Thursday, May 5, 2016

December 18, 1939: Battle of Heligoland Bight

Monday 18 December 1939

18 December 1939 German executions Bochnia
German soldiers executing 56 Polish civilians in the city of Bochnia. December 18, 1939.
European Air Operations: The British have been raiding Kriegsmarine bases in the Heligoland bight recently (source of magnetic mine layers), but they try that trick one time too often. This time, on 18 December 1939, the British send 22 Wellington bombers from 9, 37,  and149 Squadrons on armed reconnaissance, but the Luftwaffe is waiting. In the Battle of the Heligoland Bight, a swarm of 50 Bf 109s and 110s converge on the Wellingtons as they return home and eliminate a dozen of them at the cost of two fighters (figures vary by source). Ten Wellingtons are shot down outright, two ditch in the sea, and three limp home to crash-land at base.

It is a huge Luftwaffe victory. The British suspend daylight bombing for the foreseeable future.

Battle of the Atlantic: The Captain and crew of Admiral Graf Spee land in Buenos Aires. The Uruguayan authorities arrest four of them for scuttling their ship. The press is full of scorn at Captain Langsdorff for not going down with his ship, which is full of black humor because, if he had stayed on the bridge, he still would have been above water.

The British Admiralty reports that 10 out of 1,100 ships transiting to or from British ports in the first ten days of December were sunk.

The British release the US freighter Meanticut at Gibraltar.

Concoy OA 55G departs from Southend, Convoy SL 13 departs from Freetown.

Winter War: The Soviets, stymied almost everywhere, bomb Helsinki and shell some Finnish coastal batteries. Soviet battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya and escorting warships bombard the Finnish shore battery at Saarenpaa.

In the far north, the Soviets advance from Petsamo to take Pitkaejaervi but can proceed no further. Three scratch Finnish companies are able to stop the Soviet 52nd Division at Höyhenjärvi. It is the heart of winter up there, with no sunlight and bitter conditions, terrible weather for army advances.

18 December 1939 Battle of Salla
The Battle of Salla (By Jniemenmaa - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0).
At Salla, the Soviets on the northern road to Pelkosenniemi are retreating from the Kemijoki River in wild flight back toward Salla. The Soviet 112th Division loses most of its tanks and other heavy equipment. The Finns are holding the Soviets on the south road toward Kemijärvi against fierce attacks. Once again, the Finns are showing their excellence at concentrating their minimal forces and defeating Soviet units in detail.

At Summa and Kollaa, the stalemate continues, but the Finns have the upper hand. At Kollaa, the Finnish IV Corps forces the Soviet 75th and 139th divisions to retreat to Ägläjärvi.

Paavo Talvela is promoted from colonel to major general for his command at the Battle of Tolvajärvi on 12 December. The campaign at Tolvajärvi is quite not over yet, but its opening rounds have been a smashing Finnish victory. Battles are drawn-out affairs because the Finns are relying on the cold and hunger as their allies against the Soviets, and while those factors take time to work their magic, they are relentless.

German Government: Hitler and Quisling meet a second time. Hitler repeats his promise that any British invasion will be met by a German counter-invasion. Quisling becomes uncertain about Hitler's motives - Quisling sees himself as ruler of an equal nation supported by Hitler, while Hitler sees Quisling as someone to govern a German possession - and somewhat belatedly denies being a supporter of the Third Reich. Hitler proceeds with his own plans for an invasion but now is not depending upon Quisling, though he continues supporting him.

Soviet Union: Today is Stalin's 60th birthday, but it officially is celebrated on the 21st.

Afghanistan: Hitler has made diplomatic gestures towards several middle east and far east nations such as Iraq and Tibet. He has been toying with the idea of intervening in Afghanistan and restoring King Amanullah to the throne there, but gives it up as impractical. The British are dominant throughout the region.

Holocaust: German soldiers execute Polish civilians in the city of Bochnia. 56 people are executed.

China: The Battle of Kunlun Pass begins. The Japanese have captured this key route which provides access to the Chinese rear of Chungking. Chinese General Bai Chongxi has Chiang Kai-shek send the best unit in the Chinese Army, the 5th Corps from Hunan province, to stop them. Unlike other Chinese formations, it is equipped with tanks and other armor, and it sends two divisions to attack the Japanese. The Chinese plan is to sweep in behind the Japanese and cut them off. Progress on the first day is promising.

Elsewhere, the Chinese Winter Offensive is recovering ground. The 2nd War Area recaptures Lunghua Chen, the 3rd War Area recaptures Chasan, Wangchiatan, Tsenghsingshan, Paifangshan, Maotan, Puling, Hsiangshan, Tuanshan, Hanshan, Shihtzeshan, Huiluling, Kangyaoling, and part of Chiangchiatashan, 5th War Area recaptures Tzepakang and Changkang, and Chinese North Route Force recaptures Kunlunkuan and Chiu-Tang. There are Chinese attacks all across the front, and Japanese counterattacks are stymied.

18 December 1939 Captain Langsdorff
Kapitän zur See Hans Langsdorff reading about his ship, the Admiral Graf Spee, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. December 18, 1939.
December 14, 1939: Quisling Meets Hitler
December 15, 1939: Chinese Winter Offensive in High Gear
December 16, 1939: Battle of Summa
December 17, 1939: End of Admiral Graf Spee
December 18, 1939: Battle of Heligoland Bight
December 19, 1939: British Disarm Magnetic Mines
December 20, 1939: Finnish Counterattacks Continue
December 21, 1939: Finns Plan More Counterattacks
December 22, 1939: Enter Chuikov
December 23, 1939: Failed Finnish Counterattack
December 24, 1939: Soviets on the Run
December 25, 1939: Fresh Soviet Attacks
December 26, 1939: Vicious Battles at Kelja
December 27, 1939: Grinding Finnish Victories
December 28, 1939: Liberators
December 29, 1939: Finns Tighten the Noose
December 30, 1939: Finnish Booty
December 31, 1939: Planning More Soviet Destruction


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