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Bougainville Campaign

Bougainville is the largest of the Solomon Islands and is located near the northern end of the Solomons chain in the southwestern Pacific. With the island of Buka and the Kilinailau, Tauu, Nukumanu, Nuguria, and Nissan Island groups, Bougainville is now a province of Papua New Guinea. The island is 75 miles long and varies in width from 40 to 60 miles. Its topography is...

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Bofors gun

The Bofors gun was a generic name for any 75- mm lightweight, highly transportable howitzer that resembled the Bofors 75-mm Model 1934 weapon manufactured by AB Bofors, a Swedish arms maker. Indeed, many nations purchased the original Bofors weapon prior to and during World War II. (Sweden, a neutral in the war, was free to deal with all belligerents.) The original Bofors was a beautifully crafted,...

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Blackout

To a degree unprecedented in history, combat in World War II was directed against civilian populations, and this was especially the case with air raids, such as the Blitz. Advances in avionics (aircraft instrumentation), radar, and radio-guided direction finding made nighttime air raids not only feasible but common. Brightly lit cities made excellent targets. Even in rural areas, lights were readily spotted from the air. To...

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Bismarck Sea, Battle of the

Thanks to U.S. Navy Ultra decrypts, Allied forces learned well in advance of the movement on February 28, 1943, of 7,000 Japanese reinforcements to Lae and Salmaua on New Guinea's northeastern coast. Fully alerted, the Americans moved large numbers of aircraft into forward positions, and, on March 2, fighters and bombers of the Fifth U.S. Air Force attacked the Japanese troop convoy. One Japanese transport was...

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Bidault, Georges

Bidault, Georges (1899–1983) French resistance leader With Jean Moulin, Georges Bidault was the central leader of the French resistance and underground movements following the fall of France. In postwar France, he served two terms as prime minister and three as minister of foreign affairs. Born in Moulins, Bidault received his early formal education at an Italian Jesuit school. He served in the French Army just after World...

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Biak Island, Battle of

During the New Guinea Campaign, elements of the 41st U.S. Division under Maj. Gen. Horace Fuller landed on Biak (an island off the northern coast of Dutch New Guinea) on May 27, 1944. Their objective was to take this important Japanese air base and seize it for basing U.S. aircraft to support the campaign to retake the Philippines. The Japanese garrison of 11,400 made a...

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Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Officially, the Germans listed this facility, near Hanover, as a Krankenlager, a sick camp or medical camp. It was, in fact, created as an internment camp in April 1943, but by July was a fully developed concentration camp. It differed from other such camps, however, in that it was divided into two sections. One was used for the incarceration of political prisoners and Jews of...

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Berchtesgaden

Berchtesgaden is a town in southern Bavaria on the border with Austria. Although Berchtesgaden itself is nestled in a deep valley, it lent its name to Adolf Hitler's retreat, officially known as the Berghof, on the Obersalzberg, 1,640 feet above the town. Also perched on the Obersalzberg were chalets occupied by Hermann Göring and Martin Bormann, among other top-ranking Nazis. To all appearances a large holiday...

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Bataan, Death March

After the Fall of Bataan during the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, approximately 2,000 defenders of Bataan managed to withdraw to Corregidor; the rest, about 78,000 U.S. Army and Filipino troops, were left behind and became prisoners of the Japanese. The Japanese code of military conduct, founded on ancient warrior (Bushido) traditions, regarded surrender as dishonorable and therefore sanctioned, even encouraged, the abuse of prisoners in...

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Barbie, Klaus

Barbie, Klaus (1913–1991) Gestapo chief in Lyon, France Dubbed the "Butcher of Lyon" because of his role in the deportation and execution of French Jews, resistance partisans, and others while he was chief of the Gestapo in Lyon from 1942 to 1944, Barbie proved highly adept at escaping postwar prosecution for his crimes and, with such figures as Adolf Eichmann, became a symbol for the pursuit...

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Banzai charge

Banzai is a Japanese word derived from the traditional battle cry of the Japanese warrior, "Tenno heika banzai," "Long Live the Emperor!" In World War II, banzai or a banzai charge was the term applied to an all-out infantry attack Japanese soldiers employed, en masse, against opponents, regardless of disparity in numbers. Typically, the banzai charge did not come at the beginning of an attack but...

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Baltic Sea, action on the

The Baltic Sea is an arm of the North Atlantic, which reaches from the latitude of southern Denmark nearly to the Arctic Circle and separates the Scandinavian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe. Historically—as it was during World War II—the Baltic has been a strategic waterway, interconnecting many northern European nations. On September 1, 1939, during the invasion of Poland, the Baltic became one of...

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Balloon bombs

Balloon bombs were something of a curiosity in World War II. As early as 1939, the British attempted to float balloons equipped with incendiary bombs over the German Black Forest. The idea was to start massive forest fires, which would deplete Germany's precious supply of timber. The balloons, however, did not even leave English air space, and when the wind suddenly changed direction, one of...

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Baldwin, Stanley

Baldwin, Stanley (1867–1947) prime minister who presided over British disarmament between the wars A Conservative, Baldwin served three terms as prime minister between 1923 and 1937 and was important in the years preceding World War II as a leading opponent of Winston Churchill (at the time, a member of Parliament) on the subject of British rearmament and war preparation. The son of industrialist and railway baron Alfred...

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Balck, Hermann

Balck, Hermann (1893–1982) prominent German field commander According to some of his contemporaries, Hermann Balck was the most skilled, even the greatest, of Germany's field commanders in World War II. He was born in Danzig-Langfuhr, Germany, the son of a general, and entered Hanover Military College in February 1914. During World War I, he served with the 10th (Hanoverian) Jäger Regiment on the western front and remained...

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Balbo, Italo

Balbo, Italo (1896–1940) Italian Fascist and air marshal Balbo, one of the pioneers of Italian aviation, became a leading Fascist early in the movement, and went on to become Benito Mussolini's air marshal, the architect of the Italian air force. Born near Ferrara, he was educated at the University of Florence and at the Institute of Social Science, Rome. During World War I, Balbo was commissioned as...

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Badoglio, Pietro

Badoglio, Pietro (1871–1956) Italy's head of state after the removal of Mussolini After the downfall of Benito Mussolini as dictator of fascist Italy in 1943, the government devolved upon Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who concluded an armistice with the Allies in September 1943, even as his country continued to be occupied by the Germans, Italy's erstwhile ally. Badoglio was commissioned an artillery officer in the Italian Army...

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Bader, Douglas

Bader, Douglas (1910–1982) British aviator hero For Britons, standing alone against Germany during after the Battle of France and during the Battle of Britain, Douglas Bader was one of the great heroic figures of the war and the embodiment of resistance against all odds. Born in London, the son of a soldier killed in World War I, Bader studied at Oxford and at the Royal Air...

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Axmann, Artur

Axmann, Artur (1913–1996) founder of the Hitler Youth movement Born on February 18, 1913, in Hagen, Germany, Axmann studied law, became an early member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), and, in 1928, established the first Hitler Youth group, in Westphalia. In 1932, the party summoned him to reorganize all Nazi youth cells throughout the country. The following year he was named chief of the Social Office...

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Nausicaa

Greek Daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaecians. It was she who discovered Odysseus when he was shipwrecked on the island of Scheria on his way back to Ithaca after the Trojan War. She took him as a guest to her father's court, a place of peace and luxury. The location of Scheria and the Phaecian kingdom is unknown....

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Narcissus

Greek The son of the river god Cephissus and Liriope. He was a beautiful man. When he rejected the love of Echo, a Nymph, Nemesis, the goddess of vegeance, condemned Narcissus to reject all love except that of his own image reflected in a pool. Narcissus pined away and changed into a beautiful flower that bears his name. The story of Echo and Narcissus is...

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Myrtilus

Greek Son of the god Hermes and a mortal woman. He was the charioteer of King Oenomaus of Pisa in Elis, in northeast Peloponnesus. When Pelops came to compete in a chariot race with Oenomaus for the hand of the king's daughter Hippodameia, Pelops persuaded Myrtilus to fix Oenomaus's chariot so that it would overturn. Myrtilus did as Pelops asked; Pelops won the race and the...

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Myrmidons

Greek Warlike people of ancient Thessaly, in the eastern part of the Greek mainland, who accompanied the hero Achilles into battle in the Trojan War. According to some legends, the Myrmidons were ants turned into people by Zeus to increase the population of Thessaly after a plague sent by his wife, Hera, had killed thousands....

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Mycenae

Greek An ancient city of Greece situated in Argos, in the northern Peloponnesus. It was the center of the important Mycenaean civilization, which was roughly contemporary with that of the Minoan civilization of Crete. In mythology, Mycenae was the royal city of Agamemnon....

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Muses

Greek Originally deities of springs, later designated as goddesses of various human inspirations. In later mythologies, the Muses were the daughters of the god Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). The Muses sang and danced, led by the god Apollo, at celebrations given by the gods and heroes. They were the personifications of the highest aspirations and intellectual minds and represented a remarkable and attractive conception in Greek...

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