Tuesday, March 29, 2016

June 20, 1934: Hitler Plans the Night of the Long Knives


Hermann Goering Adolf Hitler Carinall Carin worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com


German Government: Hermann Goering stages an elaborate re-burial ceremony at his hunting villa, Carinhall, for his first wife Carin, who had died several years previously. Carin had been "the life of the party" and everyone had loved her, but the extreme poverty of the 1920s had caused her to contract tuberculosis. Hitler attends the Gothic ceremony, but he has other things on his mind. Afterwards, Goering and Hitler confer about Ernst Röhm, who somewhat unwisely chose not to attend (or, worse for him, perhaps had not been invited). Goering is adamant that the time has come to do something about Röhm. A sense of urgency is imparted that day when a shot is fired at Hitler but hits Himmler instead, lightly wounding him. The shooter allegedly is an SA escort.

The SA, known popularly as the "Brownshirts," had been instrumental in Hitler's rise to power and now numbered some 4 million men. The top Nazis believe that Röhm has become a bit too powerful and ambitious for his own good; Hitler reluctantly agrees, and if there is one thing that Hitler cannot abide within his own organization, it is politically ambitious competitors. Hitler orders planning to commence, though he is not yet sure of the exact timing.

Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Hitler and perhaps Goebbels and a few others draw up their own "hit lists" for the appointed day. The operation will happen when Hitler is in full public view and the SA is on holiday and thus defenseless. Basically, each of Hitler's cronies gets to chip in a few intended victims, and it is unclear if there even is one single master list.

Goering is a key driver behind the Night of the Long Knives plan. Those who now, looking back, only see Goering as a figure of ridicule during the war due to his girth and foppy habits (already on display at the funeral, with his gaudy decorations) miss key points about him. Goering exudes steeliness and utter ruthlessness during crises that Hitler admires. This is what has made Goering the No. 2 man in the Reich and will keep him there until the end. For this operation, Hitler creates a formula that he will use repeatedly throughout the '30s: Goering to run things, and Himmler to craft and implement the dirty tricks.

The remains of Carin will be completely forgotten after Goering has his villa blown up to keep it from the advancing Russians in 1945. Stunned visitors in 2013 will find the urn just laying where it had been interred in 1934, after which the remains will be returned to Carin's Swedish relatives.

Hermann Goering Adolf Hitler Carinall Carin worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com



2016




Monday, March 28, 2016

September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid


September 4 1939 worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
The Daily Mirror, 4 September 1939.
European Air Operations: After only dropping leaflets performing reconnaissance during the day, the RAF mounts its first raid of the war on 4 September 1939. It is against Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel, which had been the subject of the previous day's recon. There are fifteen Blenheim and fourteen Wellington bombers in the raid, and the RAF comes off the worse for the day: it loses 7 bombers.

One of the air crew killed over Wilhelmshaven on this first night of the war is Herbert Brian Lightoller, an RAF pilot. He is the son of Charles Lightoller, senior surviving officer of RMS Titanic.

The Luftwaffe gets its first kill of the war, as seven (sources vary) of the bombers go down and at least one is a victim of a Bf 109 from II/JG 77. The cruiser Emdem is damaged when one of the bombers lands on it, but remains operational. The Pocket-battleship Admiral Scheer suffers a light hit but also remains operational.

Battle of Poland: The Luftwaffe is focusing its offensive operations in Poland, where cutting-edge Bf 109s meet and destroy 11 Polish fighters and three bombers over Lodz. The Polish air force is hopelessly obsolete and under-equipped and will quickly be put out of operation.

The Luftwaffe continues Operation Wasserkante against Warsaw, but results are minimal as Polish air defenses remain intact. The Polish news service announces several minor victories but admits the loss of the Silesian town of Czestochowa. A small Polish garrison of three old World War I forts at Różan holds out against a superior German panzer division. In the Battle of the Border, German forces crush Polish forces at Ćwiklice, forcing withdrawal of the entire Armia Kraków from Upper Silesia.

Battle of the Atlantic: Great Britain blockades German ports. The German propaganda service announces that the sinking of the SS Athenia on 3 September was a false-flag operation arranged by the British to cause issues between Germany and the United States.

In actuality, the Kriegsmarine is completely in the dark about what had happened to the SS Athenia the previous day (the ship only sinks this morning). It won't know until the U-30 makes port and the commander reports. In the interim, Hitler wants no more enemies for the moment and announces a prohibition against attacks on passenger ships which will mostly be followed for some time. Propaganda Minister Goebbels has his outlets basically accuse Winston Churchill of using the Athenia to mount a false-flag operation to drag the United States into the war. The Germans, of course, were the masters of such operations, having just performed several phony "attacks" against themselves as part of Operation Himmler to "justify" their invasion of Poland.

Western Front: The French are ensconced behind the Maginot Line without British support yet, and the Germans are occupied in Poland. The latter also are happy to stay behind the mostly fictional Siegfried Line as the Reich continues to re-arm. Thus, there are only sporadic "demonstration" attacks by both sides along the border as Hitler studiously avoids the greatly feared "two-Front war."

Meanwhile, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) hurries into action and begins ferrying troops to Cherbourg, France via destroyer.

International Relations: On Monday, 4 September 1939, New Zealand (part of the British Commonwealth) declares war on Germany backdated to the time of Great Britain's announcement on 3 September. Egypt, garrisoned by British troops under the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, breaks off relations with Germany but remains neutral. Japan remains neutral - though only in Europe. Its predatory operations in China will continue, and it will remain a covert supporter of the Reich..

German Government: Hermann Goering meets with British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson, who is getting ready to return to England. He assures him that Germany has no qualms with France or Great Britain and will not attack them with troops. Goering says the same thing to unofficial diplomat Birger Dahlerus, whose efforts had failed.

British Government: Winston Churchill accepts PM Chamberlain's offer of the previous day to join his war cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. Chamberlain broadcasts a message in German to the German people explaining the decision to declare war.

British Homefront: The planned evacuation of 650,000 children and non-essential adults from London concludes smoothly.

German Homefront: The German income tax is increased to 50%.


September 4 1939 worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
The interwar years had been full of various "stunts," and it was a hard habit to break. Here, the 4 September 1939 edition of the NY Times reports breathlessly on a six-year-old who swam from New Jersey to the Dyckman Street Ferry slip. To show how popular these stunts were, this wasn't even the first time a six-year-old had done it: another boy, Johnny "Freckles" Devine, had beaten him to it in 1925.

September 1939


September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
September 2, 1939: Danzig Annexed
September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War
September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid
September 5, 1939: The US Stays Out
September 6, 1939: Battle of Barking Creek
September 7, 1939: Polish HQ Bugs Out
September 8, 1939: War Crimes in Poland
September 9, 1939: The Empire Strikes Back
September 10, 1939: The Germans Break Out
September 11, 1939: Battle of Kałuszyn
September 12, 1939: The French Chicken Out
September 13, 1939: The Battle of Modlin
September 14, 1939: Germany Captures Gdynia
September 15, 1939: Warsaw Surrounded
September 16, 1939: Battle of Jaworów
September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland
September 18, 1939: Lublin Falls
September 19, 1939: Germans, Soviets Hook Up
September 20, 1939: the Kraków Army Surrenders
September 21, 1939: Romania Convulses
September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade
September 23, 1939: The Panama Conference
September 24, 1939: The Luftwaffe Bombs Warsaw
September 25, 1939: Black Monday for Warsaw
September 26, 1939: Warsaw on the Ropes
September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France
September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates
September 29, 1939: Modlin Fortress Falls
September 30, 1939: Graf Spee on the Loose



2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War



3 September 1939



Winston Churchill Anthony Eden worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com


World Affairs: At roughly 11:15 a.m. on the Sunday morning of 3 September 1939, British Prime Minister Chamberlain broadcasts a brief speech to the country. After setting forth the particulars, he concludes, "consequently, this country is at war with Germany." King George VI also delivers a speech later in the day, an event later recalled in the film "The King's Speech." He states, "all my long struggle to win peace has failed."

Behind the scenes, the Germans are still trying to prevent the declaration right up to the last second. Their unofficial diplomat, Birger Dahlerus, remains on the phone to Whitehall from Berlin as the speech is made, attempting to broker a deal. Both Alexander Cadogan and Lord Halifax, however, remain adamant: no deal without a prior German withdrawal from Poland.

Australia Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies immediately confirms with his own radio address that his country also is at war with Germany. France declares war at 5 p.m. India and New Zealand follow suit. Belgium reaffirms its neutrality, with King Leopold assuming command of the Belgian Army.

paperboy announces war worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com


British Government: Winston Churchill, a long-time war hawk now proven correct, resumes his World War I post as First Lord of the Admiralty. A Ministry of Economic Warfare (blockade) is established. The House of Commons meets on a Sunday for the first time since 1820.

Battle of Poland: While Polish radio reports nothing but victories, spiked by the welcome news that England has declared war in Poland's support, mass evacuations continue of government officials and their families from Katowice, Krakow and other threatened cities.

The Polish troops are already retreating eastward. The 1st and 4th Panzer Divisions cross the Warta River and are bombed by Polish bombers in the Radom-Plotrkow sector without much effect. The German capture Czestochowa. General Guderian's XIX Corps crosses the Polish Corridor in the north.

Stukas sink the Polish destroyer Wicher at Hela.

Battle of Britain: at 11:28 a.m., barely ten minutes after the conclusion of Chamberlain's speech, there is a false alarm of an air raid in London, with people taking to the shelters for the first time.

European Air Operations: Shortly after the declaration of war, the RAF sends a Bristol Blenheim of No. 139 Squadron out of Wyton on photographic reconnaissance of the German naval base at Wilhemshaven. It returns unscathed.

That night, 10 Whitley bombers of Nos. 51 and 58 Squadrons drop 6 million anti-German leaflets over Hamburg, Bremen and the Ruhr industrial area without incident.

War at Sea: The German Kriegsmarine has 17 U-boats on station guarding the western approaches to Great Britain in preparation for war. Germany announces an immediate blockade.

Having sailed the previous day from Liverpool to for Montreal despite all indications from every direction that war was about to break out, the SS Athenia is proceeding westward. At roughly 200 nautical miles (370 km) northwest of Ireland and 60 nautical miles (110 km) south of Rockall, U-30 under the command of Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp spots her. Mistaking her for a troopship or other armed vessel, Lemp fires two torpedoes, and one strikes on her port side toward the stern. Several ships rush to the Athenia's assistance, including, somewhat ironically, the large yacht the Southern Cross, owned by Dahlerus' boss at Electrolux, Axel Wenner-Gren. They get there well before the Athenia sinks, which takes a full 14 hours.

SS Athenia worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com


There is much controversy about the sinking, which brings home the reality of the war to the startled public. The Germans disclaim responsibility in order to avoid an incident with the United States: among the 98 passengers and 19 crew members who perished were 28 Americans. While the attack is after the declaration of war, the manner of the sinking is illegal under international law due to it being a passenger liner. The Kriegsmarine under Admiral Raeder, along with the Propaganda Ministry, willfully misrepresent the incident as not being their fault in the press. The truth only comes out at the Nuremburg trials following the war, when it is still a very touchy subject.

German Government: Reinhard Heydrich, in his capacity as head of the state Security Police and the Security Service, issues a decree to the heads of all police offices. The decree states in part that "Any attempt to undermine the unity of the German people and its determination to fight must be ruthlessly suppressed." It calls for the arrest of anyone that speaks out against the war, though anyone who can be straightened out through "educational means" should be treated lightly.

Nobody is pleased with Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, who had repeatedly assured Hitler that Great Britain in particular would never declare war over Poland. Ribbentrop falls into disfavor from which he never really recovers. Goering somewhat vicariously yells at him: "Now you've got your ... war! You alone are to blame!"


September 1939


September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
September 2, 1939: Danzig Annexed
September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War
September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid
September 5, 1939: The US Stays Out
September 6, 1939: Battle of Barking Creek
September 7, 1939: Polish HQ Bugs Out
September 8, 1939: War Crimes in Poland
September 9, 1939: The Empire Strikes Back
September 10, 1939: The Germans Break Out
September 11, 1939: Battle of Kałuszyn
September 12, 1939: The French Chicken Out
September 13, 1939: The Battle of Modlin
September 14, 1939: Germany Captures Gdynia
September 15, 1939: Warsaw Surrounded
September 16, 1939: Battle of Jaworów
September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland
September 18, 1939: Lublin Falls
September 19, 1939: Germans, Soviets Hook Up
September 20, 1939: the Kraków Army Surrenders
September 21, 1939: Romania Convulses
September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade
September 23, 1939: The Panama Conference
September 24, 1939: The Luftwaffe Bombs Warsaw
September 25, 1939: Black Monday for Warsaw
September 26, 1939: Warsaw on the Ropes
September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France
September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates
September 29, 1939: Modlin Fortress Falls
September 30, 1939: Graf Spee on the Loose


2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates



28 September 1939


September 28 1939 Warsaw worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
German troops goosestep through Warsaw after the capitulation

Battle of Poland: On 28 September 1939, Warsaw capitulates during a cease fire arranged the previous day. There are 140,000 Polish soldiers sent into captivity. Polish forces elsewhere continue to fight, but Warsaw was the anchor of the defense.

The Poles may have surrendered in Warsaw, but elsewhere large troop formations continued to operate. One of them is a motley group of Polish Border Defence Corps (KOP) forces in the East under the command of General Wilhelm Orlik-Rueckemann. They are headed through forests near Włodawa and Kamień Koszyrski, in between the encroaching German and Soviet forces. The Soviet forces are nearby and prepare to engage the Poles.

Forming a defensive line between the villages of Mielniki and Szack (Shatsk), the Poles wait for the Soviets to attack. At 8:00 a.m., a Soviet tank/infantry formation from the Soviet 52nd Rifle Division approaches head on without adequate support; the Poles wait until the targets are almost upon their positions before opening fire. The Soviets, who have weak T-26 tanks, are overwhelmed and their staff headquarters captured. The Poles then withdraw toward the Bug River.

While a minor action, the Battle of Szack demonstrates the enduring weakness of Soviet tactics. Just as in the Winter War later, the local Soviet commands show tactical ineptitude and lose strong forces through elementary tactical blunders. Incidents such as this no doubt reinforce Hitler's already low opinion of the Soviet military.

Soviet War Crimes: Some of the KOP forces ("Polesie" Brigade) near Szack are captured. All officers and NCOs are shot immediately by the Soviet 4th Army under Vassili Chuikov (later hero of Stalingrad).

Soviet Diplomacy: The USSR and Estonia sign a pact which gives the Soviets bases in Estonia in exchange for Vilnius and other territory in defeated Poland.

British Homefront: "We'll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn with Arthur Young on the Novachord, written by Hughie Charles and Ross Parker, is recorded.

United States Homefront: The Cincinnati Reds clinch the National League title, setting up a World Series against the New York Yankees.

September 28 1939 worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
All is well in the Beaufort News for 28 September 1939, with nary a mention of far-off Poland. However, seafood prices are a major concern.



September 1939


September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
September 2, 1939: Danzig Annexed
September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War
September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid
September 5, 1939: The US Stays Out
September 6, 1939: Battle of Barking Creek
September 7, 1939: Polish HQ Bugs Out
September 8, 1939: War Crimes in Poland
September 9, 1939: The Empire Strikes Back
September 10, 1939: The Germans Break Out
September 11, 1939: Battle of Kałuszyn
September 12, 1939: The French Chicken Out
September 13, 1939: The Battle of Modlin
September 14, 1939: Germany Captures Gdynia
September 15, 1939: Warsaw Surrounded
September 16, 1939: Battle of Jaworów
September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland
September 18, 1939: Lublin Falls
September 19, 1939: Germans, Soviets Hook Up
September 20, 1939: the Kraków Army Surrenders
September 21, 1939: Romania Convulses
September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade
September 23, 1939: The Panama Conference
September 24, 1939: The Luftwaffe Bombs Warsaw
September 25, 1939: Black Monday for Warsaw
September 26, 1939: Warsaw on the Ropes
September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France
September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates
September 29, 1939: Modlin Fortress Falls
September 30, 1939: Graf Spee on the Loose


2016

October 8, 1939: First RAF Kill from UK


Sunday 8 October 1939



Lockheed Hudson worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
A Lockheed Hudson.

Air Operations, England: On Sunday, 8 October 1939, the air war over the United Kingdom begins when a Lockheed Hudson shoots down a Dornier Do18 flying boat. Hudsons were hasty patch-ups of civilian Model 14 Super Electra airliners to meet immediate RAF needs, but they served admirably throughout the war, first in front-line units for RAF Coastal Command, and later for training and transport. Due to their derivation, Hudsons were luxurious and roomy by military standards and had an automatic pilot ("George" to RAF crew) to reduce the tedium.

German Diplomacy: Following the lightning victory over Poland, Hitler issues a decree annexing large areas of the country to the German Reich. A subsequent decree amplifying on the first follows on 12 October. Hitler includes the territories which Germany had lost under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, such as the Polish Corridor, West Prussia and Upper Silesia, and also territory to the east that Germany had never previously possessed, including the city of Łódź. This is a harbinger of Hitler's extensive ambitions in the East.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-37 sinks Swedish merchant "Vistula."

Convoy HX 4 departs Halifax for London.

Convoy OB 16 departs Liverpool.

Holocaust: The Germans establish a ghetto in Piotrków Trybunalski in the Lódz district, Poland.

Switzerland: Orders deportation of all refugees who entered after 6 September 1939.

China: Chinese 9th War area captures Chiuhsientang. Japanese 11th Army withdraws north across the Hsinchiang River.

America, Home Front: The NY Yankees defeat the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field, 7-4, and close out the World Series title. Joe Dimaggio goes 2-5 and gets an RBI, while relief man Johnny Murphy takes the win in the 10th inning.

Future History: Australian actor Paul Hogan is born on 8 October 1939. He will achieve worldwide fame in the "Crocodile Dundee" series of films over forty years later.

Lockheed Hudson worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Judy Garland on the cover of Danish Uge Magasinet, 8 October 1939.

October 1939

October 1, 1939: Occupation of Warsaw
October 2, 1939: Hel Peninsula Falls
October 3, 1939: The Diamantis Incident
October 4, 1939: Otto Kretschmer Gets Rolling
October 5, 1939: Polish Resistance Ends
October 6, 1939: Hitler Peace Effort
October 7, 1939: The British Have Arrived
October 8, 1939: First RAF Kill from UK
October 9, 1939: "City of Flint" Incident
October 10, 1939: Lithuania Under Pressure
October 11, 1939: The Atomic Age Begins
October 12, 1939: England Rejects Hitler's Peace Offer
October 13, 1939: Charles Lindbergh Speaks Out
October 14 1939: Royal Oak Sunk
October 15, 1939: Cuban Rockets
October 16, 1939: First Aircraft Shot Down Over UK
October 17, 1939: Marshall Mannerheim Returns
October 18, 1939: Prien Receives His Award
October 19, 1939: Preliminary Plan for Fall Gelb
October 20, 1939: Hitler Grapples with the Jews
October 21, 1939: Hurricanes to the Rescue!
October 22, 1939: Goebbels Lies Through His Teeth
October 23, 1939: Norway the Center of Attention
October 24, 1939: German "Justice" Gets Rolling
October 25, 1939: Handley Page Halifax Bomber First Flies
October 26, 1939: Jozef Tiso Takes Slovakia
October 27, 1939: King Leopold Stands Firm
October 28, 1939 - First Luftwaffe Raid on Great Britain
October 29, 1939: Tinkering with Fall Gelb
October 30, 1939: Defective Torpedoes
October 31, 1939: Molotov Issues an Ultimatum

2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France


27 September 1939



September 27, 1939: Polish troops in Warsaw.

German Military Operations: The Polish government in Warsaw concludes a cease-fire agreement with the Germans investing the city. All fighting ends as the two sides negotiate capitulation terms.

German High Command: With the lightning campaign in Poland concluded, and given the collaboration of the Soviet Union, Hitler decides that it is time to plan the Wehrmacht's next step. He tells his three service commanders (Hermann Goering of the Luftwaffe, Admiral Raeder of the Kriegsmarine, and General von Brauchistsch of the Heer) that it is his "unalterable will" that the army quickly invade France. His plan is to bypass the French Maginot Line along the German border by violating the neutrality of the low countries with the forces at hand. The invasion is to take place within weeks, with an initial start date of 15 October 1939.

The plan later acquires the operational code "Fall Gelb" (Plan Yellow). The enterprise is extremely sketchy and will require elaborate planning and study. The service chiefs are both pessimistic and offended, as the tradition of the German state heretofore has been for the head of state to assign an objective and the General Staff to fill in all of the details, including timing and strategy. OKH Chief of Staff Franz Halder tells his boss, Walther von Brauchitsch, that he will resign in protest, but the latter talks him out of it. The military experts are fully aware of the thin breadth of the Wehrmacht, which only has been re-arming for about five years and requires more arms and training to reach full effectiveness. Hitler, though, is a gambler and feels that the Generals are "cowards." Their caution reinforces his growing dislike bordering on hatred of the Generals as a class.

This is the first instance of Hitler unilaterally deciding on extremely risky military ventures or strategy on his own initiative. It will become a standard occurrence. Sometimes the ventures will work out well, other times they will be disastrous. Fall Gelb will remain at the top of the priority list throughout the autumn.

Hitler confers with Keitel, Halder and von Brauchitsch, here on the occasion of the last's 60th birthday in 1941.

September 1939


September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
September 2, 1939: Danzig Annexed
September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War
September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid
September 5, 1939: The US Stays Out
September 6, 1939: Battle of Barking Creek
September 7, 1939: Polish HQ Bugs Out
September 8, 1939: War Crimes in Poland
September 9, 1939: The Empire Strikes Back
September 10, 1939: The Germans Break Out
September 11, 1939: Battle of Kałuszyn
September 12, 1939: The French Chicken Out
September 13, 1939: The Battle of Modlin
September 14, 1939: Germany Captures Gdynia
September 15, 1939: Warsaw Surrounded
September 16, 1939: Battle of Jaworów
September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland
September 18, 1939: Lublin Falls
September 19, 1939: Germans, Soviets Hook Up
September 20, 1939: the Kraków Army Surrenders
September 21, 1939: Romania Convulses
September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade
September 23, 1939: The Panama Conference
September 24, 1939: The Luftwaffe Bombs Warsaw
September 25, 1939: Black Monday for Warsaw
September 26, 1939: Warsaw on the Ropes
September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France
September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates
September 29, 1939: Modlin Fortress Falls
September 30, 1939: Graf Spee on the Loose


2015

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

November 30, 1939: Winter War Begins


Thursday 30 November 1939


Helsinki Finland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Helsinki bombed on the first day of the Winter War.

November 30, 1939 is one of the key, but little noted, dates of World War II.

Winter War: According to the terms of the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact of 23 August 1939, Germany had given the Soviet Union carte blanche to do as it wished regarding Finland. On 30 November 1939, Stalin accordingly invades Finland following the sort of meticulous propaganda preparation, complete with manufactured "border incidents," that most people associate only with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

The Soviet forces under Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, People's Commissar of Defense, open fire at 06:50. They advance quickly into Finland with 21 divisions and a total of roughly 450,000 men in the front lines (amounts vary by source). The attack included a vicious aerial attack on Helsinki, Finland on the first day of the war, another tactic that most people associate with the Nazis and not the Soviets.

The attack violated several treaties between the two nations:
  • The 1920 Treaty of Tartu;
  • The 1932 Non-Aggression Pact, reaffirmed in 1934;
  • The Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by the Soviet Union in 1934.
The frontier was over 1,000 km (620 miles) in length, but chains of lakes and vast stretches of difficult terrain in the north effectively limited the axes of advance to the areas directly adjacent to Lake Ladoga. The main conflict occured on the Karelian Isthmus to the north of St. Petersburg aka Leningrad. The conflict becomes known as the Winter War.

Finnish Government: Taken by surprise by the Soviet invasion despite the staged "provocations," the current Finnish government resigns at midnight. Risto Ryti is named the new Prime Minister, and Väinö Tanner the new foreign minister. Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim, a World War I hero and descendant of Germany by way of Sweden, already commander-in-chief, is given command of all Finnish Defence Forces and the honorary title "Defender of Finland."

Helsinki Finland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Soviet troops invading the Karelian Isthmus north of Leningrad, 30 November 1939.

Soviet Government: Moscow announces the formation of the Finnish People's Government, led by exile Otto Kuusinen, a long-time Comintern member.

Winter War Military Operations: The Soviets attack along a broad front, stretching from the Karelian Isthmus north of Leningrad to Petsamo on the Barents Sea.

Total Soviet forces in the invasion:

600,000 troops;
26 Divisions in front lines, 32 Divisions total (some under-strength);
1,200 tanks;
696 planes;
A fleet with 2 Battleships, 1 cruiser, 9 destroyers;

Total Finnish defensive forces: 

400,000 troops total, 150,000 in front lines;
9 Divisions, a 10th being formed;
145 planes;
2 coastal defense ships.

The Finnish military is distinguished by its lack of armor. While this is partly poor planning, the country has endeavored to limit arms production and purchases to maintain the appearance of neutrality. A single Soviet division has more tanks than the entire country of Finland.

The order of battle:

  • Soviet 7th Army (General Yakovlev) with 12 divisions attacks on the Karelian Isthmus.
  • Soviet 8th Army (General Khabarov) attacks north of Lake Ladoga.
  • Soviet Ninth Army (General Duhanov) attacks from Soviet Karelia toward the Gulf of Bothnia. 
  • Soviet 14th Army (General Frolov) heads east from Murmansk toward Petsamo, which is immediately brought under siege.

The Soviet Northern Fleet lands part of the 104th Rifle Division near Petsamo.

Finnish forces are anchored on their main defensive line aka the Mannerheim Line, which covers the body of the country.

Winter War Air Operations: Soviet aircraft attack Russaro Island.

Winter War Naval Operations: Soviet cruiser Kirov and two destroyers bombard Russaro Island. Soviet naval forces land on Selskari Island.

Battle of the Atlantic: Total shipping losses for the month of November 1939 are given as:

49 Allied Ships;
173,563 tons;
plus 1 ship of 706 in the Indian Ocean.

One U-boat was sunk, the U-35.

British freighter Sheaf Crest hits a mine off the southeast coast of England and sinks.

German patrol vessel V-704 hits a mine and sinks.

German vessel Widder is converted into a merchant raider.

US freighter Extavia is detained by the British at Gibraltar.
Convoy OB 44 departs from Liverpool.

European Air Operations: Two RAF fighters chase off a Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft north of the Firth of Forth.

Finland Homefront: The Finns begin evacuating Helsinki, Viipuri and other major cities.

Sweden: Swedish volunteers begin signing up to help in Finland.

Great Britain: British volunteers begin signing up to help in Finland.

British Government: Sir Stafford Cripps leaves for an extended diplomatic tour of India, China and the Soviet Union.

German Homefront The number of unemployed is given at 120,000. This compares to about 5 million unemployed in 1932, the year before Hitler took power.

Helsinki Finland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
The first Soviet Casualty of the Winter War, 30 November 1939.

November 1939

November 1, 1939: The Jet Flies Again
November 2, 1939: The Soviets Devour Poland
November 3, 1939: Amending the Neutrality Act
November 4, 1939: Roosevelt Signs Neutrality Laws
November 5, 1939: The Spirit of Zossen
November 6, 1939: First Dogfight
November 7, 1939: More Lies About SS Athenia
November 8, 1939: Hitler Almost Killed
November 9, 1939: The Venlo Incident
November 10, 1939: Dutch Panic
November 11, 1939: Poignant Armistice Day
November 12, 1939: Peace Efforts Made and Rejected
November 13, 1939: First Bombing of Great Britain
November 14, 1939: The Dyle Plan
November 15, 1939: Elser Confesses to the Bürgerbräukeller Bombing
November 16, 1939: Martial Law in Prague
November 17, 1939: International Students Day
November 18, 1939: Magnetic Mines
November 19, 1939: Walls Around the Warsaw Ghetto
November 20, 1939: First RN Submarine Victory
November 21, 1939: Salmon & Gluckstein on the Prowl
November 22, 1939: British Recover A Magnetic Mine
November 23, 1939: HMS Rawalpindi Sunk
November 24, 1939: Japanese Enter Nanning
November 25, 1939: The Olympics are a War Casualty
November 26, 1939: Soviets Stage an "Incident" at Mainila
November 27, 1939: German Marriage Becomes Perilous
November 28, 1939: Judenrats in Poland
November 29, 1939: The Soviets Prepare to Invade Finland
November 30, 1939: Winter War Begins
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



2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland



17 September 1939


Guderian Poland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Guderian (in command truck) in Poland. Note the light tanks with atypical markings that still were the mainstay of the Panzer arm during the Polish campaign. (Federal archive, tag missing).

Battle of Poland: The Germans win the Battle of Brześć Litewski (Brest-Litovsk). After an advance of 100 miles in 8 days, General Guderian's XIX Corps takes the historic city of Brest-Litovsk. The Corps previously had advanced eastward in a lightning thrust from Germany proper to East Prussia across the Polish Corridor. The Corps then had reoriented its axis of advance southwards to strike across the Polish rear - to the east of Warsaw - along the River Bug. The XIX Corps remained in Brest-Litovsk until 22 September 1939, when Guderian handed the city over to the Soviets per the secret protocols of the 23 August 1939 Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact.

In Warsaw, the Luftwaffe bombs St. John's Cathedral. The dead are buried in public parks because the cemeteries are full and the Germans are blockading the city.

Guderian Poland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com

Polish Military: Surviving Polish air units flee to Romania.

Soviet Military: Pursuant to the secret protocols of the 23 August 1939 Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact, on 17 September 1939 the Soviet Union invades Poland from the East. It is not fair to say that it is completely without warning, as the Soviets had broadcast their intentions on the previous day - but it is without provocation. The Soviets meet virtually no opposition.

Polish Government: With Warsaw already threatened and no help arriving from England or France, the government of Poland leaves Kuty, it's fifth Polish refuge, and encamps for Romania, which is still neutral.

Battle of the Atlantic: HMS Courageous, an aircraft carrier originally built as a battlecruiser during World War I, is sunk on the Western Approaches.  Captain-Lieutenant Otto Schuhart of U-29 spots Courageous whilst it is on anti-submarine patrol and puts two torpedoes into her. Some 514-19 of 1200 crew perish. U-29, which only a few days earlier had been stalking the Ark Royal, escapes after four hours of depth charges. The incident showed the Royal Navy the dangers of anti-submarine patrols, and is another step on the road to the full convoy system. The Courageous is the first British warship sunk by the enemy in World War II. Schuhart receives the Iron Cross First Class.

The British withdraw their remaining fleet carriers from anti-submarine patrols.

Czechoslovakia: A revolt breaks out in the former Czechoslovakia and begins to spread.

Italian Government: Italy offers Greece a guarantee that it will not take any military action against it.

Japanese Military: Japan launches an attempt to take the city of Changsha, Hunan after blowing through Chinese resistance led by the 184th Division of the Chinese 60th Corps.

September 1939


September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
September 2, 1939: Danzig Annexed
September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War
September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid
September 5, 1939: The US Stays Out
September 6, 1939: Battle of Barking Creek
September 7, 1939: Polish HQ Bugs Out
September 8, 1939: War Crimes in Poland
September 9, 1939: The Empire Strikes Back
September 10, 1939: The Germans Break Out
September 11, 1939: Battle of Kałuszyn
September 12, 1939: The French Chicken Out
September 13, 1939: The Battle of Modlin
September 14, 1939: Germany Captures Gdynia
September 15, 1939: Warsaw Surrounded
September 16, 1939: Battle of Jaworów
September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland
September 18, 1939: Lublin Falls
September 19, 1939: Germans, Soviets Hook Up
September 20, 1939: the Kraków Army Surrenders
September 21, 1939: Romania Convulses
September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade
September 23, 1939: The Panama Conference
September 24, 1939: The Luftwaffe Bombs Warsaw
September 25, 1939: Black Monday for Warsaw
September 26, 1939: Warsaw on the Ropes
September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France
September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates
September 29, 1939: Modlin Fortress Falls
September 30, 1939: Graf Spee on the Loose



2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade


22 September 1939



Soviet German military parade Brest-Litovsk 22 September 1939 worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com


Battle of Poland: German forces under the command of General Heinz Guderian (XIX Corps) were in possession of territory on the eastern side of the Bug River. Soviet forces now arrived to assume control of that area under the secret terms of the 23 August 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. Kombrig (Commanding officer of the brigade) Semyon Moiseevich Krivoshein of the Soviet 29th Tank Brigade, who had crossed the Polish border on 17 September, reached Brest-Litovsk on the morning of 22 September. Krivoshein found the Germans looting the town, with Guderian himself ensconced there. The German apparently had been there for several days already.

After some back-and-forth, Krivoshein visited Guderian at the latter's headquarters. Guderian acknowledged that he had to relinquish the town, but proposed to make the German departure a formal occasion, complete with parade. Krivoshein was not very enthusiastic about the idea, having just completed a quick advance to reach the city and not wanting any extra hassles. However, Krivoshein agreed to supply a few token battalions to support the effort, along with a military band. The informal parade began at 16:00, complete with festive bunting. Both German and Soviet troops marched through hastily constructed "Victory Arches" before the two commanding officers.

Soviet German military parade Brest-Litovsk 22 September 1939 worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Guderian and Krivoshein at the Brest-Litovsk parade.

Krivoshein later greatly downplayed the event in his memoirs, and implied that the Soviet forces were merely present and not active participants. He recalled that he did not allow his troops to march with the German forces, who were rested and looked more presentable. However, it should be noted that subsequent events made downplaying any cooperation with the Germans a politically wise decision, and Soviet military historical works are notorious for their impeccable political hindsight.

Afterwards, the German forces withdrew to the west bank of the Bug River as pre-ordained. The event has attracted much publicity in subsequent years due to the subsequent estrangement of the two forces. It is believed that the 22 September 1939 parade was the only such event that ever took place involving the two sides. Russian historians in particular are quick to minimize the event as being merely a "ceremonial departure" of the German forces, but the photographic record suggests that it was a bit more than that.

The Polish commander of Lwów hands it over to the Soviets.

Polish units of the 39th Infantry Division have been defending the village of Cześniki near Zamość. They have been holding off the German 27th Infantry Division and 4th Light Division. The 39th Infantry Division now is ordered to relieve Lwów and breaks through the German lines. With that city suddenly being surrendered, however, they are now on the move with nowhere to go.

"Honorary Colonel of the 12th Artillery Regiment" Generaloberst Werner Thomas Ludwig Freiherr von Fritsch is killed in Praga while "inspecting the front." He is picked off by either a sniper or a machine gun. Von Fritsch is believed to have voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire due to his lingering disgrace over the false accusations of homosexuality used to depose him from his position as Commander in Chief of the Heer.

Western Front: The French claim to be approaching Zweibrücken in the Siegfried line. French radio also reports that the Wehrmacht has lost 150,000 men so far in the conflict. The actual figure is maybe 10% of that.

Battle of the Atlantic: The steamer Arkleside is torpedoed and sinks. A Grimsby trawler also is sunk.

Romanian Government: The government executes several members of the Iron Guard, including the assassins of the Romanian Prime Minister, in Bucharest.

Allied Supreme Command: In Hove, Sussex, the second meeting of the Allied Supreme War Council takes place between the British and French representatives. Nothing much is accomplished beyond issues of supply.

British Homefront: The Metropolitan Police Commission in London reports that road accidents have tripled so far in September. That is likely due to the blackout. The courts are clogged with blackout violations. Gasoline is rationed.


Soviet German military parade Brest-Litovsk 22 September 1939 worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com

September 1939


September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland
September 2, 1939: Danzig Annexed
September 3, 1939: France, Great Britain Declare War
September 4, 1939: First RAF Raid
September 5, 1939: The US Stays Out
September 6, 1939: Battle of Barking Creek
September 7, 1939: Polish HQ Bugs Out
September 8, 1939: War Crimes in Poland
September 9, 1939: The Empire Strikes Back
September 10, 1939: The Germans Break Out
September 11, 1939: Battle of Kałuszyn
September 12, 1939: The French Chicken Out
September 13, 1939: The Battle of Modlin
September 14, 1939: Germany Captures Gdynia
September 15, 1939: Warsaw Surrounded
September 16, 1939: Battle of Jaworów
September 17, 1939: Soviets Invade Poland
September 18, 1939: Lublin Falls
September 19, 1939: Germans, Soviets Hook Up
September 20, 1939: the Kraków Army Surrenders
September 21, 1939: Romania Convulses
September 22, 1939: Joint Soviet-German Military Parade
September 23, 1939: The Panama Conference
September 24, 1939: The Luftwaffe Bombs Warsaw
September 25, 1939: Black Monday for Warsaw
September 26, 1939: Warsaw on the Ropes
September 27, 1939: Hitler Decides to Invade France
September 28, 1939: Warsaw Capitulates
September 29, 1939: Modlin Fortress Falls
September 30, 1939: Graf Spee on the Loose


2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

October 28, 1939 - First Luftwaffe Raid on Great Britain


Saturday October 28 1939


Humbie Heinkel worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The "Humbie Heinkel."

European Air Operations: On 28 October 1939, Germany launches an air attack on Great Britain. The Luftwaffe raid is against Royal Navy ships anchored in the Firth of Forth. A Heinkel He 111 from Luftflotte 2 (northern Germany) is shot down near the Firth of Forth after a dramatic chase by the RAF in which the Luftwaffe plane landed and took off, was brought down and again tried to take off. The Heinkel finally winds up on the Lammermoorr Hills near Humbie where it cannot taxi and try to take off any more. The two surviving crew are taken to Edinburgh. It becomes known as the "Humbie Heinkel" and is known as the first Luftwaffe aircraft brought down on British soil (there had been some shoot-downs during the First World War).

Spitfires from 602 and 603 squadrons, auxiliaries and reservists, had met the Heinkels over the fields of East Lothian in Scotland. 25-year-old Flight lieutenant Archie McKellar was credited with the kill. He died at age 28 during the war and is known as "the Forgotten Ace."

Night reconnaissance by the RAF over southern Germany despite bad weather.


Humbie Heinkel worldwartwo.filminspector.com


Western Front: Reports of massive German troop concentrations along the border are increasing.

The BEF reports that it has sufficient rations to feed its 200,000 troops for 46 days.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-59, following traditional international rules of warfare, stops the British fishing trawlers Lynx and St. Nidian and, after disembarking the crew, sinks them. Everybody is later picked by up another British trawler.

The Admiral Graf Spee refuels from the Altmark in the South Atlantic and transfers captured British sailors to her.

The British release from detainment US freighter Black Tern.

Finland: Soviet negotiators make their demands plain. Molotov makes a public speech in Moscow asserting that the USSR needs to take action to protect itself. The Soviets want:
  • Territory north of Leningrad in the Karellian Isthmus;
  • A base at the Finnish port of Hango for the Soviet Navy;
  • Petsamo in the north of Finland, near Murmansk;
The Soviets offer to exchange some land along the wilderness of northern Finland for these strategic spots. The Finns immediately decide to reject the demand.

Czechoslovakia: Protesters celebrating the country's independence day (21st anniversary) are fired upon by police in Prague, with 16 casualties and one death, with 3500 arrests. Ethnic Germans fight the protesters in the streets. Many of the protesters are students, and universities are shut down.

SS: Heinrich Himmler issues a directive (the "Lebensborn Decret") encouraging his men to procreate with women of "good blood," stating that the SS would support the children. Women are encouraged to dispense with the "bourgeois custom" of marriage.

United States Government: The US lodges a protest with the Soviet government over the handling of the City of Flint, which already has left port.

China: Japanese attacks against Lanchow are continuing.

Future History: Actress Jane Alexander is born in Boston, Massachusetts. She becomes a Broadway actress in the 1960s and, later, the director of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Czech protesters, 28 October 1939.

October 1939

October 1, 1939: Occupation of Warsaw
October 2, 1939: Hel Peninsula Falls
October 3, 1939: The Diamantis Incident
October 4, 1939: Otto Kretschmer Gets Rolling
October 5, 1939: Polish Resistance Ends
October 6, 1939: Hitler Peace Effort
October 7, 1939: The British Have Arrived
October 8, 1939: First RAF Kill from UK
October 9, 1939: "City of Flint" Incident
October 10, 1939: Lithuania Under Pressure
October 11, 1939: The Atomic Age Begins
October 12, 1939: England Rejects Hitler's Peace Offer
October 13, 1939: Charles Lindbergh Speaks Out
October 14 1939: Royal Oak Sunk
October 15, 1939: Cuban Rockets
October 16, 1939: First Aircraft Shot Down Over UK
October 17, 1939: Marshall Mannerheim Returns
October 18, 1939: Prien Receives His Award
October 19, 1939: Preliminary Plan for Fall Gelb
October 20, 1939: Hitler Grapples with the Jews
October 21, 1939: Hurricanes to the Rescue!