Thursday, April 19, 2018

July 9, 1941: British Take Damour

Wednesday 9 July 1941

HMS Malaya in New York Harbor, 9 July 1941
"HMS MALAYA leaving New York Navy Yard after four months of repairs following a torpedo hit while on convoy escort duty, 9 July 1941." © IWM (A 5439).

Eastern Front: The German main effort in the Soviet Union remains on track on 9 July 1941. Already, the panzers are closing on Leningrad and Kiev, though a bit of work remains before Moscow comes into sight. With three months of good campaigning weather left, there seems little reason why Operation Barbarossa shouldn't be completed by early fall and end in a decisive German victory.

In the Far North sector, the German Operation Arctic Fox grinds forward only a little bit further, as 169th Infantry Division of XXXVI Corps pushes from Salla to Kayral. However, the geography (lakes and woodland) favors the defense, and it gets no further against Soviet 14th Army for the time being. In fact, the three Soviet divisions there push the German troops back before setting up a strong perimeter anchored by lakes on either side.

Further north, General Dietl's Army of Norway is stopped at the Litsa River, too. Further south, the Finns plan an attack to begin July 10th on the Karelian Isthmus against Soviet 7th and 23rd Armies. Finnish troops occupy Morgonland.

In the Army Group North sector, the Germans are about 150 miles from Leningrad with the fall of Pskov to the 36th Infantry Division (Lieutenant General Otto Ottenbacher).

In the Army Group Center sector, 20th Panzer Division of General Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group takes Vitebsk as Soviet counterattacks peter out. Hoth's panzers and General Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group are poised to close a pincer around Smolensk. Behind the front, the army group completes the destruction of the pockets of enemy troops near Bialystok. An estimated 300,000 Soviet prisoners are taken and about 40 Soviet divisions destroyed (Soviet divisions are generally much smaller than Allied or German divisions)..

In the Army Group South sector, the Germans cross the Dneipr River. The 13th Panzer Division, part of Panzer Group 1, takes Zhitomir (Zhytomyr).

The Luftwaffe remains supreme in the skies. The German JG 3, led by Luftwaffe Major Günther Lützow, shoots down all 27 bombers of a Soviet attack on its own airfield. The Germans suffer no losses. Hptm. Hans “Gockel” von Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 3, receives the Ritterkreuz for 24 victories.

HMS Malaya in New York Harbor, 9 July 1941
"HMS MALAYA, escorted by tugs, leaving New York harbor after refit in the United States. Part of the Brooklyn Bridge can be seen in the background," 9 July 1941. (© IWM (A 5444)).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: In the early morning hours, the Australian 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, with units of the 6th Divisional Cavalry Regiment, marches into Damour. By 04:00, Australians are driving completely through the town and soon secure it from the few Vichy French troops who haven't slipped out. The road north to Beirut is now clear. British artillery already is in position to fire on Beirut.

Behind the scenes, Vichy French commander General Henri Dentz is pursuing an armistice. He sees the Allies closing in on Beirut from both the south, through Damour, and from the east, via Aleppo. In addition, today the British take Homs in the north.

Despite his superiority in troops, Dentz cannot get supplies from France due to Royal Navy control of the eastern Mediterranean and the French have little hope of holding out for long. He sends destroyers Guepard, Valmy, and Vaquelin on a desperate mission to Salonika, Greece to embark reinforcements which have made their way there from France with German approval. On their way back, however, the RAF spots them a few hundred miles off the Syrian coast. Rather than lose the ships, the French order the ships to Toulon. This leaves no major French warships in the Levant.

The Turks intern several French ships in the port of Iskanderum:
  • 4500-ton auxiliary tanker L'Adour
  • 405-ton tanker Cyrus
  • Sloop Elan
  • Patrol boats Djebel Samin, Massalia, and Jean Mic
  • Minesweepers Avocette and Lecid
  • Trawler La Vaillante
  • Tugs Chambrum, Marius, and Marseillaise

French submarine Caiman manages to get away and heads for Bizerte.

British artillery outside Beirut, 9 July 1941
Allied artillery opens up on Beirut, 9 July 1941.

European Air Operations: RAF Fighter Command sends a Circus mission to Mazingarbe power station, while RAF Coastal Command sends 15 planes on coastal sweeps.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 82 bombers to Aachen marshaling yards and 52 against Osnabruck.

The War Cabinet receives a report, the Air and Home Security Situation Report for the week, that notes, "The German effort by day was again very small." However, "Enemy bombing was somewhat heavier than in previous weeks," with 304 bombers observed overhead as compared to 195 in the previous week. There were 78 people killed and 67 seriously injured.

Wing Commander Douglas Bader claims a probable victory and a damaged enemy plane.

Battle of the Baltic: The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Soviet minesweeper Nalim off Guba Zapadnaya Litsa.

HMS Malaya in New York Harbor, 9 July 1941
"HMS MALAYA, escorted by tugs, leaves New York harbor after refit in the United States. The Statue of Liberty is on the right in the distance." 9 July 1941. © IWM (A 5443).

Battle of the Atlantic: U-98 (Kptlt. Robert Gysae), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire, is operating northwest of the Azores when it spots ships dispersed from Convoy OB-341. Gysae sinks two British ships:
  • 5945-ton Designer (67 deaths, 11 survivors)
  • 4897-ton Inverness (6 deaths, 37 survivors)
They are the U-boats only successes of the patrol.

Three German minelayers hit mines and sink while en route from Finland to Swinemunde:
  • Hannsestadt Danzig
  • Preußen
  • Tannenberg
They apparently ran into a Swedish mine barrage east of Öland, Sweden.

Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire intercepts 4260-ton Panamanian freighter St. Cergue east of southern Iceland. It puts aboard the St. Cergue an armed guard and sends it to Skopenfjord for inspection.

British 97-ton freighter Blue Mermaid hits a mine and sinks about 8 miles off Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. There are two deaths.

Royal Navy minelayers HMS Agamemnon, Menetheus, and Quebec lay Minefield 67A in the North Sea.

Royal Navy submarine HMS P-38 is launched and anti-submarine warfare trawler Birlip is launched.

US submarine USS Flying Fish and minesweeper Skylark are launched, and light cruiser Biloxi is laid down. The Flying Fish is sponsored at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine by the wife of CINCPAC Admiral Husband Kimmel.

U-585 is launched, U-522 is laid down.

General Ramcke at Crete, 9 July 1941
Colonel Bernhard-Hermann Ramcke presents medals to paratroopers in Crete, Greece (Iron Crosses to Oberfeldwebel and sergeant), 9 July 1941. (Weixler, Franz Peter, Federal Archives, Bild 1011-166-0526-30).

Battle of the Mediterranean: There is a flurry of activity at Tobruk, where the Germans bombard the defending Australians with artillery and air attacks. During the attacks, the Royal Navy ships in the harbor scatter, and two destroyers are damaged by near misses as they try to leave for open water:
  • HMS Decoy
  • HMAS Stuart
The ships make it Alexandria but require repair.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay surfaces and sinks German patrol boats LV, LVI and L 12 east of Kithera (Kythera), Greece. Some accounts place this incident on 8 July.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Cachalot departs from Gibraltar for Malta on a supply mission.

RAF Bomber Command mounts several operations today despite some marginal weather conditions. It attacks Naples with 9 Wellington bombers based on Malta, but only 6 make it to the target due to bad weather. The ones that drop their bombs hit the Gare Centrale (main railway station) and some warehouses. Seven Blenheim bombers make a dawn attack on Tripoli Harbor, but four are shot down. Hawker Hurricanes of RAF No. 185 Squadron attack the floatplane base at Syracuse, damaging a total of a dozen seaplanes and floatplanes.

The Luftwaffe attacks Alexandria with 23 planes.

Romanian torpedo boat Naluca, 9 July 1941
Romanian torpedo boat Năluca, victor of the Action of 9 July 1941.

Battle of the Black Sea: In a naval action known simply as the Action of 9 July 1941, Romanian torpedo boat NMS Năluca combines with motor torpedo boats Viscolul and Vijelia to sink Soviet Shchuka-class submarine Shch-206 near Mangalia.

In addition, Soviet minesweepers RTShch-103 and 108, along with gunboat No. 102 also are lost on or close to this date. They apparently sink during the same incident as Shch-206, though that is not certain.

Spy Stuff: The British Ultra team at Bletchley Park cracks a German code being used by the Luftwaffe in the Soviet Union. The Allies now can read German transmissions almost in real time using the Enigma machine.

Propaganda: The weekly broadcasts of British author P.G. Wodehouse from Berlin (the second one is tonight) become a topic of debate in the House of Commons. Foreign Affairs Secretary Anthony Eden vows to make clear to Wodehouse in some fashion that aiding the Germans is not a good idea.

Berlin Victory Column, 9 July 1941
Berlin, Charlottenburg Chaussee (today Straße des 17. Juni): - double-decker bus with advertising "ATA", in the distance, the Victory Column, 9 July 1941. (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-055).

German/Ukrainian Relations: The Germans in Lvov arrest Iaroslav Stetsko, recently proclaimed leader of the independent Ukrainian state by Stepan Bandera's faction of Ukrainian National Movement

US Military: The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing is activated at San Diego, California. It controls Marine Air Group Two based at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, Hawaii.

Congress authorizes $14.9 million for construction of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

President Roosevelt asks the Secretaries of War and Navy to prepare an estimate of the overall production requirements required to win a coming war in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

11th Company of the Leibstandarte, 9 July 1941
A member of the 11th Company of the Leibstandarte checks his weapon before an attack on the Stalin Line in the woods north of Miropol, 9 July 1941.

Soviet Military: Soviet aircraft designers are optimistic about the prospects of rocket-powered planes (not jets). They meet to prepare a report to send to Joseph Stalin.

British Government: Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes a speech in the House of Commons regarding the occupation of Iceland by US troops on 7 July. He notes:
The military occupation of Iceland by the forces of the United States is an event of first-rate political and strategic importance; in fact, it is one of the most important things that has happened since the war began.
While this may be a bit hyperbolic, Churchill notes that the occupation means that the US will not only send Great Britain whatever supplies it requires, "but also to make sure we get them." This reveals Churchill's true and enduring fear of World War II, that the Germans will be able to prevail if they can isolate Great Britain and prevent ships from reaching it.

Soviet Government: Nikolai Voznesensky is tasked with preparing a war production plan for the Soviet economy.

Holocaust: Bălţi (Romania) is occupied by German and Romanian troops. This begins a pogrom that eventually wipes out the Jewish population of the city, estimated at around 14,000 people.

Trawniki Concentration Camp in the Lublin District of the General Government begins operation as a holding pen for refugees, Soviet civilians, and Soviet officials that the Security Police and SD have designated as either potential collaborators or dangerous persons. Today, 676 inmates are imprisoned there.

The first Roma arrive at Aushwitz-Birkenau. Gypsies are destined to become the third-largest group of deportees to Auschwitz, after Jews and Poles.

American Homefront: Royal Navy battleship HMS Malaya leaves New York Harbor under the command of Captain Cuthbert Coppinger after repairs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Malaya was torpedoed twice by U-106 on 20 March 1941 about 250 miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands. Today, she heads out for trials, with her next port of call Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, Malaya will provide protection for a fast convoy. Malaya is nearing the end of her useful service life because she did not undergo an extensive reconstruction during the inter-war years like her sister ships HMS Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, and Valiant.

Berlin, Unter den Linden, 9 July 1941
Berlin on the Unter den Linden behind the arsenal, 9 July 1941 (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-056).


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

July 8, 1941: Flying Fortresses In Action

Tuesday 8 July 1941

Captured Soviet T-28 tank with Finnish crew,, 28 July 1941
Finnish tank crew with captured T-28 July 8 1941 (Photo: SA-Kuva).

Eastern Front: In the Far North, Operation Arctic Fox produces its first significant success when German XXXVI Corps takes Salla on 8 July 1941. The Soviet 122nd Rifle Division retreats and is closely followed by the Germans and Finnish 6th Division. The fighting is bitter, and the Soviets lose 50 tanks and most of their artillery. SS Division Nord pursues Soviet 122nd Rifle Division toward Lampela, while German 169th Division advances toward Kayraly. Finnish 6th Division continues its left-hook maneuver and tries to get behind the Soviets retreating toward Kayraly and Lape Apa.

In the Army Group North sector, the Germans of General Reinhardt's XXXXI Panzer Korps, 4th Panzer Group (Colonel General Erich Hoeppner) reach Pskov. The city sustains extensive damages, including the medieval citadel. This is the first major penetration of the Stalin Line. A little to the north, General Dietl's Army of Norway is stopped after establishing a bridgehead over the Litsa River, well short of its objective of Murmansk.

Von Bock, Hoth, Von Richtofen, Hunsdorff, 28 July 1941
Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, Colonel Walther von Hünsdorff (hidden), Colonel-General Hermann Hoth, Colonel-General Wolfram von Richthofen. (Moosdorf/Mossdorf, Federal Archives, Bild 101I-265-0048A-03).

In the Army Group Center sector, tank ace Otto Carius is in the lead tank of 20th Panzer Division (General Hoth's Panzer Group 3) at Ulla on the Dvina River when his Czech-built 38(t) tank is hit. The Russian 47-mm antitank round penetrates the front armor, smashes Carius' teeth and amputates the left arm of the radio operator. After being patched up, Carius hitchhikes to the front, now on the outskirts of Vitebsk (from Carius' "Tigers in the Mud"), and rejoins his unit.

In the Army Group South sector, German Panzer Group 1 and Sixth Army run into a Soviet counterattack at Kishinev by Soviet 5th Army. The Germans simply reorient their advance slightly to the north.

Luftwaffe ace (7 victories) Walter Margstein of JG 53 is killed in action.

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: Australian 2/3rd Battalion and 2/5th Battalion of 7th Division cut the road from Damour north to Beirut. In addition, in the south, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and units of 6th Divisional Cavalry Regiment march north along the coast road.

Vichy General Henri Dentz, the commander of French forces in the Levant, has seen enough. Even though Damour itself still holds out, the Australian advance around Damour has made the defense of Beirut problematic. Dentz quietly seeks terms for peace.

Wilhelmshaven, 28 July 1941
"RAF aerial photograph of Wilhelmshaven." © IWM (HU 91200).

European Air Operations: The RAF has been accumulating and training on Boeing B-17C Flying Fortresses for months. Today, RAF Bomber Command sends the B-17s on their first operational mission, a daylight flight to Wilhelmshaven. Assigned to RAF Bomber Command's No. 90 Squadron based at Polebrook, Northamptonshire, the three B-17s fly individual sorties (one has to abort to a secondary target) rather than together as a formation.

The RAF is unhappy with the results and makes clear that future bombing runs are to be conducted as formations rather than individually. The crews complain of various shortcomings of the bombers, including difficulties using the Norden bombsight and inadequate defensive armament.

RAF Fighter Command sends Circus missions to attack the Lens power station (13 fighter squadrons, one bomber lost) and Lille (19 fighter squadrons, 7 losses). The RAF also sends a sweep over northern France.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command attacks Muenster (51 bombers) and Hamm (73), Biefeld (33), and Merseburg (14).

The Luftwaffe sends a night raid against Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

RAF B-17C Flying Fortress, 1941
Fortress B.I AN530, WP-F (U.S.A.A.F. B-17C 40-2066) in RAF service (Royal Air Force).

Battle of the Atlantic: Royal Navy submarine HMS Sealion sinks Vichy French trawlers Christus Regnat and St Pierre d'Alacantra off Ushant (Ouessant, Finistère).

German 460-ton converted minesweeping trawler M-1104 Jan Hubert collides with another vessel off southwest Norway and sinks.

Convoy HG-67 departs from Gibraltar bound for Liverpool.

Canadian corvette HMCS Shediac (Lt. Commander Lt. John O. Every-Clayton) is commissioned.

U-86, U-161 and U-656 are commissioned.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay surfaces east of the island of Kithera (Kythera), Greece and uses its deck gun to sink German freighters LXIV and LI.

Royal Navy cruiser HMS Cornwall hits a wharf in Durban and sustains damage to its stem.

At Malta, the Italian Regia Aeronautica sends bombing missions against various points. An RAF Hurricane shoots down an Italian BR-20 "Stork" medium bomber south of the island.

RAF B17C Flying Fortress, 1941
"Boeing Fortress Mk I of No. 90 Squadron RAF based at West Raynham, Norfolk, 20 June 1941." © IWM (CH 2873).

Axis Relations: The major European Axis powers officially carve up Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia's neighbors receive "a little something:"
  • Italy obtains: Dalmatian coast and some related islands, part of Slovenia, and rule over an expanded Croatia ("Great Croatia") as an "independent kingdom" via new king the Duke of Savoy
  • Hungary: the Backa and Baranya triangle
  • Germany: Serbian and Banat administration via puppet government, plus garrisons the remainder of Slovenia
  • Bulgaria: part of Macedonia
  • Albania: the remainder of Macedonia
  • Montenegro: independence
The benefits of this carve-up to the recipients are few. However, they reflect long-held national desires for expansion into areas of "historic interest" and nationalism.

Italian troops bear the brunt of occupation duty in the Balkans, including most of mainland Greece (the Germans occupy the remainder of mainland Greece and the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Melos, and Crete). Bulgaria, which is of little help on the main front, occupies eastern Macedonia and part of western Thrace.

Hitler approves all this because divvying up an area of no interest to him binds his satellites closer to Germany. On a more practical level, it also removes the need for Wehrmacht troops to police the populace, and already the partisans are stirring. Romania has been promised extensive new holdings in the east, some of which already have been conquered.

Italian Embassy, Berlin, 28 July 1941
The Italian Embassy, Berlin. Note the blacked-out headlights and equipment for emergency lighting, in accordance with blackout regulations (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-061).

Anglo/Soviet Relations: A Soviet military mission arrives in London.

Winston Churchill's first personal message to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin arrives in Moscow. Churchill boasts about RAF Bomber Command's attacks on Germany and promises, "The longer the war lasts the more help we can give."

German/US Relations: The American Embassy in Berlin arranges the release of American journalist Richard C. Hottelet. Arrested on espionage charges on 15 March 1941, Hottelet is a member of the so-called Murrow Boys, U.S. war correspondents recruited by CBS on-air reporter Edward R. Murrow. Hottelet soon heads for Lisbon, where he can catch a flight to London.

US/Japanese Relations: Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuko sends a diplomatic note to US Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew. It states that Japan desires peace and wishes to prevent the spread of war from Europe to the Pacific.

Hitler and Goebbels in East Prussia, 28 July 1941
Hitler with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels at the Wolfschanze in Rastenburg, East Prussia, 8 July 1941.

German Military: OKW operations chief Franz Halder briefs Hitler on the progress of the war in the Soviet Union. It is an encouraging briefing in which Halder claims that the Wehrmacht has pretty much destroyed 89 of 164 known Soviet rifle divisions (which is a vast overstatement). However, Halder insists that more power is needed on the eastern front, so Hitler releases 70 Mark IIIs, 15 Mark IVs, and the remaining Czech tanks from the OKW reserve. Management and use of reserves will be a huge topic of disagreement between the OKH (army command) and OKW (overall military command) throughout the war.

US Military: Patrol Wing 8 (Fleet Air Wing 8) is established at Naval Air Facility Breezy Point, Norfolk, Virginia. It later moves to Alameda, California.

While not technically a part of the US military, in substance it is an extension of the US Army Air Force. Today, pilots and staff of the American Volunteer Group (actually employed by a shell company) depart San Francisco for the Far East aboard Java Pacific liner "Jaegerfontein."

In Memphis, Tennessee, Army Major General Benjamin Lear, Commander of US Second Army, happens to observe some of his troops whistling at women passers-by while driving by. Lear makes all 350 men in the convoy walk the remaining 15 miles (24 km) to their destination. The troops' commander, Major General Ralph E. Truman (cousin of Harry), attempts to get Lear "retired" but fails. From this point forward, the rank and file call him "Yoo-hoo Lear."

Battleship USS Arizona arrives at Pearl Harbor.

British Military: Cadet David George Montagu Hay receives the Albert Medal for Lifesaving. Hay - who later becomes the 12th Marquess of Tweeddale - jumped out of a lifeboat after the sinking of freighter SS Eurylochus by German raider Kormoran on 29 January 1941 to rescue an officer without regard to his own safety.

Reykjavik, Iceland, 28 July 1941
Reykjavik, Iceland, 8 July 1941. US Marines landed on 7 July in order to relieve British troops and allow them to return to England.

China: There is a Japanese air raid on Chungking, the Nationalist Capital. The British Embassy, already damaged in previous attacks, is destroyed during the raid.

Holocaust: Jews in the Baltic States are forced to wear the Yellow Star of David badge.

Soviet Homefront: The government institutes food rationing in major cities.

American Homefront: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. makes a speech to the Selective Service Parents and Neighbors Committee of the United Service Organizations that is broadcast over radio station WMGA in New York. He lists "the things that make life most worth living," which are all beliefs. These are:
  • "supreme worth of the individual"
  • "every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation, every possession, a duty"
  • "the law was made for man and not man for the law"
  • "the dignity of labor"
  • "thrift"
  • "truth and justice"
  • "sacredness of a promise"
  • "the rendering of useful service"
  • "an all-wise and all-loving God"
  • "love"
Rockefeller urges everyone to support the United Service Organizations to create a new world that recognizes "the brotherhood of man."

Major League Baseball holds its annual All-Star Game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. With the American League trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ted Williams hits a three-run home run to earn a 7-5 victory for the American League (Joe DiMaggio, on first base, actually scores the winning run). Williams later comments that the walk-off home run "remains to this day the most thrilling hit of my life."

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, 28 July 1941
Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio at the 1941 All-Star Game, held on July 8.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

July 7, 1941: US Marines in Iceland

Monday 7 July 1941

General Patton on the cover of Life magazine, 7 July 1941
Life Magazine, "Defense Issue," featuring General George S. Patton, Jr. on the cover. July 7, 1941.

Eastern Front: Stalin continues tinkering with his command apparatus on 7 July 1941. While he can be brutal with even his closest associates, he also tends to favor the same small group of cronies during times of crisis. He appoints Kliment Voroshilov commander of the Northwestern Direction (equivalent to a German Army Group, it controls several fronts). He also takes Semyon Timoshenko's titles of Stavka Chairman and Defense Commissar and sends him to command the Central and Western Fronts. Semyon Budyonny (Budenny), an old cavalryman whose only discernible talent is making Stalin laugh when they are getting drunk, is sent to command the Southern Front. Notable from his absence in these appointments is Georgy Zhukov, who remains Stalin's top troubleshooter. The Soviet Union now has military commands that directly mirror the three German army groups.

In the Far North sector, Operation Arctic Fox - the attack toward the Murmansk railway - is going well for the Germans again. With the assistance of a flank attack by Finnish 6th Division, the German regular 169th Division and the SS-Infantry Kampfgruppe Nord, supplemented by some members of 163rd Infantry Division brought up from southern Finland, hammer back the Soviet 14th Army. The Soviets are making a stand in Salla, but the momentum again is with the Axis troops.

Operation Platinum Fox, further north, is going worse for the Germans. The 3rd Mountain Division has established a small bridgehead on the Litsa River, but Army of Norway commander General Dietl is unable to expand it. Dietl requests more troops to resume the advance, but OKW refuses.

Soviet POWs 7 July 1941
Soviet POWs being processed, July 7, 1941 (AP Photo).

In the Army Group North sector, German 4th Panzer Group (Hoepner) captures Pskov. The Germans continue beating off a Soviet counterattack at a bridgehead at Ostrov.

In the Army Group Center sector, German 20th Panzer Division crosses the Western Dvina River (Daugava River). This poses a threat to the rear of the Soviet Polotsk Fortified Region. In addition, 20th Motorized Division crosses the Ulla River.

The panzer divisions are still carrying the advance, but they are wearing down. The 10th Panzer Division reports that it is at 80% of its establishment, but 3rd and 18th Panzer Divisions are down to 35%. Other units report readiness levels in between those levels.

In Army Group South, the German 13th Panzer Division takes Berdychiv in the Zhitomir Oblast. The SS quickly follows the troops and establishes a Jewish ghetto for the 20-40,000 Jews there. While Field Marshal Rundstedt's troops are quickly approaching Kiev, the Soviets are massing troops there to deny Hitler a quick prestige victory.

Newsweek 7 July 1941
Newsweek, 7 July 1941.

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: Having established two bridgeheads across the Damour River, the Australian 7th Division begins to exploit them. Before dawn, one Australian bridgehead (the 2/3rd Battalion and the 2/5th Battalion, along with two companies of the 2/14th Battalion) moves north toward El Boum. The other bridgehead (the remainder of the 2/14th) mounts a flank attack on Damour from the east. The attack from the first bridgehead continues forward toward the critical coast road north of Damour, whose capture would compel the surrender of Vichy French forces in the town.

Everyone on both sides understands that the fall of Damour would decide the war because nothing else stands between the Australians and Beirut. General Henri Dentz, the Vichy French commander, keeping a very close eye on the battle to see if he can continue his unexpectedly vigorous defense of the Levant.

Offshore, Royal Navy motor torpedo boat MTB 68 embarks on a daring raid into Beirut Harbor. It drops depth charges next to two merchant ships.

Sergeant James Allen Ward, VC, 7 July 1941
Wing-walker Sergeant James Allen Ward of No. 75 (New Zealand) Squadron. He is standing in the cockpit of his Vickers Wellington Mark IC, L7818 ‘AA-V’, at Feltwell, Norfolk.

European Air Operations: The RAF sends 20 planes on coastal sweeps during the day. This includes a mid-day attack on a German coastal convoy between Ijmuiden and Den Haag. They report scoring hits on two ships, but there is no confirmation. The RAF loses five planes. The RAF also sends Circus missions to Hazebrouck, Choques, and Albert.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command attacks Cologne with 114 Wellington bombers. It also sends 72 aircraft to attack Osnabruck, 40 aircraft to attack Monchengladbach and 49 aircraft to attack Münster.

After dark, the Luftwaffe attacks Southampton.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Sgt. James Allen Ward wins the Victoria Cross. Ward becomes the first New Zealander to win the decoration, and he really earns it. He is on a bombing run to Muenster in a Wellington of RAF No. 75 Squadron when a Bf-110 (shot down by the rear gunner) hits an engine and it catches fire. This threatens the entire plane, and the crew cannot put it out using fire extinguishers. Tethered with a rope, co-pilot Ward crawls out on the wing in mid-flight and somehow puts out the fire by stomping on it. Getting command of his own aircraft due to his heroism, Allen is KIA on his second mission. As he later recalls:
The wind kept lifting me off the wing. Once it slapped me back on to the fuselage again, but I managed to hang on. The slipstream from the engine made things worse. It was like being in a terrific gale, only much worse than any gale I’ve ever known in my life.
The pilot manages to get the plane back to England and crash-land on a runway.

Luftwaffe ace Joseph "Pips" Priller files claims for two Spitfires. They are his 32nd and 33rd victories.

Battle of the Baltic: German three-masted schooner Luise Bermann hits a mine and sinks off Kolberg.

German 193-ton fishing vessel Neuenfelde hits a mine and sinks near Kolberg.

Soviet minesweeper Petrozavodsk sinks off Kronstadt, perhaps due to a mine.

HMS Manxman, 7 July 1941
"HMS MANXMAN Underway at speed, 7th July 1941." © IWM (FL 4435).

Battle of the Atlantic: Royal Navy submarine HMS Sealion sinks 39 ton French fishing trawler Gustav Jeanne and 120 ton French fishing trawler Gustav Eugene off Ushant (Ouessant, Finistère) in the Bay of Biscay.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 9918-ton Norwegian tanker Ferncourt off St. Davids, Wales. There are two deaths. The Ferncourt makes it to Milford Haven and docks at Swansea.

Royal Navy 115-ton hired drifter Lord St. Vincent hits a mine and sinks in the Thames Estuary near the North East Gunfleet Buoy. There are two deaths resulting from the sinking.

Illustrating the dangers of pilots operating off of CAM ships, a Fulmar of RAF No. 804 Squadron crashes in Kerran Hill, near Southend, Kintyre after being launched to investigate an aircraft sighting. There are two deaths.

Convoy OB-344 departs from Liverpool.

Royal Navy corvette HMS Campion (Lt. Commander Arthur Johnson) is commissioned.

U-337 is laid down.

Hamburg, 7 July 1941
Hamburg’s Jungfernstieg at midday on Monday, July 7, 1941. On the right is the entrance to the Jungfernstieg stop on the "Hochbahn" (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-228).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Italian light cruisers, accompanied by a numerous destroyer screen, lay mines in the Sicilian Channel.

The Italians send a stream of nuisance raids to Malta. One bomber overflies the island and then returns from the south to drop its bombs - whether by plan or simply getting lost is unknown, but it gets away.

General Archibald Wavell, former British Middle East Commander, departs from Cairo. He is flying to Habbaniya, Iraq and then to India to take up his new role as Commander-in-Chief, India. Claude Auchinleck now has Wavell's old job, the two have switched positions.

The RAF sends a fighter sweep over Bardia.

Žikica Jovanović Španac, 7 July 1941
Žikica Jovanović Španac as a student at the Valjevo Gymnasium. He is considered a national hero in Serbia.

Partisans: An uprising breaks out in the Bela Crkva, Serbia. Known as the Uprising in Serbia, it begins when communist Žikica Jovanović Španac shows up with over a dozen associates and makes a speech during the traditional Ivanjdan midsummer village fair. Španac then shoots and kills two local gendarmes for emphasis and escapes into the nearby hills.

An uprising has been planned by monarchist Yugoslav Army Colonel Dragoljub Mihailović, but this incident is independent of his forces. Mihailović and his followers only reluctantly join the revolt later in the summer. The communists chose western Serbia as the beginning point because of its mountainous terrain and dense forests. Serbia also, unlike Croatia, has a history of supporting England. Word spreads quickly throughout the region of the uprising.

Another uprising in Yugoslavia, this one in eastern Herzegovina, is suppressed. This uprising began on 23 June 1941and has simmered ever since. Today, the uprising finally is suppressed and the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) regains control of all key points.

Propaganda: The Germans begin a campaign against communists in France and Belgium.

USS New York in Reykjavik Harbor, Iceland, 7 July 1941
The US Marines entering Reykjavik Harbor, 7 July 1941. This is from the quarterdeck of battleship USS New York (BB-34) looking astern. Visible are the Alabama (BB-33), USS Brooklyn (CL-40) and Nashville (CL-43). Directly to the right is 3 inch gun, and to the left is a quick-release life ring (US National Archive).

US/Icelandic Relations: U.S. Marines (1st Marine Brigade, Provisional) of new Task Force 19 under Brig. General J. Marston land at Reykjavik in six transports under heavy escort. They are there to replace British troops who are needed elsewhere. The marines, with no help from local labor, immediately begin unloading the transports and setting up their camps.

President Roosevelt sends a message to Congress announcing the occupation. While it may seem obvious after the fact that the US would want to occupy Iceland during World War II, the US is at peace and it is a big deal to just get up and send troops to a foreign country. Roosevelt notes:
The United States cannot permit the occupation by Germany of strategic outposts in the Atlantic to be used as air or naval bases for eventual attack against the Western Hemisphere. We have no desire to see any change in the present sovereignty of those regions. Assurance that such outposts in our defense frontier remain in friendly hands is the very foundation of our national security and of the national security of every one of the independent nations of the new world.

The Icelandic government under Prime Minister Herman Jonasson has given grudging support and basically accepts occupation by a foreign power as inevitable under the circumstances. The US explicitly recognized Icelandic sovereignty and promises to evacuate once the war is over.

In conjunction with this move, the United States extends its security zone east to cover Iceland. From this point forward, the United States assumes responsibility for protecting all convoys containing US ships until they are past Iceland.

Hamburg 7 July 1941
The Hamburg Gänsemarkt, 7 July 1941 (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-227).

Anglo/Soviet Relations: Former Soviet People's Commissar for the Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union Maxim Litvinov (who was replaced on 3 May 1939 because he was Jewish and Stalin didn't want to offend Hitler) makes a radio broadcast to England from Moscow. Speaking in English, Litvinov urges cooperation between Great Britain and the USSR. This is exactly what Winston Churchill wishes as well. Stalin, however, doesn't just want vague expressions of solidarity - he wants concrete agreements that will tie the Allies together.

US/Chinese Relations: Clare Chennault completes a supply mission to the United States and returns to China from San Francisco. While most passages across the Pacific are by ocean liner, Chennault has no time for that and instead uses the Clipper service.

German Military: Jürgen Stroop joins the German 3rd SS Division Totenkopf in the infantry regiment.

Fifth Panzer Division, still in the Balkans from Operation Marita, is told to prepare to move to the Eastern Front. While many historians like to claim that the German Balkans campaign delayed Operation Barbarossa, the reality is that the units there actually served as the Wehrmacht's main (and practically only) reserve early in the war. In general, having reserve units is considered a good thing in military circles, but this is one of the few times during the war against the USSR that Germany actually has a substantial reserve it can draw upon. The USSR, on the other hand, almost always has a large reserve.

P-51 prototype NA-73X NX19998, 7 July 1941
North American Aviation’s prototype fighter, NA-73X, NX19998, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. (North American Aviation).

US Military: The US Marines organize the First Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW) at Quantico, Virginia. It is formed from Headquarters Squadron and Marine Air Group 1 (MAG-1).

The US Army Air Force (USAAF) orders 150 North American Aviation NA-73 fighters. These use Allison V-1710-39 liquid-cooled engines and have four .303 (7.7 mm) machine guns. This aircraft was designed at the request of Great Britain. The USAAF calls them Apaches, but this name later is replaced by Mustang. The planes are given the official designation P-51.

The US occupies Trinidad and British Guiana, relieving British forces there for other missions.

Time Magazine, Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka, 7 July 1941
TIME Magazine Cover: Yosuke Matsuoka -- July 7, 1941 (Ernest Hamlin Baker).

Japanese Military: General Seishiro Itagaki becomes commanding officer of the Japanese Chosen Army in occupied Korea, relieving Kotaro Nakamura.

Vichy French Military: The French create the Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism (Legion des Volontaires Francais contre le Bolchevisme).

British Government: The War Cabinet continues debating how to defend the Far East. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden prefers an aggressive stance, which would include renouncing the trade treaty with Japan and beefing up the British military presence in Malaya and Dutch Timor and Ambon. However, Winston Churchill prefers to remain low-key in the Pacific Theater for the time being.

Greek Government: Greek King George arrives in South Africa with his family aboard a Royal Navy warship.

Soviet soldiers in Ukraine with children, 7 July 1941
Soldiers from the 51st separate motorcycle battalion of the 22nd Tank Corps of the 38th Army of the Southwestern Front of the Red Army. This is during July 1941 before the Battle of Uman.

Philippines: Rectifying a massive error from earlier in the summer, the US Army Air Force delivers enough Prestone antifreeze to make the P-40B fighters already delivered flyable.

China: Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist government of China, decides to mark the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War (which some people believe is the real start of World War II). He sends a lengthy message to friendly nations in which he summarizes the world situation and his own country's predicament. Among other things, Chiang notices the connection between the wars brewing on opposite sides of the world, writing:
the war in the Far East is no longer to be viewed as merely a conflict between two nations, for the European and Asiatic Wars have now become closely interrelated. Scarcely a single country remains unaffected because this predatory group of powers excludes no country from the scope of its design to dominate the world by force.
Chiang makes a far-sighted prediction:
It is my privilege to declare that the Chinese people in condemning the Japanese are not only with unity of purpose of putting an end to Japanese aggression but also are thinking of contributing to a new world order of the future, to the civilization and prosperity of mankind.
It is a heady time: leaders on both sides of the conflict are dreaming of their own New World Orders that they will establish after the war. However, only one vision can come true, and imposing yours requires winning the war at hand.

Holocaust: The Germans require Jews in Lithuania to wear Yellow Stars of David badges. Killings of Jews continues in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania.

American Homefront: There is a major anti-war protest in New York City. Protestors carry large signs saying "Arm Britain and Prolong the War," "Stay out of Europe's War"; "Hitler has not attacked us, why attack Hitler?" "Stay out of South America, of Europe, of War"; "Lend-Lease Lose-Lives"; "Hitler has not attacked us, why attack Hitler?"; "Why Not Peace with Hitler?"; "Europe for Europeans. America for Americans"; "The Only Fight Worth Fighting is the Fight for Peace"; "Fight the Draft, Conscription in Tyranny"; "No Loans to England. No Arms to Anyone"; "American Union for Organization Against War"; "The Army and Navy are Hotbeds for Fascism"; "Protest Any Extension for Army Service" and similar slogans.


Monday, April 16, 2018

July 6, 1941: Australians Attack Damour

Sunday 6 July 1941

Bridge on the Damour River, 6 July 1941
A destroyed bridge at the mouth of the Damour River, Lebanon, 1941.

Eastern Front: It is a time of great frustration for the Soviet forces. This manifests itself in failed attacks, suicidal counterattacks, and generals shot by the NKVD. The only things that slow the Germans as of 6 July 1941 are their own caution and occasional weather events such as the rains still lingering over much of the battlefront.

In the Far North sector, the German advance toward Murmansk makes some progress across the Litsa River. However, Soviet defenses are firming as reinforcements arrive.

Further south, the Axis Operation Arctic Fox Operation resumes. The German XXXVI Corps has called up infantry from southern Finland and asked Finnish 6th Division to disrupt the Soviet defenses at Salla. This does the trick and the Soviet 14th Army (122nd Rifle Division, the 104th Rifle Division, and the 1st Tank Division) is forced to retreat back into Salla itself. The Germans actually break into Salla briefly, but the Soviets quickly push them out again. As elsewhere on the Eastern Front, the Luftwaffe plays a key role in the Heer's success, with Luftflotte 5 helping to break up the Soviet concentrations. This, of course, is the old Blitzkrieg formula.

What this incident at Salla illustrates above all is that the Soviet strength lies in direct confrontations, while German strength lies in tactics and maneuverability and airpower. These are lessons the German leadership sometimes has a hard time remembering but when applied, lead to the Reich's greatest successes in the USSR.

In the Army Grup North sector, the motorized units establish a line from Lake Peipus to Reval to Parun. The Soviets counterattack and make some gains.

In the Army Group Center sector,  the Soviet 7th and 5th Mechanized Corps of the Soviet 20th Army (Lieutenant-General P.A. Kurochkin) attack with about 700-1,500 tanks near Lepiel. While this is an impressive number of vehicles, only a small fraction are types that give the German panzers trouble. The Germans of General Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group are prepared - Hitler has reined the panzers in recently - and the Soviet armored vehicles are mauled. German 7th Panzer Division - Erwin Rommel's old formation - illustrates the power of the defensive and virtually wipes out the two Soviet formations. This is known as the First Battle of Smolensk.

In the Army Group South sector, the Germans attack in the north with 1st Panzer Group and Sixth Army and in the south with German 17th Army and Romanian 3rd Army. The northern prong of the advance approaches Zhitomir, while the southern prong takes Khotyn Fortress on the Dniestr River.

Despite occasional Red Air Force successes, overall the Luftwaffe dominates the skies. Today, for instance, JG 54 intercepts a formation of 73 Soviet bombers attacking the German bridgehead at Ostrov. The Luftwaffe pilots claim 65 Soviet bombers shot down, and ace Max-Hellmuth Ostermann claims his 19th and 20th victories.

This German superiority in the air has led to frustration on the Soviet side. Some Soviet pilots resort to ramming Luftwaffe planes. Amazingly, some Soviet pilots not only survive the dangerous encounters but manage to return to base. However, the Luftwaffe remains much stronger than the Red Air Force despite steady losses.

Ukrainian refugees with German troops, 6 July 1941
Ukrainian refugees with a cow pass by a German machine gunner during Operation Barbarossa, July 6, 1941. Some Soviet citizens have an unnerving tendency throughout the war of ignoring the fighting even when it is literally right next to them.

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: The Battle of Damour commences when 7th Australian Division attacks in the early morning hours. Crossing the Damour River, the Australians establish bridgeheads at El Atiqa and El Boum after a day of hard fighting. Both sides realize that Damour, on the coast south of Beirut, is the key to that city, and Beirut is the key to the entire campaign.

As it has for several days now, the Royal Navy parks a large force led by light cruisers Ajax and Perth off Damour. The ships bombard Vichy French positions in aid of the Australian attack.

Australian Lieutenant Roden Cutler receives the Victoria Cross for heroism for actions today. He clears some enemy positions, then, wounded, is forced to lie in the open for 26 hours before being rescued. Cutler loses his leg due to the ordeal.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks Brest during the night with 109 bombers. RAF Fighter Command sends a Circus mission over Lille.

RAF ace Douglas Bader shoots down a Bf 109

Soviet pilots Boris Safonov and Evgeny Khaldey, 6 July 1941
Soviet pilots Boris Safonov and Evgeny Khaldey of the 72nd CAP (mixed aviation regiment) of the Northern Fleet Air Force. They are with a I-16 Type 24 fighter at Vaenga airfield, July 6, 1941.

East African Campaign: General Pietro Gazzera, the Governor of Galla-Sidama and the new acting Viceroy and Governor-General of the AOI, surrenders to Free Belgian forces under Major-General Auguste Gilliaert. With Gazzera, 2,944 Italian, 1,535 African and 2,000 local troops (bande) formally surrender. The native troops quickly change sides. In all, ten Italian generals surrender.

Battle of the Baltic: Soviet minesweeper T-216 sinks off Saaremaa, Estonia. The cause is uncertain, perhaps by a mine.

Latvian freighter Everolanda hits a mine and sinks.

Finnish warships Syosky, Vinha, and Raju sink a Soviet fishing boat. Not much is known about this incident.

Bristol Blenheim of No. 21 Squadron, 6 July 1941
This Bristol Blenheim of No. 21 Squadron, Z7432/YH:J, lost hydraulic pressure and crashed on 6 July 1941 near Watton.

Battle of the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 140-ton British trawler Westfield off St. Govan's Head, near Lundy Island. All 10 crew perish.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 1363-ton Swedish freighter Birgitta in the North Sea. It is towed to Great Yarmouth.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 3658-ton freighter North Devon off Sheringham. There are five deaths. The North Devon is towed to Immingham. One of the deaths is Reginald Hamilton Earnshaw. Earnshaw, 14, is officially declared the youngest known British service casualty of WWII by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on February 5, 2010, which would have been his 83rd birthday. Earnshaw served as a cabin boy and lied about his age to get hired.

German raiders Atlantis and Orion have been meeting north of the island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic. Today, Atlantis heads east to the South Pacific while the Orion heads west toward South America.

Convoy OB-343 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX-137 departs from Halifax.

Canadian destroyer HMCS Hamilton is commissioned, minesweeper Melville is launched.

Bremen Rathouse, 6 July 1941
The Bremen Rathaus (Town Hall), 6 July 1941 (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-219).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Triumph, operating near Benghazi, torpedoes and sinks 607-ton Italian freighter Ninfea and an escorting gunboat, Dante de Lutti. The Triumph sustains some damage from an Italian shore battery and is forced to abort further operations and return to Malta.

At Malta, Italian bombers attack the Paola dockyards. It is a heavy raid lasting for four hours and killing 15 and wounding 14 people. There also are scattered raids on Marsa and other locations.

Ecuador/Peru Border War: Long-festering grievances about the border led to the outbreak of hostilities on the 5th, and today things get hotter. While exactly how the war started is hotly disputed, there is no question that Peru quickly gains the upper hand. While a small party of Ecuadorian soldiers crossed the border on the first day of the war, today the Peruvian soldiers eject them and turn the tables. Peruvian paratroopers take Matapalo Island, which Ecuador seized in 1938. The Peruvian air force is active, attacking Ecuadorian border posts along the Zarumilla River. Meanwhile, mediators from neighboring Brazil and Argentina, along with US representatives, quickly try to broker a settlement.

The Lüderitz Bridge, Weser, 6 July 1941
The Lüderitz Bridge aka Great Weser Bridge (Große Weserbrücke) over the Weser, 6 July 1941 ( Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archives, Bild 212-215).

US/Japanese Relations: US Ambassador Joseph Grew warns Japan against offensive actions by delivering a letter directly to Mr. Tomohiko Ushiba, Private Secretary of the Japanese Prime Minister (Prince Konoye):
Should Japan enter upon a course of military aggression and conquest it stands to reason that such action would render illusory the cherished hope of the American Government, which it understood was shared by the Japanese Government, that peace in the Pacific area, far from being further upset, might now indeed be strengthened and made more secure. It is the earnest hope of the Government of the United States that the reports of Japan's decision to enter upon hostilities against the Soviet Union are not based upon fact, and an assurance to that effect from His Excellency the Prime Minister of Japan would be deeply appreciated by the Government of the United States.
In fact, the Japanese have decided not to attack the Soviet Union. Unknown to the Americans, they have other targets in mind.

Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt cables British Prime Minister Winston Churchill with "will advise you" on Churchill's request that the US and Great Britain form a joint committee on tank development. Churchill is concerned about German tank superiority and realizes that larger and more powerful tanks are required, but the US at this time does not have any heavy tanks in its arsenal.

Anglo/Soviet Relations: British Prime Minister sends a message to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin expressing a hope that they can cooperate in the fight against Germany. Unlike US President Roosevelt, Stalin is not particularly chatty with cables and does not typically respond quickly.

Italian/Japanese Relations: Japan takes over protection of Italy's Embassy in Moscow.

Disney animators strike, 6 July 1941
Original caption dated 6 July 1941 reads: "Members of the Screen Cartoonists Guild are shown picketing the Walt Disney Studios in force today as 98 members of eight A.F. L. craft unions went back to work. The A.F.L. unions signed with Disney last night. Besides the 248 cartoon guild members, about 20 of the Society of Motion Picture Film Editors are still out."

Spy Stuff: According to a 1947 OSS/CIA document, today the Gestapo arrests Jerzy Kuncewicz, a former intelligence officer of the Polish General Staff, and an associate in Berlin as spies. Kuncewicz has been in communication with the Polish Resistance in Warsaw and Japanese spies. Under Gestapo interrogation, Kuncewicz reveals that the Japanese military attache, Brigadier General Banzai, is in control of a vast spy network in Europe that is spying on everyone. The Gestapo concludes that the Japanese network "works against the Reich," though to what purpose is left unsaid. Kuncewicz's group, meanwhile, has been sending information to London. The report concludes that the Gestapo believes that further investigation could prove that the Japanese are working with the Polish resistance and the Vatican to undermine the Reich.

Holocaust: The occupying German authorities in Kaunas/Kovno, Lithuania institute a pogrom that ultimately claims thousands of lives. The killings by Einsatzgruppen occur at the Seventh Fort, where Jewish residents have been imprisoned.

"Die Tat," a Swiss newspaper, reports on a Soviet massacre of innocent prisoners at Lemberg. It states that:
this massacre is one of the most dreadful and ruthless massacres ever heard of in the history of the world. In the police prison 20 prisoners were crowded together in each of the smallest cells; they were then shot through the spy-holes. 2,000 to 2,500 persons were murdered in this way.
The Germans already know about this incident. They have forced Jewish residents of Lemberg to dig up the corpses from a prison yard and rebury them elsewhere. This incident becomes controversial because of post-war Soviet claims that the Lemberg massacre was carried out by the Ukrainian "Nightingale" Legion, a special formation organized by the Wehrmacht.

Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, 6 July 1941
Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb at a charity tournament in Newton, Massachusetts, 6 July 1941.

German Homefront: A pastoral letter of German bishops is read out in all Catholic Churches in Germany. It recognizes that euthanasia is taking place within Reich mental asylums, but absolves Catholics from resisting these exterminations because it is impossible to fight the government. This does not sit well with some pastors, as, even beyond the moral crisis such killings create, they also violate sections of Reich penal law.

American Homefront: Originally scheduled to be unveiled on 4 July (US Independence Day), Lou Gehrig's monument in Yankee Stadium is revealed. The scheduling issue, due to a rain-out on the 4th, will confuse memorabilia collectors forever.

During a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the Philadelphia Athletics, New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio gets hits in both games. In the opener, DiMaggio gets four hits in the first game, an 8-4 Yankees win. In the nightcap, he goes 2-4 with two runs batted in. This extends his major league record hitting streak to 48 games. New York wins, 3-1, with Phil Rizzuto going 3-3. DiMaggio now is hitting .357 for the season, well behind league leader Ted Williams at .405.

The New York Times reports on page 20 that an outbreak of sunspots is affecting transatlantic radio communication and distorting compasses.

The New York Times has an article, "Imagery For Profit," by R.W. Stewart. It discusses the use of Television for advertising. The article notes that only New York NBC station WNBT is equipped to show advertisements but that many other stations across the country would like to "ass soon as possible, some within thirty days." It notes that the first paid ad was for the Bulova Watch Company, which paid $4 for the privilege. The ad was a test pattern that resembles a clock face and remained on the air for a full minute as the second-hand traversed a minute.

Gehrig Memorial unveiling, 6 July 1941
Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig's widow attend the belated unveiling of the monument at Yankee Stadium honoring Gehrig, 6 July 1941.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

July 5, 1941: Germans on Schedule

Saturday 5 July 1941

German troops on BMW R75 motorcycles 5 July 1941
German troops on BMW R75 motorcycles advancing into Russia, June/July 1941 (Mossdorff, Federal Archive).

Eastern Front: Rainstorms continue all along the center of the German advance on 5 July 1941. The roads turn to muddy ponds and vehicular traffic slows to a crawl. While both sides are affected equally by the conditions, a fact that should never be forgotten when reviewing the campaign in the Soviet Union, the weather favors the defense for the time being.

Despite the weather and everything the Soviets can throw at them, though, the Germans remain on schedule to end the war before the winter. OKH boss General Franz Halder notes in his war diary that "The entire front is advancing in accordance with our intentions."

In the Far North sector, it is a quiet day. On the Litsa River front, General Dietl's Army of Norway is trying to expand a small bridgehead across the river but has little success. The Soviets land a naval battalion along the coast to distract the Germans.

Further south, Operation Arctic Fox, the projected advance to the Murmansk railway line via Salla, is stalled as the Germans bring up troops from the south. Luftflotte 5 is standing by to assist a major eastward push on the 6th. There are some minor Finnish probing attacks that capture Repola. In Karelia, the Finns also make some minor attacks to improve their starting positions for later actions.

General Halder allows himself some rare strategic criticism in his war diary about the Army of Norway Operations. He comments about the "dubiousness of this entire Murmansk operation, which serves only political ends and is open to gravest exposure from the operational point of view."

Germans taking Soviet citizens to transit camps, Minsk, 5 July 1941
Germans taking Soviet citizens to transit camps, Minsk, 5 July 1941 (Weidner, Federal Archives, Bild RH 82 image-00064).

In the Army Group North sector, General Hoepner's panzers are eliminating pockets of resistance while the German infantry closes up. The Germans are now approaching Lake Peipus, Reval, and Parun. The front is getting very close to Leningrad already. In desperation, the Soviets counterattack between Ostrov and Pskov and stall the German advance.

In the Army Group Center sector, the Soviets are preparing a riposte by V and VII Mechanized Corps of the 20th Army. They plan to attack German 39th and 47th Panzer Corps. The Germans are blissfully unaware, but so far they have been able to handle everything the Soviets can throw at them. On the right flank, General Model's panzer division maintains its bridgehead at Rogachev. In the central axis of advance between the Beresina and Dneipr Rivers, General Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group makes little headway. On the left flank, General Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group takes a second bridgehead at Ulla.

In the Army Group South sector, the Soviets are retreating. OKW chief General Franz Halder writes in his diary that "Our troops have more or less lost contact with the enemy on the front of Seventeenth and Sixth Armies." The Soviets are preparing for the defense of Kiev, where they propose to make a stand. The Romanians take Chernovtsy.

Finnish pioneer troops with a flamethrower, 5 July 1941
Finnish pioneer troops with a flamethrower, 5 July 1941 (SA-Kuva).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: The Australian 21st Brigade, which has been battling up the coast, prepares to launch the Battle of Damour. After dark, troops move forward to positions along the Damour River, which must be crossed in order to continue heading north to Beirut. Both sides understand that Beirut is the key to the campaign and that its defense is essential to Vichy French prospects. The attack is scheduled for the early morning hours of 6 July.

Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Ajax and HMAS Perth, anti-aircraft cruiser Carlisle and accompanying destroyers bombard Damour during the day in preparation for the Australian offensive. They return at night to patrol the coast.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command targets railway yards in Muenster (47 bombers) and a power station in Bielefeld, Germany (46 bombers). After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 109 bombers against Brest. German night fighters are active and down seven RAF bombers. Ofw. Wilhelm Beier of 3./NJG 2 downs two bombers, a Wellington and a Blenheim for his seventh and eighth victories.

RAF Fighter Command organizes a Circus against the Fives works at Lille. The defending Luftwaffe squadrons, JG 2 and 26, claim 13 victories. Among those filing claims is Paul Galland, younger brother of Adolf Galland, who scores his first victory.

The Luftwaffe sends a night raid against Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

Ruins in Minsk, 5 July 1941
Ruins in Minsk, 5 July 1941 (Weidner, Federal Archives, Bild 146-2008-0151).

East African Campaign: Italian General Pietro Gazzera, the Governor of Galla-Sidama, continues to hold out with a large body of troops at Kulkaber (Culqualber), Abyssinia. His situation is hopeless, and he seeks peace terms.

Battle of the Baltic: Latvian 3204-ton freighter Rasma hits a mine north of Ekholm. The mines had been laid by Finnish submarine Vesihiisi on 23 June. The Rasma's master beaches the ship to prevent it from sinking, but subsequent German attacks on the 10th destroy it.

Soviet patrol boat MO-209 hits a mine and sinks off Gogland Island.

Russian prisoners at Minsk, 5 July 1941
Russian prisoners at Minsk, 5 July 1941 (Weidner, Federal Archives, Bild 146-1991-060-36A).

Battle of the Atlantic: U-96 (Kptlt. Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock), on its 5th war patrol out of St. Nazaire, is about 300 miles north of the Azores when it torpedoes and sinks 5954-ton British HMT Anselm. The Anselm is hit with two torpedoes and sinks within 22 minutes. There are 254 deaths and 1061 survivors. A chaplain aboard the Anselm, the Reverend Herbert Cecil Pugh, asks to be lowered into the hold of the sinking Anselm so that he can pray there with men going down with the ship. For this, Pugh posthumously receives the George Cross when the incident receives attention after the war.

Three corvettes then attack U-96. The depth charge attack damages the U-boat enough that it must return to port.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Tigris torpedoes and sinks Italian submarine Michele Bianchi near Bordeaux in the Bay of Biscay. There are no survivors, all 57 crew perish.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Royal Navy auxiliary paddlewheel minesweeper Snaefell about 8 miles off Sunderland. The only death is the master, Lt. Commander F. Brett, while two other crew are wounded.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 470-ton British freighter Fowey Rose in St. George's Channel off St. Davids. There are 8 deaths.

The Luftwaffe attacks Greenrock and damages two Royal Navy submarines being built at the Scotts yard, HMS Traveller, and Trooper.

The RAF bombs and sinks Norwegian coaster Advance off Vågsøy, Norway.

Swedish 2241-ton freighter Stig Gorthon hits a mine and sinks off Borkum. Everyone survives.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Holderness hits a mine in the North Sea. The Holderness makes it back to port and is out of commission for 26 days.

U-103 (Korvkpt. Victor Schütze), on its 4th patrol out of Lorient, secretly refuels from 7747-ton German tanker Charlotte Schliemann in Las Palmas. Charlotte Schliemann embarked from Aruba in 1939 and sits in the harbor of Las Palmas refueling U-boats while pretending to be interned.

Australian minesweepers HMAS Cairns and Wollongong are launched.

Canadian corvette HMCS Drumheller is launched in Collingwood, Ontario.

United States destroyer USS Frazier is laid down.

U-133 (Oberleutnant zur See Hermann Hesse), U-208 (Oberleutnant zur See Alfred Schlieper), and U-654 (Korvettenkapitän Hans-Joachim Hesse) are commissioned, U-136, U-355, and U-754 are launched, U-197 is laid down.

Refugees in Minsk, 5 July 1941
Refugees in Minsk, 5 July 1941 (Weidner, Federal Archives, Bild 146-1980-027-03).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay torpedoes and sinks Argonauta-class Italian submarine Jantina south of Milos.

British 5920-ton freighter Bencruachen hits a mine and sinks near Mex High Light in Alexandria Harbour. There are three deaths. The Bencruachan takes down with it 31-ton motor yacht Wyreema.

The RAF bombs Palermo, Sicily.

The Luftwaffe bombs Alexandria (15 bombers) and Tobruk.

The Italians bomb Hamrun, Malta after dark. There are 14-20 deaths, with 19 injured. Six houses are destroyed and a water main is damaged. In air battles, both sides lose planes.

Peruvian/Ecuadorian War: A border war breaks out between Peru and Ecuador. The long-standing dispute stems from Ecuador's claim that its territory extends beyond the Andes Mountain Range to the Amazon River. How the war starts is hotly disputed, but some witnesses claim that Ecuadorian troops invade Peruvian territory in the Zarumilla province. Other witnesses claim that Peru invaded Ecuador due to a series of incidents along the border that the Peruvian government took to be provocations.

In any event, a small party of Ecuadorian troops quickly take the Peruvian town of Aguas Verdes. Other Ecuadorian troops soon follow, and then the Peruvian government sends its own troops. The Peruvian troops quickly eject the Ecuadorian troops from their territory. Fighting soon spreads all along the border, and the Peruvian military has an early advantage due to the presence of more troops and advances into Ecuador's El Oro province.

The other American countries have no patience for any border wars during this time of international crisis. Brazil, Argentina, and the US quickly arrange a cease-fire.

Andrii Melnyk. 5 July 1941
Andrii Melnyk.

German/Ukrainian Relations: The Ukrainian National Movement under Andriy Melnyk requests permission from Germany to form a military unit to aid Operation Barbarossa. Hitler, however, is dead set against arming any "conquered" peoples and denies the request. The Germans arrest rival Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera and bring him to Berlin for interrogation.

Polish/Soviet Relations: Polish government-in-exile leader Sikorski meets with Soviet Ambassador Maisky to discuss re-establishing diplomatic relations.

US/Japanese Relations: Future Tokyo Rose propagandist Iva Toguri arrives in Tokyo to visit relatives.

P. K. Mines in Clarksburg, West Virginia. 5 July 1941
P. K. Mines in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Photo taken July 5, 1941, by coal miner Clyde Lake (Clarksburg, WV gallery).

Soviet Government: The Soviet Special Group (later 4th NKVD Directorate) forms. The intention is for this special group to prevent Soviet troops from retreating.

German Government: According to "Hitler's Table Talk," Hitler discusses plans to make the Crimea the "German Riviera." He plans to create autobahns from Germany to the Crimea because "Better than the railway, which has something impersonal about it, it's the road that will bring people together."

British Government: Oliver Lyttelton takes up his new post of British Minister in the Middle East.

Greenland: US Navy transports USS Munango and USAT Chateau Thierry arrive at Tungugdliarfik Fjord to begin construction of an airbase at Narsarssuak.

American Homefront: At Yankee Stadium, Joe DiMaggio goes 1-4 against Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Phil Marchildon. This extends his major league record hitting streak to 46 games.

Warner Bros. releases "Kisses for Breakfast," starring Dennis Morgan and Jane Wyatt. This is a comedy about bigamy, which comes about because Morgan's character gets a case of amnesia.

The Saturday Evening Post, 5 July 1941
The Saturday Evening Post, July 5, 1941 (Cover: B. Tarkington).


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