Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 30, 1940: London Devastated


Monday 30 December 1940

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Blitz damage St. Paul's Cathedral
London still smouldering on the morning of the 30th from the previous night's devastating fire raid.

Italian/Greek Campaign: Some fighting develops on 30 December 1940 in the central sector between Greek 2nd Corps and the defending Italians for possession of strategically important Klisura Pass (Kelcyre). The Greeks have not yet launched their main attacks there, but they already are having success against the Italians, who are showing a pronounced willingness to surrender.

European Air Operations: London digs out from the Second Great London Fire caused by the Luftwaffe raid on the night of 29/30 December. Royal Engineers and other troops are brought in to bring order to ravaged streets and dynamite destroyed buildings in the City of London. The incendiaries have fallen in about a two-and-a-half mile diameter centered near St. Paul's Cathedral. The boroughs of Poplar and Westminster, near the Thames River, are hit the hardest. The authorities count a total of 1500 fires, with 52 of them "serious," 28 as "major," and six as "conflagrations."

The Air Staff comes out with new guidelines. They want a person on every building ready to quickly douse incendiaries, which are easy to extinguish if caught quickly. A "fire-watching" system is set up in which everyone is held responsible for protecting their own house or business.

The Luftwaffe sends only a single bomber over East Anglia and Kent during the day, and does not operate during the night of 30/31 December. They have been using X-Gerät beams to guide their bombers, and using about ten bombers from KG 100 which are specially outfitted to receive such beams to guide them to the targets. The RAF steps up countermeasures to the beams at their special station at Cheadle (Cheshire).

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Arroyo Seco Parkway
The Arroyo Seco Parkway around the time of its opening in 1940. The black lanes are the "passing" lanes" and not part of the median. This road along a dry riverbed remains in use in the 21st Century in almost exactly the same configuration as shown here, although it now has more lanes and handles much more traffic (Caltrans).

Battle of the Atlantic: The weather is very rough in the North Atlantic, leading to ships colliding and others running aground. The convoy system places numerous ships unusually close to one another, and today that causes some damage.

A Luftwaffe (IX Air Corps) aerial mine hits and sinks 613 ton British freighter Calcium near Liverpool Harbor. When 608 ton British freighter Sodium goes alongside to take off the crew, the Calcium hits the Sodium and damages it.

In the same attack as sank the Calcium, the Luftwaffe also hits and damages Royal Navy destroyer HMS Venomous with an aerial mine at the entrance to Liverpool harbor. It requires repairs at Liverpool lasting for almost two months. There is one death on the Calcium.

Other ships damaged in the Luftwaffe attack on Liverpool Harbour are 5645 ton Swedish freighter Buenos Aires and 5218 ton British freighter Catrine. British 8053 ton tanker Dorcasia also hits a mine in the same general vicinity as the other ship; it is not clear if it is an aerial mine or a sea mine. In any event, it makes it back to port.

British 6402 ton freighter City of Bedford gets in an accidental collision with 5342 ton British freighter Bodnant. The incident happens when Convoy SL 58 and Convoy OB 264 merge. The City of Bedford sinks, and the convoy Commodore, Rear Admiral JC Hamilton (Rtd.), perishes in the sinking.

British 3896 ton freighter Baron Ardrossan runs aground at Barra, Outer Hebrides. It is a complete write-off.

Force H, which has been fruitlessly out looking for the Admiral Hipper (which has made port at Brest), arrives back at Gibraltar. Heavy cruiser HMS Renown has suffered weather damage and requires repairs.

Convoy OB 267 departs from Liverpool, Convoy FN 371 departs from Southend.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Meynell (Lt. Commander William H. Farrington), submarine HMS Undaunted and corvette HMS Kingcup are commissioned. Minesweeper HMS Boston, submarine HMS Umpire and corvette HMS Violet are launched.

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Lily Pons 30 December 1940 Time Magazine
Time Magazine features opera soprano Lily Pons on the cover of its 30 December 1940 issue. Pons, who became an American citizen in 1940, opened in Donizetti's La fille du regiment (Daughter of the Regiment) as Marie at the Met in New York City on 28 December 1940 (when this issue would have been on the newsstands). The revival resonates because it was last done at the end of World War I, and it concludes with a big flag-waving scene as Marie hoists aloft the French Napoleonic tricolors with the orchestra playing the Marseillaise. Thus, while this cover seems to be about opera... it's not just about opera.

Battle of the Mediterranean: In a collision in the Gulf of Sollum off Egypt, 913 ton anti-submarine trawler HMT Bandolero is sunk by Australian destroyer HMAS Waterhen. Everybody survives. The Waterhen also is damaged, but makes it back to Alexandria under escort and requires a month of repairs.

The RAF raids Taranto, Naples and Palermo. This apparently is done by the Wellingtons stationed on Malta.

The Australian 6th Division continues preparing for its assault on Bardia scheduled for 2 January 1941. Bardia now is cut off from relief by the Australian 16th and 17th Brigade troops. While Tobruk is not invested, the British do have patrols of the 7th Armoured Division in that general area.

An accounting on Malta shows that the Christmas Appeal to fund parties for refugee children provided enough money to fund 45 parties all across the island. Not only was cash raised, but also toys, food, candy and free entertainment.

The Italians raid Malta again. This time, they actually fly over the island and drop some bombs, unlike on the 29th. The raid around 11:30 damages Luqa Airfield, but causes no casualties on either side.

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Life Magazine Britain's Desert Warriors
Life Magazine looks at "Britain's Desert Warriors" in its 30 December 1940 issue.

Battle of the Pacific: The Royal Navy organizes convoys for ships sailing in the Tasman Sea. This is in response to German raider Komet's successful attack on the phosphate facilities at Nauru.

Convoy US 8 departs from Sydney for Egypt. It is a major troop convoy which includes 11,093 ton transport Empire Star, 8536 ton Port Chalmers, 16,801 ton transport Empress of Russia, and 7527 ton transport Maunganui.

Spy Stuff: MI-6 agents in Tokyo have interviewed one of the crewmen taken from the Automedon and later landed in Japan by the German-captured Ole Jacob. The crewman reveals that the secret communications carried by the Automedon have fallen into German and Japanese hands. That information, which describes in detail British defenses in the Pacific region, indeed is in the hands of Japanese and German authorities.

Anglo/Abyssinian Relations: Winston Churchill sends a directive to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden to support the return of exiled emperor Haile Selassie to the country for purposes of leading a revolt against the Italians there which can be capitalized upon by the British forces in neighboring Kenya.

US/Vichy French Relations: Admiral and Mrs. Leahy arrive in Lisbon on board the USS Tuscaloosa. They will proceed to Vichy, where the Admiral will take up his post as US Ambassador to France.

German Military: Admiral Doenitz, commander of the U-boat fleet, gives a speech to the OKW in which he touts the value of the long-range Focke-Wulf FW Condor patrol planes:
Just let me have a minimum of twenty Fw 200s solely for reconnaissance purposes, and the U-boat successes will shoot up!
While they have their own issues, the Condors are the Luftwaffe's only four-engine aircraft and have proven quite serviceable in actions against the convoys, both from reconnaissance and attack perspectives.

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina
A Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, of the kind that entered production in 1940.

US Military: Rear Admiral Claude C. Bloch, Commander of the 14th Naval District (and former Commander-in-chief of the US Fleet) in Hawaii, writes the first of three letters to the War Department (Chief of Naval Operations) warning that defenses there are inadequate. His specific complaint is that there are not enough long-range Consolidated PBY Catalina patrol planes to complete a proper search radius of the islands. CINCPACFLT endorses Bloch's appeals, but nothing is done, though Admiral Stark promises to send some PBYs. In fact, Admiral Bloch at no point has a single PBY to perform searches, though he can use some of the Navy's planes when they are not needed by the fleet. Admiral Kimmel, with no patrol planes, decides not to conduct air patrols at all despite the occasional availability of planes. Instead, the planes are devoted to fleet protection. There are many practical issues involved in this decision, including the lack of spare parts in Hawaii and the strain that endless patrols would place on the inadequate flight crews.

Admiral Bloch, incidentally, is the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the US armed forces during World War II.

British Military: The export version of the Bell P-39 Aircobra, the Bell P-400 Airacobra, is flown for the first time by a RAF pilot in England. Christopher Clarkson takes the plane up and has no issues. The plane is highly touted, and a production run of 675 aircraft destined for England is scheduled.

General Oliver Leese becomes commander of the West Sussex County Division of the Home Defense.

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Wunschkonzert Ilse Werner
"Wunschkonzert," released on 30 December 1940, establishes Ilse Werner as one of the top film stars in Germany.

German Homefront: UFA releases "Wunschkonzert," a film set in part at the 1936 Olympics and named after a popular radio program in which soldiers from around the Reich call in requests for songs. While she does not receive top billing (except on some film posters), the lovely (Dutch) Ilse Werner steals the movie and becomes one of Germany's top film stars (and also a radio and television star during the war). Werner builds on this success to become known for her trademark whistling as part of her singing act. "Wunschkonzert" becomes the highest grossing film in UFA history and, in an excellent example of synergy, propels the radio show on which it is based to new heights of popularity. All that said... it is not a very interesting film for modern audiences, with a rote and maudlin love-triangle plot, obvious Nazi propaganda touches and, inexplicably, no singing from one of the Reich's top singing stars, Wagner.

American Homefront: California Governor Culbert Olson and Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron dedicate the Arroyo Seco Parkway (Pasadena Freeway, State Route 110) in California. Note that parts of the freeway were first opened to traffic on 20 July December, but this dedication marks the entire route as open and ready for traffic.

As a fact sheet put out by Caltrans puts it:
It has the distinction of being the first freeway -- a grade-separated, limited-access, high-speed divided road -- in the urban western United States. Termed an “engineering marvel,” it was the initial stretch of road for what would become the world renowned Los Angeles metropolitan area freeway system.
The Arroyo Seco Parkway roadbed remains in the 21st Century exactly where it was laid out in the 1930s. It remains in good shape partly because trucks were banned from it shortly after its construction. Designed to accommodate 27,000 vehicles at an average speed per day, the highway has been widened and now handles about 122,000 vehicles per day. It reverted to its original name in 2010. Incidentally, at the dedication ceremony, five Native American leaders, including Chief Tahachwee of the Kawie tribe that lived in the Arroyo, smoke a 150-year-old peace pipe to celebrate this "modern progress."

30 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Arroyo Seco Parkway
Opening Day caravan for the Arroyo Seco Freeway, 3 December 1940. There is a black left lane for passing, a gray right lane for normal traffic, and a shoulder lane.  The shoulder lane and the median area are long gone.

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

2016


Friday, December 30, 2016

December 29, 1940: Arsenal of Democracy


Sunday 29 December 1940

29 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com St. Paul's Church London
St Paul’s church in London, taken by Daily Mail photographer Herbert Mason from Fleet Street on the night of 29 December 1940. (US National Archives 306-NT-3173V). In many versions of this shot, including those used immediately after the raid, the destroyed building in the foreground are cropped out.

Italian/Greek Campaign: Greek submarine Proteus (Y3, Lt Cdr M. Hatsikostantis) torpedoes and sinks 11,452 ton Italian troop transport Sardegna in the Southern Adriatic on 29 December 1940, roughly a dozen miles off Saseno (east of Brindisi). One of the Italian escorts, torpedo boat R.N. Antares, then forces Proteus to the surface with 11 depth charges, then rams and sinks the Proteus. All 48 men on the Proteus perish. There were survivors from the Sardegna rescued by the Antares, but how many is unclear.

RAF Bomber Command raids the port of Valona in Albania.

Mussolini sacks Ubaldo Soddu, the Italian commander in Albania, after only four weeks. Ugo Cavallero takes over for Soddu, combining his position as Chief of the General Staff  (which he has held for only three weeks) with overall command in Albania. After reviewing the situation, Cavallero concludes that the "period of crisis [was] almost overcome."

29 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Second Great Fire of London
"Windscreen, steering wheel and bell of fire engine silhouetted against burning building in south (?) London.." 29 December 1940. © IWM (IWM FLM 2319)

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe launches a relatively moderately sized raid against London of 136-244 bombers (accounts vary) which only lasts from 18:00 to 21:30. However, it is a very specially planned raid, intended to create a firestorm and timed specifically to coincide with low tide in the River Thames, hampering firefighting efforts. The Germans drop 22,068 incendiaries and 127 tons of high explosives. The attack originally was planned to be a maximum effort lasting all night long, as in September and October, but a storm blows up during the evening and keeps the follow-up bomber waves on the ground.

The incendiaries create a firestorm in the City of London, with over 1500 fires combing in three major centers that themselves later combine. Incendiaries individually are not terribly difficult to deal with, but typically multiple incendiaries fall on roofs near each other, and the small fires they create individually combine to create larger fires.

The headline for the attack is that eight historic Christopher Wren churches are destroyed - which certainly is terrible - but the damage goes far beyond that. It includes the utter destruction of the 500-year-old Guildhall, Paternoster Row with an estimated 5 million books, and about a dozen churches in addition to the Wren ones. This becomes known as the "Second Great Fire of London," the first being in 1666. Fortunately, for the damage caused, casualties are relatively light, with over 160 civilian deaths, 14 deaths of firemen, and 250 firemen injured.

The number of incendiaries dropped is larger than usual, and the British government quickly takes steps to try and minimize their effectiveness. Incendiaries create powerful effects only if left to work unhindered, so the government mandates fire-watching and makes workers responsible for dousing them at their places of business. Clergymen and 200 volunteer firewatchers ("St. Paul's Watch," recruited from the Royal Institute of British Architects) at St. Paul's reportedly save the church by actively patrolling the roof and putting out incendiaries before they can set uncontrollable fires - exactly what the government wants everyone to be doing.

The attack is considered to be the most destructive of the entire war in Britain, with devastation from Islington to St. Paul's Churchyard. This attack leaves a lasting impression. Arthur "Bomber" Harris, Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, watches the bombing from the roof of the Air Ministry. He comments: "Well, they have sown the wind."

RAF Bomber Command, meanwhile, raids Frankfurt, Boulogne and Hamm.

29 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com British war poster
After the raid on 29 December 1940, the government ramps up its campaign to guard against fires started by incendiary bombs.

Battle of the Atlantic: Royal Navy submarine HMS Trident (Lt.Cdr. G.M. Sladen, DSC, RN) spots a "darkened ship" enting Punta Delgada, Azores. After the ship acts suspiciously and suddenly breaks for the harbor entrance, the Trident fires five torpedoes at it - which all miss and some of which explode on Delgada Point, constituting possibly the only war damage in the Azores. The submarine almost is sunk by one of its own torpedoes which "failed to discharge" and simply falls to the ocean floor beneath the Trident and explodes. The ship, meanwhile, turns out to be the 4856 ton Panamanian Bonita, which whose captain perhaps thought the British sub was a U-boat.

German 997 ton freighter Adriana hits a mine and sinks off the Elbe River.

German 5642 ton freighter PLM-23 runs aground in a storm off Scharhörn in the Wadden Sea and is written off. This formerly was a French ship which the Nazis seized on 5 August 1940.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 41 ton British tug Monarch off Radcliffe Cross Buoy.

The Luftwaffe finds a straggler from Convoy SLS 58, the 5270 freighter Trevarrack, and bombs and damages it.

British 5218 ton freighter Catrine hits a mine and is damaged in Liverpool Bay.

Part of Convoy WS 5A, which had been attacked by German cruiser Admiral Hipper on 25 December, makes port at Gibraltar. The remainder continues on south in the Atlantic.

Convoy FN 37 departs from Southend, Convoys FS 374 and FS 375 depart from Methil, Convoy OG 48 departs from multiple ports including Liverpool, Oban, Glasgow and Bristol, Convoy HG 49 departs from Gibraltar, Convoy BN 11B departs from Aden.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Cottesmore is commissioned and assigned to the 21st Destroyer Flotilla, and HMS Derwent laid down.

Soviet submarine K-56 is launched.

29 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Second Great Fire of London
"Fireman carries rolled hose to hose dump after a night's work, passing bricks and other rubble." This was shot following the raid of 29 December 1940. © IWM (IWM FLM 2318).

Battle of the Mediterranean: For the first time in weeks, the Italians raid Malta with multiple bomber formations. However, as has often been the case during the war, the Italian bombers remain offshore and do not drop any bombs on the island.

Pursuant to the decisions made at the Cairo conference on 28 December, the Australian 6th Infantry Division practices its assault scheduled for the morning of 2 January 1941 using an elaborate mockup of the Italian perimeter.

The RAF raids Bardia and Italian airfields at Tobruk, Derna and Benina.

Australian destroyer HMAS Voyager intercepts 190 ton Italian ketch Zingarella on its way from Bardia to Tobruk. The Zingarella is transporting British POWs who now are freed.

US Government: The administration, according to an AP dispatch, is drafting a $17 billion budget for fiscal 1942 (begins in September 1941). This includes $10 billion for armaments.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson tells President Roosevelt (according to his diary entry of this date):
You cannot build a civilization based upon the questions of religion, which is what our civilization has been based on, and not recognize questions of right and wrong in the dealings between nations.
Ireland: The Irish Air Force has a rare mission when it attempts, and fails, to intercept a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 which flies over Waterford to Dublin. The plane escapes undamaged.

Vichy France: The Petain government creates a commission for Jewish affairs.

29 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Second Great Fire of London
This photo gives a better idea of the damage from the 29 December 1940 raid than most others. "Scene of desolation viewed from St Paul's Cathedral: photograph taken after the raid of 29 December 1940 from the Golden Gallery surmounting the Dome of the Cathedral, and showing the devastated area of burnt and broken buildings. It is mainly the famous booksellers' quarter bounded by Ave Maria Lane and Paternoster Row. The domed building is that of the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), the four-spired church is St Bartholomew's." © IWM (HU 64317).

American Homefront: President Roosevelt gives the most famous and enduring of his "fireside chats." He begins with the effective rhetorical device of claiming that it is not a fireside chat at all - which implies coziness and warmth - but instead a "talk on national security." That frames the entire speech as not about "them," but about "us," which avoids many awkward questions.

Calling the current European war a "world crisis," Roosevelt calls the Axis "evil forces" and creates one of the great catchphrases of the 20th Century:
We must be the great arsenal of democracy.
He concludes that "I believe that the Axis powers are not going to win this war," and sets forth the agenda:
I have the profound conviction that the American people are now determined to put forth a mightier effort than they have ever yet made to increase our production of all the implements of defense, to meet the threat to our democratic faith. As President of the United States, I call for that national effort. 
Reading or listening to the speech out of context, one could easily assume that the United States is at war and fighting for its life. Instead, the reality is much different: there is a war, but the United States is not part of it, and there is no sign that it ever need be a part of it. However, the thrust of the "Arsenal of Democracy" is clear: the Axis must be defeated, and the United States is going to make that happen. The strategy appears to be, at least for the moment, to build the weapons but let the British and Britain's fighting allies take the casualties. This speech is generally viewed as introducing the concept of "Lend Lease" to the American people, though Roosevelt had used that phrase previously and does not use those words in this address.

Below is a little "behind the scenes" clip which shows how these speeches are created for inclusion in the newsreels: in individual segments. This is much different than the way Winston Churchill, for instance, gives his speeches, in one extended reading; or how Adolf Hitler gives his speeches, standing at a podium and giving a dramatic oration.



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

2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28, 1940: Sorge Spills


Saturday 28 December 1940

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com experimental torpedo boat Detroit Michigan
An experimental craft in the Detroit River near Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan. The creation of T.F. Thompson of Des Moines and Arthur W. Reed of Windsor, Ontario, it does not meet expectations. During a test run shortly after this picture was taken, the "torpedo boat" is taken out on the Detroit River, turns over, and goes dead. Detroit will make major contributions to the war effort; this is not one of them (AP). 

Italian/Greek Campaign: Greek I Corps, operating in the coastal sector, captures Nivitsa on 28 December 1940. About 580 Italians surrender. The Italian Regia Aeronautica raids Preveza, which is an important Greek naval base.

Greek commander-in-chief, Alexandros Papagos decides to call a halt to the Greek offensive. The Greek advance has been sputtering for some time, given the twin difficulties of winter weather and firmer Italian resistance, and the Italians have been reinforcing their troops in Albania. This order will take effect on 6 January 1941, but in essence the offensive ends on today's date. Local offensive operations continue, but they are of no strategic significance. The Greeks have saved their country (for the time being) and advanced into Albania, but they have captured virtually no points of true strategic significance during their advance through the mountains and along the coast. The Greek offensive becomes known as the Epic of 1940.

Italian leader Mussolini, of course, does not know about the Greek decision to suspend operations. He requests Wehrmacht assistance in Albania, perhaps some mountain troops. Hitler is undecided how he wants to handle this - he has plenty of spare troops, but alerting the Greeks and others to German interest in the region is the last thing that he wants to do as he sets deployments for Operation Marita.

Mussolini, meanwhile, is mulling further command changes.

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF gunner
Air gunner Leopold Gordon Alexander of RAF No. 49 Squadron, photo taken 28 December 1940, KIA 2 February 1943.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks Antwerp, Rotterdam, Lorient and other points along the coast with 59 aircraft. The Luftwaffe focuses on England's south coast, hitting Southampton both during the day and after dark.

The issue of bomber accuracy has been brewing with the RAF for some time. Today, the RAF completes a detailed examination of aerial photo-reconnaissance of 24 December 1940 attacks on two oil installations at Gelsenkirchen. That oil target has been targeted several times. Gelsenkirchen has two oil plants. The attacks to date have involved the following attacks:
  • Plant No. 1 - 162 attacking aircraft - 159 tons of bombs.
  • Plant No. 2 - 134 attacking aircraft - 103 tons of bombs.
The RAF uses as its yardstick that 100 tons of bombs should eliminate an oil plant. Both of the Gelsenkirchen plants have received that much attention, and Plant No. 1 has received over 50% more than that amount. Post-raid reports suggest that there should be 1,000 craters in the vicinity of the oil plants. However, the photos show that neither plant has sustained any major damage, and there are only about a handful of craters in the vicinity.

This provides evidence that targeting specific targets is ineffective. This conclusion is buttressed by the recent experience at Mannheim, where Bomber Command targeted the city center - but completed major targets there such as the railway station. In fact, many of the bombs did not even hit Mannheim, with some bombers releasing their bombs on nearby cities or to no purpose. These results begin to call into question Bomber Command's "Oil Plan," in which German oil infrastructure receives bomber priority. However, for now, the British continue assigning priority to refineries and the like.

Battle of the Atlantic: German heavy cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau begin Operation Berlin, an attempted breakout into the Atlantic together. However, severe storms damage Gneisenau, forcing the two ships back to port within a few days. Scharnhorst goes to Gotenhafen (Gdynia), while Gneisenau gets repaired at Kiel. This operation is under the command of Admiral Günther Lütjens.

The Luftwaffe stages an effective raid on Southampton. Two Royal Navy destroyers under construction at the Thornycroft naval yard, Norseman and Opportune, are hit and seriously damaged. The Norseman in particular basically is wrecked, but since it is not sunk, the workmen simply begin rebuilding it again (though this sets back its completion date to 29 May 1942). In addition, 271 ton tug Canute is hit and damaged.

Destroyer HMS Valorous and 202 ton minesweeping trawler HMT Libyan collide in Sheerness Harbour in the Thames Estuary. The Valorous receives minor damage and heads to Chatham for repairs, which will take a couple of weeks.

British 964 ton freighter Lochee hits a mine in the Mersey near the Bar Light Vessel. It makes it back to port.

Royal Navy boarding ship HMS Camto seizes 913 ton French trawler Senateur Duhamel in the Atlantic and takes it to Gibraltar.

Convoy OB 266 departs from Liverpool, Convoy FN 370 departs from Southend,

U-148 (Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Jürgen Radke) commissioned, U-402 launched.

Royal Navy armed merchant cruiser (AMC) HMC Prince David is commissioned, corvette HMS Celandine launched. In Canada, corvette HMCS Galt is launched at Collingwood, Ontario.

USS Grouper, the only US ship ever named after the grouper fish, is laid down. Light cruiser CL-78, under construction by New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, is named USS Dayton today. However, when the decision is made to convert it to a light aircraft carrier, its name changes to USS Monterey (CV-26).

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com RAF Hawker Hurricanes
RAF Hawker Hurricane fighters break formation to attack Italian aircraft over Libya, 28 December 1940.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Australian 6th Division is moving into position opposite Bardia and its 40,000 Italian troops. It has not seen action yet, and today exchanges shots with the Italians for the first time. Monitor HMS Terror bombards Bardia, unmolested by the Italian air force, which is getting mauled by the RAF. Hawker Hurricanes today shoot down three Italian bombers and a CR 42 fighter. The CR 42 biplanes clearly are outclassed by modern aircraft, particular when opposed by experienced RAF pilots who know how to counteract the biplanes' greater maneuverability.

General Wavell, Commander of British forces in the Middle East, meets in Cairo with General Richard O'Connor, Commander of the Western Desert Force, and Major General Iven Mackay, commander of the 6th Australian Division (16th, 17th and 19th Australian Infantry Brigades). Mackay's troops are designated to lead the assaults on Bardia and Tobruk, with the advance in Libya to have priority over everything else. Thus, Mackay forms his own time and plan of attack.

Mackay sets the offensive start date as 05:30 on 2 January 1941. Studying aerial photographs, he sees that the Italians have two main defensive lines fortified with concrete bunkers, anti-tank ditches, and barbed wire. Overcoming this will require extensive artillery support to blow holes through the defenses. Mackay's plan:
  1. Seize a "bridgehead" through the first line of defenses by isolating the area with artillery preparation and staging demonstration attacks elsewhere on the 17-mile line;
  2. Immediately follow with combat engineers to fill in the anti-tank ditch, cut the wire and clear the area of mine.
  3. Funnel I-tanks through the gap and overcome the heaviest Italian defenses in the southern part of the line.
The Australians build a full-scale replica of the Italian defensive line for practice. This helps to time the start of the operation so that daylight breaks just as the breakthrough is achieved (in theory).

Battle of the Pacific: Having stocked up at Kobe, Japan, German supply ship Emland leaves port to meet up with German raiders in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, having shelled Nauru on the 28th, German raider Komet heads east, then south, to elude Royal Navy pursuers.

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Richard Sorge
Richard Sorge (AKG-Images/Ullstein Bild) .

Spy Stuff: Richard Sorge, a long-time Soviet "sleeper" operative who pretends to be a strong Nazi, works as a correspondent in Tokyo for the Frankfurter Zeitung. A hearty, hail-fellow-well-met party-thrower type, Sorge disingenuously pumps his contacts at the German embassy for secrets while they are enjoying his cocktails and the ladies who frequent his get-togethers.Today, 28 December 1940, Sorge sends his first warning to Moscow that the Germans are planning to attack the USSR.

While a committed Communist with excellent contacts within the German diplomatic corps, the Soviets don't really think too much of Sorge and his "scoops." In fact, they probably would have executed Sorge during one of the 1930s purges if he hadn't been in Japan - as they did some of his colleagues. The men in the Kremlin discount much of the information that Sorge sends when it does not jibe with their preconceptions. Stalin reputedly comments that Sorge is that "bastard who set up factories and brothels in Japan." True, Sorge adopts the air of a half-drunk ladies man... as he listens intently to the attachés and Japanese "in the know" boasting about what was going on "back in Berlin." Even if Stalin's comment is valid... Sorge knows what he's talking about. He also becomes an inspiration for a debonair fictional spy named James Bond, though the real thing is infinitely more fascinating. There are memorials and statues to this guy all over the place.

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Viktor Lutze SA boss
Sturmabteilung ("SA") chief Viktor Lutze celebrates his 50th birthday. In Nazi Germany, there are mandatory celebrations for the birthdays of bigwigs. Most of the SA already has been drafted into the Wehrmacht, with the remainder unfit for service for one reason or another.

Romania: As the world media has been noticing recently (see 27 December 1940), about 500,000 German troops are in the process of passing through Romania to Bulgaria in preparation for Operation Marita, the projected invasion of Greece. The Deutsches Heeres Mission in Romania (DHM), under the command of General Erik Hansen, keeps the Romanian government informed. The forces assembling are 12th Army under the command of Field Marshal Wilhelm List. While List outranks Hansen, this is a delicate situation requiring extreme tact both with the two host countries - Romania and Bulgaria - and the very interested outside observers, the Soviet Union and Great Britain.

The Army High Command (OKH) wants to reinforce the impression that the German presence in Romania is only, as billed, for training purposes, so the division-sized DHM technically controls Field Marshal List and Twelfth Army. Liaison staffs are competent at what they do, but they are not equipped to control the operations of an army, so this places a strain on German deployments.

This information comes from Oberkommondo des Heeres (OKH), “Instructions on Command Relationships in Romania,” December 28, 1940, BA-MA RL 2 II/271. I point this out because there are two competing commands in the Balkans, OKH and OKW (the overall Germany military high command). While the OKW technically is superior and controls not only the army but the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, the army is the overwhelmingly dominant military force in Eastern Europe. OKH begins its practice of basically doing what it wants and resenting "interference" by OKW. This bifurcation of authority - basically, both commands exert equal authority within the theater - is a brewing problem that eventually will have to be addressed. For now, however, there are no major disagreements between the two command staffs.

Levant: Vichy France remains an important world power outside the confines of European France. Today, it sends General Henri Dentz to Beirut to take command of French forces there. These forces have an uneasy relationship with the British next door in Palestine.

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Raymond Massey
Raymond Massey in "Santa Fe Trail," released 28 December 1940.

Dutch East Indies: Holland, too, remains a world power overseas. Japanese negotiators arrive today to increase purchases of raw materials such as oil.

Italian Homefront: The government announces the death penalty for hoarding. Italy is suffering from the loss of trade.

American Homefront: All aliens within the United States are required to register with the government. About 5 million register.

Warner Bros. releases "Santa Fe Trail," a rousing pre-Civil War actioner directed by Michael Curtiz about the insurrection led by abolitionist John Brown. This is one of two wartime film in which Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn appear together (the other is "Desperate Journey" (1942)). Also appearing is Alan Hale, the Skipper's father (from Gilligan's Island). Raymond Massey absolutely walks away with "Santa Fe Trail," playing a messianic, demented John Brown who feels a personal calling to free the slaves. Why it is named "Sante Fe Trail," incidentally, is one of those enduring mysteries, though the trail does kind of feature in the early parts of the film. This film marked a major step up in Ronald Reagan's career after he blew out the stops in "Knute Rockne, All-American" as George Gip.

This is part of a brief round of films portraying (later) Confederate soldiers in a positive light. In that sense it follows in the tracks of "Gone With The Wind" (1939), but this suffers by being filmed in black and white (though with the novel Vitasound process). This film could not get made today with the same political orientation, at least by a major studio. It is in the public domain.

Michael Curtiz, incidentally, was born Mihaly Kertesz in Hungary fought in World War I for the Austro-Hungarian Army, and emigrated to the US in 1926. You might remember his film from a couple of years after this, "Casablanca," and maybe "King Creole" (1958) starring some guy named Elvis Presley. Supposedly, one of the most focused, single-minded directors ever, even after all his success, at the end of his life he was living in a small apartment in Sherman Oaks (and still making top films). Truly one of the greats in Hollywood history, not a doubt about it, even though he is little-remembered. "Santa Fe Trail" is one of his best films, too. "A great day for the Hungarians" - bonus points for you if you know what film that is from.

28 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ronald Reagan Errol Flynn
Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn in "Santa Fe Trail," released 28 December 1940.

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

2016


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27, 1940: Komet Shells Nauru


Friday 27 December 1940

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Douglas Bader
This photo of Douglas Bader and his squadron mates appears in newspapers around the world today. This example is from page 4 of the 27 December 1940 San Bernardino Sun. There's one little problem with this news item: Bader, the subject of the item (for his recent DFC), is not Canadian and apparently never even visited Canada. However, the brief caption to the photo does manage to work in not once, but twice that Bader had lost his legs in a 1930s air accident. To be fair to the press agency, RAF No. 242 Squadron commanded by Bader was largely composed of Canadian pilots - just not Bader himself, who was born in London. Not to be too technical, but the piece also describes him as a Squadron Leader, but in fact at this time Bader is only an acting Squadron Leader.

Italian/Greek Campaign: Except for local gains, the Greek offensive basically has ground to a halt by 27 December 1940. The Greek government and military commanders assess the situation to see if perhaps now it is time to go over to the defensive. The weather in the mountains simply is too brutal at this point to facilitate major advances. To the credit of the Greek forces, they have have secured strong defensive positions, with V Army Corps taking Mount Tomorr and establishing a connection between II and III Corps, which have been blocked by the Italians in the valleys below. Greek I Corps captures Kalarati and Boliena in the coastal sector.

There are rumors in the press that "an Italian peace commissioner" is "seeking a discussion" with the British for an armistice. The press theory is that Italy is trying to force Germany to help it out militarily by threatening to surrender. This brings up another, more ominous development: possible German involvement in the Balkans and North Africa. A perceptive UPI analysis piece is picked up by news services around the world. An example is one on page four of the San Bernardino Sun's 27 December 1940 edition, placed under the banner headline "Mystery Attached to Movement of Huge German Army Through Rumania." It continues:

REASONS FOR NAZI ACTION UNDISCLOSED
Several Courses Open, but All Dangerous for Germany and Axis Partner Italy 
By J. W. T. MASON (United Press War Expert)
Reports from Budapest that Germany is moving between 20 and 30 fully equipped divisions into Rumania through Hungary have no basis in known facts of any new conditions in southeastern Europe. If the reports are true, they would imply the sudden development of a critical situation facing the axis with Germany being called upon to try to readjust it. An army as large as the Budapest reports describe would be sufficient for the first phases of a thrust through Bulgaria against both Turkey and Greece. But it was recently announced that demobilization of the Bulgarian army had been ordered, which could scarcely have occurred without assurances that the axis did not intend to invade Bulgaria. It is possible that Italy has secretly asked Herr Hitler to create a double diversion in the Balkans, hoping to lessen Greek pressure in Albania and British pressure in Libya. A German military concentration in Rumania, threatening Greece and the Dardanelles, might disturb Greek strategy.
Of course, there most definitely are German troop movements in Romania, though not necessarily of the scope reported in the article. They are heading for Bulgaria as part of Operation Marita - it remains unclear to the Germans at this point if they will invade Yugoslavia as well. And, the author of the piece is absolutely correct when he states that the German troops "might disturb Greek strategy."

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com San Bernardino Sun
Part of today's article in the 27 December 1940 San Bernardino Sun recounting German troop movements through Romania.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe returns to the attack, bombing London with 108 bombers over the course of four hours overnight. There is heavy damage in the City and Whitehall, with 141 deaths. Damage is concentrated in certain neighborhoods such as Islington.

RAF Bomber Command counters with a strike by 75 bombers against an aircraft factory at Bordeaux.

RAF No. 252 Squadron receives the first Beaufighter to be delivered to a coastal fighter squadron.

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com SS Araby
The plaque at Tower Hill for the Araby. Only victims actually buried at Tower Hill are listed on the memorials there. One crewman was cremated at Glasgow, another buried at a Roman Catholic cemetery.

Battle of the Atlantic: Prime Minister Churchill asks the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, whether merchant ships, particularly tankers, can be converted to launch "expendable aircraft" (which apparently means battle-worn Hawker Hurricanes) from catapults (as from battleships and cruisers) for convoy protection. This indeed is possible, and such craft first are called Auxiliary Fighter Catapult Ships, and later become known as Catapult Aircraft Merchant ships (CAM ships). The Hurricanes carried by the CAM ships become known as "Hurricats" or "Catafighters" or "Sea Hurricanes."

Following its abortive attack on Convoy WS 5, Admiral Hipper makes port at Brest. Is is the first major Kriegsmarine warship to reach any of the French ports. This concludes Operation Nordseetour, the codename for Hipper's raiding expedition. Nordseetour must be adjudged only a partial success, because Hipper sank only one ship of 6078 tons during the entire cruise - but its mere presence in the Atlantic jumbled Royal Navy deployments and kept the Admiralty wasting men and ships on fruitless searches in both the North and South Atlantic. In addition, it now is in position to sortie out into the Atlantic at will and also preoccupy RAF Bomber Command, drawing bombs away from other targets. Thus, saying that Operation Nordseetour is "unsuccessful" as many do is untrue - it simply is not as successful as it  might otherwise have been. Getting Admiral Hipper to the Atlantic coast ports is a strategic gain for the Kriegsmarine.

Meanwhile, heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer remains in the Atlantic, meeting with German raider Thor and supply ships Nordmark and Duquesa (captured) east of St. Helena.

The German coastal guns at Cap Gris Nez shell British convoys off Dover and score some rare successes, hitting and damaging 530 ton Royal Navy armed trawlers HMT Blackthorn and Deodar.

U-38 (Kptlt. Heinrich Liebe) torpedoes and damages 4980 ton British freighter Ardanbhan in Convoy OB 263 in the Northwest Approaches. The freighter and its 40-man crew are left for dead in the water. About 13 hours later, Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli (TZ) comes across the Ardanbhan and sends it to the bottom. Everybody perishes in the frigid seas.

Meanwhile, shortly after midnight on the 27th U-38 comes across the abandoned 12,823 ton Waiotira, which U-95 torpedoed on the 26th and left for dead, and sinks it. There is one death on the Waiotira, with 89 survivors.

U-65 (K.Kapt. Hans-Gerrit von Stockhausen) torpedoes and sinks 5455 ton Norwegian freighter Risanger east of the Cape Verde Islands. After stopping the ship with one torpedo, the U-boat surfaces and finishes it off with the deck gun. All 29 men aboard survive.

British 4936 ton freighter Araby hits a mine and sinks about 1800 meters west of Nore Light Vessel near Southend. There are six deaths.

British 449 ton freighter Kinnaird Head hits a mine and sinks in the Thames Estuary north of Sheerness. There are six deaths.

An RAF Hudson bombs and sinks 1200 ton Norwegian freighter Arnfinn Jarl at anchor off Egersund, Rogaland. However, the freighter is not badly damaged and sinks in shallow water, so it can be refloated and repaired. As with many ships sunk in World War II, this ship bears the name of a similar freighter sunk during World War I. The attack on Egersund is one of half a dozen attacks on shipping launched during the day by Coastal Command, which reports other successes which have not been confirmed.

British 2284 ton freighter Lady Connaught hits a mine and is damaged in the English Channel. However, she makes it back to port.

British 1641 ton freighter Victoria hits a mine and suffers damage in the River Mersey. However, the Victoria makes it back to port.

The Luftwaffe bombs 4668 ton Dutch tanker Woensdrecht, damaging it.

Convoy FN 368 departs from Southend, Convoy 372 and 373 depart from Methil, Convoy BN 12 departs from Bombay, Convoy BS 11B departs from Suez.

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Waiotrira memorial Tower Hill
Memorial at Tower Hill for SS Waiotira.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Weather in the Mediterranean Basin is especially severe, heavy storms blowing cold winds all across the region. It is turning into the coldest month in 17 years. On Malta, it rains for 36 hours straight, and morale is so poor that the military offers another extra rum ration.

Cairo signals "No change" in the battlelines. With operations basically at a standstill again - the Italians are defending Bardia and Tobruk, while the British are bringing up Australian troops to launch assaults on them - the British begin strategizing over the next steps. A big meeting is planned in Cairo between General Wavell, General O'Connor and Major General Iven Mackay, commander of the 6th Australian Division currently deploying to launch an assault on Bardia.

Battle of the Pacific: Having futzed around in the general vicinity for a week - including an abortive attempt to lay mines near Rabaul on 24 December - German raider Komet returns to Nauru today. At 05:45, it appears off the main phosphate loading facilities and issues a warning to the inhabitants not to radio for help and to avoid the phosphate installations. Then, at 06:40, Captain Kurt Weyher orders the Komet's crew to open fire with some combination of its six 15 cm, one 7.5 cm, one 3.7 cm and four 2 cm guns. The bombardment wrecks the phosphate operation, destroying the loading plant, the oil tanks, boats, buildings, even the mooring buoys.

Having crippled the island's phosphate trade, Captain Weyher sets sail to the southeast. This is the only attack by German raiders on Nauru, and the most effective attack of any kind by German forces in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. The British Admiralty quickly acts to station forces on the island for its protection, but the damage is done. Fertilizer production in the entire region is crippled, and New Zealand eventually must institute rationing. In a somewhat ironic twist, Japan's imports of phosphate are cut, and Japan has harsh words with the German government. There also is the little matter that the Komet flies the Japanese flag during the attack.

One may well ask, why raid Nauru? Who cares about fertilizer? True, this incident does little to advance the German war effort. It also somewhat hampers future German raider operations, since the prisoners released by Orion and Komet tell the British authorities many useful details about Kriegsmarine operations in the region.

However, in 21st Century parlance, Nauru is a "soft target" and, as a British colony, certainly fair game for attack. The island has no defenses at hand, and none close enough to matter. Thus, attacking it can bring virtually no consequences to the Germans - at least immediately. A common German belief throughout this period of the war is that the British commonwealth nations are stretched extremely thin, and disrupting their economies aids the overall war effort. Attacking Nauru forces the Royal Navy to divert ships to guard the island - and that alone justifies the attack, in order to thin out the fleet available to search for Komet and its fellow raiders.

There also is a more subtle reason for German attacks on Nauru: the island is a former German colony. Annexed by Germany in 1888 and incorporated into Germany's Marshall Islands Protectorate for administrative purposes, German recalls a long, profitable relationship with the island. Phosphate was discovered there in 1900, and exports began in 1907. It still would be a German colony in 1940, except the Australians captured it during World War I. The League of Nations then gave it to Great Britain under a mandate as part of the overall resolution of the war.

One of the reasons behind the rise of Adolf Hitler in the first place was the desire to "right the wrongs" of the decisions made by the victors after the Great War (which go far beyond just the Treaty of Versailles, though that is the easy handle to remember). Just before this raid, on 24 December, Captain Weyher tried to attack another target with mines - Rabaul. What do Rabaul and Nauru have in common? They are both former German colonies, stripped from Germany after its defeat in World War I (Rabaul went to Australia). Out of all the targets in the South Pacific, the Germans pick the two that were taken from them as part of "victor's justice." There may be an edge of vengeance or even spitefulness behind the apparent German obsession with this remote island in 1940. One word can explain this choice of targets: resentment.

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Nauru bombardment Komet
The damaged phosphate elevator at Nauru. While the dock was repaired within 10 weeks, the factory equipment such as this had to wait until after the war.

German Military: Admiral Raeder meets with Adolf Hitler in Berlin. He tells Hitler that Italy's reverses mean that "The threat to Britain in the entire eastern Mediterranean, the Near East and in North Africa has been eliminated." Raeder essentially is admitting that the peripheral strategy that he pushed on Hitler just months earlier has become a complete failure, and essentially Germany is left with no effective strategy against England at all. Raeder also expresses "grave doubts" about attacking the Soviet Union with Great Britain still unsubdued.

Even though Raeder is one of the very few advisors from whom Hitler sometimes takes advice, perhaps because he knows little about naval warfare and grand strategy involving sea transport, the issue of the Soviet Union is a closed issue in his mind. Several other top advisors, including Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, also are extremely skeptical of the wisdom of tangling with the Soviet Union. However,  Hitler considers himself - apparently due to his own war service and his past successes with invasions as Fuhrer - as the best strategist for land operations.

Hitler remains positive about the prospects for Operation Sea Lion, the proposed invasion of England. He states that "in all probability, it will not take place until the summer of 1941." During this period, Hitler seems to be balancing the competing ideas of invading Great Britain or invading the Soviet Union, which, despite his Fuhrer Directive No. 21 of 18 December setting forth planning and a target date for Operation Barbarossa, he still seems uncertain about.

British Military: Churchill sends a memo to General Hastings "Pug" Ismay, who holds several top military positions but essentially is Churchill's personal military advisor and adjutant (basically fulfilling a role similar to that of Keitel in Germany). Churchill suggests that preparations for Operation Marie, the invasion and occupation of Djibouti, should be set in motion by the sailing of several French battalions to Port Sudan on a convoy departing on 4 January 1941.

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, recently unceremoniously ousted from his command of No. 11 Group defending London, is given command of the RAF Fighter Command No. 23 Training Group.

Sub-Lieutenant Richard Valentine Moore receives the George Cross for his heroism in disarming five aerial mines without any formal training. Another George Cross is given posthumously to Sub-Lieutenant John Herbert Babington, who perished while attempting to disarm a bomb at Chatham.

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com submarine tender Fulton launching
Submarine tender Fulton (AS-11) launching at Mare Island, 27 December 1940.

Philippines: The musical chairs game of who is US Commandant of the Sixteenth Naval District and Cavite Navy Yard continues. Captain Eugene T. Oates assumes temporary command.

Vichy France: Premier Marshal Petain has released Pierre Laval, but has not restored him to his offices despite German pressure via Ambassador Otto Abetz. The official French press agency alludes to Laval's "retirement" today and notes that he is living in Paris as a private citizen.

American Homefront: RKO Radio Pictures releases "Kitty Foyle." It stars Ginger Rogers and is directed by Sam Wood based upon a book by Christopher Morley and a screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and Donald Ogden Stewart. This very successful film - it is RKO's top film for 1940 and essentially finances 1941's "Citizen Kane" - starts a new fashion craze, the "Kitty Foyle dress."

Continuing the H.G. Wells "Invisible Man" franchise, Universal Pictures releases "The Invisible Woman." Starring Virginia Bruce and John Barrymore, this outing plays the concept for laughs, with a model using her invisibility as a means to get even with her boss, Mr. Gowley (Charles Lane). Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges (with whom he is not working at this time, but has before and will again) makes a brief appearance as a hapless thug. This film also becomes a big hit, though it's not a big prestige picture like "Kitty Foyle."

27 December 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com German escort ship Holland
A German escort ship showing nice dazzle camouflage, photographed off Holland while being attacked on 27 December 1940. The ship was not damaged in this attack. However, another attack later in the day did badly damage it, though at the cost of a Beaufort and its crew.

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

2016