October 31, 2018




During the night of October 31 to November 1, 1918, Captain Dmytro Vitovsky of the Sich Riflemen led a group of Ukrainian officers in a military action to capture the city of Lviv. The following day, the West Ukrainian People's Republic was proclaimed, with Lviv as its capital.  This came as a shock to the Polish ethnic population and administration, as they suddenly found themselves in a Ukrainian state.   Although the majority of the population of the Western-Ukrainian People's Republic were Ukrainians, many urban settlements had Polish majorities.  Because the West Ukrainian People's Republic was not internationally recognized and Poland's boundaries had not yet been defined, the issue of ownership of the disputed territory was reduced to a question of military control. (nb: After the end of WWI, Poland re-emerged as a sovereign nation state, after 123 years of oblivion.)  The Polish Ukrainian War broke out on November 1, 1918 and ended on July 17, 1919 with a Polish victory and annexation of disputed territory.  The Polish–Soviet War was already well under way, having begun in February of the same year. Polish forces battled forces of the Ukrainian People's Republic, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine for control of an area equivalent to today's western Ukraine and parts of modern-day Belarus.


Nazi-Occupied Poland:  Nazi German Hans Frank,  Governor of the General Government, enacted criminal laws which imposed the death penalty to anyone for acts against the Nazi German government, or the unlawful possession of a weapon. Subsequent laws also imposed the death penalty, for example: on January 21, 1940, for economic speculation;  on February 20, 1940, for spreading sexually transmitted diseases;  on July 31, 1940, for any Polish officers who did not register immediately with the German administration (to be taken to prisoner of war camps);  on November 10, 1941, for giving any assistance to the Jews;  on July 11, 1942, for farmers who failed to provide requested contingents of crops; on July 24, 1943, for not joining the forced labor battalions (Baudienst) when ordered.


The Battle of Britain ended on October 31, 1940 with an Allied victory. The Battle was the first major military battle waged entirely by air forces.  The RAF fought the Nazis in defense of  England. Many British towns and cities, including London was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Polish pilots were an integral part of the RAF squadrons and shot down more enemy planes than any other Allied squadrons.  A total of 145 experienced and battle-hardened Polish airmen took to the skies and demonstrated their mastery over the skies. There were Polish airmen in various RAF squadrons, as well as in No. 302 (Polish) Fighter Squadron and in No. 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron (also called the Kosciuszko Squadron).  The RAF also consisted of pilots from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Belgium and Czechoslovakia.


German U Boat sank American Destroyer.  On October 31, 1941, USS Reuben James was one of five destroyers escorting convoy HX-156,  near the coast of Iceland,  Just as the Reuben James began turning to investigate a strong direction-finder bearing, a torpedo was launched from U-552. It struck her port side and caused an explosion in her forward magazine causing the entire bow section of the destroyer to be blown off as far back as the fourth funnel. The American ship sank immediately but the stern remained afloat for around five minutes before sinking.  The damage was compounded by unsecured depth charges, which began exploding as they sank, killing the survivors in the water.  One hundred and fifteen of her 160-man crew were killed, including all the officers.  The destroyer was the first US Navy warship to be sunk in World War II.

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