October 8, 2018




Greatest Soldier of World War I:   On October 8, 1918,  Alvin C. York, US Corporal was reported to have killed over 20 German soldiers and captured an additional 132.   York took over the head position of his small battalion, fighting in the Argonne Forest in France. When the Germans fired on his unit, several troops were killed including a superior officer.  Several other soldiers in York's unit began firing while advancing toward the German line.  Apparently the Germans thought they were surrounded and about ninety of them surrendered to the Americans.  On the way back to his unit, York took additional German prisoners bringing the total up to 131.   Yorks military exploits and bravery later earned him the United States Congressional Medal of Honor.


Annexation of Poland:  By Hitler's decree, the Western provinces of Poland, with a population of 10 million and an area of 91 000 km2 together with the cities of Poznań, Gdynia, Toruń, Bydgoszcz, Łódź and Katowice were incorporated into the Third Reich. The remaining territory was placed under Nazi German administration, of about the same same size and inhabited by about 11.5 million Poles. It was referred to as the General Government and was governed by Hans Frank.  The eastern part of Poland was invaded and occupied by the Soviets according to the Soviet-German treaty, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement. Despite the diverse ethnic groups in eastern Poland, the ethnic Poles represented the largest proportion of the population.

Danzig was officially annexed by Nazi Germany and was made the capital of Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia.  It was divided into three government regions with the name-giving capital cities of Bromberg, Danzig and Marienwerde.   After a brief transitional period, the territory became part of the restored Regierungsbezirk Danzig in the Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen (the restored Prussian Province of West Prussia) and was divided into nine districts. Prior to the Invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, it was deemed the Free City of Danzig, as stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles (1919) at the end of World War I.   The Free City of Danzig was under the protection of the League of Nations, and incorporated into a binding customs union with the newly emerged Republic of Poland.  The League of Nations gave Poland full rights to develop and maintain transportation, communication, and port facilities in the city, providing Poland with open access to a well-sized seaport.  The Free City of Danzig consisted of a majority of German citizens, though it had a very large Polish population as well. Even so, Germans bitterly resented being separated from Germany, and believed it to be their ancestral home.  Tensions escalated when the Nazi Party seized power in 1935.

German submarine U-12 struck a mine in the Strait of Dover.  There were no survivors.  The body of the the submarine captain, Dietrich von der Ropp, was found washed ashore on the French coast near Dunkirk on October 29, 1939.  The exact co-ordinates of the U-12 is not known, but has been approximated at 51°10′N 01°30′E.   In 2002,  the German government named the wreck to be recognized as a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.  The U-12 was thus designated as being representative of all such German vessels lost within UK jurisdiction during the war.


Surprise German Attack:  On October 8, 1941, German troops launched a surprise attack on Mariupol near the Sea of Azov.  Despite the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed between the Soviets and Germany, Hitler decided to attack Russian territory (suspecting that Churchill might be striking a secret deal with the Soviets).  On the first day  German forces were able to demoralize the Soviet army  and destroy more than 1,000 Soviet aircraft.  Despite numerical superiority and number of tanks and armaments,  the Red Army was disorganized and easily defeated. The Germans easily advanced 300 miles into Soviet territory.  Mariupol is the 10th largest city in the Ukraine. In the city's history, it has played a central role in the industrialization of the Ukraine, and has been a centre for the grain trade, metallurgy, and heavy engineering, including the steel and iron works.


Polish Underground Fighters Sabotage Railways:   On the night of October 7 and 8, 1942, the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) undertook a large-scale anti-Nazi operation called Operation Wieniec, or Operation Garland.  The Polish underground targeted the rail infrastructure near Warsaw, and other major cities. The sabotage tactics continued throughout the war, targeting railroads, bridges and supply depots.  There were also substantial successes in assassinations of key Nazi German officials.  The Germans, in reprisal, would publicly hang, or shoot large numbers of Polish citizens. The Polish Underground was the largest anti-Nazi organization in all of Europe. (see Operation Heads)


Polish Communists banned Solidarity and all labor unions.   On October 8, 1982 the communist led Polish government outlawed Solidarnosc (Solidarity). Solidarity was founded by Lech Walesa on September 17, 1980 at the Lenin Shipyards, and was the first non-government trade labor union in communist controlled countries.  Solidarity was committed to advancing the rights of workers as well as social democratic change through the use of civil resistance.  Despite the imposition of marshal law in 1981, and subsequent years of political repression, and economic crisis,  the government could not quash the Solidarity movement, and ultimately were compelled to negotiate.  (read about Round Table Talks). Pope Saint John Paul II and the United States provided massive financial support to Solidarnosc, to the tune of 50 million US dollars.


Presidential Election in Poland:   The 2000 Polish presidential election took place in Poland on October 8, 2000. Incumbent President Aleksander Kwaśniewski was easily re-elected in the first round after winning more than 50% of the votes. Polls showed that his popular support was as high as 70%.  His main opponent was Marian Krzaklewski from the Solidarity Electoral Action, and former Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski, who garnered support from voters who were discontented with both of the other main candidates and in particular younger voters, businessmen and intellectuals.   Candidates who had less chance were Andrzej Lepper, a populist farmers leader who opposed entry into the European Union, and former President Lech Wałęsa.  Wałęsa was rejected as the candidate for the Solidarity party, and ran separetely in the election.  Just months preceding the election the candidates Kwaśniewski and  Lech Wałęsa were investigated by a court due to accusations that they had been informers for the Communist secret police, but the charges were dismissed.  The allegations were an attempt by their political opponents  to discredit them in the eyes of the public.  Ironically,  Kwaśniewski was a political activist for the communist party.

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