Saturday, July 21, 2018

August 20, 1941: Siege of Leningrad Begins

Wednesday 20 August 1941

20 August 1941
"'Mark', a dog ammunition carrier, delivers 'ammo' to a Bren gun team, Eastern Command, 20 August 1941." © IWM (H 12984).

Eastern Front: Some historians consider 20 August 1941 to be the day that the siege of Leningrad begins, and this is the day that most "900-day siege" references use. This is because 20 August 1941 is the day the Germans cut the railroad line from Moscow, effectively isolating Leningrad from the rest of Russia. However, it is an arbitrary date, as the Germans are still struggling on the 20h to reach Leningrad and are facing fierce opposition from Soviet troops guarding the approaches to Leningrad (see below. In Leningrad, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov orders the formation of Home Guard battalions in the city. These ad hoc units are formed mainly by women and teenagers armed with knives, ceremonial swords they have taken from above family fireplaces, hunting equipment, and whatever can be found in Leningrad museums.

German OKW Chief Wilhelm Keitel notifies the Finnish high command (General Waldemar Erfuth) that he will be sending a plan for Finnish military involvement in the capture of Leningrad. Marshall Mannerheim, however, confides to Erfuth that he has no plans to make anything more than a token attack on Leningrad. Mannerheim has both political and military reasons to avoid an attack on the Soviet Union regardless of what the Germans want. When the German plan arrives, he says that he intends to say "No." This is not a unique attitude: already some Finnish troops on the Karelian Isthmus have balked at marching past pre-war borders. Mannerheim's consistent position throughout his career is that he has no intention of ever trying to invade Russia, he simply wants to recover territory to which he believes that Finland has historical claims. The Soviets, of course, consider all territory currently occupied by Soviet troops to be theirs regardless of such historical claims.

In the Far North Sector, the Finns prepare an attack by IV Corps to capture Viipuri. The Soviet 43rd and 123rd Rifle Divisions are withdrawing in that direction already. The Finnish 18th Division of the II Corps, with the 12 Division and Light Brigade T (Colonel Tiiainen) crosses the Vuoksi River, and the Soviet 115th Rifle Division moves to block them. While the Finns are advancing steadily in the Karelian Isthmus, the terrain increasingly favors the Soviet defenders as the Isthmus grows narrower as the fighting approaches Leningrad.

The Finnish attack toward the Murmansk railway line at Loukhi is bogged down after offering much promise only a week ago. The Finnish high command sends a battalion from the force that has bogged down near Ukhta (Kalevala) to help out. As seems always to be the case in the Far North, the Soviets have moved just enough troops into position at Loukhi at the last minute to avoid losing truly strategic positions.

20 August 1941
"A Gypsy tribe on the way to Lviv." 20 August 1941 (Hans Joachim Paris, Federal Archive, Bild 146-2004-0026)

In the Army Group North Sector, the Wehrmacht approaches Voiskovitsy on the road to Leningrad in the afternoon. A small group of Soviet tanks armed with 76-mm guns and reinforced with additional armor is hidden along the road and allow the advance German units to pass unopposed. Soviet Senior Lieutenant Zinovy Kolobanov then gives his "Klim Voroshilov" KV-1E heavy tank the order to fire, and the Soviet tankers implement their usual tactic of destroying the first and last vehicles within sight. It is a bloodbath. The Soviets destroy 22 panzers and a total of 43 armored vehicles, plus artillery pieces and other equipment. Kolobanov's task force takes over 150 hits but remains in action. For firing the first shot, Kolobanov receives the Order of the Red Banner, his gun commander the Order of Lenin, his senior driver the Order of the Red Banner, and two others in his tank are given the Order of the Red Star.

Elsewhere, the German XXXII Corps (General Walter Kuntze) begins attacking Tallinn, Estonia. The Soviet forces there are surrounded, and their only hope of escape is by sea. Remnants of Soviet Marshal G.I. Kulik's 54th Army try to escape through German lines north of Luga and are destroyed. German XXXXI Corps of Panzer Group 4 (General Reinhardt) and elements of 18th Army isolate about 30,000 Soviet troops of the Soviet Luga Operational Group.

German troops south of Leningrad stage daring assaults that succeed due to sheer surprise and audacity. A unit of German 16th Army led by Sergeant Fege of the 45th Infantry Regiment cuts the Moscow-Leningrad rail line southeast of Chudovo by taking a railway bridge in a surprise attack before the Soviet defenders can blow it up. Other German troops led by Lieutenant-Colonel Matussik of the 2nd Battalion, 45h Infantry Regiment proceed further east in a captured truck and take another important railway bridge over the Volkhov River after finding it unguarded. These successes sever the last Soviet railway line from Leningrad to Moscow and solidify the German line - for the moment.

In the Army Group Center sector, both Panzer Group 2 (General Guderian) and 2nd Army continue moving toward Bryansk. Soviet 24th Army continues the Soviet attacks against the German "lightning rod" position at Yelnya. The German defenders at Yelnya are holding their position but report that they have lost about 1000 men in the last six days.

20 August 1941
Royal Castle in Warsaw in 1941. The Germans have removed the roof to hasten the process of destruction by the elements (Zamek Królewski w Warszawie, red. A. Gieysztor, 1972).

In the Army Group South Sector, German 11th Army completes the capture of Kherson (Cherson) on the Black Sea. The Germans now begin planning their move into the Crimea. The Romanian Air Force, assisting the troops attacking Odessa, destroy a Soviet armored train. German 17th Army establishes a bridgehead across the Dneipr River at Kremenchuk, Ukraine.

In a top-secret mission, Soviet NKVD troops under Boris Epov and Aleksandr Petrovsky, sent specially from Moscow on personal orders from Stalin, blow up the Lenin-Dnieproges Dam at Zaporozhye (Zaporizhzhya). The resulting water surge kills an estimated 20,000-100,000 Ukrainians. The dam had the largest statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ukraine. The flow of water temporarily cuts off part of the city of Zaporizhzhya from the advancing Wehrmacht. The dam's destruction is filmed, perhaps to prove to Stalin that it had been done as ordered.

The Red Air Force sends nine bombers to attack Berlin.

20 August 1941
The Dnieper hydroelectric station on October 10, 1932, when it was put into service. After its destruction on 20 August 1941, the dam was later repaired and remains in service today.

European Air Operations: It is a quiet day on the Channel Front. RAF Bomber Command sends 18 Blenheim bombers on coastal sweeps without loss. The bombers attack some shipping without success and also bomb Texel airfield.

Battle of the Baltic: Soviet minesweeper Buy hits two mines and sinks in the Baltic Sea off Hogland.

German torpedo boat S-58 torpedoes and sinks Soviet minesweeper Pirmunas in the Väinameri Sea (Gulf of Riga).

Soviet reefer Sibir is lost today of unknown causes.

20 August 1941
Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Laurent (H83) (originally HMS Cygnet), 20 August 1941 (Canadian Navy Heritage website. Image Negative Number IKMD-04199, Ken Macpherson / Naval Museum of Alberta).

Battle of the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 173-ton British fishing trawler Juliet about 30 miles south of Old Head of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. Everyone survives.

Faroes 236-ton auxiliary trawler Solarris hits a mine and sinks off Seydisfjordur (Seidisfjord), Iceland. There are four survivors.

Royal Navy 348-ton minesweeping trawler HMT Lorinda sinks due to a fire caused by engine trouble off Freetown. Everyone survives, picked up by accompanying trawler Balta.

The German 4th S-Boat Flotilla (Kptlt. Bätge) attacks a routine British convoy off Cromer. S-48 (ObltzS v. Mirbach) torpedoes and sinks 1971-ton Polish freighter Czestochowa (one dead). S-48 also badly damages 2774-ton British freighter Dalewood. There are four deaths. A tug tows Dalewood into the Humber with major damage aft.

German 200-ton trawler Charlotte is stranded and lost in the North Sea.

Mexican Navy patrol boat Halcon sinks of unknown causes.

Royal Navy battleship HMS Duke of York (Captain C.H.J. Harcourt) receives its final touches and is fully ready for battle.

Royal Navy Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet Admiral Sir John Tovey visits Scapa Flow on an inspection tour.

Convoy ON-9 departs from Liverpool.

Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Ilfracombe (J-95, Lt. Commander Harry L. D. Hoare) is commissioned.

U-376 and U-584 are commissioned, U-591 and U-592 are launched.

20 August 1941
Savoia-Marchetti SM.79. The SM-79 generally is considered the best Italian bomber of World War II. It served in a variety of roles such as transport, torpedo-bomber, and reconnaissance. Due to its distinctive hump, it acquired the nickname "Gobbo Maleditto" (Damned Hunchback).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Unique torpedoes and sinks Italian troopship Esperiea about 11 miles north of Tripoli. There are 31 deaths and 1139 survivors. The rest of the Italian convoy reaches Tripoli safely.

Royal Navy submarine Upholder torpedoes and sinks 852-ton Italian freighter Enotria six miles northwest of Cape St Vito, northwest Sicily.

Royal Navy submarine Thrasher uses its deck guns to sink a small Greek freighter, the San Stefano, off Cape Malea.

Italian S-79 torpedo bombers under the command of Captain Buscaglia hit and damage 4782-ton British tanker Turbo north of Damietta, Egypt. The tanker is taken under tow to Port Said. Everyone survives, but Turbo is in very bad shape. On 4 April 1942, when an attempt is made to tow the Turbo to Aden for repairs, the tanker breaks in half and sinks.

Operation Treacle, the replacement of Australian troops at Tobruk, continues with a small convoy departing from Alexandria. It consists of minelaying cruiser Latona and destroyers Kipling, Nizam, and Kingston carrying Polish troops of the Carpathian Brigade while escorted by light cruisers Ajax and Neptune. During the withdrawal from Tobruk, destroyer Nizam is damaged by a near miss from a Luftwaffe attack off Bardia but makes it back to Alexandria, partially under tow.

Royal Navy submarine Otus arrives at Malta carrying supplies from Alexandria. Its cargo includes 18 passengers.

The British military command at Malta warns homeowners to remove inflammable items from roofs. It is a quiet day with no air attacks. RAF bombers attack Augusta, Sicily.

20 August 1941
Obertsleutnant Helmuth Groscurth, 1941/1942 (Federal Archive, Bild 146-1997-017-20).

War Crimes: At Belaya Tserkov in Ukraine, the German 295th Infantry Division is ordered to assist with the killing of schoolchildren locked in a school for days without food or water. The unit's two army chaplains protest. Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant) Helmuth Groscurth, who privately agrees with the chaplains, calls the Sixth Army headquarters for instructions, and they tell him to put it in writing. Groscurth duly forwards a written report to headquarters written by the chaplains - a daring act since merely submitting such a report implies disagreement with previously issued orders. The report concludes:
In the case in question, measures against women and children were undertaken which in no way differ from atrocities carried out by the enemy about which the troops are continually being informed
The commander of the Sixth Army, Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau reads the report and characterizes it as:
incorrect, inappropriate and impertinent in the extreme.
Reichenau personally orders the children killed and sends a representative, SS-Obersturmfuhrer August Hafner, to the division to make sure that the order is carried out - which it is on 21 August. Hafner writes that, when he arrives, the German troops already have dug a grave in the woods. Following normal procedure, the children are lined up along the edge of the pit and shot so that they fall into it. Local Ukrainians, no doubt including some relatives of the children, are made to watch.

Incidents like these belie later claims that ordinary German Army units did not participate in exterminations on the Eastern Front and that only SS units carried them out. Evidence shows that this and similar incidents badly affected the morale of ordinary German soldiers such as Groscurth. Naturally, the Soviets also learned of such incidents, with predictable consequences.

On the Yugoslavian island of Pag, Italian troops that arrive to occupy the island find evidence of mass murders of Serbians and Jews by local Ustachi fascists. A total of 293 women, 91 children, and 791 bodies overall are found.

20 August 1941
A German train in Serbia destroyed by Serbian partisans, 1941.

Partisans: Communist activist Pierre Georges assassinates German naval cadet Alfons Moser at the Barbès – Rochechouart metro station in Paris. This is in retaliation for the execution on 18 August 1941 of the French Resistance member Samuel Tyszelman.

Pro-German Serbs propose collaborationist Serbian Volunteer Detachments to aid in suppressing Yugoslavian partisans.

Propaganda: Italian radio claims "a particularly daring attack was carried out on Malta" on 19 August. The attacking aircraft "machine-gunned the highly equipped air base of Hal Far" and "Two large twin-engined bombers were set on fire and destroyed, while another two bombers and two single-engined planes were hit and rendered unserviceable."

US/Japanese Relations: Ambassador Nomura reports to Tokyo that President Roosevelt is not "anti-Japanese." However, Postmaster-General Walker has indicated that any talk of a summit between the leaders of Japan and the US would encounter very strong opposition from both Congress and the public. Walker, Nomura writes, feels there is a good possibility of peace if talks continue.

20 August 1941
"Astounding Science-Fiction," Volume 27 #6, August 1941, John W. Campbell, Jr. Editor, cover painting by Hubert Rogers.

German Military: Luftwaffe General Walter Dornberger, Werner von Braun, and pilot Johannes "Macki" Steinhoff make a presentation to Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) headquarters in East Prussia. They show Hitler a film demonstrating the progress being made in rocketry, particularly the large A-4 rocket (which becomes better known as the V-2). Hitler, impressed, lauds “this development is of revolutionary importance for the conduct of warfare in the whole world." Hitler orders the men to develop the A-4 into a "vengeance weapon" (Vergeltungswaffe) for use against London. The three men return to Peenemunde with new access to the resources necessary to develop the rocket.

The Spanish "Blue" Division (250th Division) begins moving to the Front south of Leningrad.

Japanese Military: The Imperial Japanese Navy requisitions 9997-ton tanker Toho Maru and assigns it to the Yokosuka Naval District.

Battleship Haruna joins the Japanese First Fleet (Vice Admiral Takasu Shiro), joining Battleship Division 3 (Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi). This powerful force already includes battleships Hiei, Kirishima, and Kongo.

Submarine chasers CH-20 and CH-21 are completed and join the Kure Naval District.

US Government: The Department of Agriculture announces that it is negotiating with the governments of Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Britain to create an "international granary" in the United States. Surplus food from participating countries is to be accumulated in the United States for distribution wherever needed when the war is over - though, of course, the US is not at war. Yet. In the meantime, the United States already has a stockpile of 400 million bushels of wheat that is increasing with each harvest.

20 August 1941
Erich Koch (Federal Archives, Bild 183-H13717).

German Government: Erich Koch officially is appointed Reichskommissar for the Ukraine.

Iraq: The new pro-British government announces that it is reopening the military academy in Baghdad.

Costa Rica: The French Charge d'Affaires and the Secretary of the French Legation switch sides, submitting their resignations to the Vichy government and accepting identical positions in the Free French movement.

20 August 1941
"Jewish refugee children wait to board SS Mouzinho in Lisbon.” August 20, 1941. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Milton Koch.

Holocaust: The Vichy government begins arresting the first of 4232 foreign-born Jews in Paris at the request of the Gestapo's Jewish Affairs Department. Over the next five days, the French send them to a new transit camp at Drancy (opens today) for eventual deportation.

German Homefront: Adolf Hitler asks his personal architect, Albert Speer, who at this time has no formal role in the war, to use captured Soviet booty to decorate Berlin buildings to build morale.

French Homefront: Due to recent attacks on the French railway system, the Vichy government arrests 50,000 people for questioning.

British Homefront: Former Governor-General of Australia (1925-1930) John Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven dies peacefully at his home in Ury House, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, UK.

20 August 1941
Marshals Stalin and Voroshilov (right) at the 1945 Victory Parade in Moscow.

Soviet Homefront: Stalin continues his purge against field commanders who have failed against the Germans, and, in typical Stalinesque style, this extends to their families. The NKVD arrests the wife, E.N. Khanchin-Kachalova, and her mother, E.I. Khanhchina, of the deceased and disgraced (by Soviet standards) commander of the Soviet 28th Army, General V.Ia. Kachalov. The entire Kachalov incident is murky, with some evidence that Kachalov actually survived for a time after his supposed death and that he perished while fighting as a partisan. However, there is little question that Kachalov died a hero by most normal standards. The two women ultimately are sentenced to 8 years in Siberian camps, where the older woman perishes in 1944. Mrs. Kachalov is finally released in 1949 and returns to Moscow. This incident turns into a long-lasting campaign by Kachalov's wife to clear his name which proved successful only after Stalin had died in 1953. Mrs. Kachalov in 1957.

With the situation on the Leningrad front grim, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov attends the first meeting of the Leningrad "aktiv" (Council for the Defense of Leningrad). He and Andrei Zhdanov, the local Communist leader, craft an appeal for release to the press, the famous "Appeal to the People of Leningrad." It is also signed by Pyotr Popkov, chairman of the Leningrad Soviet. It calls for the citizens of Leningrad to stand up and fight the approaching Wehrmacht. The Appeal is released on the 21st.

American Homefront: A strike in the Federal Shipbuilding Company's yards in Jersey City, New Jersey which began on 7 August continues. President Roosevelt asks the 18,000 striking men who are working on $493 million worth of war and merchant ship orders to return to work within a fortnight. Roosevelt asks the strikers to put "the importance of national defense before their points of difference."

A transportation strike in Detroit is hindering defense industries there.

20 August 1941
Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd circa 1930.

Rear Admiral Richard S. Byrd delivers a speech at Madison Square Garden in New York. Byrd urges his listeners to support President Roosevelt. He states:
The President has been accused of trying to get this nation into war. I can give you my personal word that Roosevelt, the man, has a deep hatred for war—deeper perhaps than many who have made this criticism. Roosevelt, the President, has the task of carrying American democracy forward under God against any resistance, and it is his duty to do that above all things. If he can do it without war he will do it. But there are things infinitely worse than war, and the worst of these is slavery.
Byrd concludes by asking, "are we going to stand united behind the President as if at war with an unconquerable morale? Americans, what is your answer?"

"The Little Foxes" starring Bette Davis has its premiere at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"Sun Valley Serenade" starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Milton Berle, Glenn Miller, and Lynn Bari is released. This film screens constantly at the Sun Valley Lodge and Inn in Idaho to this day. "Sun Valley Serenade" receives three Academy Award Nominations, including for Best Music, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and Best Music, Original Song (Chattanooga Choo Choo) by Harry Warren (music) and Mack Gordon (lyrics).

Future History: Slobodan Milošević is born in Požarevac village in Podgorica (Požarevac), Yugoslavia. He becomes President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He is arrested by Yugoslav federal authorities on 31 March 2001 on suspicion of corruption, abuse of power, and embezzlement. Milošević dies in prison of a heart attack on 8 May 1989.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

August 19, 1941: Convoy OG-71 Destruction

Tuesday 19 August 1941

German Panzer IIIs in Russia, 1941
German Panzer IIIs on the Eastern Front (Federal Archive, Bild 146-1975-078-27A).

Eastern Front: German General Buhle on 19 August 1941 delivers a report on an inspection tour he has made of Army Group South. As General Halder notes in the OKH war diary, Field Marshal von Rundstedt says that "Replacements urgently needed," and those that have arrived so far have been of "indifferent quality." The artillery cannot keep up with the pace of the advance because the horses that drag it are in poor shape. About 60% of the panzer force is in combat condition, which leaves little margin for error. Divisions are in varying states of readiness, with some in good shape, but some "less good" or even "poor."

In the Far North sector, Army Group Norway finally concedes that Group F of Finnish III Corps is stuck north of Ukhta (Kalevala). After a week of probing attacks, it has gotten nowhere. The Army Group shifts some of the troops to the attack on Loukhi on the Murmansk railway, which also has gotten stuck fast, and allocates a battalion to battles further north.

Finnish 6th Division of XXXVI Corps embarks on an offensive during the early morning hours toward the Murmansk railway. It is foggy with spells of intense rain, and the main force achieves surprise and gets off to a good start. The objectives are Nurmi Lake and Nurmi Mountain, about halfway between Kayrala and Allakurtti. The main column reaches Lehtokangas by late afternoon, but the flank formations make virtually no progress. Still, it is the first movement in the area for some time, and the Germans continue to push forward with great hopefulness. They begin bringing forward a reserve regiment to reinforce the main thrust.

A soldier of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division, 19 August 1941
A soldier of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division in the Leningrad Oblast area, near Luga, August-Sept 1941.

In the Army Group North sector, the Soviets continue attacking the German position at Staraya Russa, but the Germans are dug in and are not being dislodged. At Novgorod, the Soviets finally are pushed out of the entire city by the end of the day after the Germans dislodge some holdouts in the eastern areas. General Hoepner's Panzer Group 4 breaks out toward the Luga Highway, which leads to Leningrad. However, a single camouflaged KV-1 tank wreaks havoc on the lead tanks and delays the advance. German 18th Army attacks Tallinn, Estonia.

In the Army Group Center sector, a German Cavalry division of 2nd Army captures Gomel and advance through it to the east. The main problem for the Germans in this sector is poor roads. The usual Soviet attacks at Yelnya are repulsed.

In the Army Group South sector, 11th Army crosses the Bug River with XI Corps. The Red Air Force attacks German troops in the Dneipr bend. At Dnepropetrovsk, the German attack begun by "Panzer" Meyer's small reconnaissance force holds its ground, and a Soviet counterattack with 100 tanks is beaten off, with 52 Soviet tanks destroyed. The Germans are trying to capture a bridge at Cherkassy. The Soviet Fifth Army is retreating, and the Germans fear they may escape from the trap they are trying to spring between General Guderian's Panzer Group 2 heading down from the north and General von Kleist's Panzer Group 4 driving north to meet it. Soviet Rear Admiral G.V. Zhukov (no relation to Red Army General Georgy) takes command of the Soviet defense of Odessa.

A soldier of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division, 19 August 1941
Still from the above brief film of an SS man near Luga in the Army Group North sector, ca. 19 August 1941.

European Air Operations: During the day, the RAF sends 18 Blenheim bombers on Circus missions to Gosnay and Hazebrouck. However, the bombers sent to Gosnay turn back, so only Hazebrouck is bombed. The British lose three bombers on these missions. Another two Fortresses are sent to attack Dusseldorf, but they turn back as well.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command mounts only one major attack instead of the two or three that was the standard recently. Tonight's target is Kiel, and the RAF puts 108 bombers (54 Wellingtons, 41 Hampdens, 7 Stirlings, and 6 Halifax bombers to attack railway targets. However, the weather is poor for flying, with clouds and icing conditions, and it is raining heavily over Kiel. Only 67 bombers even claim to attack the target. The British lose 3 Wellingtons and a Hampden. Damage to Kiel is barely noticed by the Germans, with no casualties and the only damage due to anti-aircraft fire returning to earth and some incendiaries that land on a swimming facility. Some of the bombers are off course and hit the airfield at Holtenau, north of Kiel, rather than the target.

The RAF also sends minor operations to Le Havre (6 Wellingtons and 3 Whitleys) and to do minelaying in the Frisian Islands (3 Hampdens). There are no losses in these minor missions.

A USAAF P-40 Warhawk crashes at Reykjavik, Iceland, killing pilot Lt. George Meeks, when he flies into a radio mast while landing and drops into the sea. He is the first US soldier to perish in Iceland. A new airfield being built at Keflavík is named "Meeks Field" in his honor before being renamed simply Keflavik Field.

Sturmgeschutz III, 19 August 1941
Sturmgeschutz III and a column of Wehrmacht soldiers on the march in Soviet territory.1941.

Battle of the Baltic: German torpedo boat S-58 sinks 210-ton Soviet minesweeper T-51 "Pirmunas" near the south entrance to Moon Sound. Some sources say the name of this vessel is "Merikaru."

Soviet auxiliary minesweeper No. 80 is lost on this date. No reason or location is given.

According to some sources, the Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 3767-ton Soviet hospital ship Sibir today at Reval, Estonia. Other sources state the sinking occurs on 14 August. There are over 400 deaths out of a complement of 2500 wounded. Whichever date it is, as mentioned in the entry for that date, it constitutes a war crime.

Soviet submarine M-121 is launched.

Panuco fire in NY Harbor, 19 August 1941
The New York newspapers on 19 August 1941 are full of news of freighter Panuco, which bursts into flame at its berth at the foot of Warren Street in Brooklyn. Tugs manage to pull the blazing ship away from the pier, but the sheds on the pier already are alight. Panuco is dragged aground on the Red Hook Flats and allowed to burn itself out. There are dozens of casualties from the fire.

Battle of the Atlantic: In Operation Gauntlet, a joint Anglo/Canadian/Norwegian expedition (Force K) arrives at Spitzbergen on August 19 to evacuate Norwegian and Russian mining communities. To prevent the Germans from using the coal mines on Spitzbergen, the British dynamite them. The operation lasts until 3 September. The Germans have considered, but rejected, invading Spitzbergen, but the British do not know this.

Allied troops on Spitzbergen, 19 August 1941
Allied troops landing on Spitzbergen, ca. 19 August 1941. The cargo on the dock are the personal belongings of the inhabitants of the island who are being evacuated.

The Kriegsmarine has had multiple sightings of Convoy OG-71 which have enabled it to assemble a U-boat wolf pack in its path (these include Luftwaffe sightings and sightings by both U-106 and U-201). OG-71 is heading south to Gibraltar. Today the German preparation pays off with multiple sinkings southwest of Ireland:
  • U-204 (Kptlt. Walter Kell) sinks 1060-ton Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Bath (43 survivors, 89 deaths, two of the 42 survivors also later pass away from wounds)
  • U-201 (ObltzS Adalbert Schnee) sinks 3255-ton British liner Aguila (157 dead).
  • U-201 sinks 1809-ton Ciscar (13 deaths, 35 survivors)
  • U-559 (ObltzS Heidtmann) sinks 1584-ton British freighter Alva (one death).
The crew of Alva is picked up by Royal Navy corvette HMS Campanula. Norwegian destroyer Bath is the former US destroyer USS Hopewell (DD-181) and it sinks in three minutes. Bath's sinking is quick because two depth charges explode as the vessel sinks, blowing off its stern.

U-201 at sea,
U-201 at sea. Note the victory pennants. U-201 gets credit for sinking two ships in Convoy OG-71 on 19 August 1941.

As usual with convoy battles, the fighting is confused, and different U-boat captains think they have sunk ships actually sunk by another U-boat. U-559, for instance, claims to sink another ship and damage another, but there is no confirmation of this. U-201 also claims to sink another ship, with no confirmation.

Fifteen survivors of Alva are picked up by 1203-ton British freighter Clonlara which itself is sunk on 22 August, and the 15 Alva survivors all perish. Six or seven other Alva survivors are picked up by tug Empire Oak and five by destroyer Boreas, but Empire Oak also is sunk later on the 22 August, killing the Alva crew that it picked up. There are similar stories for other ships - simply getting plucked out of the water by another ship does not guarantee that you ever will see land again. Some survivors are on three or even four ships before they make port.

U-559 with its crew, 19 August 1941
U-559, which gets credit for sinking British freighter Alva on 19 August 1941.

Royal Navy submarine Trident (Cmdr. Sladen) uses its deck gun to attack 4770-ton German freighter off the Norwegian Arctic coast. Levante escapes and makes it back to port.

Italian submarine Tazzoli (Commander Fecia di Cossato) torpedoes and sinks 7313-ton Norwegian tanker Sildra south of Freetown. Everyone survives.

British 101-ton motor barge Golden Grain hits a mine and sinks a few miles east of Foulness Island. All three aboard perish.

Three survivors of 2727-ton British freighter Cathrine, sunk by U-43 (Kptlt. Luth) on 17 June, are picked up by trawler Boras in the North Atlantic convoy route. The other 24 on board are never found.

Royal Navy destroyer Avon Vale intercepts Portuguese trawler Maria Leonor off Cape Juby and takes off survivors of British tanker Horn Shell, sunk on 26 July.

Convoy OG-72 departs from Liverpool.

Canadian corvette HMCS Sorel (Lt. John W. Dowling) is commissioned.

U-87 (Oberleutnant zur See Joachim Berger) is commissioned, U-509 is launched.

Captured Soviet 76 mm F-22 gun (FK.296(r) in German nomenclature), 19 August 1941
A captured Soviet 76 mm F-22 gun (FK.296(r) in German nomenclature). These guns are captured in large quantities in 1941. The Germans put them to use as anti-tank guns and also slap them on obsolete Panzer II chassis to create the tank destroyer known as the Marder II. The first proposals to create the Marder II in this fashion are made in August 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Treacle, the replacement of Australian troops in Tobruk with the Polish Carpathian Brigade, moves into high gear today. The timing is based upon the phases of the moon, as the British wish to avoid casualties by the Luftwaffe as much as possible. Tonight, Royal Navy destroyers HMS Hasty, Jervis, and Kimberley depart Alexandria with a large force of the Polish troops. The operation is covered by the cruisers of the 7th and 15th Cruiser Squadron.

The Luftwaffe (Junkers Ju 87 Stukas) bombs and sinks Royal Navy whaler HMT Thorbryn off Tobruk. There are eight deaths, while 18 crew are taken as prisoners. Thorbryn is towing two lighters, one of which sinks (LCT-12, killing the skipper) and the other of which drifts ashore in an area of German control (skipper is taken as a prisoner). Overall, taking the three ships as a whole, 9 out of 29 men perish.

Royal Navy submarine Tetrarch (Lt Cdr Greenway) attacks an Italian freighter (the Cadamosto) just outside of Benghazi harbor but misses.

Royal Navy submarine Unbeaten (Lt Woodward) unsuccessfully attacks an Italian convoy about 15 miles north of Pantelleria.

Operation Guillotine, the British reinforcement of Cyprus, continues. Australian sloop HMAS Parramatta escorts transport Kevinbank to Famagusta.

Italian minelayers Aspromonte and Reggio lay minefield SN-43 in the Sicilian Strait.

An Italian convoy departs from Naples bound for Tripoli.

At Malta, RAF Hurricanes shoot down three Macchi 200 fighters after they patrol near Grand Harbour in the morning. In the evening, five Italian bombers drop incendiary bombs on Zeitun, killing 2 and wounding five without loss to themselves.

WPA girls in New Orleans, 19 August 1941
A group of young girls from public playgrounds of New Orleans about to take off for Camp Bena Lea near Covington, August 19, 1941. This is part of the popular WPA Recreation Project (Children of the WPA).

Battle of the Black Sea: The Soviet 2nd Destroyer Division attacks a German/Romanian convoy near Odessa, Ukraine. The destroyers fire over 450 shells but apparently cause little damage.

The Soviets scuttle river monitor Vidista at Kiev to avoid capture.

Soviet submarine M-33 (Lt Surov) unsuccessfully attacks Romanian submarine Delfinul off Constanza, Romania.

Soviet submarine L-4 (Lt Cdr Polyakov) lays 20 mines off Cape Olinka, Romania.

Battle of the Pacific: German raider Komet has been operating off the Galapagos Islands recently. Today, it scores its third success in the area, sinking 9036-ton British freighter Devon about 200 miles southwest of the islands. The entire crew of Devon survives and board Komet as prisoners.

Reza Shah Pahlavi hands second son Ali Reza his commission, 19 August 1941
Reza Shah Pahlavi hands second son Ali Reza his commission as an officer at graduation exercises at Iran's "West Point" in Tehran, 19 August 1941 (AP).

War Crimes:  The Soviets have been evacuating isolated positions in Estonia via ship, and this has led to some tragedies. Today is another one, as the Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 3767-ton Soviet hospital ships Sibir in the Gulf of Finland. There are about 400 people on the ship who perish. By international law, sinking a hospital ship is a war crime, and the ships are clearly marked. On the Eastern Front, however, the Germans, in particular, have openly renounced the norms of warfare.

Partisans: The Germans execute Szmul Tyszelman and Henri Gautherot at the Vallée-aux-Loups in Châtenay-Malabry, Hauts-de-Seine. Tyszelman and Gautherot were among a group of about 100 demonstrators who staged a protest on 13 August 1941 at the Strasbourg – Saint-Denis metro station in Paris. The protest featured the group singing "La Marseillaise" and carrying the tricolor flag. This incident induced the German occupation authorities in France to ban the French Communist Party, and this, in turn, induces the communists to arm themselves and kill German soldiers. The entire situation escalates quickly, and by the end of August the Germans are executing numerous hostages and the resistance fighters are assassinating Germans.

US Military: The US Marine 1st Defense Battalion sets up a permanent military garrison on Wake Island with 449 recently arrived soldiers.

British artist Albert Perry at work, 19 August 1941
British artist Albert Perry at work with some of his pupils during their daily one-hour gas mask practice, August 19, 1941. (Fox Photos/Getty Images).

German Government: German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels recounts in his diary a discussion that he has with the Fuhrer:
We talked about the Jewish problem. The Führer is convinced that his earlier prophecy in the Reichstag is proving correct, that if the Jews succeed again in provoking another world war it would end with the annihilation of the Jews. This is being proved in these weeks and months with an apparently eerie certainty. In the East, the Jews must pay for this.
The Germans are still trying to figure out the most efficient way to exterminate large groups of people. At the moment, the usual method on the Eastern Front is to march people out of town to pits and shoot them. However, this is having a poor effect on German troop morale, so other methods are being tried.

Hitler later has dinner with his cronies and justifies his orders that can send thousands of men to their deaths:
If I am reproached with having sacrificed a hundred or two thousand men by reason of the war, I can answer that, thanks to what I have done, the German nation has gained, up to the present, more than two million five hundred thousand human beings. If l demand a tenth of this as a sacrifice, nevertheless I have given 90percent. I hope that in ten years there will be from ten to fifteen millions more of us Germans in the world. Whether they are men or women, it matters little: I am creating conditions favorable to growth.
He predicts that Ukraine and the Volga region will become the "granaries of Europe," England, he implies, will wither away on the fringes of humanity because "It is not tolerable that the life of the peoples of the Continent should depend upon England." Naturally, the United States and the Americas do not even enter the equation because, in Hitler's worldview, they simply don't count.

Captured Soviet female soldiers, 19 August 1941
Captured female Soviet soldiers stand in front of a German light artillery tractor Kfz.69 "Krupp Protze" somewhere in Ukraine. 19 August 1941. Female soldiers are a great curiosity to the Germans, as they have virtually no females nearby.

Holocaust: Einsatzkommando 8, in conjunction with local collaborators, executes 3000+ Jews in Mogilev, Belorussia.

At Kiselin, Ukraine, 48 Jews are executed on the outskirts of town with the assistance of Ukrainian police.

American Homefront: Pittsburgh Pirates manager Frankie Frisch goes on the field at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field during the second game of a doubleheader (the Pirates lost the first game) because he feels it is too rainy to continue. To make his point, he carries onto the field an umbrella and opens it up right in front of the three umpires. Everyone in the stadium bursts into laughter and Head Umpire Jocko Conlan immediately ejects Frisch from the game. As he heads back to the locker room, Frisch turns and says, "Can’t a guy have any fun anymore?" Norman Rockwell uses the incident years later as inspiration for his famous cover, "Bottom of the Sixth."

Norman Rockwell baseball painting, 19 August 1941
Norman Rockwell's famous painting based upon the 19 August 1941 incident at Ebbets Field involving Pirates manager Frankie Frisch. Strangely, however, it does not feature an umbrella. It is used on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post edition of 23 April 1949.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

August 18, 1941: Lili Marleen

Monday 18 August 1941

Bristol Blenheim 18 August 1941
"A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV of No. 226 Squadron demonstrates the effectiveness of its camouflage as it flies over the English countryside, 18 August 1941." © IWM (CH 8605).

Eastern Front: In the Far North sector on 18 August 1941, German XX Mountain Corps launches a renewed offensive toward Murmansk. It makes no progress against fierce Soviet resistance.

Finnish 18th Division consolidates its newly won bridgehead across the Vuoksi River. The Finns remain on the move in the Karelian Isthmus but are blocked everywhere else. The Finnish troops are getting worn out, too, because, aside from the Soviet resistance, the terrain of forests and swamps and few towns makes supply difficult and rest impossible. The Finns are building roads to carry artillery. The Germans are completing the transfer today of 169th Division in a 110-mile march in order to replace Finnish 6th Division. The march is so long because it involves marching in a roundabout fashion to confuse any Soviet spies.

Colonel General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, commander of Army of Norway, (Armeeoberkommando Norwegen, or AOK Norwegen), is not the most tactful of generals. He visits XXXVI Corps headquarters today and gets into an argument with General Hans Feige, implying that Feige's request for additional troops to continue the offensive is unnecessary. Due to Falkenhorst's pressure, the 6th Division is planning an offensive on the 19th in the Salla sector toward Lehtokangas and Nurmi Mountain. Feige points out that while his forces may have rough parity with the defending Soviet troops, they are receiving reinforcements while his troops are not - a fairly common situation across the entire Eastern Front.

Soviet KV-1 tank and crew, 18 August 1941
KV-1 no. 864 at Krasnogvardeysk, a stop on the road from Kingisepp to Leningrad, 18 August 1941. Tank commander Kolobanov (Order of Lenin) and gunner Usov (Order of the Red Banner) park the KV-1 in a camouflaged position and await the German 8th Panzer Division coming from Kingisepp. They successfully ambush the German column on the 19th and knock out several tanks and other vehicles.

In the Army Group North sector, Kingisepp (Yamburg) on the Luga falls to the Germans. The Germans consolidate their hold on Narva. The Germans rebuff with difficulty Soviet attacks on Staraya Russa and Novgorod, the "bookends" on Lake Ilmen. Field Marshal von Leeb calls General Halder at OKH and, according to Halder's war diary, paints a "Very gloomy picture of the situation in X Corps" in the Staraya Russa area where "The last man has been thrown into the fighting" and "troops are exhausted."

In the Army Group Center sector, the Soviets have infiltrated small forces behind the army group's right flank in the Pripet Marshes. While not a serious threat, these small groups (roughly battalion size) disrupt rear areas that should be quiet and disrupt supplies. There are heavy Soviet attacks north of the main road to Moscow against 161st Division.

In the Army Group South sector, SS officer Kurt "Panzer" Meyer turns a reconnaissance-in-force of the approaches to the town of Cherson (Kherson) into an all-out assault. He leads his small force down from the heights above the busy town and attempts a "coup de main." His small force takes the Soviet defenders by surprise by sneaking into town along a small road along the Dneipr rather than from the road from Nikolayev (i.e., from the west). The reconnaissance turns into an all-out battle for control of the heart of the city, with Soviet artillery from the east bank of the river forcing Meyer's men to dismount as infantry.

Romanian Guard Regiment near Odessa, 18 August 1941
Troops of Romanian 2nd Frontier Guard Regiment on the march to Odessa, 18 August 1941.

The Romanian 4th Army continues attacking across the Odessa perimeter. Both sides are taking heavy casualties, and progress is slow. The Soviets have nowhere to run and know they will likely be shot if they somehow do make it back through German lines, so they stand and fight.

German Panzer Group 1 (von Kleist) establishes a bridgehead across the Dneiper at Zaporozhye (Zaporizhzhia). The Soviets dynamite the Dneipr Hydroelectric Station to swell the river, causing widespread death and destruction, but the Germans get across anyway. German 50th Division reaches the Black Sea Coast at Ochakov.

Lt. Max-Hellmuth Ostermann of 7./JG 54 shoots down two Russian I-16s over Leningrad.

The Red Air Force raids Berlin with five bombers. Today is the last of a series of small-scale Red Air Force raids against the Ploesti, Romania oil fields.

British troops with Lewis Gun, 18 August 1941
"Quadruple Lewis gun on an anti-aircraft mounting, 18 August 1941." © IWM (H 12971).

European Air Operations: During the day, the RAF sends 39 Blenheim bombers on a series of coastal sweeps over Holland and a Circus mission over Lille and Marquise. The pilots claim to sink two trawlers and to bomb Lille, for a cost of one Blenheim.

By prior arrangement between the RAF and Luftwaffe, the RAF successfully drops a spare prosthetic leg for captured RAF Wing Commander Douglas Bader while flying over St. Omer airfield. The Germans are somewhat nonplussed when the charitable gesture is followed by the RAF planes attacking the airfield.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command attacks Cologne and Duisburg. These cities both have been bombed recently so these can be considered follow-up raids.

The RAF puts 62 bombers (42 Hampdens, 17 Whitleys, and 3 Wellingtons) over Cologne. The RAF loses 5 Whitleys and a Wellington. The attack achieves little, with no casualties and only one casualty.

The RAF puts 41 Wellingtons over Duisburg, losing two planes. The weather is clear, so the attack on railway yards is a success.

There is a minor raid by 11 Whitleys and 7 Wellingtons to Dunkirk, and one training sortie over Europe, both without loss.

The Luftwaffe sends a few bombers across to raid the Tyneside and Teesside areas. These are pinprick raids that occasionally hit a populated building, tonight West Hartlepool suffers a tragedy when an ambulance depot is hit with 23 people killed and 45 injured. In addition, about 100 people are made homeless. In Norton, bombs hit a house on Benson Street, killing three people, while next door three others are killed.

David Bensusan-Butt, a civil servant in the War Cabinet Secretariat and an assistant of Lord Cherwell, chief scientific advisor to the Cabinet, submits his "Butt Report" on the accuracy of RAF bombing. The results are startling because they conclude that bombing accuracy is horrendous. Among the more prominent conclusions of the report:

  • Only one aircraft of three that claims to have attacked a target actually got within 5 miles (8 km).
  • Over Germany, the ratio is even worse, with only one in four bombers getting within five miles and one in ten over the industrial Ruhr river valley
  • Accuracy depends upon the amount of moonlight available, with accuracy rising to two in five when there is a full moon and falling to one in fifteen during a new moon.

The "Butt Report" does not even go far enough, as post-war studies show that 49% of RAF bombs fall in open countryside. Butt's report also excludes all bombers that never reached the target due to mechanical reasons, weather, or enemy action.

Fortunately for the British, they have navigational aids such as GEE, Oboe, H2S, and other navigational aids in various stages of development. In fact, today RAF Bomber Command orders GEE (the codename for a long-range navigational aid) into production at Dynatron and Cossor.

Battle of the Baltic: Soviet destroyer Statnyi hits a mine and sinks in Moon Sound off Saaremaa (Oesel).

The Luftwaffe attacks Leningrad harbor and sinks 2170-ton Soviet freighter Axel Carl.

Freighter Longtaker, torpedoed on 18 August 1941
Freighter Longtaker under her former name Sessa (photo courtesy of Danish Maritime Museum, Elsinore, and Uboat .net).

Battle of the Atlantic: At 02:50, U-38 (KKpt. Heinrich Schuch), on its 11th patrol out of Lorient and operating with wolfpack Grönland, torpedoes and sinks 1700-ton Panamanian-flagged (but actually controlled by the United States) freighter Longtaker (previously Danish ship Sessa) midway between the southern tips of Greenland and Iceland (300 nautical miles or 560 km southwest of Iceland). The ship goes down in only one minute and most of the crew, 24 men, perish. After nineteen days at sea, US destroyer USS Lansdale picks up three surviving crew (the Danish first officer, a Swede, and a Portuguese crewman - two Portuguese and a Canadian perish while they await rescue) on 5 September. The ship's cargo holds supplies for the US garrison on Iceland. The Danish officer, Hendrik Bjerregaard, maintains a log that receives widespread publicity in the American media.

This is U-38's final victory of the war, though it does go on one more patrol for an even dozen. During its time in service, U-38 sinks 35 commercial ships of 188,967 tons and damages one ship of 3,670 tons.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Quorn its a mine between Chatham and Harwich. Quorn makes it to Chatham for repairs completed on 13 September.

Convoy HG-71 departs from Gibraltar bound for Liverpool. A Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-88 spots convoy OG-71 shortly after it leaves port and radios in its position.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. Commander Michael S. Townsend) is commissioned and destroyer Mahratta is laid down.

Canadian minesweepers HMCS Fort William, Kenora, and Milltown are laid down in Port Arthur, Ontario.

Free Netherlands destroyer depot ship HNLMS Columbia (Commander Cornelis Hellingman) is commissioned.

Destroyer USS Badsworth is commissioned.

U-188 is laid down.

Cant Z506 flying boat shot down, 18 August 1941
An Italian CANT Z506 flying boat shot down by RAF fighters off Tripoli. The photo is dated 18 August 1941. Note the crewman in the water near the wing. This appears to be damage from an RAF attack made against the flying boat base in Syracuse Harbor on the 17th, with this a reconnaissance photo taken on the 18th - but that is only a guess.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Royal Navy loses two submarines in one action today. It is a black day for the submarine force, and only two men from two submarines survive.

Royal Navy submarine HMS P-33 (Lt R. D. Whiteway-Wilkinson DSC), operating off Tripoli and with 32 crewmen, disappears on or around 18 August while attacking an Italian convoy. This is one of the unsolved disappearances of submarines that are common during World War II. An Italian Cant Z501 is flying overhead and sends a ship to look for survivors that the plane's crew see in the water, but it is unclear if it sees survivors of P-33 or another ship. It is assumed by some that P-33 is destroyed by a depth charge attack by an Italian torpedo boat either today or on 23 August, but there is no confirmation of that. Nobody survives.

Royal Navy submarine P-32 (Lt. D. A. B. Abdy)is operating near P-33 and surfaces while an Italian depth charge attack is underway nearby. It is very close to the entrance to Tripoli Harbor. Lieutenant Abdy attempts to run under a known minefield to get into better firing position but surfaces too soon and P-32 hits a mine. This sends P-32 to the seafloor at a depth of 210 feet with the entire area forward of the control room flooded, killing 8 crew. Abdy manages to escape through the conning tower hatch along with Coxswain E. Kirk, but the rest of the crew in the engine room proves unable to use their escape hatch for some reason. This is likely because an iron bar may have been welded over the rear hatch (though this is not proven). The commander of the Italian ship that picks up Abdy and his mate agrees to stick around to await more survivors, but nobody else gets out. It one of the most dramatic escapes from a submarine during the entire war, as a depth of over 150 feet is considered fatal. A total of 30 men perish.

There are still thousands of Commonwealth troops hiding out on Crete. Royal Navy submarine Torbay (Lt. Comdr. Miers) enters Messara Bay and picks up 28 British and 12 Greek soldiers. Torbay stays in the area submerged on the sea floor and enters the bay again on the 19th, picking up an additional 92 men and returning them to Alexandria.

Royal Navy submarine Tetrarch fires torpedoes into Benghazi Harbor, damaging the port boom defense.

The RAF based on Malta bombs Tripoli with five Wellington bombers.

Royal Navy destroyers Jackal and Kingston make the nightly supply run from Alexandria to Tobruk and back without incident. The relief of Australian troops is in progress, with replacement Polish soldiers landed.

Dneiper dam blown by retreating Soviets, 18 August 1941
In order to slow down the Germans, the Red Army blows up the Dniproges Dam. There is a 120m x 10m hole in the Dnieper hydroelectric dam (Dniproges) at 16:00 on 18 August 1941, producing a monstrous wave that sweeps from Zaporizhia to Nikopol, killing local residents as well as soldiers from both sides.

Battle of the Black Sea: The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Soviet submarine depot ship Boug at Cherson (Kherson).

The retreating Soviets scuttle freighter Volochaevka at Cherson.

Soviet auxiliary minesweeper T-503 is lost on this from unknown causes.

Propaganda: Joseph Goebbels calls President Roosevelt the "agent of international Jewry."

Finnish Ambassador Hjalmar Procope, 18 August 1941
Finnish Ambassador Hjalmar Procope.

US/Finnish Relations: The Soviet Union uses US Secretary of State Sumner Welles as an intermediary to discuss peace terms with Finland. The Soviet proposal is to modify the Peace of Moscow of 1940, which ended the Winter War, to grant Finland some concessions. Finnish Ambassador Hjalmar Procope replies to Welles that the future of Finland depends upon what happens to the Soviet Union after the war, and requests a guarantee to Finland from the Western powers that they will protect Finland if Germany loses the war (which nobody expects at this point). Welles refuses to even consider such a guarantee. The peace feelers go no further.

US/Japanese Relations: At 16:00, Ambassador Grew meets with Foreign Minister Toyoda in Tokyo. Toyoda speaks for two and a half hours straight. He defends Japanese actions in the Pacific and denies that Japan is acting in concert with Germany and says its only objective is the settling of issues in China. For these reasons, a summit meeting between the leaders of the two powers should occur. Grew responds that the Japanese position has not responded adequately to President Roosevelt's concerns, but he will forward the Japanese request for a summit meeting to the US government with his personal support (which he does).

German/Finnish Relations: The Germans confer the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz) on Marshal Mannerheim.

Italian Cant Z501,18 August 1941
An Italian Cant Z501, of the type that organized the rescue of the two survivors of P-32.

Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt's White House issues a statement announcing that the US will institute an air transport service from the United States to Africa via Brazil, thence to Egypt. A new aerial "ferry service" is to link up with this in order to deliver military planes to Egypt for the British. The statement reads in part:
The ferry system and the transport service provide direct and speedy delivery of aircraft from the ‘arsenal of democracy’ to a critical point in the front against aggression. The importance of this direct line of communications between our country and strategic outposts in Africa cannot be overestimated.
Pan American Airways, Inc. quietly on 24 July has formed three subsidiaries to conduct the operations:

  • Pan American Air Ferries, Inc.
  • Pan American Airways Co.
  • Pan American Airways-Africa, Ltd.

The ferry service is to take the military planes across the Atlantic to Africa, while the transport service is to return the pilots to the United States, with the third company handling administrative details. Pan Am and the US government already have signed agreements on 12 August to start the service. The British also sign agreements with Pan American Airways-Africa and Pan American Air Ferries - the transport company, the one that returns the pilots to the United States, is not their concern.

The ferry service supposedly derives from a request by Winston Churchill at the Atlantic Charter conference and a subsequent meeting between Roosevelt and Pan Am chairman Juan Trippe on or about 18 August 1941. However, as indicated from the earlier formation of the Pan Am corporations, the idea actually has been under consideration for some time and the conference itself is just a formality to finalize it.

Wounded Polish pilot Sergeant Giermer, 18 August 1941
"Sergeant Wacław Giermer of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron in conversation with a nurse while recovering in a hospital, 18 August 1941." Giermer was injured during a raid on Lille on 8 July 1941. (© IWM (HU 128141)).

US Military: The War Department tasks the Coast Guard with patrolling the sea lanes in Alaskan waters and keeping them open.

The US Marine Corps 1st Defense battalion arrives at Wake Island aboard US freighter Regulus (AK-14).

Japanese Military: The Imperial Japanese Navy requisitions 10,020-ton tanker Shinkoku Maru and puts it under the control of the Kure Naval District.

US Government: President Roosevelt signs into a law a modification of the 1940 Selective Service Act that extends the term of service of inductees from 12 to 30 months. The bill passed the House of Representatives by only one vote because there is widespread opposition throughout the country to any peacetime draft.

Congressman John Dingell of Michigan sends President Roosevelt a letter in which he proposes to take 10,000 Japanese-Americans in Hawaii as hostages for Japan's "good behavior." This is the earliest suggestion of incarcerating Japanese-Americans.

HMS Prince of Wales crew with PM WInston Churchill, 18 August 1941
"The ship's company of HMS PRINCE OF WALES poses for a photograph with Winston Churchill and his staff at Scapa Flow after the Atlantic Meeting with President Roosevelt, 18 August 1941." © IWM (A 5004).

British Government: Following the Atlantic Conference in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and a brief stop in Iceland, Prime Minister Churchill returns to Scapa Flow, Scotland aboard battleship HMS Prince of Wales.

Burma: The Japanese have heard about the American Volunteer Group (AVG, or "Flying Tigers") assembling at Kyedaw, Burma, so they send a reconnaissance plane overhead.

Holocaust: Following a widely discussed series of sermons in German churches condemning euthanasia, Hitler orders a halt - or, more accurately, a pause - in the program. About 50,000 mentally challenged and elderly people have been put to death under the program, including a relation of Hitler himself.

Hitler orders the deportation of what remains of Berlin's Jews to the East.

The concentration camp at Amersfoort, Netherlands, opens.

Brazilian Homefront: A Lockheed 18-10 Lodestar operated by Panair do Brasil crashes into Serra da Cantareira on approach to São Paulo at night. Five of nine passengers and one of four crew members survive the crash. Note that this is one day after Walt Disney and party arrives by air at Rio de Janeiro on a goodwill trip for the US government.

German Homefront: "Swing kids" (Swingjugend) have become an underground phenomenon in the Reich, and the government is not happy at this intrusion of decadent foreign culture. The Swing Kids listen to American and British records, tend to have long hair, dispute authority, and mock military customs such as the Hitler Salute. In general, the police forces (led by Reinhard Heydrich) see this as a dangerous infusion of "anglophile tendencies" that cannot be tolerated.

Today, the police decide to end this scourge. They send men into the clubs, arrest over 300 Swing Kids, and institute various punishments against them. These punishments range from sending the kids back to school or to concentration camps. Some boys are sent to the youth camp at  Moringen and girls to the women's camp at Ravensbruck. This incites further resistance by Swing Kids who aren't captured, of course, and they begin doing anti-government acts like handing out anti-fascist leaflets.

Lili Marleen, 18 August 1941
Electrola EC 6993/ORA 4198-2. First recording of Lili Marlen, 2. August 1939, Electrola Studio, Berlin. Label of one of the different variants that appeared during the war. The oldest label shows that the original song title was first called Song of a young sentry. (Mediatus - Eigenes Werk (own work); Digital eingelesene Platte aus meiner Sammlung)

Yugoslavian Homefront: Radio Belgrade (Soldatensender Belgrad (Soldiers' Radio Belgrade)) plays a second-hand record collected by a lieutenant on leave in Vienna. It is "Lili Marleen" (aka "Lili Marlen," "Lilli Marlene," and "Lily Marlene," "Lili Marlène" and various other permutations) sung by Lale Andersen. The record was in the bargain bin after selling only 700 copies in its release in 1939. The station only has a few records to play, so it plays "Lili Marleen" over and over and over.

Joseph Goebbels hates the song and demands Radio Belgrade to stop playing it. However, Axis soldiers across the Mediterranean hear the song and love it, including General Erwin Rommel. He asks the station to continue playing the song. Goebbels, who is a friend of Rommel's, relents and allows the song to be played. The song becomes the sign-off tune of the station at 21:55 every night, and soldiers on both sides start to tune in at that moment to hear the song every night. It becomes the most famous song of the war and sells over a million copies.

Contrary to popular belief, the famous version of "Lil Marleen" is not by Marlene Dietrich, though she does record a version (retitled "Lili Marlene" in her honor) for the Morale Operations Branch of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1944.

Lale Andersen, Lili Marleen 18 August 1941
Lale Andersen and her hit "Lili Marleen."

Dutch Homefront: The German occupation authorities suppress what remains of the Dutch government and impose a strict occupation government.

British Homefront: The newly organized National Fire Service - which combines numerous previously independent local fire departments into one seamless organization - comes into being under Sir Aylmer Firebrace, a former London fire chief. The 118,000 men in 1400 local fire brigades, with 180,000 auxiliaries and 60,000 women, are combined into 200 "divisions" and 37 "fire forces." This became necessary because some local fire departments were refusing to come to the aid of local municipalities out of fear that their own towns might be hit. In addition, there were stories of extortion by some fire departments in exchange for providing fire services.

American Homefront: Chesty Manly, the Washington, D.C. correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, publishes a story claiming that a "leak" has informed him that President Roosevelt has plans to send an American expeditionary force to Europe.  The story creates an uproar in the capital, and a vigorous debate breaks out in the press about the truthfulness of the story. It is one of several stories run by the isolationist Manly that is of questionable veracity.

The Reverend John A. O'Brien makes a radio address that urges the world to "choose the road to peace." He rhetorically asks what the warring powers have accomplished by two years of war and deplores war's futility. He concludes with a plea to President Roosevelt to put his power "into the Christ-like work of halting the brutal European strife."

Judy Garland, 18 August 1941
Judy Garland on the cover of Animatografo, Issue no. 41, 18 August 1941.