Monday, May 9, 2016

January 4, 1940: Soviet Breakout Attempts Fail

Thursday 4 January 1940

4 January 1940 Mathilda Tank
4th Royal Tank Regiment (Scottish), Matilda tank in France, January 1940.
Winter War: Support for the Finns continues to pour in from abroad on 4 January 1940. The first contingent of Norwegian volunteers leaves Oslo.

Great Britain and France are formulating plans to send troops to Finland via the Narvik railway. That line extends from the port to Oulu and Helsinki, but it passes through Sweden. Swedish iron ore at Gällivare, which is typically shipped from Narvik, is on the priority list for seizure by both sides, so there may be ulterior motives behind these troop transfer requests. Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax asks Norway for permission to use the port, but curiously only copies Sweden on the request - when the Swedes have complete control over the line. It is as if he considers Swedish acquiescence a foregone conclusion. He cites German sinkings of British freighters as a pretext. Sweden, for its part, has been holding on to its neutrality with an iron fist, though if anything it leans toward the British and French.

Winter War Army Operations: Soviet troops are suffering in the worst of the winter weather. They are freezing to death, dying of starvation, suffering frostbite, and have all sorts of weather-related maladies that require amputations.

General Vinogradov orders - or, more aptly stated, permits - the trapped 44th Rifle Division to try to break out again. Just as on the 3rd, this attempt fails miserably.

General Chuikov in command of the Ninth Army is running out of options. He cannot get supplies to the trapped men, and he discovers today that, contrary to false assurances from Colonel Volkov on the Ratte road, they have no connection to the outside world. Chuikov informs the Stavka that a disaster is brewing. He manages to get a plane in the air, which drops bags of dry tack. He tentatively plans for a full-scale relief attempt on the 5th.

The trapped Soviets, meanwhile, realize their predicament completely. Captain Pastukhov of the 2nd Battalion, 146th Rifle Regiment, whose troops have not eaten in four days, leaves his own position to consolidate his troops with the headquarters of the nearby 305th Rifle Regiment. He explains that he has no more ammunition anyway. Since this leaves a hole in the Soviet defenses, General Vinogradov orders him to return. Before he can get back there, though, the Finns move in and cut the road where his troops had been. This produces another Motti (log).

Further east, Task Force Kari takes the village of Eskola.

Winter War Air Operations: The Soviets attack the vital Finnish railway line that heads through Sweden to Narvik.

The Finns bomb Soviet island bases on Oesel and Dagoe.

Western Front: The British 48th Infantry Brigade moves to join the BEF in France.

Battle of the Atlantic: German cruiser Karlsruhe captures Swedish freighter Konung Oscar. It has 41 Polish refugees on board.

Kriegsmarine armed merchant cruiser Schiff 20 sinks an Estonian freighter.

The Luftwaffe attacks the British liner Tuscan Star, but the ship's anti-aircraft guns drive them off.

Admiral Max Horton is appointed Flag Officer, Submarines.

The British at Gibraltar detain the US freighter SS Exiria.

Convoy OA 66 departs Southend, Convoy OB 66 departs from Liverpool, and Convoy HXF 15 departs from Halifax.

European Air Operations: The RAF conducts reconnaissance over the German seaplane bases in the Heligoland Bight.

French/Polish Relations: France agrees to provide and maintain the Polish Army-in-exile at its own expense. The agreement between Premier Daladier and General Sikorski will equip 85,000 Polish troops currently interned in Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states.

British Government: All merchant shipping is requisitioned.

Rations for bacon is set at four ounces per person per week as of 8 January.

German Government: Hermann Goering is appointed to head the German war economy, which he has been leading off and on for years. His primary mission is to find ways around the British blockade. He studied economics in school.

Peace Talks: The Finns seek German mediation. Germany, of course, has secretly allocated Finland to the Soviet sphere in the Ribbentrop/Molotov agreement.

China: In the struggling Chinese Winter Offensive, the Chinese 4th War Area captures Kuantan.

At the Battle of South Kwangsi, Chinese forces advance five miles south of Kunlunkuan and take Chiutang.

4 January 1940 acoustic listening device
Members of the French Army man an acoustic locator device on January 4, 1940. The device was one of many experimental designs, built to pick up the sound of approaching aircraft. These enjoyed a brief vogue among all armies prior to the perfection of radar. Some dogs could accomplish the same thing.

January 1940

January 1, 1940: Finns Carve up the Soviets
January 2, 1940: Finnish Counterattacks Continue
January 3, 1940: Soviets Trapped
January 4, 1940: Soviet Breakout Attempts Fail
January 5, 1940: Dicing Up the Soviets
January 6, 1940: Soviet 44th Division Runs
January 7, 1940: Shakeup in Soviet High Command
January 8, 1940: Ratte Road Battle Ends
January 9, 1940: British Submarines in Peril
January 10, 1940: Mechelen Incident
January 11, 1940: Finns Surround More Soviets
January 12, 1940: New Soviet Attacks at Taipale
January 13, 1940: Fall Gelb Postponed
January 14, 1940: Japan's Government Falls
January 15, 1940: Soviets Prepare More Carefully
January 16, 1940: German Atrocities Uncovered
January 17, 1940: Bletchley Park in Action
January 18, 1940: New Hope for Allied Shipping
January 19, 1940: Finnish Attacks at Salla
January 20, 1940: Churchill Urges Cooperation
January 21, 1940: Asam Maru Incident
January 22, 1940: Dissension Within British Government
January 23, 1940: Dissension in South Africa
January 24, 1940: NKVD Blocking Detachments
January 25, 1940: Auschwitz Site Selected
January 26, 1940: Millionaire Bunker Destroyed
January 27, 1940: U-20 Sinks Four Ships
January 28, 1940: Softening Up the Finns
January 29, 1940: Moscow Willing to Talk
January 30, 1940: Hitler Throws Down the Gauntlet
January 31, 1940: Timoshenko Is Ready


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