Saturday, December 3, 2016

December 3, 1940: Greeks Advancing

Tuesday 3 December 1940

3 December 1940 italian Tank
Italian M.13/40 tank of the Centauro Division during the Italian/Greek war. The Greeks standing nearby probably contrived to get it in that position.
Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greek advance continues on 3 December 1940, though the pace has slowed just a bit in a few areas due to stiffening Italian resistance. In the mountains, control of the passes means everything, and they are easy to defend - given the will to defend them by the local troops. The Italian troops often are lacking in that regard. The Greek 2nd Division is engaged in a heavy battle to capture the Suhë Pass, and the 8th Division is attacking near Kakavia Pass. Should the Greeks get through the passes, the defense would become much harder.

Along the coast, the Greeks advance 15 miles (25 km) and take Saranda (Italian Santiquaranta). Saranda is a reasonably important supply port and puts more pressure on the Italians to hold the other, absolutely vital ports further north. The loss of Saranda is a particularly jarring one to Mussolini because the port has acquired the honorific "Porto Edda" in honor of his eldest daughter.

Greek II Corps advances on Përmetin in Gjirokastër County, southern Albania. A fierce battle erupts for control of that town (which changes hands regularly throughout the first half of the 20th Century between the Greeks, Turks, Albanians, and Italians). The Greeks are taking more casualties in these battles than they have in previous actions, but the Italians continue to give ground. The Greeks also are taking a lot of prisoners, hundreds at a time as the Italians are bereft of supplies and the means to escape in isolated mountain towns.

The battle of Argyrokastro continues, with the Greeks dominating the heights above the town. The Greeks also advance past Pogradets and capture some high ground there.

Mussolini is still in a panic about the Italian reversals in Albania. However, Fascist Party secretary Roberto Farinacci is a hardliner and helps to steady his nerve. A change in military leadership is looking increasingly necessary to Mussolini because the troops do not display the will to win.

The Italians, meanwhile, have caught on to the British presence at Suda Bay, Crete. The Regia Aeronautica launches a raid at 15:40 that hits light cruiser HMS Glasgow with two torpedoes. The torpedoes both hit on the starboard side and rip two huge holes, causing structural damage, flooding, and putting two propeller shafts and the X turret out of action. There are three deaths and three serious injuries. The Glasgow can return under its own power to Alexandria for repairs.

Convoy AS 6 departs from Piraeus for Port Said with several Greek freighters.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe bombs Birmingham again, sending over 50 bombers to attack it. They drop over 55 tons of high explosives and 448 incendiaries. Birmingham, loaded with factories was devastated by successive raids in early November, and this adds to the city's misery. London also receives some incendiaries, along with scattered other locations in the Home Counties.

Poor weather restricts flight operations by RAF Bomber Command. They make some small attacks on Ludwigshafen, Mannheim, Essen, and Dunkirk.

3 December 1940 Italian tank and crew Libya
Italian troops posing with their tank, Libya, December 1940.
Battle of the Atlantic: German freighters Idarwald (5033 tons) and Rhein (6031 tons) attempt once more - for at least the third time in recent months - to evade the American Neutrality Patrol and sail from their port of Tampico, Mexico for Occupied France. US destroyer USS Broome spots Idarwald and shadows it, while USS Simpson shadows Rhein. Both US ships make sure that the Royal Navy knows what is happening. This is the beginning of a week-long incident that Adolf Hitler will single out in his 11 December 1941 declaration of war against the United States.

The attacks on Convoy HX 90 conclude during the early morning hours today, but we talk about that attack on the entry for 2 December. After today's final sinkings, including freighter W. Hendrik by Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condors, there are 30 of the convoy's original 41 ships remaining, which sail on to port. The sinking of the W. Hendrik is tragic because the captain mistakenly believes that the ship has been torpedoed due to near misses, making it easy prey for an actual torpedo. Some of the sources make light of this convoy battle, emphasizing that 30 ships did survive, but 25% of losses (to no loss for the enemy) are unsustainable in the long run no matter what repetitive task you are doing.

Two Royal Navy cruisers and four destroyers embark on a standard sweep of the southwest Norwegian coast in Operation DN. They do not spot anything.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Campbeltown (one of the US Navy destroyers received in the destroyers-for-bases deal) collides with 8132-ton British tanker Conus. The Campbeltown is badly damaged and will require almost four months for repair.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Castleton also is damaged in a collision during a patrol in the Western Approaches. She is taken to Portsmouth for repairs.

The Luftwaffe is active against shipping. It damaged 222-ton British trawler Slebech, 275-ton trawler William Downes, and 4745-ton British freighter Quebec City, all in the Western Approaches.

British 292-ton freighter Robrix hits a mine and is damaged about 3 km off Spurn Light House, East Riding of Yorkshire,

German raider Kormoran departs from its homeport of Gotenhafen (Gdynia) for a mission in the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and Pacific. The has 320 mines for use near Australia.

German destroyers Greif, Kondor, Falke, and Seeadler lay minefield Marieanne off Dover (Hellfire Corner).

Convoy FN 349 departs from Southend, Convoy FN 349 and FN 351 depart from Methil, Convoy HX 93 departs from Halifax.

U-76 (Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich von Hippel) is commissioned.

Royal Navy minesweeping trawler Ophelia is commissioned.

US Navy light cruiser USS Montpelier is laid down.

3 December 1940 Ups and Downs
Ups and Downs Magazine, December 1940. These magazines were published quarterly in order to provide information about schoolboys who had been sent from England to live in Canada. They were published by Dr. Barnardo Homes in Toronto, Ontario, usually quarterly between 1895 and 1949. The original immigrants to Canada generally became indentured servants - the 1940s issues, though, dealt with youngsters sent to avoid the war. All the kids grew up with foster Canadian families, and many stayed in Canada permanently. By this time, the British government had halted overseas placements due to U-boat dangers.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The British are gearing up for Operation Compass, the planned assault on the advanced Italian forces in Egypt. The Chief of the General Staff (CIGS) John Dill instructs the Commander in Chief Mediterranean (General Archibald Wavell) to set aside landing craft for possible hooks around the advanced Italian positions. Wavell and his fellow officers on the scene don't  much care for the idea, but the strategy is favored by Winston Churchill - himself, of course, a former First Sea Lord who always appreciates naval involvement.

Wavell, meanwhile, meets with Lieutenant General William Platt, General Officer Commanding Sudan Defence Force, and Lieutenant General Alan Cunningham, (brother of the naval C-in-C) General Officer Commanding 51st Division, from Kenya. Entirely apart from Operation Compass, they decide to allocate an infantry division - and maybe more forces to recapture Kassala in East Africa (as if to emphasize the point, the RAF attacks Kassala today). Everything depends upon the outcome of Operation Compass - if the offensive there succeeds, then the British can "roll-up" the remaining Italian positions to the south. Thus, Operation Compass is of great import to the entire course of the war south of the Mediterranean.

A report of the British First Sea Lord Sir Dudley Pound to the War Cabinet states that the Royal Navy is gaining control of the Mediterranean. The recent engagement at Cape Spartivento, Admiral of the Fleet Pound concludes, was merely a "chance encounter" in which an Italian claim that the "British units... had run away" was "unfounded." Malta is now "reasonably secure" given the success of Operation Collar in delivering reinforcements to the island. Admiral James Somerville, meanwhile, is currently facing an official Court of Inquiry at Gibraltar due to the "chance encounter."

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Havock collides with battleship HMS Valiant in Alexandria Harbour. It requires two months of repairs at Malta.

The Italians have four destroyers and a submarine operating in the Red Sea looking for convoys.

Anglo/US Relations: The UK announces that it has placed orders for 60 merchantmen in US shipyards.

German/Bulgarian Relations: Hitler meets with the Bulgarian ambassador. He needs Bulgaria as a launching pad for the invasion of Greece.

US Government: President Roosevelt and crony Harry Hopkins arrive in Miami and embark on the heavy cruiser HMS Tuscaloosa. They are going to inspect some of the bases acquired from the British in the September destroyers-for-bases agreement. The Greenslade Board already has inspected them, but Roosevelt wants to see them for himself. At some point during this trip, Roosevelt and Hopkins come up with the "Lend-Lease" idea.

3 December 1940 Stutterheim
Luftwaffe Major General Wolff von Stutterheim.
German Military: The Kriegsmarine is upset at Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's abrupt decision to remove all naval control from torpedo bombers, and - a rarity for this stage of the war - complains.  Konteradmiral (rear admiral) Kurt Fricke, Chief of Naval Operations, requests the return of Naval bomber squadrons, and further requests that they come equipped with the Heinkel He 111H-5 version adapted to carry two torpedoes (one Italian Whitehead Fiume 850 kg (1,870 lb) torpedo and a German F5 50 kg (110 lb) light torpedo). Fricke has little chance of winning any kind of dispute with Goering about aircraft, given that the Reichsmarschall considers all airplane activity within the Reich as his personal turf (along with many other things). However, he has good grounds for pursuing the matter, because the planes under naval control have done sterling work against British shipping.

Generalmajor Wolff von Stutterheim, former commander of KG 77, passes in a Berlin hospital. Von Stutterheim is a Pour le Mérite holder from the First World War (and Ritterkreuz recipient) who lost 11 relatives in that earlier conflict. He has been in a Berlin hospital suffering from wounds incurred during the very early stages of the Battle of Britain in June 1940. Stutterheim is buried in a place of honor next to Ernst Udet and Werner Mölders in the Invalidenfriedhof Berlin.

US Military: Heavy cruiser USS Louisville departs from Rio Grande du Sol, Brazil as part of its "Show the Flag" mission in Latin America. Its next stop is Rio de Janeiro.

American Homefront: "The Son of Monte Cristo" starring Louis Hayward and Joan Bennett has its premiere at the Capitol Theatre in New York City.

3 December 1940 Atlanta Municipal Airport
Eastern Airlines DC-3 followed by a row of DC-2s at Atlanta's Municipal Airport terminal, 1940 (Georgia State University Digital Collections). 

December 1940

December 1, 1940: Wiking Division Forms
December 2, 1940: Convoy HX 90 Destruction
December 3, 1940: Greeks Advancing
December 4, 1940: Italian Command Shakeup
December 5, 1940: Thor Strikes Hard
December 6, 1940: Hitler's Cousin Gassed
December 7, 1940: Storms At Sea
December 8, 1940: Freighter Idarwald Seized
December 9, 1940: Operation Compass Begins
December 10, 1940: Operation Attila Planned
December 11, 1940: Rhein Wrecked
December 12, 1940: Operation Fritz
December 13, 1940: Operation Marita Planned
December 14, 1940: Plutonium Discovered
December 15, 1940: Napoleon II Returns
December 16, 1940: Operation Abigail Rachel
December 17, 1940: Garden Hoses and War
December 18, 1940: Barbarossa Directive
December 19, 1940: Risto Ryti Takes Over
December 20, 1940: Liverpool Blitz, Captain America
December 21, 1940: Moral Aggression
December 22, 1940: Manchester Blitz
December 23, 1940: Hitler at Cap Gris Nez
December 24, 1940: Hitler at Abbeville
December 25, 1940: Hipper's Great Escape
December 26, 1940: Scheer's Happy Rendezvous
December 27, 1940: Komet Shells Nauru
December 28, 1940: Sorge Spills
December 29, 1940: Arsenal of Democracy
December 30, 1940: London Devastated
December 31 1940: Roosevelt's Decent Proposal


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