Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin


Friday 28 February 1941

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Empire Air Training Scheme Sergeants
"Canadian sergeant aircrew, trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme, arriving at Gourock in Scotland for service with the RAF, 28 February 1941." © IWM (G. Woodbine, CH 2174).

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greek Epirus Army launches some minor attacks on 28 February 1941 against the Italian 11th Army west of Klisura. They accomplish little in the terrible weather.

While the front has become static recently, there are vicious artillery duels and air battles. The RAF shoots down four planes today (according to Italian records), including three CR 42 fighters (the RAF pilots claim 27 planes shot down). According to the RAF records, this is its most successful day during the Greek campaign - but, according to the Italian records, it is not nearly as successful as the British think. These are the kinds of contradictions historians must deal with.

The British War Cabinet picks General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson from the Middle East Command to lead the expedition destined for Greece.


28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Gloster Gladiator
Gloster Gladiator Mk. II,  RT- Z,  N5829, of RAF No. 112 Squadron, Himare, Greece, 28 February 1941. Pilot Officer William "Cherry" Vale, of 80 Sqdn., claimed an Italian G50 and a S.79 in this plane on this date.

East African Campaign: The RAF sends Blenheim and Wellesley bombers against Asmara in Eritrea.

The British remain blocked at Keren in Abyssinia. However, British forces are expanding on each flank. Attacks are in progress by Briggsforce (primarily 7th Indian Brigade under Brigadier Briggs) at Mescelit Pass about 24 km northeast of Keren. The attacks are carried out in the evening by 4/16 Punjab and two companies of 1st Royal Sussex. The attack is both a frontal and flank attack.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends another 23 Hampden bombers (based at RAF Waddington) to bomb German battleship Tirpitz at Wilhelmshaven. The weather is poor, with low clouds. Only four of the bombers even spot the target. As usual, the Tirpitz emerges unscathed. It is the 16th raid so far against the Tirpitz, with absolutely no success and many British bomber losses. THe RAF also launches other attacks against facilities at several Channel ports (Lorient, Boulogne, Emden).

The Luftwaffe is fairly quiet both during the day and after dark. There is a small raid against London during the night.

While the Battle of Britain technically is over, the Blitz continues. During February 1941 in Great Britain, there are 78 dead and 1068 badly wounded civilians. So far in 1941, through the end of February, there have been 2298 killed and 3080 wounded.

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com hMS Jaguar
HMS Jaguar in action.

Battle of the Atlantic: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (and former First Lord of the Admiralty) writes a note to President Roosevelt's envoy Harry Hopkins thanking him for some weapons and ammunition that have arrived thanks to Hopkins' intercession. In the message, Churchill writes that he is:
increasingly anxious about high rate of shipping losses in North-Western Approaches and shrinkage in tonnage entering Britain. This has darkened since I last saw you.... The strain is growing here.
Churchill apparently is referencing the recent devastations of Convoys OB 29 and OB 290. Convoy losses indeed are up this month (see below).

Churchill evidences his concern with a separate memo to First Lord Admiral Pound and Minister of Transport A.V. Alexander. Referencing a specific ship, the City of Calcutta, Churchill writes:
This ship must on no account be sent to the East coast. It contains 1,700 machine guns, 44 aeroplane engines, and no fewer than 14,100,000 cartridges. These cartridges are absolutely vital to the defence of Great Britain.... That it should be proposed to send such a ship round to the East coast with all the additional risk,  is abominable.
Previously, Churchill has chided the Admiralty for not taking more care of specific ships with valuable cargo. This memo shows that he continues to keep a very close eye on important shipments.

German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst are east of of the Azores. They complete their refueling from tankers Ermland and Friedrich Breme at 07:00. Their objective is to interdict the convoy route between Freetown and Great Britain. Next objective is the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands.

British 10,000 ton liner Anchises, badly damaged during Luftwaffe air attacks by I,/KG 40 Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors on the 27th, begins taking on too much water at around 11:30. This causes the 33 crew still aboard to abandon ship. Corvette HMS Kingcup comes over to take them aboard, and one of the lifeboats is sucked under the Kingcup, killing a dozen crew. The Anchises remains afloat until the afternoon, when the Condors return and send the ship under.

U-47 (Kptlt. Günther Prien) surfaces and uses its deck gun to sink 4233 ton British freighter Holmelea in the Northwest Approaches. There are 28 deaths, while 11 crew survive. This is an especially interesting sinking because Kptlt. Otto Kretschmer originally attacked the Holmelea, but did not succeed. Captain John Robert Potts, however, was not fortunate enough to survive attacks by two of the most dreaded U-boat captains. He perishes with most of his crew.

U-108 (K.Kapt. Klaus Scholtz), on its first patrol out of Wilhelmshaven, gets its second victim. It torpedoes and sinks 6461 ton British freighter Effna. This is another ship of many around this period of time in which all of the crew perish.

Italian submarine Michele Bianchi torpedoes and sinks 6803 ton British freighter Baltistan from Convoy OB 290 in the Atlantic south of Iceland. There are 51 deaths and 18 survivors. Different sources place this sinking on different days around this date.

British 534 ton freighter Cabenda hits a mine and sinks in the Bristol Channel west of Cardiff. This has been an area of multiple sinkings already in 1941. There is one death.

In a special tragedy among many others, 2085 ton Egyptian freighter Memphis founders in heavy weather northwest of Ireland. Everybody on board perishes, another such ship during these cold winter months (it is not the Germans who kill all of these people, except indirectly; it is the climate and weather). The deaths include 28 crew pulled out of the water after the recent sinking of the 7034 ton Benjamin Franklin.

German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors finish off damaged 3197 ton Swedish freighter Rydboholm. The Rydboholm is one of the last Convoy OB 290 victims.

Drifter New Comet, originally damaged by a mine and beached at the mouth of the Tyne on 23 November 1940, was refloated but today finally sinks.

Finnish cargo ship Bore VIII (now in German service) founders and is lost bad weather in the Hubertgat.

Belgian 5382 ton freighter/passenger ship Persier is driven ashore on the Icelandic coast after losing a hatch and its steering and electrical systems in a bad storm. Aground east of Vik in Myrdalur, she survives and is refloated in April. Persier ultimately is repaired and returned to service.

Convoy OB 292 departs from Liverpool, Convoy SC 24 departs from Halifax.

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Mackenzie King
Mackenzie King (with Ottawa Mayor Lewis and contractor John Wilson) uses a silver trowel to lay the cornerstone of the Lord Elgin Hotel on 27 February 1941 (Photo in the Ottawa Journal, 28 February 1941). King kept the trowel to put on display. Incidentally, there is a time capsule ("hermetically sealed") in that cornerstone. The hotel will open in July 1941, will be refurbished in the 2000s, and remains operational.

Several Royal Navy ships are commissioned today:

  • Destroyers HMS Eridge (Lt. Commander William F. N. Gregory-Smith), Whaddon (Lt. Commander Peter G. Merriman) and Liddesdale, 
  • corvette Marigold (Lt. William S. MacDonald) 
  • minesweeper HMAS Gouldburn (Lt. Basil Paul)  
  • destroyer depot ship HMS Tyne (Captain George A. Scott). 

Destroyer HMS Brissenden and corvette HMS Woodruff are launched, corvette HMCS Kitchener laid down at Sorel, Province of Quebec.

U-129 is launched.

Rear Admiral L.H.K. Hamilton becomes the new Rear Admiral Destroyers, Home Fleet. He will place his flag on depot ship HMS Tyne.

Allied shipping losses remained at a high level during February 1941. The losses totaled:

  • 95 ships of 368,759 tons in the Atlantic
  • 34,634 tons in other areas (Mediterranean, Indian Ocean)

In the Atlantic, the Allies lose:

  • 196,783 tons of shipping to U-boats
  • 89,305 tons to aircraft
  • 89,096 tons to surface raider
  • 16,507 tons to mines

The U-boat sinkings jump over 50% from January's 126,782 tons, while those sunk by the Luftwaffe and by surface raider also both rise a more modest 10+%. The bulk of the increase of U-boat sinkings is from two convoys late in the month, OB 289 and OB 290.

The U-boat fleet remained intact, with no losses. There are 22 U-boats available in the Atlantic, plus many Italian submarines (1 lost during February).

Shipping losses are of extreme importance to Churchill, and he analyzes them closely. He notes in another memo to Pound and Alexander today that the risk of loss during inward voyages in the Northwest Approaches is over double those of outward voyages (a ratio of 5:2). He also notes that there appears to be no difference in losses between those in convoy and faster ships operating independently. He questions a proposal to lower the speed limit of the independents, presumably to save fuel.

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Camp Polk
Railroad turnout to Camp Polk, Louisiana on 28 February 1941 (National WWII Museum).

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Free French forces have been besieging the Italian fortress of El Tag at Kufra Oasis for ten days. No relief has been forthcoming from the large Italian forces further north. Today, the Italians begin surrender negotiations.

The last British commandos surrender on Kastelorizo. This ends Operation Abstention, which has turned into a fiasco. A total of 40 commandos are taken prisoner. Destroyer HMS Jaguar and the other Royal Navy ships retreat to their bases, having suffered a stunning defeat in what was considered an easy operation in the Aegean. Churchill later comments, "I am completely mystified at this operation." The ultimate cause of defeat is the British tendency to underestimate Italian military ability. This is also going to become an issue in North Africa.

Another ship hits a mine in the Suez Canal, but quick thinking mitigates the effect. The skipper of motor anti-submarine boat MA/SB 3 manages to beach his ship to prevent closure of the canal. There are no casualties. The ship will be refloated and repaired.

After many days of raids, Malta has a quiet day. The damage from the Luftwaffe attacks after dark on the 27th, however, is extensive. Particularly devastating has been damage from parachute mines. Almost all of the planes at RAF Hal Far airfield are destroyed or out of operation, leaving no effective air defense for the island.

Spy Stuff: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin has been receiving isolated warnings about a coming German invasion of the Soviet Union. He has discounted all of them, including one at the end of 1940 by Richard Sorge (code name Ramsay) in Japan. Today, he receives another warning.

This warning is from Soviet agent Rudolf von Scheliha (code name Ariets). Von Scheliha is a German diplomat who became radicalized by the horrors he witnessed while serving with the German Embassy in Warsaw. He is a leading member of the "Red Orchestra," a group of highly placed German dissidents who funnel military information to the Soviets via Switzerland.

Von Scheliha/Ariets warns about an upcoming invasion. He even supplies a firm date for the invasion, 20 May 1941, which is only a month off (this actually is around the 15 May 1941 date that Hitler has ordained at this time, though it later will be postponed). Stalin ignores this warning, too, viewing it as "English provocation." This is all reviewed in depth in various scholarly books, particularly (all 2005) David E. Murphy, "What Stalin Knew" (Yale University Press); Constantine Pleshakov, "Stalin's Folly" (Houghton Mifflin Company); and Robert Service, "Stalin: A Biography" (The Belknap Press/Harvard University Press).

German/Bulgarian Relations: During the night, Wehrmacht troops of the 12th Army under the command of Wilhelm List take up positions in Bulgaria.

German/Japanese Relations: Japanese Ambassador Oshima meets with Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden.

German Military: General Erich von Manstein moves from XXXVIII Armeekorps to take command of LVI Armeekorps after this date (some sources place this transfer on other dates, such as 27 February 1941 and 15 March 1941).

US Government: The US Army Air Corps (USAAC) impounds ten NA-69 light attack aircraft ordered by Thailand. These will be redesignated A-27 (serials 41-18890/18899) and be assigned as trainers to the 24th Pursuit Group at Nichols Field in the Philippines.

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIII.

Spanish Government: Former King Alfonso XIII passes away in Rome at age 54 barely a month after renouncing his rights to the defunct Spanish throne. This leaves his son Juan as the heir apparent and also theoretically heir to the thrones of France and Navarre.

US Government: The US government ships the last gold reserves from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky. Fort Knox is the center of US armored forces and home to the 1st Armored Division.

Iraq: Rashid Ali confers with the Grand Mufti and four colonels (known as the "Golden Square"). They discuss a coup against the pro-British government. Rashid Ali and the Grand Mufti are pro-Axis. The British have a large base at Habbaniyah, but are vulnerable in other parts of the country.

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Li'L Abner by Al Capp
Li'l Abner,  Al Capp (this is personally signed), featuring Moonbeam and Moonshine McSwine, published 28 February 1941.

Indochina: The Vichy French cabinet accepts Japan's proposed settlement of the border war between French Indochina and Thailand. The Thais get all  of their territorial aims, including all land west of the Mekong River and part of northwest Cambodia. There is no question that Japan has favored Thailand in the settlement.

Vichy French Homefront: The government reduces the bread ration from 12 to 10 ounces (350g to 280 grams). By comparison, residents of Jewish Ghettos often are allocated 3 grams.

British Homefront: Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, visiting London, gives his unique view into the conditions in London during the Blitz. He writes:
New Black-out features keep directing attention to themselves. There are plays and revues and films running, but the performances are confined to the day. You cannot take a stroll either before or after dinner, because the black-out renders it utterly impossible if there is the least cloud (as there has been since I arrived). At each doorway you see a little bag of sand for the proper treatment of incendiary bombs.
He also notes a certain fatalism in London residents, along the lines of "I stay in bed. If the bomb's meant for me it'll hit me; if it isn't, OK." Menzies admits to feeling the same way, though he is secure on a lower floor of the well-built Savoy.

28 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Greek Evzones Sydney Australia
Greek Evzones (soldiers) participating in the Greek Day parade in Sydney, Australia, 28 May 1941 (State Library of Victoria [an016346]).

February 1941


February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization
February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen
February 3, 1941: World Will Hold Its Breath
February 4, 1941: USO Forms
February 5, 1941: Hitler Thanks Irish Woman
February 6, 1941: Operation Sunflower
February 7, 1941: Fox Killed in the Open
February 8, 1941: Lend Lease Passes House
February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools
February 10, 1941: Operation Colossus
February 11, 1941: Afrika Korps
February 12, 1941: Rommel in Africa
February 13, 1941: Operation Composition
February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington
February 15, 1941: Churchill's Warning
February 16, 1941: Operation Adolphus
February 17, 1941: Invade Ireland?
February 18, 1941: Panzerwaffe Upgrade
February 19, 1941: Three Nights Blitz
February 20, 1941: Prien's Farewell
February 21, 1941: Swansea Blitz Ends
February 22, 1941: Amsterdam Pogrom
February 23, 1941: OB-288 Convoy Destruction
February 24, 1941: Okuda Spies
February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken
February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction
February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention
February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin

2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention


Thursday 27 February 1941

27 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Noose for Hitler
A noose on a gibbet is "Reserved for Hitler." London, 27 February 1941.

Italian/Greek Campaign: The front is quiet on 27 February 1941 aside from some artillery duels.

East African Campaign: The South African troops in Mogadishu become increasingly apprehensive about sanitary conditions. They discover unburied bodies, shallow graves, and other issues. However, they have to occupy the city, so strict sanitation and health practices are mandated.

Gazelle Force is disbanded, having achieved its mission of harassing the Italians north of Kassala. It is replaced by a new force named Kestrel under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel P. S. Myburgh DSO, MC, 25 Field Regiment.

At Mersa Taklai, Eritrea, the 14th Battalion of the Free French Foreign Legion arrives by boats to supplement the Indian 7th Infantry Brigade.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 30 Wellington bombers of Nos. 40, 115, 214 and 214 Squadrons against the newly commissioned German battleship Tirpitz, still at Wilhelmshaven. While 26 aircraft manage to press home their attacks through strong anti-aircraft fire and claim success, the attack causes little or no damage to the ship. The official report blames the poor weather on the failure, which is but one of many RAF failures against the battleship.

The Luftwaffe sends some planes over the English east coast, which drop some bombs and cause some damage. The Germans stay on the ground after dark.

27 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com SS Empire Tiger
SS Empire Tiger, which vanishes without a trace on 27 February 1941.

Battle of the Atlantic: Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, visiting London and meeting with all the government ministers, notes a simple but unassailable fact in his diary:
Another convoy beaten up. The shipping strain is enormous, and represents our only real chance of defeat.
It's unclear which particular convoy Menzies is talking about, because two separate convoys have been "beaten up" within the past week: OB 289 and OB 290. He notes that this will have a direct effect on his country, as "Australia's export trade is going to suffer" due to the shipping losses.

Norwegian tanker Sandefjord, captured by German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer on 18 January 1941, arrives in France. It carries 11,000 tons of crude oil. It will be renamed Monsun for German service.

German cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau refuel from tankers Ermland and Friedrich Breme in the mid-Atlantic west of the Azores. The tankers take the 180 POWs taken in the action of 22 February.

U-47 (Kptlt. Günther Prien) torpedoes and sinks 4233 ton British freighter Holmlea west of Ireland. There are 2 deaths and 11 survivors. Some accounts place this attack on the 26th or 28th.

Some sources place Italian submarine Michele Bianchi's sinking of British freighter Baltistan today, others on the 26th or 28th. There are 18 survivors and 51 deaths.

The Luftwaffe attacks 1562 ton British freighter Old Charlton off Harwich. There is one death, freighter Catherine Hawksfield rescues the crew.

The Luftwaffe attacks 1109 ton British freighter Blacktoft, disabling it. Taken in tow, the Blacktoft reaches Harwich.

The Luftwaffe damages 1556 ton British freighter Newlands at the Barrow Deep. Fortunately for the freighter, a German bomb that falls on it turns out to be a dud.

The Luftwaffe bombs 10,000 British transport Anchises west of Bloody Foreland. The Anchises is disabled but remains afloat as the day ends.

A Luftwaffe aerial mine hits British 5085 ton freighter Cape Clear west of Liverpool. The blast damages the engines, but the Cape Clear eventually makes it back to Liverpool.

Royal Navy 266 ton minesweeping trawler HMT Remillo hits a mine and sinks in the Humber. There are 17 deaths, including skipper H.H. Jarvis.

British 203 ton trawler Christabelle hits a British mine just southeast of the Faroe Islands and sinks. There are ten deaths.

German 1371 ton freighter Adele Ohlrogge hits a mine and sinks in the Jade Bight.

The weather is rough, and shipping suffers as a result. French destroyer Mistral collides with British oiler Black Ranger, slightly damaging it. Separately, destroyer HMS Chesterfield also is involved in a collision with submarine H 32, but the damage is inconsequential.

British 1020 ton freighter Stanwold founders about 10 miles west of Selsey, Chichester near the Isle of Wight. The cause is unknown.

British 438 ton freighter Noss Head sinks near Gardenstown, Eastern Scotland. Cause of sinking is unknown.

British 4886 ton pig iron freighter Empire Tiger is last seen today in the Atlantic. The ship is never seen or heard from again. It is a complete mystery what happened to it. There are 34 men on board, they are listed on Tower Hill Memorial. The location of the sinking is unknown, speculation is that it sank about 30 miles south of Iceland.

Norwegian 181 ton auxiliary schooner M/S Stjørnfjord, built in 1878, runs aground and is wrecked at Madsøgalten, Leka, Norway.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Taku breaks down in the Atlantic and has to be assisted back to Londonderry by tug Salvonia.

Italian submarine Bianchi attacks 7603 ton British freighter Empire Ability in Convoy 290 south of Iceland, but misses.

Convoys OB 291 and OB 292 depart from Liverpool,

U-559 (Oberleutnant zur See Hans Heidtmann) is commissioned, U-603 and U-604 are laid down.

27 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com SS Starwold
SS Starwold, another ship which sinks mysteriously, 27 February 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Abstention on Kastelorizo turns from bad to worse for the British, who landed troops successfully on the 26th but then saw them chased out of the main port by newly landed Italian soldiers. The weather is poor, and both sides suspend any landing operations after dark on the 26th. The Italians, however, have more troops on the way from their bases in the Aegean. This leaves the Italian troops already on shore, equipped with 99 mm artillery, free to harass the defenseless British commandos who now are back at their embarkation point.

The Italian destroyers carrying fresh troops arrive from Leros in the early morning hours of the 27th, and two MAS motor-launches ferry these troops from destroyers Crispi and Sella to reinforce the Italian troops already on the island. Faced with overwhelming force, the commandos are forced to flee from their position, and the British who arrive later to try to evacuate them find nothing but a few stragglers and a dead body. At 03:00, the Royal Navy ships finally locate the commandos in the east side of Kastelorizo and evacuates them. However, not all of the commandos can escape; the Italians take a number of them prisoner.

Offshore, HMS Hereward spots the Italian naval force, but, instead of attacking immediately, looks for fellow destroyer HMS Decoy. It does not find the Italian ships again, which proceed with their operations unmolested. Italian destroyer Crispi attacks patrolling destroyer HMS Jaguar, inflicting some damage, then escapes.

After evacuating the commandos, the British retreat to Alexandria. This leaves the Italians in possession of the valuable island and marks a rare victory for the Italian military. Admiral Cunningham later opines that Operation Abstention was "a rotten business and reflected little credit to everyone." As usual, there are some claims that the operation served as a good "learning experience," but the evidence for this is scant. The Admiralty is not amused by the whole affair and court-martials the captain of HMS Hereward for lack of initiative in engaging the Italian destroyers when he first sighted them (found guilty).

Operation Abstention is another failed British commando mission, in company with the assault on an Italian aqueduct in southern Italy earlier in the month and several other rough operations. While many fondly remember the successful commando exploits from later in the war, remembering these early difficult operations provides a more balanced picture.

At Malta, the Luftwaffe drops mines across Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto. Four of the mines drop on land. The British close the harbor while the Royal Navy isolates the mines. There are several air raids during the day.

The Free French continue bombarding the Italians holed up in El Tag fortress at the Kufra Oasis in southwestern Libya. The Italians are taking a lot of damage and do not have any artillery to match that of the French.

Convoy ANF 16 departs from Port Said bound for Piraeus.

27 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Italian raider Ramb I burning
Italian raider Ramb I burning and on its way down, 27 February 1941.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Italian 3667 ton raider Ramb I, a pre-war fast banana boat converted into an armed auxiliary cruiser, was based at the Eritrean port of Massawa until the British invasion earlier in February. Having successfully escaped from Massawa, Ramb I has made it to the area of the Maldive Islands. Today, Royal New Zealand Navy light cruiser HMNZS Leander spots and challenges her. Not receiving satisfactory responses, Leander's commander orders the ship to stop, at which point the Ramb I raises its real flag and opens fire. The Italians miss, but when Leander returns fire, it doesn't. With Ramb I a burning wreck, its captain lowers the colors and orders the crew to abandon ship. Shortly after most of them take to the boats, Ramb I blows up. Ultimately, 113 men survive, including the Captain, and they all become prisoners of war (save one who later perishes) in Colombo, Ceylon.

Spy Stuff: Japanese Acting Consulate General Ojiro Okuda sends another detailed spy transmission to Tokyo:
Apparently the Fleet goes to sea for a week of training and stays in Pearl Harbor one week. Every Wednesday, those at sea and those in the harbor change places. This movement was noted on last Wednesday, the 26th.
Okuda also, as usual, provides a detailed summary of the ships in port, noting that the USS Yorktown is absent.

Spanish/Italian Relations: With Spanish leader Francisco Franco having refused to side with the Axis per his letter to Adolf Hitler dated 26 February 1941, the reaction from the Axis is swift. The Axis leaders, with some justification, feel that Franco owes his position to their assistance during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. They take Franco's refusal as an abrogation of an implicit bargain: we help you, you help us. Accordingly, Italian Duce Benito Mussolini has his ambassador deliver to Spain a bill for sums expended by Italy to support Franco during that earlier war: 7.5 billion Lire.

27 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ginger Rogers Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart and Ginger Rogers show off their Oscars, 27 February 1941.

Anglo/Turkish Relations: Discussions conclude today between the British (Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and CIGS John Dill) and the Turks (Turkish Prime Minister Dr Saydam, and Mr. Sarajoglu, the Foreign Minister). While no real agreement on anything of consequence is reached, the official communique makes the best of it, stating "deep gratification at the tenor of the conversations" - whatever that means. Unofficial statements by Ankara Radio take a more pro-British stance, but nothing sufficient to suggest a swing in Turkish support toward the Allies.

German/Japanese Relations: Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yōsuke Matsuoka arrives in Berlin, the first stop in his tour of Axis capitals.

Dutch Homefront: The SS and local Dutch police take extreme measures, shooting protesters and taking others captive, to suppress the General Strike. By today, it basically is over, and Martial Law is in effect. This is the only direct action by civilians in Europe against the Holocaust.

American Homefront: The 1940 (13th) Academy Awards are held at the Biltmore Hotel. The format changes dramatically to inject more suspense into the proceedings; instead of the previous practice of releasing the names of the winners beforehand, now the identities of the winners are kept secret until the actual award. This change leads to the use of "May I have the envelope, please?" for each award. This is done because, before the previous ceremony, the LA Times published the names of the winners before the ceremony.

In terms of awards, David O. Selznick produces the Best Picture winner for the second consecutive year. Having won for "Gone With The Wind" previously, this year he wins for "Rebecca." However,  "Rebecca" wins only one other award, for Best Cinematography (Black and White), making it the least successful Best Picture winner from 1940 onward. Walt Disney's "Pinocchio" makes history by winning competitive Oscars for Best Song and Best Score, while "The Thief of Baghdad" wins three Academy Awards, the most of the night.

James Stewart wins for Best Actor for "The Philadelphia Story," Ginger Rogers wins Best Actress for "Kitty Foyle," John Ford is named the Best Director, Walter Brennan wins his third Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for "The Westerner," and Jane Darwell wins Best Supporting Actress for "The Grapes of Wrath." Henry Fonda does not win Best Actor for "The Grapes of Wrath," but his performance endures and is often reckoned the best of his legendary career.

27 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Jimmy Stewart Academy Awards
Jimmy Stewart with his Oscar for "The Philadelphia Story," 27 February 1941.

February 1941


February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization
February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen
February 3, 1941: World Will Hold Its Breath
February 4, 1941: USO Forms
February 5, 1941: Hitler Thanks Irish Woman
February 6, 1941: Operation Sunflower
February 7, 1941: Fox Killed in the Open
February 8, 1941: Lend Lease Passes House
February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools
February 10, 1941: Operation Colossus
February 11, 1941: Afrika Korps
February 12, 1941: Rommel in Africa
February 13, 1941: Operation Composition
February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington
February 15, 1941: Churchill's Warning
February 16, 1941: Operation Adolphus
February 17, 1941: Invade Ireland?
February 18, 1941: Panzerwaffe Upgrade
February 19, 1941: Three Nights Blitz
February 20, 1941: Prien's Farewell
February 21, 1941: Swansea Blitz Ends
February 22, 1941: Amsterdam Pogrom
February 23, 1941: OB-288 Convoy Destruction
February 24, 1941: Okuda Spies
February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken
February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction
February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention
February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin

2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction


Wednesday 26 February 1941

26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Hawker Hurricane
A No. 3 Squadron Hawker Hurricane. It is in a roofless hanger at Benina. Shown, from left to right, are Sergeant M. Quinton of Windsor, Corporal R. Stephen of Sydney, Corporal H. Thomas of Sydney, and Aircraftman I W.H. Heiler of Sydney. Note the wing of a downed Italian plane in the background (Photo by Frank Hurley, AWM 006487). 

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Albanian front is quiet on 26 February 1941. Both sides are under pressure to make advances, the Italians to salvage some national pride after a terrible winter of military reverses, the Greeks to expel the Italians to free up forces to defend against an anticipated German invasion.

East African Campaign: The 11th African Division occupies Mogadishu in force today, with the 7th Field Brigade taking up billets in the Motor Transport Park. The troops find a city in crisis, full of shallow graves, unburied corpses and general unsanitary conditions. The 12th African Division, meanwhile, continues moving up the Juba River and gradually reduces remaining Italian columns. They Take the road junction at Tassin and take up positions at Modun and Brava. The British advance is hampered more by lack of adequate water and fuel supplies than anything the fleeing Italians are doing.

26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Hawker Focke-Wulf Fw-200 Condor Bordeaux
Focke Wulf Fw 200C Condor of 1.KG40-(F8+GH), Bordeaux, France, 1941.

European Air Operations: The RAF conducts a Circus operation over Calais. There are a dozen Blenheim bombers with a heavy fighter escort. The dogfights swing back and forth on both sides of the Channel. After dark, RAF Bomber Command attacks 126 bombers against Cologne.

Luftwaffe activity during the day is light, with a few scattered bombs dropped in Kent and East Anglia. At night, the German attacks largely focus on towns in Wales, primarily Cardiff. The damage at Cardiff is fairly heavy, concentrated on the docks, St. Martin's Church, and parts of Violet Street. The railway lines nearby are not damaged. There are several deaths and two fireman fighting fires at the docks are injured.

The RAF is swapping out front-line units to give them a rest and refit. Today, RAF No. 65 flies north and trades its new Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIs for older Mk IAs at Kirton. The planes go to RAF No. 616 Squadron, which takes No. 65's place on the front lines at RAF Tangmere.

Werner Mölders, Kommodore of JG 51, continuing his recent roll of victories after a long vacation, claims No. 60 today during the operations over Calais. Fellow ace (experten) Hans-Karl Keitel (8 victories) perishes in the action.

26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Swedish freighter Goteborg
Swedish freighter Göteborg, lost today with all hands (Photo courtesy of Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm).

Battle of the Atlantic: The Germans have become active against the convoys again, and their efforts are producing results. Recently, OB-289 was devastated by U-boat attacks. While U-boats gain the fame, the Luftwaffe also contributes greatly to the blockade effort at this point in the war, as they prove today.

Convoy OB 290 is heading west and is south of Iceland when the Germans attack. The convoy disperses after the first U-boat attacks, but that does not help its ships.

U-47 (Kptlt. Günther Prien) starts the ball rolling at 01:37. Prien goes to work as only he can:

  • 5254 ton Belgian freighter Kasongo (sunk, 6 deaths)
  • 3636 ton Norwegian freighter Borgland (sunk, all survive)
  • 3197 ton Swedish freighter Rydboholm (sunk, 28 survivors)
  • 8106 ton British freighter Diala (1 dead, damaged, makes port).

The Rydboholm is left a flaming wreck, abandoned by its crew. The derelict eventually is sent to the bottom by the Luftwaffe. In all, Prien's U-47 helps to sink three ships of 12,087 tons.

Prien calls for help (he is a master at stage-managing convoy destructions). Help indeed is available, both from other U-boats (U-73, U-97, Italian submarines Michele Bianchi and Barbarigo) and the Luftwaffe.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors of I,/KG 40 first arrive around noontime. There are multiple attacks throughout the afternoon. The attacks are pressed home at wavetop level with great daring. This is a classic action, the type you think about when reflecting on Condor attacks at sea (if you ever do that sort of thing, like me).

The Condors get credit for sinking:

  • 7181 ton British freighter Mahanada (three deaths)
  • 4659 ton British freighter Swinburne (all survive)
  • 4966 ton British freighter Llanwern (25 deaths)
  • 4340 ton Greek freighter Kyriakoula (all survive)
  • 2580 ton Norwegian freighter Solferino (3 deaths)
  • 4368 ton Dutch freighter Beursplein (21 deaths, the ship sinks on the 27th after the crew finally abandons ships).

In addition, 5273 ton British freighter Melmore Head is damaged. The crew abandons ship, and it later is towed into Rothesay Bay and beached. Another victim is 4758 ton British freighter Leeds City, which eventually is towed into the Clyde. A third damaged ship, 7915 ton Dutch freighter Suriname, makes it into St. Michaels apparently under its own power. Swedish 4719 ton freighter Samuel Bakke is bombed and strafed (and also may have shot down a Condor), but is able to continue with the convoy to Halifax.

Also joining the attack on Convoy OB 290 is Italian submarine Michele Bianchi (Capitano di corvetta Adalberto Giovannini). Captain Giovanni makes the Bianchi one of the more aggressive Italian boats. Today, it sinks 6803 ton British freighter Baltistan. There are 51 deaths and 18 survivors from the Baltistan. Some accounts place this sinking on the 27th.

U-70 (Kptlt. Joachim Matz) is operating south of Iceland on its first (and, as it turns out, only) patrol. Matz spots 820 ton Swedish freighter Göteborg and sends it to the bottom. All 23 on board perish. Since there are no survivors, and also no survivors from U-70 when it is sunk later on this patrol, the encounter is likely based on the circumstances, but still conjecture.

German E-boats have been active recently. Today, they patrol off Cromer in the North Sea and claim another victim. S-28 sinks 1123 ton British freighter Minorca. There are 19 deaths and three survivors. S-28 tries to take the ship under tow, but it sinks.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 5655 ton Norwegian freighter Teneriffa at the mouth of Bristol Channel. All 37 on board survive.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 8156 ton Dutch freighter Amstelland in the Northwest Approaches. The Amstelland is taken under tow, but sinks on the way back to port.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 7744 ton British freighter Empire Steelhead. The ship is taken under tow, but is a blazing inferno. While usually a damaged ship would be taken to the dock, the Empire Steelhead is watertight and is put at an anchorage off Invergordon to wait for the fires to abate.

British power barge Brackelier is towing barge Monarch at Hull when together they hit a mine. They both sink just off Alexandria Jetty near the dock. The mines were laid by IX Air Korps. There are three deaths.

German lugger Schaumburg-Lippe hist a mine and sinks in the Ems River.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Georgetown collides with another ship, but makes it to the Clyde. It will be under repair in the Tyne for several months.

Three Royal Navy destroyers lay minefield JL in the English Channel. In another minelaying operation by RAF No. 812 Squadron, a Swordfish crashes, killing the crew.

Convoy WN91 departs from Gourock, Scotland,

Royal Navy corvette HMS Convolvulus (K45, Lt. Richard S. Connell), Flower-class, is commissioned.

U-85 and U-408 are launched.

26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Cardiff bomb damage
The devastation after bombs hit Partridge Street, Cardiff in 1941 (Wales Online).

Battle of the Mediterranean: The British still occupy Kastellorizo, having invaded the island with about 200 commandos on the 25th. However, there have been several problems with Operation Abstention, such as poor communications and failure to land most of the planned troops for one reason or another. The Italians have a major base relatively nearby in Rhodes, and the Regia Aeronautica has been punishing the occupying British forces and the Royal Navy ships standing offshore. The situation remains relatively stable until shortly after sunset, when Regia Marina torpedo boats Lince and Lupo land about 240 soldiers north of the port. They bring with them 99 mm artillery, which they use to shell the port and kill three and wound seven commandos. The Italian boats then evacuate some Italian civilians.

The British commandos are forced by Italian bombardment to abandon the port and retreat to their landing point near Cape Nifti. They inform the destroyers Hereward and Decoy standing offshore about the Italian landings, but they are too far away to intervene until the Italian landings are over and the Italian ships have departed. Other British troops (Sherwood Foresters) are on armed yacht HMS Rosauro and could be landed to help the commandos, but due to the difficult situation on shore those landings are cancelled.

The operation rapidly descends into chaos for the British commandos. They never were intended or supplied to hold a position indefinitely; instead, the plan was for them to seize key facilities, then hand off to well-prepared and supplied static troops. As night falls, they are isolated without shelter or food and subject to bombardment by the Italian guns. They can do nothing but wait for evacuation.

Offshore, there are Italian and Royal Navy ships near the island, but for the most part they are just ships passing in the night. The British naval part of Operation Abstention is Operation Mar2, and there are several destroyers ready for action. HMS Hereward does see the Italian ships, but loses contact before it can team up with HMS Decoy to mount an attack. Destroyer HMS Jaguar is fired upon by Italian destroyer Crispi, including two torpedoes which miss. The action is confused in the darkness, and the Crispi gets a lucky shot which puts out the Jaguar's searchlight, making her firing ineffective. Later, destroyers Jaguar, Nubian and Hasty sail toward Rhodes to find the Italian ships, but they are long gone.

In North Africa, Australian 6th Infantry Division is designated for reassignment to Greece. Their replacement is Australian 9th Infantry Division, a new formation assembled from a hodgepodge of random units. The 9th is training in Palestine and thus is not gaining experience with the extreme climate of Libya. There are skirmishes at Mescelit Pass as the British feel out the Italian defenses. The port of Benghazi basically is closed due to Luftwaffe attacks, forcing supplies to come by truck (over bad roads) from Tobruk and points further east such as Bardia. However, this sort of logistical issue is considered a mere inconvenience, not a potential real vulnerability against the Italians. The British still seem unclear that their true enemy in North Africa no longer is the Italians - it is the Germans.

The battle at Kufra in southwest Libya continues between the Free French under Colonel Leclerc and the besieged Italians in El Tag fortress. The French have been bombarding the fortress for days, and today they score a lucky hit. A shell hits the Italian ammunition dump and blows it up, igniting 250 cases of explosives.

The Luftwaffe makes another major raid on Malta after several weeks of only scattered attack. This time, 60 heavily escorted bombers (including Junkers Ju 87 Stukas) attack the RAF airfield at Luqa (British reports inflate this into a 100-plane raid, which, with escorts, may technically be true). The raid is damaging to both sides, but more so to the British. The RAF loses three Hawker Hurricane fighters and 13 Wellington bombers destroyed or damaged. The Stukas lose seven of their number, demonstrating once again that they are fearsome weapons of destruction both to their enemies and their pilots.

Spy Stuff: The Japanese Foreign Ministry is coordinating spying operations not only in Hawaii (Acting Consul General Okuda), but also in Canada. Today, they send instructions to their consulate in Vancouver:
Please wire reports covering the positions and movements also of the ships of Canada's Pacific Fleet. Please transmit to Ottawa and from that office ----- to the Naval Attaché.
26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Grossdeutschland swearing in
New officers of the elite "Großdeutschland" Infantry Regiment are sworn in, 26 February 1941 (Ang, Federal Archives).

Spanish/German Relations: Generalissimo Francisco Franco continues his correspondence with Adolf Hitler. This is a somewhat tardy response to a lengthy 6 February 1941 letter from Hitler urging Franco to enter war on his side - the time delay alone is an obvious tip-off to the contents. While it has been clear from the beginning that Franco was leery about declaring war on Great Britain, today he delivers some strong hints about his bottom line for joining the Axis  military effort.

Franco begins by expressing "confirmation of my loyalty." However, thereafter the tone quickly degenerates into reasons why Spain cannot join the war. He notes that "Germany has not fulfilled her offers of effective support [of grain] until very recently." He also sets forth his requirement for entry into the was as diplomatically as possible: "it is also necessary that that Suez Canal be closed." Failure to accomplish, he writes, would result in an "inordinately prolonged war" and make Spain's participation "extremely difficult." He concludes that the discussions that he and Hitler had at Hendaye in October now are "outmoded." While he never comes right out and says it, Franco basically tells Hitler that they have no deal for Spanish entry into the war, and won't until the Germans capture Cairo. This letter concludes their correspondence for the time being.

Franco's letter really just confirms the obvious: that Italy's disastrous downfall in North Africa and Albania had devastating strategic consequences for the Axis emanating far from those battlefields. However... there is someone who might just pull off the capture of Cairo and satisfy Franco's condition, a new face on the scene in North Africa: General Erwin Rommel of the Afrika Korps.

Anglo/Turkish Relations: While Franco is turning down Hitler, the Turkish President, İsmet İnönü, is doing the same to the British. British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and CIGS Sir John Dill are in Ankara to try to cajole the Turks to join the Allies. However, just as on the other end of the Mediterranean to Hitler, the answer is a very diplomatic "No." The leaders of both Turkey and Spain, incidentally, both will be ruling long after the current leaders of Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and the United States have departed the scene, so they simply being shrewd.

Australian/Dutch Relations: The Dutch government-in-exile discusses moving from London to Australia with Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies. With extensive naval forces remaining in the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch government would have more direct influence over events there than in England.

26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com JATO ERCO Ercoupe
An Aerojet JATO flight of a ERCO Ercoupe, using a JATO GALCIT booster. This is at March Field, California on 23 August 1941 (Courtesy Rocketdyne).

US Military: An Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) Ercoupe enters service with the US Army Air Corps, with designation YO-55 (415-C, Serial Number 41-18875). It is a short-field takeoff plane that is being used to test Rocket-Assisted (RATO) flights (it already has made the first jet-assisted take-off (JATO) flight in history).

Aircraft markings change, with the national insignia (a star) placed on both sides of the rear fuselage and deleted from the right upper and lower left wing. There are other changes as well, such as removal of rudder stripes and changes to the colors of all markings except the National Star Insignia. This change will be implemented over time, so the old markings will be seen in some units well into 1941.

Australian Military: At Garbutt airfield, the military sets up a high frequency direction finding (HFDF) station.

Dutch Homefront: The General Strike in Holland by 300,000 people continues, but already it has past its peak. Largely organized by the Communist Party of the Netherlands, it originally was intended to only two days. Nobody really expected the massive outpouring of support for resistance organized by an outlawed - and largely reviled - political organization. There are 78 deaths as the SS shoots the strikers without mercy, and others are sent to camps, where they invariably disappear.

American Homefront: An Eastern Airlines Flight 21, a Douglas DST-318A crashes at Atlanta Municipal Airport in Georgia. There are 8 deaths, including Maryland Congressman William D. Byron. Among the six survivors is World War I aviation hero (and head of the company) Eddie Rickenbacker (who has a very rough time riding airplanes during World War II, as we will see). Rickenback is soaked in fuel and trapped in the wreckage. However, he coordinates efforts of the other survivors from his immobile position. The press announces his passing, and in fact (according to his vivid autobiography) the emergency ambulances at first leave him behind for dead. When Rickenbacker finally arrived at the hospital, the Emergency Room people left him for dead. Eventually, they attend to him, and despite extensive injuries (including loss of his left eyeball), Eddie Rickenbacker eventually achieves a reasonably full recovery (to the extent possible considering his missing parts).

26 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com DC-3 crash Atlanta
The DC-3 crash near Atlanta on 26 February 1941.

February 1941


February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization
February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen
February 3, 1941: World Will Hold Its Breath
February 4, 1941: USO Forms
February 5, 1941: Hitler Thanks Irish Woman
February 6, 1941: Operation Sunflower
February 7, 1941: Fox Killed in the Open
February 8, 1941: Lend Lease Passes House
February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools
February 10, 1941: Operation Colossus
February 11, 1941: Afrika Korps
February 12, 1941: Rommel in Africa
February 13, 1941: Operation Composition
February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington
February 15, 1941: Churchill's Warning
February 16, 1941: Operation Adolphus
February 17, 1941: Invade Ireland?
February 18, 1941: Panzerwaffe Upgrade
February 19, 1941: Three Nights Blitz
February 20, 1941: Prien's Farewell
February 21, 1941: Swansea Blitz Ends
February 22, 1941: Amsterdam Pogrom
February 23, 1941: OB-288 Convoy Destruction
February 24, 1941: Okuda Spies
February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken
February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction
February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention
February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin

2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken


Tuesday 25 February 1941

25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Captain Topp Tirpitz
Captain Topp salutes the battle flag at the commissioning of the Tirpitz in Wilhelmshaven, 25 February 1941.

Italian/Greek Campaign: British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and CIGS General Sir John Dill, in the eastern Mediterranean to arrange British protection for Greece, travel on 25 February 1941 from Athens to Ankara for talks.

East African Campaign: Operation Canvas is turning into a roaring success. South African and colonial troops have been advancing toward the main objective of Mogadishu for about two weeks. The Italians briefly made a stand on the Juba River line, but when that fell, their entire strategic position in Italian Somaliland collapsed. There remains little resistance anywhere. Today, The Italians declare Mogadishu an open city, and Nigerian troops capture nearby Afgoi with enormous stockpiles of supplies. Facing virtually no opposition, East African armored cars of the British 11th African Division drive 20 miles into Mogadishu, unmolested, during the day. Three specialist South African field security policemen parachute into the port to secure important communications equipment such as the telephone exchange.

The official handover of the city will be tomorrow, but today is when it actually changes hands. The capital of Italian Somaliland, Mogadishu is important for several reasons, not least the support that it can give to naval operations in the Indian Ocean. In addition, the Italians have 400,000 gallons of fuel oil in the port.

Another British force, the 12th African Division, continues pushing up the Juba River. Its aim is to clear all Italian opposition to the Abyssinian border, with the objective being the border town of Dolo. In Eritrea, the South Africans continue advancing south of Cub Cub, supported by the South African Air Force.

European Air Operations: During the day, the RAF conducts a Circus sweep over the opposite shore, attacking the submarine pens at Flushing. RAF Bomber Command attacks Dusseldorf after dark with 80 planes.

The Luftwaffe bombs Hull again, this time with 25 bombers beginning at 17:50 and lasting until just before midnight. The docks are hit, as well as railway lines. While daylight operations are light, JG 51 Kommodore Major Mölders shoots downs a Spitfire of RAF No. 611 Squadron. It is his fifty-ninth kill and second in about a week after a long lull.

25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Tirpitz
The Tirpitz during its commissioning ceremony, 25 February 1941. This view is from the quarterdeck, the crew is lined up in parade formation.

Battle of the Atlantic: While the Kriegsmarine's surface fleet never gets much respect, today it makes all the news with positive developments - though none strikingly important. While in a distinctly inferior position, the Kriegsmarine does have its days.

German battleship Tirpitz is commissioned. Its first skipper is Kapitän zur See Friedrich Karl Topp. The Kriegsmarine now has two true battleships commissioned, the Tirpitz and Bismarck, but the former will require extensive working-up and equipping. Despite being commissioned, it is not yet ready for combat. Topp (no relation to Erich) is an officer in the Kriegsmarine's shipbuilding department and not really suited to command of a battleship. However, he does have combat experience: during World War I, he served as first officer of SM UC-67 under the command of Martin Niemöller - a name you may recognize, but, if not, not really germane to this day's events. Two men who took vastly different paths in life after working together.

The Royal Navy abandons its search for German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer in the Indian Ocean. Captain Krancke has disappeared into the vastness of the ocean to the southeast. After a long and very successful cruise, Krancke is instructed to return to Germany via the Denmark Strait and Norway.

German E-boats attack Convoy FN 417 off the Lizard. S-30 sinks Royal Navy destroyer HMS Exmoor off Lowestoft. There are 104 deaths, including skipper Lt Cdr R. T. Lampard, and 32 survivors rescued by a patrol sloop and trawler. There is confusion about whether S-30 sank the Exmoor, or if it hit a mine, but it sinks one way or the other.

Norwegian 423 ton freighter MV Torgeir I hits a submerged object about 10 nautical miles off the Gronningen Light House in the Skagerrak.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a congratulatory note to the Import Executive for their success in salvaging damaged ships. He notes that there now are 30 salvage organizations, as opposed to 10 in August 1940. He also states that, while 340,000 gross tons of shipping were built in the final five months of 1940, 370,000 was recovered by salvage operations. He urges an increase in repair facilities.

British 54 ton sailing barge Globe hits a in and sinks in the Thames Estuary off Garrison Point, Sheerness. There are two deaths.

German torpedo boats (Jaguar and Iltis) lay minefield Augsburg off Eastbourne.

Convoy OG 54 departs from Liverpool, bound for Gibraltar.

Royal Navy corvette HMS Nigella (K-19, Lt. Thomas W. Coyne) is commissioned, submarines HMS United and Unruffled are laid down.

U-180 is laid down.

25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Tirpitz
The battle ensign and pennant are hoisted above the Tirpitz at its commissioning, 25 February 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: British submarines have been lying in wait along the convoy lanes east of Tunisia between Naples and Tripoli, but with only middling success. There have been several unsuccessful attacks, a few minor sinkings, but nothing really significant. Today, though, they finally claim a major victim. HMS Upright (Lt. Edward Dudley Norman, DSC, RN) spots Italian light cruiser "Armando Diaz" east of Sfax (off the Kerkennah Islands) at 03:43 and sinks it. There are 464 deaths and 147 survivors. However, the silver lining for the Axis is that the vital transports that the cruiser was escorting, loaded with reinforcements for the Afrika Korps, continue on their way without interference.

About 200 British commandos of Operation Abstention, the subjugation and occupation of the island of Kastellorizo in the southeast Mediterranean, are at sea as the day begins. They land at dawn and quickly ambush an Italian patrol between Capt Nifti and the port. This landing operation is Operation Mar2, a naval support operation from Suda Bay involving destroyers HMS Decoy and Hereward. The landing is botched, as there actually are 500 men on board, but eight of the ten boats from Hereward get lost in the darkness and return to Decoy. They eventually land after daylight.

The commandos successfully occupy the port and take the Italian radio station there. The Italians manage to get off a radio message to Rhodes before surrendering, however. This draws air strikes by the Regia Aeronautica within a few hours. The Italians bomb gunboat HMS Ladybird, damaging it, wounding three sailors, and forcing it to retreat to Famagusta, Cyprus along with its 24 Marines. Armed boarding vessel HMS Rosaura, operating out of Alexandria, arrives late and is unable to land the troops it carries due to Italian air attacks. Light cruisers HMS Bonaventure and Gloucester patrol off shore, but can offer little assistance to the shore party.

The situation for the British grows worse throughout the day, as the commandos lose radio communications and are punished by the air strikes. Italian torpedo boats arrive after dark and attack the Royal Navy ships, but neither side manages any hits. With the Admiralty uncertain about the situation on the island, a secondary landing from Cyprus is cancelled and diverted to Alexandria.

At Tobruk, the Luftwaffe continues its incessant attacks. The Germans bomb and damage 5856 ton British tanker Tynefield. One man is lost. The ship is badly damaged, losing its forecastle, and eventually heads to Alexandria.

The German success at mining the Suez Canal claims another victim. Royal Navy 268 ton Narval whaler HMS Sarna hits a mine while engaged in minesweeping operations and forces skipper C. Sarel RNR to beach it. This at least keeps the channel from having to be closed. There is one death and one man wounded.

The Free French attack on the Italian fort of El Tag at Kufra Oasis continues. The French are shelling the fortress with a 75mm field piece and several mortars. The Italians in the fort, though numerous, do not respond with any effectiveness - though they have four 20mm cannon, 53 machine guns and over two dozen trucks in parked in the fort.

There is an air raid on Malta at 09:30 by the Luftwaffe. The Germans lose two Dornier Do 215s (similar to the Do 17, only for export), while the British lose a Hawker Hurricane offshore to "engine trouble," according to RAF sources. Oblt. Müncheberg of 7./JG 26 takes credit for the downed plane.

The RAF raids Tripoli.

25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Italian cruiser Armando Diaz
Italian cruiser Armando Diaz, sunk off Tunisia today by HMS Upright.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: German raider Orion gets supplies from captured supply ship Ole Jacob and heads from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

Anglo/Australian Relations: Churchill confides in a telegram to Middle East Commander General Wavell that the "Australian and New Zealand Governments have already been informed as was necessary" about the plans for an expedition to Greece. This buttresses the impression that Australian Prime Minister Menzies was not informed about the project in any detail until his arrival in London - at which point he was not enthusiastic about it.

Japanese/US/Anglo/Australian Relations: Japanese Foreign Matsuoka is reported by United Press as calling for:
the white race to cede Oceania - the vastly more than thousand mile square region South Pacific - to the Asiatics.
The press reports today are full of other bombastic statements from obscure Japanese sources. One, from a bellicose editorial in "Nichi Nichi," calls US and British efforts to strengthen their positions in the Pacific an "unwarrantable challenge to Japan" and that Japan could easily conquer Singapore and Guam in the event of a conflict. The Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Ohashi also denies that Matsuoka ever offered to mediate an end to the European conflict, instead claiming that it was simply an expression of a love for peace, as indicated by Japanese mediation of the Indochina border war.

US Military: One in a long series of conferences is held in the Office of the Chief of Staff (George Marshall) at 10:00 in Washington, D.C.. The topic is the status of the fleet in Hawaii and its potential vulnerability to attack. Besides Marshall, in attendance are General Delos Emmons, General "Hap" Arnold, General Brett, General Spaatz, General Gerow, Colonel McNarney, Colonel Anderson, and Colonel Twaddle. Marshall begins the meeting by stating, "In view of the Japanese situation the Navy is concerned with the security of the fleet in Hawaii." Marshall notes that Admiral Kimmel at CINCPAC is worried that "the sea power of the United States might be jeopardized" due to "a surprise or trick attack." Marshall is concerned that there is not "a single squadron of modern planes in the Philippines" or in Panama. He also is concerned about the P-40 fighter planes, which "have some engine trouble which makes them dangerous flying over water."

Marshall's concerns, along with some others, are quite prescient. However, that is all they are - concerns. Marshall ticks off some plans to send some P-36 fighters to Hawaii, but notes that delivery of other planes are delayed. Lieutenant General Emmons then ticks off several reasons why "We have little means to accomplish our plans in GHQ Air Force." These include officer shortages, plane shortages, and shortages of spare parts. He downplays the shortage of pursuit planes in Hawaii due to the "peculiar situation in Hawaii," where night attacks are effective due to "phosphorescence in the water." He concludes the conference by stating:
They will have no warning service until they get detectors and pursuit would be useless. I would have long range bombers and not send pursuit, but bombers.
The conference is striking in the way that everyone makes excuses for the Hawaiian islands not having sufficient fighters or other planes. The issue of aerial surveillance of the waters around Hawaii does not even come up.

Soviet Military: Viktor Abakumov, who returned to Moscow NKVD headquarters on 12 February for reassignment, officially becomes a deputy to Lavrentiy Beria, the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs.

Italian Government: Wild rumors circulate on Malta that Mussolini has placed Marshal Graziani, the former commander of Libya, under house arrest. However, the information on the island is the product of speculation and assumptions, not facts. Graziani remains free, though he has not been the commander in Libya since January - something the British do not yet know.


25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Tirpitz Regent Street
Regent Street, February 1941. Visiting Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies comments that "traffic is almost normal." © IWM (D 2107).

British Government: Australian Prime Minister Menzies spends an hour with the Queen. He finds her "as wise as possible, and has the shrewdest estimate of all the Cabinet." She agrees with Menzies about Churchill surrounding himself with "Yes-men," which no doubt confirms her intelligence to him. Menzies also confides to his diary that the Duke of Kent confides to him that Churchill "has 6 ideas a day; they can't all be right."

Sir Basil Newton, British Ambassador to Baghdad, sends Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden a letter about developments in the Arab world. Newton states that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is prepared to initiate a rebellion in Iraq in support of Germany. His condition is that Germany issue a declaration against Zionism, specifically any Jewish homeland in Palestine, and in favor of a pan-Arab state. There have been some low-level contacts between the Mufti and German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop, and the Mufti is preparing an office in Berlin to conduct propaganda and espionage operations.

25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Tirpitz Amsterdam trams
Dutch tram cars such as this one sit in their terminals, 25 February 1941.

Dutch Homefront: Today, pursuant to decisions made at an open air meeting in Amsterdam on the 24th, a general strike begins. This is in response to a list of grievances by the local community, including the creation of a Jewish Ghetto in Amsterdam and the taking by the Germans of hundreds of Jewish hostages. The hostages, all males between the ages of 20-35, have been sent to concentration camps. Amsterdam tram drivers begin the strike, and it quickly spreads to government, companies and schools. The strike also spreads beyond Amsterdam to Utrecht, Zaanstad and other cities. Local SS Chief Hanns Albin Rauter, repeating similar tactics adopted in Prague in 1939, orders his men to open fire on the strikers: 11 men perish. This is the only direct action against Nazi treatment of Jews in Occupied Europe during World War II. The strike is in full effect when the day ends.

British Homefront: The American Junior Red Cross has sent 10,000 boxes of gifts British children suffering as a result of the Blitz. Today, film star Mary Clare hands out some of the gifs to children at the Regal Cinema in Streatham.

American Homefront: Paramount Pictures releases "The Lady Eve," written and directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck, "The Lady Eve" is about romance on an ocean liner.  In 1994, the film will be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Columbia Pictures releases "Meet Boston Blackie," directed by Robert Florey and starring silent film star Chester Morris and Rochelle Hudson. While largely forgotten by the 1950s, the character of "Boston Blackie" is a popular cinematic jewel thief with, you guessed it, a heart of gold. This B movie proves strikingly successful with audiences, if not with critics, and leads to a long string (14) of "Boston Blackie" films that stretches throughout the 1940s.

25 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Tirpitz Dutch strike notice
Strike notices distributed by the outlawed Communist Party of the Netherlands in Amsterdam, 25 February 1941.

February 1941


February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization
February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen
February 3, 1941: World Will Hold Its Breath
February 4, 1941: USO Forms
February 5, 1941: Hitler Thanks Irish Woman
February 6, 1941: Operation Sunflower
February 7, 1941: Fox Killed in the Open
February 8, 1941: Lend Lease Passes House
February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools
February 10, 1941: Operation Colossus
February 11, 1941: Afrika Korps
February 12, 1941: Rommel in Africa
February 13, 1941: Operation Composition
February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington
February 15, 1941: Churchill's Warning
February 16, 1941: Operation Adolphus
February 17, 1941: Invade Ireland?
February 18, 1941: Panzerwaffe Upgrade
February 19, 1941: Three Nights Blitz
February 20, 1941: Prien's Farewell
February 21, 1941: Swansea Blitz Ends
February 22, 1941: Amsterdam Pogrom
February 23, 1941: OB-288 Convoy Destruction
February 24, 1941: Okuda Spies
February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken
February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction
February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention
February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin

2017