Resistance. Fear in the Night

(A limited study of WW2 resistance).

In World War Two European Resistance attributed to the final victory. It meant military intelligence before during and after D.DAY was relayed to the Allies. Sabotage, escape routes and Political organisation plans were part of the agenda.

The plans of the Atlantic Wall accompanied by German defence and battle orders were given in detail to the British and Americans. The disposition, strength and armament of the enemy included. The Royal Navy received information when the Bismarck set sail helping them to track the battleship. Resistant fighters working with the S.O.E. directed to the destruction of 1,000 tons of Heavy Water in Norway impairing the German Atomic programme. Many allied  pilots, prisoners of war and Jewish families were in debt to the brave underground workers. Tens of thousands were assisted across borders, mountains and seas to safety. The organisations also helped return their countries to normal political stability after the war. The French and Italian Resistance made comprehensive plans to oust the Communists in advance of liberation.

The Maquis in FranceMembers of the Maquis in France (right)

Perhaps the most important sabotage events were the preparations before D. Day. Rail road lines, highways were attacked to weaken the German fighting ability and resolve. To the German soldier on the ground it meant  fear in the night, not knowing if or when an attack would happen. Sabotage was less costly in men and materials than aerial bombing and proved to be more certain in results.

 Over a 100 acts of sabotage were performed each month during 1942 which increased to 600 by the winter of 1943. In 1944 the underground destroyed more than three times as many locomotives than Allied bombing attacks. The resistance fighters were prepared in advance when new of the D. Day landings came and were ready to destroy under ground cables and electric installations a vital to supply the enemy. The resistance attack on the 11 Panzer Division may have prevented the Germans from destroying the American beach-heads in the first few days of Normandy. Approximately twelve divisions were held back by Air Raids and massive resistance acts. Had there been no resistance then it is possible the Americans would have been forced to withdraw. The British and the Canadians would have been in serious trouble and likely would have had to consider alternative plans.

 Winston Churchill was Prime Minster when Britain and her Colonies stood alone he knew we had Air Power and an effective Navy, but lacked the man power. The occupied countries could supply the man power and may even liberate themselves. This would have been very difficult indeed as Britain could not supply them with training and arms to fulfil the venture. The answer lay in the hands of the resistance fighter to work towards whole sale sabotage in their own time. The Marquis began fierce attacks as it grew in strength, forcing the Germans to move divisions and corps with planes and artillery to counter them. It caused insurmountable strain on the enemy manpower. In France it was necessary to consign 160,000 troops to support the Police and in Norway 400,000.

From cities and villages men and women rose to torment the invader ands save important lines of communication for the allies. It is estimated in the South West of France more than 100,000 prisoners were taken. Some may have been preparing to be consigned to the Russian front and had second thoughts. The Marquis were quick to attack the rearguard of the Germans to assist the advancing French and American columns in Southern France even fighting along side French units.

Hitler before his invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941 ordered his troops to destroy the countries military stance and state. The victory was swift and all that remained was to divide the country up, a country that was now without status. Deportation was ordered, mass murder and forced removal. Teachers, Priests and likely intellectuals were to be deported to his camps. Quisling Ustase quickly began murdering tens of thousands of Serbs. In Croatia quisling Ante Pavelic copied his slaughter style. The Hitler game was to play one against the other so the country would remain inert and slave. 

 The Partisans in Yugoslavia managed to overcome the religious and cultural differences under the banner of “Brotherhood and Unity” . Tito their leader had such a forceful personality they were soon united in their fateful task. Tito was sometimes called the man who did not exist and described by Scot Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean as the man who stood head and shoulders above the rest. From total defeat and desertion of its Royalist Government rose the Peoples Liberation Army. This was a vital mixture of frontal and guerrilla warfare allowing the Partisan groups to use their own resourcefulness. To begin with the partisans had to arm themselves by taking German arms.

The underlying force was for freedom from all. Yugoslavian people has suffered long and hard under Ottoman, Venetian and Habsburg tyranny. Now the Germans found themselves in a soup made of deep restless constant resistance. At the beginning the Communists lead the way in leadership promising swift industrial development after the conflict. By the end of the war only 3,000 communist party members out of 12,000 survived. The remaining Partisans built up a final force of around 500,000 mostly of peasant extraction.

When the war ended most of that number resettled in the rich north lands and industrial sections. 50,000 formed the backbone of their town administrations ensuring a rapid transformation from peasantry to industry.

Tito and resistance fightersTito said of the Partisans

When soldiers grown men, go to war, this is their duty towards their country. But when, without conscription, without mobilisation, children of 12, 15, and 17 go to battle- knowing they will die, this is something more than duty. It is superhuman sacrifice.”

Poland on the other hand had the largest and most complicated resistance force of the war. It was also the most united and mainly supported the exiled government in London. Naturally there were some disagreements between the right and left factions. While Poland was still under the thumb of the Germans and Soviets resistance was still very basic and not very successful. But what was apparent was how swiftly resistance began as the Polish Army went underground with their weapons. An excellent method was buying arms and munitions from the Germans by intriguing methods, in addition to assistance from the British.

The ZWZ, the Union for Armed Struggle was probably the most important group founded on Army principles along with others such as the AK the Armia Krajowa. Diversionary commands attacked railways and carried out assassinations while the forces were being built up. Constant underground warfare eventually paid off as in one district the Germans ceased to deport more of the Polish people. In 1942 the four major resistance players coordinated their activities by forming a Political Committee. Eventually the Home Army contained most of the groups with some exceptions like the NZS- National Armed Forces. There was also the Jewish Fighting Organisation which was destroyed in the Warsaw Ghetto Rising in 1943.

 General Count Komorowski gave the order for the uprising in August 1st 1944 to recapture Warsaw and assist the Russian advance. The German garrison was initially weak was soon reinforced and able to gradually over come the resistance. British and American military assistance was never on the cards and so surrender or escape to the country was inevitable.

After liberation the pro Western Resistance members were rounded up by the pro Russians.


 When Lieutenant General Wainright in May 1942 signed the surrender in the Philippines Japanese resistance in the aftermath seemed over.

While waiting for the return of General Douglas McArthur resistance began in earnest by harrying the Japanese and cutting supply lines. Supply depots were destroyed by hit and run tactics. The complete dominance of the country by the invader became near impossible.

Resistance had began before the surrender with small American led units in Luzon that had been bypassed by the fast moving Japanese. The HUKS were a peoples guerrilla army, primarily communist, while other groups were formed where the enemy was thin on the ground. Two important factors emerged, the Japanese could not supply enough men to cover all the islands and the guerrillas had fertile lands to feed them amongst a anti-Japanese environment.

It is estimated around a hundred different organisation came into existence giving a maximum involvement of 100,000. Due to the geography of the Philippines most of the groups remained independent of each other. The solvent that prevented then falling out with each other was a hatred of the invaders. There was no Tito or determined leader. Russell Volckmann and Donald Blackburn American Officers and Philippinoes Marcio Peralta, Ruperto Kangleon were among the many leaders.

 Early in 1942 they began attacks on isolated depots and supply lines and avoided frontal battles. Any collaborators were dispersed with quickly cutting off intelligence to the Japanese. Who responded by forming anti-Guerrilla groups. McArthur warned them of the possibility of retaliation and set out the principles of gathering intelligence and preparing to fight along side American forces. Some leaders ignored this warning as the soft touch may reduce the hate for the enemy and effect the support to the Guerrillas. The Japanese tried to court the Philippine people by promising independence and set up a puppet government. But in the background the murder, rape and torture that took place counteracted their efforts. In all persuasion and reinforcements came far too late. As the American invasion neared the Japanese began to operate less against the resistance concentrating on the cities and ports. The guerrillas fought along side the Americans and individually depending on their size. Inevitably the resistance fighters began to looked towards liberation.    

 In the closing days of the war the Lucy spy ring in Switzerland operated by Rudolf Roessler a German refugee provided frequent accurate and timely information.

New formed resistance groups in Munich along with American soldiers attempted to size the city. SS troops put an end to this exploit. Tyrolean freedom fighters seized Innsbruck before the Americans arrived.

Small acts of sabotage ranging from an old lady tripping up soldiers to massive disruption were part of this kind of warfare. It should not be forgotten that each country fought its own war of resistance.

  Was it worth it, we may ask now? We cannot deny some of the communists became our enemies in the effort to liberate their countries or follow the road to communism. In most countries the price was high and attracted comment.

But, during a total war we could not afford to ignore the wide resistance in occupied countries. Resistance often began at once and before the Allies took the upper hand. They shortened the war and saved many lives by undermining the enemies moral. That is good enough for us who are free.

From the writings of:- Charles B. MacDonald, Dr Vladimir Dedijer, Stanley L. Falk and Fitzroy Maclean.

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