World War II

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Rations and OPA

War Ration Books, issued by the OPA, were based on family size with color-coded stamps used for currency: red stamps for meats, eggs, and cheese; blue for canned, bottled items, and frozen foods; and, numbered stamps for gasoline. Other rationed items included sugar, shoes, appliances, and coffee. Added to the post-war stress was inflation brought on by supply and demand. Rent hikes were up by 50% and vets, especially those without good-paying jobs, could no longer afford to keep their families housed in dwellings they had occupied for over 20 years. The government established the OPA (Office of Price Control Administration) to prevent unlawful evictions and combat landlords taking advantage of the housing shortage. Ironically, the shortage resulted from building supplies redistributed to support the war effort—a short-sighted endeavor lacking procedures to allocate provisions and housing for soldiers returning home.

Sugar ration books for each family member via the Office of Price Administration issued 4/29/47

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D-Day

Operation Overlord (dubbed Day-Day) began on June 5, 1944 and William O'Malley was on the USS Indianapolis bound for Normandy, France. During the next 24 hours, he was part of the massive armada consisting of 5,000 ships spanning miles of water and bearing over 150,000 troops toward their destiny on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy, France. The skies were filled with airplanes and gliders for a combined Allied offensive. The 156,155 troops comprised of American, British, and Canadian troops bound for one of five beachheads—Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, and Juno. As part of the Third US Army Corps, William was assigned to Omaha Beach which, unfortunately, carried the highest casualty rate.  Ninety percent of the first wave was decimated by underground mines, railroad ties crisscrossed on the beach, and a heavily fortified German bunker high on the hill. After an exhaustive battle, Omaha was in Allied hands by 3:00 p.m.

 

Citation: www.eucom.mil 

Battle of the Bulge

On December 16, 1944 the unthinkable happened. Front-page stories back home reported news of Allied advances as a pictorial view of European towns, many names previously unknown to Americans, shaded as an inward bulge to resemble the forward movement of the Allies' progress of liberating conquered areas from France toward Germany. But Hitler's advance into the heavily dense Ardennes Forest (bordering eastern Belgium, Luxembourg, and northeast France) revealed an astonishing new picture—the bulge on the map had reversed outward indicating the Nazis were on the offensive and taking back lands previously occupied by Allied forces. Just when everyone thought the war was over, a wave of dread traversed allied nations. By December 19, 1944, after fighting for three grueling days, the clouds opened up and aerial support bombed the German forces without mercy. Supply planes followed shortly after with food and ammunition to the Americans who, despite being out-numbered four to one and freezing (supply planes initially couldn't deliver much-needed winter clothes--refer to Getty image below), bravely fought advancing Germans comprised of soldiers and Hitler Youth–including young boys and girls conscripted in a last desperate attempt to win the war. Hitler's grand scheme to win the war, secretly believed by his top Generals as pure insanity, was three-pronged: (1) withdrawing his best Generals and 250,000 troops from Russia where oppressive casualties left behind a bereft army; (2) attacking an unsuspecting army in the dead of winter with no air support and limited supplies in an area compromised by the difficult terrain of the Ardennes forest; and, (3) the success of the assault based on a weather forecast indicating inclement weather for ten days. By January 25, 1945, Allied troops were victorious in what would later be considered the deadliest battle during the war. They marched further into Bastogne in Belgium with the goal of reaching a major port in Antwerp. Facing many delays along the way—house-to-house fighting, rebuilding major bridges, and reconstructing railways destroyed by Nazi troops—they persevered until they reached Germany where they encountered the atrocities at Ohrdruf and Buchenwald Concentration Camps. On May 7, 1945 Germany surrendered unconditionally. Post-war, William earned 3 Bronze Stars. View the slide show below to see images of these crucial moments.

WWII Surrender Mtg
WWII Surrender Mtg

3rd May 1945: Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery gives his terms of surrender to the defeated German delegation.

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Signing WWII Surrender
Signing WWII Surrender

May 7, 1945 photo: Gen. Alfred Jodl, center, signs the unconditional surrender of all armed German forces imposed by the Allied Powers, at Supreme Commander Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims, France.

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Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge

Infantry men shooting during The Battle of the Bulge

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WWII Surrender Mtg
WWII Surrender Mtg

3rd May 1945: Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery gives his terms of surrender to the defeated German delegation.

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Ohrdruf Concentration Camp

Ohrdruf Concentration Camp was created in November 1944 hear Gotha, Germany. Camp prisoners provided free labor for railway construction. In March, 1945 the camp population was 11,700. On April 4, 1945 William O'Malley of the Third US Army (under General Patton's command), were miles outside the Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald in Germany, when an unbelievable stench greeted them. With terror at what they might find, many would wretch and scream as they encountered the insanity and cruelty of Nazi camps, unaware the extent of the Holocaust awaiting the victors. When William approached one of the corpses, careful to cover his face with a handkerchief to stave off the stench, he recoiled to discover the body was still warm. One week later, General Eisenhower demanded pictures be taken for posterity and proof of man's inhumanity toward his fellow man. William's face covering remained as he quietly assisted the roundup of deceased skeletal remains for burial. The few surviving prisoners were shaking with gratitude as their severely emaciated bodies attempted to walk toward their liberators.

The exterior and guard tower of Ohrdruf

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US soldiers view the bodies of prisoners found in the newly liberated

Ohrdruf concentration camp

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Buchenwald Concentration Camp

A week later o nApril 11, 1945, William O'Malley witnessed another sight of morally offensive and obscene crimes when his company liberated Buchenwald located near Weimar, Germany. This camp was second only to Auschwitz's inhumane violence toward prisoners. Since Buchenwald was the first Nazi concentration camp constructed in 1937, it did not employ gas chambers, although thousands died monthly from beatings, executions, and fatal experimental surgeries. Those enslaved were forced to work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, for local munitions factories. The acts of inhumanity graduated to the use of human skin in lampshades and gloves.

The front gates of Buchenwald at liberation

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Survivors of Buchenwald outside of the camp

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