Saturday 1 March 1941
|A captured Rettungsboje (Guerra-Abierta).|
Italian/Greek Campaign: On 1 March 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's new plan is to convince the Yugoslav government to join the Allies. He instructs Foreign Minister Anthony Eden to meet with them to see if they will attack the Italians in Albania. Otherwise, the front is quiet today as both sides gear up for renewed offensives.
East African Campaign: Briggsforce, a loose assembly of troops under the command of Brigadier Briggs of the 4th Indian Division's 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, takes Mescelit Pass from the Italian 107th Colonial Battalion. This is a key road about 24 km north of Keren, where the British have been blocked by the Italians for weeks. Briggsforce now has the opportunity to attack the Italian defenders from the rear, or to advance on Massawa on the coast. However, the actual effect of this success is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Briggsforce does not have artillery.
With Mogadishu in the bag in Eritrea, the British continue mopping up the remaining Italian resistance. The 11th African Division pursues the Italians north along the Juba River towards the Ogaden Plateau and Abyssinia. The Italians are evacuating all of Italian Somaliland, according to General Cunningham.
Mogadishu is proving a very mixed blessing for the British. The port is in terrible shape, and no ships will be able to enter any time soon. The city is a sanitary disaster, full of unburied corpses and shallow graves.
HMS Formidable, still awaiting clearance to transit the Suez Canal after recent Luftwaffe mining, is stuck in Port Sudan. Its aircraft, which have transferred for the time being to land bases, attack Massawa. The attack achieves little.
Repeating a familiar pattern, the naval forces in Massawa see the approaching British land forces and realize that time is limited. Accordingly, some begin to escape. Today, Italian submarines Gauleo Ferraras, Perla, and Archimede leave to return to Europe. While they can evade the Royal Navy, the submarines are not large, ocean-going submarines, and thus cannot carry enough supplies for long journeys. Italian freighter Himalaya also attempts to escape.
There are few friendly ports left between Massawa and Europe. Thus, the crews will be faced with deep privation during this journey. What makes these journeys possible is the well-maintained chain of German tankers and supply ships in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans which also have been aiding the German raiders.
|A beached Rettungsboje.|
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 100+ bombers against Cologne.
The Luftwaffe mounts some minor raids along the east coast. He.111H-5 (1H+BK/wnr. 3774 ) of 2./KG26 ditches in the Moray Firth and paddles ashore. Oblt. Hatto Kuhn(FF), Uffz Friedrich Großhardt (BO), Gefr. Manfred Hänel (BF) and Uffz Ferdinand Mänling (BS) are captured and interrogated at Banff. This becomes a fairly well known incident due to various accounts told by the Luftwaffe men over the decades.
A Junkers Ju 52/3m of IV,/JG z b V 1 lands at Skopje, Yugoslavia due to a navigational error. The government interns the plane and crew.
Hans-Joachim Marseille of JG 27 is promoted to the rank of Oberfähnrich, effective this date. This promotion is long overdue, occurring after all the other pilots from his original Geschwader, LG 2, have reached this rank or higher. Marseille is seen as undisciplined and a playboy, a pilot who refuses to follow orders and constantly endangers his wingman by freelancing.
Dietrich Peltz, a promising bomber pilot, is promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) in KG 77.
Erich "Bubi" Hartmann progresses to the Luftkriegsschule 2 (Air War School 2) in Berlin-Gatow. He still has not flown solo.
The Luftwaffe is getting tired of losing pilots in the waters of the English Channel after they successfully bail out. They very stealthily have created and placed Rettungsboje (Rescue Buoys) about ten miles off the coast of France, or very roughly halfway to England. These are known casually as Generalluftzeugmeister or Udet-Bojen after the Luftwaffe's head of equipment, Generaloberst Ernst Udet. Basically, these are anchored submarines with small entryways which extend above the surface. Downed airmen who can make their way to these devices have a way to survive until they are spotted. Each 10-meter-long object - mounted on floats - contains four bunk beds and a cupboard with provisions. It is an ingenious solution to a very real problem. When occupied, the Luftwaffe men are to hoist the Red Cross flag and await rescue. Apparently, there also is a wireless station aboard.
Today, the British spot two of these hospital floats and tow them into Newhaven Harbour. These Rettungsboje later will feature in two films, "We Dive At Dawn" (1943) and "One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing" (1942).
Without getting moralistic about it, these craft technically are hospital ships. The British violate international rules of war by "capturing them" - though, by this point, the Germans are well aware that the British are pushing the envelope when it comes to disrespecting the Red Cross flag (due to many 1940 RAF shootdowns of German search and rescue planes). However, there are many of these at sea, and it appears the British are able to find only a few. It is unclear how useful they are in practice, but it likely gives many Luftwaffe pilots some comfort knowing that they are there. Incidentally, they also could be used by downed RAF pilots, too, and even the crews of sunk ships.
|An illustration of a Rettungsboje.|
Battle of the Atlantic: German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer re-enters the South Atlantic from the Indian Ocean.
U-552 (K.Kapt. Erich Topp), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, gets off to a fast start. Operating just north of Scotland, U-552 sinks 12,062 ton British tanker Cadillac. The tanker is carrying highly flammable Aviation spirit fuel, which ignites due to the explosion. There are 37 deaths, including the master and three passengers. Only five crew survive, one of whom dies the next day from burns. The sinking is horrific because 26 men manage to take to the boats, but the burning oil sets the the sea afire and creates an inferno, burning some and causing others to leap from the boats and drown. The blaze is so fantastic that Captain Topp calls his crew on deck to witness it, which is highly unusual.
Royal Navy 349 ton minesweeping trawler HMT St. Donats collides with destroyer HMS Cotswold in the Humber. The St. Donats sinks, while the destroyer proceeds to Chatham for repairs that last the rest of the month.
The Luftwaffe attacks Convoy WN 91 off Fraserburgh (north of Aberdeen) from about 19:35 to 20:14. The planes damage 5057 ton British freighter Forthbank. There are four deaths. The freighter makes it to Invergordon. The planes also damage 6098 ton freighter Pennington Court, but only slightly.
The Luftwaffe also attacks Convoy EN 79 off Aberdeen (WN and EN convoys are the same, just running in the opposite directions). The planes damage 8949 tanker Atheltempar. Atheltempar is consumed with flames, but with great courage is taken in tow by HMS Speedwell (Commander Youngs) and taken to Methil Roads. The fire takes 4 1/2 hours to put out. The Atheltempar's crew, taken aboard the Speedwell, refuses to help fight the fire and simply goes to bed. The rescue becomes a major event, as Admiral Ramsay on shore sends out a flight of Hurricanes to ward off additional Luftwaffe bombers. Eventually, a large tug arrives and brings it to anchorage off Methil.
The Luftwaffe bombs and disables 7981 ton Dutch tanker Rotula in St. George's Channel off Wexford. There are 16 deaths. The derelict becomes a hazard to navigation and eventually is sunk by a passing British trawler.
The Luftwaffe also hits 5691 ton British freighter Empire Simba near the burning Rotula. The damage forces the Empire Simba's crew to abandon ship, but it eventually is towed to Liverpool.
Norwegian 2112 ton freighter Huldra, working for the Germans, hits a mine and sinks at Hustadvika, Norway.
Destroyer HMS Firedrake runs aground east of Gibraltar on the Spanish coast. It eventually is freed and returns to Gibraltar for repair.
Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall, operating in the far South Atlantic west of Cape Town, encounters 4972 ton French freighter Ville De Jamunga. The Cornwall escorts the French ship to Cape Town.
Escort Carrier USS Charger (CVE-30) is launched. This carrier, under construction at Newport News, Virginia, is tentatively scheduled to be transferred to the Royal Navy under Lend Lease - once Lend Lease becomes law, that is. This transfer will be rescinded, though. At the moment, it still carries the name Rio de la Plata, which the Royal Navy prefers, but that name will change to USS Charger.
Convoy HX 112 departs from Halifax, Convoy BHX 112 departs from Bermuda, Convoy SL 67 departs from Freetown.
US destroyer USS Meredith (Lt. Commander William K. Mendenhall, Jr.) and submarine USS Grayling (Lt. Eliot Olsen) are commissioned.
U-766 is laid down, U-161 and U-162 are launched.
|Bogdan Filov signs the Tripartite Pact on behalf of Bulgaria, 1 March 1941.|
Battle of the Mediterranean: Colonel Leclerc and his Free French forces accept the submission of the Italians at El Tag fortress at Kufra Oasis. The Italians are allowed to retreat to Italian lines, while the French keep all of their supplies and equipment. Surrendering are 11 officers, 18 NCOs and 273 Libyan soldiers according to Italian sources, while the survivors of 70 members of the Saharan Company outside the fort also could have been used to break the blockade.. The Free French victors have about 350 soldiers, but, most importantly, they have the only effective artillery in the engagement. Total casualties are three deaths on the Italian side and four dead on the French side. The Free French get a windfall of equipment never used by the Italians, including eight SPA AS.37 trucks, half a dozen lorries, four 20 mm cannon and 53 machine guns.
Royal Navy minesweeping drifter HMT Ploughboy detonates three mines in quick succession at Malta. The skipper has to beach the drifter. There is one death and nine wounded. This is a serious loss for the British, because the Ploughboy is the only minesweeper of its type available.
Another major convoy departs from Naples for Tripoli with reinforcements and supplies for the Afrika Korps. It has four freighters and heavy escort.
Axis Relations: Tsar Boris III approves of Bulgarian participation in the Tripartite Pact which forms the foundation of the Axis. So, Prime Minister Bogdan Filov signs the Pact in Vienna on behalf of Bulgaria.
German/Bulgarian Relations: German troops openly began entering Bulgaria on 28 February after months of covert operations in the country. Today, with Bulgaria officially joining the Axis, the Wehrmacht troops openly ride through Sofia. Among the many wild promises made to the Bulgarians is that they will receive an outlet to the Aegean - which would have to cut off northern Greece.
Anglo/US Relations: New US Ambassador John G. Winant meets the Duke of Kent and the King of England on his way to London.
US/Soviet Relations: Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles passes along information in his possession about a coming attack on the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is receiving several of these warnings from various sources and discounts them all.
|Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering and manufacturer Professor Willi Messerschmidt (pointing) in a newspaper picture on 1 March 1941. Goering it touring southern German.|
German Military: The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka remains the workhorse of the Luftwaffe for precision ground attacks. While they are proving increasingly vulnerable to fighter attacks, there is no better alternative available or in the offing. Thus, development continues. Today, five prototypes (Ju 87 V21-25) of a conversion from B-1 to D-1/D-4 make their first flights. The Ju 87 D switches the placement of the oil cooler and two coolant radiators and, more strikingly, has a more aerodynamically sculpted cockpit which gives the pilot better visibility. The pilots also receive increased armor protection, while a better machine gun (dual-barrel 7.92 mm MG 71Z) is placed in the rear of the cockpit. The engine now delivers 1401 hp, and maximum bomb-carrying ability increases from 500 kg to 1800 kg.
These incremental changes do not improve the survivability of the aircraft very much against the RAF. However, the increased power eventually will make the Stuka (in a still later version, the G) more effective at what will become its primary task: tank destruction.
US Military: Support Force, Atlantic Fleet is established. This will protect convoys in the North Atlantic. The first commander is Rear Admiral Arthur L. Bristol. It is composed of Destroyer Squadron 7 (Captain J L Kauffman), Destroyer Squadron 30 (Captain M Y Cohen), and Destroyer Squadron 31 (Captain W D.Baker). Each squadron has two divisions, each containing three or four destroyers. While many of the destroyers eventually gain some renown, the two that stand out are USS Reuben James in Division 62 and USS Greer in Division 61.
The US 133rd Infantry Regiment arrives at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for training.
Soviet Military: General Zhukov, appointed Chief of the General Staff on 1 February, takes over this position. He replaces the temporarily disgraced (in Stalin's eyes, anyway) Meretskov.
Chinese Military: General Hiroshi Nemoto becomes the commanding officer of the 24th Division.
New Zealand Military: New Zealand's first fighter squadron, No. 485 Squadron RNZAF, forms.
Japanese Military: Lieutenant General Hiroshi Takahashi becomes chief of staff of the Japanese Chosen Army, currently based in Korea. Lieutenant General Takaji Wachi becomes chief of staff of Japan's Taiwan Army. Wachi previously served in Taiwan until his present position on the staff of the Central China Expeditionary Army. Wachi also heads its Research Division, considering techniques for land warfare in Southeast Asia.
US Government: The US Senate votes unanimously to establish a select committee to study US war production. Of course, the US isn't even at war at the moment, but war production is ramping up to help the British and equip various US bases in the Pacific. This commission is headed by Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman and becomes known as the Truman Commission.
Chinese Government: Nationalist (Kuomintang) leader Chiang Kai-shek gives an address to the People's Political Council.
Holocaust: Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of German Police Heinrich Himmler inspects the concentration camp at Oswiecim, aka Auschwitz. There is a major synthetic fuel plant being constructed nearby, as well as other factories which use the camp's slave labor. During his visit, Himmler orders the expansion of the camp to 30,000 and another camp built at Birkenau to hold 100,000 more. Birkenau's original purpose is to hold an expected influx of Soviet prisoners of war after the start of Operation Barbarossa. Auschwitz, Himmler orders camp commandant Rudolf Hoess to commit 10,000 prisoners to build a I.G. Farben synthetic rubber factory at Dwory, a kilometer or two away.
Greek Homefront: There is a strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake centered at Larissa, north of Athens. A reported, 10,000 are left homeless.
Dutch Homefront: The Germans have quelled the General Strike called in February which involved up to 300,000 participants. Today, they impose a fine of 15 million guilders on the city of Amsterdam for its citizens participation in the strike.
American Homefront: Theodore N. Kaufman publishes "Germany Must Perish!" This is a the first in a series of written items in the United States - most notoriously the Morgenthau Plan later in the war - that the German Propaganda Ministry seizes upon with glee.
"Captain America" makes his official debut in an American comic book (although in actuality the issue dated today actually was released in December 1940 - in time for Christmas).
|The Admiralty IX Floating Dry Dock, Singapore, March 1941 (Image #6159, Courtesy Australian War Memorial).|
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