to take over South Korea in an attempt to unify the country under Communism.
Three days after the fighting began, the North Korean army took the South Korean capitol city of Seoul.

At the start of the war, both of the Korean armies
armed themselves with a mix of American,
Japanese and Soviet uniforms and gear.

It wasn't long until the Americans became involved.  The United Nations, a newly-formed body of Nations from around the world assembled in the aftermath of the Second World War to assist in international policy decision making, approved American involvement in stemming the tide in South Korea. Though many Nations dedicated against communism would send arms, men and relief aid into the conflict, the United States would take the leading role--and therefore it was decided that Douglas MacArthur, the American General who liberated the Philippines in World War II, would be the Commanding General in charge of all Democratic forces in Korea.
"Communism was acting in Korea just as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese had acted. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to go unchallenged it would mean a third world war." ~Harry S. Truman, President of the United States during the Korean Conflict
An American Marine in the fight to hold the Pusan Perimeter in the first year of the Korean Conflict.

The first United States troops to see action was a rifle company in near Osan, thirty miles South of Seoul. The North Koreans pushed South until the Americans only held the peninsula by a toehold on the Southeastern corner, where the American Army based in Pusan tried to hold onto their last defensive line, the "Pusan Perimeter".

An American Soldier early in the Korean War
 On September 15th, 1950, General Douglas MacArthur made a bold diversionary action and made an amphibious landing in Incheon, just a few miles Southwest of Seoul.

Now with the Americans in front and behind, and their supply lines cut, the North Koreans were compelled to withdraw from the Pusan Perimeter. Seoul was liberated on September 26th, and UN forces spearheaded by the Americans led a subsequent drive North, capturing the Communist capitol of Pyongyang on November 25th. The war wasn't over yet, however, as Chinese intervention on the North Korean's behalf coupled with harsh winter weather drove the UN armies back over the 38th Parallel.

The Americans were ill prepared for the harsh Korean winters, and countless
cases of frostbite and trenchfoot claimed many limbs.

A Chinese soldier in a white quilted winter uniform.

An American look-out post on the front lines

 The American and UN forces began a General retreat across the frozen mountainous hills of Korea, the endurance of the Americans in the harsh elements becoming a legend of perseverance. A fierce rear guard action was kept up, with whole divisions of Chinese attackers being almost wiped out by UN aircraft.

American troops huddled around a camp fire
during the retreat South.

Unfortunately, small comforts such as camp fires could draw Chinese artillery fire,
which was noted for its ferocity.

American Artillery pounds away on Chinese positions in Korea.

The Americans regrouped in Southern Korea and fought off their attackers, but fighting would continue for three more years until an armistice (temporary peace agreement) was agreed upon in 1953.
Sixty years later, the issue of a unified Korea is unresolved.