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Old 06 Sep 08, 10:33
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Battle Of Vienna 1683 - 325 anniversary of saving Europe from Ottoman invaders

These days we have 325 anniversary of the battle of Vienna 1683, when Europe was saved from Ottoman invaders.

Commemoration of this battle will take place 12-14 September in Krakow (Poland), former capital of Poland, which contributed mostly to that victory by sending 30 000 soldiers (including couple thousands of Polish hussars) and commanding the coalition forces (Polish king Jan III Sobieski was the commander of coalition forces).

Little more about the battle, taken from www.wien-vienna.com websites:

Battle of Vienna 1683

The Battle of Vienna (German: Schlacht am Kahlenberg, Polish: Bitwa pod Wiedniem or Odsiecz Wiedeńska, Turkish: İkinci Viyana Kuşatması), Ukrainian: Віденська відсіч (Viděns'ka Vidsič) took place on September 12, 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. The battle broke the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, and marked the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty in central Europe.

The large-scale battle was won by Polish-Austrian-German forces led by King of Poland John III Sobieski against the Ottoman Empire army commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha.


Polish hussar

The siege itself began on 14 July 1683, by the Ottoman Empire army of approximately 138,000 men (although a large number of these played no part in the battle, as only 50,000 were experienced soldiers (Turks), and the rest less-motivated supporting troops. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of 70,000 men had arrived, pitted against the Ottoman army.

King John III Sobieski of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been made Commander in Chief of:

- his own 30,000-man Polish forces (Lithuanians did not take part in the battle),
- 18,500 Austrian troops led by Charles V, Duke of Lorraine,
- 19,000 Franconian, Swabian and Bavarian troops led by Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck,
- 9,000 Saxon troops led by John George III, Elector of Saxony.

The battle marked the turning point in the 300-year struggle between the forces of the Central European kingdoms and the Ottoman Empire. Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Habsburgs of Austria gradually occupied and dominated southern Hungary and Transylvania, which had been largely cleared of the Turkish forces.

Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683 (Painting: F. Greffels)

Prelude

The capture of the city of Vienna had long been a strategic aspiration of the Ottoman Empire, due to its inter-locking control over Danubean (Black Sea-to-Western Europe) southern Europe, and the overland (Eastern Mediterranean-to-Germany) trade routes. During the years preceding the second siege (the first one was in 1529), under the auspices of grand viziers from the influential Köprülü family, the Ottoman Empire undertook extensive logistical preparations this time, including the repair and establishment of roads and bridges leading into Austria and logistical centers, as well as the forwarding of ammunition, cannon and other resources from all over the Empire to these logistical centers and into the Balkans.

On the political front, the Ottoman Empire had been providing military assistance to the Hungarians and to non-Catholic minorities in Habsburg-occupied portions of Hungary. There, in the years preceding the siege, widespread unrest had become open rebellion upon Leopold I's pursuit of Counter-Reformation principles and his desire to crush Protestantism. In 1681, Protestants and other anti-Habsburg forces, led by Imre Thököly, were reinforced with a significant force from the Ottomans, who recognized Imre as King of "Upper Hungary" (eastern Slovakia and parts of northeastern present-day Hungary, which he had earlier taken by force of arms from the Habsburgs). This support went so far as explicitly promising the "Kingdom of Vienna" to the Hungarians if it fell into Ottoman hands.

Yet, before the siege, a state of peace had existed for twenty years between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire, as a result of the Peace of Vasvár.

In 1681 and 1682, clashes between the forces of Imre Thököly and the Habsburgs' military frontier (which was then northern Hungary) forces intensified, and the incursions of Habsburg forces into Central Hungary provided the crucial argument of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha in convincing the Sultan, Mehmet IV and his Divan, to allow the movement of the Ottoman Army. Mehmet IV authorized Kara Mustafa Pasha to operate as far as Győr (Turkish: Yanıkkale, German: Raab) and Komarom (Turkish: Komaron, German: Komorn) castles, both in northwestern Hungary, and to besiege them. The Ottoman Army was mobilized on January 21, 1682, and war was declared on August 6, 1682.

The wording of this declaration left no room for doubt what would await in case of Turkish success. Mehmed IV. wrote to Leopold I verbatim, "Primarily we order You to await Us in Your residence city of Vienna so that We can decapitate You... (...) We will exterminate You and all Your followers... (...) Children and grown-ups will be exposed to the most atrocious tortures before put to an end in the most ignominious way imaginable..."

The forward march of Ottoman Army elements did not begin until April 1, 1683 from Edirne in Thracia. The logistics of the time meant that it would have been risky or impossible to launch an invasion in August or September 1682 (a three month campaign would have got the Turks to Vienna just as winter set in). However this 15 month gap between mobilisation and the launch of a full-scale invasion allowed ample time for the Habsburg forces to prepare their defense and set up alliances with other Central European rulers, and undoubtedly contributed to the failure of the campaign.

During the winter, the Habsburgs and Poland concluded a treaty in which Leopold would support Sobieski if the Turks attacked Kraków; in return, the Polish Army would come to the relief of Vienna, if attacked.

In the spring, the Ottoman army reached Belgrade by early May, then moved toward the city of Vienna. About 40,000 Tatar Forces arrived 40km east of Vienna on 7 July, twice as many as the Austrian forces in that area. After initial fights, Leopold retreated to Linz with 80,000 inhabitants of Vienna.

The King of Poland prepared a relief expedition to Vienna during the summer of 1683, honoring his obligations to the treaty. He went so far as to leave his own nation virtually undefended when departing from Kraków on 15 August. Sobieski covered this with a stern warning to Imre Thököly, the leader of Hungary, whom he threatened with destruction if he tried to take advantage of the situation — which Thököly did.


Kara Mustafa Pasha, Painting 1696


Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, Painting 1683

Events during the siege

The main Turkish army finally invested Vienna on July 14. Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, leader of the remaining 11,000 troops and 5,000 citizens and volunteers, refused to capitulate.

The Viennese had demolished many of the houses around the city walls and cleared the debris, leaving an empty plain that would expose the Turks to defensive fire if they tried to rush the city. Kara Mustafa Pasha solved that problem by ordering his forces to dig long lines of trenches directly toward the city, to help protect them from the defenders as they advanced steadily toward the city.

As their 300 cannon were outdated and the fortifications of Vienna were up to date, the Turks had a more effective use for their gunpowder: undermining. Tunnels were dug under the massive city walls to blow them up with explosives, using sapping mines.

The Ottomans had essentially two options to take the city: the first, an all-out assault, was virtually guaranteed success since they outnumbered the defenders almost 20-1. The second was to lay siege to the city, and this was the option they chose.

This seems against military logic, but assaulting properly defended fortifications has always resulted in very heavy casualties for the attackers. A siege was a reasonable course of action to minimise casualties and capture the city intact, and in fact it nearly succeeded. What the Ottomans did not take into account however was that time was not on their side. Their lack of urgency at this point, combined with the delay in advancing their army after declaring war, eventually allowed a relief force to arrive. Historians have speculated that Kara Mustafa wanted to take the city intact for its riches, and declined an all-out attack in order to prevent the right of plunder which would accompany such an assault.

The Ottoman siege cut virtually every means of food supply into Vienna,[3] and the garrison and civilian volunteers suffered extreme casualties. Fatigue became such a problem that Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg ordered any soldier found asleep on watch to be shot. Increasingly desperate, the forces holding Vienna were on their last legs when in August, Imperial forces under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine beat Imre Thököly of Hungary at Bisamberg, 5km northeast of Vienna.

On 6 September, the Poles crossed the Danube 30km north west of Vienna at Tulln, to unite with the Imperial forces and additional troops from Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia who had answered the call for a Holy League that was supported by Pope Innocent XI. Only Louis XIV of France, Habsburg's rival, not only declined to help, but used the opportunity to attack cities in Alsace and other parts of southern Germany, as in the Thirty Years' War decades earlier.

During early September, the experienced 5000 Turkish sappers repeatedly blew up large portions of the walls, the Burg bastion, the Löbel bastion and the Burg ravelin in between, creating gaps of about 12m in width. The Austrians tried to counter by digging their own tunnels, to intercept the depositing of large amounts of gunpowder in subterranean caverns. The Turks finally managed to occupy the Burg ravelin and the Nieder wall in that area on 8 September. Anticipating a breach in the city walls, the remaining Austrians prepared to fight in Vienna itself.

Staging the battle

The relief army had to act quickly to save the city from the Turks and to prevent another long siege in case they would take it. Despite the international composition and the short time of only six days, an effective leadership structure was established, indisputedly centered on the King of Poland and his heavy cavalry. The motivation was high, as this war was not as usual for the interests of kings, but for Christian faith. And, unlike the crusades, the battleground was in the heart of Europe.

Kara Mustafa Pasha, on the other hand, was less effective, despite having months of time to organize his forces, ensure their motivation and loyalty, and prepare for the expected relief army attack. He had entrusted defence of the rear to the Khan of Crimea and his cavalry force, which numbered about 30,000.

There are serious questions as to how much the Tatar forces participated in the final battle at Vienna. Their Khan felt humiliated by repeated snubs by Kara Mustafa and reportedly refused to make a strike against the Polish relief force as it crossed the mountains, where the heavy cavalry would have been vulnerable to such an assault from the lighthorse Tatars. Nor were they the only component of the Ottoman army to openly defy Mustafa and to refuse assignments.

This left vital bridges undefended and allowed passage of the combined Habsburg-Polish army, which arrived to relieve the siege. Critics of this account say that it was Kara Mustafa Pasha, and not the Crimean Khan, who was held responsible for the failure of the siege. Also, the Ottomans could not rely on their wallachian and moldavian allies. These peoples had a significant hatred of the ottomans who were bleeding their countries dry of all their resources. In the years prior to the siege, the turks intervened many times to change the princes in these countries, so as to keep a tight grip on them. Knowing of the turkish plans, the princes of Moldavia and Wallachia try to warn the Habsburgs. Initially they tried to stand up to the ottomans and not join the campaign, but they were pressed-ganged into the joint strike force. There are a great deal of popular legends about the involvement and comittement of these principalities in the siege. Almost invariably, these legends describe the wallachian and moldavian forces loading their cannons with straw balls,so as to make no impact upon the walls of the besieged city.

The Holy League forces arrived on the "Kahlen Berg" (bare hill) above Vienna, signaling their arrival with bonfires. In the early morning hours of 12 September, before the battle, a mass was held for King Sobieski.

The battle

The battle started before all units were fully deployed. Early in the morning at 4:00, Turkish forces opened hostilities to interfere with the Holy League's troop deployment. A move forward was made by Charles, the Austrian army on the left, and the German forces in the center.

Mustafa Pasha launched a counter-attack, with most of his force, but holding back parts of the elite Janissary and Sipahi for the invasion of the city. The Turkish commanders had intended to take Vienna before Sobieski arrived, but time ran out. Their sappers had prepared another large and final detonation under the Löbelbastei, to provide access to the city. While the Turks hastily finished their work and sealed the tunnel to make the explosion more effective, the Austrian "moles" detected the cavern in the afternoon. One of them entered and defused the load just in time.

At that time, above the "subterranean battlefield", a large battle was going on, as the Polish infantry had launched a massive assault upon the Turkish right flank. Instead of focusing on the battle with the relief army, the Turks tried to force their way into the city, carrying their crescent flag.

Battle of Vienna 1683, Painting 1689

After 12 hours of fighting, Sobieski's Polish force held the high ground on the right. At about five o'clock in the afternoon, after watching the ongoing infantry battle from the hills for the whole day, four cavalry groups, one of them Austrian-German, and the other three Polish, totaling over 20,000 men, charged down the hills. The attack was led by the Polish king in front of a spearhead of 3000 heavily armed winged Polish lancer hussars. This charge broke the lines of the Ottomans, who were tired from the long fight on two sides. In the confusion, the cavalry headed straight for the Ottoman camps, while the remaining Vienna garrison sallied out of its defenses and joined in the assault.

The Ottoman army were tired and dispirited following the failure of both the sapping attempt and the brute force assault of the city, and the arrival of the cavalry turned the tide of battle against them, sending them into retreat to the south and east. In less than three hours after the cavalry attack, the Christian forces had won the battle and saved Vienna from capture.

After the battle, Sobieski paraphrased Julius Caesar's famous quote by saying "veni, vidi, Deus vicit" - "I came, I saw, God conquered"

King of Poland, Jan III Sobieski

Aftermath

The Turks lost about 15,000 men in the fighting, compared to approximately 4,000 for the Habsburg-Polish forces. Though routed and in full retreat, the Turkish troops had found time to slaughter all their Austrian prisoners, with the exception of those few of nobility which they took with them for ransoming.

The loot that fell into the hands of the Holy League troops and the Viennese was as huge as their relief, as King Sobieski vividly described in a letter to his wife a few days after the battle: "Ours are treasures unheard of ... tents, sheep, cattle and no small number of camels ... it is victory as nobody ever knew of, the enemy now completely ruined, everything lost for them. They must run for their sheer lives ... Commander Starhemberg hugged and kissed me and called me his savior."

This emotional expression of gratitude did not distract Starhemberg from ordering the immediate repair of Vienna's severely damaged fortifications, guarding against a possible Turkish counterstrike. However, this proved unneccessary. The victory at Vienna set the stage for Prince Eugene of Savoy's reconquering of Hungary and (temporarily) some of the Balkan countries within the following years. Austria signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire in 1697.

Long before that, the Turks had disposed of their defeated commander. On 25 December 1683, Kara Mustafa Pasha was executed in Belgrade (in the approved manner, by strangulation with a silk rope pulled by several men on each end) by order of the commander of the Janissaries.

More about Polish husaria:
http://www.jasinski.co.uk/wojna/comp/comp06.htm
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  #2  
Old 06 Sep 08, 10:37
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Wow! Nice history there

No question that this was one of the most important battles in western history and that Jan Sobieski was one of the greats!
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Old 06 Sep 08, 16:15
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Certainly an important battle. Really enjoyed the article and the link as well. Great post and welcome to the forums!!
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Old 06 Sep 08, 18:51
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There is another important anniversary. The battle started 442 years and a month ago:

The Battle of Szigetvár (Croatian: Sigetska Bitka, Turkish: Zigetvar Savaşı) was a siege of the small fort located in Szigetvár, Hungary between 6 August and 8 September 1566, fought between the defending forces of the Habsburg Monarchy under the leadership of Croatian ban Nikola Šubić Zrinski (Hungarian: Zrínyi Miklós) and the invading army of the Ottoman Empire under the nominal command of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The battle is perhaps famous today, in Hungary, for inspiring the Hungarian-language epic Szigeti veszedelem, written by Zrinyi's great-grandson; at the time, its importance was considered such that Cardinal Richelieu was reported to have called it "the battle that saved civilization."

Preparations for campaign

The Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was 72 years old, had reigned for 46 years and had been in command of 12 military campaigns so far during this reign. He had not commanded a military campaign for the last 11 years. He had taken command at this, his 13th, campaign at the insistence of his Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, who was the real operational commander of the Ottoman forces. The Ottoman forces had started off from Istanbul on 1st May 1566 with a spectacular procession. The Sultan was not able to use his horse and was carried in a covered horse carriage all the way from Istanbul. The Ottoman army had arrived at the site of castle of Szigetvár on the 6th August 1566. The big war tent of the Sultan was erected on the Similehov hill. The Sultan had to stay at his tent during the whole of siege and had to get verbal reports of the progress of the siege from his Grand Vizier, who was in real charge of the operations.

The siege

Zrinski built up a force of around 2300 warriors prior to the siege, consisting of his own personal forces and those of his friends and allies. The defenders were majority Croatian, with a significant Hungarian contingent represented in both the mend-at-arms and the leadership. The siege began in August of 1566, and the fortress defenders were able to repel the Ottomans until sometime in September. Despite being undermanned and greatly outnumbered, the defenders were sent no reinforcements by the imperial army from Vienna.

After many days of exhausting and bloody struggle, the defenders retreated into the Old City; with the majority of the defenders already dead, this was their last stand. The Turks tried to lure Zrinski into submission, offering him rule over all of Croatia (of course, under their sovereignty) but to no avail, Zrinski saying "...nobody will point his finger on my children in contempt.[cite this quote]"

While the siege was still continuing Suleiman the Magnificent died before daybreak on Saturday, 7th September. The death appears to have been of natural causes, though the stress and fatigue of the difficult siege certainly played a role. The Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha decided to keep the news secret so that it would not ruin morale at the end of the siege. It is said that the Sultan's physician was strangled to ensure that news of his death would not spread. Several contemporary accounts, such as the ones used later by Zrinyi for his epic, account Suleiman's death to Zrinski's hand.

The final battle

The next day the final battle was conducted. The castle of Szigetvár was burnt down to ruined walls by mining and burning huge heaps of woods put around it at all corners. In the morning, September the 7th, the all-out attack by the Turks began: fireballs, "Greek fire", concentrated cannonade, fusillade. Soon, the last Croat-Hungarian stronghold within Szigetvár was set ablaze. The entire Turkish army swarmed against the Old City, drumming and yelling, "..their flags darkening the skies.[cite this quote]" Reportedly, Zrinski prepared for the last charge, addressing his brothers-in-arms:

"..Let us go out from this burning place into the open and stand up to our enemies. Who dies - he will be with God. Who dies not - his name will be honoured. I will go first, and what I do, you do. And God is my witness - I will never leave you, my brothers and knights!"

The defender Zrinski wearing a silk robe, carrying a hanging golden key on his breast and wearing a hat with a crane aigrette, started an exit in force from the castle at the head of 600 of his troops. He was heavily wounded at his chest and his head by Ottoman bullets. Thus, at the end, the heroic obstinate commander, who survived a siege lasting 36 days, his dead body was beheaded by a sword lying on an Ottoman cannon. The Turks took the fort and effectively won the battle. Only seven defenders managed to get through Turkish lines.

Aftermath

One disputed view by a historian asserts that before leading the final sortie by the garrison, Zrinsky ordered a fuse lit to the powder magazine. After cutting down the last of the defenders, the Turkish besiegers poured into the fortress. Hundreds perished when the magazine exploded. This, however, is not corroborated by any of the Ottoman chroniclers.

Only four surviving defenders were later ransomed from the Turks. One of them was Gašpar Alapić, Zrinski's nephew who would become a ban himself and crush the Croatian and Slovenian peasant revolt. Another was Franjo (Ferenc) Črnko, Zrinski's chamberlain, who later wrote the only first-hand report of the siege. His detailed report, published in Croatian, German and Latin, includes a poignant description of Zrinski's last hours before the final sortie.

The battle is believed to have delayed the Ottoman push for Vienna that year. It is obvious that the long journey and the siege had a detrimental effect on the old Sultan's health and his subsequent death meant that any advances were postponed; the Grand Vizier had to turn back with the army to the Ottoman capital, Istanbul and deal with the succession of the new Sultan, Selim II.
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Old 07 Sep 08, 04:11
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Wonderful . So we have at least 2 reasons to drink for the victory these days!

One more picture of Polish hussar from the period of Battle of Vienna 1683 (for more than 100 years husaria was in fact the best cavalry in Europe):

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Cheers.
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Old 08 Sep 08, 11:24
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The Poles have been, and always will be; some of the best soldiers in the world.
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Old 08 Sep 08, 12:37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain General View Post
The Poles have been, and always will be; some of the best soldiers in the world.
Thank you ..

As a small addition: these days we have also another anniversary, of Battle of Wizna 1939, where 720 Polish guys with 6 cannons for 3 days stopped German offensive of 42 000 soldiers, 350 tanks, 660 cannons and air support ..

We call this battle "Polish Termopile". Commander of Polish troops, cpt. Raginis, on the day of capitulation committed suicide (swearing before the battle that he will not surrender ..)

Details of the Battle of Wizna:
http://www.wizna.com/battleofwizna.htm
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Old 08 Sep 08, 12:46
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Bartoha, put here clip of the Sabaton's "40 to 1"
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Old 08 Sep 08, 13:05
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One of their better songs.

Hope I can be of help.



Greets,
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Old 08 Sep 08, 13:42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delboy View Post


One of their better songs.

Hope I can be of help.



Greets,
Delboy.
Thanks Delboy, but it doesn't work.
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  #12  
Old 08 Sep 08, 15:28
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delboy delboy is offline
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Originally Posted by Barbaross@ View Post
Thanks Delboy, but it doesn't work.
Don't get it. Works fine with me.
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  #13  
Old 08 Sep 08, 15:30
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Barbaross@ Barbaross@ is offline
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I see: "We're sorry, this video is no longer available". ???
__________________
- Your Highness, the enemy is so numerous... they outnumber your army.
- My friend, first I beat 'em then I'll count 'em
(Polish King Jan III Sobieski during his campaigns)

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  #14  
Old 08 Sep 08, 16:02
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WW2 themed epic metal. Interesting.
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Old 08 Sep 08, 16:40
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delboy delboy is offline
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Originally Posted by String View Post
WW2 themed epic metal. Interesting.
Hehe, those guys areWW2 freaks.

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Delboy
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