Thursday 26 June 1941
|German troops assault a burning Soviet village, 26 June 1941.|
While Finland has declared war (the "Continuation War" of the "Winter War"), it is still preparing for its offensives towards Leningrad, the Svir River, and the Murmansk railway. The Germans in the far north of Finland - the German Army of Norway - also are preparing for operations toward Murmansk, but nothing major has begun yet.
However, the Soviet naval base at Hango in southern Finland is close at hand and a fairly easy target - if the Finns decide to mount a major effort. Hango, granted to the USSR under the armistice terms of the Winter War, is isolated both by land and by German control of the Baltic. However, the Soviet troops there are well-supplied and at this time they are determined to hold out.
In the Army Group North sector, the 1st Panzer Division and 36th Motorised Infantry Division of the XLI Panzer Corps and following infantry divisions slice through the rear of the Soviet mechanized corps and close an encirclement around Soviet 3rd Mechanised Corps (out of fuel) and the 2nd Tank Division.
Advance elements of LVI Panzer Corps (Brandenburg Division troops wearing Soviet uniforms) of General von Manstein's 4th Panzer Group seize two bridges at Daugavpils over the Dvina River, enabling the panzers to establish a bridgehead. This concludes the Battle of Raseiniai, a decisive German victory.
The Soviets are in the disarray, and the bridgehead is a major problem. General Kuznetsov is under orders (from Semyon Timoshenko) to defend the Dvina and begins to organize a counterattack to eliminate it using the 21st Mechanized Corps. However, this will take time to organize due to the chaotic state of supplies and troops behind Soviet lines. Adolf Hitler, however, is worried that the panzers are outrunning the infantry, so he orders a temporary halt to the advance.
|Abandoned T-35 and T-26 Soviet tanks in June 1941.|
Brest Fortress continues to hold out behind the German lines. It is an important fortress because it controls the crossings of the Bug River and the Warsaw-Moscow railway and highway. In the evening, the Germans managed to capture most of the northern Kobrin fortification except for an installation known as the East Fort. The Soviet defenders refuse to surrender, so the Germans decide to destroy it using the Luftwaffe.
In the Army Group South sector, the Battle of Brody continues. The Germans continue advancing, but the Soviets launch several flank attacks to try to stop them. While the Soviets have many powerful forces in the area, their counterattacks suffer from a lack of coordination.
The 10th Tank Division has a savage day near Radekhiv, destroying 23 panzers at a cost of 13 KV and 12 BT-7 tanks. The 19th Mechanized Corps (Major General N.V. Feklenko) attacks from the north toward Dubno but comes up short. While there are heavy losses on both sides, these flank attacks do little to slow down the advancing panzers.
The most tactically significant battle of the day occurs when 8th Mechanized Corps attacks toward Brody–Berestechko. The 8th takes a column of the 11th Panzer Division advancing in a column by surprise and savages it. The Germans are reduced to using motorcycle troops of the 48th Panzer Corps against Soviet tanks. Soviet General Popel prepares to take advantage of this by preparing to it the rear of the 11th Panzer Division with his 300 tanks, but he is still assembling his forces when the day ends.
|"Fierce Fighting on the Whole Front." Melbourne, Australia The Sun, 26 June 1941.|
Near Daugavpils, Kommodore Werner Mölders downs two planes, a Soviet Pe-2, and an I-16. This raises his total number of victories to 77. Werner Mölders continues to be the leading air ace of the war at this time, with most of his victories against the RAF.
While flying a Fiesler Storch observation/transport plane, Hauptmann Lothar Keller of II./JG 3, a 20-victory Experten (ace), perishes. He is replaced as Gruppenkommandeur by Hauptmann Gordon Gollob.
The Red Air Force bombs Bucharest. Also, in a very controversial incident, two or three unidentified bombers bomb the Hungarian border town of Kassa (Kosice) and strafe a passenger train. The bombing of Kassa kills 20 and injures 41 (this previously was a part of Czechoslovakia), while 37 on the train also perish. In addition, there are hundreds of injured. The Hungarians assume that it is the Red Air Force, but it is just as likely that they are errant Luftwaffe bombers. Another theory is that it is a deliberate German false-flag operation, in which Luftwaffe pilots use captured Soviet planes to stage an "incident" that will provoke Hungary into declaring war on the USSR (which Hungary does on the 27th, using the Kassa bombing as a reason).
|"Bren gun carriers manned by Indian troops outside Damascus, 26 June 1941. Note the wrecked Vichy French FT17 tank on the right, left by the retreating enemy." © IWM (E 3839).|
Lieutenant-General Lavarack, commanding operations in Syria and Lebanon, orders Major-General Allen of the 7th Australian Division to focus on the advance along the coast. The Vichy French Army is far from beaten, and their artillery maintains a fierce barrage. For the time being, a lull develops in ground operations as the Australian commanders ponder their next move.
The Royal Navy bombards Vichy French positions at Abey.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command raids Cologne (51 bombers), Dusseldorf (44), and Kiel (41). During the day, RAF Fighter Command sends a Circus mission to the power station at Comines. However, thick haze forces the mission to abort.
During the Circus mission, RAF pilot James "Johnnie" Johnson gets a victory, downing a Bf-109.
|Colonel Philibert Collet's Circassian Cavalry outside the railway station at Damascus, 26 June 1941.|
U-149 (Kptlt. Horst Höltring), a training boat of the 1st U-boat Flotilla based at Gdynia/Gotenhafen on its only patrol of the war, sinks 206-ton Soviet submarine M-99 (some sources say M-101 on 27 June) northwest of Dago Island.
Soviet submarine M-72 hits a mine and is damaged off Kronstadt. It makes it to port. The identities of all these ships - M-99, M-101, M-72 - is unclear from the sources.
Soviet warships lay mines in the Baltic and are attacked by German forces doing the same. A German S-boat torpedoes Soviet destroyer Storozhevoi in the Irben Strait. The destroyer makes it back to Leningrad. The S-boats, however, do sink Estonian freighter Lidaza.
Finnish vessels Vesihiisi and Iku-Turso lay mines off the Estonian coast.
|U-576, a Type VIIC boat.|
Convoy OB-339 departs from Liverpool bound for Halifax, Convoy HX-135 departs from Halifax bound for Liverpool.
Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Euryalus is commissioned, corvette Sweetbriar and minesweeping trawler Eday are launched and minesweeper Horsham is laid down.
Canadian corvette HMCS Prescott (Lt. Henry A. Russell) is commissioned, while corvette Timmins is launched at Esquimalt BC and minesweepers Parrsborough and Rockhampton are launched.
Dutch destroyer HNLMS Evertsen (previously HMS Scourge) is laid down.
U-453 (Kapitänleutnant Gert Hetschko) and U-576 (Kapitänleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke) are commissioned, U-583 and U-584 are launched, and U-304 is laid down.
|Rearming a Messerschmitt Bf.109E-7 of 7./JG 26. June 1941, North Africa. Note the "Schlageter" unit marking.|
Royal Navy submarine HMS Severn torpedoes and sinks 1292-ton Italian freighter Polinnia southeast of Ischia (south of Naples).
Royal Navy submarine HMS Utmost torpedoes and sinks 4080-ton Italian freighter Enrico Costa four miles off Cape Todaro (northern Sicily).
Force H of the Royal Navy, based at Gibraltar, begins another mission to supply aircraft to Malta. This is Operation Railway, and the aircraft are on aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal.
British troopship HMT Nieuw Amsterdam departs Suez bound for Durban. It carries the King of Greece and the royal family, other members of the Greek government, 1000 prisoners of war and their 75 guards, and 151 passengers.
Since the eastern Mediterranean has quieted down, battleships Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, Warspite and numerous supporting vessels depart Alexandria for gunnery practice.
At Malta, there is a continuous bombing by the Italians over a five-hour period. The raid starts around 22:00 and lasts until around 03:00 the next morning. The residents of Malta consider these "nuisance" raids because they seem less intended to cause damage than to keep people awake by simply circling around Valletta.
|"Passing out parade of newly trained merchant seamen. The Captain of HMS GORDON gives a parting address to the passing out draft." © IWM (A 4467).|
|Australian freighter Mareeba, sunk on 26 June 1941 by German raider Kormoran.|
Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet cruiser Voroshilov and accompanying destroyers bombard Constanta, which is being attacked by both sea and air. The Soviets blow up a Romanian ammunition train. However, they are chased off by the Royal Romanian Navy's coastal fortifications (Gruparea de artilerie de coasta Constanta, comprised of six batteries ranging in size from 150mm and 120mm down to 75mm) and Romanian destroyers Regina Maria and Marasti. German 28cm coastal battery "Tirpitz" aids in the defense.
Soviet destroyer Moskva is hit and sinks during the engagement, although which battery hit it and the effect of hitting a mine while withdrawing to Sevastopol has been debated ever since. Destroyer Kharkiv is damaged by a near miss when the Luftwaffe attacks, but makes it back to Sevastopol. Cruiser Voroshilov also hits a mine but also makes it back to port.
A fight takes place in the early morning hours on the Chilia branch of the Danube Delta, near the commune of Ceatalchioi which is known simply as the Action of 26 June 1941. Two Romanian pocket torpedo gunboats, V-1 and V-3 of the Romanian Danube Flotilla, take on three Soviet armored motor gunboats, which are there to lay mines. The Romanian commander of V-3 spots the Soviets and opens fire with his 47 mm gun. The middle of the three Soviet boats explodes, and the other two quickly retreat. One of the remaining Soviet boats hits a rock and is disabled, allowing the Romanians to capture it. This Soviet ship was repaired and commissioned in the Romanian Navy as V-7.
|A Romanian CNLB-class riverboat of the type involved in the Action of 26 June 1941.|
German/Soviet Relations: At some point during this week - details are very sketchy - Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin attempts to broker a peace deal with Hitler through a Bulgarian diplomat, Ivan Stamenov. Foreign Minister Molotov has Lavrentiy Beria arrange this by using one of Beria's subordinates, NKVD officer Pavel Sudoplatov, who has a "casual" lunch at a Moscow restaurant with the diplomat. Sudoplatov explains to Stamenov what to say to Hitler. Stalin is willing to offer huge concessions for peace, including Ukraine and all of the areas granted to him in the "secret protocol" to the 23 August 1939 Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact in the Baltic States. Stalin does, though, demand to know why Hitler invaded the USSR.
Hitler turns Stalin down flat and will not even consider the offer. This is one of Hitler's biggest mistakes. These revelations were hidden for many years but came to light during the period after Stalin died from natural causes in the 1950s. There are few other details of this little-known incident, but there is no reason to doubt that it happened. This peace offer was classified as treason and was one of the charges used to condemn Beria to death. The others involved - including the Bulgarian Stamenov diplomat used as the go-between - submitted affidavits confirming the incident. Sudoplatov confessed to it under interrogation and also was convicted of treason, serving 15 full years in prison (yes, there are many questions about the validity of such "proof," but there was a lot of corroboration). Molotov was never tried for treason despite his deep role in the incident, but gradually fell out of favor, lost his positions one by one, and by 1962 was a "non-person" in the Soviet bureaucracy.
Anglo/Yugoslav Relations: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill meets with the prime minister of the Yugoslavian government-in-exile.
|Aerial photograph of Scorton airfield looking northwest, Scorton village is bottom right, 26 June 1941. Photograph from sortie number RAF/4F/UK653. English Heritage (RAF Photography).|
Stalin is an unhappy man because of the military situation. In fact, he is so angry that he visits the General Staff headquarters twice during the day to vent. As usual, when he is unhappy, Stalin vents his wrath on subordinates. Today he recalls General Meretskov from Leningrad and arrests him. Meretskov is in for torture, during which he implicates other generals in a supposed anti-Stalin plot.
General Ivan Konev takes command of the Soviet 19th Army.
Spanish Military: Spain lives up to its commitment to provide troops to aid Operation Barbarossa by beginning to form its "Blue Division."
Italian Military: Leader Benito Mussolini announces plans to send an Italian expeditionary force to the Eastern Front.
Japanese Military: The Japanese Imperial Navy launches aircraft carrier Junyo. The Junyo is converted from a passenger liner.
US Military: Task Force 18 of the Atlantic Fleet forms out of the mixed Marine-Army I Corps (Provisional).
|HMS Liverpool. "In dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, 26 June 1941, for the repair of damage received in the Mediterranean Sea the previous October. The false bow had been fitted at Alexandria, Egypt, shortly after the cruiser was torpedoed." Naval History and Heritage Command NH 60379.|
However, Hitler takes care of some lingering business by issuing a "secret decree" that names his successor as Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.
Norwegian Government: An advisor to Vidkun Quisling writes a letter to the leader suggesting that Slavic peoples should be removed from northern Russia because they "don't know how to make use of the land." The land, he writes, could be better used by Germanic peoples" (which he apparently believes includes Norwegians).
|Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance photo of the Baltic Shipyard, Leningrad, showing a Sovietsky Soyuz-class battleship and a Chapayev-class cruiser under construction. 26 June 1941.|
Holocaust: At Jassy (Iasi), Romania, Romanian and German soldiers go from house to house in order to kill Jews. Some Jews are spared for the moment but put in cattle wagons in order to be taken to another location for eventual execution. The number of people executed is unknown, but could be as high as 12,000.
Italian Homefront: Artist Ettore Tito, famous for painting scenes of Venice, passes away in Venice at the age of 81.
German Homefront: The government cuts the meat ration to 14 ounces per week, but raises the artificial honey ration.
American Homefront: New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio goes hitless until the last out of the eighth inning in a game the Yankees are winning 3-1 in New York. However, when making an out virtually would ensure that his hitting streak ends, DiMaggio hits a double over third base and drives in a run. This extends DiMaggio's club-record hitting streak to 38 games.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer releases "Blossoms in the Dust" starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, which premieres at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, it is a biopic pic about an advocate for the rights of illegitimate children, Edna Gladney.
|Soviet destroyer Moskva, sunk off the Romanian coast on 26 June 1941.|
June 1, 1941: Farhud Pogrom
June 2, 1941: Massacres on Crete
June 3, 1941: Kandanos Massacre
June 4, 1941: Kaiser Wilhelm Passes Away
June 5, 1941: Death in Chungking
June 6, 1941: Hitler's Commissar Order
June 7, 1941: Commandos Strike at Pessac
June 8, 1941: British Invade Syria and Lebanon
June 9, 1941: Litani River Battle
June 10, 1941: British Take Assab
June 11, 1941: Hitler Thinking Beyond Russia
June 12, 1941: St. James Agreement
June 13, 1941: Lützow Damaged
June 14, 1941: Latvian June Deportations
June 15, 1941: Operation Battleaxe
June 16, 1941: The Old Lion
June 17, 1941: British Spanked in North Africa
June 18, 1941: Turkey Turns Its Back
June 19, 1941: Cheerios Introduced
June 20, 1941: Birth of US Army Air Force
June 21, 1941: Damascus Falls
June 22, 1941: Germany Invades Russia
June 23, 1941: A Soviet KV Tank Causes Havoc
June 24, 1941: Kaunas and Vilnius Fall
June 25, 1941: Finland Declares War
June 26, 1941: Bombing of Kassa
June 27, 1941: Encirclement At Minsk
June 28, 1941: Minsk Falls
June 29, 1941: Brest Fortress Falls
June 30, 1941: Mölders Becomes Top Ace