Tuesday, December 26, 2017

May 1, 1941: British Hold Tobruk


Thursday 1 May 1941

Rommel North Africa worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Erwin Rommel with the 15th Panzer Division between Tobruk and Sidi Omar. Rommel sometimes used armored cars, but preferred staff cars because they were more mobile and convenient. This would cost him later in the war (National Archives 1941).

Operation Marita: With mainland Greece occupied by the Germans on 1 May 1941, the focus shifts to Crete. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a lengthy cable to Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, in which he congratulates the Royal Navy for the way it "succoured the Army and brought off four-fifths of the entire force" from the mainland. He also notes:
It is now necessary to fight hard for Crete, which seems soon to be attacked heavily, and for Malta as a base for flotilla actions against the enemy's communications with Libya.
Churchill sends a much briefer cable to his Middle East Commander, General Archibald Wavell, merely appending his cable to Cunningham and noting "Feel sure you are waiting to strike a blow." As an old sea dog, Churchill naturally favors the Royal Navy over the army, but it also is clear from his communications that he is loathe to lavish praise on Wavell (and his subordinates) for what are likely personal reasons, but does on others.

Italian airborne troops continue occupying the Greek islands of Cephalonia, Ithaca, and Zante.

Iraqi War: The Iraqis have demanded that the British at Habbaniya Airfield west of Baghdad surrender. The British do not reply. The ultimatum will expire in the early morning hours of 2 May. The British prepare to sortie out of their airfield fortress against the Iraqis, who have set up 28 artillery pieces on a plateau overlooking the airfield to the south. There are small Iraqi attacks near the airfield at Rutba. Air Vice Marshal Harry Smart is instructed personally by Churchill to defend his position: "If you have to strike, strike hard. Use all necessary force."

May Day 1941 Kuibyshev worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The May Day parade in Kuibyshev on May 1, 1941 (Vladimir Samartsev).

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe begins a major campaign against Liverpool, which is the main port through which Great Britain communicates with the outside world. This will continue for the next seven nights and wound or kill 3000 people. The Germans also accomplish their true goal of strangling tonnage going into the port, at least temporarily.

The Luftwaffe sinks British freighter Europa  and ammunition transporter Malakand during the raid on Liverpool.

Churchill's secretary, John Colville, notes in his diary after a tour of the area that "Plymouth has been cruelly laid waste in the last fortnight." The Luftwaffe has attacked Plymouth for five nights running, but at least the attacks had lessened in severity as they continued. Now, it is Liverpool's turn. The War Cabinet minutes note that it is "disturbing" that "the Press had drawn attention to an unofficial nightly exodus from Plymouth into surrounding districts." The same pattern is likely to occur in Liverpool.

The Luftwaffe combines the day and night fighter commands into a unified command structure, but FLAK units remain independently controlled by local air headquarters (Luftgaukommandos). Colonel Josef Kammhuber is in charge of coordinating FLAK, searchlight and radar units and is a genius at organization (though a bit shakier on overall military strategy) and is in the process of coordinating Reich air defenses into a unified structure later known as the Kammhuber Line.

RAF Bomber Command conducts a sweep off the Dutch coast with 22 planes, but there are no incidents.

Ofw. Erich Rudorffer of I./JG 2, with nineteen aerial victories, is awarded the Ritterkreuz.

U-34 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-34 (right), a training boat, 1 May 1941. If you look very closely, you will see that it's operational emblem is a picture of a elephant stepping on Winston Churchill, probably in reference to Churchill's time as First Lord of the Admiralty.

East African Campaign: While there have been some small attacks recently in western Abyssinia on heavily defended Italian positions, the rainy season begins and halts most further operations until mid-June. The Duke of Aosta, a favorite of the King of Italy, is trapped in Amba Alaga, Abyssinia with 7000 troops, but has maximized his possibilities with prudent withdrawals into defensible positions. The East African 22nd Infantry Brigade, advances south from Addis Ababa, capturing Mount Fike in Galla-Sidamo.

Amsterdam bike seizure worldwartwo.filminspector.com
On 1 May 1941, the Germans confiscate bicycles at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This is done both to help their own troops (many of whom use bicycles rather than walk) and to deprive the Dutch people of this means of mobility (ANP Historisch Archief Community).

Battle of the Atlantic: The 5583 ton British freighter Nerissa, attacked by U-552 (K.Kapt. Erich Topp) yesterday just before midnight, sinks. It takes 83 crew and 124 passengers with it. There are 23 crew and 51 passengers rescued. See also events of 1 May 1941.

U-103 (Viktor Schütze), on its fourth patrol, is off the coast of West Africa when it torpedoes and sinks 1494 ton British freighter Samsø. This is the start of a string of success in the area for U-103. The Samsø sinks slowly, taking 50 minutes, and only one crewman perishes. The rest of the crew makes it to Los Island, French Guinea, on 3 May.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 329 ton minesweeping trawler Jean Frederic off Start Point. There is one death. Another ship, 200 ton balloon barrage vessel Saturnus, is declared a total loss due to damage sustained. Both vessels have Dutch crews.

British 2950 ton freighter Sea Fisher hits a mine and is beached with the assistance of two tugs. The ship is given temporary repairs and eventually makes it to Middlesborough on 5 May.

Royal Navy patrol boat 534 ton Loch Oskaig captures 3317 ton French freighter Cap Cantin near the entrance to the Mediterranean and takes it to Gibraltar.

Royal Navy patrol boat Cavina captures 6466 ton Italian tanker Sangro, a blockade runner, in the same general vicinity as the Loch Oskaig's capture.

Royal Navy patrol boat HMS Corinthian captures 350 ton French three-masted schooner Martin Pecheur. The ship is sent to Gibraltar with a prize crew.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Juno sustains damage when a depth charge explodes prior to launch. One man is killed and 15 others are wounded.

Portugues schooner Santa Quitéra founders off the Grand Banks. All 40 men are rescued.

Royal Navy destroyers HMS Adrias and Haydon are laid down.

USN submarine USS Grenadier is commissioned, and light fleet carrier USS Independence is laid down, along with destroyers Bancroft, Beatty, Endicott, Kendrick, Laub, McCook and Tillman.

U-163 and U-164 are launched, and U-568 is commissioned. At this stage of the war, increases to the U-boat fleet are far outpacing losses.

Maurine Zollman worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Maurine Zollman, a John Powers model (photo by John Rawlings).

Battle of the Mediterranean: The German/Italian offensive against Tobruk continues, and makes some progress. The Germans reorient the axis of attack by the panzers from the southeast to the east, but run into a minefield and antitank fire. Paulus, nominally in charge, already is ready to give up, but Major General Rommel tries to enlarge his small bridgehead with an attack to the southeast toward Bir el Medauar. The British respond by sending their own tanks to block them, and a major battle takes place. The British lose five tanks, but blunt the German attack, and the Australian infantry counterattacks. This attack, too is repulsed, leaving the Germans within the Tobruk perimeter but unable to expand it as the day ends.

The following Italian infantry, meanwhile, which was supposed to follow the panzer in, is still dealing with isolated Australian outposts which have been overrun but still refuse to surrender. Overall, the battle is trending toward the British, but they have lost ground when they have very little to spare. Operations are hampered during the morning by fog. This combat operation, incidentally, is sometimes called the Battle of Ras el Medauar.

The Luftwaffe, of course, fiercely supports the German attack. Hans-Joachim Marseille, escorting German Stuka dive bombers to Tobruk, shoots down his 10th and 11th kills, two British Hurricane fighters.

General Wavell, from his headquarters in Cairo, is quick to put out a press release about the defense of Tobruk which is refreshingly candid for a military communique. He notes:
An extremely violent battle ignited Wednesday night around Tobruk. After a vigorous bombardment lasting several hours, German and Italian infantry attacked the Tobruk fortifications, deploying heavy tanks and flamethrowing tanks simultaneously. Early this morning another attack ensued by large numbers of German Stuka dive bombers which dropped heavy calibre bombs on the defence installations. Until 10:00 A.M. the British garrison succeeded in preventing any breach in the Tobruk defences. After that, a strong panzer force successfully penetrated the outer perimeter along a 2-mile front. British and Australian troops are at this moment engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the defensive installations outside the city.
The presence of flamethrower tanks at this early stage of the war is a bit unusual, as the Wehrmacht and British did not become enamored with them until later. They apparently are Italian L3 tanks of the Ariete Division, small tanks which tow their flamethrower fuel in a separate armored trailer.

The RAF attacks shipping in the Benghazi harbor and sinks 1533 ton Italian freighter Serdica.

HMS Upholder torpedoes and sinks German freighter Arcturus just south of the Kerkennah Islands, Tunisia. This is part of a convoy returning from North Africa to Italy.

HMS Upholder also torpedoes and sinks German freighter Leverkusen in the same vicinity as the Arcturus south of the Kerkennah Islands.

Two Royal Navy submarines go missing in the Mediterranean during this general period of time - HMS Undaunted (operating near Tripoli) and Usk (the Strait of Sicily). Causes of their loss are unknown. Submarine Truant has sustained damage from minelaying and is sent from Malta to Gibraltar.

German 1819 ton freighter Larissa hits a mine and sinks in the Gulf of Volos.

Winston Churchill orders another operation to run an aircraft carrier into the Mediterranean from Gibraltar and fly off some Hawker Hurricanes to Malta. Such operations have had mixed success to date, with losses of several planes which apparently ran out of fuel. This projected operation is tentatively slated for late May at the earliest.

At Malta, the Luftwaffe attacks continue, and the attacks include bombings and minelaying. The Germans sink 1373 ton freighter Polinice, but the ship is later raised for salvage. There is one civilian death. HMS Jersey hits a mine in Valetta Harbor and later sinks during a raid.

The Italian Navy sends a large force, including three light cruisers, to lay mines north of Tripoli.

The Shadow worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The 1 May 1941 cover of "The Shadow" magazine.

Anglo/US Relations: Adding to the four US coast guard cutters transferred to the Royal Navy yesterday pursuant to Lend Lease, the US Navy transfers to the British USCGC Chelan (CGC-45), renamed HMS Lulworth.

German Military: Generalleutnant August Krakau takes command of the German 7th Mountain Division, replacing Robert Martinek. Kapitän zur See Friedrich Hüffmeier took command of cruiser Köln.

US Military: Rainbow 5, the plan for US military responses to an attack, is completed by the Joint Army-Navy Board. It calls for a defensive strategy that entails the surrender of the Philippines. Admiral Hart in the Philippines, acting on optimistic advice from the Navy Department, tells his staff that they will have at least two days of warning prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Commander H D Linder, RNethN arrives in Manila to serve as Hart's liaison with the powerful Dutch naval forces in the East Indies (Indonesia).

Admiral Ernest J. King takes command of the Atlantic Fleet.

Lieutenant Colonel William P. T. Hill takes command of the newly built  Marine Barracks of New River, North Carolina.

Japanese Military: Aircraft carrier Kaga is put in drydock in Sasebo for refit, while freighter Kasuga Maru begins conversion to an escort carrier at the same port.

May Day Moscow 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The May Day parade in Moscow, 1 May 1941.

Soviet Military: Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin gives a routine May Day speech which reflects growing rumblings beneath the placid peacetime surface. Stalin's remarks probably is not directed at his current ally Germany, but, in retrospect, they seem to fit what he has in store for them:
The Red Army is ready, in the interests of the socialist state, to ward off every blow struck by the imperialists. The international situation is full of unexpected events. In such a situation the Red Army must step up its defensive readiness.
The German military attache in Moscow notes that the Red Army has begun calling up recruits in the lowest age cohort six months earlier than usual. The Soviets also orders that foreign diplomats may no longer travel freely, but must be escorted.

British Military: General Percival sets out to take up his new command in Singapore by air. It is a risky passage via Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, and India.

War Bonds poster worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US War Bonds go on sale today.

British Government: There is a major shakeup within the ministries. Lord Brabazon becomes the new Minister of Aircraft Production, and a new Ministry of War Transport is established that combines the old ministries of shipping and transport. Industrialist Frederick Leathers, who gets a peerage for his effort, will preside over the new Transport ministry. Lord Beaverbrook becomes Minister of State.

Visiting Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies confides in his diary that he is "desperately afraid of the future in Great Britain." Menzies is scheduled to return home on 3 May, but notes that Lord Beaverbrook "thinks [it] absurd that I should go back to Australia!" There is definite sentiment among those opposed to Churchill's conduct of the war that Menzies would be a good replacement for Churchill as Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Holocaust: Gross-Rosen concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager Groß-Rosen), set to become one of the largest camps, becomes an independent camp.  It is in Groß-Rosen, Lower Silesia, Germany (later Rogoznica, Poland). Gross-Rosen had been begun in the summer of 1940 as a satellite camp of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

SS Karsik worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SS Karsik (formerly the German Soneck), 1 May 1941, a well-travelled 2191 ton ship of World War II (Australian War Memorial, ID Number: 303479)

Partisans: Joseph Broz "Tito" issues a call for armed resistance to the Germans and Italian occupiers. He is an avowed communist. This is partly in response to mass killings being undertaken at this time by the Pavelic Ustashi government.

US Homefront: Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" is released in the US,with its world premiere at the Palace Theater in New York. It will be nominated for nine Academy Awards and win for Best Original Screenplay (Welles and Herman Mankiewitz). The making of "Citizen Kane" is an oft-retold saga all of its own, with William Randolph Hearst repeatedly trying to quash its release to no avail. "Citizen Kane" is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made, and can fairly be said to the high point of Welles' long and inventive career. Audience reception upon its release, however, is muted.

The Esposito Brothers, who stand accused of murder near the Empire State Building, are convicted of two counts of murder after one minute of deliberation. A photographer happened to be nearby and captured stunning images of the incident. The brothers' attempt to plead insanity as a defense fails.

General Mills introduces its new cereal Cheerioats. The name eventually will become Cheerios, and the cereal remains a steady seller for decades.

US Defense Savings Bonds and Stamps, better known as war bonds, go on sale.

Citizen Kane worldwartwo.filminspector.com




April 1941


April 1, 1941: Rommel Takes Brega
April 2, 1941:Rommel Takes Agedabia
April 3, 1941: Convoy SC-26 Destruction
April 4, 1941: Rommel Takes Benghazi
April 5, 1941: Rommel Rolling
April 6, 1941: Operation Marita
April 7, 1941: Rommel Takes Derna
April 8, 1941: Yugoslavia Crumbling
April 9, 1941: Thessaloniki Falls
April 10, 1941: USS Niblack Attacks
April 11, 1941: Good Friday Raid
April 12, 1941: Belgrade and Bardia Fall
April 13, 1941: Soviet-Japanese Pact
April 14, 1941: King Peter Leaves
April 15, 1941: Flying Tigers
April 16, 1941: Battle of Platamon
April 17, 1941: Yugoslavia Gone
April 18, 1941: Me 262 First Flight
April 19, 1941: London Smashed
April 20, 1941: Hitler's Best Birthday
April 21, 1941: Greek Army Surrenders
April 22, 1941: Pancevo Massacre
April 23, 1941: CAM Ships
April 24, 1941: Battle of Thermopylae
April 25, 1941: Operation Demon
April 26, 1941: Operation Hannibal
April 27, 1941: Athens Falls
April 28, 1941: Hitler Firm about Barbarossa
April 29, 1941: Mainland Greece Falls
April 30, 1941: Rommel Attacks

2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

April 30, 1941: Rommel Attacks


Wednesday 30 April 1941

Greece 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"German Panzer III tanks advance along a railway line in pursuit of retreating British troops in Greece between 25 and 30 April 1941."  © IWM (HU 39517)

Operation Marita: The Wehrmacht mops up on the Peloponnesos on 30 April 1941, taking thousands of British, New Zealand, Australian, and of course Greek captives who couldn't be evacuated in Operation Demon. The evacuation is often called a "second Dunkirk," as the British took off 50,732 men, but, as at Dunkirk, all of the heavy weapons had to be left behind. While this proved inconsequential at Dunkirk because the Wehrmacht stopped at the Channel coast, it won't in the upcoming campaign in Crete. In comments to the House, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill notes that the British landed 60,000 men in Greece, and "at least 45,000 have been evacuated." After dark, Royal Navy destroyers HMS Isis, Kimberley and Hero return to Kalamata and take off another 200 soldiers, while destroyers Havock and Hotspur take 700 men off of Milos. After that, the only men to escape from the mainland do so in small groups or singly.

Greece 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Some of the last men taken off from Kalamata on 30 April 1941 by HMS Kimberley, taken on 1 May 1941 (Syd Grant Collection).

While Allied soldiers continue to find any way off the mainland that they can find, for all intents and purposes Operation Demon is over and those left on the Peloponnesos will be captured or killed. That said, the general attitude to this information is one of relief, for those "in the know" expected much worse.

The Germans quickly set up a puppet government in Greece. It is led by Georgios Tsolakoglou. They also set up a government in Serbia, known as the Commissioner Government, under Milan Acimovic.

The Germans and Italians quickly occupy the islands of the Aegean abandoned by the British. The Italians send their 2nd Paratroop Battalion to take Zante, Cephalonia and San Mauro, taking 250 Greeks prisoner, while a blackshirt (fascist) division Corfu. These island will change hands several times during the conflict. The Germans also seize numerous ships in Greece, including 190 ton Panamanian freighter Ines.

The German press announces that Crete is the next objective. Churchill, noting this in a memo to General Ismay, comments that, "Although our evidence points the other way, we must not exclude the possibility that Crete is a blind, and Syria or Cyprus the quarry." This is a great example of how openly telling the plain truth about future military strategy can be an effective way to create doubt in an opponent. Meanwhile, New Zealand General Bernard Freyberg VC is confirmed as the Allied commander in Crete. He commands 29,000 Anzac forces and 9000 Greek troops. General Wavell, Middle East Commander, flies in and briefs Freyberg on Ultra decrypts citing Crete as the next target of German paratroopers (though Freyberg is not told the source).

Iraq War: The standoff continues in Iraq, with Iraqi ground forces threatening the RAF Habbaniya airfield and the RAF planes based there launching strikes against them (authorized by Churchill himself). The Iraqi government orders the military to deploy 28 cannon on the plateau south of the airfield overlooking the airfield, and sends 6000 men on a "training mission" there to cover this operation.

The British have 2000 troops in the airfield and 9000 civilians there as well. Additional troops are being airlifted from RAF Shaibah to Habbaniya by the RAF on a piecemeal basis, with civilians taken out on the return flights. The Iraqis have told the British to cease all flights, but they continue.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command continues its attacks on Channel shipping, focusing today along the Dutch coast. Three Blenheims of No. 2 Group spot a tanker escorted by flak ships and patrolling Bf 110s, and the flak shoots down one RAF plane. After dark, Bomber Command sends a major raid (81 bombers) to Kiel and a smaller, diversionary one to Berlin.

The Luftwaffe bombs Cardiff before dawn, causing great damage with land mines.

A Wellington bomber on a training flight crash-lands in St. Andrews Park at Somerville Road in Bristol, killing three crew, after hitting anti-aircraft cables dangling from a barrage balloon. Pilot Lawrence Hugh Houghton survives. The incident is kept out of the newspapers for morale purposes. The incident will be kept secret until 2009, when a memorial service is held, attended by Houghton.

East African Campaign: In Abyssinia, the Indian 9th Infantry Brigade launches small attacks against Italians at Amba Alagi.

Indian 1548 ton patrol vessel Parvati (Lt. HMS Choudri, RIN) hits a mine and sinks at the confluence of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. There are 16 deaths, 14 wounded, and 21 survivors overall.

U-576 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-576, launched on 30 April 1941. It will be sunk off the coast of North Carolina, about 30 miles from Cape Hatteras, on 15 July 1942. Its remains will be rediscovered in 2014.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-107 (K.Kapt. Günther Hessler), on its second patrol and operating about 300 miles southwest of the Cape Verde islands, torpedoes and sinks 7417 ton British freighter Lassell. There are 24 survivors (including the master) and 17 deaths. However, the survivors were picked up by a ship that also was torpedoed and sank, the Benvrackie, on 13 May, and 15 of the 24 survivors perished in that sinking (the master again surviving). The Lassell had been part of Convoy OB 309, which was dispersed on 19 April. This is part of a string of successes by U-107 on this lengthy patrol, helping to make it one of the most successful U-boats of the war.

Troop transport SS Nerissa (5583 tons) is approaching the British Isles when U-552 (K.Kapt. Erich Topp), on her second patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks her with three torpedoes at 23:30 about 320 km west of Liverpool. The ship quickly breaks in two, preventing the lifeboats from launching. Fortunately, the radio operator has just enough time to send a Mayday signal with ship position. There are 84 survivors, picked up by HMS Veteran early the next morning. The Nerissa becomes the only transport carrying Canadian troops to be lost during World War II. This sinking is often cited as occurring on 1 May since it took place around midnight.

German river patrol boat CF-1 is lost today of unknown causes.

The Luftwaffe attacks and sinks tug HMS Peuplier off Plymouth.

The Luftwaffe attacks Westgarth and damages Royal Navy sloop HMS Erne. It will not be repaired until 21 June 1942.

Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Loch Oskaig captures Vichy French freighter Cap Cantin a couple dozen miles off Cape Espichel. The ship is taken to Gibraltar.

German raider Thor arrives in Hamburg, having completed a cruise in which it sank 11 ships totalling 83,000 tons.

Convoy OB 317 departs Liverpool, Convoy SA-1 forms at sea and departs, Convoy HX 124 departs from Halifax.

The Royal Navy commissions frigates HMS Barle and Mourne and corvette Celandine.

The US Navy lays down future destroyers USS Chevalier and Strong.

U-501 (Korvettenkapitän Hugo Förster) is commissioned in Hamburg, and U-453, U-454, U-575 and U-576 are launched.

During the month of April 1941, Axis sinkings spike, largely due to increased success by the long-range Luftwaffe group previously authorized by Adolf Hitler. There are 88 Allied ships sunk with 381,289 tons in Atlantic, 107 Allied ship with 306,512 tons sunk elsewhere (primarily the Mediterranean, where 32 Axis ships with 152,129 tons are sunk. Overall, total Allied shipping losses rise from 474,879 tons in March to 616,469 tons in April (figures will not match up because they come from different sources and calculating such totals is more of an art than a science - even seemingly exact figures are best taken as crude approximations).

The Kriegsmarine loses two U-boats sunk in the Atlantic, Arctic or Baltic. There are 32 serviceable U-boats in Atlantic, a continuing increase over those available at the start of the war. The Allied shipping losses will decline from here until the peak months of 1942, though, because Admiral Doenitz' U-boat fleet has lost some of its best commanders recently.

A13 Cruiser tank Mk IV 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The crew of an A13 Cruiser tank Mk IV studying a map whilst on operations in the Western Desert, 30 April 1941." © IWM (E 2640).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Visiting Major-General Friedrich Paulus finally has allowed General Erwin Rommel to attack the Tobruk perimeter after some indecision. The defenders have had time to sow minefields na deven bring in a dozen infantry tanks, but the Germans now have had time to settle their dispositions as well. At the War Cabinet today, Churchill comments that "sufficiently vigorous steps were not being taken by any of the three Services to strike the Germans before they became stronger," so this attack will prove the acid test for that judgment.

Rommel plans his attack to hit the southwest salient, defended by the 26th Australian Brigade. The attack begins at 20:00, led by the 15th Panzer Division and the 5th Light Division. The Axis dispositions have been disrupted by Allied artillery fire - troop movements in the desert are hard to conceal, especially during the day. The panzers make a small breakthrough, but the defending Australians hold tight at several outposts. The Italian tropos of the Ariete and Brescia divisions make little progress following the lead panzers, and the offensive deteriorates into a melange of local actions. As the day ends, it is unclear which side has the advantage.

The Germans and Italians mount a supply convoy from Messina and Augusta with five freighters and several escorts. The Luftwaffe bombs HMS Gloucester while it is trying to intercept the convoy. The bomb passes through the ship without exploding, so the damage is very minor. Another convoy departs from Tripoli.

Royal Navy gunboats HMS Aphis and Ladybird bombard Sollum and Gazala, respectively.

The Luftwaffe continues to be active over Malta. The raids begin at 08:00, when a couple of Junkers Ju 88s escorted by fighters bomb St. Angelo and shipping in Grand Harbour. Around sunset, half a dozen Heinkel He 111s with fighter escort make another raid, followed by a much larger raid around 20:30. The last raid starts major fires and includes large parachute mines. Included in the targets are the airfields at Luqa and Ta Qali, and shipping damage includes a hit on HMS Encounter and the loss of minesweeper HMS Coral Trusty Star (later refloated and repaired). Minesweeper HMS Fermoy is operating off Valletta when it, too, is bombed and sunk (though later raised for scrap). In addition, minesweeper HMS Abdingdon is damaged while sweeping, which, with the sinking of the Coral Trusty Star, leaves the Royal Navy with no usable dedicated minesweepers.

This is considered one of the worst raids of the year on Malta, with banks, the law courts and numerous other businesses and residences obliterated. There are dozens of casualties, both military and civilian, including several children as young as age 4, 5, 9, 10  and 11. The German High Command quickly pushes out a press release touting the Luftwaffe's successes in Malta and at Tobruk.

Los Angeles Times 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Los Angeles Times headline, 30 April 1941.

Anglo/US Relations: The US Navy transfers four Lake-class U.S. Coast Guard cutters to the Royal Navy:
  • USCGC Pontchartrain (CGC-46) -> HMS Hartland (Lt Cdr G. P. Billot RNR); 
  • USCGC Tahoe (CGC-47) -> HMS Fishguard (Lt Cdr H. L. Pryse RNR); 
  • USCGC Mendota (CGC-49) -> HMS Culver (Lt Cdr R. T. Gordon-Duff); and
  • USCGC Saranac (CGC-43)  -> HMS Banff (Lt Cdr P. S. Evans)
These ships were crewed with men taken from battleship Malaya, currently undergoing repairs. Some sources list USCGC Itasca as transferred on this date, but that took place on 30 May 1941. These ships are often termed "old," but in fact they were built around 1929/30, so they are in their prime.

German/Egyptian Relations: German foreign Minister Ribbentrop replies to an inquiry by King Farouk of Egypt, saying that Germany has no designs on Arab nations. This, of course, is patently false.

Supermarine Spitfire 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Groundcrew of the Advanced Servicing Unit dismantling Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX, EN459 'ZX-1' of the Polish Fighting Team, attached to No. 145 Squadron RAF in Tunisia, April 1943. The aircraft was damaged on 6 April 1943 when, after shooting down a Messerschmitt Bf 109, it was attacked by another Bf 109 and hit in the engine. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Eugeniusz Horbaczewski, was able to glide in to Gabes for a forced landing." © IWM (TR 1008).

German Military: The Luftwaffe is busy developing advanced engines, including jets, rockets and assorted other concepts. Today, a test pilot takes aloft a Gotha Go 145 biplane with a Argus pulse-jet of 265lb static thrust suspended below it. The engine test is a success. This engine, after further development, will evolve into the powerplant on the V-1 cruise missile (Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb).

Around this time, a party of air ministry engineers return to Germany following a tour of Soviet aircraft factories. They report to Hitler that the Soviet factories dwarf German factories, with more under construction. They further relate that Soviet aircraft designer Artem (Artyom) Ivanovich Mikoyan, perhaps under the influence of alcohol, had rather imprudently stated:
Now you have seen the mighty technology of the Soviet fatherland. We shall valiantly ward off any attack, whatever quarter it comes from.
As Hitler will tell Finish Field Marshal Mannerheim during their June 1942 meeting, his great fear is that the Allied air forces will destroy his Romanian oil supplies ("I have nightmares of seeming them on fire"). Hitler thereafter claims that the report of the air ministry engineers was the final factor underlying his decision to authorize Operation Barbarossa. Taken together, the two separate incidents serve as support for each other in suggesting that Hitler's driving goal behind Operation Barbarossa was to eliminate the Red Air Force as a threat.

Hitler confers with OKW operations director General Jodl. Hitler sets 22 June 1941 as the date for the invasion, though, as always, this is subject to change.

British Military: Winston Churchill sends a note to Air Vice Marshal William Sholto Douglas congratulating him on the progress of Operation Mutton. This is a project being experimented with to use six specially equipped Harrows of RAF No. 93 Squadron (at this time still No. 420 Flight) to tow Long Aerial Mines (LAM) in the path of German bombers. The LAMs are cylindrical containers 14 inches long and 7 inches in diameter, weighing 14 pounds and towed at the end of long cables. Churchill places great stock in this concept, and comments to Douglas that "It seems possible that this will enable us to make bags in the dark period as heavy as those we can get on the best moonlit nights." The Harrows, however, are clumsy aircraft, and the interceptions (guided by ground controllers using radar) are a bit like fishing - either the Luftwaffe plane blunders into the mines, or it doesn't, and multiple factors such as wind and angle of approach are extremely difficult to get just right. That said, Operation Mutton Harrows do have some success during early trials.

British Government: Visiting Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies notes in his diary a "Great argument in the War Cabinet" about Churchill suggesting to the USA that it move its Pacific fleet to the Atlantic, with Menzies firmly opposed to this.

Italian Government: Mussolini's Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, meets with King Victor Emmanuel II regarding Croatia, which Italy will administer for the duration of the conflict. The King decides to award the area to the Duke of Spoleto.

Holocaust: The Pavelic government in Croatia strips Jews of citizenship and passes other restrictive laws.

German Homefront: Bavarians stage rare protests during the Third Reich era, protesting a ban on crucifixes in schools. Southern Germany is very Catholic, and restrictions on religion are taken very seriously there.

American Homefront: Alexander Korda's "That Hamilton Woman" is released. Starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, who are newlyweds, the film reportedly was made at Winston Churchill's urging as a propaganda tool (the film depicts romance during the Napoleonic Wars). "That Hamilton Woman" goes on to become the fifth most popular film at the British box office for 1941 and wins an Oscar for Best Sound. Korda, incidentally, came under suspicion in the United States congress for using his film operations as a cover for British spy operations in the United States. While that investigation was dropped after Pearl Harbor, a modern scholar (film historian Stacey Olster) claims that the charge was accurate.

The Boston Evening Transcript, begun in 1830, ceases publication.

Malta Greek Orthodox church 30 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Damage to the Greek Orthodox Church in Malta after the bombings of 30 April 1941.

April 1941


April 1, 1941: Rommel Takes Brega
April 2, 1941:Rommel Takes Agedabia
April 3, 1941: Convoy SC-26 Destruction
April 4, 1941: Rommel Takes Benghazi
April 5, 1941: Rommel Rolling
April 6, 1941: Operation Marita
April 7, 1941: Rommel Takes Derna
April 8, 1941: Yugoslavia Crumbling
April 9, 1941: Thessaloniki Falls
April 10, 1941: USS Niblack Attacks
April 11, 1941: Good Friday Raid
April 12, 1941: Belgrade and Bardia Fall
April 13, 1941: Soviet-Japanese Pact
April 14, 1941: King Peter Leaves
April 15, 1941: Flying Tigers
April 16, 1941: Battle of Platamon
April 17, 1941: Yugoslavia Gone
April 18, 1941: Me 262 First Flight
April 19, 1941: London Smashed
April 20, 1941: Hitler's Best Birthday
April 21, 1941: Greek Army Surrenders
April 22, 1941: Pancevo Massacre
April 23, 1941: CAM Ships
April 24, 1941: Battle of Thermopylae
April 25, 1941: Operation Demon
April 26, 1941: Operation Hannibal
April 27, 1941: Athens Falls
April 28, 1941: Hitler Firm about Barbarossa
April 29, 1941: Mainland Greece Falls
April 30, 1941: Rommel Attacks

2017


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

April 29, 1941: Mainland Greece Falls


Tuesday 29 April 1941

DAK graves North Africa worldwartwo.filminspector.com
 Soldiers of the DAK (Deutsches Afrika Korps) salute at the graves of 23-year-old gunner Georg Böttiger and 22-year-old PFC Franz Dahmen, both killed near Sollum on 29 April 1941.

Operation Marita: The climax is at hand on the Greek mainland on 29 April 1941, and this is considered the "end" of the British evacuation, Operation Demon. Resistance ceases at 05:30. The New Zealanders continue to form the vital rearguard as the main Allied forces embark at various ports for transport to Crete and North Africa. While the process may seem fairly perfunctory - get the troops to the ships and get them out - the delaying actions involve desperate fighting at times. Today, Sergeant John Daniel Hinton of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force leads a charge that takes a German-held house, a mortar and three machine guns. Sgt. Hinton receives the Victoria Cross for his pains, which are very real as he is wounded in the action and taken prisoner.

The 5th Panzer Division reaches the south coast of the Peloponnese, joined there by SS troops coming from Pyrgos.

A small force of 33 men is rescued from Kalamata. However, 8000 British, New Zealand, Australian, Greek and Yugoslavian men are left behind there to surrender.

Major General Bernard Freyberg arrives at Suda Bay to assume command there. Overall, 50,000 troops evacuate today, but 223,000 men are left behind to become POWs. Fortunately for future British operations, only 12,000 of them are Tommies, but the ANZAC forces lose all their heavy equipment. The Germans lose 2,559 men dead in the campaign, 5820 wounded, and 3,169 missing. With the mainland cleared, the only significant part of Greece left to conquer is Crete.

Convoy GA 15 takes off troops from the mainland, under heavy escort. Five destroyers are dispatched to rescue any men stranded on Greek islands. The Luftwaffe attacks the departing convoy and scores a near-miss on destroyer HMS Nubian and sinks 125 ton Greek ship Aetos.

The Luftwaffe also attacks Suda Bay in Crete. They sink Greek freighters 1433 ton Elsi and 3537 ton Konistra. The Germans later raise them and return them to service.

The Italians begin to tighten their hold on Croatia: Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano writes in his diary that "The Croatian situation has moved forward many steps. The crown is offered to a prince of the house of Savoy..."

Meanwhile, Yugoslav Serb General Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović crosses into Serbia to form a resistance. He grandly styles it the "Command of Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army." He heads toward Ravna Gora. Accompanying him are seven officers and 24 others. He does not find much help during his journey.

The victory in Greece does not come a minute too soon for the Germans. They now have their Twelfth Army out of position for Operation Barbarossa, and there is not enough time to redirect it in time for the proposed operations in the East. This will have major implications on the strategic options available to Army Group South.

Short Sunderland Kalamata worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Short Sunderland Mark I’s of No 228 Squadron RAF (T9048 ‘DQ-N’ in foreground), and No 230 Squadron, RAF (L2160 ‘NM-X’ centre), moored in Messinia Bay off Kalamata while evacuating RAF personnel from Greece, 28 or 29 April 1941 (IWM photo).

Iraq War: While there is no real ground fighting in Iraq, the clinch between the two sides - British and Iraqis - intensifies when the latter surround the British airbase at Habbaniya (80 km west of Baghdad). The British are in no imminent danger, as they have unimpeded contact with their other bases by air - but their overland communications are cut. British civilians in Baghdad seek asylum at the US embassy.

The main Iraqi force is on a plateau overlooking the airfield and comprises both infantry and artillery brigades, a dozen armored cars and some tanks. The Iraqis command the British to cease all movement in and out of the base, including by land and air. The British, nonplussed, ask the Iraqis to leave the area. Neither side does what the other wants, and there is a stalemate. The RAF launches some strikes against the encroaching Iraqi forces.

The British in London are kept well-informed of the brewing situation and already have landed troops at the port of Basra, with more on the way. However, those troops are far away, and the strain on British resources is growing just as the Greek situation is falling apart and the East African campaign is reaching its climax. Fortunately for the British, they have extensive resource reasonably close at hand in their colony of India, and the Italians in East Africa are not putting up much of a fight. More troops from the British 10th Indian Division land at Basra today despite Iraq's prohibition.

While there is no possibility of supporting Iraq with ground forces (which is what they really need), the Germans are contemplating support for the Iraqis by air. However, such efforts are hampered by the extreme distances involved from the nearest bases in Greece and North Africa and Allied control over much of the intervening territory. The Germans also have no ground facilities in Iraq. The Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon, however, have offered use of their airfields, and Hermann Goering is anxious to curry favor with Hitler by showing the reach of his Luftwaffe.

Middle East: The always murky relations between the British and French become murkier today when the British warn the Vichy French - who are not actually British Allies - that they fear a Luftwaffe airborne landing in Syria. Commander in Chief of the Army of the Levant (Armée du Levant) and High Commissioner of the Levant General Henri Dentz replies simply that he intends to repel all aggression - an ambiguous statement that seems to apply as much to the British as the Wehrmacht. Dentz commands 45,000 men and the vital (at the moment) bridge to Iraq. The British, not operating in the best faith, decide to attack Dentz' Vichy airfields and contemplate invading Syria and Lebanon - though that would increase the strain on their Mediterranean resources.

Short Sunderland Kalamata worldwartwo.filminspector.com
RAF personnel boarding Short Sunderland Mark I, T9048 'DQ-N', of No. 228 Squadron RAF at Kalamata, on or about 29 April 1941.

European Air Operations: RAF 101 Squadron sends three Blenheims to attack shipping off Nieuport, with one Blenheim badly damaged. RAF No. 82 Squadron sends a larger force of 15 Blenheims on a routine patrol off Norway, damaging a freighter but losing two planes. Other operations are launched during the day against shipping off Calais and various other coastal targets, while RAF Bomber Command attacks Rotterdam overnight with 31 aircraft. Another attack is sent overnight against Mannheim with 71 aircraft.

The Luftwaffe raids Devonport, damaging light cruiser HMS Trinidad, under construction. It also raids Plymouth with 162 planes, sinking Lighter C. 293 and sinking 775 ton auxiliary patrol vessel Pessac (later raised and repaired) and British ship Moncousu.

General Draža Mihailovich worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Draža Mihailovich during World War II. Mihailovich is a controversial figure because he collaborated with the Germans while fighting Josip Broz Tito's communist partisans. On 14 May 2015, Mihailović was rehabilitated after a ruling by the Supreme Court of Cassation, the highest appellate court in Serbia.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-75 (Kptlt. Helmuth Ringelmann), on its first patrol, torpedoes and sinks 10,146 ton British freighter City of Nagpur in the mid-Atlantic west of Ireland. There are sixteen deaths, the survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Hurricane.

The Luftwaffe (a Junkers Ju 88 of KGr 506) sinks 722 ton British freighter Kalua in the mouth of the Tyne. Everyone survives.

In the same attack at the Tyne, the Luftwaffe damages 2822 ton British freighter Corglen and 2498 ton Norwegian freighter Askeladden. Both ships return to port under tow.

The German 1st MTB Flotilla sends three boats (S. 26, 27, 29 and 55) against convoy EC 13 off Cromer. Though escorting destroyers HMS Worcester, Eglinton, Whitshed and Wallace disperse the attackers, they sink 1555 ton British freighter Ambrose Fleming (11 deaths).

Chilean passenger ship Chiloe runs aground on Puchoco Point and is lost.

British 207 ton freighter Prowess hits a mine in the Humber. It makes it back to port.

A harbour launch, HMML 278, hits a mine at Portsmouth and blows up. Everyone aboard perishes.

British ship Canadolite, captured by German raider Kormoran, arrives in France.

British ship Advocate, captured by the Admiral Scheer off the Seychelles in February, also arrives in France at the Gironde.

Convoy SC-30 departs from Halifax bound for Liverpool.

Minesweeper HMS Hildasay is launched.

Canadian corvettes HMCS Brandon and Shediac launch in Quebec, while Pictou is commissioned.

U-84 (Kptlt. Horst Uphoff) is commissioned, and U-514 is laid down.

Battle of the Mediterranean: General Erwin Rommel has planned a major attack on British forces in the south of the Tobruk perimeter on 30 April. However, he is no longer the supreme authority in North Africa: recently arrived Major-General Friedrich Paulus a Deputy Chief of the General Staff officially has been sent to "observe" and, informally, put the brakes on Rommel's wild pace of operations. After conferring with Italian leader Gariboldi and studying the situation, Paulus allows the operation to proceed. The German and Italian forces plan to proceed to their take-off spots.

Winston Churchill informs Air Chief Marshal Longmore in the Middle East that the Royal Navy is planning another operation to send "up to 140 Hurricanes" to Malta "by the 25th May."

The RAF attacks Benghazi.

At Malta, six Junkers Ju 88s raid Valleta Harbor at dusk and lose one plane.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks convoy service ship 3081 ton HMS Chakla in Tobruk Harbor. Two men are wounded, none lost.

Basile worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Anthony R. Basile on 29 April 1941 while working as a truck driver and field lineman for the headquarters, 50th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Army. Basile would participate in the battle of Metz, France in 1944/45, and for his heroism would, on 22 November 2016, receive the  French Legion d’Honneur from Valéry Freland, Consul General of France, in Boston.

Anglo/US Relations: Winston Churchill sends a cable to President Roosevelt which begins "At this moment much hangs in the balance." He makes the following points:
  • Turkey is the key to protecting British forces in Egypt and may help the Germans in small ways;
  • The Germans are eyeing attacks on Syria, by airborne troops using Rhodes as their jump-off point, and also Crete. He seems much more concerned about Syria than Crete, however;
  • Spain is "most critical" and Franco may grant the Germans transit rights;
  • The US should force Vichy France to "break with" the Germans.
Churchill concludes the message by saying that "I feel Hitler may quite easily now gain vast advantages very cheaply, and we are so fully engaged that we can do little or nothing to stop him spreading himself."

German/Indian Relations: German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop meets with Subhas Chandra Bose in Vienna.

German Military: Adolf Hitler addresses 9,000 officer candidates in the Berlin Sportpalast. Following his discussion with Count Schulenburg the previous evening, he is more determined than ever to invade the Soviet Union, and he loves to drop hints in his speeches:
If you ask me, ‘Fuhrer, how long will the war last?’ I can only say as long as it takes to emerge victorious! Whatever may come! As a National Socialist during the struggle for power I never knew the word ‘capitulation.’ And there is one word I will never know as leader of the German people and your Supreme Commander, and again it is ‘capitulation’— that is, to submit to the will of another.  Never, never! And you too have to think like that.
It is around this time that he decides to launch Operation Barbarossa on Sunday, 22 June 1941.

PM newspaper Jack Coggins worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Illustrations in New York daily newspaper PM accompanying an article about inventions that would be useful for the military. Pictured on the left is a "travelling controllable land mine" (which the Germans did develop later) and, on the right, "a really good aircraft detector" (which the RAF already had in the form of radar, though that was top secret at the time) (Jack Coggins).

British Military: The Admiralty issues a request for six Liberty Ship hulls to be converted to aircraft carriers (HMS Archer, Avenger, Biter, Dasher and Tracker).

General Percival in Singapore appoints a new commander of Malaya.

US Military: Charles Lindbergh's letter of resignation from the Army Air Corps Reserve is accepted by the US War Department. President Roosevelt has called Lindbergh unpatriotic for being a leading member of the America First movement.

British Government: Winston Churchill faces some disquiet in the House of Commons. He brusquely dismisses questions which aim to clarify British war and peace aims and a proposal to appoint a supreme War Cabinet composed of ministers with no other responsibilities "as in the last war," and including visiting Australian Prime Minister Menzies. The clear implication is that Churchill's one-man show running the entire war effort needs to be reined in a bit.

For his part, Menzies, who has come to be seen as almost a savior by the anti-Churchill faction within the government (and there indeed is one), in fact is winding up his time in London. This is his second anniversary as Prime Minister of Australia, a fact he proudly notes in his diary. He expresses frustration that he is the only member of the Defence Committee who questions Churchill's decisions.


April 1941


April 1, 1941: Rommel Takes Brega
April 2, 1941:Rommel Takes Agedabia
April 3, 1941: Convoy SC-26 Destruction
April 4, 1941: Rommel Takes Benghazi
April 5, 1941: Rommel Rolling
April 6, 1941: Operation Marita
April 7, 1941: Rommel Takes Derna
April 8, 1941: Yugoslavia Crumbling
April 9, 1941: Thessaloniki Falls
April 10, 1941: USS Niblack Attacks
April 11, 1941: Good Friday Raid
April 12, 1941: Belgrade and Bardia Fall
April 13, 1941: Soviet-Japanese Pact
April 14, 1941: King Peter Leaves
April 15, 1941: Flying Tigers
April 16, 1941: Battle of Platamon
April 17, 1941: Yugoslavia Gone
April 18, 1941: Me 262 First Flight
April 19, 1941: London Smashed
April 20, 1941: Hitler's Best Birthday
April 21, 1941: Greek Army Surrenders
April 22, 1941: Pancevo Massacre
April 23, 1941: CAM Ships
April 24, 1941: Battle of Thermopylae
April 25, 1941: Operation Demon
April 26, 1941: Operation Hannibal
April 27, 1941: Athens Falls
April 28, 1941: Hitler Firm about Barbarossa
April 29, 1941: Mainland Greece Falls
April 30, 1941: Rommel Attacks


2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

April 28, 1941: Hitler Firm about Barbarossa


Monday 28 April 1941

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Short Sunderland Flying Boats
Short Sunderland flying boats in Kalamata Harbor to evacuate British troops in Operation Demon, Kalamata, Greece, April 28, 1941.

Operation Marita: Having pocketed Athens without a fight, on 28 April 1941 the Wehrmacht continues to occupy the remaining portions of mainland Greece after collapsing British opposition. The 5th Panzer Division continues its drive across the Peloponnese, pursuing Allied troops that are evacuating as quickly as they can in Operation Demon.

Today, three Royal Navy ships - sloop HMAS Auckland, HMS Hyacinth and HMS Salvia, take off 750 RAF personnel from Kithera, while another force of ships takes off 4320 men of the New Zealand 6th Infantry Brigade from Monemvasia. An attempt to pick up troops from Kalamata runs into trouble when the port is found to be in German hands, but four destroyers do manage to take aboard 450 Yugoslavians.

The Commonwealth troops literally are fighting for their lives on the docks as the Germans bear down on them. Sergeant Jack Hinton of New Zealand 2nd Division leads a small force to retake the dock at Kalamata. For this, Hinton, shot and taken prisoner, will win the Victoria Cross.

Wasting no time, the Germans appoint Günther Altenburg as the Reich Plenipotentiary for Greece.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill telephones Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell from Chequers. He warns of an imminent "heavy airborne attack by German troops and bombers" against Crete. He notes that such an attack "ought to be a fine opportunity for killing the parachute troops." The War Cabinet minutes state that Churchill "felt no regret over the decision to send troops to Greece."

The Greek government convenes at Canea, Crete. Prime Minister of Greece Emmanouil Tsouderos requests reinforcements of the island from the British, who already have sent many troops to the island and are sending the troops evacuated from the mainland there.

The Luftwaffe continues its attacks on Greek shipping, sinking the following ships:
  • Torpedo boat Kyzikos at Salamis
  •  462 ton freighter Aikaterini at Spetsopoulou
  • 797 ton freighter Eleni Canavarioti in the Aegean
  • Greek trawler Aixos at Syros.
The Luftwaffe also bombs Royal Navy Landing Craft, Tank HMS LCT-5 off Monemvasia. The crew manages to beach the ship, where it is abandoned.

The Luftwaffe shoots down a Seagull amphibian plane flying off of HMAS Perth near Anti Kyrethia, Greece. The crew survives by swimming to an island and eventually is picked up by HMS Havock.

At Suda Bay, the Royal Navy ceases attempts to repair heavy cruiser HMS York. The York had been severely damaged by the Luftwaffe in March 1941. This leads to the complete loss of the York.

Italian forces begin occupying the Ionian and Aegean Islands. Troops land at Corfu.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com map Meditteranean
A map on the front page of The Michigan Daily showing the geographical possibilities in the Mediterranean following the German conquest of Greece. As the caption points out, the next Hitler conquest is likely to be Crete.


European Air Operations: The British begin their "Channel Stop" campaign. This is an effort to interdict enemy shipping in the English Channel and deprive its use to the Wehrmacht. The Germans have flak ships along the French Channel coast to protect their shipping, so this requires a battle. Today, RAF No. 101 Squadron sends Blenheims against trawlers near Calais, losing a plane to the vicious flak.

RAF Bomber Command, No. 7 Squadron, attacks Emden, Germany during the day and Brest, France after dark. Fighter Command conducts a Roadstead Operation and Rhubarb Operation over France.

The Luftwaffe raids Plymouth with 124 planes and sinks Royal Navy depot ship HMS Moncousu.

Visiting Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies visits with Air Marshal Lord Trenchard, a hero of World War I. Trenchard, Menzies writes in his diary, is "Against bombing in France, because the bombs that miss kill Frenchmen, whereas the ones that miss in Germany kill Germans."

Iraq War: The Royal Navy dispatches aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and light cruiser Enterprise to the Persian Gulf to cover upcoming British landings at Basra. Convoy BP 1 is at sea carrying troops to land there to reinforce British positions in Iraq.

East African Campaign: Free French troops move into pro-Vichy French Somaliland.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Time Magazine Sir Percy Noble
Time Magazine, 28 April 1941, showing Sir Percy Noble, Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches, based in Liverpool (Cover Credit: ERNEST HAMLIN BAKER).

Battle of the Atlantic: A major battle develops around Convoy HX 121 on the North Atlantic convoy route. Called in by U-123 (Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle), which spots the convoy, U-65 (Kptlt. Joachim Hoppe), U-95 (Kptlt. Gerd Schreiber), U-96 (Kptlt. Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock) and U-552 (K.Kapt. Erich Topp) participate in these attacks.

U-552 starts things off at 04:15 when it torpedoes 8190 ton British tanker Capulet. The tanker is abandoned and eventually sunk by Royal Navy gunfire. There are 9 deaths on the tanker.

A few hours later, at 07:25, U-96 attacks Convoy HX 121 at 19:25 by firing three torpedoes, hitting and sinking three ships:
  • 8516 ton British motor tanker Oilfield (47 dead, 8 survivors)
  • 9892 Norwegian tanker Caledonia (12 dead, 25 survivors)
  • 8897 ton British freighter Port Hardy (one dead).
U-96 is damaged during the aftermath to the attack but resumes its patrol. U-65, however, is sunk by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Douglas in a depth charge attack, and all 50 men on board perish.

The Luftwaffe damages 2157 ton British freighter Marie Dawn off Sheringham Buoy and 2824 ton British freighter Empire Strait off Great Yarmouth.

Royal Navy transport/trawler HMT Johanna Caroline hits a mine in the Bristol Channel off Milford Haven and sinks with all hands.

Royal Navy submarine HMS H.31 collides with destroyer Venomous at Londonderry. Both ships require repairs.

Convoy OB 316 departs from Liverpool.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Calpe, mooring vessel Moorfire, boom defense vessel Baronia and submarine P-36 are launched.

Canadian corvette HMCS Port Arthur is laid down in Port Arthur, Ontario.

US aircraft carrier USS Essex is laid down.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Todd-Bath shipbuilding yard
Construction site of the Todd-Bath yard in South Portland where many Liberty ships would be built, 28 April 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Following the devastating outcome of the battle on the Greek mainland, the British are feeling very insecure about their position in Egypt. Prime Minister Winston Churchill asks to see all "plans which had been prepared in certain eventualities for the evacuation of Egypt."

Major-General Friedrich Paulus a Deputy Chief of the General Staff, remains in Tripoli reviewing Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps operations. Italian General Gariboldi, Rommel's nominal superior in the chain of command, arrives in Tripoli to join the deliberations. Paulus has halted Rommel's planned attack on Tripoli scheduled for the 30th for the time being.

On the ground, both sides conduct patrol activity which the D.A.K. War Diary remarks is "lively." At dawn, the Luftwaffe attacks on Tobruk continue, with the Junkers Ju 87 Stukas concentrating on anti-aircraft defenses and fighters conducting strafing missions. Gruppe Herff continues to edge forward southeast of Sollum, with the British forces having retreated on the coastal plain.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Royal Navy lighter A-15 while on a rescue mission to help another ship, sinking Greek contraband chaser A-3, at Monemvasia. All aboard perish.

The Luftwaffe mounts a large raid on Malta. The German bombs hit destroyer HMS Encounter in drydock, damaging it, along with anti-submarine trawler Coral and minesweeping drifter Trusty Star. The bombs sink minesweeper HMS Fermoy.

The Royal Navy tries a new tactic to supply Malta. Instead of sending convoys, it despatches unescorted freighters which seek safety from stealth rather than defensive escorts. Freighter Parracombe carries 21 cased Hurricane fighters to the island along with other supplies. The Parracombe flies a Spanish flag first, then the French flag. This is Operation Temple. Another convoy, MD 3, departs from Malta to Gibraltar.

Force H returns to Gibraltar after successful Operation Dunlop, a mission to deliver RAF Hurricanes to Malta.

Obfw. Joachim Marseille shoots down a RAF Blenheim bomber near Tobruk for his 8th victory overall and 2nd in North Africa.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Allouez Express
In this picture from the 28 April 1941 issue of Life Magazine, steamship Cadiliac is caught in the ice while attempting to pass the Mather. THis is the "Allouez Express," ships transiting the ice-choked Lake Superior.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: German raider Pinguin sinks 7266 ton British transport Clan Buchanan in the Arabian Sea east of Sri Lanka. The Pinguin takes on board the entire crew of the Clan Buchanan. Radio signals from the Clan Buchanan alert nearby Royal Navy forces, which set out in search of the raider.

Spy Stuff: Concluding what is widely viewed (at least in hindsight) as a fact-finding mission for the US military, Ernest Hemingway departs from China. His wife, Martha Gellhorn, continues on to Burma.

War Crimes: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a memo to Chief of Staff General Ismay in which he notes that "I see a statement that the Italians shot all the Free French prisoners they took at Tobruk." Churchill writes "you should consider the following proposal":
Hand over 1,000 Italian officers to the Free French in Central Africa as working capital, and announce that for every Free Frenchman shot by the Italians, two (or three (?)) Italian officers would be executed. The question is whether an announcement of this kind might not be advantageous.... On the whole, I think we should give the Italians to de Gaulle and let him say what he likes about it. This is a matter upon which I have reached no final conclusion.
Italians shooting war prisoners out of hand is a war crime (if true); the British turning over Italian prisoners to be shot by the Free French would be a similar war crime (if it were to happen). Churchill does note that the prime consideration weighing against this plan is the fact that "the Huns have 50,000 of our men in their hands" against whom reprisals could be taken.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Blenheim bomber wreckage
Remains of a Blenheim bomber (Mk IV F) of RAF No. 203 Squadron shot down near Crete by friendly fire on 28 April 1941. The plane went down less than 2 km off the coast near Rethymno, Crete. The crew survived (ww2wrecks.com). 

Anglo/US Relations: In a rare communication with his ambassador to the United States, Lord Halifax, Prime Minister Churchill orders that Halifax and his staff "not discourage the President from posing his questions direct to me." Churchill is eager to cultivate his "personal relations" with Roosevelt, which he notes are "of importance."

In line with an overall British strategy to de-emphasize the Pacific Theater, British Rear Admiral Victor H. Danckwerts respond to a request for advice from Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, the U.S. Navy’s Director of the War Plans Division. Turner had asked whether it would be efficient to transfer US Navy ships from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Danckwerts responds that "the consequential reduction in the strength of the United States Pacific Fleet would not unduly encourage Japan."

German Military: The army high command (OKH) issues a directive that regular army units are to provide assistance to special Schutzstaffel SS units during Operation Barbarossa. The army is to provide logistical support such as food and ammunition to SS units, which are subject to army orders but have unique missions for which they must operate independently. Just how far this cooperation extends remains a subject of debate, as German army veterans often minimize the extent of regular army participation in some of the Einsatzgruppen (special task forces) activities that involve crimes against humanity. The Waffen (fighting) SS units technically are subject to regular operational orders, but this relationship deteriorates with time and they tend to operate either completely independently or subject to their own whims (for instance, SS units tend to attack when they are good and ready, not at the time ordered). This murky relationship between the SS and the regular army chain of command remains a source of tension throughout World War II.

US Military: Admiral Hart in the Philippines establishes Task Force 5 (TF 5). This task force has responsibility for the Singapore area.

Charles Sweeney, the future pilot of the crew that drops the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, joins the US Army Air Corps.

Australian Military: The Royal Australian Navy employs a dozen Women's Emergency Signalling Corps women as telegraphists at Harman wireless station in Canberra. This apparently is the first employment of women in the Australian Navy.

German Government: Having spent the duration of Operation Marita in Austria "overseeing" operations from his command train "Amerika" (something that was completely unnecessary but part of his image building), Adolf Hitler returns to Berlin in triumph. Hitler meets with his ambassador to the Soviet Union, Count Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, at 17:15. Count Schulenburg - with Foreign Minister Ribbentrop's approval - submits a memorandum arguing against Operation Barbarossa. Schulenburg later recalls that Hitler was upset that Russia had supported the anti-German "putsch" in Yugoslavia and had begun mobilizing its army. Hitler brushes aside Schulenburg's observation that Stalin is desperate to avoid war and eager to supply grain and other raw materials to Germany; Hitler abruptly ends the interview after half an hour to have tea.

Among other things, this incident with Count Schulenburg illustrates that many of Hitler's top lieutenants, including Ribbentrop and Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, are opposed to Operation Barbarossa. As happens repeatedly throughout the Hitler regime, top figures in the Reich use surrogates to express their own views that are contrary to Hitler's. These surrogates tend to be intimidated by Hitler to one extent or another and press their case weakly.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Newsweek
Newsweek, 28 April 1941, cover showing an invasion patrol on Dover Cliffs.

British Government: In a War Cabinet Directive, Prime Minister Churchill forecasts that "Japan is unlikely to enter the war unless the Germans make a successful invasion of Great Britain." Accordingly, he directs (through the War Cabinet) that "There is no need at the present time to make any further disposition for the defence of Malaya and Singapore."

In a memo to General Ismay, Churchill writes that it "seems probably" that the next German moves will be:
  1. to attack Crete
  2. to attack Malta
  3. to advance through Spain toward Morocco to take Gibraltar.
He asks for plans to counter this expected German thrust toward Morocco.

Menzies, in his diary, questions Churchill's accuracy regarding Commonwealth casualties in Greece and observes that "W. [Churchill] is a great man, but he is more addicted to wishful thinking every day." He openly disputes Churchill in the War Cabinet, arguing that information being supplied to Australia and the United States is bad "propaganda." As usual, though, Menzies receives little support from Churchill's appointees.

Norwegian Homefront: The German authorities conduct a massive book-burning as part of a crackdown on "degenerate" literature.

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ann-Margret
Ann-Margret, born on 28 April 1941.

American Homefront: Charles Lindbergh, associated in the public mind as much for his America First speeches as for his famous aerial exploits, resigns his commission as a Colonel in the US Army Air Corps Reserve. Among others, President Roosevelt has questioned Lindbergh's loyalties given his strident efforts to keep the United States out of the European war, particularly a well-publicized speech that Lindbergh gave on 23 April 1941. In his resignation letter to President Roosevelt, Lindbergh takes exception to these "implications." Lindbergh still retains a vast reservoir of positive sentiment in the public, however, as many people, including some highly placed politicians, agree with Lindbergh that the United States should avoid ongoing conflicts.

During the evening, Lindbergh gives a speech at an America First rally in Chicago. The crowd boos mentions of Winston Churchill and cheers Lindbergh when he recites facts about England's "devastated cities."

Resolving a long-standing mineworkers strike, the White House announces that the Southern Coal Operators Wage Conference, a consortium of mine owners, "accept [the Roosevelt Administration's] proposal without equivocation." Roosevelt had proposed on 21 April that the mines be reopened pending continued negotiations over wages. This effectively ends the strike, though negotiations at some mines continue.

The United States Supreme Court issues two significant rulings today:
  • In a suit brought by the only African American in Congress, Representative Arthur W. Mitchell (D-Ill.), the court rules that minorities must be furnished comparable accommodations to those of whites for interstate travel. Mitchell brought the suit after he was forced from a Pullman coach to a "Jim Crow" day coach while travelling in Arkansas in 1937;
  • The Court upholds the Wagner Act, which prohibits anti-union discrimination in the hiring and firing of workers.
A Gallup poll is released that reinforces Lindbergh's isolationist position. The question is, "If you were asked to vote today on the question of the United States entering the war against Germany and Italy, how would you vote — to go into the war, or to stay out of the war?" The response of 81% of respondents is to stay out, with only a slight 7% decrease from a similar question asked in January. However, as always, the public is split on the issue. Another question posed is, "If it appeared certain that there was no other way to defeat Germany and Italy except for the United States to go to war against them, would you be in favor of the United States going to war?" The answer to this is 68% favoring entering the conflict and 24% saying no, with 8% having no opinion. To some extent, these polls reflect the embryonic state of the polling industry as much as public opinion, with the questions asked to some extent influencing the responses.

Future History: Ann-Margret Olsson is born in Valsjöbyn, Jämtland County, Sweden. She moves with her mother to the United States in November 1946, where they live just outside Chicago. During high school, Olsson joins a group known as the "Suttletones." She begins performing at Chicago nightclubs, and she eventually makes her way to Las Vegas and then Los Angeles. Back in Las Vegas, she drops her last name from her act and becomes known as Ann-Margret. George Burns discovers her, and by the early 1960s Ann-Margret is recording albums. She appears on television programs such as The Jack Benny Program in 1961, and all this leads to a successful screen test at 20th Century Fox, where she lands a standard seven-year contract. This begins a hugely successful film career with roles in such films as "Pocketful of Miracles," "State Fair," and "Bye Bye Birdie." A long association with Elvis Presley began during this time. Ann-Margret continues to act occasionally, and on 29 August 2010 won an Emmy for an appearance on "SVU."

28 April 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Representative Arthur Mitchell
Congressman Arthur Mitchell (D-Illinois), who won a case in the US Supreme Court on 28 April 1941 which held that African Americans are entitled to equal accommodations on interstate railroad trains.

April 1941


April 1, 1941: Rommel Takes Brega
April 2, 1941:Rommel Takes Agedabia
April 3, 1941: Convoy SC-26 Destruction
April 4, 1941: Rommel Takes Benghazi
April 5, 1941: Rommel Rolling
April 6, 1941: Operation Marita
April 7, 1941: Rommel Takes Derna
April 8, 1941: Yugoslavia Crumbling
April 9, 1941: Thessaloniki Falls
April 10, 1941: USS Niblack Attacks
April 11, 1941: Good Friday Raid
April 12, 1941: Belgrade and Bardia Fall
April 13, 1941: Soviet-Japanese Pact
April 14, 1941: King Peter Leaves
April 15, 1941: Flying Tigers
April 16, 1941: Battle of Platamon
April 17, 1941: Yugoslavia Gone
April 18, 1941: Me 262 First Flight
April 19, 1941: London Smashed
April 20, 1941: Hitler's Best Birthday
April 21, 1941: Greek Army Surrenders
April 22, 1941: Pancevo Massacre
April 23, 1941: CAM Ships
April 24, 1941: Battle of Thermopylae
April 25, 1941: Operation Demon
April 26, 1941: Operation Hannibal
April 27, 1941: Athens Falls
April 28, 1941: Hitler Firm about Barbarossa
April 29, 1941: Mainland Greece Falls
April 30, 1941: Rommel Attacks

2017