Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington


Friday 14 February 1941

14 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS King George V
Royal Navy battleship HMS King George V firing its 14-inch guns, February 1941. © IWM (A 3237).

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Italians on 14 February 1941 attack on the Skutara line near a height designated Height 504 in the coastal sector west of Klisura Pass. The Greek 6th Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel Ioannis Theodorou, fights savagely to maintain their position. The Greeks succeed, but suffer 109 killed and wounded. The RAF chips in with attacks in the area.

East African Campaign: The British 22nd East African Brigade under General Alan Cunningham take the port of Kismayu. The real prize is Mogadishu to the north. Royal Navy Force T, led by heavy cruisers HMS Shropshire and Hawkins and aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, assists the ground forces with supporting fire. The British take possession of fifteen vessels in the port.

The Free French land at Port Sudan, Sudan. This is the 14th Demi-Brigade de marche de la Légion Étrangère under the command of Colonel Raoul Magrin-Vernerey.

Things are quiet at Keren as the British regroup. Indian 7th Infantry Brigade takes Mersa Dersa on the Red Sea coast. Another action takes place near Cam Ceua.

European Air Operations: During the day, the RAF sends Rhubarb sweeps over the German invasion ports. RAF Bomber Command sends 44 bombers against the Gelsenkirchen oil installations (a favored target) and a similar number to attack Homberg oil installations.

The Luftwaffe sends lone raiders across to bomb Northeast Scotland and Kent. It also mounts fighter sweeps over southern England. There is another raid on London after dark, but it causes little damage.

An event supposedly happens during the night which enters legend; whether it is true or not is uncertain (like the "wooden bombs" story). A disoriented Luftwaffe pilot lands by mistake at an English airfield and does not realize his mistake until he spots the control tower. He takes off quickly, then does the same thing elsewhere. Eventually, the pilot makes it back to France.

14 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Winston Churchill Charles de Gaulle
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill with Free French leader Charles de Gaulle, 14 February 1941.

Battle of the Atlantic: Today is a rare day, as four German heavy cruisers at sea have news. It is unusual for the Kriegsmarine to maintain that many warships in the Atlantic, and if operating together they could be a formidable force. This, however, never happens.

German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper makes port at Brest (some sources place this on the 15th). It sank 8 ships during its 140-day cruise, a small return for the effort expended - but expanded by the effect it has had on the Royal Navy. Things have changed at Brest, and it is no longer as secure for warships as it had been in the past. Admiral Hipper draws a lot of RAF attention there.

German cruiser Admiral Scheer meets supply ship Tannenfels and raider Atlantis, which has with it a captured tanker, Ketty Brøvig. Scheer refuels from the tanker and the ships exchange supplies.

German battlecruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst meet German tankers Schlettstadt and Esso Hamburg in the North Atlantic to refuel. The ships, south of Greenland, are biding their time before attacking the convoys passing just to the south.

German raider Thor, operating in the South Atlantic, meets up with supply ships Eurofeld and Alsterufer.

U-101 (Kptlt. Ernst Mengersen) or U-123 (Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle) torpedoes and sinks 5462 ton British freighter Holystone in the mid-Atlantic. Holystone had been in Convoy OB-284, which had been dispersed. All 40 men on board perish. Since there are no survivors, the cause of sinking is debated. Among the candidates for this sinking are U-101, U-123 and Italian submarine Bianchi, all operating in the same area. If this is the ship attacked by U-123, then Kptlt. Moehle uses six torpedoes to sink the freighter, the first five of which miss, and the sinking is in the first minutes of the 15th. The ship explodes in a massive explosion caused by a detonation of ammunition or explosives carried within the ship.

Italian submarine Bianchi happens upon a straggler from Convoy SC 21 in the mid-Atlantic south of Iceland. It torpedoes and sinks 4517 ton British freighter Belcrest. All 36 on board perish.

Royal Navy torpedo boat MTB 41 hits a mine and sinks in the North Sea. There are two deaths.

The Luftwaffe (I,/KG 40) bombs and sinks 616 ton British freighter Elisabeth Marie in the Northwest Approaches. There is one death, the rest of the 25-man crew is picked up by destroyer HMCS Ottawa.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 420 ton British freighter Moorlands just off Sands End Bay near Banff. The ship makes it to Buckie Harbour.

The Luftwaffe attacks Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Laurent in the Northwest Approaches. The destroyer is lightly damaged but remains in service.

The Luftwaffe also bombs minelayer HMS Teviotbank off Flamborough Head. The minelayer proceeds to the Humber for repairs lasting about a month.

Convoy SLG 1A departs from Gibraltar. It includes two troopships.

US destroyer USS Grayson (DD 435, Lt. Commander Thomas M. Stokes) is commissioned; and USS Woolsey is launched.

14 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Home Guard Loch Stack
"Members of the Home Guard man a Vickers machine-gun on the shores of Loch Stack in the Highlands of Scotland, 14 February 1941."  © IWM (H 7325).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Now that the British have decided to terminate their offensive operations, they begin reorienting their forces. The 11th Hussars, who led the assault at Beda Fomm, enters the reserve while its position is taken over by the King's Dragoon Guards. The Luftwaffe attacks the Hussars as they are leaving, devastating their convoy with Junkers Ju 87 Stukas. This is the Luftwaffe's first attack on the 7th Armoured Division, a harbinger of future attacks.

General Erwin Rommel only has a small group of troops in Tripoli, but he sees opportunity in the British over-extension past Benghazi. He does not know it, but he is getting helped by the British decision to redirect their major effort toward Greece.

The Luftwaffe arrives to help Rommel, starting with a small assortment of various reconnaissance planes, Stukas and Bf 110s of III,/ZG 26. Rommel sends his available troops of the 5th Light Division to Sirte to form a defensive block - but this is unnecessary due to decisions being made on the other side. Many more troops are on the way. The Luftwaffe loses its first two planes in the desert.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Rover torpedoes and damages 6161 ton Italian tanker Cesco off Calabria. Tankers are very tough to sink by torpedo due to their compartmentalized construction, so Cesco makes it back to port.

At Malta, Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88s drop the first land mines on the island. They damage homes in Valletta and Senglea, as well as other scattered locations such as St Elmo, Fort Leonardo, the Dockyard and Tigne areas, as well as in St Thomas’ Bay. These types of bombs, which cause devastation over wide areas, are common in England, but this is a first for the Mediterranean. There are five civilian deaths and twenty injuries. The parachute mines hit various structures, including a primary school, barracks and other areas, and flatten wide areas. The Luftwaffe also drops anti-personnel mines on the beaches of Mellieha.

Convoy AN 15 departs from Port Said bound for Suda Bay, Convoy AC 1 departs from Alexandria bound for Benghazi


14 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Time Magazine Adolf Hitler
"Hitler: Spring is here." Time Magazine, 14 February 1941.

German/Yugoslavian Relations: Hitler meets with Yugloslavian Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković at the Berghof in Berchtesgaden. They talk for three hours. Hitler wants Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite Pact, which would obviate the need to invade it. He does not demand military support, but he does want transit rights so that he can send Wehrmacht forces south through Yugoslavia to invade Greece. However, Cvetković knows that there is immense opposition to joining the Axis, so he demurs.

US/Yugoslavian Relations: Making a rare foray into Balkan politics, President Roosevelt warns Prince Paul not to help Germany.

14 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ambassador Nomura
Ambassador Nomura presents his credentials to President Roosevelt at the White House on 14 February 1941.

US/Japanese Relations: New Ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura presents his credentials to President Roosevelt at the White House. President Roosevelt comments, in a classic understatement, "there are developments in the relations between the United States and Japan which cause concern." He specifically mentions "movements of Japan southward down to Indochina and the Spratly Islands and other localities in that area."

Nomura, unlike his masters in Tokyo, actually wants to find some way to avoid a war. He promises to do what he can. However, both sides expect the other to grant concessions, and nobody is interested in doing that.

US diplomat Eugene Dooman, US embassy counselor in Tokyo, submits a message from President Roosevelt to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The message, more an ultimatum than anything else, warns the Japanese that the US is helping Great Britain and would not tolerate any interference with British Asian possessions. The bottom line, the message states, is:
it was quite possible to pass over the present critical period without war, but that one essential condition to this more or less happy issue out of our difficulties must be the realization on the part of the Japanese that they cannot substantially alter the status quo in Southeast Asia, particularly, without incurring the risk of creating a very serious situation.
British/Romanian Relations: The British Foreign Office officially breaks relations with Romania. It announces that Romania is "territory under enemy occupation" (which is not the case) and that Great Britain would deem Romania an "enemy destination for contraband purposes." This is a poignant moment, because Romania during the 1930s relied greatly on British guarantees of protection.

Singapore/Australian Relations: British Commander-in-chief of the Far East Command Robert Brooke-Popham visits Australia (which is not part of his command). He meets with the Australian War Cabinet. Brooke-Popham gives an optimistic review of the state of British defenses in his realm, saying that Singapore is unlikely to be attacked from the landward side and that it could hold out for six to nine months if attacked.

Anglo/Polish Relations: The RAF drops supplies to the Polish underground for the first time during the war.


14 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Fort Crook Plant Glenn L. Martin Plant Offut Air Base
The Glenn L. Martin Company Fort Crook Plant. It was renamed Offut Air Base in 1946 in honor of Omaha's first World World I casualty, Lt. Jarvis Offutt. It became the headquarters of Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1948. Among many other planes, the Enola Gay and Bockscar, the only two planes in history to drop nuclear weapons intentionally, were built here.

US Military: USN/USMC Fleet Landing Exercise (FLEX) No. 7 at Culebra/Vieques concludes.

The US Army contracts with the Glenn L. Martin Company for the construction and operation of the Fort Crook Plant, Sarpy County, Nebraska. This plant is intended to assemble the Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber. The construction order will be sent tomorrow. In all, there will be nine primary buildings, including a 600x900 foot two-story manufacturing and assembly building (some of the plane parts are prefabricated by other companies and simply assembled here). The location was chosen because it was over 200 miles from a coast, as required by the government, and near the city of Omaha.

British Military: General Percy Hobart is appointed commander of 11th Armoured Division.

British Government: Winston Churchill continues his attention to the WS7 (Winston Special Convoy) now being assembled at Plymouth. As he states in a memo to Sir Andrew Duncan, he remains opposed to sending any but front-line troops on the convoy, preferring to send "a complete infantry division" even though that means "displacing others." He asks Duncan to find seven more transports for the convoy. Churchill is determined to improve the "tooth to tail" ratio in the Middle East Command and sees little need for service troops when there is fighting to be done.

Australian Government: Prime Minister Robert Menzies resumes his epic journey from Melbourne to London, today flying from Cairo to Khartoum.

Vichy France Government: Admiral Darlan adds Interior Minister to his other government posts.

American Homefront: RKO Radio Pictures releases short film "The Little Whirlwind," starring Mickey Mouse and Minny Mouse. The film, produced by Walt Disney for Walt Disney Productions, is directed by Riley Thomson. It features the voices of Walt Disney and Thelma Boardman.

Future History: Paul Tsongas is born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He develops an early interest in politics and goes on to election to the the US Congress in 1974 and to the US Senate in 1978. He later runs for the Democratic Party nomination for President in 1992 and wins seven states, but ultimately loses the nomination to Bill Clinton. Paul Tsongas passes away on 18 January 1997.



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


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