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Old 04-21-2018, 12:40 PM   #5131
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April 21, 1961
Algiers Putsch

The majority of the French people had voted in favor of Algerian self-determination in the disputed referendum of January 8, 1961, in metropolitan France. The wording of the referendum was "Do you approve the Bill submitted to the French people by the President of the Republic concerning the self-determination of the Algerian population and the organization of the public power in Algeria prior to self-determination". French citizens living abroad or serving abroad in the military were allowed to vote, as were all adult Algerians, regardless of ancestry, in a single electoral college. Speaking for the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (the political arm of the FLN), Ferhat Abbas called for a boycott of the referendum, as did 16 retired French generals and factions among the pied noir (French settler) community opposed to independence. Self-determination was approved by 75% of voters overall and 69.5% in Algeria. The government reported voter turnout of 92.2%. Other sources claim that four out of ten entitled to vote abstained.

Following the outcome of the referendum, Michel Debré's government started secret negotiations with the nationalists. On January 25, Col. Antoine Argoud visited with Premier Debré and threatened him with a coup directed by a "colonels' junta"; the French Army was in no way disposed to let the French Algerian départements created in 1848 become independent.

On the night of April 21-22, 1961, retired generals Maurice Challe, André Zeller and Raoul Salan, helped by colonels Antoine Argoud, Jean Gardes and civilians Joseph Ortiz and Jean-Jacques Susini (who would form the OAS terrorist group), took control of Algiers. Gen. Challe criticized what he saw as the government's treason and lies toward French Algerian colonists and loyalist Muslims who trusted it, and stated that “the command reserves its right to extend its actions to Metropolitan France and to reconstitute a constitutional and republican order seriously compromised by a government whose illegality is blatant in the eyes of the nation.”

During the night the 1st Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment (1e REP), under Hélie de Saint Marc, took control of all of Algiers' strategic points in 3 hours. The units directly involved in the putsch were the 1st and 2nd REP, the 1st REC and the 14th and 18th Regiments of Chasseurs Parachutistes. Together they comprised the elite units of the airborne divisions of the French Army. Initially, there were pledges of support from other regiments (27th Dragoons, 94th Infantry, 7th Algerian Tirailleurs and several Marine units), but these seem to have reflected the views of senior officers only and there was no active participation.

The head of the Parisian police, Maurice Papon, and the director of the Sûreté nationale, formed a crisis cell in a room of the Comédie-Francaise, where Charles de Gaulle was attending a presentation of Racine's Britannicus. The president was informed during the entracte of the coup by Jacques Foccart, his general secretary of African and Malagasy Affairs and closest collaborator, in charge of covert operations.

Algiers' population was awakened on 7:00 on the 22nd to a message on the radio: "The army has seized control of Algeria and of the Sahara". The rebel generals had the government's general delegate, Jean Morin, arrested as well as the National Minister of Public Transport, Robert Buron, who was visiting, and several civil and military authorities. Several regiments put themselves under the command of the rebel generals. The following day, Gen. Salan arrived in Algeria from Spain and refused to arm civilian activists.

Gen. Jacques Faure, 6 other officers and several civilians were simultaneously arrested in Paris. De Gaulle proclaimed a state of emergency in Algeria, while left-wing parties, the communist trade union and the socialist Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League) called for demonstrations against the coup d'état. At 8:00 PM on the 23rd, de Gaulle appeared in his 1940s military uniform on television, calling on French military personnel and civilians, in metropolitan France or in Algeria, to oppose the putsch.

Due to the popularity of a recent invention, transistor radio, de Gaulle's call was heard by the conscript soldiers, who refused en masse to follow the professionals' call for insurgency and in some cases jailed their officers. The putsch met with widespread opposition, largely in the form of civil resistance, including a 1-hour general strike called by the trade unions the day after de Gaulle's broadcast. Within the army itself much depended on the position taken by individual senior officers. The 13th Light Division of Infantry, responsible for the strategic Zone Sud Oranais and including Foreign Legion units, followed the lead of its commander, Gen. Philippe Ginestet, in remaining loyal to the government in Paris. Ginestet was subsequently assassinated by the OAS in retaliation.

The few military units which had followed the generals progressively surrendered. Gen. Challe gave himself up to the authorities on April 26, and was immediately transferred to metropolitan France. The putsch had been successfully quashed, but Article 16 granting full and extraordinary powers to de Gaulle was maintained for 5 months. "The Battle of the Transistors"--as it was called by the press--was quickly and definitely won by de Gaulle. The only known fatality was Sgt. Pierre Brillant, who was killed by the putschists while defending the radio transmitter at Ouled Fayet, Algiers.

A military court condemned Challe and Zeller to 15 years in prison. However, they were granted an amnesty and had their military positions restored 5 years later. Raoul Salan and Jouhaud escaped. Salan was condemned in absentia to death (later commuted to life sentence), as was Jouhaud. Salan and others later founded the OAS, a terrorist paramilitary organization that attempted to stop the ongoing process of the April 1962 Independence Evian Agreements for the Algerian territories. A July 1968 act granted amnesty; a 1982 law reintegrated the surviving generals into the army. Salan, Jouhaud and 6 other generals benefited from this law.
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Old 04-21-2018, 12:41 PM   #5132
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805
Siege of Patras

The Byzantine Empire's military position in the Balkans collapsed in the early 7th century as a result of disastrous military ventures against the Persians and then the Arabs in the East, which forced the effective abandonment of the Danube limes and opened the way for large-scale penetration and settlement of the Balkan hinterland by various Slavic tribes. The Slavs raided as far as southern Greece and the coasts of Asia Minor. Most of the region's cities were sacked or abandoned and only a few, including Thessalonica, remained occupied and in imperial hands.

In Greece, the eastern coasts of the Peloponnese and Central Greece remained in Byzantine hands as the theme of Hellas, while in the interior, various Slavic groups established themselves. A large native Greek population probably also remained in the land, either mixed with the Slavs or in its own autonomous communities. As elsewhere, a mostly peaceful modus vivendi soon emerged between the Slavs and the remaining Byzantine strongholds, with the mainly agricultural Slavs trading with the Byzantine-held coastal towns. Further north, in the Greek mainland, by the turn of the 7th to 8th century smaller Slavic districts or sclaviniae emerged around the fringes of imperial territory, ruled by their own archons, who received Byzantine titles and recognized some form of imperial suzerainty. Imperial authority across Greece was greatly strengthened by the 783 campaign of the logothete Staurakios, who ventured from Constantinople overland to Thessalonica and from there south to the Peloponnese, subduing the Slavs of those regions.

In the reign of Emperor Nikephoros I (r. 802–811) the Slavs of the Peloponnese made war on the Greek population with the aid of "African Saracens", looted the countryside and laid siege to Patras, on the northwestern coast of the Peloponnese. The city held out for a while, but as food began growing short, the inhabitants gave thought to surrendering. First, however, they dispatched a rider to Corinth, the seat of the military governor (strategos), to find out whether or not he was coming to their aid. The envoy had been instructed on his return to give a signal through a flag he carried: if help was on its way, he was to dip the flag, otherwise to hold it erect. The rider found out that the strategos was not coming or was delayed, but on his return to the city, his horse slipped and both he and the flag fell down. The inhabitants of Patras interpreted this as a sign that aid was near, and sallied against the besieging Slavs. The Slavs panicked at the sudden assault and fled, abandoning the siege. As a punishment, that the Slavs were thereafter obligated to maintain at their own cost all officials or envoys passing through Patras, relieving the local see of this burden.

The failure of the Slavic attack on Patras consolidated the recently re-established Byzantine control over the Peloponnese, and Nikephoros I's policies led to the successful re-Hellenization of the peninsula. The defense of Patras also secured the Byzantine Empire's main maritime road of communication with Italy and the West, as it opened up the shorter route through the Corinthian Gulf, instead of the longer, more dangerous route around the Peloponnese that was exposed to Arab attacks.
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Old 04-22-2018, 01:01 PM   #5133
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April 22, 1809
Battle of Eckmühl

In the early morning of April 10, 1809, the War of the 4th Coalition opened as leading elements of the Austrian army, under Archduke Charles, crossed the Inn River and invaded Bavaria. Bad roads and freezing rain slowed the Austrian advance, but the outnumbered Bavarians gradually retreated. The Austrian attack occurred about a week before Napoleon anticipated, and in his absence Berthier's role became all the more critical. Berthier (whose fortè was staff work) proved to be an insufficient field commander, a characteristic made worse by the fact that several messages from Paris were being delayed and misinterpreted when they finally arrived. Napoleon had written that an Austrian attack before April 15 should be met by a general French concentration around Donauwörth and Augsburg, Berthier focused on a sentence that called for Davout to station his III Corps around Regensburg and ordered the Iron Marshal to move back to the city despite massive Austrian pressure.

The “Grand Army of Germany” was now in a perilous position of two wings separated by 75 miles, linked by a thin cordon of Bavarian troops. On the 16th, the Austrian advance guard had beaten back the Bavarians near Landshut and had secured a good crossing place over the Isar by evening. Napoleon finally arrived in Donauwörth on the 17th after a furious trip from Paris. Archduke Charles congratulated himself on a successful opening to the campaign and planned to destroy Davout's and Lefebvre's isolated corps in a double-pincer. When Napoleon realized that significant Austrian forces were already over the Isar and were marching towards the Danube, he insisted that the entire French army deploy behind the Ilm River within 48 hours, all in hopes of undoing Berthier's mistakes and achieving a successful concentration. However, he underestimated the number of Austrian troops heading for Davout; Napoleon believed Charles only had a single corps over the Isar, but in fact, the Austrians had five corps, a grand total of 80,000 men. Napoleon needed to do something quickly to save his left flank from collapsing.

Davout anticipated the problems and withdrew his corps from Regensburg, leaving a garrison of only 2000. The northbound Austrian columns in the Kelheim–Abbach zone ran into the French columns heading west towards Neustadt in the early hours of the 19th. The Austrian attacks were slow, uncoordinated, and easily repulsed. Napoleon knew there was fighting in Davout's sector and had already devised a new strategy: while the Austrians attacked to the north, Masséna's corps, later augmented by Oudinot's forces, would strike southeast towards Freising and Landshut in hopes of rolling up the entire Austrian line and relieving the pressure on Davout. Napoleon was reasonably confident that the joint corps of Davout and Lefebvre could pin the Austrians while his other forces swept the Austrian rear.

The attack on the 20th began well as the central Austrian V Corps guarding Abensberg gave way. However, Massena's advance towards Landshut required too much time, permitting Hiller to escape south over the Isar. The Danube bridge that provided easy access to Regensburg and the east bank had not been demolished, allowing the Austrians to transfer themselves across the river and rendering futile French hopes for the complete destruction of the enemy. The Austrians had lost 10,000 men and 30 guns, but were still a potent force. That evening, Napoleon realized that the day's fighting had only involved 2 Austrian corps. Charles still had a good chance of escaping east over Straubing if he wished.

Charles now moved to concentrate his remaining forces so as to envelop and destroy Davout's corps. Prince Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen's III Corps (15,700 men) and Prince Franz Seraph of Rosenberg-Orsini's IV Corps (21,400 men), were ordered to hold the Austrian left, pinning Davout's corps, while Johann Kollowrat's fresh II Corps (28,100 men) and the elite grenadiers and cuirassiers of Prince Johann of Liechtenstein's I Reserve Corps advanced south from Regensburg and deployed against Davout's exposed left flank. Inexplicably, no orders were issued to Count Heinrich von Bellegarde, so his powerful I Corps (27,600 men) remained on the north bank of the Danube and played no role in the subsequent fighting.

For his part, Napoleon was intent on enveloping and destroying the Austrian forces retiring southwest to Landshut. The II and IV Corps (57,000 men under the overall command of Marshal Masséna) were directed to cross the Isar upstream from Landshut and block the Austrians from crossing to the South Bank. Meanwhile, under the overall command of Marshal Lannes, Lannes' Provisional Corps, the VII (Württemberg) Corps, a division from VII Corps and two cuirassier divisions (51,000 men) were to closely pursue and destroy the defeated Austrians. The mop-up was left to Davout, even though more than half of the III Corps' original units had been detached to create Lannes' task force. Despite Davout's reports to the contrary, Napoleon ordered him to attack the Austrians on his front in the morning, with the proviso that Lefebvre's equally depleted corps would support him if he needed help (A total of approximately 36,000 men for both corps).

Leading elements of the Austrian attack ran into Montbrun's cavalry, who managed to reduce the impetus of the charge thanks to hilly and wooded terrain. Rosenberg displayed serious concern when he realized that Davout's troops were not moving to account for the ongoing battle, and rightly assumed that more French troops were on the way. These troops had, in fact, arrived and brushed aside Rosenberg's flank guard. Napoleon had set the French army into motion around 2 a.m. on the 22nd and had his men march 18 miles north in just a few short hours, meaning reinforcements for Davout would be arriving faster than promised.

The vanguard of the assault were the German troops under Gen. Vandamme, who stormed the bridge at Eckmühl and even captured the town's chateau after ferocious Austrian resistance. At this point, Davout launched his men against the Austrian center at the village of Unterlaichling and the woods to the north. The 10th Legere Regiment became involved in vicious fighting around the woods, but eventually was strengthened by Bavarians and managed to capture the positions. North of Unterlaichling, Davout's troops under Louis Friant and St. Hilaire steadily pushed back the defenders of Oberlaichling and the surrounding woods, overran a redoubt held by Hungarian grenadiers, and prompted Charles to order a general retreat.

The struggle now devolved into a series of major cavalry clashes as the Austrians attempted to extricate their army without losing too many prisoners. Perhaps the best cavalry in the Habsburg army, the Vincent Chevau-légers and the Stipsic Hussars, occupied the Bettelberg ridgeline between Eckmühl and the woods above Unterlaiching. These elite units demolished some German light cavalry before being stopped by Bavarian infantry. Napoleon was insistent on the immediate capture of this position and ordered forward two heavy cavalry divisions under St. Sulpice and Nansouty. These horsemen were pummeled by Austrian artillery but came on nonetheless and managed to saber the gunners after having seen off the enemy cavalry.

The first phase of the retreat ended, but it was not over yet. The Austrians had found a chokepoint in the road and were instructed to stem the French tide. Three French cuirassier divisions supported by additional German light cavalry attacked and a swirling melee developed. The Austrians fought heroically but were heavily outnumbered and had to retreat. During this part of the conflict, more French cavalry struck their flank and the remaining Austrian horse fled north to Ratisbon (Regensburg).

The French had won the battle, but it was not a decisive engagement. Napoleon had hoped that he would be able to catch the Austrian army between Davout and the Danube, but he didn't know that Ratisbon had fallen and thus gave the Austrians a means of escape over the river. Nevertheless, the French inflicted 12,000 casualties at the cost of just 6000, and Napoleon's speedy arrival witnessed an entire axial realignment of his army (from north-south to east-west) that permitted the defeat of the Austrians. Both sides prepared for the next day’s fighting.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:55 PM   #5134
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April 23, 1809
Battle of Ratisbon

On April 22, 1809, Marshal Davout, who had been left to deal with what Napoleon believed was the shattered remains of the Austrian right, ran into the Archduke Charles around Eckmühl. Napoleon was forced to turn north to deal with this new threat. The resulting battle was a French victory, but the bridge across the Danube at Regensburg (Ratisbon) had been taken by the Austrians late on April 20, and so Charles was able to escape north across the Danube, leaving a rearguard to defend the city.

That rearguard was commanded by Karl von Fölseis, normally the commander of a brigade in II Corps. He was given 5 battalions and a brigade artillery battery. A significant part of the Austrian army had crossed the river by the time the first French cavalry appeared (some time between 8 and 9 AM), but II Corps and large parts of the III and IV Corps were still on the southern bank. The result was a large cavalry battle outside the city. Napoleon had around 8000 cavalry at his disposal, the Austrians only 5000, but the Austrians managed to delay the French advance. The general trend of events also tended to push the French west, away from a crucial pontoon bridge just to the east of Regensburg. Eventually the pressure of numbers forced the Austrians to retreat back into Regensburg, and the last open gate was slammed shut before the French could get into the city.

This left Napoleon with a major problem. Regensburg was not strongly fortified by contemporary standards, but it was still a fairly strong position, and Napoleon couldn't afford to leave it in Austrian hands. He had a choice of two main strategies - either to cross the Danube and pursue the main Austrian army, or to advance east along the southern bank to threaten Vienna. If he chose the first option then the bridge at Regensburg was essential, if he chose the second then it could not be left in Austrian hands, as that would have left the French lines of communication open to attack.

The last gate into Regensburg was closed by noon, and by 1 PM the French had surrounded the city. Clearly a formal siege was out of the question, as it would have taken far too much time and given Charles time to rebuild his army. Instead Napoleon chose to launch a series of assaults. The first, using the first 3 infantry regiments to reach the area, was an attempt to catch the Austrians by surprise, and failed.

Napoleon's next move was to bring up some of his guns and began a bombardment of the southeast corner of the walls, close to Peter's Gate. During this bombardment the Emperor suffered a minor wound when a spent bullet hit his foot. Although the bullet failed to break his skin, news of the wound caused some nervousness across the army, forcing Napoleon to spend some time visiting his troops.

At about 3:00, part of a tower and the outer wall of a house finally collapsed, partially falling into the dry ditch outside the walls. The resulting breach was still far too small for a conventional assault, but Napoleon was unwilling to wait. A second assault was launched, with no more success than the first. A third attack also failed. By this time the supply of volunteers was running short. Marshal Lannes, who was in command of the attack, attempted to convince his men to make a fourth attack (third on the breach), but it took a dramatic gesture to achieve anything. Frustrated with the failure of his men to respond, Lannes picked up a ladder and prepared to lead the next attack himself. His staff officers attempted to talk him out of it, volunteering to lead the attack themselves. This public argument inspired (or shamed) his men. The next attack was led by Jean Baptiste Marbot and Charles François Huchet de la Bédoyère, two of Lannes' staff officers, and involved men from the 25th and 85th Ligne. Marbot would late claim to be the first officer to reach the top of the walls, followed by de la Bédoyère.

This attack finally managed to break through the breach. The French then reached a postern gate, which allowed them to let reinforcements into the city. These captured Peter's Gate from the inside, and by 4:00 Gudin's division was inside the walls. The fighting then developed into 2 separate battles. The French quickly reached the southern end of the stone bridge across the Danube, and for the next 5 hours were involved in a fight with the Austrian troops defending the fortified bridge, before eventually managing to gain a toehold on the north bank, capturing the suburb of Stadtamhof. The second part of the battle was a vicious street fight that lasted for about the same time, and mixed in with an outbreak of looting. The eventual Austrian casualties of around 8900 killed, wounded and missing included 3700 men from the garrison of Regensburg. The French lost almost 2000 men.

The fall of Regensburg ended the Bavarian phase of the war. In just under a week Napoleon had transformed the situation, turning a potential disaster into a stunning victory (if not quite as stunning as he would have hoped). The main Austrian army had been split in two, Archduke Charles had been thrown off the southern side of the Danube, and the road into Austria was now open.

Napoleon then turned his attention south towards Vienna, fighting a series of actions against Hiller's forces, most famously, at the Battle of Ebersberg on May 3. Ten days later, the Austrian capital fell for the second time in four years.
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Old 04-24-2018, 12:43 PM   #5135
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April 24, 1945
Battle of Halbe

On April 16, 1945, the Red Army started the Battle of Berlin with a 3 Front attack across the Oder-Neisse line. By April 21, they had broken through the German front line in 2 places and had started to surround Berlin. German 9th Army (Gen. Theodor Busse) covered the defenses of the Seelow Heights against Marshal Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front, but its position was unhinged by the successful attack of Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front (against Army Group Center) on the Neisse. By April 20, 9th Army retreated southeast of Berlin, opening the way for 1st Belorussian Front. Because of the speed of the advance of Konev's forces, 9th Army was now threatened with envelopment by the 2 Soviet pincers heading for Berlin from the south and east. The southern pincer consisted of 3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies which had penetrated the furthest and had already cut through the area behind 9th Army's front lines.

Hitler gave orders which showed that his grasp of military reality had gone. He ordered 9th Army to hold Cottbus and set up a front facing west, then attack into the Soviet columns advancing north. This would allow them to form the northern pincer which would meet with the 4th Panzer Army coming from the south and envelop the 1st Ukrainian Front before destroying it. They were to anticipate an attack south by 3rd Panzer Army and to be ready to be the southern arm of a pincer attack which would envelop the 1st Belorussian Front, which would then be destroyed by SS-general Felix Steiner's III SS Panzer Corps advancing from north of Berlin. Steiner made it plain that he did not have the strength for this effort. Gotthard Heinrici then explained to Hitler's staff that unless 9th Army retreated immediately, it would be trapped. He stressed it was already too late for the unit to move northwest to Berlin and would have to retreat west. Heinrici stated that if Hitler did not allow it to move west, he would ask to be relieved of his command.

At his afternoon situation conference on April 22, Hitler fell into a rage when he realized that his plans were not going to be implemented. He declared that the war was lost, blamed the generals and announced that he would stay in Berlin to the end. Chief of Staff of OKW, Gen. Alfred Jodl, speculated that 12th Army, which was facing the Americans, could move to Berlin because the Americans already on the Elbe were unlikely to move further east. Hitler seized on the idea and the army's commander, Gen. Walther Wenck, was ordered to disengage from the American and move 12th Army northeast to support Berlin. It was then realized that if 9th Army moved west, it could link up with 12th Army. In the evening, Heinrici was given permission to make the linkup. Hitler intended that the combined force would save Berlin, but the generals involved agreed that they would attack west so as to surrender to the Americans.

9th Army’s pocket was a region of lakes and forest in the Spree Forest south-east of Fürstenwalde. The Soviet forces, having surrounded Berlin, turned to mopping up these forces. On the afternoon of April 25, Soviet 3rd, 33rd and 69th Armies, as well as 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps, attacked the pocket from the northeast. Konev knew that to break out to the west, 9th Army would have to cross the Berlin–Dresden Autobahn south of a chain of lakes starting at Teupitz and running northeast. On the same day of his attack in the northeast, Zhukov sent 3rd Guards Army to support 28th Army, which was ready to close the likely breakout route over the Berlin–Dresden Autobahn.

The relief attempt by 12th Army began on April 24 with Gen. Wenck's XX Corps attacking east and north. Next day, the Scharnhorst Division caught 6th Guards Mechanized Corps' open flank, overrunning rear-area units. While the Ulrich von Hutten Division tried to reach Potsdam, with the Scharnhorst Division on its eastern flank, to open a corridor into Berlin, other elements of 12th Army pushed east to meet 9th Army.

The final army conference took place at 1500 on April 25. It found that the only possible breakout route had to lead through Halbe. This was not difficult for the Soviet commanders to deduce as well, while, on the other hand, Ninth Army had virtually no information about the Soviet force. From this conference onward, command and control within 9th Army collapsed. There was almost no contact between 9th Army HQ and Army Group Vistula, and little contact with formations under 9th Army command.

On the evening of April 25, Busse ordered the two battlegroups - KG von Luck (21st Panzer Division) and KG Pipkorn (35th SS and Police Grenadier Divisions) - to attempt a breakout in the direction of the road center of Baruth. Von Luck's orders were to open a corridor and keep it open for the sole use of 9th Army; no civilians were to be allowed to use it. He made good progress across the Berlin–Dresden Autobahn until he hit 50th Guards Rifle Division at Baruth, which had been reinforced by dug-in Stalin tanks. Pipkorn ran into the defenses of 329th Rifle Division early on, and the battlegroup was scattered. A pitched battle developed at Baruth. Busse ordered Luck to stay near Baruth, but discontinue the attack. However, Luck disobeyed the order and disbanded his battlegroup, allowing soldiers to try to attempt to breakout individually.

On the following day, the battle continued around Baruth, and tank-hunting teams blew up some of the dug-in Soviet tanks. Some supply canisters were delivered by air, but the strength of the battlegroup was insufficient to hold off a Soviet counterattack. Under heavy air attack, the forces of the 2 battlegroups were destroyed. These forces and weapons were severely missed during later breakout attempts. Pipkorn was killed and Luck taken prisoner. Few survivors of the battle reached the Elbe.

The next morning, the German vanguard found a weak point between 2 Soviet armies and many German troops were able to cross the Autobahn before Soviet forces plugged the gap. The Germans found that they could not use their armor as well as they had hoped, because it was vulnerable to destruction on the roads and could not get a good grip on the sandy soil of the pine forests in the region. The vanguard managed to reach and cross Reichsstrasse 96, between Zossen and Baruth. Hitler was furious when he realized that Busse was attempting to break out west and not to come to his aid in Berlin. His command sent several messages demanding that the army turn towards Berlin, but received no answer. During the night and the next day (April 27), the German forces renewed their attack along two axes south from the village of Halbe towards Baruth, and in the north from Teupitz. This attack failed to produce a mass breakout although, like the day before, some groups were able to slip through the Soviet lines.

The front lines were not continuous because the dense forest meant that visibility was limited, so there was danger of sudden assault for both sides. Smoke from forest shielded the Wehrmacht from aerial reconnaissance and attack. On the other hand, it hindered many groups because, without a compass and no sun, it was difficult to judge which direction to go. The sandy soil precluded the digging of foxholes and there was no time to construct anything more elaborate.

On the night of April 28, the Germans tried another mass breakout from around Halbe. They broke through 50th Guards Rifle Division and created a corridor from Halbe to the west, but paid a high price. On April 28-29, the Soviets reinforced the flanks and attacked from the south, pouring in fire. By this time, the Germans were spread out over a wide area. The rearguard was at Storkow and the vanguard had linked up with 12th Army at Beelitz. There were large groups around Halbe. The Soviet plan was to split the caterpillar into segments and then destroy each segment individually. The German battle plan was to continue moving west as fast as possible, keeping the corridor open.

The situation in Halbe was desperate. Formations were by now all mixed up. There was considerable tension between SS and Wehrmacht troops, with both accusing the other of helping their own while ignoring the plight of the other. In Halbe itself, some of the civilians took pity on very young soldiers ("Kindersoldaten") and allowed them to change out of their uniforms into civilian clothes. The fighting became more and more confused. If the Germans came into contact with Soviet forces and overran a Soviet position, the Soviets counterattacked not only with ground forces, but with artillery and aircraft. Losses on both sides were very high. By the time the fighting was over on May 1, about 25,000 German soldiers had escaped to join up with 12th Army.

Although this was the end of the Battle of Halbe, it was not the end of the breakout. Some 9th Army forces were again surrounded west of Luckenwalde by 4th Guards Tank Army. The combined 12th and 9th Army remnants retreated west towards the Elbe so as to surrender to the Americans, who had halted on the west bank. The bulk of the fleeing Germans, along with several thousand civilians, reached and crossed the Elbe using the partially destroyed bridge at Tangermünde between May 4 and 7, surrendering to elements of US 102nd Infantry Division, until Soviet forces reached the eastern bridgehead and halted further crossings.

The casualties on both sides were high. There are about 15,000 Germans buried in the cemetery at Halbe, making it the largest war cemetery in Germany from World War II. The Red army claimed to have killed 60,000 German soldiers and taken 120,000 as prisoners. The number of prisoners is confirmed by German official sources, while other sources consider it to be exaggerated. Almost 20,000 Red Army soldiers died trying to stop the breakout. . These are the known dead, but the remains of more who died in the battle are found every year, so the total will never be known. Nobody knows how many civilians died, but it could have been as high as 10,000.
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Old 04-25-2018, 12:29 PM   #5136
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April 25, 1982
Battle of South Georgia

On April 2-3, 1982, Argentine marines had seized South Georgia Island, installing a garrison of 55 men. Prompted by the British war cabinet, which needed a demonstration of political resolve, the recovery of South Georgia was ordered by Adm. John Fieldhouse and planned by staff at 3 Commando Brigade. Maj. Gen. Jeremy Moore of the Royal Marines was told to provide a Commando company group for a secret mission. Originally selecting 45 Commando who had recently completed jungle warfare training, the final selection was 42 Commando who had recently been on a winter deployment to Norway. The second-in-command of 42 Commando, Major Guy Sheridan, an experienced mountaineer, was selected to be Landing Force Commander. M Company of 42 Commando was augmented by specialists from the Reconnaissance Troop, the Support Company, signals and medics; a total of 132 men. Sheridan was also given 19 (Mountain) Troop from D Squadron Special Air Service (SAS) from Ascension Island. In the event, the whole of D Squadron comprising not only the Mountain Troop, but also 16 (Mobility) Troop, 18 (Air) Troop and 17 (Boat) Troop along with the Squadron HQ all joined the force at Ascension. Finally, 2 Troop, Special Boat Squadron (2 SBS) and 2 Naval Gunfire Forward Observation Parties (NGFOs) also joined the task group.

The already crowded accommodations in available ships became difficult with the inclusion of the additional troops. The task group sailed from Ascension on April 11, pausing to redistribute the SAS troops between ships on April 13. The final disposition was that M Company was on the tanker Tidespring, 2 SBS, and the Mountain and Boat Troops on the frigate HMS Plymouth, with the rest of D Squadron on the destroyer HMS Antrim. Finally, 6 SBS were embarked in the submarine HMS Conqueror. This group, known as CTG 317.9, was commanded by Captain Brian Young of Antrim. The task group met with the icebreaker HMS Endurance on the 14th and on the following day, received written orders (dropped by an RAF Nimrod aircraft) for the operation from Adm. Fieldhouse.

Conqueror was first on the scene and carried out a survey of key areas of the South Georgia coast. The operation was originally supposed to involve both SAS and SBS forces being infiltrated onto South Georgia by helicopters from Tidespring and Antrim, but the plan had to be changed when the 2 Wessex helicopters transporting the SAS troops from a location on the northeast coast crashed in bad weather on Fortuna Glacier; the troops and aircrew were rescued by Antrim's Wessex, the last remaining to the expedition.

The Argentine submarine forces consisted of 4 boats. Two were modern West German Type 209s and 2 were GUPPY conversions of American World War II submarines. One of the latter, ARA Santa Fe, was the only Argentine submarine to see combat during the conflict. Her sensors were unreliable, and the charge capacity of her aged batteries was much reduced from their original design. Santa Fe transported troops while under orders to remain undetected, not to attack any ships, and to break contact with any ship which might detect her. Santa Fe left port in Argentina on the 9th with 11 technicians to restore utility services on New Georgia and 9 marines with Bantam AT missiles to reinforce the original invading force armed only with rifles and machine-guns. Storm conditions prevented use of the snorkel, which placed unexpected demands on the batteries, and required remaining surfaced during part of the approach. The reinforcements were successfully landed at Grytviken under moonless cloud cover in the pre-dawn hours of April 25. Santa Fe was underway by 0500, but was discovered by Antrim's Wessex helicopter before she could submerge. The Wessex was joined by task force Wasp and Lynx helicopters, which fired at least six AS-12 missiles at the submarine. Santa Fe returned to Grytviken in sinking condition while her crew fired at the helicopters with rifles.

There followed a helicopter assault by an improvised group of Special Forces and Royal Marines, with Antrim and Plymouth conducting a bombardment demonstration on the low hills opposite Grytviken. The garrison at Grytviken and the crew of the disabled Santa Fe surrendered to M Company, 42 Commando, at 1715 GMT, although the garrison at Leith Harbor, under Lt. Cmdr. Alfredo Astiz, surrendered the following day. Sweden and France requested Astiz's extradition from the British authorities after learning about his capture, but his captors rejected the petition.

An Argentine prisoner of war, Petty Officer Felix Artuso, a crewman of Santa Fe, was mistakenly shot dead on April 26 after a British marine thought he was sabotaging the submarine. He is buried at Grytviken Cemetery, the only fatality of the battle.

A message that was widely publicized in Britain was made by the Task Group Commander, Captain Brian Young, after the surrender at Grytviken: “Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God save the Queen.”
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Old 04-25-2018, 12:30 PM   #5137
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1130
Siege of Bayonne

The Count of Toulouse, Alfonso Jordan, had done homage to Alfonso VII of León and Castile upon the count’s succession in 1126. In March that year, he had even taken the capital city of León from some rebels holding out in favor of an illegitimate half-brother of Alfonso VII, one of the sons of his mother, Queen Urraca, and her lover, Pedro Gonzalez de Lara. Urraca's second, childless marriage was to Alfonso I “the Battler”, King of Aragon and Navarre. For a period of over a decade the 2 had been engaged in a civil war for power in Castile and León. With the death of Urraca, Alfonso VII, her son by an earlier marriage, succeeded to her position as primary rival of Alfonso the Battler.

Alfonso VII concluded an alliance with Alfonso's eastern neighbor, Raymond Berengar III of Barcelona, by marrying his daughter, Berengaria, in 1127. This may have prompted Alfonso of Aragon to make an attack on Raymond's allies north of the Pyrenees in an effort to scuttle Raymond's political aspirations there. Alfonso the Battler was perhaps hoping to persuade the Count of Toulouse to switch allegiance to him.

The attacking army was probably already passing through the Pyrenees when, on September 4, 1130, Alfonso visited a chapel in Ardanés, a now depopulated village in the Valle de Hecho. The army probably crossed via the pass at Somport in order to enter Gascony through the allied territory of Béarn. Pedro Gonzalez de Lara was now an ally, hoping the strengthen Aragon against Alfonso VII. Other allies included Gaston IV of Béarn and Centule II of Bigorre.

In October, Alfonso besieged Bayonne. The city was then a part of Aquitaine, nominally a part of France, and under Duke William X. For several days Alfonso plundered the countryside around Bayonne before assaulting the city's walls with siege engines brought from Aragon. Alfonso also blockaded the city with ships on the river Adour.

At some point a relief army led by Alfonso Jordan, Count of Toulouse, arrived. Pedro, for reasons unknown, challenged him to a joust. The Spaniard was wounded and unhorsed, breaking an arm and died a few days later. The relief force strengthened the defense and prolonged the siege.

The siege dragged on, and during his year-long absence from Spain, Alfonso the Battler lost Castrojeriz and the other places he held in Castile west of the Sierra de la Demanda to Alfonso VII. The Aragonese king himself remained at the siege throughout the end of 1130. He continued to be "about Bayonne" from January to May 1131, as both royal and private documents say. The siege continued through the summer, but in July and August Alfonso was leading forces in a place called Rocha Tallata or Rocathalada, possibly modern Peyrehorade. While still besieging Bayonne, Alfonso drafted his will in October 1131: it contains the last datable reference to the siege. When the siege was lifted is not known, but most of November 1131 must have been spent returning to Aragon. In December the royal court was at Tiermas.
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Old 04-26-2018, 12:39 PM   #5138
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April 26, 1794
Battle of Mouscron

For the 1794 Flanders Campaign, the French deployed 160,000 troops in the Army of the North and 35,000 in the Army of the Ardennes. Against them the Coalition had 150,000 soldiers from Austria, the Dutch Republic and various German and French émigré contingents paid for by Great Britain. Coalition strategy called for their armies to exert pressure on the north and northeastern frontiers of France in order to open a path to Paris. Jean-Charles Pichegru had control over the 2 French armies whose lines stretched from Dunkirk west through Lille, Douai and Cambrai to Maubeuge. The Army of the Ardennes was posted on the right wing and the newest recruits were used to man the fortresses. The French enjoyed numerical superiority but the Coalition fielded better troops. According to the plan drawn up by Minister of War Lazare Carnot, the French were to turn both Coalition flanks. The Coalition army was headed by Austrian Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld who was supported by British Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Both armies operated on the cordon system which required troops to guard the entire frontier.

With 85,000 troops, Coburg opened the campaign with a siege of Landrecies. Pichegru made 2 relief attempts but both were repulsed. On April 26, one of the columns was crushed at the Battle of Beaumont by the Duke of York (see posting). In this fiasco, the French suffered losses of 7000 killed, wounded and missing, plus 40 guns and a copy of Pichegru's plan of campaign. These Republican French failures led to the surrender of Landrecies on April 30.

On April 13, Pichegru was at Lille to organize his attack. His army consisted of divisions led by Pierre Michaud at Dunkirk (14,000 men), Jean Victor Moreau at Cassel (16,000), Joseph Souham at Lille (31,800) and Pierre-Jacques Osten at Pont-à-Marcq (7800). Austrian General François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt with 28,000 troops was responsible for covering the Coalition right wing. On April 23 a French force advanced from Cambrai toward Denain, menacing Coalition troops led by Hessian Gen. Ludwig von Wurmb. In response, Clerfayt was directed to move south from his base at Tournai toward Denain. Aware of the danger to Menin, Clerfayt was irritated by these orders.

On April 25, Pichegru started to advance on Menin and Courtrai. Michaud spread out between Veurne (Furnes) and Roesbrugge but his role was small in this offensive. Moreau moved down the north bank of the Lys and began firing on Menin on the 28th. Souham advanced on the south bank of the Lys. Spearheaded by Jacques MacDonald with 15,000 troops, Souham's division seized Courtrai on the 26th. In this skirmish, the French forced 1500 Hanoverian and émigré troops under Hanoverian General Georg Wilhelm von dem Bussche to abandon the city.

Also on the 26th, elements of Souham's division bumped into a force under Hanoverian General George von Oeynhausen at Mouscron. This Hanoverian force consisted 10,000 and 5 heavy guns. Oeynhausen moved east to Dottignies where his troops were able to hold their ground. Moreau and 14,000 troops invested Menin. The 2400-man Coalition garrison (Hanoverian-Hessian-Émigré) was commanded by Hanoverian Gen. Rudolf von Hammerstein, and had 28 guns.

Once the Coalition came into possession of Pichegru's plans, Clerfayt was ordered to march his troops to the west. Clerfayt attacked Mouscron on April 28 and drubbed Nicolas Bertin's brigade, the French retreating southwest to Tourcoing. Henri Antoine Jardon's brigade withdrew north to Aalbeke. That evening, Oeynhausen was reinforced. Also that evening, Clerfayt arrived with an Austrian force of 10,000 troops.

On the 29th Pichegru was unavailable. In the event, Souham acted with initiative, ordering Jacques MacDonald to march his brigade to Aalbeke and take command of Jardon's and Bertin's brigades, a total of 16,000 troops. When the brigade of Herman Willem Daendels arrived on the scene the total force numbered 24,000 men. As many as 28,000 French troops were engaged in battle on April 29. Meanwhile, Clerfayt planned to relieve Menin on April 30.

While Souham's main force attacked frontally, Bertin's brigade turned Clerfayt's left. The Austrian general believed the battle was over and was taken by surprise. Even so, the Coalition troops defeated Bertin again and twice repulsed the attacks of Daendels and MacDonald. At 2:00 PM Souham demanded another effort as he and MacDonald personally led the assault. French artillery superiority was decisive, despite a brief panic among the raw French troops. The badly outnumbered Austro-Hanoverians were eventually routed. They were saved from further losses when 5 battalions of reinforcements met their retreating columns at Dottignies. The corps continued its withdrawal to Espierres on the Scheldt.

The French Royalists in Menin were aware that they would be executed if captured. Therefore, on the night of April 30, the garrison broke out. Led by the Loyal Emigrant Battalion, Hammerstein's men cut their way out to the north. The garrison got away with most of their own artillery. The Hanoverians lost 38 killed, 123 wounded and 387 captured while the Royalists lost 92 killed and 87 wounded. Hessian and Austrian losses were not reported. The total loss was therefore 727 casualties and 10 artillery pieces. French losses were 500 men and 2 guns.

One source stated that the Austrians lost 3000 prisoners, 33 guns and 4 colors in the Battle of Mouscron. Another authority gave Coalition losses as 1760 men and 24 guns. The French suffered about 1500 casualties and lost 6 guns.
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Old 04-27-2018, 12:48 PM   #5139
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April 27, 1522
Battle of Bicocca

With the renewal of the Italian Wars in 1521, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Pope Leo X moved jointly against the Duchy of Milan, the principal French possession in Lombardy. A large Papal force under Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, together with Spanish troops from Naples and some smaller Italian contingents, concentrated near Mantua. The German forces which Charles sent south to aid this venture passed through Venetian territory near Vallegio unmolested; the combined Papal, Spanish, and Imperial army then proceeded into French territory under the command of Prospero Colonna. For the next several months, Colonna fought an evasive war of maneuver against Odet of Foix, Viscount of Lautrec, the French commander, besieging cities but refusing to give battle.

By autumn, Lautrec, who was holding a line along the Adda River, began to suffer massive losses from desertion, particularly among his Swiss mercenaries. Colonna took the opportunity this offered and, advancing close to the Alps, crossed the Adda at Vaprio; Lautrec, lacking infantry and assuming the year's campaign to be over, withdrew to Milan. But Colonna had no intention of halting. On the night of November 23, he launched a surprise attack on the city, overwhelming the Venetian troops defending one of the walls. Following some street-fighting, Lautrec withdrew to Cremona with about 12,000 men.

By January 1522, the French had lost Alessandria, Pavia, and Como; and Francesco II Sforza, bringing further German reinforcements, had slipped past a Venetian force at Bergamo to join Colonna in Milan. Lautrec had meanwhile been reinforced by the arrival of 16,000 fresh Swiss pikemen and some further Venetians, as well as additional companies of French troops under the command of Thomas de Foix-Lescun and Pedro Navarro; he had also secured the services of the condottiere Giovanni de' Medici, who brought his Black Bands into the French service. The French proceeded to attack Novara and Pavia, hoping to draw Colonna into a decisive battle. Colonna, leaving Milan, fortified himself in the monastery of Certosa south of the city. Considering this position to be too strong to be easily assaulted, Lautrec attempted instead to threaten Colonna's lines of communication by sweeping around Milan to Monza, cutting the roads from the city into the Alps.

Lautrec was suddenly confronted, however, with the intransigence of the Swiss, who formed the largest contingent of the French army. They complained that they had not received any of the pay promised them since their arrival in Lombardy. The Swiss captains, led by Albert von Stein, demanded that Lautrec attack the Imperial army immediately - else the mercenaries would return home. Lautrec reluctantly acquiesced and marched south towards Milan.

Colonna had relocated to a formidable new position: the manor park of Bicocca, about 4 miles north of Milan. The park was situated between a large expanse of marshy ground to the west and the main road into Milan to the east; along this road ran a deep wet ditch, which was crossed by a narrow stone bridge some distance south of the park. The north side of the park was bordered by a sunken road; Colonna deepened this and constructed an earthen rampart on the southern bank. The Imperial artillery, placed on several platforms jutting forward from the earthworks, was able to sweep the fields north of the park as well as parts of the sunken road itself. The entire length of the north side of the park was less than 600 yards, which permitted Colonna to place his troops quite densely. Immediately behind the rampart were four ranks of Spanish arquebusiers, commanded by Fernando d'Avalos, Marquess of Pescara; they were backed by Spanish pikemen and German landsknechts under Georg Frundsberg. Most of the Imperial cavalry was placed at the south end of the park, far behind the infantry; a separate force of cavalry was positioned to the south, guarding the bridge.

On the evening of April 26, Lautrec sent a force of about 400 cavalry under the Sieur de Pontdormy to reconnoiter the position. The patrol reported that the ground was ill-suited for maneuvering, but this failed to dissuade the Swiss. Colonna sent messengers to Milan to request reinforcements; Francesco Sforza arrived the next morning with 6400 additional troops, joining the cavalry near the bridge to the south of Colonna's camp. The Imperial army now numbered about 18,000 men to face 25-30,000 French and Swiss.

At dawn on the 27th, Lautrec began his attack. The Black Bands brushed aside the Spanish pickets, clearing the ground before the Imperial positions. The French advance was headed by 2 columns of Swiss, each comprising 4-7000 men, accompanied by some artillery; these were to assault the entrenched front of the Imperial camp directly. Lescun, meanwhile, led a body of cavalry south along the Milan road, intending to flank the camp and strike at the bridge to the rear. The remainder of the French army, including the French infantry, the bulk of the heavy cavalry, and the remnants of the Swiss, formed up in a broad line some distance behind the 2 columns; behind this was a third line, composed of the Venetian forces under Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino.

Command of the Swiss assault was given to Anne de Montmorency. As the Swiss columns advanced towards the park, he ordered them to pause and wait for the artillery to bombard the defenses, but the Swiss refused. Historian Charles Oman suggested that they were "inspired by blind pugnacity and self-confidence". In any case, the Swiss moved rapidly towards Colonna's position, leaving the artillery behind. There was apparently some rivalry between the two columns, as one, commanded by Arnold Winkelried of Unterwalden, was composed of men from the rural cantons, while the other, under Albert von Stein, consisted of the contingents from Bern and the urban cantons. The advancing Swiss quickly came into range of the Imperial artillery. Unable to take cover on the level fields, they began to take substantial casualties; as many as 1000 may have been killed by the time the columns reached the Imperial lines.

The Swiss came to a sudden halt as they reached the sunken road; the depth of the road and the height of the rampart effectively blocked their advance. Moving down into the road, the Swiss suffered massive casualties from the fire of d'Avalos' arquebusiers. Nevertheless, the Swiss made a series of desperate charges. Some parties managed to reach the top of the rampart, only to be met by the landsknechts, who had come up from behind the arquebusiers. After attacking for about half an hour, the Swiss remnants retreated back towards the main French line, leaving more than 3000 dead, including both Winkelried and von Stein. Of the French nobles who had accompanied the assault, only Montmorency survived.

Lescun, with 400 heavy cavalry, had meanwhile reached the bridge south of the park and fought his way across it and into the Imperial camp. Colonna responded by detaching some cavalry under Antonio de Leyva, while Francesco Sforza came up the road towards the bridge, aiming to surround Lescun. Pontdormy held off the Milanese, allowing Lescun to extricate himself; the French cavalry then retraced its path and rejoined the main body.

Despite the urging of several Imperial commanders, Colonna refused to order a general attack, pointing out that much of Lautrec's army - including the bulk of his cavalry - was still intact. Colonna suggested that the French were already beaten, and would soon withdraw; this assessment was shared by Frundsberg. Nevertheless, some small groups of Spanish arquebusiers and light cavalry attempted to pursue the withdrawing Swiss, only to be beaten back by the Black Bands, who were covering the removal of the French artillery.

Colonna's judgement proved accurate. The Swiss were unwilling to make another assault, and marched for home on April 30. Lautrec, believing that his resulting weakness in infantry made a further campaign impossible, retreated to the east, crossing the Adda into Venetian territory. Having reached Cremona, he left Lescun in command of the remnants of the French army and rode unescorted to Lyon, to make his report to King Francis I.

While Swiss mercenaries would continue to take part in the Italian Wars, they no longer possessed the willingness to make headlong attacks that they had at Novara in 1513 or Marignano in 1515 (see postings); their performance at the Battle of Pavia (see posting) in 1525 would surprise observers by its lack of initiative.

Lautrec's departure heralded a complete collapse of the French position in northern Italy. No longer menaced by the French army, Colonna and d'Avalos marched on Genoa, capturing it after a brief siege. Lescun, learning of the loss of Genoa, reached an agreement with Sforza by which the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, which still remained in French hands, surrendered, and the remainder of the French forces withdrew over the Alps. The Venetians, under the newly elected Doge Andrea Gritti, were no longer interested in continuing the war; in July 1523, Gritti concluded the Treaty of Worms with Charles V, removing the Republic from the war. The French would make 2 further attempts to regain Lombardy before the end of the war in 1526, but neither would be successful; the terms of the Treaty of Madrid, which Francis was forced to sign after his defeat at the Battle of Pavia, would leave Italy in Imperial hands.
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Old 04-27-2018, 06:21 PM   #5140
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A phrase said by Nikita Khrushchev that remains current is the possibility of mutual destruction of the USA and Russia (in the case USSR at the time) if these countries were to face completely

He said that if these two warlike superpowers were to fight each other's ashes would be indistinguishable
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