It (Almost) Happened Here
The Wehrmacht Campaign In Ireland, 1940-42
A sequel to It (Almost) Happened Here Part 1
By Chris Oakley
the end of the Battle of Dublin. In this instalment, we’ll look at the
British counterattack and the role served by the Thomas Jefferson Brigade in
that operation; we’ll also see how Eoin O’Duffy and his National Guard
cohorts enforced Dr. Franz Six’s rule inside the German occupation zone in
September 2nd-September 17th, 1940: Operation Ouster
"Enemy resistance in Dublin has come to an end…"1 Those words were music to Hitler’s ears; with Ireland’s ancient capital now firmly in German hands the de Valera government— which by an unfortunate quirk of fate had somehow managed to escape to the seaside town of Galway2 - would now surely have no choice but to accept the Reich’s sensible and highly generous cease-fire offer for ending the war in Ireland and the British, panicked at the realization their fight to drive the Wehrmacht out was hopelessly lost, would flee back to their own soil with their tails between their legs.
Only two things tempered the Führer’s joy at this triumphant moment. One of them was the sheer number of casualties his forces had sustained in the fight for Dublin—more than 60% of the Wehrmacht and SS troops committed to the assault on the Irish capital had been killed or wounded. The other was the Irish Air Corps’ unexpected recovery from what should have been a crippling blow in the first days of the invasion…
Back in London, Churchill and his advisors threw themselves into the task of preparing a counterattack against the Germans. Almost from the second that the first shots in the Battle of Dublin were fired, the prime minister’s decision not to mount a flank assault against the Wehrmacht has been sternly criticized; his defenders, however, argue that he couldn’t afford to commit his troops to such a plan until he knew for sure what the Wehrmacht’s next move would be. They also point out that at the time there was still a real(if somewhat diminished) threat of German landings along the coast of southern England, and in the short term at least meeting this threat had to take top priority.
In any case, popular sentiment within the Imperial General Staff in London (and among many of de Valera’s own military advisors for that matter) favored what American ambassador to Britain Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. would later term an "end run" offensive— i.e., an amphibious assault on Nazi positions at Dublin Harbor. But Royal Navy admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, then commander-in-chief of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, persuaded Chief of the Imperial Staff General Sir John Gill that a direct amphibious offensive would spell disaster for the Allied cause; Mountbatten and his chief ally in the Royal Army, 3rd Infantry Division commander General Bernard Law Montgomery, recommended that instead the Anglo-Irish forces should stage a series of indirect thrusts so as to keep the Germans guessing about where the actual main blow would fall.
On September 5th, Churchill approved the final draft of a plan for a six-pronged assault intended to liberate Dublin from Nazi occupation. Fittingly code-named Operation Ouster, it would involve more than 150,000 troops; the plan included provisions for amphibious assaults on Glenageary, Portmarnock, and Blackrock and overland thrusts on Ennis, Nenagh, and Drogheda.
While British ground forces geared up to begin Operation Ouster, the Royal Navy and the RAF were mounting their own counterattacks against the Nazis. The ferocity of the Battle of Dublin had put a massive strain on the German supply convoys between Ireland and occupied France, a strain that the Home Fleet was quick to take advantage of. Even as the final battle plans for Operation Ouster were being written up, British battleships, cruisers, frigates, corvettes, and destroyers had already started pouncing on nearly every Kriegsmarine supply boat that had the misfortune to stray into their sights; in one particularly effective such attack, RN destroyers ambushed a 25-ship German convoy off Kilmichael Point and not only sank all the surface vessels, but also managed to eliminate 60% of their U-boat escorts3.
Simultaneously, both the tactical and strategic arms of the RAF were doing everything in their power to make life miserable for the Nazi occupation forces in Ireland. By day, Bristol Blenheims and Fairey Battles staged quick, ferocious hit-and-run attacks on targets of opportunity; by night, Stirlings and Wellingtons relentlessly bombed military and command/control facilities throughout the German occupation zone as well as raiding the French ports from which the supply convoys made their daily runs. At all hours, the RAF Coastal Command waged a ruthless campaign against the Kriegsmarine’s U-boats4 while Spitfires and Hurricanes challenged the endless waves of Luftwaffe bombers sent by Goering to flatten those Irish cities still not under Nazi control.
But it wasn’t just the RAF the Germans had to contend with; Irish Air Corps fighter squadrons, using the Spitfire and the American-built P-40 Warhawk, were now earning a widespread and completely justified reputation as deadly opponents for the Luftwaffe. In fact, it is estimated by some experts that 1 out of every 7 kills made in the European air war between September 1940 and January 1941 were made by Irish Air Corps fighter pilots. Adolf Galland, commander of the Luftwaffe’s elite JG 26 squadron at the time Case Purple began, nicknamed the Irish flyers "Todesfeen" (the banshees)— and the moniker seemed particularly apt, for the orange, green, & white roundels on the wings of an IAC Spitfire or Warhawk were often the last thing a German pilot saw before his death...
On September 16th, just before midnight London time, Churchill phoned General Sir John Gill at CIGS headquarters and issued a succinct directive: "Begin Operation Ouster at five o’clock in the morning."
September 17th-Septmber 27th, 1940: Away All Boats
Of all the strategic decisions made by the German high command vis-à-vis the Irish campaign, few were more controversial than Admiral Erich Raeder’s decision to assign the Kriegsmarine’s E-boats to coastal defense while putting the U-boats on convoy escort duty; logically, one would have expected it to be the other away around. However, Raeder believed that when the day came for the Allies’ inevitable counteroffensive against the German forces in Ireland, the E-boats would be better equipped to repel any amphibious landing attempts the Anglo-Irish forces might make— they could operate in more shallow waters than the U-boats and were more manoeuvrable, he told Doenitz, thus giving them a tactical advantage against Allied naval power that would prove vital in the first few hours after the attack began.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the volunteer soldiers of the Thomas Jefferson Brigade had nearly completed their preparations for the coming showdown against the Nazis. While they wouldn’t be directly involved in Operation Ouster’s initial landings, they would play a considerable part in Allied combat operations once a foothold had been secured on Irish soil.
Raeder’s opportunity to test his theories regarding E-boats came at 5:00 AM London time on September 17th, when coastal sentries at Blackrock spotted a sizable flotilla of Allied vessels approaching from due east. Just ten minutes later a full battalion of Royal Marines hit the beaches, with more than 3500 Irish reserve troops directly behind them. The E-boats immediately swung into action, attacking the invasion convoy in hopes of stopping the assault before it could get started.
While this was going on, additional Royal Marine detachments were being put ashore at Glenageary and Portmarnock; acting on a pre-arranged signal from SOE5, local partisan units began attacking German outposts in these towns to give the Anglo-Irish forces a chance of establishing a suitable foothold.
By 5:30 AM Anglo-Irish infantry and armor units were moving on Drogheda and a Wehrmacht battalion commander in Ennis was frantically telephoning Rommel’s headquarters in Dublin that he was under attack by British artillery. There were even confirmed accounts of units of the Belgian army engaging the Wehrmacht at the village of Ballycommon.
At 5:45 Admiral Raeder got his first report on the E-boats’ attack against the Allied convoy at Blackrock. The news, alas, was not what Raeder had been hoping to hear: for every Allied vessel the E-boats had managed to sink, three of their own number were lost to Allied ground and air attacks. The news from Glenageary was better, with the kill ratio being 2-1 in favor of the E-boats.
The Portmarnock landings were, by far, the most successful ofthe opening phase of Operation Ouster. It had never occurred to anyone at OKW6 headquarters that the Allies might mount an assault on a golf course, so when the Anglo-Irish forces came ashore the local defenders were caught completely off-guard. By 7:02 AM, just over two hours after Ouster had begun, Portmarnock was in Allied hands.
Of all the self-styled little Caesars and would-be Führers who acted as puppet rulers for the Nazis in occupied Europe during the Second World War, few were more willing collaborators with the Reich than National Guard boss Eoin O’Duffy. From the moment Heinrich Himmler had first approached him to seek his aid in facilitating the Nazi occupation of Ireland, O’Duffy had done everything Berlin wanted and then some7; when Dr. Six established his occupation regime in Cork, one of his first official acts was to present O’Duffy with the Iron Cross.
Within the German occupation zone in Ireland, O’Duffy’s National Guard acted as an unofficial adjunct to the SS8, arresting anyone who didn’t kowtow to Dr. Six’s regime; outside of the zone, they supported Wehrmacht combat operations against the Allies. Either way, they were despised for their treason; de Valera so bitterly reviled the Blueshirts that shortly after the Wicklow massacre he issued a decree ordering that National Guard officers captured by the Irish regular army were to be shot on sight.
O’Duffy repaid the favor in kind by drafting an executive order (countersigned by Dr. Six) declaring all Irishmen who fought on the Allied side as "war criminals of the worst order" and thus to be hanged without exception or delay9.
Not even O’Duffy’s fellow Catholics were exempt from his iron-fisted tactics— in fact, he frequently reserved his harshest measures for Irish Catholics suspected of harboring sympathies for the Allied cause. In one particularly brutal instance, he personally carried out the hanging of six nuns from Killarney caught sheltering RAF pilots who’d been shot down over the Nazi occupation zone.
Physical torture was a favorite tactic of Blueshirt patrol squads in dealing with prisoners; so was rape10. In dealing with perceived enemies of the New Order, O’Duffy’s men proved they could equal or even surpass their SS counterparts in terms of cruelty. Even Himmler, a cold-blooded customer in his own right, was unnerved when he heard a Blueshirt colonel in Kilkenny boast that his men were directly responsible for at least half the sexual assaults which had taken place in that city since the Germans first came to Ireland.
At the Clonmel concentration camp, Blueshirt thugs played a major role in eliminating the camp’s Jewish inmates. There was at least one execution by firing squad every hour during the early months of the camp’s existence, and often as not Blueshirt men held the rifles; they also took part in many of the hangings at the camp. "They were animals." one survivor would recall half a century later.
At 8:00 AM the commander of the Belgian contingent of the Allied landing force for Operation Ouster reported to London that his troops had most of Ballycommon secured and were aggressively moving to eliminate remaining pockets of German resistance. In Nenagh, Irish partisans had already taken the town back from the Nazis and were holding it until they could be relieved by the regular Irish army.
These developments were welcome news to Churchill and de Valera, who needed all the good news they could get-- the drive on Ennis had stalled and the Germans were mounting all-out counterattacks against Allied positions at Blackrock and Glenageary. Even at Drogheda, where the Allies had won a fairly solid foothold, there was a danger that the Germans might yet make an attempt to regain lost ground.
Sure enough, in the early afternoon, German ground and air units backed by three National Guard battalions hit the Allied lines at Drogheda along their most vulnerable point. For five long hours, the staff at General Montgomery’s field headquarters in Dundalk sat on pins and needles as reports from the Allied lines told of a seesaw battle against the Nazi counteroffensive; likewise, the staff at Rommel’s headquarters in Dublin tensely awaited the final outcome of their comrades’ efforts to retake Drogheda from the Anglo-Irish forces.
At 6:43 London time that evening, General Montgomery received a brief dispatch from the commander of the British XXX Corps tank unit: "Enemy forces have commenced retiring southward… Drogheda firmly in our grasp." Letting out a gasp of obvious relief, he then telephoned Churchill to inform him that a definite foothold had been secured by the Allies on the Irish coast. The first day of Operation Ouster was coming to an end with the Allied landing force having achieved most of its major objectives.
On September 20th, two days after Operation Ouster began, a detachment of Royal Marines came ashore at the spot where Wicklow had once stood. Understandably enraged by what they’d heard about the Wicklow massacre, they gave the Germans no quarter, ripping into local Wehrmacht forces like a pack of wolves pouncing on a deer. Reports sent back to Rommel’s headquarters described the British marines as "madmen"; even Montgomery admitted to one of his aides that "they were overcome by a primal desire to avenge the murdered men and women of Wicklow".
The next day the Allies broke through the German defenses around Ennis, an accomplishment aided in no small part by the arrival of the Thomas Jefferson Brigade. The American volunteer force, sent to the battlefront from Galway by truck, cargo plane, rail, and even horse-drawn wagons, bought valuable time for Anglo-Irish regular troops by making hit-and-run assaults against Wehrmacht positions along Ennis’ western edge; that time allowed Allied forces to hammer their way in from the east and overwhelm the German garrisons. By dawn London time on September 23rd, Ennis was fully in Allied hands.
Further west, British troops finally managed to break out of the Glenageary beachhead on the morning of September 26th and split off into two groups; the first was charged with linking up with the Blackrock beachhead to open up a continuous front, while the second was ordered to advance down Sallynoggin Road and liberate Loughlinstown from the Germans.
At 10:23 AM on September 27th, a Waffen-SS advance patrol made contact with the British eight miles north of Loughlinstown; a firefight lasting seven hours ensued, during which time the Royal Marines contingent at the ruins of Wicklow began advancing up the Irish Sea coast towards the town of Greystones. At 5:30 that afternoon, they hit the Waffen-SS rear flank in full force. Though their attack was defeated, it helped the Allied offensive in one crucial aspect— it tied up manpower that might otherwise have been deployed to prevent the linkup of the Glenageary and Blackrock beachheads.
That linkup took place on September 28th just after 7:00 AM London time; once it had been achieved, Allied forces began pushing for Stillorgan Road, widely regarded by both Allied and German strategists as a vital strategic point in the struggle for Dublin.
When Heinrich Himmler first volunteered to recruit Eoin O’Duffy’s Blueshirts as allies in the German campaign for control of Ireland, he neglected to mention one small but interesting detail to Hitler: that he had, in fact, been secretly aiding the Irish fascist group since the mid-1930s. The SS commander-in-chief had quietly set up a special slush fund that enabled the National Guard to survive a political crisis in late 1934 that many thought might destroy them; even then Himmler understood they might one day prove a useful tool in undermining Britain.
Up until the invasion of Poland in 1939 Himmler had viewed the Blueshirts mainly as a propaganda weapon for spreading fascist ideals among the Irish people. Once the Second World War began, however, he saw that with the proper encouragement they could also make a highly effective insurgent army; he cajoled Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, director of Germany’s Abwehr counterintelligence service, into dispatching covert advisors to Ireland to assist the Blueshirts in learning to think and act as a fighting unit.
In November of 1939 the first Blueshirt cell staged a bombing of the London underground; that attack incited a whole series of assassinations, robberies, arson fires, and bomb attacks that made an already nervous Britain even more agitated. Churchill, then the 1st Lord of the Admiralty, knew these attacks were too well organized not to have involved some degree of outside aid to O’Duffy’s men, but the British secret service couldn’t find any proof that explicitly tied them to any of the Axis powers.
They did, however, come across a noticeable and quite disturbing link between the Blueshirts and Britain’s own British Union of Fascists movement. In late January of 1940, detectives from Scotland Yard raided a known BUF safe house in the Earl’s Court section of London and arrested six high-level party officials along with a suspected Blueshirt deputy; a search of the house yielded dozens of pages of correspondence between Eoin O’Duffy and BUF founder Oswald Mosley in which Mosley hinted that he might be interested in joining forces with the Irish fascist leader to overthrow the established governments in both London and Dublin in favor of an Anglo-Irish fascist union which would fight on Germany’s side in the coming war against Bolshevism.
While the seizure of those letters forced O’Duffy and his top associates into hiding, it was the BUF that would ultimately pay the price. Overnight, the full weight of the British police apparatus came down like a ton of bricks on Mosley and his supporters as mass roundups of known and suspected BUF members took place all over Britain. The lucky ones merely got lengthy prison terms; hundreds of their comrades, including Mosley and Mosley’s wife Diana, would be hanged for treason by the time Case Purple was started. By March 1st both houses of Parliament had unanimously approved a bill making it a crime punishable by death to belong to the BUF or any other fascist organization11.
At 2:33 PM London time on the afternoon of September 27th, the vanguard of the Allied forces from Blackrock and Glenageary finally reached Stillorgan Road. Opposing them were five German infantry brigades, three panzer brigades, and at least two full battalions of National Guard troops. This promised to be the bloodiest battle yet of what had already been one of the most grisly campaigns in European military history.
"They came at us like mad dogs.12" a German Feldwebel13 would recall nearly a quarter-century later. "No matter how many of them we killed, more always seemed to spring up to take their place." And indeed, both German and Allied historians alike agree that few battles in any theater during the Second World War were fought with more tenacity than the struggle for control of Stillorgan Road. The raging mélée on the ground was matched by an equally vicious confrontation in the air; dozens of RAF, Luftwaffe, and Irish Air Corps fighter planes tangled with each other over the course of that bloody afternoon, and a combined total of more than 200 low-level bombing missions were flown before the day was out.
The Battle of Stillorgan Road lasted until 9:48 PM that evening, when the battle-weary remnants of what had originally been a German force of over 53,00014 troops retreated to the campus of University College Dublin. When word of the retreat reached Rommel’s headquarters, he was understandably alarmed— the farther that Allied troops advanced through Dublin’s suburbs, the closer they got to being in position to make an attack on Dublin itself. And of course there were those partisan bands to worry about as well; the slightest hint of a serious Allied thrust on Dublin proper would trigger a surge of guerrilla activity that even the SS might not be able to deal with.
Anglo-Irish losses at Stillorgan Road stood at close to 25,000 dead and wounded, but nonetheless Allied morale was high when the battle was over. A foothold had been won for an all-out push to finally liberate Dublin from the Nazis, and around 10:00 PM London time word reached the surviving troops that the United States was, at long last, formally entering the war against the Third Reich.
And Then There Were Four: September 28th-October 2nd, 1940
Though President Roosevelt was loath to admit it even to himself, the Germans had done him a favor when they invaded Ireland. The Wehrmacht’s unprovoked assault on a neutral country— and one to which many Americans traced their ancestry to boot –removed the need for any further subterfuge on his part in aiding the Allied cause. By the time Operation Ouster began, the White House was openly supporting the Allies by just about every means short of direct intervention. Only stubborn (if dwindling) isolationist sentiment in some quarters stood in the way of an open American declaration of war against Germany.
That sentiment vanished once and for all late on the afternoon of September 27th, when the destroyer USS Reuben James came under attack by a U-boat while on a routine training exercise off the New England coast. Whether this attack came on Hitler’s orders or simply the captain’s personal whim, no one will ever know for certain; the U-boat was sunk with all hands shortly after the attack and all but a handful of the Kriegsmarine’s official records of the incident were lost in the final days before the Third Reich’s collapse. But one thing was clear beyond a doubt: the first torpedo to hit Reuben’s hull effectively killed any hopes Berlin might have had that America would stay out of the war. As NBC radio news commentator Lowell Thomas related the grim details of the incident to a shocked public, a flood of telegrams began to swamp the White House demanding that the Roosevelt Administration do something immediately to avenge the sailors lost in the U-boat raid. Montana senator Burton K. Wheeler, for years a firm isolationist, called Roosevelt at 5:15 PM and urged him to, according to Wheeler’s secretary, "get the Army Air Corps to bomb Berlin back to the Stone Age"15.
At 6:00 PM that evening, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress to seek a declaration of war against Nazi Germany. "Today, September 27th, 1940, is a day which will live in infamy." FDR said in clipped monotones that barely even hinted at the seething rage he felt over this latest signal of Hitler’s barbarism. "The unprovoked assault on the Reuben James makes it abundantly clear that we can no longer afford to stand on the sidelines while other nations risk their future— perhaps even their very existence— to ensure that freedom prevails in the current titanic struggle against Hitler’s tyranny."
By 7:45 PM, the Senate had voted unanimously to declare war on Germany; the House of Representatives approved the declaration by a vote of 434-1 less than forty minutes later16. At dawn on the morning of September 28th, an American naval task force put to sea from Norfolk, Virginia with orders to assist the British in clearing Ireland’s territorial waters of German warships. US Army chief of staff General George C. Marshall then sent a cable to the provisional US embassy in Galway requesting that they contact the commanders of the Thomas Jefferson Brigade as soon as possible to arrange a meeting with Army staff to arrange for the Brigade’s integration into the regular US armed forces.
By September 30th, just three days after Roosevelt’s declaration of war on the Reich, an American Expeditionary Force similar to the one which had been dispatched to France in 1917 during the First World War was establishing a field headquarters at Ennis. Commanding the 100,000-man contingent was Texas native and West Point class of 1915 graduate General Dwight D. Eisenhower; his second-in-command was a longtime friend, tank warfare specialist George S. Patton, a man as well-known for his short temper as for his abilities as a field commander.
On October 2nd, in the first major American naval operation of the Second World War, dive bombers and torpedo planes from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger avenged the Reuben James with a pre-dawn strike against German U-boat facilities at Rosslare Harbour. Coming in at treetop level to frustrate German radar, and backed up by a flight of land-based Irish Air Corps P-40s, the American carrier planes tore the German naval base part, sinking nine U-boats and eleven surface warships and knocking out more than 50% of Rosslare’s service facilities.
Japan, under considerable diplomatic pressure from Germany, would declare war on the United States within 48 hours. Hitler thought this might intimidate the Americans into backing down, but he was sadly mistaken on that score— unlike him, Roosevelt had no fears about waging a two-front war. Indeed, FDR’s entire defense policy was based on the notion that the United States should make every effort to achieve what in modern terms might be described as a "global force projection capability"17.
Give It ‘Em Back For Wicklow!: October 3rd-October 6th, 1940
The HMS Hood, one of the older vessels in the Home Fleet’s battleship division, was not in the best possible condition when she was deployed to attack Dublin Harbour on the afternoon of October 3rd. She’d been on almost constant duty since the Second World War began, and even the most untrained eye could see that she was on the verge of wearing out without proper repair work.
Nevertheless, she was one of the few Allied warships in position to provide cover fire for the Anglo-Irish ground forces as they began the latest phase of Operation Ouster: a two-pronged landing directly at the mouth of Dublin Harbour. Thus it was that she led a flotilla of 50-odd vessels towards Ireland’s ancient capital just after dawn. General Montgomery was naturally anxious to take advantage of the Allied victory at Swiftorgan Road, and so had insisted the harbor assault should commence 24 hours sooner than originally planned.
General Rommel, who’d been awake until 2:00 AM the night before trying to organize a counteroffensive against the Allied forces holding Stillorgan Road, was taking a short rest in his quarters when the Hood’s first shells hit German fortifications at the mouth of Dublin Harbour around 12:15 PM. Within minutes, every gun in the Allied flotilla was bombarding the German defenses—and the Germans fired back with a vengeance. Rommel personally took charge of Wehrmacht infantry and armored units in the area as they moved to suppress the Allied landings, and at first his leadership seemed to be tipping the scales in the Germans’ favor. Pinned down by murderous artillery fire and expert snipers, the Allied troops were stuck in their initial lodgement like a fly in amber.
Just when it seemed as if Rommel’s men would win the day, though, disaster struck in the form of a half-dozen Fairey Fulmars off the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. General Rommel and his second-in-command had the misfortune to be standing near an open window at Rommel’s headquarters when these planes swooped down for a bombing run as part of their air support mission on behalf of the Allied landing force; their run lasted just thirty seconds, but when it was over Rommel’s aide was dead and Rommel himself seriously hurt. As word spread of what had happened to the dashing general, anxiety began to creep into the minds of the Wehrmacht troops defending Dublin; to them, his unexpected forced departure from the battlefield to a German field hospital in Cork boded ill for their efforts to stop the Allied landings.
Their anxieties would prove to be well-founded; around 4:40 PM London time, Allied armor and infantry units at Stillorgan Road assaulted the German troop positions near University College. In a matter of seconds, Ireland’s largest university was caught in a crossfire of cannon and machine gun fire as Anglo-Irish forces tried to storm the campus and its German occupiers fought to keep them out. Irish partisans soon joined in the attack, and by 5:15 PM the beleaguered Wehrmacht troops found themselves pinned down near the campus’ Richview Library; the only thing that unnerved them more than the Allied gunfire were the partisans’ constant shouts of "Let’s give it ‘em back for Wicklow!"
At 5:27 the British attacked Greystones for the second time; this time, German forces had no choice to but fall back. By 5:30 Kilpedder East was liberated, and around 5:45 Allied forces had reached the outskirts of Kilmacanogue. Slowly but surely the countryside around Dublin was slipping from Hitler’s grasp, and the German garrison in Dublin itself was hanging on by a thread.
At 6:10 PM Allied forces renewed their push on Loughlinstown; the Germans, taxed to the limit by the relentless pressure they were under on other sectors of the Irish battlefront, could do little to resist that push. By 6:28 the last pocket of Wehrmacht resistance in that town had collapsed, and SS-Gruppenführer Steiner, by then acting C-in-C of all German occupation troops in Ireland, was becoming noticeably more agitated as reports kept coming in of Allied progress towards the heart of Dublin.
The next 12 hours would do nothing to improve the Gruppenführer’s jangled nerves. By 1:00 AM on October 4th, Clontarf Road and Tolka Quay Road were both in Allied hands and the advance guard of the Thomas Jefferson Brigade had reached the outskirts of Shannon; a few hours later Irish partisan units, aided by covert operations personnel from the U.S. Army, overwhelmed the Waffen-SS garrison at Limerick. By 6:30 AM, Kilmacanogue had fallen to the Allies and the besieged German troops at Richview Library were down to their last bullets.
By noon, Richview’s defenders, tired, hungry, and despairing of their ability to hold the venerable library, surrendered en masse to the British army— a fact that infuriated Steiner and Hitler beyond measure, since they had both expected these troops to keep fighting to the bitter end.
12 hours later Allied advance columns reached Clonliffe Road and were engaging a combined Blueshirt/Waffen-SS force near Fitzwilliam Square. The halls of Rotunda Hospital were filled to bursting point with injured German soldiers, sailors, and airmen— not to mention Blueshirt wounded –and down in Cork Dr. Six was secretly wondering how much longer his occupation regime could last. Eoin O’Duffy had become so paranoid about the thought of being captured by the Allies that he was now carrying a cyanide pill everywhere he went.
At 7:00 AM on the morning of October 6th, Irish regular troops and partisan units crossed the River Shannon to assault German defensive positions at the village of Pallaskenry…
Footnotes1 A reproduction of the communiqué can be seen in the Case Purple exhibit at the Irish National Wax Museum in Dublin.
2 For a look at how the war in Ireland might have played out had the Nazis succeeding in capturing de Valera and his cabinet, read Peter G. Tsouras’ excellent alternate history book The Galway Options: Alternate Decisions Of The German Campaign In Ireland During World War II. 3 In Allied histories, the engagement would thereafter be known as the Battle of Kilmichael Point; the Germans would refer to it as "the Kilmichael disaster". The Kriegsmarine captain who led the ill-fated convoy was stripped of his rank and court-martialled for incompetence in the line of duty; he spent the rest of the war as a lowly ensign at a recruitment station in Munich.
4 One Coastal Command mission saw actor Leslie Howard posthumously earn the Victoria Cross when, despite clearly fatal shrapnel wounds, he successfully led the crew of his Short Sunderland to a U-boat kill off Galway Bay and then assisted them in parachuting to safety before his plane crashed. Many of his Gone With The Wind co-stars made the trip across the Atlantic to attend his memorial service, and it’s believed that his example may have prompted Clark Gable to enlist in the Army Air Corps when the United States formally entered World War II.
5 Special Operations Executive, one of the precursors of the modern MI6 intelligence service.6 Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the Supreme Command of the German armed forces during World War II.
7 A persistent but never-confirmed rumor alleges that O’Duffy had a hand in the Wicklow massacre.
8 It was not entirely coincidental that the first Irish Waffen-SS division, upon its formation in the spring of 1941, was named in O’Duffy’s honor.
9 The so-called "Gallows Decree" of September 5th, 1940.
10 Many post-war dictators, unfortunately, endorsed the Blueshirts’ use of rape as a tool for breaking dissenters; in fact, during the 1980’s deposed former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein encouraged his secret police to study their tactics.
11 That law, nicknamed the Mosley Act, is still on the books today; three separate attempts (the last one in 1994) to get the law repealed or softened have been all been roundly defeated.
12 From an interview by author Cornelius Ryan with an ex-Wehrmacht infantryman for his book Blood of Eire, first published in 1966.
13 Equivalent to a sergeant in the US or British army.
14 The number of Wehrmacht and SS troops estimated by British intelligence to be garrisoning the Stillorgan Road area prior to the start of the battle.
15 Quoted from a 1973 interview filmed for the BBC documentary mini-series The World At War.
16 The sole representative to vote against the declaration, Jeanette Rankin of Wyoming, lost her seat in the 1942 U.S. Congressional elections.
17 I.e., the ability to fight on two or more battlefronts simultaneously.