Monday, March 6, 2017

March 5, 1941: Cooperation With Japan

Wednesday 5 March 1941

5 March 1941 British Troops Operation Lustre
British troops embark at Alexandria for Greece, on or about 5 March 1941.

Italian/Greek Campaign: British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, still in Athens, sends a diplomatic note to regent Prince Paul on 5 March 1941, asking that the country join with the British. Eden does not know that Paul has just agreed to sign the Tripartite Pact with the Axis. Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies confides to his diary that:
The Middle East Proposal is going bad. Why the devil should Eden purport to commit us on facts which he must know are most disturbing and which have an Empire significance?
Menzies, as reflected in comments he has made to the British War Cabinet, thinks that the entire Greece expedition is questionable.

After this, Eden and CIGS John Dill wrap up their business in Athens and fly back to Cairo.

British troops of Lustreforce (Operation Lustre) begin arriving at Piraeus, Greece.

East African Campaign: Some British commandos north of Keren are pushed out of their advanced position by a large force of Italians supported by mortar and machine gun fire. The British only leave because they are running out of ammunition (so their report states).

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks Boulogne. The Luftwaffe stays on the ground today.

5 March 1941 King George Rosyth
"HM The King with the C in C Admiral Sir Charles Gordon Ramsey, KCB, and a group of Officers." Rosyth, 5 March 1941. © IWM (A 3362).

Battle of the Atlantic: German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst sit astride the British convoy route from England to Freetown. This is Great Britain's vital link not only with the Middle East, but with India and the Far East. The ships have their float planes searching for targets. Scharnhorst's plane develops engine trouble and has to ditch, but after a four-hour search the cruiser finds the plane - which simply ran out of gas.

U-95 (Kptlt. Gerd Schreiber), on its third patrol, torpedoes and sinks 5070 ton Swedish freighter Mursjek. All 31 on board the Mursjek perish.

U-106 joins the parade of U-boats refueling from German supply ship Charlotte Schliemann at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Every U-boat that it refuels increases the endurance and reach of the German submarines.

The first steps in Operation Summer, the delivery of aircraft and other supplies to Takoradi, Ghana, takes place today when a small convoy departs the Clyde. Aircraft carrier HMS Furious carries the planes, and it is escorted by battlecruiser Repulse and other ships. As projected, their route would place them into the vicinity of the German heavy cruisers lurking to the south.

British 58 ton tug Silverstone hits a mine and sinks a few miles from Medway. Everybody on board the Silverstone perishes. In addition, the tug was towing four barges, two of which (Rockstone and Sandstone) also sink.

German 7512 ton freighter Stolzenfels sinks from unknown causes ("enemy action") in the North Sea near Schiermonnikoog, Holland.

German Schnellboot S-70 hits a mine and sinks.

Royal Navy ocean boarding ship HMS Corinthian stops and seizes 112 ton French trawler Bijou Bihon off the coast of Morocco. The Corinthian puts a prize crew on board and sends it to Gibraltar.

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

Convoy OB 294 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX 113 departs from Halifax, Convoy BHX 113 departs from Bermuda.

Royal Navy corvette HMS Auricula (K12, Lt. William W. White) is commissioned.

US destroyer USS Ludlow (DD 438, Lt. Commander Claude Henry Bennett, Jr.) is commissioned.

U-451 launched.

5 March 1941 USS Ludlow
USS Ludlow on 5 March 1941, the date of its commissioning.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Triumph uses its deck gun to sink 897 ton Italian freighter Colombo Lo Faro and 958 ton freighter Marzamemi off Calabria.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, which has been waiting for the Suez Canal to be free of obstructions and mines relating to recent Luftwaffe minelaying there, finally gets the all-clear. It sets out from Port Sudan for Suez.

The Luftwaffe bombs Malta both in the morning and in the evening. The Germans are using their "lone raider" tactics during the day that they have been using over England recently. The evening raid is more serious, with 60 bombers and 40 fighters attacking the RAF airfields. They cause extensive damage to infrastructure and destroy four planes. Hal Far airfield is temporarily put out of action.

The Germans send a major troop convoy from Naples to Tripoli.

Convoy ANF 17 departs from Alexandria, bound for Piraeus, while Convoy BN 18 departs from Aden, bound for Suez.

German/Romanian Relations: Reichsmarschall Herman Goering has been touring southern German. Today, he arrives in Vienna, where he meets with visiting Romanian leader Ion Antonescu. He drops broad hints to Antonescu about what is planned in the East, without actually coming right out and revealing the plans for Operation Barbarossa. Romania is not considered vital by the Germans for its military participation - though that is expected - but rather for its oil production. Romania essentially is Germany's only continental source of oil. Goering opposes the operation in principle, but has accepted that Hitler is bound and determined to execute it and thus resolves to make it work as best as possible.

German/Japanese Relations: Hitler issues Fuhrer Directive No. 24, "Co-operation with Japan." The directive orders the service chiefs to cooperate "generously and comprehensively" with the Japanese. The most interesting aspect of the directive is that Hitler notes that the only purpose of the cooperation is to ensure "the swift conquest of England in order to keep America out of the war." The directive states that the sooner Japan takes military action, "the greater her chances of success," and that early Japanese action should be encouraged and facilitated.

Anglo/Japanese Relations: Confiding his thoughts to his diary, Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies (visiting London) expresses outrage that his policy of moderation toward Japan (recently expressed in a speech) is misconstrued by some as "appeasement." In fact, he writes:
Our true policy vis a vis Japan is firmness & friendliness; the two are not inconsistent.
Menzies' press statements are getting back to Australia, and his support there gradually is waning - though whether or not the statements themselves have anything to do with that is unclear. After the Neville Chamberlain experience, of course, appeasement is a dirty word for many within the British Empire.

5 March 1941 King George Rosyth
"HM The King inspecting the ship's company on board a warship", Rosyth, 5 March 1941. © IWM (A 3372).

Anglo/Bulgarian Relations: The British officially sever relations with Bulgaria. Menzies notes simply in his diary, "Germany has swallowed Bulgaria."

US/Panamanian Relations: Panama allows the US government to site air bases within Panama, not just in the Canal Zone.

Romanian Homefront: The government holds a referendum on the government of Antonescu. He receives 99.9% of the vote.

American Homefront: George Gallup continues to poll the public about the European war. The question is, "If American merchant ships with American crews are used to carry war materials to Britain, and some of them are sunk by German submarines on the way over, would you be in favour of going to war against Germany?" The responses:
  • Would favor war 27%
  • Would not favor war 61%
  • Undecided 12%
Recent polls have shown a sharply divided nation about entering the war unless the United States is somehow attacked or gravely threatened. This poll suggests that U-boat sinkings of US ships would, in the public's eyes at least, not justify a US declaration of war on Germany.

5 March 1941 Brisbane Australia
Bradfield Highway to Main Street, Brisbane, 5 March 1941 (Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 4056 ID label: 1249603).


Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 4, 1941: Lofoten Islands Raid

Tuesday 4 March 1941

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore burning fish oil factory
 "Black smoke rising as the oil tanks are set alight." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, 4 March 1941. © IWM (A 3332).

Western Front: It is fair to say that, to this point on 4 March 1941, the results of British commando raids on the Axis have been poor. From the first operations in Norway, to the failed operation on the Channel Islands, to the botched affairs in southern Italy and Kastelorizo, the raids have had the earmarks of an idea that is good in the abstract, but with execution marred by amateurish gaffes.

That record of failure changes today. British commandos join with Norwegian partisans to stage Operation Claymore in epic fashion. A resounding and reverberating success, this raid on the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway justifies all of the effort expended in training the commandos. The main targets are fish-oil plants that produce ingredients for explosives, but much more is accomplished than just blowing up a few buildings.

Commandos of No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, a Royal Engineers Section and 52 men from the Royal Norwegian Navy are landed at Vestfjorden in the Lofoten Islands by the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and two troop transports of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy task force is Operation Rebel. Leading the landing craft (HMS Queen Emma and Princess Beatrix) to shore is submarine HMS Sunfish. Brigadier Charles Haydon of the Irish Guards leads the commandos into action.

Armed patrol trawler Krebs in Vestfjorden fires four shots at HMS Somali, but the Royal Navy ship quickly disables it. After the German crew abandons ship, the commandos board the ship, which has beached itself nearby. They capture its cypher machine and daily codebooks, which prove of great value at Bletchley Park. Several other small ships totalling 18,000 tons in all also are sunk:

  • Gumbrinnen (1381 tons, shelled by HMS Tartar)
  • Hamburg (shelled by HMS Tartar)
  • Pasajes (shelled by HMS Tartar)
  • Felix 
  • Mira (1152 tons, shelled and sunk by HMS Bedouin, two deaths) 
  • Eilenau 
  • Rissen 
  • Andø (demolition charges). 
  • Grotto
  • Felix Heumann
  • Elbing (collier shelled by HMS Tartar, beached, later repaired and returned to service)
  • Bernhard Schulte (shelled by HMS Tartar, later raised and repaired).

Norwegian 321 ton fishing vessel Myrand takes the opportunity to follow the British out and go to the Faroe Islands.

Arriving at the cusp of dawn, everyone is ashore by 06:50. The operation goes off without opposition. Factories are destroyed at Henningsvær, Stamsund, and Svolvær. The raiders destroy oil, they don't take it back with them.

About 300 locals volunteer to serve in the Free Norwegian Forces in Great Britain and are taken off with the commandos (they likely fear reprisals if they stay). The commandos take 147 merchant marine sailors, 14 civilians ("Quislings"), 15 Luftwaffe crew, three army (Heer) soldiers, and 7 Kriegsmarine sailors captive. The British take no casualties, whereas the Germans suffer seven. Operation Claymore is a smashing success with long-term effects, as Hitler obsesses about defending Norway after this and grossly over-garrisons it.

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore returning commandos
 "Troops returning from shore in boats having accomplished their work of destruction." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, 4 March 1941. © IWM (A 3320).

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greeks remain in their forward positions along the Bulgarian border. The British wish them to retreat to the Aliakmon Line, but the Greeks claim that any such move would damage the country's morale. Local British commander Sir Henry Maitland Wilson for Operation Lustre cannot even leave the British Embassy, as the Greeks fear that his appearance alone will incite the Germans to attack.

The first British troop transports for Operation Lustre arrives at Piraeus. One is British 3566 ton freighter Alavi, escorted by destroyer Greyhound. Another is 3791 ton transport HMS Ulster Prince, escorted by destroyer HMS Hotspur. The Ulster carries primarily RAF personnel, and it departs quickly carrying the remaining commandos from Operation Abstention (the failed attempt to occupy Italian-held Kastelorizo).

Going the other way, Convoy AS 16 departs from Piraeus bound for Alexandria and Port Said.

A British troop convoy bound for Piraeus departs from Suda Bay, Crete. The soldiers are carried on four cruisers (HMS Ajax, Gloucester, Orion and Perth). Meanwhile, Convoy AN 17 departs from Alexandria also carrying troops for Piraeus.

The Italians, meanwhile, are blissfully unaware of most of what the British and Greeks are doing. However, Mussolini is determined to salvage Italian pride by showing that his troops can achieve success against the Greeks before the Germans invade. Accordingly, he is reinforcing his garrison in Albania, both in terms of fighting men and air units. An offensive is planned by Italian VIII Army Corps in less than a week's time, with the preliminary objective the recapture of Klisura and a further advance south toward Ioannina.

The Greeks also are blissfully unaware of what the other side is up to. They continue to mount minor offensive operations by II Corps in the Klisura section. These are not major operations, but simply line-straightening attacks and the like.

The British cancel a planned attack on the large Italian base at Rhodes due to the failure of Operation Abstention.

Australian fighter ace Nigel Cullen is shot down near Himarë, Albania during an attack on Italian shipping.

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore burning fish oil factory
"The oil blaze at the village of Stamsund, situated 70 miles up the west Fjord, with a few Norwegian fishing boats in the foreground." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, 4 March 1941. © IWM (A 3315).

East African Campaign: The British are preparing another attempt to force their way past the firm Italian defenses at Keren. However, the strategy now is to bypass the narrow gorge which controls entry to Keren, and instead capture other, nearby passes. The 7th Indian Infantry Brigade moves toward Cogai Pass, while the British troops at the Mescelit Pass expand their reconnaissance. Unfortunately for them, the British find that, while Keren is relatively close, another mountain range lies between them and the town. To get to Keren, they will have to force their way through another pass at Mendad. The Italians occupy the high ground in all of these places, and they also have mined the approaches to Keren. The actions at this point are patrol activity, with the British having some success taking isolated Italian outposts which really don't advance the overall strategic agenda.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe continues attacking Cardiff, one of its favorite targets recently. The Germans send 61 bombers over the city. RAF Coastal Command raids an airfield near Brest. After dark, RAF Bomber command raids railway infrastructure at Calais.

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore burning fish oil tanks
"Commandos watching fish oil tanks burning." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, 4 March 1941. © IWM (N 396).

Battle of the Atlantic: At the War Cabinet meeting today, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (apparently recovered from his cold) uses the term "Battle of the Atlantic" to describe the naval conflict. The term, specially noted by attending Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, sticks.

U-105 (Kapitänleutnant Georg Schewe) refuels from German 7747 ton tanker Charlotte Schliemann in Las Palmas, Canary Islands. Doing this extends the range and time of station of the U-boats. Typically, a U-boat can remain at sea for only 30 days, with about ten of those days eaten up by transiting to and from station. However, as an example, refueling at sea enables U-105 to spend 112 days on this patrol. This undoubtedly leads to more offensive opportunities.

The Charlotte Schliemann is refueling multiple U-boats - yesterday, U-124 refueled from her. The German maritime supply network is what keeps their raiders in operation, and amplifies the reach of the U-boats.

The Luftwaffe attacks shipping off Fastnet, damaging 192 ton British trawler East Coast. There are no casualties and damage is relatively minor.

British 303 ton freighter Anonity hits a mine and sinks near Skegness Pier. There are four deaths and two survivors. Another ship, 20 ton Lyndis Kitwood, also is damaged by a mine (perhaps the same one) off Skegness, but its damage is minor.

British 321 ton freighter Ruth II hits a mine in the Thames Estuary near the Bar Light Vessel. British 594 ton freighter Anglian Coast also hits a mine in the same area and also is damaged. Both ships make it back to port with no casualties.

Minelayer HMS Plover lays minefield ZME 21 in the Irish Sea.

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore returning commandos
"Troops returning from shore in boats having accomplished their work of destruction." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, 4 March 1941. © IWM (A 3322).

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Afrika Korps continues digging defensive lines near El Agheila in Libya. The British remain unconcerned, their entire focus now on Greece.

General Richard O'Connor, the victorious commander of XIII Corps which captured Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi, is made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. This belies Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies' cynical conclusion that Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell would win all the plaudits for the successful campaign, but there is one salient fact which apparently eluded him: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill deeply dislikes Wavell and feels much more favorably toward O'Connor. There is no question that O'Connor deserves recognition for his troops' stunning accomplishments. Historians, however, actually adjudge Wavell one of the premier generals of the entire conflict - the British are blessed with an abundance of talent in the theater despite Churchill's misgivings.

At Malta, the government tightens curfew regulations. They now are 21:00 to 06:30. The morning curfew is the hardest for many to bear, because many people typically like to start the day well before sunrise.

Convoy BS 18 departs from Suez.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Convoy BM 4 departs from Karachi, bound for Singapore. It is a large convoy that later will be joined by several ships from Bombay.

Battle of the Pacific: Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra is patrolling off the Dutch East Indies when its Walrus seaplane spots two suspicious ships together. They are German raider Coburg and captured (by the Germans) Norwegian tanker Ketty Brøvig. The Canberra immediately heads toward the ships and orders them to stop for inspection. Instead, the two ships head off in opposite directions. Following the Coburg, Canberra fires at it from maximum range but misses. In all, Canberra fires 215 shells, but virtually all of them miss or cause inconsequential damage. Both the Coburg and Ketty Brøvig are scuttled by their crews. Mirroring one of the results of Operation Claymore, the British manage to capture some code documents when a quick-thinking seaplane pilot lands his Walrus next to the sinking Coburg, boards it, and carries out a quick search.

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore blowing up barrels
"Royal Engineers preparing to blow up barrels of fish oil on the quayside at Stamsund." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, 4 March 1941. © IWM (N 418).

German/Yugoslav Relations: Adolf Hitler knows how to handle smaller powers reluctant to join his empire. He summons crown regent Prince Paul to the Berghof in Berchtesgaden. After hectoring the regent all night long, Hitler is satisfied that he has eliminated Yugoslavia as a problem and in fact turned it into a useful vassal state, though not a military ally. Prince Paul agrees to sign the Tripartite Pact after Hitler sweetens the deal (upon Prince Paul's insistence) by offering him Greece's northern port of Salonika (Thessalonika). In fact, Hitler agrees to virtually all of Paul's demands aside from one that the agreement between the two governments be published. In effect, the agreement turns Yugoslavia into a neutral party, as the Wehrmacht is barred from using the country for its invasion.

Yugoslavia's signing is scheduled to take place in ten days' time. Prince Paul knows that there is far from unanimity at home about joining Germany and wishes to keep the signing ceremony as low-key as possible.

German/Turkish Relations: Both the British and the Germans have been courting the Turks, who possess a large army and a strategic geographical position. The Turks already, in effect, have turned down the British, and today they effectively turn down the Germans. Turkish President İsmet İnönü tells the German ambassador, Franz von Papen, that German troops should stay well clear of the Turkish border and that Turkey views Bulgarian military mobilization as a threat to its own integrity.

Anglo/Swedish Relations: The Swedish press is an independent lot which frequently angers the Germans with its outspokenness. Today, the British feel its bit when an article appears in Svenska Dagbladet about problems caused by British barrage balloons. According to the story, drifting British barrage balloons have become a positive menace to Sweden, with their cables snagging on chimneys (one tall one reportedly is toppled) and catching on the sails and rigging of fishing boats. Power lines also suffer, with areas of Goteborg left without power due to one of the drifting menaces.

Bulgarian/Dutch/Belgian/Polish Relations: Bulgaria, now a German satellite, severs relations with these four countries.

Latin American Homefront: Argentina defeats Chile 1-0 in football (soccer) to win the South American Championship.

Canadian Homefront: Canada requires registration of all Canadians of Japanese descent.

Dutch Homefront: The repercussions from the failed Dutch General Strike continue. The Germans sentence 18 of Bernardus IJzerdraat's De Geuzen rebels to death in The Hague. The Dutch resistance is very brave, but there are many informants looking for a little favoritism from the occupying authorities. There also are many ethnic Germans living in Holland who have more allegiance to Germany than to Holland (the Kaiser, of course, still lives in Holland, though that is a special case).

American Homefront: The Boston Bruins defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. This game sets two so-far unbroken records: shots on goal by one team (83 shots) and saves by a goaltender (80, by Sam LoPresti).

Future History: Adrian Lyne is born in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England. Raised in London, Adrian develops an early fascination with films, and in the early 1960s begins making his own films based upon the influence of French New Wave directors such as Truffaut and Godard. He begins his career by making television commercials, and also makes some short films. Lyne does not make his feature film directing debut until 1980 with "Foxes," starring Jodie Foster. It is a success, and his next film, 1983's "Flashdance," is an even bigger one. This sets Lyne on a path to directing all different types of films, and in 1986 he directs controversial (but surprisingly successful) erotic film "9 1/2 Weeks." Many other quite successful films follow, including 1993's "Indecent Proposal" starring Robert Redford, another huge box office success. Most recently, Lyne has been producing television series, including "Fatal Attraction" (based on his own extremely successful and controversial 1987 film) and "Back Roads."

4 March 1941 Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore captured Swastika flag
"British officers with a captured Nazi flag after the raid." Lofoten Islands, Operation Claymore, © IWM (N 419).


March 3, 1941: Germans in Bulgaria

Monday 3 March 1941

3 March 1941 British commandos
British commando training during World War II.

Western Front: British commandos are at sea en route to the Lofoten Islands on 3 March 1941. This is Operation Claymore, an attack on fish-oil plants at these islands in northern Norway. The Royal Navy task force is Operation Rebel. The British ships have not been spotted  and are heading in to the islands from the west.

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Italians continue their aggressive operations in Greece, bombing Larissa north of Athens. The RAF shoots five of the bombers down. This attack adds insult to injury, as Larissa has been devastated by earthquakes recently.

The Greeks are looking forward to the British expeditionary force. However, issues of strategy continue. There are multiple proposed lines, with the Metaxas Line on the Bulgarian border, the Aliakhmon Line behind the Metaxas, and the Nestos Line. The Greeks refuse to contemplate any territorial losses, so they want to try to hold the most advanced lines, while the British are more realistic and believe only lines further back have any likelihood of holding.

To try to reach some kind of resolution to this disagreement, both Middle East Commander General Wavell and Lustreforce commander Henry Maitland Wilson fly in to Tatoi air field. They will meet with Anthony Eden and CIGS John Dill, who remain in Athens to address just this kind of issue. However, no agreement is possible, because the two allies have different priorities. In any event, the first convoy for Lustreforce is scheduled to leave Alexandria tomorrow.

East African Campaign: The British at Mescelit Pass make some tentative moves forward. The 1st Royal Sussex advance across the Anseba Road and reach the vicinity of Mendad. Other troops head toward Massawa. There is only scattered Italian opposition on the road to Massawa.

The Italians at the port of Massawa see the British approaching and know what that invariably means - the same thing that happened at Kismayu and Mogadishu. So, the captains of three Italian submarines - Archimede, Guglielmotti, and Ferraris - set out to run the British blockade into the Indian Ocean.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 71 bombers against Cologne (Koln) during the night. The Luftwaffe bombs Cardiff again with 47 bombers.

3 March 1941 Mayfair London
"The railings being dismantled in Berkeley Square, Mayfair on 3 March 1941." © IWM (HU 57684).

Battle of the Atlantic: German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst reach the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands. Admiral Lütjens plans to intercept British convoys en route to and from Freetown. This is a major convoy route, with supplies for England flowing north and troop convoys heading south.

U-97 (Kptlt. Udo Heilmann) loses a man (Bootsmannsmaat, or Petty Officer, Artur Mei) overboard in the Bay of Biscay. Such incidents are very disheartening to the confined crews in U-boats.

U-124 (Kptlt. Georg-Wilhelm Schulz) is operating around the Canary Islands. Today, it refuels from German tanker Charlotte Schliemann. It will work in loose conjunction with Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, which now are in the same general area.

Royal Navy T-class submarine HMS Taku (Lt. John Frederick Beaufoy Brown, RN), on a passage from Holy Loch to Halifax, has been in trouble since 27 February due to weather damage. The aft hydroplanes have become locked in the vertical position due to wave damage, leaving the submarine immobile. Today, three Royal Navy ships (HMS Enchantress, Gladiolus and HMRT Salvonia) arrive. Salvonia after great difficulty takes the damaged submarine in tow to Londonderry.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 275 ton Royal Navy trawler HMT Cobbers off Lowestoft. There are 9-11 deaths, including Skipper L. Turner RNR, of her 15-man crew.

The Luftwaffe (KG 27 Heinkel He 111) bombs and disables 866 ton British freighter Port Townsville in St. George's Channel. There are two deaths, and the Port Townsville eventually sinks.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks Royal Navy 5 ton auxiliary yacht HMY Tiny while at dock at Sutherland.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Burnham collides with fellow destroyer HMS Malcolm in the Northwest Approaches. Both destroyers proceed to Liverpool for repairs lasting into April.

British mine destructor ship HMS Corfield collides with British freighter Cormead in the Thames Estuary. The Corfield is lightly damaged and goes to Blackwell for repairs lasting until mid-March.

Royal Navy gunboat MGB 13 hits a mine off Milford Haven. It eventually sinks.

Convoy HG 55 departs from Gibraltar.

Royal Navy corvette HMS Begonia (K 66, Lt. Thomas A. R. Muir) and escort destroyer HMS Liddesdale (L100) are commissioned, minesweeping trawler HMS Inchcolm and corvette Alysse are launched, and destroyer HMS Holcombe is laid down.

U-125 (Kapitänleutnant Günther Kuhnke) is commissioned.

3 March 1941 Port Townsville
The Port Townsville ablaze in St. George's Channel, 3 March 1941.

Battle of the Mediterranean: General Rommel, commander of the growing Afrika Korps, only has the 5th Light Division at his disposal (and allied Italian troops). Nevertheless, he moves more troops forward, adopting an aggressive posture. Rommel's most advanced troops now are in the vicinity of El Agheila, where they begin forming a defensive line based around a narrow pass 17 miles (30 km) west of the British lines. He also forms blocking lines to the south so that the British cannot just bypass his main defensive positions, as they have done repeatedly to the Italians.

Another supply convoy for Rommel's Afrika Korps departs from Naples bound for Tripoli. It has four freighters and is escorted by two destroyers and a torpedo boat.

British 1553 ton freighter Knight of Malta runs aground near Ras Azzaz, Libya (north of Bardia). Everybody survives. The cargo is salvaged, but the ship is written off due to air attacks.

At Malta, the conscription recently ordered by Governor Dobbie begins. Men line up at Birkirkara School to be processed. In addition, Police Constable Carmel Camilleri is awarded the George Medal for actions he took on 4 November 1940. On that date, Camilleri rescued an RAF pilot from a cliff into which his plane had crashed.

Battle of the Pacific: Convoy AP 14 departs from Wellington, New Zealand.

3 March 1941 Panzer III Bulgaria
Panzer III in Bulgaria, March 1941.

Soviet/Bulgarian Relations: The Soviet Union considers Bulgaria within its sphere of control, and it is not amused that has Bulgaria joined Germany's Tripartite Pact. Foreign Minister Molotov denounces the signing, saying that a German presence there will only lead to problems.

Turkish/Bulgarian Relations: Turkey also reacts to the Bulgarian signing of the Tripartite Pact. It abrogates the non-aggression pact that it signed with Bulgaria in February.

US/Bulgarian Relations: The United States also reacts negatively to the Bulgarian signing of the Tripartite Pact. President Roosevelt immediately freezes all Bulgarian assets in the US. There in fact are very few Bulgarian assets in the US, but this is another instance of Roosevelt using his economic powers as a means of punishment.

US/Vichy French Relations: Vichy France agrees not to supply the German war machine with oil from French North Africa.

US Military: Rear Admiral John H. Newton, Commander Cruisers Scouting Forces, leads a flotilla of cruisers and destroyers on a training/scouting mission from Pearl Harbor to the US Naval base at Samoa. However, this mission also has other possible destinations that have not yet been finalized.

Australian Government: Prime Minister Robert Menzies, visiting London, gives an address to the Foreign Press Association on diplomatic relations in the Pacific region. As he puts it in his diary, the solution is:
Policy vis a vis Japan is not appeasement in the sense of offering sops to Cerberus, but a proper blend of friendliness & a plan statement that we can and will defend ourselves and our vital interests.
Churchill is sick with a cold and absent from Whitehall. Menzies notes that the British War Cabinet refuses to take any major decisions in his absence, and vows to find "the secret of having my cabinet unwilling to decide any important questions in my absence."

There are persistent theories that, around this time, several highly placed individuals in the British government are considering replacing Churchill with Menzies. Churchill is seen as a ruthless autocrat, while Menzies is far more amenable (and quite level-headed). However, this is a highly debatable theory based on scant evidence, though there is little question that Menzies is making a smashing impression in London. His absence from Melbourne, though, is gradually causing his highly placed political supporters there to look elsewhere. This is a fairly typical and recurrent political scenario, where a domestic leader becomes more popular abroad than at home (a more modern example is Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia).

3 March 1941 Germans in Karnobat Bulgaria
Wehrmacht marching, Karnobat, Bulgaria, March 1941. Military marching band parades are a standard tactic the Germans use after occupying a city to show ownership and also provide some entertainment and show the locals it isn't all bad.

Dutch Homefront: Anton Mussert, leader of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB), visits German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in Berlin. Mussert has been busy forming the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division "Nederland," but this visit probably concerns the recent General Strike centered in Amsterdam that the SS brutally put down.

The Germans execute Ernst Cahn. Cahn is one of the owners of the Koco ice cream joint, held by rebels, which the Germans stormed in February. The German forces incurred several casualties during that raid, which led to the General Strike, which led to the Germans killing literally dozens of people for protesting. This reportedly is the first execution of a civilian in cold blood in Holland (other than during incidents like the Koco battle), but it won't be the last.

3 March 1941 Monsieur Barzetti
The famous "Crying Man" or "Weeping Frenchman" shot, published today in Life Magazine on page 29. This is a still from newsreel footage used in the the Frank Capra film "Why We Fight - Chapter III - Divide and Conquer."  

French Homefront: The famous "Crying Man" image that is universally mistaken as happening during the fall of Paris, but actually happened much later in Marseille, is published in Life Magazine. This becomes the start of the picture's (it is a frame from a film) gradual elevation to iconic status. While the exact details are a subject of scholarship, according to "Marseille sous l'occupation" by Lucien Gaillard, this is a shot of Monsieur Jerôme Barzetti, taken in Marseilles on February 20, 1941. Other sources place this in September 1940 (a date in 1940 makes sense, since it occurred during the transfer of the French flags to North Africa which happened then, but as I noted, this is a matter of scholarly research). There is no further information on the further history of Monsieur Barzetti.

American Homefront: The US Supreme Court issues its decision in Railroad Commission v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496 (1941). This case introduces what is known as "Pullman Abstention," wherein federal courts abstain from hearing cases that involve questions of sensitive application of US Constitutional claims to state policy. In short, when state social policy is at issue, the proper court to decide a case is the state court in the state in question despite the presence of questions relating to the US Constitution. If deciding the state law ground for relief could obviate the need to adjudicate the federal issue, then the state court should be the proper court to hear the case. This Pullman Abstention doctrine leads to decades of refinement and a clear set of rules for deciding the issue, and the general result is that the state court hears the case first, and if application of state law does not determine the outcome, then a federal court can hear the claims based on the US Constitution.

3 March 1941 Australian troops lifeboat drill
Australians about to ship out to Greece muster to life boat stations during a drill, 3 March 1941 (Australian War Memorial).

Below is the 1943 Frank Capra film which contains the newsreel footage from which the "Weeping Frenchman" shot is taken. The Weeping Frenchman appears at 54:50 (this clip is only a few minutes long, it is toward the end).


Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 2, 1941: Oath of Kufra

Sunday 2 March 1941

2 March 1941 Oath of Kufra
The Oath of Kufra.

Italian/Greek Campaign: Mussolini pays another visit to Albania, flying in on 2 March 1941. This is another attempt by the fascists to raise Italian troops morale in Albania, which in fact has been on the rise due to the successful stand at Klisura.

The British in Cairo are gathering together the forces and shipping for the expedition to Greece. These are assembling as W Force Operation Lustre, under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. This collectively will be known as Lustreforce, and the first convoy is scheduled to leave for Greece within a couple of days. Due to recent developments in Bulgaria, which are an obvious indication that the German invasion of Greece is not far off, the Greeks now wholeheartedly welcome British troops.

The German troops of 12th Army have entered Bulgaria by crossing the Danube. The Wehrmacht's civilian-clad advance forces have the entire border area scouted, and the troops quickly take up positions along the border. However, there are still many ducks to line up before Hitler is ready to invade, including clarifying the situation in Yugoslavia and Turkey, assembling all of the necessary logistical support, and waiting for the weather to improve.

Italian bombers attack Larissa, north of Athens, again. The RAF units around Athens shoot down five of the bombers for no loss.

East African Campaign: At Keren, both sides are bringing forward reinforcements. The Italians add the 6th Colonial Brigade and the 11th Blackshirt Battalion of the Savoia Grenadiers - both premier formations. The British, meanwhile, bring forward the 5th Indian Infantry Division (Major-General Lewis Heath) which had been sent back to the railhead during February. The Italians now have 25,000 troops to 13,000 for the British, but numbers alone mean little in this conflict. What does matter is the willingness to fight and the quality of defensive positions, and, for a change, the Italians have both in abundance at Keren.

The British troops in Italian Somaliland continue occupying the region against scattered resistance. The final objective is Ferfer, north of Mogadishu. The Italians are retreating - fleeing - to Abyssinia, which is the seat of Italian power in East Africa.

At Mescelit Pass, which the British took on the 1st, the British do not know what awaits them on the plateau beyond. They send patrols ahead to to discover what the Italians may have in store for them.

2 March 1941 Grumman F4F Wildcat
An early Grumman F4F Wildcat undergoing tests at NACA Langley, March 1941. NACA is the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command raids Cologne (Köln) and Brest with 130+ bombers. Luftwaffe activity remains light, with isolated fighter-bomber raids in Scotland and eastern England.

BOAC has begun covert air flights during the night between Scotland and Stockholm, virtually passing over Luftwaffe airfields. Lufthansa, of course, also maintains regular passenger flights, but they don't go quite so close to enemy fighters. The flights enable a trickle of trade past the German blockade in the Baltic, and also provides a rare source of British input (documents, passengers, special equipment) to isolated Sweden. Sweden happens to be a major producer of ball bearings, and supplies both sides with them throughout the conflict.

The flights are rare at first, but increase with time. They get a variety of nicknames, including "The Ball-bearing Line" (for the cases of ball bearings flown out of Sweden) to "Bashful Gertie, the terror of the Skagerrak" to the official military code name, "Scrutator." The Royal Norwegian Air Transport generally crews the flights, and various aircraft (such as a Polish airline Lockheed 14) are used, with their quality increasing with time, too. While many ascribe this operation to the Air Transport Command of the Royal Air Force and give it the credit, in fact the Air Transport Command is not in existence yet and will not be until 11 March 1943.

Battle of the Atlantic: The Germans are busy repairing heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper at Brest. Upon arriving at the harbor, the Hipper struck underseas objects, requiring repairs before she can depart. Brest is too close to England, making Hipper an easy (and frequent) target of RAF attacks. Thus, the Kriegsmarine high command - Admiral Raeder - is drawing the conclusion that Hipper should be brought back to Germany, where it can be better protected and refitted. However, that is no easy matter, because the British are sure to be keeping a close eye on the short route via the English Channel. The only other route is to loop widely around the British Isles through the Faeroes Gap or the Denmark Strait. By choosing one of the latter routes, the voyage will be several times lengthier than it otherwise would be.

A small wolfpack is assembled around convoy HX 109 northwest of the Outer Hebrides. It includes U-95, U-147 and U-552. Yesterday, right before midnight on the 1st, U-552 sank tanker Cadillac. The other two U-boats are next in line.

U-95 (Kptlt. Gerd Schreiber), on its third patrol out of Lorient and operating north of Rockall, torpedoes and sinks 6034 British freighter Pacific. There is only one survivor and 33 deaths, continuing a recent trend of all or most of the crews perishing.

U-147 (Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen), on its first patrol out of Bergen, spots a straggler from HX-109 about 133 km north/northwest of Ness in the Outer Hebrides (280 km northwest of Loch Ewe). Hardegan torpedoes and sinks 4811 ton Norwegian freighter Augvald. This is the U-boat's first victory. There is only one survivor and 29 deaths - it is difficult to last for long in the frigid waves even if you make it to a lifeboat.

2 March 1941 Castlehill
Memorial to two of the victims on freighter Castlehill at Tower Hill.

The Luftwaffe (a Heinkel He 111 of KG 27) bombs and sinks 690 ton British freighter Castlehill east of Mine's Head in the Bristol Channel. There is only one survivor and nine deaths.

The Luftwaffe (I,/KG 40 Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors) also bombs and sinks 6533 ton Dutch freighter Simaloer in the Northwest Approaches.

British 348 ton freighter Madge Wildfire runs aground at Congress Point on the Isle of Man and is written off.

Royal Navy minesweeper Kellett collides with armed boarding vessel HMS Northern Reward and requires repairs lasting a month.

Convoy OB 293 departs from Liverpool.

Battle of the Mediterranean: At Kufra, Colonel Leclerc celebrates his victory over the Italian garrison of the El Tag fortress. He and his men (about 350) swear a solemn oath:
Swear not to lay down arms until our colors, our beautiful colors, float on the Strasbourg Cathedral.
This seems like an almost impossible dream. The Free French by themselves have virtually no chance of defeating the German war machine in any kind of reasonable time frame. Even with the British as allies, it is quite a fanciful notion. However, with the right allies, anything might be possible.

With the British Army blissfully unaware of any threat that they may pose, the Afrika Korps (DAK) stages a cynical military parade. Before crowds of cheering people, the same tanks roar past, round the block, and roar past again - multiple times. This is a standard propaganda trick which creates an impression of limitless strength. The technique also, incidentally, is used in motion pictures. Attending the parade are General Rommel and all the senior Italian staff in Libya.

A staff car fails to stop at a checkpoint near Luqa Airport. The Maltest sentry, as ordered, fires on the vehicle to stop it. Apparently aiming at the drive, the bullet ricochets and hits the passenger in the back seat. It is Lieutenant William Barnes, RN of RAF No. 806 Squadron. Barnes is one of the pilots from HMS Illustrious whose unit was transferred to the ground airfield after Illustrious was severely damaged by the Luftwaffe and forced out of action. In a sense, taking a very broad view, Barnes is the final casualty of that Luftwaffe attack.

The Luftwaffe stages what the British might call a Circus raid, sending a large formation of fighters over the island which accompany a lone bomber - which doesn't drop any bombs. The RAF dutifully sends eight Hurricanes up to defend, one of which is damaged.

Convoy ANF 16 arrives in Piraeus.

2 March 1941 LRDG truck
A Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) truck, March 1941.

Anglo/Bulgarian Relations: The day after Bulgaria signs the Tripartite Pact, Great Britain severs diplomatic relations.

Anglo/British Relations: Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, back in Athens after conferring with the Turks, follows previous instructions from Prime Minister Winston Churchill and confers with the British ambassador to Belgrade. Churchill wants to try to entice the Yugoslavs into the war by launching a surprise attack on the Italians in Albania, thereby freeing Greek troops to counter the expected German thrust from Bulgaria. The British ambassador, however, says there is no consensus in Yugoslavia to do anything for either side.

German/Bulgarian Relations: Prime Minister Filov, back in Sofia after signing the Tripartite Pact on behalf of Bulgaria, announces that German troops have entered the country via pontoon bridges over the Danube "to safeguard peace in the Balkans." The Wehrmacht troops are in Twelfth Arm under the command of Field Marshal Wilhelm List.

German/Yugoslavian Relations: Hitler is greatly desirous of expanding the prospective Greek front to encompass the long border that extends from Bulgaria to Albania. He continues to woo Prince Paul, making various promises in exchange for Yugoslav joining the Tripartite Pact like Bulgaria. However, the Yugoslav government and military is hopelessly split between those who want to help the Greeks, and those who prefer to appease Hitler and join the Axis to prevent their country from becoming a battleground.

US Government: The US Senate approves an increase in the debt ceiling, from $49 billion to $65 billion. This should require another increase within a year, based on expected spending. Military procurements, of course, are underneath the dramatic increase in debt, with defense spending amounting to a staggering (by pre-war standards) $28.5 billion.

The US Senate Committee to study war production issues - known as the Truman Committee (Resolution 71) - now has Tom Connally of Texas, Carl hatch of New Mexico, Monrad C. Wallgren of Washington and James Mead of New York (Democrats), and Joseph H. Ball of Minnesota and Owen Brewster of Maine (Republicans).

2 March 1941 LRDG
LRDG soldiers, March 1941. 

British Government: Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies gives a capsule appraisal of Churchill in today's diary entry:
Churchill grows on me. He has an astonishing grasp of detail and, by daily contact with the service headquarters, knows of disposition and establishment quite accurately. But I still fear that his real tyrant is the glittering phrase - so attractive to his mind that awkward facts may have to give way. But this is the defect of his quality.... Churchill's course is set. There is no defeat in his heart.
Many other around Churchill have a similar mixed view of his personality, but overall the general consensus is that his doggedness in pursuit of victory is irreplaceable.

Romania: Continuing to ingratiate itself with Germany, the Romanian government enacts additional repressive laws targeting the Jews.

Turkey: The Turks now require permits for all ships transiting the Dardanelles.

Chile: In Parliamentary elections, the Radical Party (which actually is merely moderately left of center) gains a plurality. The President remains Pedro Aguirre Cerda of the Popular Front, which is a left-wing coalition that includes the Radical Party as well as the Communist Party and various other worker parties. However, Cerda is wasting away from a tuberculosis.

2 March 1941 Philippe Leclerc
Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque in Bangui (now part of the Central African Republic), April/May 1941.


February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen

Sunday 2 February 1941

2 February 1941 Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Serge Voronoff at his monkey-gland laboratory in France.

Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greeks (Cretan 5th Division of II Corps) on 2 February 1941 finally take full possession of the Trebeshina (Trebeshinë) massif. This is a strategic location vital for further operations. The nearby Greek 15th Division also makes small gains, completing the capture of the village of Bubeshi.

Italian forces in the area, however, remain unusually feisty for Italian troops of World War II. Thus, little profit appears likely from this commanding position in the area achieved by the Greek troops. Further progress may depend upon British troops, which remain in Egypt and Libya pending the completion of operations there and Greek approval to accept them. The RAF is busy in support of the Greeks. The Greeks are trying to take the strategically decisive port of Valona (Vlorë) quickly, and capture of the Trebeshinë heights is necessary to accomplish that. However, Klisura Pass is just the gateway toward Valona, not on its doorstep, and much work remains to be done (such as the capture of Tepelenë) before the port is even threatened, much less overcome.

With the benefit of hindsight and in light of later events (Operation Marita), the protracted defense of the Trebeshinë heights by two battalions of the Italian Blackshirts may be seen as having secured Valona and, thus, the entire Italian position in Albania for the duration of World War II. It salvages a tiny bit of Italian military honor. With the benefit of even more hindsight and perhaps a bit of arguable interpretation, the use of crack Cretan troops in Albania rather than keeping them in Crete may have contributed to future Allied defeats there as well.

Spinning things out a bit further.... perhaps beyond the breaking point... the successful Italian defense of the Trebeshinë heights may have played an even larger role in the outcome of World War II. If the Italians in Albania had folded completely in a short period of time, Hitler might not have authorized Operation Marita (at least partly intended to rescue the Italians). In that case, he might have had those troops available at the start of Operation Barbarossa. Many historians theorize that, had those troops been used in the Soviet Union right from the opening of hostilities, Moscow might have been captured before the winter snows and the entire course of world history altered. But, that is sheer speculation.

2 February 1941 Keren Eritrea battle map
Map of initial attacks on Keren, Eritrea.

East African Campaign: The Italian collapse in Eritrea continues. The 5th Indian Infantry Division takes Barentu, with the Italians retreating at first down a small road that turns into a mule track. The reported prisoner haul is 8000, but this figure seems high. Ultimately, the Italians abandon the road altogether and simply hike overland toward the coast. While this prevents the pursuing British from catching up to them, it also forces them to abandon every single vehicle, including guns, trucks and tanks. The Italian troops (largely colonial) from both the Cochen Mountain and Barentu fronts head for Keren on the Keren Plateau, which has fewer natural defensive advantages than the positions the British already have overcome. However, it is located at 4300 feet above sea level, which forces the British to attack essentially while going  uphill.

Preliminary operations against Keren already are underway. Gazelle Force crosses the Baraka River with some difficulty (the Italians have blown the Ponte Mussolini bridge) and ascends toward the plateau. The British troops make it all the way to within about 6 km of Keren, where it is stopped at the Donglolaas Gorge. Normally, the area can be traversed without difficulty, but the Italians have dynamited the overhanging escarpments, filling the gorge with boulders and debris. The Italians also rather unhelpfully have mined the approaches.

In Abyssinia, the advancing South African troops capture Hobok.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command begins a sustained campaign against the Channel invasion ports, in conjunction with Coastal Command. Among the targeted ports today are Berck, Le Havre and Ostend. After dark, the RAF bombs Brest.

The Circus Operations continue. As opposed to Rhubarb missions, which are fighters only, the Circus missions include a token force of bombers to make their interception by the Luftwaffe more potentially profitable. This attack in daylight is by five Blenheims against Boulogne. The British claim three fighters destroyed.

The Luftwaffe remains dormant. There are scattered raids over eastern England, with a few bombs dropped here and there.

Battle of the Atlantic: German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which have been in the far North Atlantic near Bear Island for several days waiting for the weather to improve, finally manage to complete refuelling from tanker Adria. They each receive about 3400 tons of fuel and then quickly head to the southwest. Rather than head south of Iceland, as they did during their abortive breakout attempt in late January, the two ships head north of Iceland. Their objective is passage through the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. Around this time, one of the Gneisenau's crewmen, named Liske, is lost overboard in the heavy seas and not recovered.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 834 ton British freighter The Sultan in the outer fringes of the Thames Estuary. There are two deaths and 12 survivors.

Royal Navy 505 ton trawler HMT Almond hits a mine and sinks off Falmouth. All 19 on board perish.

Belgian 168 ton coaster Pallieter (formerly Hero) has its cargo shift during a storm. This causes the ship to sink in the Firth of Forth.

The Luftwaffe attacks 5135 ton British freighter Waziristan in the Atlantic shipping lanes west of the Faroes Islands. A near miss disables the ship, which eventually is taken under tow by tug Bandit and brought to Kirkwall.

Convoy FN 398 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 402 departs from Methil, Convoy BS 14 departs from Suez.

U-431 is launched.

2 February 1941 Italian POWs Tobruk
Italian POWs being brought to the fortress area at Tobruk for processing, 1941 (Australian War Memorial). Tobruk serves as the embarkation point for Italian POWs heading for Alexandria.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Australian 6th Division continues pursuing the Italians west of Derna. While not in wild flight, the Italians are moving with some alacrity back toward Benghazi - which itself is being evacuated. They also are engaging in skilful minelaying and combat destruction. This is slowing down the Australian infantry, as each minefield requires a methodical clearing before the advance can continue.

With Middle East Commander Archibald Wavell's permission in hand, General O'Connor of XIII Corps is preparing to send his armored forces south of the mountain (Jebel Akhdar, or Green Mountain) that bifurcates northeast Libyan operations. This requires supplies which must be shipped to Tobruk - not in perfect working order after the recent battles there - and then transport north toward Derna. O'Connor is torn between getting his supplies in order and then sending his troops (Combe Force) out fully prepared, or sending what he has available out quickly in order to increase the likelihood of blocking the Italian retreat.

O'Connor adopts the latter course. He orders Lieutenant Colonel J.F.B. Combe, commanding 11th Hussars, 2nd Rifle Brigade and assorted field, antitank and antiaircraft artillery) to set out first thing in the morning of the 3rd. The 7th Armoured Division will follow shortly thereafter. The basic plan is for the Australians to herd the Italians westward north of the mountain, while Combe Force moves directly westward and cuts them off further west. This unit becomes known as Combe Force.

Elsewhere, the Royal Navy is active. Operation Picket by Force H is launched from aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. This is an attack by eight Skuas of RAF No. 810 Squadron on a strategically important San Chiara Ulla Dam at Lake Tirso, Sardinia. This attack, which aims to destroy hydroelectric facilities as well using torpedoes, is executed but does not damage the targets due to low clouds, hail, rain, antiaircraft fire, barking dogs and the whole lot. Four torpedoes are released, but apparently they hit a sandbar or other obstruction. The British loses a Skua, with the three crewmen rescued by the Italians and taken prisoner. It is an interesting operation in the abstract, full of derring-do and the like, but results only in quite a bit of profitless effort on both ends of the Mediterranean.

Admiral Somerville still plans to carry off companion operation Operation Grog (formerly Result) (the bombardment of Genoa). However, he decides against it on this sortie due to the weather. Force H then retires to Gibraltar. Many lessons are learned from this somewhat embarrassing affair which are put to good use eventually in the famous "Dambusters" raid later in the war.

A diversionary operation for the disappointing Operation Picket and abortive Operation Result is underway in the eastern Mediterranean. In Operation MC 7, a large force of Royal Navy ships essentially simulates a typical convoy from Alexandria to Malta.

Italian tug Uso sinks between the islands of Korčula and Lastovo, Yugoslavia. The cause of sinking apparently is a mine; accounts say it is by torpedo, but the source of the supposed torpedo is not given.

On Malta, the government decides to set up a new department, the Food and Distributions Office. This office, under Marquis Barbaro of St George, will implement a rationing scheme. As part of this process, households will be issued rationing cards.

Wellingtons based on Malta attack Castel Benito, a Libyan airfield that the Italians enlarged in the late 1930s. This is but the latest in many air attacks on the field.

2 February 1941 Dr. Voronoff Keren Eritrea
Keren, Eritrea  around the time of World War II.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: The Gneisenau and Scharnhorst aren't the only German heavy ships operating in the Atlantic; battlecruisers Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper also are on the loose. There also are  many other German ships of various purposes roaming the high seas which can help them fulfill their commerce-raiding missions. One of them operating in the western Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar, is German raider Atlantis. Today, it captures 7301 ton Norwegian tanker Ketty Brøvig, which is full of 6370 tons of fuel oil and 4125 tos of diesel oil from Bahrain. The Atlantis puts a prize crew aboard and will use the tanker to fuel itself and whatever other Axis ships it encounters. This is an example of how an entire fleet can "live off the land" in the middle of the ocean.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Formidable is on its way up the eastern African coast to join the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria. Its presence there is necessary to replace the battered HMS Illustrious, which is heading for permanent repairs in the United States (at some point the two carriers pass, which must give the boys on the Formidable quite an eyeful of what to expect for themselves). Today, it operates as part of Force K, a determined British effort to track down German raider Atlantis. While having no success in that mission, it is in the vicinity of Italian Somaliland (Somalia), and the British decide to take advantage of that fact. Formidable launches its Swordfish against Mogadishu harbor to lay mines. The nine Albacores then attack Mogadishu itself in Operation Breach.

Italian destroyers are operating in the Red Sea. After dark, they attack one of the BS convoys, but are deterred by the Royal Navy escorts.

German battlecruiser Admiral Scheer transits from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

Battle of the Pacific: German raider Orion completes an overhaul at Maug Island in the Marianas and heads for the Indian Ocean.

2 February 1941 Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Voronoff claims that monkey glands may contain the secret to eternal youth. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 13 July 1924.

British Government: General Alan Brooke, commander of United Kingdom Home Forces and in charge of anti-invasion preparations, records in his diary that he had dinner at Chequers and then gave a presentation to Prime Minister Churchill, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and various others in Churchill's coterie. Everybody is complimentary, he says, but Churchill "would not acknowledge that an invasion ... was possible in the face of partial sea-control and local air-control."

US Government: Dean Acheson is made Assistant Secretary of State.

Canada: Prime Minister William Mackenzie King makes a radio speech to the Canadian people. He states that the Germans are engaging in barbarity:
Total war means an indiscriminate attack on every front, by every means, however fiendish. Practiced by the [fascists], as we have seen, it is war against homes, hospitals, schools and churches. It is war on men, women and children.
King emphasizes the importance of fully supporting the war effort. He informs the public that Canada will double the number of troops it already is contributing to the war effort in Europe.

Australia: Prime Minister Robert Menzies continues his epic journey from Melbourne to London, recorded in his voluminous diary (these entries most likely written on the plane). Today, he stops at Baghdad. He meets the Regent, who he describes as "clear-headed but only 25, afraid of his advisers." Menzies describes the new Iraqi Prime Minister as "a stop gap, being a little better [than his predecessor] but not much." He then continues on to Jerusalem for the night.

China: The indeterminate fighting in Southern Honan (Henan) continues. The Japanese 11th Army evacuates Wuyang.

2 February 1941 Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Voronoff claims that monkey glands may be able to create a race of supermen. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 September 1936.

French Homeland: For unexplained reasons, the Germans seize the monkeys of French researcher Dr. Serge Voronoff. Now, this leads to the question, who is Dr. Voronoff and who cares about his monkeys? Well, there's a story to that.

Dr. Voronoff is the 74-year-old brother-in-law of the wife of ex-King Carol II of Romania. He has maintained a monkey farm and laboratory near Mentonne for decades. He is a specialist in monkey glands, specifically, applied uses of monkey glands for medicinal purposes.

Now, monkey glands may not sound like a particularly exciting field. However, at this point in time there are many hopes that monkey glands may have special powers. Specifically, there are claims that monkey glands are the fountain of youth. Dr. Voronoff does not mind the publicity, and in fact has made some wild claims of his own, reported in the international press, that monkey glands literally can create an army of supermen. And, in German hands, that would be an army of Wehrmacht Supermen.

Which means there may be something quite special about these particular monkeys. Who knows what... alterations the good doctor has made to them? It makes the otherwise inexplicable decision of the Germans to seize the monkeys quite explainable. As for Dr. Voronoff - he and his 26-year-old wife previously booked tickets to New York and arrived there on 6 September 1940.

Italian Homeland: Apparently as a result of reversals in Libya, Benito Mussolini declares southern Italy a war zone and places it under martial law.

2 February 1941 Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Voronoff's monkeys seized. This appeared in the 2 February 1941 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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