Monday, May 2, 2016

December 4, 1939: Molotov to Roosevelt - Mind Your Own Business

Monday 4 December 1939

4 December 1939 U-36
A prewar photograph of U-36 (Type VIIA) which served as a training vessel until the outbreak of war - she was sunk by the British submarine Salmon on December 4, 1939 (the number on the conning tower was removed during the war)
Winter War: There is a huge snowstorm in Finland on 4 December 1939 that brings operations to a halt. On the whole, this favors the Finns, giving them time to recover from the initial shock of the invasion and develop foreign sources of aid. Helsinki has been evacuated of all non-essential personnel and only some 50,000 remain.

Winter War Army Operations: Poor weather and terrain is forcing the Soviets to use the roads which are typically not paved and not suited to the heavy tanks and other equipment they are using. The Finns, of course, notice the Soviet reliance on the very few good roads running north from Leningrad and in the other, more desolate parts of the front. They mine the roads and site their artillery with precision from their entrenched positions in the Mannerheim Line. The Soviets are barely moving forward either on the Karelian Isthmus.

North of Lake Ladoga, there are few good roads, so nature is the prime obstacle. The Finns have naval batteries at Taipale which can be swung around to attack ground targets. Once again, the Soviet forces are compressed into narrow killing zones in the endless forests. The Finns are in emplaced turrets with extensive experience of targeting the approaches to their guns, while the Soviet troops are on the move with smaller guns that are difficult to pull over the rutted and sometimes obstructed or mined roads.

Winter War Naval Operations: Soviet troops land on Suur Island and Pien-Tytarsaari Island.

With the Soviets picking up Finnish Islands, the Finns fortify their the Aaland Islands in the Gulf of Bothnia.

Battle of the Atlantic: The British Admiralty reveals that, since the outbreak of the war, it has lost 4% of its tonnage. It also states that it has imprisoned 144 U-boat crew as POWs.

HMS Nelson (Captain G.J.A. Miles), the flagship of the British Home Fleet (Admiral Charles Forbes), is damaged by a magnetic mine near Loch Ewe. There are 52 men injured in the crew.

In a rare sub-to-sub engagement, HMS Salmon (N 65), an S-class boat, sinks U-36 (Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Fröhlich) off of Norway in the Heligoland Bight. All 40 crew perish. U-36 was a moderately successful boat with two ships sunk (2,813 tons) and one captured (1,617 tons) - before the war, she had been a training boat. The Salmon was heading north out of Wilhelmshaven toward Murmansk (Kola Peninsula) on a mission to scout out a proposed German base there. Salmon spotted U-36 on the surface not far from Stavanger. It only took one torpedo.

U-31 (Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost) sinks 1,271-ton Norwegian freighter Gimle. Three die, 16 survive.

U-31 also sinks 1,024-ton Norwegian freighter Primula. Eight parish, seven survive. The two actions are east of Stonehaven, Scotland in the North Sea.

Kriegsmarine sub chaser UJ-117 hits a mine and sinks.

British freighter Horsted hits a mine and sinks.

The Kriegsmarine lays more mines near Kristiansand.

The British release the US freighter Examiner from Gibraltar.

Convoy OA 47 departs from Southend, OB 47 from Liverpool, and HX 11 from Halifax.

4 December 1939 Helsinki Soviet bombing
A civilian building on fire in Helsinki due to Soviet bombing, 30 November 1939.
Soviet/American Relations: Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov replies to President Roosevelt's condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Finland. The reply comes in the Moscow Daily News and focuses solely on one aspect of the President's complaint, the bombings of civilian cities:
"Mr. Roosevelt’s suggestion that air bombardment of the population of Finland’s towns should not be permitted, insofar as it is addressed to the Soviet Government, is caused by a misunderstanding. Soviet airplanes have bombed airdromes, but they have not bombed towns and do not intend doing so, because our Government values the interest of the Finnish population no less than any other Government does. Certainly one may fail to see this from America, which is over 8,000 kilometers away from Finland. Nevertheless, facts are facts. In view of this, Mr. Roosevelt’s statement is, as can be seen, pointless."
Extensive research shows that the Soviets indeed were bombing Helsinki from the very first day of the war. There are many photographs of Helsinki buildings burning.

Anglo/French Relations: King George tours the BEF units in the western front and the Maginot Line. He also meets with  President Lebrun, Premier Daladier, and General Gamelin.

Peace Talks: The USSR refuses the Swedish offer of mediation in the Winter War. The ground is that it no longer recognizes the legitimate Finnish government, but rather its own puppet government. The Soviets make the rather bizarre claim that, since they are at peace with the Finnish Democrat Republic which they had set up with a Finnish Comintern member, they are no longer at war with Finland.

A Finnish appeal to the League of Nations is scheduled to be heard on 9 December 1939. The British suggest that they will attend, while the Soviets state flatly that they will not.

Poland: The developing underground movement in Poland is placed under the command of the Polish government-in-exile.

British Government: Lord Bernard Freyberg, a retired World War I vet, has been recalled to duty as a Major General. He departs for New Zealand to take over the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the New Zealand 2nd Division. It is the start of a long association with New Zealand for Major General Freyberg.

China: In the Battle of South Kwangsi, the IJA Taiwan Brigade captures Kunlunkuan northeast of Nanning.

The Japanese launch more spoiling attacks against the Chinese winter offensive, targeting the Chinese 2nd War Area around Wenhsi and Hsia Hsien.

4 December 1939 Helsinki Soviet bombing
A building on fire from Soviet aerial bombing in Helsinki, Finland - 30th of November 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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