February 24

1786 Birth: Wilhelm Karl Grimm—in Hanau, Germany—historian, story teller; with his brother Jacob, compiler of Grimm's Fairy Tales:

Doves peck out the eyes of Cinderella's stepsisters, and in The Juniper Tree a woman decapitates her stepson. A witch kills her own daughter in Darling Roland. "These stories are suffused with the same purity that makes children so marvelous and blessed," wrote Wilhelm Grimm in the preface to the Nursery and Household Tales. In practice the brothers modified folktales in varying ways, sometimes even intensifying violent episodes. Especially references to sexuality embarrassed the Grimms. In Snow White the violence was toned down by later editions: at the end of the story the wicked Queen is forced to put on red-hot iron slippers and dance till she dies.

1841 Samoa: A US naval force raid takes place, in reprisal for the murder of an American seaman on Upolu Island. Subsequent US military interventions in Samoa: 1888 and 1899.

1885 Birth: Chester W. Nimitz: U.S. naval commander: Nimitz contributed greatly to the defeat of Japan during World War II.

1893 Volkishness: Guido von List lectures on the ancient cult of Wotan and its priesthood to the nationalist Verein, "Deutsche Geschichte." List claims that this extinct religion was the national religion of the Teutons before it came to be destroyed by Christianity. In time, this ancient priesthood will form the basis of his entire political mythology. (THP)

1898 Birth: Kurt Tank: German World War II aircraft designer and test pilot.

1907 Countdown to Infamy: Japan officially agrees to restrict emigration to the US.

1908 Hitler in Vienna: The day after August Kubizek arrives in Vienna, he and Hitler spend the day searching for more spacious accommodation as Hitler's room is far too small for a piano and two teenagers. Nothing can be found. Fortunately, Frau Zakreys comes to the rescue, giving her own somewhat larger room across the hall to the cramped students for 20 Kronen a month. With the subsequent addition of a 10 Kronen-a-month piano, the pacing area in the apartment is reduced to three steps, turn, three steps back, etc. Hitler, always inclined to pace when thinking and expounding, will wear this area of the floor smooth.

August Kubizek:

On one occasion, when he (Hitler) had once more written till all hours of the night—the ugly little smoky kerosene lamp had nearly burnt out and I was still awake—I asked him bluntly what was going to be the end of all this work. Instead of answering, he handed me a couple of hastily scribbled sheets. Astounded, I read:

Holy Mountain in the background, before it the mighty sacrificial block surrounded by huge oaks; two powerful warriors hold the black bull, which is to be sacrificed, firmly by the horns, and press the beast's mighty head against the hollow in the sacrificial block. Behind them, erect in light-colored robes, stands the priest. He holds the sword with which he will slaughter the bull. All around, solemn, bearded men, leaning on their shields, their lances ready, are watching the ceremony intently.

I could not see any connection between this extraordinary description and the study of architecture, so I asked what it was supposed to be. "A play," replied Adolf. Then, in stirring words, he described the action to me. Unfortunately, I have long since forgotten it. I only remember that it was set in the Bavarian mountains at the time of the bringing of Christianity to those parts. The men who lived on the mountain did not want to accept the new faith. On the contrary! They had bound themselves by oath to kill the Christian missionaries. On this was based the conflict of the drama.

I would have liked to have asked Adolf whether his studies in the Academy left him so much free time that he could write dramas, too, but I knew how sensitive he was about everything appertaining to his chosen profession. I could appreciate his attitude, because certainly he had struggled hard enough to get his chance to study. I suppose that is what made him so touchy in this respect. But, nevertheless, there seemed to me something not quite right about it all. [For further details, Click here.]

1909 HMS Indefatigable was a battlecruiser of the Royal Navy and the lead ship of her class. Her keel was laid down in 1909 and she was commissioned on 24 February 1911. When the First World War began, the ship was serving with the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron (BCS) in the Mediterranean, where she unsuccessfully pursued the battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau of the German Imperial Navy as they fled towards the Ottoman Empire. The ship bombarded Ottoman fortifications defending the Dardanelles on 3 November 1914, then, following a refit in Malta, returned to the United Kingdom. Indefatigable was sunk on 31 May 1916 during the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war. Part of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty's Battlecruiser Fleet, she was hit several times in the first minutes of the "Run to the South", the opening phase of the battlecruiser action. Shells from the German battlecruiser Von der Tann caused an explosion ripping a hole in her hull, and a second explosion hurled large pieces of the ship 200 feet (61 m) in the air. Only three of the crew of 1,017 survived. [For further details, Click here.]

1912 Hadassah: The Jewish organization is founded in New York City. (THP)

1917 World War I: Various

Zimmermann Note presented to U.S. ambassador:

British authorities give Walter H. Page, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, a copy of the "Zimmermann Note," a coded message from Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign secretary, to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann stated that in the event of war with the United States, Mexico should be asked to enter the conflict as a German ally. In return, Germany promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

After receiving the telegram, Page promptly sent a copy to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who, in early March, allowed the U.S. State Department to publish the note. The press initially treated the telegram as a hoax, but Arthur Zimmermann himself confirmed its authenticity. The Zimmermann Note helped turn U.S. public opinion, already severely strained by repeated German attacks on U.S. ships, firmly against Germany. On April 2, President Wilson, who had initially sought a peaceful resolution to end World War I, urged the immediate U.S. entrance into the war. Four days later, Congress formally declared war against Germany. (History.com)

Mesopotamia: British troops recapture Kut:: The Allied war against Turkish forces gains momentum (and ground) in Mesopotamia as British and Indian troops move along the Tigris River in early 1917, recapturing the city of Kut-al-Amara and taking 1,730 Turkish prisoners on February 24. [For further details, Click here.]

1920 Various:

Weimar: The DAP: forerunner of Hitler's NSDAP, gives the first public reading of its "Twenty-five Points." Hitler later describes this event in Mein Kampf as "the first great public demonstration of our young movement." (THP)

Estonia gains independence from Russia:

Estonia maintained its independence for twenty-two years. Initially a parliamentary democracy, the parliament (Riigikogu) was disbanded in 1934, following political unrest caused by the global economic crisis.

1921 The Polish-Soviet Repatriation Agreement permits 700,000 Jews to enter Poland from the USSR. About 800,000 Jewish refugees will be granted Polish citizenship. After a war with Soviet Russia (1920-21), Poland annexed parts of Belorussia and the Ukraine. In the west, the Poles acquired sections of Upper Silesia in 1921-22. In the two decades following the war, the foreign policy of Poland was largely determined by fear of Germany and the USSR. A defensive alliance with France was arranged in February 1921, and alliances were subsequently signed with Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland.

1924 Helicopter: US Navy officials and the media witness the 95-sec flight of the latest design of a helicopter‑-designated No. 5‑-built by Henry Berliner. It reached a height of 15-ft and could maneuver in a radius of 150-ft, at a speed up to about 40 mph. The 641-lb aircraft had rigid wings spanning 38-ft with a 13-ft diameter rotor mounted on each winf that provided the power for the flight. Although in the past two decades there had been trials of helicopters designed by others (including Berliner's father Emile on 11 Jul 1908, this day's test is claimed to be the first controlled helicopter flight. The aircraft‑-the oldest intact helicopter in the world‑-is now loaned by the Smithsonian Institution for display at Berliner's testing site in College Park Aviation Museum, Maryland.

1933 Various:

Nazi Germany: Less than a month after Adolf Hitler had become German Chancellor, Nazi police raid the Communist Party headquarters in Berlin. An official announcement says the police have discovered plans for a Communist uprising. The German communist party makes its a final demonstration in Berlin. [See: How Did Adolf Hitler Consolidate his Power?]

Nazi Germany: The Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet), Sturm Abteilung (SA) and Schutzstaffel (SS) are officially granted auxiliary police status.

Manchuria: The League of Nations tells Japan to pull out:

The League of Nations had been considering the report of the Lytton Commission which had been appointed by the League to make an investigation of the situation in Manchuria. The Commission reported that the military operations of the Japanese in Manchuria could not be regarded as measures of legitimate self-defense; that the regime which the Japanese had set up there disregarded the wishes of the people of Manchuria and was not compatible with the fundamental principles of existing international obligations. The League Assembly adopted this report on February 24, 1933, and the Japanese delegation thereupon walked out of the Assembly.

1939 Hungary joins the Anti-Comintern pact with Italy, Germany and Japan.

1941 World War II: Various:

North Africa: The first brief action between the British and Germans takes place near El Agheila. [See: The Mediterranean Strategy.]

Hitler makes his fifth major speech of World War II (in Munich):

There was a time when Italy, fascist Italy, which is engaged in the same struggle as we are, which is shut in the same way as we are, which is as overpopulated as we are and, up until now, has been given no better chance of living than we, kept powerful enemies engaged in our behalf. Numerous British ships were engaged in the Mediterranean; numerous British airplanes were engaged in the African colonies. This was a very good thing for us, for, as I told you the other day, our warfare at sea is just beginning. The reason for this is that we first wanted to train new crews for the new submarines which will now make their appearance on the scene. Let no one doubt that they are about to appear.

1942 World War II: Various:

Death: Anton Drexler: cofounder of the "German Workers Party" (DAP). It was Drexler who invited Hitler to join the DAP and then accompanied him on speaking engagements throughout Germany and Austria during the early twenties. Drexler broke with Hitler in 1925 and died in Munich virtually forgotten.

The Voice of America begins broadcasting in German.

From a speech to the Nazi Gauleiter delivered by Albert Speer:

I therefore proposed to the Fuehrer at the end of December that all my labor force, including specialists, be released for mass employment in the East. Subsequently the remaining prisoners of war, about 10,000, were put at the disposal of the armament industry by me.

1943 World War II: Various:

North Africa: Erwin Rommel is appointed commander of Army Group Afrika, and the Germans pull back to the Eastern Dorsale, leaving numerous booby traps behind.

In view of the tenseness of the situation, and the sluggishness of the Italian command, I decided to ignore my orders and to take command at the front with my own hands as soon as possible: at the very latest, after the arrival of the first German units.

Fritz Sauckel to Hitler:

Plenipotentiary General for Allocation of Labor, to the Fuehrer general headquarters of the Fuehrer:

My Fuehrer, I beg [hereby] to take leave of you before my intended journey to France. The purpose of my journey is:

1) To put at the disposal of the Reich, within the given time, skilled labor to replace German key workers being drafted into the Wehrmacht. May I add that Field Marshal Keitel and General Von Unruh received a communication from me yesterday to the effect that half of these replacements for key men, that is 125,000 French qualified skilled men, have already arrived in the Reich on I January 1943 and that a corresponding number of soldiers can be called to the colors. I shall now make sure in France that the second half shall arrive in the Reich by the end of March, or earlier if possible. The first French program was executed by the end of December.

2) To assure the necessary labor for the French dockyards for the carrying out of the programs drawn up by Grand Admiral Doenitz and Gauleiter Kaufmann.

3) To assure the necessary labor for the programs of the Luftwaffe.

4) To assure the necessary labor for the other German armament programs which are in progress in France.

5) To make available supplementary labor in agreement with State Secretary Backe, with a view to intensifying French agricultural production.

6) To have discussions, if necessary, with the French Government on the subject of the carrying out of the labor service, the calling up of age-groups, and so forth, with a view to activating the recruitment of labor for the benefit of the German war economy.

1944 World War II: "Merrill's Marauders" hit Burma:

On this day, Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill's guerrilla force, nicknamed "Merrill's Marauders," begin a campaign in northern Burma.

In August 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed to create an American ground unit whose sole purpose would be to engage in a "long-range penetration mission" in Japanese-occupied Burma. This mission would consist of cutting Japanese communications and supply lines and otherwise throwing the enemy's positions into chaos. It was hoped that this commando force could thus prepare the way for Gen. Joseph Stillwell's Chinese American Force to reopen the Burma Road, which was closed in April 1942 by the Japanese invaders, and once again allow supplies and war material into China through this route.

Within the military, a type of "Help Wanted" ad was put up with the president's authority, an appeal for applicants to participate in a "dangerous and hazardous mission." About 3,000 soldiers volunteered from stateside units to create what was officially called the 5307th Composite Unit, code named "Galahad." It would go into history as Merrill's Marauders, after Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, their commander.

Brigadier General Merrill trained his men in the art of guerrilla warfare in the jungles of India, for secrecy's sake. The commando force was formed into six combat units—Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange, and Khaki—with 400 men in each (the remaining 600 men or so were part of a rear-echelon headquarters that remained in India to coordinate the air-drops of equipment to the men in the field).

The Marauders' mission began with a 1,000-mile walk through dense jungle, without artillery support, into Burma. On February 24, 1944, they began their Burmese campaign, which, when done, consisted of five major and 30 minor engagements with a far more numerous Japanese enemy. They had to carry their supplies on their backs and on pack mules, and were resupplied only with airdrops in the middle of the jungle. Merrill's Marauders succeeded in maneuvering behind Japanese forces to cause the disruptions necessary to throw the enemy into confusion. They were so successful, the Marauders managed even to capture the Myitkyina Airfield in northern Burma.

When their mission was completed, all surviving Merrill's Marauders had to be evacuated to hospitals to be treated for everything from exhaustion and various tropical diseases to malnutrition or A.O.E. ("Accumulation of Everything"). They were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation in July 1944, which was re-designated the Presidential Unit Citation in 1966. Every member of the commando force also received the Bronze Star, a very rare distinction for an entire unit. Merrill remained in the Far East and was made an aide to General Stillwell. (History.com)

1945 World War II: Various:

Hitler radio broadcast:

The consciousness of my duty and my work does not allow me to leave headquarters at the moment when, for the twenty-fifth time, that date is being commemorated on which the fundamental program of our movement (The 25 Points) was proclaimed and approved in Munich. The evening of the twenty-fourth of February was, under the auspices of prudence, a development the significance of which probably only today becomes clear to us in its terrible meaning. An irreconcilable enemy was already at that time united in a common struggle against the German people, in the same manner as it is today. [For the full text, Click here.]

Rokossovsky launches a major attack north through Pomerania: Himmler and most of the German General Staff are completely taken by surprise; they had expected a major thrust toward Berlin.

World War II: OSS chief Allen Dulles receives intelligence that German Ambassador Rahn and Field Marshal Kesselring are prepared to surrender and possibly "fight against Hitler, if the Allies can make it worth their while." (Waller) [See: Why Did Hitler Insist on No Surrender?]

War in the Pacific: American soldiers liberate the Philippine capital of Manila from Japanese control. (AP)

1946 Various:

Holocaust: Statement by SS Polizeifuehrer Juergen Stroop:

On the day of the commencement of this action I took over the command and von Sammern-Frankenegg explained to me what was to be done. He had the order from Himmler before him, and in addition I received a teletype from Himmler which ordered me to clear the Warsaw ghetto and raze it to the ground. [For the full text, Click here.]

Argentina: Colonel Juan Peron, founder of the political movement that became known as Peronism, is elected to his first term as President of Argentina. [For further information, click here.]

1953 Death: Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt:

Gerd von Rundstedt, the son of a military officer, was born in Aschersleben, Germany, on December 12, 1875. He joined the German Army and served throughout the First World War. By 1918 he had reached the rank of major and was chief of staff of his division.

After the war, Rundstedt rose steadily in the small 100,000 man army and, in 1932, was appointed commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. Later that year he threatened to resign when Franz von Papen declared martial law and ordered his troops to eject members of the Social Democratic Party from state government offices. However, Rundstedt eventually agreed to carry out the task.

In February 1934, Rundstedt joined with General Wilhelm Leeb to block the pro-Nazi Walther von Reichenau who General Werner von Blomberg wanted to succeed Kurt Hammerstein-Equord as head of the German Army. He also tried to protect General Werner von Fitsch when he was ousted after false claims were made about his sexuality.

Rundstedt was unhappy with the growing power of Adolf Hitler over the army and resigned from office on October 31, 1938. Although 64 years old, Rundstedt was recalled to the army with the outbreak of the Second World War and, in September 1939, led Army Group South into Poland.

In 1940, Rundstedt was quick to see the merits of the plan devised by Erich von Manstein to invade France. With his support, the Manstein Plan was eventually used as part of the Western Offensive . . . . Rundsteadt did not fully understand Blitzkrieg tactics and wanted a conventional assault on the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Adolf Hitler agreed and this decision stopped Guderian cutting off the escape of the British and French troops from Dunkirk.

Rundstedt was promoted to field marshal on July 19, 1940 and took part in the planning of Operation Sealion. When the invasion of Britain was called off Rundstedt took control of occupation forces and was given responsibility to develop the coastal defences in Holland, Belgium and France.

In June 1941, Rundstedt took part in Operation Barbarossa when as commander of Army Group South he led 52 infantry divisions and five panzer divisions into the Soviet Union. Unlike those forces led by General Wilhelm Leeb and General Fedor von Bock, Rundstedt made slow progress during the first few weeks of the campaign. In September 1941, Rundstedt took part in the capture of Kiev where 665,000 Russian prisoners were taken. After this he moved east to attack Kharkov and Rostov. Rundstedt strongly opposed continuing the advance into the Soviet Union during the winter. He advised Adolf Hitler to call a halt but his views were rejected.

At the beginning of November 1941, Rundstedt had a heart-attack. However, he refused to be hospilized and continued the advance and reached Rostov on 21st November, but a Red Army counter-attack forced the Germans back. Hitler was furious and blamed Rundstedt for the defeat. When Rundstedt demanded he should be allowed to withdraw, he was sacked and replaced by General Walther von Reichenau.

Adolf Hitler recalled Rundstedt to duty in March 1942 and was sent to France where he was given reponsibility of defending the Atlantic coast. Known as the Atlantic Wall, Rundstedt organized the building of permanent fortifications with huge naval guns along 1,700 miles of coastline.

After the Normandy landings, Rundstedt urged Hitler to negotiate a peace settlement with the Allies. Hitler responded by replacing Rundstedt with General Gunther von Kluge.

As a result of the July Plot, Rundstedt agreed to join Heinz Guderian and Wilhelm Keitel on the Army Court of Honour that expelled hundreds of officers suspected of being opposed to the policies of Adolf Hitler. This removed them from court martial jurisdiction and turned them over to Roland Freisler and his People's Court.

Rundstedt was captured by the U.S. 36th Infantry Division on May 1, 1945. While being interogated, he suffered another heart-attack. He was taken to Britain where he was held in captivity. During this period, he was interviewed by several military historians including Basil Liddell Hart and Brian Horrocks .

Gerd von Rundstedt was released in July 1948, and lived in Hanover until his death on February 24, 1953.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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