Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 6, 1941: Four Freedoms

Monday 6 January 1941

6 January 1941 Bardia Australian infantry assault
"Australian infantry advancing during the assault on Bardia, 6 January 1941." © IWM (E 1573).
Italian/Greek Campaign: Minor operations continue on 6 January 1941 in the Klisura Pass and elsewhere. Greek Commander-in-chief Papagos is preparing a renewed effort at Klisura in an effort to secure the vital Italian port of Valona (Vlorë) before anticipated German intervention, which is projected to begin any time on or following 15 January. The Italians are fighting hard at Klisura, using Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 tanks.

Both sides have large naval forces in action during the night. Greek destroyers shell Valona during the night. A group of Italian destroyers and torpedo boats from the 9th Destroyer Division shell Greek bases at Porto Palermo in Albania. Porto Palermo is a few kilometers south of Himarë, which the Greeks recently captured.

The Great Powers are becoming increasingly interested in Greece as perhaps their next proxy battlefield. Hitler's plans for Operation Marita are well known, and becoming known at this time outside of his own country (it is impossible to hide the Wehrmacht troop movements in Romania, and the cover story of it being related to "training" is wearing thin). British Prime Minister Winston Churchill today memos his military aide, General Ismay, stating:
We must so act as to make it certain that if the enemy enters Bulgaria, Turkey will come into the war.... It is quite clear to me that supporting Greece must have priority after the western flank of Egypt has been secured."
Hitler also remains preoccupied with Turkey and maintains close diplomatic relations with it - as do the British.

European Air Operations: Operations remain light. RAF Coastal Command attacks German convoys off Norway and the Dutch coast. The Luftwaffe sends a few raiders against London and Kent but stays on the ground after dark.

The inter-service rivalries in the Wehrmacht continue. Admiral Karl Dönitz has requested control over air units - specifically Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors - in order to aid U-boat operations in the Atlantic. He hopes that they will operate as the U-boats' "eyes" and spot ships and convoys that the U-boats - at surface level - cannot see.

Hitler approves this request today, shifting I,/KG 40 to the Kriegsmarine's control. However, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering controls all air units in the Reich (under Hitler, of course). Seeing this as an infringement on his own authority, Goering quickly objects to the transfer. As a sort of compensation, Hitler returns KGr 806 (Junkers Ju 88s) from Kriegsmarine control and gives them to Field Marshal Sperrle's Luftflotte 3 for attacks on England. For now, though, the Condors remain with the Kriegsmarine, and this marks the start of a permanent increase in cooperation between German air units and U-boats. However, KG 40 itself is in poor shape and proves to be of little value to Dönitz.

6 January 1941 Bardia Italian POWs
"A column of Italian prisoners captured during the assault on Bardia, Libya, march to a British army base on 6 January 1941." © IWM (E 1579)
Battle of the Atlantic: U-124 (Kapitänleutnant Georg-Wilhelm Schulz), on her third patrol operating out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5965-ton British freighter Empire Thunder (on her maiden voyage) northeast of Rockall/west of the Hebrides in the Western Approaches. There are nine deaths and 30 survivors. The Empire Thunder was a straggler from Convoy OB 269 because of engine issues, and convoys wait for no ship.

German Hilfskreuzer (Auxiliary Cruiser) Kormoran (Korvettenkapitän Theodore Detmers) sinks 3729 ton Greek collier Antonis in the mid-Atlantic. The 29 men (and 7 sheep) on board are taken as prisoners. This incident sends Royal Navy heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk and Devonshire searching fruitlessly for the Kormoran, which of course quickly departs the scene. This is another incidence where the exaggerated value of surface raiders is demonstrated, as the Royal Navy expends huge amounts of effort trying to track the Kormoran down, while the much more effective U-boats attract little attention except at the times of sinkings.

British 87 ton tug Lion hits a mine and sinks in the River Medway. Everyone on board perishes.

British 219 ton trawler Gadra hits a mine (laid by the British) off Myling Head, Faroe Islands. There are three survivors, 7 deaths.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Mashona collides with destroyer HMS Sikh while departing Scapa Flow on a convoy mission. The Mashona is taken to West Hartlepool for repairs. The Sikh also is damaged which puts it out of action for just short of two weeks.

Convoy FN 377 departs from Southend, Convoy HX 101 departs from Halifax, Convoy BHX 101 departs from Bermuda.

Royal Navy corvette HMS Dianella (T/Lt. James G. Rankin) is commissioned, while destroyers HMS Fitch and Forrest are laid down.

US battleship USS Missouri (BB 63) is laid down at the Brooklyn Navy Yard - quite a coincidence given President Roosevelt's speech today, in light of the events of 2 September 1945.

6 January 1941 Time Magazine Winston Churchill cover
Time Magazine, January 6, 1941. | Vol. XXXVII No. 1.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Australian forces continue mopping up at Bardia, with the Italian position now completely hopeless. However, there are still some holdouts in the northern sector of the fortress.

Already, British eyes are turning elsewhere. The British 7th Armoured Division, having bypassed Bardia, takes El Adem airfield and Belhamed to the south of Tobruk (General Enrico P. Manella) and essentially cuts its Italian troops off from land communications. The Italians have other large troop formations sitting idle in Libya, but, as with Bardia, they appear uninterested in what happens to Tobruk. A surprise assault on the 7th Armoured Division, for instance, in theory, could crush it against the fortress of Tobruk like a hammer striking an anvil, but the Italians further west do not stir.

With yet another major British objective - Bardia - now crossed off the list, Churchill begins thinking about which theater of operations presents the greater threat: Greece or North Africa. He cables his Middle East Commander, General Wavell, to hurry things along because there are other pressing priorities:
Time is short. I cannot believe Hitler will not intervene soon [in Greece and other Balkan states].
Given that Wavell has just won another resounding victory and perhaps expects some thanks or congratulations rather than another lesson in the obvious, this perhaps comes as a bit of a downer.

Churchill, however, does not stop there. He even implies that Wavell's army has become a haven for slackers, urging that Wavell do something "about purging rearward services" and shifting more of the rear echelon establishment into the front line. Churchill further elaborates by commenting that more forces should be shifted to Greece, including aircraft, artillery and "some or all of the tanks of the 2nd Armoured Division, now arrived and working up in leisurely fashion in Egypt." These are all implied criticisms of Wavell's leadership, extending disagreements and resentments between the two men that have been bubbling to the surface since the quick loss of British Somaliland in August 1940.

This is a familiar theme that leaders on both sides will take up from time to time, the length of the supply "tail." However, modern armies require large-scale logistical support, and cutting back on that can result in degradation of combat effectiveness by those who do carry rifles.

General Wavell, for his part, flies to Khartoum. He wishes to evict the Italians from Eritrea, and also reinstall British pawn Haile Selassie as ruler of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

Meanwhile, the Germans are doing more than subtly sniping at each other. Today, General Geisler begins operations with his Junkers Ju 87s of Fliegerkorps X from their new bases in Sicily. They attack Royal Navy units involved in Operation Excess.

As part of Operation Excess, a convoy mission to Malta, Group B of Operation MC 4 departs from Alexandria. Operation Excess is designed to reinforce Malta with additional troops, and ships are coming from both Alexandria and Gibraltar.

RAF planes drop propaganda leaflets on Italian positions in North Africa. The leaflets emphasize the moral superiority of British war aims and recent British successes in Egypt and Libya.

In southwest Libya, the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) is camped near Tazerbo and continues patrolling to learn as much as possible about its objective, regional center Murzuk and its airfield. The men hear today that Bardia, about 700 miles to the east, has fallen via special poles they construct to aid communications. This is no small force; there are 23 vehicles and 76 men. Included in the group are Coldstream Guards and New Zealanders. They are all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bagnold, with Major Pat Clayton leading the raid itself.

The Indian 11th Infantry Division transfers from Egypt to Sudan.

Battle of the Pacific: British 16810 ton transport Empress of Russia departs from Auckland, New Zealand with an escort of HMNZS Achilles. With known German raiders in the area following the shelling of Nauru in December, the Royal Navy is becoming much more security conscious about its assets in the Pacific.

6 January 1941 TBD-1 Devastators
US Navy TBD-1 Devastators, Torpedo Squadron 2, of USS Lexington (I think), 6 January 1941.
Applied Science: Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) test a prototype centimetric radar system on the roof of the university's Radiation Laboratory.

Anglo/US Relations: After quickly loading $148,342,212.55 (at 1941 prices) in British gold bars within about 24 hours, USS Louisville immediately departs from Simonstown, South Africa bound for New York. That is about $2 trillion in 21st Century value. This shipment, part of Operation Fish, will be used to pay for armaments and other items in the United States. In its path lies German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer (which today is replenishing its fuel stocks from tanker Nordmark), but the ocean is vast and the odds of the two ships encountering each other is remote. Even then, the USS Louisville is a heavy cruiser that can take care of itself.

If anything were to happen to this shipment, there could be cataclysmic consequences.

Irish/German Relations: The Irish government sends the Germans an official note of protest regarding recent air attacks on Dublin and the Irish coast to the south. The Luftwaffe bombed Ireland for three straight nights and killed several people. Many in Ireland and Great Britain do not think these bombings were accidental at all, but an intimidation tactic.

Soviet Military: The war games that began on 2 January conclude today. General Zhukov, in charge of the "Western" or "Blue" forces, has achieved a victory over Colonel-General D.G. Pavlov commanding the "Eastern" or "Red" forces. The precise outcome is somewhat murky, as the accounts of this exercise rely upon memoirs from those involved (some of whom did not survive the war). Another exercise is planned to begin on 8 January, with Zhukov commanding the "Red" side and General Kulik commanding the "Blue" side.

British Government: Winston Churchill sets the ultimate objective in North Africa as the capture of Benghazi. This he sees happening in March 1941, after which troops can be shifted to Greece and North Africa become basically a static front. He gives this appreciation both to General Wavell and to the Defence Committee for discussion.

6 January 1941 President Roosevelt Four Freedoms speech
President Roosevelt gives his 6 January 1941 "Four Freedoms" State of the Union address. Camera angles give the impression that he is standing, when in fact he is seated.
US Government: President Roosevelt gives his 1941 State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress. It quite possibly is the most consequential address of the 20th Century. This becomes known as the "Four Freedoms" speech, and Roosevelt enumerates the "Four Freedoms" as follows:
  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear
While the speech is a classic and the Four Freedoms have entered the lexicon, this is Roosevelt's second attempt at creating the list. On 5 July 1940, he gave a slightly different list at a press conference. Then, these "essential freedoms" were:
  1. Freedom of information
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom to express oneself
  4. Freedom from fear
  5. Freedom from want
Obviously, the initial five-point list was not quite catchy enough. Whatever difference lies between "freedom of information" and "freedom to express oneself" got boiled down to "freedom of speech," which is essentially the idea underlying both - but not quite with the same nuances. Reviewing the two lists is like watching a brilliant writer editing his own work to make only the most fundamental points.

The idea also has an antecedent from an unlikely source: the 1939 New York World's Fair (which only closed at the end of October 1940). The Fair's four freedoms were:
  1. Freedom of religion
  2. Freedom of speech
  3. Freedom of the press
  4. Freedom of assembly
Roosevelt's final Four Freedoms list is a fundamental recitation of concerns which sometimes echo, if not outright paraphrase, the US Constitution, but also extend the Constitution with Roosevelt's own New Deal agenda (not included in the "Four Freedoms" but also listed in the speech are such things as jobs, equality of opportunity, and civil liberties). In effect, Roosevelt is proposing that US Constitutional - and his own philosophical - priorities should be the template for the entire world. That is, whether the rest of the world agrees or not - but mass acceptance of these principles, or "freedoms," is assumed.

While Hitler is busy trying to craft a New World Order by dividing the world up into military spheres of influence, Roosevelt is doing the same thing in a philosophical fashion (in fact, he actually uses the phrase "new order" in reference to the Axis and proposes instead the term "moral order."

6 January 1941 Baltimore News-Post Headlines
The Baltimore News-Post, 6 January 1941.
One of the ironic aspects of Roosevelt's speech lies in how he describes "freedom of fear":
which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.
In fact, President Roosevelt will preside over the greatest arms buildup in the history of the world. That defense establishment essentially remains into the 21st Century, with US defense expenditures continuing to amount to more than that of all other nations put together. There was no "reduction of armaments" under President Roosevelt, and there was none after his tenure, either. It is easy to say that Roosevelt's arms buildup was necessary, as well as that of post-war US governments - but it takes a certain myopic or ethnocentric point of view to refuse to see your own arms buildup as not violating the "freedom from fear." Apparently, it is okay if the other guys feel fear as long as you and those who agree with you do not. I'm not trying to be political here, just pointing out some inescapable realities of how the world works and how high-minded principles can't square with them.

Nobody can really argue with Roosevelt's list; that would be like saying that you are in favor of repressing or mistreating people. In a sense, the Four Freedoms speech is the dawn of the age of political correctness, where any dissent makes you morally a "bad person," though that takes decades to gather steam.

The speech provides a moralistic framework for US intervention abroad which ultimately is not necessary during the Roosevelt years, but helps to frame World War II (from the US perspective) as "the Good War" (some would say the last good war). It also imbues a conscious moralism to US foreign policy which never leaves - moralism which is not always applied or justified in the same ways, particularly during US military interventions. However, this moralism does imbue US military adventurism with the aspect of a modern Crusade (in fact, General Eisenhower's memoir is entitled "Crusade in Europe," so some at the time saw this, too). Some key US allies never follow these Four Freedoms (notably the USSR), so everything is relative in the context of the Four Freedoms. Again, those inescapable realities again.

The Four Freedoms will remain a catchphrase to which Roosevelt will return time and again and will inform the creation of the United Nations, perhaps his most lasting legacy.

Also included in the speech, almost casually and with almost no elaboration, is another tremendous topic with immediate ramifications: Lend Lease. While once again he does not use this term, President Roosevelt does everything but say the words. After noting in the abstract that Great Britain is about to run out of money - with an actual shipment of British gold leaving for the United States on this very day - Roosevelt says:
I do not recommend that we make them a loan of dollars with which to pay for these weapons -- a loan to be repaid in dollars. I recommend that we make it possible for those nations to continue to obtain war materials in the United States, fitting their orders into our own program. And nearly all of their material would, if the time ever came, be useful in our own defense.
In this way, in a single paragraph, Roosevelt announces a new policy that essentially turns Great Britain into a client state, a very willing mercenary army for the United States. Roosevelt makes this even plainer in the following paragraph when he reassures his listeners that "we are free to decide how much should be kept here and how much should be sent abroad to our friends." Not only does Roosevelt decide what goes where, but the British will wind up paying for the privilege of accepting these American handouts. It is an artful way of ramping up the munitions industries without actually going to war or, really, having any legal pretext at all (though that will soon follow).

East Indians: Local Dutch authorities arrest Nationalist leaders.

China: The Nationalist Chinese 3rd War Area attacks the retreating Communist New 4th Army near Maolin on the Yangtze.

The Nationalist (Kuomintang) government purchases 100 H81A-2 Curtiss Tomahawks (P-40Bs). These are intended for use by the American Volunteer Group (AVG), which Claire Chennault is still forming. Their armament is 2 x 0.5 in. and 4 x 0.3 in. machine guns, which is fairly substantial for this period of time, though 20 mm cannon would be better.

American Homefront: Unknown young actor Richard Widmark makes his radio debut on the CBS drama "The Home of the Brave."

January 1941

January 1, 1941: Muselier Arrested
January 2, 1941: Camp Categories
January 3, 1941: Liberty Ships
January 4, 1941: Aussies Take Bardia
January 5, 1941: Amy Johnson Perishes
January 6, 1941: Four Freedoms
January 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Plans
January 8, 1941: Billions For Defense
January 9, 1941: Lancasters
January 10, 1941: Malta Convoy Devastation
January 11, 1941: Murzuk Raid
January 12, 1941: Operation Rhubarb
January 13, 1941: Plymouth Blitzed
January 14, 1941: V for Victory
January 15, 1941: Haile Selassie Returns
January 16, 1941: Illustrious Blitz
January 17, 1941: Koh Chang Battle
January 18, 1941: Luftwaffe Pounds Malta
January 19, 1941: East African Campaign Begins
January 20, 1941: Roosevelt 3rd Term
January 21, 1941: Attack on Tobruk
January 22, 1941: Tobruk Falls
January 23, 1941: Pogrom in Bucharest
January 24, 1941: Tank Battle in Libya
January 25, 1941: Panjiayu Tragedy
January 26, 1941: Churchill Working Hard
January 27, 1941: Grew's Warning
January 28, 1941: Ho Chi Minh Returns
January 29, 1941: US Military Parley With Great Britain
January 30, 1941: Derna Taken
January 31, 1941: LRDG Battered


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