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Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools


Sunday 9 February 1941

9 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Renown
HMS Renown firing on Genoa, 9 February 1941 (© IWM (A 4048)).

Italian/Greek Campaign: The front remains quiet on 9 February 1941, and the real activity is hundreds and thousands of miles away. Middle East Commander Archibald Wavell, in Cairo, responds to a telegram from the British Military Mission in Cairo inquiring whether he would be willing and able to send forces to Greece and/or Turkey quickly, if necessary. Wavell - despite well-known reservations about ending a winning campaign in Libya in favor of a assumed one in Greece - replies in the affirmative. He indicates that he has one armored brigade group and the New Zealand Division (two brigades) available immediately, with other troops available in March and April. The competition for resources between Greece and North is becoming white hot on the British side, and the growing implied threat of a German invasion of Greece is becoming almost as effective German aid to Mussolini (in North Africa) as would be an actual invasion of Greece.

East African Campaign: The Indian troops at Keren take a breather today, regrouping and recalibrating. Having been pushed back on both sides of Dongolaas Gorge, it is clear that either a different strategy or greater force is required to dislodge the Italian defenders. The attackers settle on a strategy of focusing on the left side of the gorge, which is dominated by a string of peaks.

9 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Renown HMS Sheffield
HMS Renown and HMS Sheffield, with aircraft overhead from HMS Ark Royal. This is taken from HMS Malaya after the bombardment of Genoa, 9 February 1941. © IWM (A 4034).

European Air Operations: The RAF resumes its rabid and so-far fruitless attacks on German battleship Tirpitz, which dangles like a pinata just out of reach at Wilhelmshaven. Either 13 or 23 bombers (sources vary) based at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire return to base with their crews elated at having scored hits on the ship, but in actuality the attack failed utterly - as have all the attacks before. The RAF makes other attacks on Flushing oil tanks and Antwerp docks.

The RAF sends a Rhubarb raid (offensive patrol) over Calais that does not result in any losses by either side.

The Luftwaffe ends an extended period of dormancy with night raids on Plymouth, Birmingham and Humberside. The attack apparently damages light cruiser HMS Neptune in Plymouth Harbour, which just arrived in port for a refit, but the damage is not significant.

9 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Malaya
Crew aboard HMS Malaya enjoying a moment of frivolity after the bombardment of Genoa, 9 February 1941. "Gun crews enjoy some refreshment after the action, but remain at their action stations." © IWM (A 4044).

Battle of the Atlantic: Admiral Lütjens in command of battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau heads northwest in order to elude any pursuers from the abortive attack on Convoy HX-106. The Royal Navy does have many ships looking for them, but they are far to the east. Lütjens' plan is to head northwest to a point relatively close to western Greenland, then return south to the shipping lanes nearer to Canada than last time.

U-37 (Kptlt. Asmus Nicolai Clausen), on its tenth patrol out of Lorient and one of the most successful submarines of the first two years of the war, stumbles upon Convoy HG 53 off the coast of Portugal (east of the Azores, about 160 miles from Cape St. Vincent) on the 8th. After stalking it for a day, Clausen goes to work. He successfully attacks and sinks two ships, then returns later and tries again. However, the second attack is unsuccessful.

U-37 torpedoes and sinks 1325 ton British freighter Courland. There are three deaths and 30 survivors (rescued by fellow freighter Brandenburgh).

U-37 torpedoes and sinks 1983 ton British freighter Estrellano. There are six deaths.

Clausen informs headquarters of the convoy. Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors based in Bordeaux, France are sent in to attack as well. They go in for the attack and sink:

  • 2490 ton British freighter Britannic (one death);
  • 2471 ton British freighter Dagmar I (five deaths);
  • 1759 ton British freighter Jura (17 deaths);
  • 1514 ton British freighter Varna (everyone survives);
  • 967 ton Norwegian freighter Tejo (four deaths).

This incident is prime evidence of the utility of having U-boats and patrol aircraft working together. The Kriegsmarine has requested more aircraft, but Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, defending his Luftwaffe fiefdom, has only given them one small unit.

Norwegian 1159 ton freighter Ciss, en route from St. John to Louisbourg, is caught in ice near Louisbourg. The captain stops the engines to prevent damage. The ice carries the ship toward Portnova Island, and the ship hits Little Shag Rock. Drifting further, the ships winds up aground on Scatarie Island, where it is wrecked. Taking to the boats, the crew barely makes it to Long Beach. The crew later blames the harbour master at Louisbourg for failing to send an icebreaker upon request and claiming there was no ice - when in fact the Ciss was on the verge of being destroyed by ice.

Another ship is lost to grounding off Cape Agulhas, Nova Scotia. British 2018 ton freighter Kervégan, a member of Convoy SC 22, runs aground and apparently capsizes. All 26 on board perish, so the exact details are not known. The only reason the location is known at all is because that is where wreckage washed ashore.

Convoy OB 284 departs from Liverpool, Convoy BN 15 departs from Aden, Convoy HX 108 departs from Halifax.

9 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Renown HMS Ark Royal HMS Malaya
A picture taken from HMS Malaya of HMS Ark Royal and HMS Renown after the bombardment of Genoa, 9 February 1941. © IWM (A 4035).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Grog (formerly Result) takes place in the morning. Admiral Somerville takes Force H from Gibraltar and parks it off Genoa. Led by battleship HMS Malaya heavy cruiser HMS Sheffield and battlecruiser HMS Renown, Force H lobs 300 tons of shells on the harbor and the city. There is thick mist, which reduces the effectiveness of the Italian defense. Sheffield also concentrates on railway installations at Pisa. Tanker Sant Andrea is damaged by a hit from Sheffield but is towed back to port. Italian battleship Duilio, in dry dock just north of the Molo Ciano, escapes damage, though one salvo comes within 50-100 yards. Total civilian casualties are 144 dead and 272 wounded.

As part of Force H, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal raids oil installations at Leghorn and railway infrastructure. The force also lays mines outside the entrance to La Spezia. RAF No. 820 Squadron loses a Swordfish in the attack.

Admiral Iachino is at sea with battleships Vittorio Veneto, Cesare and Doria. He learns of the attack on Genoa only two hours after it ends - why this extremely important news took so long is unclear - and the signal incorrectly tells him that that the Royal Navy ships are heading west along the coast. In fact, Admiral Somerville is heading southwest. The two fleets miss each other completely, though the Italians at first mistake a number of French freighters for the Royal Navy ships and prepare for action.

At the naval operations room in Rome, a Captain Bragadin made the following notation:
The bombardment of Genoa inflicted serious damage on the city. In the harbor four steamers and the old training ship Garaventa were sunk. Fortunately, the most important target, the Duilio, which was still under repair after Taranto, was not hit. There were grave moral effects throughout Italy, all the more because, whilst the efforts of our aircraft were appreciated, not a word was announced about the search made by our naval squadron. As a result of such silence the Italian people thought - in so many words - that the navy had run away.
Of course, the Italian Navy had not run away, and under slightly different facts a major naval engagement may have resulted. However, Bragadin is a bit too blithe in his summary about where to pin the blame for the Italian navy's inability to act effectively. Failure by shore observers to notify the Italian battle fleet of the attack in a more timely fashion, and failure to track the Royal Navy's subsequent movements, were faults just as grievous to any kind of effective defense as would have been "running away" - the effect was the same.

On land, British patrols of the 11th Hussars range to Agedabia and El Agheila and occupy them. They find a few Italians and a little equipment, but no organized resistance. This marks the decisive end of Operation Compass, one of the operations of World War II which most exceeded expectations. However, while the Italians have been pushed out of half of Libya, they have not been defeated; they retain a strategic portion in the west and south which provides a possible springboard for recovery. General O'Connor certainly has the troops to advance further, but he does not have the authorization from General Wavell yet. O'Connor has sent his liaison officer to Cairo for permission, but that is a rough journey which will take several days.

Operation Sunflower, the installation of Wehrmacht troops in Tripolitania, continues. General Erwin Rommel's first load of troops is at sea out of Naples. They are scheduled to land in North Africa in a couple of days. This would be an excellent convoy for the Royal Navy to intercept, and indeed they have large naval forces not far away - but they are far to the north, bombarding Genoa rather than where the real action is. Rommel, meanwhile, receives a promotion to Generalleutnant, befitting his new status as an Army Group commander.

The hasty minesweeping of Tobruk Harbor continues to reveal its flaws. British 2590 ton freighter Crista hits a mine and is damaged.

Small Italian ships have some difficulty on the other side of Libya. Freighter IV Novembre (61 tons), Tenax and Rosanna (205 tons) run aground and are lost on the Gulf of Sirte coast.

7 Staffel of JG 26, led by Oblt. Müncheberg, arrive in Sicily. They are based at Gela Airfield and will supplement Fliegerkorps X indefinitely.

9 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Renown
Another shot of HMS Renown firing on Genoa, 9 February 1941. © IWM (A 4046)

German/Vichy France Relations: As a sign of growing collaboration, the Vichy French hand over Rudolf Hilferding to the Nazis. Hilferding is a prominent former German Minister of Finance in the Weimar Republic. He also happens to be a Jewish socialist. Hilferding disappears into the Gestapo dungeon of La Santé in Paris, where he is subjected to torture. He perishes on 11 February.

Vichy French Government: Marshal Pétain shakes up the government. He appoints Admiral Darlan to fill Pierre Laval's vacant spot of Vice Premier. In addition, Foreign Minister/Prime Minister Pierre Étienne Flandin resigns. Not only is Darlan elevated, but Petain designates him as his chosen successor - for what that is worth.

Laval turned down a spot in the cabinet on the 8th, so he may have been the one who Petain had in mind for the Flandin slot - and, when told at that time by Petain that Darlan was taking his former position of Vice Premier, decided that half a loaf was worse than none. He does have a steady pro-German orientation. Darlan, for his part, is a shady character, who throughout the war plays a devious game of courting the Allies and Germans in turn depending on who will offer him the best chances of advancement. The strategy certainly is working for the moment.

Flandin's dismissal - which it almost certainly was - is a bit odd because he only occupied the position for two months as the replacement for Laval. Perhaps he was only intended as a stop-gap while Petain got over whatever personal issues Petain had with Laval. This essentially ends Flandin's career - which, given the course of events for those who remained in the government, was not the worst thing that ever happened to him.

Australian Government:  Prime Minister Robert Menzies, breaking his journey from Melbourne to London in Egypt, has dinner with Middle East RAF chief Sir Arthur Longmore. They listen to Winston Churchill's "give us the tools" broadcast. Menzies review is not kind. He is not impressed with Churchill's tone, finding it to be a "hymn of hate" which appeals to the "lowest common denominator among men." Menzies scribbles down that he does not like the recent appointment of Malcolm McDonald as High Commissioner to Canada, feeling that "Winston likes Yes Men." Overall, it is clear that Menzies feels that Churchill is becoming autocratic and inflexible - an appraisal shared by many closest to Churchill as well.

China: In the Battle of Southern Honen, the Japanese 11th Army is retreating to its base at Hsinyang, and the Chinese 5th War Area is pursuing it. However, the Chinese maintain their distance and allow the Japanese to return to their base. This is a well-established pattern, with the Japanese making occasional raids (often called "rice offensives") and then taking their ill-gotten goods back to their lines.

9 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMS Renown Genoa
HMS Renown bombarding Genoa, 9 February 1941. © IWM (A 4047)

Luxembourg: For administrative purposes, Luxembourg is united with Koblenz-Trier.

Dutch Homefront: A pro-Jewish cafe in Amsterdam, the Alcazar, has refused to hang a "No Jews" sign in the entryway. It also is displaying artwork by Jewish artists. Nazis or Nazi sympathizers attack the cafe today and destroy it. The police intervene and suffer 23 casualties.

Feelings against the Nazi occupation are simmering in Amsterdam, and this attack is one of several "provocations" in Jewish neighborhoods. This violence is gradually escalating, with the Dutch pro-Nazi movement NSB and its streetfighting arm, the WA ("Weerbaarheidsafdeling" - defence section) on one side, and Jewish self-defense groups and their supporters on the other.

British/American Homefronts: Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcasts his first speech in five months. It is to both a British and American audience. He compares the Luftwaffe attacks on London to the British stand at Waterloo, and apparently refers to progress within the US government on the Lend Lease Bill as the ultimate harbinger of victory:
It seems now to be certain that the Government and people of the United States intend to supply us with all that is necessary for victory. In the last war the United States sent two million men across the Atlantic. But this is not a war of vast armies, firing immense masses of shells at one another.... We do not need the gallant armies which are forming throughout the American Union.... Bue we do need most urgently an immense and continuous supply of war materials and technical apparatus of all kinds. We need them here and we need to bring them here.
He concludes with the words with which the speech is remembered:
Give us the tools, and we will finish the job. 
Interestingly, Churchill also refers to Laval, who he calls the "French Quisling," as turning France into a "doormat" for Hitler. Laval, of course, is known to history as a great collaborator, but at this time he is not in the Vichy French government at all. This comment betrays a certain lack of knowledge by the British as to what is actually happening in Vichy France.

American Homefront: Senator Reed Smoot, co-sponsor of the infamous 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act and defeated in the 1932 election, passes away. At the time of his death, he was third in the line of succession for leadership of the LDS Church and is buried in Provo, Utah.


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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