Saturday, May 7, 2016

December 28, 1939: Liberators

Thursday 28 December 1939

28 December 1939 XB-24 Liberator
The XB-24. Notice no armament yet.
Winter War Army Operations: Today, 28 December 1939, is a bug-out day for the Soviets. While the Finns control the few roads and the woods, there is always one route of escape: the frozen lakes. They are extremely dangerous to use because of how exposed to enemy fire the troops are, but they can't be blocked and are always open for business to get home. Today, the Soviets use them.

Winter War Army Operations: Comrade Zelentsov in Suomussalmi gathers his men of the 163rd Rifle Division together at dawn. The troops form a 4 kilometer-long column on the ice of Kiantajärvi lake and head away from the doomed village they have been defending for weeks. The two regiments, the 81st Mountain Rifles, and the 759th Rifle Regiment receive elaborate Red Air Force protection, and tanks assist on the ground. By evening, they have made good progress toward safety that lies 20 km to the northeast, taking with them 2000 men, 48 trucks, 20 field guns, and 6 tanks. The going is slow on the ice, but the Soviets are motivated.

However, not everyone gets away. Zelentsov's division actually has three regiments, the third being the 662nd Rifle Regiment. It remains back forming a defensive perimeter by the road, oblivious to the departure of the men it had been guarding. Regiment commander Sharov and commissar Podhomutov - both having equal authority - sneak out on their men and leave them to their fate, making their way together through the forest to safety. Virtually everyone they leave behind is annihilated. Both Sharov and Podhomutov are immediately arrested and executed in front of the few of their troops that also survived.

The Soviets are not out of danger yet. They still must cross a very long lake and get ashore before the Finns catch up with them.

28 December 1939 Finnish booty
Finns at Taipale sorting through booty, most obviously some Maxim machine guns, 28 December 1939.
Aside from recapturing the village and eliminating a substantial Soviet formation, for the Finns it also is a huge strategic victory because now they can turn all of their attention to the stranded and immobile Soviet 44th Rifle Division on the Ratte road. The beleaguered division is stretched over 20 kilometers on what essentially is a rough logging road through deep forests. The division is oriented to proceed west to Suomussalmi, but now there is no need to go there. The division's only rational destination is where it came from, but the best troops are at the wrong end of the 20 kilometers. The division headquarters (kombrig Vinogradov and commissar Parkhomenko) is all the way back on the Soviet side of the border. Orders to the division: no retreat. Form a defensible perimeter and hold on for ... something.

The Soviets are bringing in reinforcements to the Karelian Isthmus, including picked Ogpu troops. However, they are not intended to help the Soviet troops that are in trouble.

Comrade Stalin is showing his ruthlessness. He essentially writes off the Soviet formations in the most difficulty in Finland and prepares a completely new plan. The new mission for Soviet 8th, 9th and 14th Armies essentially is to stand their ground for as long as they can, with no permission to retreat and no plans to resupply or reinforce them. Soviet liquidation squads are ready for any commanders that return from the front without orders or success.

28 December 1939 HMS Barham
HMS Barham in 1938.
Battle of the Atlantic: First thing in the morning, at 04:00, U-30 (Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp) sinks the anti-submarine trawler HMS Barbara Robertson. One crew member perishes. This is the equivalent of clearing one's throat, as trawlers are hardly worth the torpedo.

That afternoon, at 15:30, though, Lemp sees a much more appetizing target. U-30 torpedoes British battleship HMS Barham, which sustains relatively minor damage northwest of Butt of Lewis in the North Atlantic. Four crew members perish from the explosion, but the battleship has no difficulty making it back to port. The Barham's escorts HMS Isis and Nubian prevent U-30 from further attacks this day. Lemp is establishing himself as a top U-boat commander.

Danish freighter Hanne (2,473 tons) hits a mine and sinks just one mile off of Blyth Pier, Scotland. Fifteen crew perish and only two survive.

British fishing trawler Resercho (258 tons) hits a mine and sinks southeast of Flamborough Head, England.

US freighter Exilona is detained by the British at Gibraltar.

Convoy OA 62 departs from Scotland, OB 62 departs from Liverpool and OG 12 forms at Gibraltar.

European Air Operations: The British lose a reconnaissance plane over northwest Germany during the night.

US Air Force: First flight of the XB-24 Liberator at Lindbergh Field, San Diego.

British Homefront: Meat rationing is imposed.

Occupied Poland: The Germans plan to remove 70,000 people from the Polish town of Kalisz to make room for ethnic Germans "returned" from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Switzerland: Fritz Thyssen, who supported Hitler's rise to power and whose assets have been confiscated by the Germans, protests that "I have not sacrificed my millions for Bolshevism but against it." Actually, he has sacrificed his millions to save his own neck. Statements like this, though, do not endear him to Hitler, and Hitler is not someone that you want to cross unless you are behind a big, bad army.

China: The Japanese bomb the Chinese military supply depot at Lanchow.

The Chinese 3rd War Area interdicts boat traffic on the Yangtze River.

Chinese 5th War Area takes Yuntankang. The Japanese are attacking it at Loyangtien, Tzepakang, Tuchungshan, and Hsuchiatien. Japanese troops take Changshoutien from it.

In the Battle of South Kwangsi, the Chinese are attacking the Japanese Fifth Infantry Division at Kunlunkuan.

28 December 1939 Finnish range-finder
Finnish soldier using an anti-aircraft rangefinder, 28 December 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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