Thursday, March 22, 2018

June 21, 1941: Damascus Falls

Saturday 21 June 1941

Entry of Free French into Damascus 21 June 1941
Members of the Free French forces entering Damascus after Vichy forces surrendered the town on 21 June 1941 (Australian War Memorial AWM 009747).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: During the early morning hours of 21 June 1941, the Australian troops to the south and west of Damascus take possession of several stone forts atop hills that overlook key roads leading to Damascus. The battle rages back-and-forth through the night, with the defending Vichy French launching counterattacks that temporarily succeed in dislodging the Australians in places. Ultimately, the Australians consolidate their control over the forts that control the approaches to Damascus. Australian troops also take the Barada Gorge on the road running west to Beirut and hold it against furious French counterattacks. This completes the isolation of Damascus, which the Vichy French now can neither supply nor reinforce.

The battle outside of Damascus having been decided by daylight, the Vichy French in the city surrender to Gentforce around 11:00. The remaining Vichy French forces in the vicinity retreat west toward Beirut. This completes the first phase of Operation Exporter.

Free French 1st Infantry Brigade (General Dentz) and 2nd Infantry Brigade enter Damascus. While Free French troops are present at the surrender of Damascus and usually given credit for the victory, there is little question that Australian and Indian troops (hundreds dead in Mezzeh just west of Damascus) have done much of the fighting that made the capture possible.

Habforce arrives in Syria, having returned from Baghdad. They approach Palmyra, which is the site of a major Vichy French airbase.

A Vichy French destroyer, the Vauquelin, evades the Royal Navy ships off the coast of Lebanon and makes it to Beirut with a much-needed cargo of ammunition. The Royal Navy does capture a French hospital ship, 9684-ton Canada, and takes it to Haifa for "inspection" until the 22nd.

Panzer IV awaiting Operation Barbarossa 21 June 1941
A German Panzer IV tanks preparing for the start of Operation Barbarossa, 21 June 1941 (Federal Archive Bild 169-0861).

European Air Operations: After dark, the Luftwaffe bombs Southampton, England. The bombers drop naval mines in surrounding waters. The bombing causes a leak in the King George V Dry Dock, and demolishes the down-line platform of the Southern Railway Central Station, blocking rail traffic.

The Luftwaffe, having transferred the bulk of its units east, now has only two fighter units remaining on the "Kanal Front." These are JG 2 and JG 26. These units total about 140 Bf 109 E and F fighters, the Reich's only front-line fighter at this time. Henceforth, the Luftwaffe, for the most part, will be fighting a defensive battle against the RAF in northwest Europe.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command raids Cologne with 68 aircraft, Boulogne with 18 planes, and Dusseldorf with 55 planes. During the day, it sends 23 planes on anti-shipping missions.

The RAF conducts a Circus attack on JG 26's airfield at St. Omer around noontime. It results in wild melees in the sky, with the RAF losing six fighters and one Blenheim to the Luftwaffe's six planes (with four pilots killed and two taken as prisoners, including ace Franz Luders of JG 26). Among the deaths is ace Carl-Hans Röders, with eight victories.

It is a day of legendary accomplishments by legendary figures of the air war. Oberstleutnant and Geschwaderkommodore  Adolf Galland of JG 26 destroys two Blenheims in quick succession during the Circus attack. These are his 68th and 69th victories. After that, an RAF plane damages his fighter and Galland has to force-land at Calais-Marck airfield. After driving back to his base, Galland takes off again alone at 16:00 to defend against another attack. This time, Galland shoots down a Spitfire northeast of Boulogne, his 70th claim. However, then Galland is shot down at low altitude and badly injured. His parachute only opens at the last second before he hits the ground, and he survives only with the aid of French civilians who take him to an aid station.

The unit commander, Oberst Theo Osterkamp, drives over to the hospital and lets Galland know that he is to be awarded the newly created Schwerten Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). Galland is the first Luftwaffe pilot to be so honored with his "1st Swords."

During the same action, RAF Ace Douglas Bader shoots down a German Bf 109E aircraft off Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France. This, however, is not Galland's aircraft.

Lt. Josef ‘Pips’ Priller of 1./JG 26 also downs a Spitfire from RAF No 603 Squadron during these actions. This is his 24th victory.

Dawn at the Soviet border on 21 June 1941
A first look at the Soviet Union from occupied Poland on the morning of 21 June 1941 (Federal Archive Bild 169-0867).

East African Campaign: East African 22nd Infantry Brigade captures Jimma in Galla-Sidamo, Abyssinia. Italian commander General Pietro Gazzera escapes unobserved, but 15,000 men surrender.

Battle of the Atlantic: The confused state of relations between Great Britain and Vichy France explodes in the Atlantic. French warships Air France IV and Edith Germaine intercept Royal Navy prize ship 4564-ton SS Criton (captured on 9 May) on its way to Freetown, Sierra Leone. The Criton is part of Convoy SL-78 from Freetown on its way to Belfast, but has developed engine trouble and is on its way back to Freetown for repairs. Thus, it is traveling alone.

The French ships order the Criton to stop, but it radios a distress call. Air France IV then opens fire from close range (about 50 yards/meters). The crew of Criton launches its lifeboats on the side opposite the firing. Shortly after the crew abandons ship, the Criton sinks off Conakry, French Guinea. Two crew perish and the remaining crew survive the sinking, though Captain Gerald Dobeson (King's Commendation for Brave Conduct) of the Criton is injured when he falls into his lifeboat. The French take the crew prisoner, but four will perish during their extended captivity (which lasts until December 1942).

Royal Navy cruiser HMS London intercepts 4422-ton German supply ship Babitonga near St. Paul Rocks. The Babitonga's crew scuttles the ship rather than allow it to be captured. This continues the Royal Navy's successful destruction of the Kriegsmarine's Atlantic supply network for U-boats and surface raiders.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 3176-ton British freighter Dorine off Sheringham. The ship makes it to Hartlepool for repairs.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 1304-ton Norwegian freighter Skum near No. 57 Buoy in the Thames Estuary. The ship is towed to Great Yarmouth, then London for repairs.

British 3001-ton freighter Gasfire hits a mine and sinks about ten miles east of Southwold, Suffolk. There are no casualties, with all 26 aboard surviving.

British 1546-ton freighter Kenneth Hawksfield also hits a mine and sinks a few miles off Southwold. There is one death.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Arrow hits a mine off Flamborough Head and is badly damaged. The ship makes it to Middlesborough for repairs, which take until 28 November.

Minesweeper HMS Plover lays minefield BS.60 in the North Sea.

Troop Convoy TC-11 departs from Halifax bound for the Clyde.

Convoy OB-338 departs from Liverpool, Convoy SC 35 departs Sydney, Nova Scotia for the Clyde.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Heythrop (Lt. Commander Robert S. Stafford) and ASW trawler Minuet (Lt. Alexander M. Sullivan) are commissioned.

Canadian corvette HMCS Oakville is launched at Port Arthur, Ontario.

Soviet submarine M-120 is launched.

U-374 (Oberleutnant zur See Unno von Fischel) and U-434 (Kapitänleutnant Wolfgang Heyda) are commissioned, U-87, U-158, U-436, U-455 and U-456 are launched, U-264 is laid down.

Filling vehicles in Lithuania 21 June 1941
Refueling trucks from barrels in the Baltic States (probably Lithuania), 21 June 1941 (Zoll, Federal Archive Bild 101I-208-0002-14A).

Battle of the Mediterranean: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill informs Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell that he is being sacked. This is due both to the failure of Operation Battleaxe and also to the fierce fighting that has developed in Syria and Lebanon during Operation Battleaxe. Wavell's replacement is General Claude Auchinleck, who has held command in a backwater (India) and has had only minor operational experience during the Norwegian campaign.

Wavell is to replace Auchinleck as Commander-in-Chief, India and a member of the Governor General's Executive Council. Wavell's new command also encompasses Iraq, which is highly desired by all sides due to its oil supplies. He also has responsibility extending to the Southern Pacific, which also is a brewing hot zone.

Wavell's dismissal appears a bit abrupt to some but has been brewing for quite some time. Churchill long has felt that the Middle East command has required too many British resources, particularly for the minor advantages it has conferred to the British war effort. Viewed dispassionately and without Churchill's exaggerated expectations and personal animosity toward Wavell, however, most (including Auchinleck) agree that Wavell has done an outstanding job by eliminating the Italian presence in Africa, holding the Afrika Korps to a stalemate in the Western desert, and invading Syria and Iraq. The durable British presence in the eastern Mediterranean has greatly affected the course of the war, including diverting Wehrmacht troops to Yugoslavia and Greece and remains a stable launching pad for further operations against the "soft underbelly" (Italy) of the Axis.

The Luftwaffe bombs Alexandria with about 25 planes.

At Malta, there is an air raid that destroys the Della Grazia searchlight. When Hurricane fighters try to intercept the attackers, they are unable to because.... there is no searchlight.

Fixing tank tracks in Lithuania 21 June 1941
Working on tracks for a vehicle in Lithuania, 21 June 1941 (Federal Archive Bild 146-1987-024-09A).

Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese seize Portuguese vessel Guia in neutral territory near Macau. This is the beginning of a campaign of intimidation by the Japanese against the Portuguese colony. Macau becomes a favorite haunt of local Japanese officers looking for a little fun at the gambling tables and restaurants.

Spy Stuff: Although it now is too late to affect matters, warnings of an upcoming German attack on the Soviet Union continue to flow into the Kremlin. Soviet military attaché to France Major General Ivan Sousloparov sends one such warning. Soviet sleeper agent Richard Sorge in Tokyo, who is friends there with the German ambassador, radios in another message today that he drafted on the 20th. Sir Stafford Cripps, the British ambassador to Moscow, warns Ambassador Maisky that Germany will invade the Soviet Union "this weekend." Soviet military attaché to Germany Mikhail Vorontsov sends a more definitive warning at 19:05.

Premier Joseph Stalin and Soviet State Security Lavrentiy Beria review the warnings along with Chief of Staff General Georgy Zhukov. They are meeting to plan the attack Stalin has been talking about recently against Germany (the reason for this meeting is controversial and not accepted by everyone, but it is accepted that they meet today). At first, Stalin and Beria disregard the warnings as they have all the others. Zhukov, however, is not so sure. The message from Vorontsov finally catches everyone's attention. Stalin immediately convenes the Politburo, which authorizes two new wartime fronts.

Tokyo requests information today from its consulate in Manila on comings and goings of the US Navy in Manila Bay. Specifically, they inquire about the departure of eleven US pilots who they have heard have departed for Chungking to join the Flying Tigers. The Japanese have a trained espionage agent on their staff as Vice-Consul, and he continues supplying Tokyo with detailed reports on US warships and other matters such as this. The Japanese Consulate conveniently is situated on a hill overlooking the bay.

In Panama, the Japanese Consul, Minoru Izawa, wires Tokyo that his staff there is inadequate for its duties. These "duties" include recently securing a detailed map of the Panama Canal Zone which shows US military defenses and which the Japanese military command in Tokyo wishes to see. However, Izawa is having difficulty smuggling the large maps out because airline personnel have been searching everyone's luggage.

General von Manstein and General Brandenberger 21 June 1941
General of Infantry Fritz Erich von Manstein (right center) and Generalmajor Erich Brandenberger in East Prussia as they plan their advance to the bridges over the Dubissa River at Ariogola, Lithuania, 21 June 1941 (Kriegsberichter Koch, 694th Propaganda Unit).

Applied Science: Soviet aircraft engineer A. M. Isayev comes up with a plan to use compressed air rather than a pump to force propellant into the rocket engine that he is developing for a new fighter design.

British/Yugoslavian Relations: King Peter, 17, and the Yugoslav Prime Minister, General Simovic, arrive in London to form a shadow government. Peter ruled Yugoslavia for less than a month, and now he will lead one of many governments-in-exile in London. He will never return - alive - to his country.

German/Soviet Relations: Having seen messages flooding in today from Soviet spies around the world that Germany is about to invade the Soviet Union, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov meets with German Ambassador Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg and asks him if Germany is planning to invade. Count von der Schulenburg, who officially has not been informed of the invasion (though he has his suspicions based upon his own observations in the Reich), denies that an invasion is planned.

Wrecked Junkers Ju-52 at Maleme airfield in Crete 21 June 1941
A wrecked Junkers Ju 52 transport at Maleme airport, Crete, 21 June 1941 (Federal Archive).

US/Italian Relations: Following up on its recent closure of German consulates, the United States orders Italy to close its consulates by 15 July. Italy already has ordered the closure of US consulates on its soil on 19 June. From this point, the US will retain its embassies in each country, and Italy and Germany will retain their embassies in the US, but that is it.

While this all may seem to be "just for show" and petty tit-for-tat, consulates offer valuable listening posts which can provide useful information. On balance, the "war of the consulates" tends to benefit the Axis more than the Allies, because the Americans gathered useful intelligence "behind enemy lines" on Germany and Italy for the British.

German/Italian Relations: Hitler wires Benito Mussolini about Operation Barbarossa:
I waited until this moment, Duce, to send you this information, it is because the final decision itself will not be made until 7 o'clock tonight. I earnestly beg you, therefore, to refrain, above all, from making any explanation to your Ambassador at Moscow, for there is no absolute guarantee that our coded reports cannot be decoded. I, too, shall wait until the last moment to have my own Ambassador informed of the decisions reached.
The cable appears to answer the question of whether Hitler already has informed Mussolini about the invasion. However, the part about "waiting until 7 o'clock" to decide whether to invade appears to be a pure prevarication, as Hitler long ago ordained 22 June as the invasion date.

Hitler's worry about "our coded reports" being "decoded" is justified, because the British have been reading German diplomatic messages for the past year. However, it apparently never occurs to Hitler that the British and others might also be reading the Wehrmacht's coded messages - which the British also have been doing.

Trucks prepared for Operation Barbarossa 21 June 1941
A Wehrmacht column parked and ready to go at Memel, 21 June 1941.

German/US Relations: Having thought overnight about the USS Texas incident of the 20th, in which a U-boat tried to attack the US battleship, Hitler reaches a decision. He sends instructions to Admiral Raeder (head of the Kriegsmarine) and Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering (head of the Luftwaffe):
Fuhrer orders avoidance any incident with USA during next few weeks. Orders will be rigidly obeyed in all circumstances. In addition, attacks till further orders will be restricted to cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers and then only when identified beyond doubt as hostile. Fact that warship is sailing without lights will not be regarded as proof of enemy identity.
Raeder disagrees with this decision and immediately comes to see Hitler, protesting that such incidents "warn off" the United States. However, Hitler is adamant: no attacks on the United States until Russia is defeated.

Soviet Military: Red Air Force fighter pilots intercept a Luftwaffe reconnaissance flight, but are ordered not to attack.

Soviet border guards are put on alert, but ordered to do nothing that might be "provocative."

The Red Air Force is under orders to camouflage its forward airfields, but this barely has begun.

General Semyon Timoshenko, one of the heroes of the campaign in Finland, orders troops to occupy fortifications in the Molotov Line in Soviet-occupied Poland. The local commanders, however, take their time assembling their men, and many put the task off until the 22nd.

Shortly before midnight, the Soviet Navy issues Grade 1 Alert to fleet commanders, upgrading from the previous Grade 2 Alert.

General Boris Shaposhnikov is appointed the chief of staff to the Western Special Military District. Kirill Meretskov is appointed High Command representative in Leningrad.

Free French enter Damascus 21 June 1941
Free French troops entering Damascus, 21 June 1941.

German Military: General "Fast" Heinz Guderian, commander of Panzergruppe 2, completes an inspection of the forward units of his command. He is satisfied that the Soviets are unaware of "Operation Barbarossa," scheduled to begin in the early morning hours of 22 June. Guderian notes with satisfaction that the Soviet troops across the border are busy engaging in peacetime activities such as parade formations. Soviet strongpoints along the River Bug, the dividing line in this sector, are unoccupied. After some deliberation, Guderian decides not to cancel a planned one-hour artillery barrage just in case the Soviets have some kind of surprise in store.

The Luftwaffe moves Stab, II and III./JG 77 from airfields around Bucharest to new fields at Bacau and Roman. These forward airfields will provide good opportunities to attack Soviet airfields on the morning of the 22nd.

German commandos and saboteurs (German Brandenburg special mission units and the Polish White Guard ) set out after dark to infiltrate Soviet positions.

The Luftwaffe sends pathfinder bombers across the border very late in the day. German ships lay mines in the Baltic.

Field Marshal Bock moves his headquarters of German Army Group Center to Rembertow near Warsaw.

Finnish Military: The Finnish military lays mines in the Baltic.

US Military: US commercial aircraft under contract to USAAF depart Miami to pioneer the Trinidad - Brazil - Ascension Island - Africa southern air route across the Atlantic.

Warsaw Ghetto 21 June 1941
Inside the Warsaw Ghetto, 21 June 1941 (Albert Cusian, Federal Archive Bild 101I-134-0778-38).

German Government: Throughout the day, Hitler remains firm about the start of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June. Unlike earlier invasions, there are no postponements. However, similar to those previous invasions, there is no warning given to his victim or declaration of war prior to the invasion.

Soviet Ambassador Dekanozov asks to see Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop. With the invasion of the Soviet Union about to start, the stakes are high. Ribbentrop "disappears" and tells his staff to have Dekanozov see a junior official whenever he arrives. In fact, Ribbentrop is in the Chancellery with Hitler, who is doing routine paperwork such as drafting correspondence to other dictators and official proclamations to the German public about Operation Barbarossa.

Ribbentrop is not idle, however. He instructs Ambassador to the Soviet Union Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg in Moscow to burn his code book, destroy his radio equipment, and request an appointment with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov to issue a declaration of war - after it has begun.

Meanwhile, Dekanozov arrives at the Foreign Ministry at 21:30 and, as on the 19th, only wishes to complain about Luftwaffe violations of Soviet airspace - which have been quite frequent recently. Molotov complains in a similar fashion to Schulenburg in Moscow, writing "A series of symptoms gives us the impression that the German government is dissatisfied with the Soviet government." Hitler and his cronies at the Chancellery have a good laugh about he how will respond to these complaints in very short order.

Hitler stays up through the night with a small staff, awaiting reports from the Eastern Front.

Liberation of Damascus 21 June 1941
A scene from the liberation of Damascus, 21 June 1941.

Holocaust: New laws in Vichy France restrict Jewish students to only 3% of university spots.

American Homefront: New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in today's game against the Detroit Tigers, a single against pitcher Dizzy Trout. This extends DiMaggio's club-record hitting streak to 34 games.

Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra (using the name "Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye") take over the No. 1 spot on the Billboard singles chart with "Daddy." This becomes the first of eight weeks that "Daddy" spends atop the charts.

Future History: Sammy Kaye's "Daddy" is written by Bobby Troup, a college student at the University of Pennsylvania. Troup enlists in the US Marine Corps after graduating from college around the time of the song's success, but he does not receive his orders until January 1942. Troup becomes an officer supervising Montford Point, a recruit depot for the first Black Marines. After the war, Troup continues his musical career during the 1950s and 1960s but due to only middling success branches out into acting. He reaches his greatest success in the 1970s as the star of television series "Emergency!" (and also in a memorable cameo in the Robert Altman film "M*A*S*H"). Bobby Troup passes away in February 1999.

Joe Flaherty is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He becomes famous in the 1970s as a star of Canadian sketch comedy show "SCTV" and on "Freaks and Geeks."

The occupied Polish and Soviet border 21 June 1941
Looking across the Soviet border from occupied Poland, 21 June 1941 (Federal Archives Bild 183-L25085).


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

June 20, 1941: Birth of US Army Air Force

Friday 20 June 1941

Fortress Mark I 20 June 1941
"Fortress Mark I, AN521 WP-K, of No. 90 Squadron RAF based at West Raynham, Norfolk, preparing for takeoff at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, during an inspection of newly-arrived American aircraft by the Chief of the Air Staff and the US Air Attache." 20 June 1941. © IWM (CH 2873).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: As the day begins on 20 June 1941, the 5th Indian Brigade at Mezzeh is in dire straits. The Vichy French based in Damascus three miles to the east have surrounded them, and they are running out of supplies. They have managed to send three men through the French lines to get word to headquarters that they cannot hold out much longer. Operation Exporter may not be in trouble, but these trapped men are.

Brigadier Wilfrid Lewis Lloyd, now back in command of the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade after temporarily being in command of Genforce (now under the command of Major-General John Evetts), makes his best effort to relieve his encircled troops. He sends two companies from the 3/1st Punjab Regiment, two companies of French Marines and a battery of artillery to open a corridor to Mezzeh. The Vichy French, however, fight hard and slow the relief column, and the relief troops (the 2/3rd Battalion and 2/5th Field Regiment) get no help from the flanks.

The Indian troops, with no food or water and having run out of ammunition, surrender at 13:30, a hugely embarrassing blow for the British command. This goes a long way to restoring Gallic pride on the Vichy side and, somewhat perversely, leaves them more open to the idea of eventual surrender.

However, the hard fighting around Damascus continues. The Australian relief column continues fighting forward and retakes Mezzeh at 19:00. However, now it is an empty city and of little tactical significance beyond being one of many road junctions. The battle around Damascus now degenerates into a classic melee in which both sides jostle for control of the roads and hills (which hold forts) overlooking those roads, with neither side in control as the day ends.

The Vichy Government decides to ramp up peace feelers to Great Britain. It gives up trying to use the American Consul-General to broker a deal, and instead, Premier Petain covertly sends a representative directly to London. This is fairly easily done via Lisbon.

Luftwaffe General Hellmuth Felmy, the commander of Special Staff F (Sonderstab F), the Luftwaffe's mission to Iraq, is reassigned. The entire idea of the Axis intervening in Iraq has now drifted completely out of the realm of possibility, so Felmy becomes commander of Army Group Southern Greece (Befehlshaber Südgriechenland). In any event, in these commands, he never has to leave Athens and never has any real responsibility - the reassignment is simply an admission of the ridiculousness of continuing with the fiction of an Axis presence in Iraq.

European Air Operations: During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends 11 aircraft on anti-shipping missions. After dark, RAF Bomber Command bombs Kiel with 115 bombers during the night.

Soviet cruiser Komintern 20 June 1941
Soviet cruiser Komintern, based at the Black Sea base at Sevastopol.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-203 (Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg), on its first patrol out of Kiel and cruising off Iceland, spots US Navy battleship USS Texas (BB-35) just within the "Blockade Zone" established around Great Britain. Technically, at least according to the Germans, this justifies sinking the ship. However, Mützelburg is unable to maneuver into firing position, and the faster battleship gets away. This very nearly starts World War II for the United States six months early. The Texas, incidentally, will figure in a similar incident in May 1945.

U-123 (Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient and operating near the Azores, uses gunfire and torpedoes and sinks 4333-ton Portuguese freighter Ganda. There are five deaths and 61 survivors. As the ship sinks, Moehle notices that the ship flies a neutral flag. Upon his return to Lorient, Moehle reports the matter, and U-boat headquarters (BdU) tells him to alter the log to make the sinking appear legal.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 2249-ton Norwegian freighter Schieland, which is sailing with Convoy FS.520, southeast of Grimsby. There is one death (who dies later) and eight survivors.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Royal Navy 258-ton minesweeping trawler HMT Resmilo at Peterhead. Everyone survives (no casualties).

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 5578-ton British tanker Inverarder off the Isle of Wight. The master beaches the tanker at Motherbank Buoy, Solent. It later is refloated and repaired at Southampton.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 2841-ton freighter Cormount off Outer Dowsing Light Vessel. There is one death.

British 2844-ton freighter Ilse hits a mine and is damaged near Hartlepool. There is one death. The forepart is flown off, but the rear portion of the ship is towed to Middleborough and repaired.

Royal Navy minelayer Teviotbank lays minefield BS.64 in the North Sea.

Convoy OB-337 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX-134 departs from Halifax, Convoy SC-35 departs from Sidney bound for the Clyde.

Royal Navy escort carrier HMS Audacity (Commander Douglas W. MacKendrick) and minelayer Manxman are commissioned, corvette Campion is launched, and destroyer Relentless is laid down.

U-351 (Oblt. Karl Hause) is commissioned, U-506 is launched.

Lovat Scouts 20 June 1941
A mortar officer and rangefinder operator of the Lovat Scouts, during an exercise in the Faroe Islands, 20 June 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Prime Minister Winston Churchill remains furious about the desultory affair of Operation Battleaxe, in which a British offensive with extremely precious tanks not only failed but resulted in a loss of ground. He resolves to replace Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell with the Commander-in-Chief India, General Claude Auchinleck. Having been in command of a backwater, Auchinleck has minimal combat experience during World War II (like many other World War II leaders he made his reputation in the Great War), but Churchill doesn't want to recall Wavell to England and make his command change painfully obvious to the public - which would result in uncomfortable questions about his own competence.

Italian submarine Ondina torpedoes and sinks 3805-ton Turkish liner Refah forty miles south of Mersin. There are 165-167 deaths.

Italian 4543-ton freighter Buccari explodes under mysterious circumstances at Taranto, Apulia, Italy.

Two Royal Navy submarined, HMS Tetrarch and Severn, make unsuccessful attacks on ships, the former off Lemnos, the latter off Palermo.

Ford Island, Pearl Harbor 20 June 1941
Overhead view of Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, in June 1941.

Spy Stuff: Soviet spies in Bulgaria radio the Kremlin that the Germans plan to invade on 21 or 22 June. The warning is filed.

Sleeper Soviet spy Richard Sorge, posing as a journalist in Tokyo, has sent many warnings to Moscow about Operation Barbarossa. Today, he tries again, drafting a final warning:
[German Ambassador to Japan] Ott told me that war between Germany and the USSR is inevitable…. Invest [the code name for Japanese journalist Hotsumi Ozaki] told me that the Japanese General Staff is already discussing what position to take in the event of war.
Sorge gives the message to his crony, Max Clausen, for transmission, but for pragmatic reasons, it is not sent until 21 June.

The Japanese protest at the opening of luggage of Japanese Minister Yoshiaki Miura by Pan American Airways employees in Guatemala. Diplomat Sadao Iguchi goes to the office of the Chief of the Far Eastern Section in Washington and requests that the airline be told the proper handling of diplomats' baggage, i.e., not to search them. The reason the Japanese are so concerned with this issue at this time is that they have come into possession of detailed maps of the Panama Canal Zone from Italians living there and wish to transport them to Tokyo. There, the maps could be used for planning military attacks.

German 506 Infantry Regiment, 291st Infantry Division 20 June 1941
The last billet of the German 506 Infantry Regiment, 291st Infantry Division, before the Russian campaign, June 20, 1941.

US/German Relations: President Roosevelt gives a message to Congress regarding the Robin Moore affair. He describes the "ruthless sinking" of the US freighter in May as "act of piracy." He notes that the submarine captain knew that it was a US ship and sank it anyway and this is the act of "an international outlaw." He describes the attack on "innocent men, women and children" as "terrorism."

While long on rhetoric - and it is very strong rhetoric indeed - the statement is short on proposals for action. He notes somewhat lamely that "Full reparation for the losses and damages suffered by American nationals will be expected from the German Government," though he does not say how he expects to receive such reparations. Roosevelt concludes that the Reich seeks to make the United States "submit," but "We are not yielding and we do not propose to yield."

The President does not, of course, mention that the Robin Moore was carrying war supplies to the British. However, to be fair to Roosevelt, the Robin Moore was sunk outside of the blockade zone set up by the Reich around Great Britain and the attack thus was illegal despite renewed warnings by the Germans in May about the dangers on the high seas. So, both sides have some facts with which to justify their positions, but all that matters, for the time being, is whether the United States is going to declare war over the affair - and it isn't.

There are rumblings about the US/German relationships on the other side of the Atlantic, too. At 21:00, Hitler's adjutant Colonel Rudolf Schmundt tells Hitler that Admiral Raeder has just told him that a U-boat captain claimed to have attempted to sink US battleship USS Texas about 10 miles within the blockade zone - but failed. Raeder has justified the attempted sinking, which almost certainly would have created an opportunity for President Roosevelt to declare war on the Reich. This disturbs Hitler, who wants nothing to do with the United States while he is focusing on the Soviet Union. He spends the night considering whether new rules are in order regarding attacks on US shipping.

Soviet border guards 20 June 1941
"Calm Before the Storm." Soviet border guards on the western border, 20 June 1941.

German/Romanian Relations: The Germans reveal the secret of Operation Barbarossa to the Romanians. This is significant because security for the operation has been extremely tight and very few people outside the upper echelons of the Wehrmacht have been told. The Germans hope to have significant participation from Romanian troops during the invasion, not to mention the fact that the entire Wehrmacht runs on Romanian oil and thus their cooperation in any endeavor is necessary.

USS O-9 20 June 1941
USS O-9 (SS-70), which foundered 20 June 1941. The wreck site was found in 1997 by Klein Sonar, but remains a secret known only to the US Navy.

US Military: Major General Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, who has led the US Army Air Corps since 29 September 1938, is appointed the leader of the newly created US Army Air Forces. Pursuant to Army Regulation 95-5, this is the successor to the US Army Air Corps.

Arnold becomes Chief of the Army Air Forces and acting "Deputy Chief of Staff for Air" with authority over both the Air Corps and Air Force Combat Command (successor to GHQAF). Arnold would prefer that the air force become a separate branch of the military equal to the Army and Navy, but Chief of Staff George C. Marshall (an old friend from before World War I) convinces Arnold to wait until after the brewing war for complete separation.

US Navy Task Group 2.6, led by aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7), departs from Hampton Roads, Virginia on a neutrality patrol.

Three US Navy submarines conduct deep submergence tests about 15 miles (24 km) off Portsmouth, New Hampshire. These tests go very badly when USS O-9 (SS-70) implodes and kills its 34 crewmen. There is nothing that can be done, it is a great tragedy that receives surprisingly little publicity and is not long remembered.

German Soviet border 20 June 1941
A sign in the General Government area of occupied Poland that says "Generalgouvernment of the Occupied Polish area - border 14 meters." This is at the Granitza River, and beyond is the area of Poland occupied by the Soviet Union. 20 June 1041 (Federal Archive Bild 169-0897)

German Military: Adolf Hitler tells OKW to distribute the "Proclamation To The Troops of the Eastern Front" that he was working on during the 19th. Of course, there is no "Eastern Front" yet, so the very title is a tip-off to the document's contents.

Issued in secret, the four-page document includes a lengthy recitation of the warped view of recent history that characterizes his speeches. The Proclamation also includes some specious claims (such as that there were no German troops on the border "until a very few weeks ago" when in fact he has been planning Operation Barbarossa for almost a full year). It is overkill for an "Order of the Day" and reads as an attempted justification for his attack, which he claims has been forced upon him by the Jewish-Bolshevik rulers of Moscow. In other words, it is simply more of the same rationalizations and prevarications that characterize all of his justifications for war.

The Proclamation ends:
At this moment, soldiers of the eastern front, an assembly of strength the like of which in size and scale the world has never seen is now complete.  In league with Finnish divisions, our comrades are standing with the Victor of Narvik [Dietl] on the shores of the Arctic in the north.  German soldiers under the command of the Conquerer of Norway [Falkenhorst], and the Finnish heroes of freedom under their own Marshal [Mannerheim] are protecting Finland.  On the eastern front stand you.  In Romania, on the banks of the Prut, and along the Danube right down to the beaches of the Black Sea are German and Romanian troops united under Antonescu, the head of state.  When this, the biggest front line in history, now begins its advance it does so not just to provide the means of ending for all time this great war, or to defend those countries currently concerned, but for the salvation of our entire European civilization and culture. 
German soldiers!  You are thus entering upon a harsh and demanding fight—because the fate of Europe, the future of the German Reich, the existence of our nation now rest on your hands alone. 
May the Lord God help us all in this struggle.
Hitler confirms with OKW operations chief General Alfred Jodl that Operation Barbarossa will begin on 22 June.

The troops themselves, meanwhile, are told that an attack on the Soviet Union is "hypothetical" and everything related to such an attack is an "exercise." This makes sense to the troops - why attack the Soviet Union when the Reich is still at war with England?

The Kriegsmarine, meanwhile, now is laying mines in the Baltic. U-boats there have orders to shoot at any Soviet ships (there are none). All Soviet ships in Reich ports are prevented from leaving under one pretext or another.

Lotta Svärd 20 June 1941
A member of the Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women (Lotta Svärd) in Helsinki prepares to head to the front on 20 June 1941. 

Finnish Military: The military calls up all reservists under the age of 45. The military begins evacuating communities along the border with the Soviet Union in preparation for Operation Barbarossa - which Finland will join independently at a later date as the "Continuation War."

Soviet Military: The Red Air Force has issued orders to camouflage airfields, but these measures require time to prepare and have not yet been begun. It also forms the 6th Fighter Corps in Moscow for protection of the capital. An air raid drill over Moscow is planned for Sunday, 22 June.

German Government: During the day, Adolf Hitler tells his secretaries that he just finds something "wrong" about Russia - it reminds him of the ghost ship in "The Flying Dutchman." He explains:
Because we know absolutely nothing about Russia. It might be one big soap-bubble, but it might just as well turn out to be very different.
This will be a recurrent theme throughout World War II - how little the Reich knows about Russia.

Hitler is confident about Operation Barbarossa, but also concerned. In his diary entry today, adjutant Hewel writes that Hitler:
told me that this morning [June 20] he again pored over every minute detail, but found no possibility for the enemy to get the better of Germany.  He thinks Britain will have to give in - and he hopes it will be before the year is over.
Hewel also writes that Hitler admits there "must always be a big element of risk." Among Hitler's worries are secret weapons, fanatical Soviet resistance, and the unknown.

Hitler needs to take pills to get to sleep. This is the beginning stage of his growing reliance on medicines for normal functioning.

"Racial theorist" Alfred Rosenberg delivers a speech in which he states that the sole use of the conquered peoples in Eastern Europe is to feed German troops and citizens. Their own survival is not a priority. This is a refrain that will recur from various German leaders throughout the war.

Norway: The Norwegian occupation authorities finally force actors and directors to end their theater strike that began on 21 May. The strike has been a major public relations failure for the Germans, receiving publicity in Swiss publications. The strike leaves very hard feelings in the occupation authorities, and the German Ministry of Culture takes full control of Norwegian Theaters. Many prominent theatrical figures are arrested at the Grini concentration camp for the remainder of the war. The strike ultimately has a devastating effect on the Norwegian theatrical scene, as the public decides to boycott shows to show solidarity and puts many theater workers out of work.

Peter Mork Monsted 20 June 1941
"Reflections of Spring" by Peter Mork Monsted.

Denmark: Artist Peder Mørk Mønsted (Peter Mork Monsted) passes away. He painted brilliantly vivid landscape paintings and was very popular in Germany. His art has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

Soviet Homefront: In a case of odd timing, Soviet anthropologists Mikhail M. Gerasimov, Lev V. Oshanin and V. Ia. Zezenkova open the tomb of the Ruler of the Golden Horde, Timur (also known as Tamerlane). His tomb in Samarkand reportedly is inscribed with the words:
When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble.
Inside the casket reportedly is another inscription:
Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I.
The locals are sure that this violation of the tomb of Timur will lead to bad things - such as an invasion.

American Homefront: In a major win for US Unions, Ford Motor Company signs its first contract with the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

Charles Lindbergh gives an isolationist speech in Los Angeles.

US journalist publishes his classic memoir of pre-war Germany, "Berlin Diary."

New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio continues his club-record hitting streak. He goes 4-5 against the Detroit Tigers in New York. DiMaggio now has hit safely in 33 games. While DiMaggio is setting history with his streak, his batting average remains far below that of Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams, who is en route to the last .400 season in MLB history.

RKO Radio Pictures releases Walt Disney Productions' "The Reluctant Dragon." An animated film, the film turns into a tour of the brand-new Walt Disney Studios building in Burbank, California. Radio comedian Robert Benchley walks the audience through the studio. After an introductory segment, the remainder of the film is in Technicolor, which in a world of black-and-white films is a draw in and of itself. The film does not, of course, mention the Disney animators' strike that still is in progress right outside the Burbank facility at the time of release. In fact, there is a ringer playing an animator in the studio, actor Alan Ladd.

The film roughly breaks even and does not alleviate the financial strain under which Disney Studios has been laboring since the failure of "Pinocchio." However, as with all Disney animated films, the characters live on in the Disney universe and make appearances in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988) and some other later productions.

Marx Brothers comedy "The Big Story" opens. Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, "The Big Store" features Margaret Dumont as the Marx Brothers' employer in a fight over control a department store. The film is billed as the act's farewell performance and generally is considered a lesser offering by the Marx Brothers. However, it does turn a profit and the Marx Brothers reunite in 1946 for "A Night In Casablanca."

Gravesite in Lebanon 20 June 1941
Grave of NX25117 Nicholas George Koorey, 2/6 Field Regiment, who died of wounds in the Levant on 20 June 1941 (Australian War Memorial P12165.002).


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

June 19, 1941: Cheerios Introduced

Thursday 19 June 1941

Heinrich Himmler Gudrun Marga 19 June 1941
Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler, wife Marga and daughter Gudrun gather daisies together in Valepp Valley, 19 June 1941 (Realworks Ltd./Die Welt).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: The Britsh approach toward Damascus during Operation Exporter has gained ground on 19 June 1941, but suddenly shows signs of stalling due to fierce Vichy French counterattacks. This has resulted in overall control of the advance being taken away from General Henry Maitland Wilson on the 18th, and today results in Major-General John Evetts, commander of the British 6th Infantry Division, replacing Brigadier Wilfrid Lewis Lloyd as commander of Gentforce east of Merdjayoun.

The 5th Indian Brigade have taken Mezzeh, a key junction on the Damascus/Beirut road, during the night. However, they spend the 19th trying to keep it against furious French counterattacks. Evetts quickly requests reinforcements and receives the British 16th Infantry Brigade from the 7th Australian Division and three Australian battalions: the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion and the 2/3rd and 2/5th Infantry Battalions.

The British and Australian reinforcements, however, require time to get to Mezzeh, and it is time that the embattled Indian troops may not have. By evening, they are isolated and taking tremendous casualties from the French and their Renault R35 tanks. Expecting the advance to continue straight to Damascus, the Indian troops have not carried with them mundane things like food and water for an extended siege. So, there is no food or water, and there are dead men everywhere. After dark, the Indian troops send three men who manage to get past the encircling French forces and report the dire situation to Evetts. The French claim to have taken 400 prisoners.

Beaverettes in Ireland 19 June 1941
The British still fear an invasion and practice to prevent one. Here, the 53rd Battalion The Reconnaissance Corps ride in Beaverettes (RAF light armored cars) during maneuvers at Ballykinlar in Northern Ireland. They are armed with .303 light machine guns or Boys .55 inch anti-tank rifles. Unfortunately, despite the heavy armor, they are powered by ony a 46-hp engine and the top speed is only 24 mph (38 km/h). 19 June 1941.

Near Merdjayoun, meanwhile, the situation if anything is even worse for the British. Easily taken a week ago by the Australian 25th Brigade, the majority of those troops were sent east to help with the advance along the coast. The 25th had left behind only a small force to defend Merdjayoun, but this was considered acceptable because the Vichy French were giving ground.

This turns out to have been a bad idea, as the French already have retaken part of Merdjayoun and have placed the embattled Australians in a precarious position. On the 19th, the Vichy French there continue the attack against the outnumbered Australians and claim to take 80 prisoners. Australian Lieutenant Roden Cuttler, a forward artillery observer, takes over a Bren gun and anti-tank rifle after others at his outpost are killed and helps to hold an outpost in the town against the French. After being surrounded, he escapes in the dark. For this and subsequent valor, Cuttler earns the Victoria Cross, the only Australian artilleryman to earn it during World War II.

Lieutenant General Sir John Dudley Lavarack, who now has operational control in Syria and Lebanon, confers with Wilson in Jerusalem. Lavarack gets permission from Wilson to let the forces around Damascus and around Merdjayoun work things out as best they can while the main effort remains on the coast road to Beirut.

The Vichy government, meanwhile, already is asking the British via the American consulate for peace terms. However, there is no indication that this will end the conflict anytime soon, at this point it is just casual talk.

Bridlington bombing 19 June 1941
A report in the 19 June 1941 Yorkshire Post about a Luftwaffe bombing the previous day. Note that they do not identify the actual town bombed for security reasons - it was Bridlington. There were seven deaths.

European Air Operations: During the day, RAF Bomber Command conducts Operation Blot III, a Circus mission. This is an attack by 24 Bristol Blenheims of No. 2 Group and then 12 more Blenheims on the Le Havre dockyards. There is thick haze which confuses many of the RAF navigators, and only 24 of the bombers make the rendezvous over Tangmere. An additional 15 bombers fail to find the target, and only nine bombers actually make it to Le Havre. They bomb No. 1 Dry-Dock successfully. RAF No. 616, flying escort, tangles with the Luftwaffe near Le Havre and claims one fighter.

During the night, RAF Bomber Command sends 28 aircraft against Cologne and 20 against Dusseldorf.

HMAS Parramatta at Mersa Matruh, Egypt 19 June 1941
Grimsby class sloop HMAS Parramatta at Mersa Matruh, Egypt, 19 June 1941. The Parramatta sank just over five months later, on 27 November (Photo: RAN Historical, it appears in Paul and Frances Margaret McGuire's 'The Price of Admiralty' [Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1944] opp. p243). 

Battle of the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe (Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft of I Staffeln, Kampfgeschwader 40) bombs and sinks 1306-ton British freighter Empire Warrior a few miles off Guardians Bar, Gulf of Cadiz. All 25 aboard survive, picked up by a Portuguese destroyer.

The Luftwaffe in the same attack also bombs and badly damages 1770-ton Swedish freighter Gunda in the same area as the Empire Warrior. British freighter Peterel takes the Gunda in tow, but it eventually sinks. The entire crew survives.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages Royal Navy destroyer HMS Vanessa in the North Sea. During the encounter, the Vanessa collides with 430-ton ASW trawler Turquoise. The Vanessa has to towed to Yarmouth by destroyer Vesper and is out of action until 15 April 1942.

Dutch patrol boat Sirius seizes Vichy French vessel Compiegne. However, in light of the confused state of relations between the UK and Vichy France (note that the British and Vichy French right now are battling each other in Syria and Lebanon while the British still wish to curry favor with France), the Admiralty ultimately orders the French ship released.

Royal Navy minelayer HMS Plover lays minefield BS.59 in the North Sea.

Canadian corvette HMCS Moose Jaw (Lt. Frederick E. Grubb) is commissioned.

United States destroyers USS Redoubt and Roebuck are laid down.

U-619 and U-620 are laid down.

Matilda tanks 19 June 1941
'Matilda', or `I', tanks in the Western Desert, Egypt in June 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The German News Bureau in Berlin crows about General Erwin Rommel's recent defeat of the British during Operation Battleaxe. It notes:
The most recent reports indicate that the British have lost more tanks than was earlier estimated: When we cleared up the battlefield, we found 200 British tanks destroyed or immobilized by German and Italian guns, which the British were forced to abandon when they retreated.
The German figures are exaggerated - British tank losses were far fewer than 100, let alone 200 - but the complete British defeat gives the Germans a welcome opportunity to pat their staggering Italian allies on the back in the shared victory.

An Axis convoy departs from Naples with five freighters/transports bound for Tripoli. It is escorted by four Italian destroyers.

The Royal Navy headquarters at Alexandria institutes a major resupply of the embattled British forces in the Western Desert. It begins the "Tobruk Ferry," which entails sending destroyers to Mersa Matruh and Tobruk at night. The Luftwaffe dominates the skies over North Africa at this time and such naval missions are extremely hazardous.

Following a review of Malta's defenses, the War Office promises large reinforcements. Whitehall promises thousands of additional troops to prevent a German takeover as in Crete - but there remains the small matter of actually getting them there. Governor Dobbie replies that the most urgent needs are additional RAF forces and an infantry battalion.

Spy Stuff: Soviet agents in Germany and Finland continue issuing warnings to the Kremlin of a coming German attack on the Soviet Union. The spy reports now routinely identify the date of the attack as 22 June.

Wellington bomber 19 June 1941
Wellington W5665, shot down by a German night fighter during the night of 18-19 June 1941 over Frisian Isle Ameland. Of the six-man Polish crew, four were killed and buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Nes there, and two captured. The interred men were later reburied in Nijmegen pursuant to a 1960s centralization scheme for war dead (RAF via Traces of War).

German/US Relations: Following the US State Department's 16 June order to the Germans to close their consulates, Germany and Italy respond by ordering the Americans to do the same in their countries no later than 15 July. This appears to be another reverberation from the 21 May 1941 sinking by a U-boat of US freighter Robin Moore off the African coast. This is a blow for Allied intelligence, as the US consulates have served as valuable "listening posts" within Occupied Europe.

German/Hungarian Relations: General Halder, Chief of the OKH (Army High Command), visits Hungary for a conference.

Anglo/US Relations: Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador to the United States, gives a speech at the Harvard Alumni luncheon. He notes:
The President has declared in terms that no man can mistake on which side in this grim contest stands the United States. And there is no need for me to dwell upon the encouragement that his words have brought to my people, to the whole British Commonwealth, or to lovers of freedom everywhere.
He calls England "the last home of freedom in Europe."

Apparently given as a response to the University of Rochester, New York conferring an honorary degree on Winston Churchill, Oxford University confers the degree of Doctor of Civil Law on President Franklin Roosevelt. Neither man, of course, attends the ceremony.

Eastern Front border 19 June 1941
A map of military units along the German/Soviet border around 19 June 1941. Shown are three German Army Groups, North, South, and Center in Poland, with additional allied Romanian troops to the south. 

German Military: The Kriegsmarine is mining the Baltic, while the Luftwaffe continues reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union.

Luftwaffe night-fighter ace Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weißenfeld is mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht bulletin of the headquarters of the German Wehrmacht. This is considered one of the highest honors a German officer can receive and is coveted even by generals. Prince Lippe-Weißenfeld (he is an heir to the throne of the Principality of Lippe, which was abolished under the Weimar Republic) now has about 10 victories over the bombers, which are considered the most prestigious enemy aircraft to destroy.

The Wehrmacht cancels all soldier leave. Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler, however, who technically is not in the Wehrmacht, flies home to his private house on Lake Tegerness to visit with his family. They go to a nearby field in the Valepp Valley and pick daisies by the roadside for the propaganda cameras.

Soviet Military: The Soviet Navy issues a Grade 2 Alert to its units. The Red Air Force orders camouflaging of airfields, and the government orders blackout in cities along the western border. Some of these orders, such as the camouflaging of airfields, take days to begin implementing and are barely started when Operation Barbarossa begins.

General Pavel Batov assumes command of the 9th Rifle Corps.

British field manual 19 June 1941
Field Manual No. 30-55, Basic Field Manual, Military Intelligence, Identification Of German Naval Ships, 19 June 1941.

British Military: Rear Admiral E.N. Syfret CB becomes commander of 18th Cruiser Squadron.

German Government: After some meetings during the day, Adolf Hitler spends the evening drafting his "Proclamation" for Operation Barbarossa. This will be issued to the troops shortly before the opening of Operation Barbarossa. It is a curiously dour document that pins the entire future of European civilization itself on the outcome of the invasion.

Around 18:00, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop telephones to say that Soviet Ambassador Dekanozov has stopped by the Ministry, transacted some normal business, made some small talk and jokes, and then left without incident. This ends 24 hours of uncertainty after Dekanozov on the 18th had indicated he needed to visit the German Ministry for unspecified reasons.

British Government: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit factories and war ruins in Billingham and other areas in the northeast.

Crail Airfield 19 June 1941
An RAF Second World War vertical aerial photograph of Crail airfield, 19 June 1941. © Courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland (RAF Air Photographs Collection via Airfields of Britain).

Holocaust: Hitler talks to Hans Frank, the Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories (Generalgouverneur für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete). Frank controls all of the territories, known as the General Government, that encompass pre-war Poland aside from those directly incorporated into the Reich - roughly half of the original 187,000 square miles occupied by the Wehrmacht (which of course does not include the far larger portion allocated to the Soviet Union).

Frank long has objected to having Jews from throughout Occupied Europe shipped to the General Government for internment. This is partly because he resents having them under his administration, but more importantly, because controlling them has expanded the influence in the General Government of Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler - at Frank's expense. Frank sees himself as a sort of overlord and chafes at having other authority in "his" territory.

Hitler tells Frank that the territories soon to be wrested from the Soviet Union will become the new "home" of the Jews. These new destinations in "the East" are to replace the nebulous destination of Madagascar that has been bruited about within the government as the eventual home of European Jewry. Frank is delighted and quickly tells his staff that there will be no need for more Ghettos such as the ones in Warsaw and Lodz because all the Jews from now on - including the ones already in the Ghettos - will be heading "east.'

Hitler, however, is unclear about what he really intends for the Jews. The only thing that Frank cares about is that the Jews are heading "east" of his own domain, so he does not press for further details. Where in the "east" Hitler means is left undefined, and what would happen to the Jews once they got there is deemed an unimportant detail at this stage. This will be resolved at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942.

In Romania, the government orders Jews to move to city Ghettos.

Michigan dial phone service 19 June 1941
The big news in northern Michigan is the introduction of dial service. Mayor Hinkley makes the first dial call to his mother. Northern Michigan Review, 19 June 1941.

American Homefront: New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio gets a home run and two singles in New York against the Chicago White Sox. DiMaggio now has hit in a club-record 32 games in a row.

General Mills introduces Cheerioats on store shelves. Designed by food science expert Lester Borchardt, they arise from his experiments in "puffing" oats into tiny ovals (each 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) diameter, .0025 ounce (71 mg)). The name is changed to Cheerios® in 1945 and remains a staple on breakfast tables into the 21st Century.

Future History: Václav Klaus is born in Prague, which at this time is within the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He grows up in the middle-class neighborhood of Vinohrady. He later says that, at age 3, he helps to build barricades in Prague during the uprising of May 1945. Klaus grows up to become a top politician within the Czech Republic and, ultimately, the 2nd President of his country for two terms from 2003-2013. He survives a weird assassination attempt with an airsoft gun by a communist in 2012 and remains as of this writing an elder statesman of the Czech Republic.

Roden Cuttler, as described above a recipient of the VC for his actions in Medjayoun on 19 June 1941 and subsequent days, goes on to earn a Knighthood and become Governor of New South Wales, Australia.

Irina Petrescu is born in Bucharest, Romania. She grows up to become a top Romanian film actress in the 1960s and wins the Best Actress award at the 6th Moscow International Film Festival for her role in "A Woman for a Season" (1969). Petrescu passes away on 19 March 2013.

Joseph Jossie Goldman 19 June 1941
Gravestone of Joseph Jossie Goldman, a 22-year-old South African Sergeant-Pilot in the RAF who perished on 19 June 1941. He perished near Baynards Green when his training flight in a Hampden crashed near the airport. This is located at Upper Heyford Cemetery.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

June 18, 1941: Turkey Turns Its Back

Wednesday 18 June 1941

Kirton-in-Lindsey 18 June 1941
"Australian pilots of No. 452 Squadron relax outside their dispersal hut at Kirton-in-Lindsey, 18 June 1941." © IWM (CH 2883).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: At 20:30 on 18 June 1941, the 5th Indian Brigade start heading twelve miles north toward Damascus. This begins the Battle of Damascus, perhaps the defining event of Operation Exporter.

After hand-to-hand fighting, the Indian troops take Mezzeh, on the Damascus-Beirut road about three miles west of Damascus. This accomplishes the major goal of cutting communications between the two cities. The Indian troops then are tasked with heading east and taking Damascus.

However, the Vichy French destroy their convoy of anti-tank guns and other supplies. The Vichy French troops then put pressure on the Indian troops at Mezzeh with Renault R35 tanks even though the town was supposed to be merely a stepping-stone to a further advance on Damascus. The day ends with the Indian troops desperately trying to defend Mezzeh rather than advancing further north.

Vichy French destroyers Guepard and Valmy sortie out of Beirut Harbor and bombard the advanced Australian positions at Sidon. They don't tarry long, however, because the Royal Navy is nearby.

Overhead, six Gloster Gladiators bounce a formation of Vichy French Dwoitine D.520 fighters. The Gladiator biplanes shoot down two of the French planes over Kissoue. These apparently are the final two claims by Gloster Gladiator pilots of World War II.

The fierce Vichy French resistance has caused more British and Australian effort than anticipated. This has caused some command difficulties as British General Henry Maitland Wilson has retained sole command at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. For a simple campaign, such a command arrangement would have sufficed, but the French are showing signs of digging in. Thus, Australian Lieutenant General Thomas Blamey, Deputy Commander in Chief, Middle East Command, gives tactical authority to Lieutenant General John Lavarack General I Corps.

Behind the scenes, the Vichy French already see how things are going and quietly open negotiations with the British through the American Consul-General in Beirut. The Vichy government asks what terms the British and Free French would accept.

Debden 18 June 1941
No. 3 Squadron Course No.5  RCAF 52 O.T.U. Debden, 18 June 1941 (Fred Turner Collection).

European Air Operations:  During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends a Circus mission (6 bombers with heavy fighter escort) over Bois de Licques. A major action takes place in which the RAF claims 10 fighters for the loss of four.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command attacks Bremen with 100 bombers. The RAF also sends 57 bombers to attack the German cruisers at Brest without success.

London Docks 18 June 1941
London Docks, 18 June 1941.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-138 (Oblt.z.S. Franz Gramitsky), on its fifth patrol and operating west of Cadiz, is sunk in a depth-charge attack by Royal Navy destroyers HMS Faulknor, Fearless, Foresight, Forester, and Foxhound. The submarine broaches the surface before it goes down long enough for the crew to scuttle it and for the entire 27-man crew to escape and survive the day to become POWs aboard the Faulknor. U-138 has sunk six ships totaling 48,564 tons and damaged one ship of 6,993 tons.

U-552 (KrvKpt. Erich Topp), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire and operating about 150 nautical miles (280 km) northwest of Malin Head, spots a convoy. At 03:28 it torpedoes 10,948-ton British transport Norfolk. The freighter takes over an hour to sink and requires two more torpedoes, at 04:19 and 04:38. There is one death, the 70 survivors are picked up by HMS Skate. After the attack on Norfolk, U-552 attempts to shadow the convoy and bring in a wolfpack but the convoy escorts drive it off.

Polish destroyer Kujiwiak, just commissioned, is attacked by the Luftwaffe. There is one fatality from an exploding ammunition locker, but otherwise, the damage from the machine-gun fire of the German planes is minor.

Britihs 6-ton fishing trawler Doris II hits a mine and sinks just off Sheerness. Both men on board perish.

Convoy SL-78 departs from Freetown bound for Liverpool.

Royal Navy minesweeping trawler HMS Romeo (Skipper William R. H. Stewart) is commissioned.

US Navy escort carrier USS Copahee and submarine Peto are laid down.

U-753 (Korvettenkapitän Alfred M. von Mannstein) is commissioned.

USS Gleaves 18 June 1941
US Navy destroyer USS Gleaves underway, 18 June 1941. Note the U.S. Navy camouflage (National Archives NAID 513043).

Battle of the Mediterranean: The British re-establish their positions after the failed Operation Battleaxe. British 7th Armored Division and Indian 4th Infantry Division have withdrawn to their original positions and, in some cases, behind them.

The RAF bombs Benghazi. During air battles, the Bf 109s of I,/JG 27 shoot down three Brewster Buffaloes. Ace Hans-Joachim Marseille requests and receives medical leave in Berlin.

The Royal Navy makes a supply run to Mersa Matruh, sending troopship Glenroy and net-layer Protector. They carry troops, gasoline and other supplies for the retreating British troops.

Spy Stuff: A German defector tells the Soviets that Operation Barbarossa will begin at 04:00 on 22 June. During warfare, such a warning would be given great credence, but this warning is brushed off because it is a time of peace. Another warning from the Soviet embassy in London also is filed.

Turkey German Treaty 18 June 1941
Signing the German/Turkey Treaty of Friendship, 18 June 1941.

German/Turkish Relations: While Hitler ideally would like Turkey to join the war on its historic enemy Russia, he realizes that is not going to happen. However, he gets the next-best thing today when Turkey signs a ten-year non-aggression pact (Türkisch-Deutscher Freundschaftsvertrag) with Germany. German ambassador to Turkey Franz von Papen signs on behalf of the Reich, while Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Şükrü Saracoğlu signs for Turkey. Germany, of course, has a similar pact with the Soviet Union.

German/Soviet Relations: Soviet Ambassador to Germany Vladimir Dekanozov suddenly requests an audience with the Foreign Ministry. Hitler flies into a panic and fears that the Soviets have uncovered his invasion plans. The last thing he wants is some desperate offer made to try to stop Operation Barbarossa when it is in the final stages of preparation. He spends a long time discussing the matter with Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop and his adjutants Engel and Hewel. They decide that Hitler and Ribbentrop need to "disappear" for a few days to avoid any awkward questions. They even consider fleeing to Berchtesgaden.

However, Dekanozov shows up unannounced at the Foreign Ministry at 18:00 on the 19th, makes some small-talk, transacts some mundane business, cracks a few jokes, and leaves. Everyone then breathes a huge sigh of relief and Hitler stays in Berlin. It is probably the most uncomfortable Hitler has been during the entire war.

Filmwoche 18 June 1941
Filmwoche Magazine, 18 June 1941.

German/Romanian Relations: Hitler meets with Ion Antonescu and lets him in on the details of the "great secret" Operation Barbarossa, including the opening date.

Japanese/Dutch Relations: The Japanese terminate their attempts to secure all of the oil and other output from the Dutch East Indies. They state:
The reply of the Netherlands of June 6 is not only very unsatisfactory but asserts in connection with the question of the acquisition of essential materials and goods, to which Japan attaches importance, that their quantities may be decreased at any time to suit their own convenience.
Munsterwalde aerial reconnaissance 18 June 1941
Luftwaffe reconnaissance of  Münsterwalde, 18 June 1941 (Federal Archive, Bild 196-02278).

German Military: The Luftwaffe continues its reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union. One at the Soviet Koshka Yavr air base 25 km southeast of Zapolyarny in the Murmansk Oblast comes under anti-aircraft fire. German troops are assembling across the border in Finland to invade the Soviet Union and try to seize the port of Murmansk.

The Kriegsmarine lays mines in the Baltic

General Halder confers with the Romanian Minister of War and tours the "front."

Neuenburg 18 June 1941
Luftwaffe reconnaissance over Neuenburg, 18 June 1941 (Federal Archive, Bild 196-02378).

US Military: President Roosevelt meets with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and William "Wild Bill" Donovan. They talk about setting up a new intelligence organization based upon the British MI6, which Donovan studied during his recent European visit. This will become the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, which will morph into the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA.

The US Navy concludes Pacific Fleet Exercise No. 1 off the coast of California.

Soviet Government: Premier Joseph Stalin, completely unruffled by the mounting piles of warnings on his desk about a coming German invasion, leaves Moscow on a vacation down south.

British Government: King George and Queen Elizabeth tour munitions factories and shipyards in Tyneside.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Tyneside 18 June 1941
Royal Visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Tyneside, 18 June 1941.

British Homefront: Perhaps in an effort to boost morale, the government has decided to release some information about radar (known in England as "radiolocation technology"). It appears in the press today.

American Homefront: Felix Frankfurter, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, gives the Commencement address at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He gives a rationale for the war:
One of the most current of these evasions of thought is that "war never settles anything." The Civil War settled slavery. This war will settle the quality of your lives and your children's lives. It simply is not true that war never settles anything. I respect the convictions of a conscientious objector to war and I believe I understand the philosophy underlying Gandhi's non-resistance. But the relentless choice events may force on every individual cannot be met by such a fair-sounding pernicious abstractions as that "war never settles anything.
Boxer Joe Louis knocks out Billy Conn in the 13th round at the Polo Grounds in New York City. He thus defends his World Heavyweight Boxing title. It is his first serious defense after a string of "bum of the month" opponents.

New York Yankees Centerfielder Joe DiMaggio extends his record club-record hitting streak to 31 games with a single off White Sox pitcher Thornton Lee.

Chevrolet staff car 18 June 1941
RCAF 1941 Chevrolet staff car with flag, 18 June 1941.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3581798).


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