Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 31, 1941: LRDG Battered


Friday 31 January 1941

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Imperial War Museum Blitz damage
"Air raid damage to the Naval Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London, 31 January 1941." © IWM (MH 127).

Italian/Greek Campaign: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 31 January 1941 continues to place greater priority on the Greece/Turkey region than on the current campaign in North Africa. He sends a memo today to the Chiefs of Staff Committee in which he reiterates that "only Forces which do not conflict with European [i.e., Greek and Turkish] needs can be employed" in any advance to Benghazi in Libya. He emphasizes that "this should be impressed upon General Wavell."

The Greeks and Italians continue to fight for supremacy of the Trebeshinë massif. The heights are held by two battalions of Italian Blackshirts, and they are fighting as hard as any Italian troops anywhere. The Greeks want the range in order to secure their flank for an advance on Salona. At this point, in light of later events, all the Italians have to do is prolong the battles as long as possible and wait for the Germans.

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Greek women war workers
Greek women pitching in to the war effort by digging ditches, 31 January 1941 (AP Photo). This photo receives a lot of press at the time, and an original caption to this photo states that they carry 80-pound packs up mountains.

East African Campaign: A seesaw battle in Eritrea ends today in a decisive British victory. It is between the British 4th Indian Division and five Italian colonial battalions under the command of Colonel Luziani west of Agordat. The Italians, using a mountain range for defensive purposes, have taken Mount Cochen and control the pass between it and nearby Mount Laquatat. Today, the British Indian troops launch a major effort and take back the Cochen heights. Major-General Noel Beresford-Peirse then orders his Indian troops to take the road in the pass between Mount Cochen and Mount Laquatat. He also has them take Mount Laquatat, still in Italian hands. All of these missions succeed.

The pass between Mount Cochen and Mount Laquatat is the last good defensive position ahead of the Agordat plain, where the advance should be easier because it is good tank ground. While the Italians fight hard, the British Matilda tanks are almost invulnerable to the light Italian arms and overpower the Italian armor. By 14:00, the battle is over, and the Matildas have destroyed eleven M11/39 tanks and Fiat L3 Tankettes. Italian cavalry counterattacks beyond the pass fail, and the Italian troops retreat in a panic to Keren, bypassing Agordat (which is still fortified by the Italians). The pathway to Agordat now is wide open with nothing to stop the Allies.

At Barentu, the other prong of the British invasion, the battle between the 5th Indian Division and Italian 2nd Colonial Division continues to a conclusion. The Italians have been fighting hard there, too, continuing with counterattacks. However, they have their eye on Agordat, where the roads to the coast join. If it falls due to the advance of the 4th Indian Division near Mount Cochen, their own rear will be threatened and further defense impossible. Once in possession of Agordat, the 4th Indian Division could attack them from behind and essentially surround them. During the night, the Italians, no doubt hearing of events at Mount Cochen, decide to retreat toward Tole and Arresa. The Indians prod them along by sending a motorized machine-gun unit behind them, but the Italians have no desire to fight. In fact, they are abandoning the roads and heading for safety on foot over rough ground where they can't be pursued.

The collapse of this prime defensive position opens up the road to Agordat for the 5th Indian Division as well, which is garrisoned by only a small force (which the other Italian troops are leaving to their fate). The Italians are hampered by shortages of everything except men (mostly natives), including planes, supplies, vehicles and fuel.

Elsewhere, the Italians retreat from their base at Gallabat under light pressure from the Indian 9th Infantry Brigade. The South African 2nd Infantry Brigade and 5th Infantry Brigade advance from Kenya into Ethiopia (Abyssinia).

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com LRDG battle damage
More debris from the 31 January 1941 LRDG action in southwest Libya.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe continues its random raids by fighter-bombers (Jabos). Today, the Jabos score hits on three London hospitals, apparently as a fluke. They also damage the Naval Gallery at teh Imperial War Museum. RAF Bomber Command stays on the ground, and there are no attacks by either side after dark.

Battle of the Atlantic: The weather remains rough in the North Atlantic. It is so rough that German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, on Operation Berlin, remain unable to refuel from the tanker with which they have rendezvoused near Bear Island, delaying their breakout into the Atlantic through the Denmark Strait.

Italian submarine Dandolo torpedoes and sinks 1367 ton British freighter Pizzaro about 1200 km off Cape Finisterr, Spain. There are six survivors and 23 deaths.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 5159 ton British freighter Rowanbank, a member of Convoy SL-62, in the Northwest Approaches several hundred miles from Ireland.

The Luftwaffe also bombs and sinks 5035 ton Belgian freighter Olympier about 220 km northwest of Tory Island. There are 8 deaths and 19 survivors.

British mines claim two Allied ships north of North Rona Island, Scotland. They are 3091 ton Royal Navy collier HMS Botusk aka Molton and 5436 ton Dutch freighter Emmaplein, both members of Convoy HX 103. There are four deaths on Botusk, but all 31 men on the Emmaplein survive. At first a U-boat is suspected, which leads to a major search in the area, but eventually someone figures out the real cause.

A mine also strikes 200 ton Dutch balloon barrage vessel Saturnus off Maughold Head on the Isle of Man. The ship is abandoned, but salvagers later refloat it and bring it to the port of Douglas.

Danish freighter Maja hits a mine and sinks in the Elbe.

Convoy OB 280 departs from Liverpool, convoy FN 396 sails from Southend, Convoy FN 397 is held in port, Convoys FS 400 and FS 401 depart from Methil, Convoy SC 21 departs from Halifax.

US destroyer USS Edison (Lt. Commander Albert C. Murdaugh) and submarine USS Finback commissioned, USS Grayback launched.

U-751 (Kapitänleutnant Gerhard Bigalk) is commissioned.

Allied Shipping Losses for January 1941:

74 Allied ships of 309,942 tons in Atlantic
2 Allied ships of 13,478 tons in other areas

There are:

  • 126,782 tons sunk by U-boats
  • 78,597 ton sunk by aircraft
  • 80,796 tons sunk by warship/raider
  • 17,107 tons sunk by mines
All figures are approximations only, as judging tonnage lost becomes an art at the fringes (e.g., is a ship that is beached due to war damage part of the tonnage lost?). U-boat sinkings are down by almost half due to the weather, as are losses by mines. Losses due to aircraft, however, increase substantially from December 1940, as KG 40's Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors are operating with great efficiency. Kriegsmarine surface warships also increase, as Admiral Scheer remains on the loose and the raiders scored some major successes (such as the capture of the Norwegian whaling fleet).

The Axis loses 8 ships of 23,129 tons, all in the Mediterranean. The Kriegsmarine loses no U-boats. There are 22 U-boats operational at the end of the month, of which typically 1/3 are on patrol (1/3 are in port and 1/3 transiting to/from patrol).

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com LRDG battle damage
Africa, Libya, Fezzan. Remains of a LRDG Chevrolet trucks in a valley of the Gebel Sherif mountains southwest of Kufra. This is a remnant of the battle on January 31, 1941. The Long Range Desert Group was attacked by the Italian Compagnie Sahariane, and the battle debris apparently still sits where it came to rest that day.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The British troops, in possession of Derna, continue pursuing the retreating Italians along the Via Balbia. The Australian infantry approaches the next town, Giovanni Berta, today. However, it is at best a half-hearted pursuit, as the troops do not have clear instructions to carry Operation Compass further north and west.

General O'Connor wishes to send his armor and wheeled vehicles from Derna south of the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) to head the Italians off further west (the Australian infantry is advancing north of the mountain). However, Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell remains in Nairobi overseeing the advance in Abyssinia and has not approved that operation. Truth be told, the British armor can probably use a few days to bring up more fuel and other supplies and undergo routine maintenance. On the other hand, the chances of cutting off a fleeing enemy diminish with each day of delay.

Free French Forces and the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), which recently combined for an attack on the Italian based at Murzuk, plan to launch another attack together. This one is Kufra, in the same general area in southwest Libya. Colonel Philippe Leclerc commands about 400 men in 60 trucks and 8 armored vehicles. Kufra is a well-defended Italian fort, and the Italians have their guard up due to the successful LRDG attack on Murzuk.

Today, while part of the LRDG is on patrol, an Italian plane spots that part of the LRDG force at Gebel Sherif, which leads to a battle with the Italian Sahara patrol. Major Pat Clayton commands G Guard (Brigade of Guard) and T Patrol (New Zealand patrols) of LRDG, a total of 76 men in 26 vehicles. The Italians overpower the T Patrol of LRDG and destroy four (of 11) British trucks. They also capture Major Clayton and several others, along with Clayton's plans for the Kufra raid. One British and two Libyan (Italian) soldiers are killed. This action forces most of the LRDG to withdraw to Egypt to refit and regroup - in fact, some walk back to Egypt. However, Leclerc continues with his plan to attack Kufra some time in February.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Huntley is attacked and sunk by Luftwaffe aircraft (apparently Fliegerkorps X based on Sicily) about 30 nautical miles northwest of Mersa Matruh, Egypt. There are 18 deaths, including Captain Cotsell who perishes from his injuries later, while 26 crew survive but are wounded.

Force H departs from Gibraltar toward Italy. It is to launch attacks on a dam at Tirso (Operation Picket) and on Genoa (operation Result). The fleet is divided into four Groups, Group 1 led by battleship HMS Malaya, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, battlecruiser HMS Renown and light cruiser HMS Sheffield, the other three groups composed of destroyers and support ships.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Rorqual spots 407 ton Italian tug Ursus in the Adriatic near the island of Curzola (Korčula) and attacks it with its deck gun. The tug sinks, and the barge the tug is towing also suffers damage, but is later towed into Dubrovnik.

Italian S boats Lupo and Libra operating off Crete damage 8120 ton British tanker Desmoulea. Destroyer HMS Dainty tows it to Suda Bay, and eventually it is taken to Mumbai, where it serves as a store ship rather than be completely repaired.

The Luftwaffe (apparently Heinkel He 111s of II,/KG 26) bombs and damages 1290 ton Egyptian freighter Sollum near Sidi Barrani. (Some accounts say the captain saves the ship by beaching it.) The Sollum is transporting 250 Italian POWs.

The RAF bombs Tripoli during the night and causes harbor damage.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Greyhound collides with battleship HMS Warspite at Alexandria. Both ships are lightly damaged and require minor repairs.

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com LRDG battle damage
More battle debris from the 31 January 1941 LRDG action in Libya.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: German raider Atlantis seizes 5150 ton British freighter Speybank off the eastern coast of Africa. It later puts a prize crew on board and sends the undamaged ship to Bordeaux for conversion into an auxiliary minelayer.

A German supply ship, Tannenfels, departs from Kismayu in Italian Somaliland to service German raiders.

War Crimes: The Luftwaffe (apparently KG 26) hits and damages 9717 ton Royal Navy hospital ship HMS Dorsetshire in the Gulf of Sollum. Naturally, attacking hospital ships is against international law, and such ships always are clearly marked. Such attacks usually are the product of frustration imbued with sheer malevolence, and is always (presumably) against orders. That this ship is hit again on 1 February suggests that this attack was not an accident.

Anglo/Turkish Relations: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a lengthy letter to Turkish President İsmet İnönü. In light of the "rapidly growing danger to Turkey," Churchill writes, he would like to base "at least ten Squadrons of Fighter and Bomber aircraft" there. These would be followed by another five squadrons should Greece surrender to the Axis. One of the purposes of this would be to "bombard the Roumanian oilfields" - which is precisely what Hitler fears and perhaps the overriding reason why he is sending troops to the area at all. Another advantage, Churchill writes, would be to "restrain Russia from aiding Germany."

Hitler also is extremely interested in gaining favor with Turkey. However, the country remains steadfastly neutral, with its leaders knowing that it is in an extremely strategic, but also quite vulnerable, position - like Spain at the other end of the Mediterranean.

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com LRDG battle damage
More battle debris from the 31 January 1941 LRDG action in southwest Libya. That appears to be part of a Chevy truck.

US Military: Vice Admiral William S. Pye takes over as Commander Battle Force, and Vice Admiral Walter S. Anderson takes over as Commander Battleships Battle Force.

British Government: Churchill continues to obsess over the regular radio broadcasts by socialist J.B. Priestley on the BBC. He sends a memo to Alfred Duff Cooper in which he demands that no payment be made for such "hampering criticism" and calls for equal time to be given to "Conservative opinion." Churchill also sends another memo to Duff Cooper in which he expresses a desire for a "malicious lie" being told about him by isolationist sources - that Churchill supposedly once said that America should have stayed out of World War I - that should be countered by repudiations "as often as possible on the American radio."

According to the diary of Minister of Information Sir John Reith, a fierce critic of Churchill, he has dinner today with Chief of the Imperial General Staff General John Dill. According to Reith, Dill is extremely uncomplimentary toward Churchill, claiming that the Prime Minister is "often unable to appreciate or understand major issues." Churchill, according to Dill, wastes much time by forcing ministers to deal with "silly minutes from the PM" (a claim to some extent supported by the record, though of course one man's "silly minutes" are another man's vital communications of national importance).

Dill, according to Reith, equivocates when asked whether Churchill does more harm or good to the war effort in his present position. Needless to say, both men's careers would be at hazard if Churchill ever found out about such opinions, but the two men obviously feel a kinship in their distaste for Churchill and his methods and safety in their mutual vulnerability to his potential wrath.

Romanian/Hungarian Relations: Details of the transfer of much of northern Romania to Hungary continue to be determined via Arbitrage in Vienna. Today, 191,000 Jewish residents in Transylvania are transferred from Romanian to Hungarian control. By one estimate, 58,000 of them survive the war.

Occupied Luxemburg: The occupying authorities issue an order requiring citizens to change their first and last names to Germanic variations, else the names will be changed for them.

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Baltimore News-Post headlines
The Baltimore News-Post, 31 January 1941. Congress continues to debate the Lend Lease Bill.

Occupied Belgium: Kriegsverwaltungsrat Tidemann Ulrich Lemberg, Kommissar für die Diamant-Wirtschaft in Belgien, takes a key step in an obscure turf war within the occupying authorities. Lemberg is in charge of overseeing the diamond markets centered in Antwerp. His official goal is to try to restore the diamond markets, completely disrupted by the invasion and occupation, to some semblance of normal. The Devisenschutzkommando (Foreign Currency Control Unit) - a subsidiary of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt - has been hindering Lemberg's goal by basically stealing any diamonds they can find (for the Reich, of course). This, of course, is no secret, and sends all the diamonds into basements and attics.

Today or around this date, Lemberg manages to make it a punishable offense for any Nazi units to loot diamonds, with any violators prosecuted. The Nazis in general, of course, plunder with general. However, exactly who gets to plunder is a very, very sensitive issue, and sometimes, such as with issues like this, the German government concludes that plundering may be counterproductive to larger goals. Throughout the war, German officers who loot, but aren't supposed to loot, are prosecuted. Lemberg has powerful patrons within the Nazi hierarchy, as Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering has a deep interest in the diamond and art markets centered in Holland and Belgium.

Afghanistan: Subhas Chandra Bose, fleeing from the British in India, arrives in Kabul. His destination is Germany.

Iran: Prime Minister Rashid Ali is succeeded by Taha al-Hashimi.

Indochina: Aboard Japanese cruiser Natori, the Vichy French and Thais sign an agreement ending their border war. The cease-fire is made permanent and - for some reason - is made retroactive to the 28th, when the last Thai bombing operation took place. The Thais get all of the territory that they sought in the Mekong Delta area.

Australia: Prime Minister Robert Menzies continues his epic journey from Australia to London, flying out of Calcutta across India to Karachi.

Antarctica: West Base, home of the famous Snow Cat, officially is closed by the US Antarctic Service.

Holocaust: The Nazi authorities uproot 3,000 Jews from villages and send them to the Warsaw ghetto. They are the first of 70,000 Jews to face this fate within the next two months. The Warsaw ghetto is overcrowded and inadequately provisioned already.

31 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com LRDG battle damage Ernest Hemingway Martha Gellhorn
Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway en route to China, January 31, 1941.

British Homefront: Churchill tours bomb damage at Southampton and gives a speech in which he summarizes the war situation, noting that the "offensive in the Middle East has succeeded beyond our dreams" and that "My one aim is to extirpate Hitlerism from Europe."

American Homefront: Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis retains his title against Red Burman with a fifth-round knockout at Madison Square Garden.

The first picture to star radio stars and comedy team Abbott and Costello, "Buck Privates," is released. This is the beginning of a terrific film career for the two comedians. A big hit for Universal, "Buck Privates" later is remembered for the Andrews Sisters' classic (and much imitated) rendition of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" which some might consider to be the first true music video (admittedly, there are many, many contenders for that title). The song, incidentally, is later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but in one of the worst decisions in Academy history loses to "The Last Time I Saw Paris." The Japanese, who apparently do not understand American humor very well, will use this film to deride the competence of US soldiers. Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges makes a brief appearance during his "solo career."

Future History: Richard Andrew Gephardt is born in St. Louis, Missouri. As Dick Gephardt, he later becomes the Democratic Party House Majority (and Minority) Leader in the 1990s and a Presidential contender.

Jessica Walter is born in Brooklyn, New York. The daughter of a musician who works for NBC, Jessica early on develops an interest in the theater, which flowers into a distinguished film and television career. Among her many, many career highlights are a starring role in Clint Eastwood's first directorial project, "Play Misty For Me." Jessica Walters continues to act in films and on Television, recently voicing spymistress Malory Archer on FX's "Archer."

Below, some jazz from Alix Combelle in Occupied Paris.


January 1941

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

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, January 30, 2017

January 30, 1941: Derna Taken


Thursday 30 January 1941

30 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Australian soldiers Derna
"A Vickers machine gun crew outside Derna, 30 January 1941."  © IWM (E 1818).

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greeks continue on 30 January 1941 trying to pry the two Italian Blackshirt Battalions off Mount Trebeshina. The Cretan 5th Division of III Corps has joined II Corps in the effort. The Italians are dedicated fascists and continue to hold out.

Alexander Koryzis takes over as Prime Minister from the recently deceased Ioannnis Metaxas. On the positive side, Koryzis is not a dictator like his predecessor. On the down side, though, he is not seen as being nearly as forceful in dealing with the difficult military situation.

East African Campaign: At Mount Cochen, five Italian colonial battalions supported by artillery push back the 14th Punjab Regiment and 1st Battalion of the 6th Rajputana Rifles Regiment. It is a rare victory by the Italians, matching one recently in a similar manner in Albania.

The 5th Indian Division, meanwhile, is attacking the Italian 2nd Colonial Division commanded by General Angelo Bergonzi at Barentu. Bergonzi has nine battalions containing 8000 men and 32 guns, a not inconsiderable force in the interior. Not only is Bergonzi successfully defending his position, but he is able to launch some occasional counterattacks. His position, however, depends for flank protection on other forces holding Agordat, and that is in doubt.

30 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Derna airfield Bristol Blenheim Mk. 1
The Italian airfield at Derna in 1941, showing Italian bombers and pieces of  a downed Bristol Blenheim Mk 1, shot down while bombing the airfield. Those look like Cant Z1007 bombers in the background.

European Air Operations: It is cloudy and the flying weather is poor again. The Luftwaffe sends pirate raiders across during the day to hit London with random bomb drops. Luftwaffe fighter pilots, apparently bored, amuse themselves with knocking down some barrage balloons at Dover.

Battle of the Atlantic: In a speech before 18,000 at the Berlin Sportpalast to honor the anniversary of his accession to power in 1933, Adolf Hitler announces that any ship bringing supplies to Great Britain will be sunk. This is a very sensitive topic, considering that it would be dangerous to provoke the United States, but Hitler hints darkly that bad things will happen to the United States if it tries to intervene militarily. Hitler is feeling very confident and expounds that this will be "the crucial year of the great New Order in Europe." He in fact will be absolutely correct, but not in the way that he intends or desires. Another of his remarks:
... Where we can beat England, England will be beaten.
betrays a certain cautiousness about Germany's prospects that appear in his speeches throughout the war but are little noticed at the time.

German battlecruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, having sailed far to the northeast in order to evade patrolling Royal Navy warships south of Iceland, rendezvous with 6358 ton tanker Adria. The weather is horrendous, however, and refueling operations are impossible until the weather clears.

U-94 (Kptlt. Herbert Kuppisch), on its second patrol out of Lorient, follows up its sinking of the West Wales on the 29th with the sinking of 5125 ton British freighter Rushpool. The Rushpool is another straggler from Convoy SC 19 due to the weather. All 40 men on board survive, picked up by Convoy SC 19's escort HMS Antelope.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 3677 ton Norwegian freighter Austvard 130 miles west of Galway Island, Ireland. There are 23 deaths and five survivors. The event is tragic because the lifeboats were damaged or destroyed in the attack, and many survivors perished because they took refuge on rafts that later disappeared.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 5266 ton British freighter Olympier in the Southwest Approaches about 250 miles out to sea. However, the freighter is able to continue toward port.

German 2530 ton freighter Konigsberg hits a mine and sinks in the Elbe near the Elbe 1 lightship.

The Luftwaffe strafes Royal Navy destroyer HMS Vimiera in the North Sea while attacking Convoy FS 397. The destroyer sustains only light damage.

Convoy HX 106 departs from Halifax, escorted by battleship Ramillies, Convoys SL 64 and SLS 64 depart from Freetown.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Goathland is laid down.

U-555 (Kapitänleutnant Hans-Joachim Horrer.) is commissioned, U-175 and U-217 are laid down.

30 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Italian M13/40 tanks Derna Banini Group
Italian M13/40 tanks of the Banini Group outside Derna, January 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Italians spend much of the morning extricating the last civilians and stores from Derna. The evacuation is aided by attacks by the Regia Aeronautica and well-placed artillery, all intended to pin the advancing Australians down for sufficient time to make the evacuation succeed. The Italians make good their escape, and then the Australians walk in basically unopposed. It is another brilliant success for Operation Compass.

After taking the town, Generally O'Connor in the evening decides to ask Middle East Commander Archibald Wavell for permission to have the Australians pursue the retreating Italians northwest of Derna along the Via Balbia. More desert sandstorms hinder operations, and the supply lines once again are becoming quite extended, a serious issue particularly in terms of having sufficient water supplies. Wavell, in Nairobi until the 1st, will give O'Connor his answer upon his return.

The next town is Giovanni Berta, but it will take at least another few days to get there. The plan is for 7th Armoured Division to proceed cross-country south of the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) via Msus and Antelat. Thus, the British forces would be divided by the mountain, the Australians to the north and the 7th Armoured to the south. As it will be slow going for the British tankers, General O'Connor proposes to split off his fast wheeled vehicles under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J.F.B. Combe and send them ahead. This Combe Force will head to the northwest to try to cut the fleeing Italian 10th Army off south of Benghazi, whose capture is seen as the climax of Operation Compass.

The Luftwaffe's attacks on the Suez Canal pay off quickly when one sinks a dredger of the British Suez Canal Company in Lake Timsah. The dredger is later raised and repaired.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Upholder (Malcolm D. Wanklyn) attacks an Italian convoy thirty miles north of Zavia (Zawiya), Libya. However, it is unsuccessful, and the Italian escorts then unsuccessfully attack the Upholder.

On Malta, the military authorities consider using a burning petroleum mixture to defend against an invasion. Rather than burn the invaders, the intent is to create a thick smokescreen. The idea's main flaw is that the island does not have enough benzene to enact the strategy.

German/Finnish Relations: Finnish Chief of General Staff General Heinrichs visits Berlin for a meeting with OKH Chief of Staff Generaloberst Franz Halder. Halder at this point is solely concerned with developing the plans for Operation Barbarossa, and he makes the first official mention - more of a hint, but a broad hint - of the proposed operation to the Finns (of course, there likely had been many rumors and hints previously). Halder is interested in the condition of the Finnish Army and the sort of terrain it would encounter. Rumors are flying about in all sorts of different directions, with some casting all the talk about Operation Barbarossa as simply a diversion intended to cover the true objective: an invasion of Great Britain. While the Finns remain in doubt after this meeting about how serious the plans are to invade the Soviet Union, there now is no doubt that they are aware that the Germans are at least thinking and talking about it.

Anglo/Turkish Relations: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's assistant private secretary, Jock Colville, records in his diary that Churchill drafts a telegram to Turkish President İsmet İnönü today for delivery on the 31st requesting that the RAF be permitted to base some squadrons on its territory in order to counter assumed German aggression in Bulgaria. Turkey is firmly neutral, however, and being closely watched (and courted) by the Germans as well, so it has to tread carefully.

30 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com New York Post
"'I'll Torpedo U.S. Aid To Britain,' Says Hitler," NY Post, 30 January 1941.

German Military: Reichsmarschall and Luftwaffe boss Hermann Goering institutes the Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe is instituted. This is awarded in Bronze, Silver and Gold, with various elaborations above those levels contemplated similar to those for the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz). There are slightly different permutations of the medal for different types of missions completed:

  • Day Fighters
  • Night Fighters
  • Long Range Night Fighters
  • Heavy Fighters
  • Air to Ground Support Fighters
  • Bombers
  • Reconnaissance
  • Transport and Glider

The criteria for the gradations of the medal are, Bronze: 20 flown missions; Silver: 60 missions flown; Gold, 110 missions flown. Many pilots on the Channel Front already qualify for the Gold medal.

Rudolf Höss is promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer. Otto Skorzeny is promoted to Untersturmführer (notification in March).

30 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Italian POWs Tobruk
Italian prisoners at Tobruk, January 1941.

British Military: General Oliver Leese becomes commander of the 15th Infantry Division.

Soviet Government: Lavrentiy Beria, head of the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB), is elevated to be the Soviet Union's "top cop, becoming Commissar General of State Security. Beria, already a candidate member of the Politburo, is a particularly rough character who, it is said, personally strangled his predecessor, Nikolai Yezhov - but this may simply be Soviet mythmaking. Perhaps. Beria is one of Stalin's favorites because he does a lot of the state's "dirty work," which usually involves eliminating people. He also plays a direct role in the war at certain critical points, again in his role of "enforcer."

Australia: Prime Minister Robert Menzies continues his lengthy and tortuous journey to London, flying to Rangoon and then to Calcutta.

China: In the Battle of Southern Henan, the Japanese 11th Army is attempting, in three separate columns, to take over the southern section of the Ping-Han Railway. The Chinese 5th War Area (Li Zongren) does not oppose the Japanese frontally, but instead forms a "crescent" which proves a danger to the Japanese flanks. Today, the Japanese take Wuyang, meeting little opposition from the Chinese.

German Homefront: Industrialists Friedrich Flick and Albert Vögler receives the War Merit Cross. The War Merit Cross is one of the only, and maybe only, award made during the war that could be worn in Germany after the war (in a de-Nazified version) after 1957.

Future History: Richard Bruce Cheney is born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He attends Yale University, then interns with Congressman William A. Steiger. This begins a long career of public service which includes election to the US House of Representatives in Wyoming in 1978, serving until 1989. He becomes Secretary of Defense under President George Herbert Walker Bush, and then the 46th Vice President of the United States with President George W. Bush. Dick Cheney remains involved in politics in an emeritus role.

30 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Australian soldiers Derna
Australian troops approaching Derna, January 1941. (Australian War Memorial).

January 1941

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

2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29, 1941: US Military Parley With Great Britain


Wednesday 29 January 1941

29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com US Ski Troops
US Ski troops during rifle training at Fort Lewis, Washington. They are member of the 87th Mountain Regiment. The whole idea of mountain troops in the US is very new, and the men don't have the white uniforms that eventually will become the norm around the world.

Italian/Greek Campaign: Greek Prime Minister General Ioannis Metaxas passes away on 29 January 1941 of a phlegmon of the pharynx, leading to incurable toxaemia. His successor is former minister and bank governor Alexander Koryzis.

Metaxas remains a very divisive figure in Greece to this day. He also was a man of many contradictions, as he was fervently pro-German during World War I and later came to fear them. Some deplore his authoritarian style and dictatorial policies, while others remember him as a populist who always put Greece and the Greek people first. One thing is for certain: he left Greece in a much better military posture than anyone thought possible. Not only is the Greek army shoving the Italians all over Albania, he also gives the Greek state at least a chance of holding off the Germans along the Bulgarian border with his chain of fortifications known as the Metaxas Line.

On the Trebeshina mountain range, the Greeks turn the tables on the two Italian Blackshirt battalions who took the peaks recently. The Cretan 5th Division of III Corps launches its own attack to recapture the key area that has changed hands several times. However, the Blackshirt battalions defend strongly.

East African Campaign: The British offensive against Italian possessions in East Africa expands today. The South Africans enter Italian Somaliland from Kenya with the 1st South African, 11th and 12 African (local) Divisions. General Wavell remains in Nairobi watching over developments.

Major-General Noel Beresford-Peirse's British 4th Indian Division ends a fake diversionary attack it has been staging against Mount Itaberrè and Mount Caianac, north of Agordat. It also fails to capture Mount Laquatat, which it really does want to take. These are rare failures for the advancing British forces, which otherwise have had little opposition on their advance into Italian East Africa. Beresford-Pierse sends the 1st Battalion of the 6th Rajputana Rifles Regiment to take Mount Cochen, which it does. The Italian troops in the sector, however, are in good fighting form and make plans to try to retake the mountain.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command continues its persistent and fruitless attacks on German battleship Tirpitz at Wilhelmshaven. It sends 25 Wellingtons to attack it, to no effect. If ever there were a warship that earned its keep by simply remaining afloat as a persistent target, it is the Tirpitz.

After an extended period (ten nights) without major air attacks, the Luftwaffe ramps back up slowly, sending 36 bombers against London. Many Londoners, feeling a false sense of security due to the lack of recent raids, have gone back to sleeping at home. This raid sends many back to the shelters and tubes.

29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Zoot suits
Kids wearing Zoot Suits in Chicago, Chicago, 1941 (Library of Congress).

Battle of the Atlantic: German raider Kormoran, operating 600 hundred miles west of Freetown, at 13:00 sights 11,900 ton British refrigerator ship Afric Star. Captain Detmers of the Kormoran has to fire on the ship when it does not surrender. The Kormoran crew boards the ship, confiscates code books, takes 76 prisoners (including two women), and, when scuttling doesn't work, finally has to sink it with gunfire and torpedoes.

After dark, the Kormoran crew sights another ship and shells it. This ship, unlike the Afric Star, gets off a distress call which the Kormoran can't jam. Once again the Kormoran crew boards, and, helped by the code books taken earlier in the day from the Afric Star, identifies the ship as the 5273 ton British freighter Eurolychus. It is carrying bombers for Ghana (the Gold Coast). Detmers sinks this ship with a torpedo as well and takes four British and 39 Chinese crew prisoner (there are 10 deaths and 28 survivors are picked up later by a passing Spanish freighter). Detmers has to leave the scene quickly because, responding to the distress calls, HMS Nofolk and Devonshire show up. One of the men who is rescued by the Spanish ship, Frank Laskier, later becomes a propaganda hero for the merchant marine. Fortunately for the Kormoran, it outruns the Royal Navy ships in the darkness.

U-93 (Kptlt. Claus Korth), operating in the Northwest Approaches, has a big day. It sinks 4929 ton Greek freighter Aikatern, 5886 ton British freighter King Robert, and 10,468 ton British tanker W.B. Walker. All three ships are part of Convoy SC 19. Everybody on the King Robert and Aikatern survives, while four men perish on the Walker.

U-94 (Kptlt. Herbert Kuppisch) is operating in the same general area as U-93. It torpedoes and sinks 4353 ton British freighter West Wales. The West Wales is a straggler from Convoy SC 19. There are 16 deaths and 21 survivors, rescued by the convoy escorts HMS Antelope and Anthony.

U-106 (Kptlt. Jürgen Oesten), on its first patrol out of Kiel (heading for Lorient), torpedoes and sinks 2962 ton Egyptian freighter Sesostris. Everybody perishes.

British 8967 ton transport Westmoreland hits a mine in the Thames Estuary and is abandoned by its crew. A prize crew boards and takes it to Liverpool.

German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau continue heading northeast toward a rendezvous with an oil tanker. The weather remains very rough, and the German ships are beyond the range of RAF reconnaissance, so they proceed unmolested.

Convoy FN 395 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 399 departs from Methil.

The Germans continue laying defensive minefields off Norway.

Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Ilfracombe and antisubmarine warfare trawler HMT Polka are launched.

Submarine USS Marlin is launched, destroyer USS Bailey is laid down.

U-152 (Kapitänleutnan Peter-Erich Cremer) is commissioned.

29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) women
"Members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in a pay queue, 29 January 1941." © IWM (HU 104557).

Battle of the Mediterranean: As the Italian Tenth Army evacuates the Cyrenaica of Libya, the British troops occupy the abandoned Derna. The Australian 6th Infantry Division follows on the Via Balbia, but the Italians have broken contact and left the road full of booby traps. The Italians in Benghazi also are beginning to move west, and the British 7th Armored Division sends units south of the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) via Msus and Antelat to try to cut them off. It it rough going, and in any event the Italians have a head start.

The Luftwaffe sends planes to bomb the Suez Canal again. Previously, it has failed, as the canal lies at the extreme range of German planes. This time, however, the Germans succeed, dropping mines from Heinkel He 111 bombers.

Anglo/US/Canadian Relations: The U.S.–British Staff Conference in Washington, D.C. officially begins today (preliminary meetings began on the 27th). The subject is formulation of a joint Allied global military strategy. The general framework of the conference includes a "Europe first" policy if a global war breaks out in the Pacific as well as Europe. This conference will last until 27 March 1941 and culminate in the top secret ABC-1 report. If any confirmation were needed, this conference by its very nature conclusively establishes that the US is prepared to enter the war on the side of Great Britain - but only when the time is right.

29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com San Francisco
San Francisco, 1941.

Soviet/Finnish Relations: Despite the fact that the Winter War between the two countries has been over for the better part of a year, relations between them remain prickly. Petsamo in the far north is of particular interest to the Soviets because it contains valuable nickel reserves and a new and elaborate processing plant. Petsamo, on the other hand, is Finland's only deep water port which is free of interference from the great powers. Thus, the area has strategic value as well as simply economic value.

Stalin, who had possession of Petsamo at the end of the Winter War but returned it to Finland, wants the nickel. Molotov has been enquiring about it since 23 June 1940. However, the Germans also want the nickel, and that was one of the major provisions of the trade agreements reached between the two countries that month. Nickel is one of the major reasons that Molotov demanded that Germany take its hands off Finland when he visited Berlin in November 1940, and why Hitler refused to even consider Molotov's demands for joining the Tripartite Pact. Nickel was one of the major contributing factors to Operation Barbarossa, though of course Hitler's obsession about protection of the Romanian oil fields probably played a larger role.

Today, the Soviets and Finns begin talking about the issue in more depth in Moscow. Finnish ambassador to Moscow J.K. Paasikivi has some negotiating room, as the Finns are more interested in land in the south than in the far north. One of the possibilities discussed is a trade of Petsamo for other territory. Marshal Mannerheim is furious and threatens to resign, and this President Ryti quickly quashes the whole idea.


29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) women
"A group of Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) drivers at a pay parade somewhere in England, 29 January 1941." © IWM (HU 104539).

British Military: Winston Churchill sends a lengthy memo to Secretary of State for War David Margesson. Among many other things, he expands a criticism he has made to General Wavell in North Africa about the "tooth to tail" ratio of fighting men to service troops. He says that "our main objective in this theatre" of the Middle East is the transfer of forces to Greece and/or Turkey. He contemplates having 12 divisions available for this purpose "by July."

British Government: Prime Minister Winston Churchill remains hacked off about Minister of Shipping Ronald Cross making statements that Churchill did not like. Upset at some of Cross' statements, Churchill required that all press comments by "junior ministers" be cleared by him. Today, he casts his net a bit further and memos the Minister of Information, Alfred Duff Cooper. In this memo, Churchill demonstrates his worst authoritarian streak and outright bans Cross from giving weekly radio broadcasts (which presumably is within his wartime powers... sort of). The interesting thing is that he does not (apparently) tell Cross this himself, but instead tells the news outlets not to air him.

Churchill also states in the same memo that he is upset at broadcasts by socialist John Boynton "J.B." Priestley. Churchill states that he "is far from friendly to the Government, and I should not be too sure about him on larger issues." Quite a tacit implication there. Priestley, however, is extremely popular with ordinary citizens - only Churchill himself draws larger audiences - perhaps because he espouses populist left-wing ideas These resonate deeply with the population (which Churchill will find out definitively to his own regret in 1945). This memo eventually leads to the cancellation of Priestley's popular radio talks - though Priestley's son says in 2015 that in fact it was the Cabinet that disliked Priestley and poisoned Churchill against him rather than the other way around. In any event, the days of Priestley's talks now are numbered.


29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com police raid LA
A police raid just after midnight on 29 January 1941 at the 7566 Club at 7566 Melrose Avenue. Blue laws prohibited the sale of alcohol at that time of day. With no television, prime time radio broadcasts ending early, not much else to do at that time of day for the restless. Looks like there are women there, too.

Soviet Military: First flight of the Tupolev ANT-58 medium bomber.

German Government: Franz Schlegelberger is appointed German Minister of Justice after Franz Gürtner passes away.

Singapore: Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies is continuing his lengthy journey to London and now is in Singapore. In his diary entry for today, he notes that the new Commander in chief of the Far East, Air Chief Marshall Sir Robert Brooke-Popham has "shoulders a little stooped" and his "hair and moustache are both sandy and wispy and a little indeterminate." On the other hand, Menzies likes the governor, Sir Shenton Thomas, who strikes Menzies as "brisk and I should think efficient." He also notes that Brooke-Popham says that, at his meeting with Churchill before assuming his position in Singapore, Churchill had told him to "Hold out to the last, my boy, God bless you" - which does not seem overly optimistic.

Indochina: The Vichy French and Thais continue to negotiate a peace deal under the auspices of the Japanese. An unofficial cease fire remains in effect.

China: The Nationalist Chinese capture Zhenyang from the Japanese, while the Japanese 4th Cavalry Brigade captures Huai-yang. In the Battle of Southern Honan, the Japanese 11th Army holds its ground against attacks by the Chinese 5th War Area.

29 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bela Lugosi Devil Bat
Bela Lugosi's "The Devil Bat" advertisement in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 29, 1941.

January 1941

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

2017

January 28, 1941: Ho Chi Minh Returns


Tuesday 28 January 1941

28 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com British soldiers North Africa
British tank officers in North Africa on January 28, 1941 read an Italian newspaper. The puppy was "captured" at Sidi Barrani.

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Italians and Greeks continue to battle over the heights of Trebeshina (specifically Height 1923) on 28 January 1941. Two Italian Blackshirt battalions have recovered the peaks in appalling weather, while the Cretan 5th Division of II Corps is trying to dislodge them again. The Blackshirts, heavily indoctrinated political troops akin to the SS, are fighting strongly.

East African Campaign: In Eritrea, the Italian 4th Colonial Division under General Orlando Lorenzini is making a stand at Barentu Agordat. He has 76 guns and a company of both medium and light tanks, not an inconsiderable force in the area. Major-General Noel Beresford-Peirse, in command of the 4th Indian Division, sends his troops (3rd Battalion of the 14th Punjab Regiment) on a flanking move to the Cochen Hills to the south of the Italian defenses. Elsewhere, the British troops are advancing to catch up with the retreating Italians.

European Air Operations: The lousy winter weather continues to hamper air operations in northern Europe. The Luftwaffe continues its random nuisance raids on scattered targets in the southeast, with a few bombs dropped on London. The RAF raids the Naples airport, railway facilities and marshalling yard. The bombers also attack Catania and Comiso airfields, the bases of Fliegerkorps X.

28 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com German pedal car
A carload of Germans pedal their way through the Bailiwick of Jersey on 28 January 1941. "To save petrol German soldiers use a pedal car to get around in town." (Photo- Keystone Photo Agency).

Battle of the Atlantic: The weather is extremely rough in the North Atlantic. This causes collisions, ship sightings that are hard to confirm, and similar issues. The Luftwaffe can't get enough planes in the air to provide proper scouting reports for the U-boats, due to the lack of sufficient Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condors in KG 40.

At about 06:49, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, the two Kriegsmarine battlecruisers attempting to break out into the Atlantic to join Admiral Scheer, sight two British cruisers on radar patrolling south of Iceland. Admiral Lütjens, under strict orders not to engage capital ships, immediately turns around 180 degrees and heads back to the north east. Hitler in particular is prone to giving his ship captains very cautious instructions which some feel unduly inhibit their discretion and opportunism. This time, Lütjens follows such orders, which is likely a good thing in this instance. Being too aggressive in the Atlantic can pay big rewards for German raiders - but it also, as will be seen in May 1941, be extremely hazardous to one's health. The entire British Home Fleet is at sea waiting in the general vicinity for the two German ships, and there would be little margin of error should a lucky Royal Navy hit slow them down or disable one of them.

The HMS Naiad also spots the two German ships at about the same time, but for some reason the commander of the force - Admiral John Tovey - does not believe the lookouts. The Naiad thus does not shadow the German ships, but Tovey sends battlecruiser HMS Repulse and four destroyers to reinforce the two cruisers just in case. Admiral Lütjens does not intend to give up the mission, but instead plans a rendezvous with tankers Adria and Schlettstadt in the far north near Bear Island and considers going north of Iceland instead of south.

Italian submarine Luigi Torelli torpedoes and sinks a straggler from Convoy HX 102 about 250 miles off Ireland in the Western Approaches. It is 5198 ton British freighter Urla. All 42 on board survive.

The Luftwaffe (I,/KG 40 Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condors) bombs 1944 ton British freighter Pandion in the Northwest Approaches north of the westernmost points of Ireland. The ship makes it to Loch Swilly, where it anchors. However, the damage proves too great for the crew to handle. First, they beach the ship, and later abandon it. The weather eventually destroys the ship entirely.

The Luftwaffe also bombs and sinks 4574 ton British freighter Mendip Grelrosa about 400 miles off Malin Head, Ireland in the Northwest Approaches. There are five deaths.

The Luftwaffe also bombs and damages 3635 ton British freighter Baron Renfrew in the same general area in the Northwest Approaches. The ship eventually makes it to Loch Lathaich and later to Glasgow for repairs.

British oil refinery ship 13,640 ton Tafelberg hits a mine and is badly damaged in Bristol Channel southwest of Cardiff. This area has seen numerous mine-strikes recently. The crew beaches the Tafelberg at Porthkerry, but declared a total loss (it breaks in two). However, salvagers recover it, and take it to Whitmore Bay, where the ship is completely rebuilt as tanker Empire Heritage.

Royal Navy corvette HMS Bluebell collides with destroyer HMS Westcott in the Western Approaches. Both ships head for port, the Westcott's damage very minor but Bluebell's repairs at Cammell Laird taking until 4 March 1941.

Norwegian freighter Erling Jarl runs aground and sinks at Brønnøysund, Nordland. There is one death. The ship later is raised, repaired and renamed Bodø.

Responding to completely erroneous rumors that liner Empress of Australia has been sunk, the Admiralty issues an odd statement that the ship is "safe in port."

Convoy OB 279 departs from Southend, Convoy AN 14 departs from Port Said for Piraeus,

Royal Navy submarine HMS Urchin is commissioned, submarine HMS P-33 is launched, destroyer HMS Pakenham is launched, corvettes HMS Mignonette and Myosotis are launched.

Dutch submarine O-12, sunk and refloated earlier in the war, is recommissioned as UD-2 in the Kriegsmarine.

U-411 is laid down.

28 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com SS propaganda poster
Recruiting poster for the SS in Norway.

Battle of the Mediterranean: At Derna, the Italians hold out throughout the day as Operation Compass grinds forward. However, the Australian 2/4th Battalion and British 7th Armored Division are threatening to cut the coast road. Rather than risk another catastrophe with the loss of the entire garrison, the Italian commanders order the evacuation of Derna during the night. While pulling out, the Italian Babini Group conducts a skillful retreat, harassing the advancing British troops, laying mines and wrecking the coast road. Italian artillery, situated north of Wad Derna, is particularly effective in slowing down the Australians and covering the retreat.

Elsewhere, the British consolidate at Mechili, which the Italians also abandoned. The issue is not one of tiredness or casualties, but more of fuel and supplies. The key supply port of Tobruk opened on the 27th, which will ease the supply situation going forward, but it will take time to resupply the troops, give the tanks proper maintenance, and the like. The Italians also are showing a bit more fight than they have before. In addition, the weather is lousy and heavy rain is causing issues.

Taking advantage of the start of a lull in the Libyan operations, British Middle East Commander General Wavell flies to Nairobi to discuss with General Cunningham plans for an offensive into Italian Somaliland. Wavell also meets with General Platt, commander of the forces entering Eritrea. Wavell will stay here for several days, leaving on 1 February.

Greek 5197 ton freighter Kate hits a mine and sinks in the Aegean.

Royal Navy submarine Upholder (Malcom D. Wanklyn) torpedoes and damages 7389 ton German freighter Duisberg off Cape Bon, Tunisia. The Duisberg is towed into Tripoli. Wanklyn is one of the more enterprising Royal Navy submarine commanders.

Taking the Italian prisoners at Tobruk to prison camps once again becomes a major operation. Netlayer HMS Protector sails from Suda Bay to bring prisoners from there to Alexandria.

Royal Navy submarine Rorqual lays 29 mines in the Adriatic off the port of Ancona.

The weather at Malta is overcast and it is a quiet day. While fears remain high about a planned German invasion from Sicily, reports from spies and observers (such as Americans) are mixed about what may actually be going on there.

Anglo/US Relations: Having read and pondered the handwritten note from President Roosevelt brought to him by Wendell Willkie, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill writes a lengthy "Personal and Secret" response. He notes the following:
  • "All my information shows that the Germans are persevering in their preparations to invade this country";
  • "[A]dvance parties of the German air force have already to the extent of several thousands infiltrated themselves into Bulgaria";
  • "[Hitler] could carry out both offensives [in the East and against Britain] at the same time."
The reply does not really break any new ground, but definitely continues the brewing bromance between the two men.

US Military: Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson approves the construction of 12 detector radar stations in Alaska. Originally, the plan was for 8 locations, but a survey found that five of those sites were unacceptable and, in fact, a dozen sites were necessary. All of the sites are south of Cape Prince of Wales. Both Japan and the US fear an air attack using the Aleutian island chain, so these stations are oriented toward Japan, not the USSR. Commander General DeWitt of the Ninth Corps Area and Fourth Army is in charge of construction, while Colonel Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. is in charge of US troops in Alaska. Troops are being slowly inserted into Alaskan naval bases such as Sitka, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor due to rising war fears with Japan.


28 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Heinrich Himmler Norway
Heinrich Himmler in Norway, January 1941. Aside from work, Himmler dabbles in his theories about the origin of the Aryan Race during this visit (Mobius, Federal Archive).

German Military: General Keitel meets with Hitler and gives him the conclusion of the OKH (army high command) regarding Operation Felix (invasion of Gibraltar). They believe that:
[I]n the event of preparations being resumed on 1 February, the attack on Gibraltar was not possible before the middle of April and that therefore the forces envisaged for this operation would not be available in time for 'Barbarossa.'
Hitler may wish to invade Gibraltar, but he wants to invade the Soviet Union more. Accordingly, he states that "Operation Felix will have to be dropped because it was impossible to create the political prerequisites." While Hitler continues to cajole Franco into joining the Axis and permitting Operation Felix, a project which remains on the docket for years (like Operation Sealion), this marks the death knell for the planned operation.

Two hundred Norwegian volunteers, recruited by the SS, swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler. These Norwegian volunteers are to serve in the "Wiking" Division. They will be part of Army Group South, heading toward the Ukraine, where numerous atrocities will take place (of course, atrocities will take place across the entire front). Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler watches with approval.

British Government: Home Secretary Herbert Morrison appears before the House of Commons to defend his recent closure of the Daily Worker and other communist publications. He claims that the publication has been blaming the government for deaths from air raids, which Morrison claims is "cruel and cynical, sheer snivelling hypocrisy." The MPs support the move as removing a subversive element of the press. Support is not unanimous, with Labour MP Aneurin Bevan claiming it was an unjustified restriction on the press, but the move carries 297-11.

Minister of Food Robert Boothby gives a speech in the House as well, defending himself against charges of self-dealing. Churchill rises and reflects upon this "heartbreaking business" without really taking a position. In a note to his son Randolph, Churchill states that Boothby's speech was "a remarkable parliamentary performance." The House continues to consider the matter.

28 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ho Chi Minh returns to Indochina
An official painting memorializing Ho Chi Minh's return to Indochina today.

Indochina: The Thai 50th Bomber Squadron bombs Sisophon, Cambodia with B-10 medium bombers. This is the last significant action of the campaign. This raid induces the Vichy French somewhat belatedly to agree to mediation by Japan, an offer previously accepted with some alacrity by Thailand. There is no question - from the outcome - which side Japan favors in this border war. An effective but unofficial ceasefire now takes place, which is formalized later. Negotiations proceed aboard Japanese battleship IJN Natori, anchored off Saigon.

Ho Chi Minh (Nguyễn Ái Quốc), a committed Chinese communist of Vietnamese descent who has studied in Europe, returns to Indochina today after 30 years overseas. Ho at first lives in a cave in Pac Bo and sets to work preparing for the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) 8th Party Congress. His ultimate goal is to to form an organization eventually called the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (Vietnam Independence League), or Viet Minh. The Viet Minh is a Communist front organization to organize resistance against French colonial rule and occupying Japanese forces. It ostensibly is more nationalist than communist (in order to appeal to a wider audience), and equally voices outrage about "French jackals" and the "Japanese fascists." However, Ho's ICP actually controls the Viet Minh behind the scenes. Having learned from his experiences in China, Ho successfully stresses unity of opposition within Indochina to achieve independence, contrary to the infighting between the Kuomintang and the Communists in China which hampers their opposition to the Japanese.

This date of 28 January - unremarked in the Western world - is considered to be a very significant date in Vietnam today, with various official commemorative meetings held on the anniversary.

28 January 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Ho Chi Minh Americans Indochina
Ho Chi Minh with happy American soldiers during World War II. As happens later in many other places around the world, the Americans support a revolutionary disruptive force in an area controlled by a temporary enemy... and learn to regret it.

China: The Battler of Southern Honan continues, with the Japanese 11th Army continuing its attacks against the Chinese 5th War Area near Hsianghokuan.

American Homefront: "The Pepsodent Show" aka "The Pepsodent Radio Show Starring Bob Hope" aka "The Bob Hope Show" features Basil Rathbone today.

January 1941

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

2017