October 13, 2018




German submarine U-40 struck a mine and sank in the English Channel.   On October 13, 1939, the German submarine U-40 was sunk by a British mine at coordinates 50°41′6″N 00°15′1″E.   The U-boat commander Barten, made a fateful decision on that day to take a shortcut through the English Channel, heading towards the southwest of Ireland. But the English Channel was laid with many naval mines. Barten chose to proceed along the voyage about three and a half hours after high tide, when the mines were not at their lowest point.  The submarine struck one of them and sank to the sea floor. A few crew members were able to escape by the aft hatch and reach the surface. Of the crew, nine died in the attempt to save themselves and five more died from exposure.  Ten hours after the U-boat sank, the remaining survivors were rescued and taken prisoners aboard the British destroyer, the HMS Boreas.


Italy Declared War on Germany:    On October 13, 1943, Italy declared war on its former Axis partner, Nazi Germany and joined the Allies in the battle to defeat the Germans.  The fascist government collapsed in July, with Mussolini toppled from power.  He was replaced by General Pietro Badoglio, Mussolini's former chief of staff.  Badoglio, responding to the request of King Victorio Emanuele, began to negotiate with US General Eisenhower for a conditional surrender of Italy to the Allies.  The Allies had already invaded Sicily in July, driving out the Nazi Germans, and opened up the Mediterranean sea lanes for the first time since 1941.  By September 8, the Allies landed in Salerno, on the mainland, in an operation code-named Operation Avalanche.  The American plan was to launch a surprise attack without previous bombardments, but the German troops were aware of their approach.  As the first allied contingent approached the shoreline, a loudspeaker announced, in English, " Come on in and give up. We have you covered."  Nevertheless, the Americans attacked, despite very heavy German fire power and artillery.  Landing was extremely difficult but the Americans succeeded in capturing the beach heads.


Allied aircraft bombers targeted the city of Aachen,  which was perched on Germany's main defensive network (incorporated into the Siegried Line).  The Allied mission was to capture Aachen quickly so as to advance into the industrialized Ruhr region. The initial attack was launched by the 26th Infantry, which provided insight to the nature of the ongoing battle.  German troops were ambushing the Americans, from hiding places in sewers and cellars.  American troops had to cautiously clear each opening before attempting to advance on any street.  The Sherman tanks could not maneuver adequately amidst  enemy fire.  It was one of the largest battles fought by US forces in WW2,  and the first German city captured by the Allies.  Casualties were heavy on both sides; 5,000 Allied soldiers and about 5,000 Germans, with another 5,600 taken prisoner.

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