Tuesday, March 13, 2018

June 13, 1941: Lützow Damaged

Friday 13 June 1941

Winston Churchill at the Royal Artillery experimental station at Shoeburyness in Essex 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Winston Churchill takes aim with a Sten gun during a visit to the Royal Artillery experimental station at Shoeburyness in Essex, on June 13 1941 (colorized).

Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: Operation Exporter continues on 13 June 1941. The advancing Australian troops begin to run into heavy resistance from the Vichy French. While the outcome of the campaign is never really in doubt, there is a lot of hard fighting which escalates today.

The Australian 7th Division (Major General John Lavarack) advancing toward Beirut has split its forces. It has left a small party in Merdjayoun and sent the rest toward Jazzine. Australian troops of the 25th Brigade lead the attack on Jezzine. The defending French respond with heavy machine-gun fire, causing a lot of casualties. To eliminate the machine gun nest, Private Jim Gordon, 2/31st Battalion, crawls forward and attacks with his rifle and bayonet. Gordon succeeds and wins the Victoria Cross, and the Australians take Jezzine.

On the coast, the Australian 21st Brigade (Brigadier Jack Stevens) attacks Sidon, a town of about 12,000 people. The defending French resist fiercely and hold the town for the time being. The Australian forces are led by the 2/16th Infantry Battalion, which attacks during the day. The Australians are careful to avoid hitting historic buildings with their artillery, which slows the advance. Some sources say that Sidon falls today, but the battle takes a couple of days.

French R35 tank in Syria 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A 10-ton French R35 tank in Syria on or about June 13, 1941. French tanks were capable, but suffered from poor fuel mileage - the R35 requires 212 liters of gasoline to go 100 km off road. It was powere dby a 85-hp Renault V-4 engine mounted in the right rear. By comparison, a 27-ton British Matilda tank of the time used two diesel engines providing up to 87 hp each. French forces in Syria had two battalions (63 and 68 BCC) of 45 and 50 tanks, respectively.

European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe sends 135 bombers against the Chatham naval base and Portsmouth/Southampton area, perhaps in anticipation of the breakout attempt by heavy cruiser Lutzow. However, the British jamming procedures against the Luftwaffe's radio direction service cause massive confusion in the bomber stream. The Luftwaffe bombers get lost in the dark and bombs drop all across southern and eastern England, mostly to no purpose. To add to the Luftwaffe's bad night, it loses seven bombers to anti-aircraft fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

RAF Bomber Command raids Bochum and Duisburg. The raids are getting more powerful, as Borhum receives 445 tons of bombs. This is the second night of 20 in a row when the RAF bombs German targets. The RAF also sends 42 planes to attack Schwerte and 110 bombers to attack the naval base at Brest.

Corporal James Hendry of the Royal Canadian Engineers earns the George Cross (posthumously) for sending his mates to safety while he stays behind to try to put out a fire that eventually sets off a magazine at Loch Laggan. Sapper John MacDougall Stewart also perishes in the blast.

East African Campaign: Indian trawler Parvati strikes a magnetic mine near Assab. This is the last naval casualty of the campaign, and the Red Sea now becomes a war-free zone.

Matilda tank 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Matilda tank hidden near the front in the Western Desert, 13 June 1941." This is known as a "hull-down" position. © IWM (E 3532).

Battle of the Atlantic: The British have learned from Ultra decrypts about German plans to send heavy cruiser Lützow into the North Atlantic on Operation Sommerreise. A RAF Coastal Command Blenheim spots it about 15 minutes after midnight on the 13th. The cruiser is steaming about 25 km off the coast.

RAF Beauforts of No. 42 Squadron and No. 22 Squadron attack Lützow, escorted by five destroyers, off Egersund in the early morning hours and score a torpedo strike. An attack at 02:18 disables the ship's electrical system and temporarily shuts down the engines (the RAF claims two torpedo hits, but apparently only one hits amidships). In addition, the hit on the port side  No. 2 motor room causes a heavy list. At first, a destroyer takes Lützow in tow. After emergency repairs, the ship regains use of its engines and heads back to Kiel. The repairs will last until 10 May 1942. The RAF loses one Beaufort in these operations.

U-107 (Kptlt. Günther Hessler), on its extended second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4981-ton Greek freighter Pandias several hundred miles off Freetown and south of the Cape Verde Islands. Pandias takes a hit amidships and sinks by the stern, and most of the crew has enough time to take to the boats. However, there are 11 deaths. Hessler surfaces and gives the 23 survivors water, rum and cigarets.

U-77 (Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder), one its first patrol out of Kiel and serving with Wolfpack West, is operating off Cape Race, Newfoundand when it spots 4743-ton British freighter Tresillian. Schonder decides to get in some target practice and surfaces nearby. The crew pumps 60-65 shells into Tresillian, but it refuses to sink. Schonder then uses a torpedo, sending Tresillian to the bottom. Everyone survives, picked up by US Coast Guard Cutter UCGC Duane.

25-pounder field gun 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British 25-pdr field gun in action during the advance into Syria, 13 June 1941.

Italian submarine Brin stalks Convoy SL-75 just east of the Azores. It torpedoes and sinks two ships:

  • 3460-ton British freighter Djurdjura
  • 3781-ton Greek freighter Eirini Kyriakides

There are 33 deaths on Djurdjura, with five survivors. Everyone on the Eirini Kyriakides perishes.

The Luftwaffe bombs and badly damages 628-ton British freighter Kingstown nine nautical miles (17 km) northwest of Bishops Light, Bristol Channel. Every survives. A tug takes Kingstown in tow, but it sinks about six miles (11 km) from St. Anne's Head, Pembrokeshire.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 1922-ton British freighter St. Patrick northwest of Porthgain, Wales. There are 30-31 deaths and 68-69 deaths (one man dies later from wounds).

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 162-ton gate vessel HMT King Henry at Lowstoft. There are no casualties.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 933-ton Norwegian freighter Ala just east of the Isle of Wight. There is one death. This is a second attack on Ala, which the Luftwaffe bombed and damaged on 17 May and is in the process of being towed to Southampton when it is sunk.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 332-ton British freighter Empire Creek northeast of Aberdeen in the North Sea with near misses. The ship eventually makes it to Aberdeen, apparently under tow.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 698-ton Norwegian freighter Bokn off St. Ives. The ship makes it back to port.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 5796-ton British freighter Dalemoor southeast of Aberdeen in the North Sea. There are 8 deaths. The ship makes it to Leith under tow.

Royal Navy ASW trawler HMS Cotillion is commissoned, sloop Crane is laid down.

Canadian minesweeper HMCE Noranda is launched at Levis in Quebec Province.

Matilda tank 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Crew members relax at the rear of their Matilda tank, dug into a hull-down position, 13 June 1941 (© IWM (E 3534).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Aberdare runs aground off Mersa Matruh. It manages to free itself without much damage.

During the night of 12/13 June, two Italian torpedo boats attack Royal Navy ASW trawler HMS Jade about 17 miles off Sicily. Jade is searching for a downed pilot. The Jade escapes serious damage, but one crewman perishes. Both sides rake each other with machine gun fire, but Italian attempts to torpedo Jade fail and it makes it back to port. The pilot, incidentally, is not found.

The Royal Navy begins another supply operation to Malta, Operation Tracer, when aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and Victorious depart from Gibraltar. The heavy escort includes battleship Renown. They carry 47 Hawker Hurricanes for Malta.

Convoy WS-81 (Winston Special) arrives in Suez carrying troops and weapons.

On Malta, the Italians send numerous raids over and near the island. The British claim to shoot down 11 Axis planes, and the RAF also takes at least one loss.

Japanese/Soviet Relations: The Japanese government in Tokyo announces a trade agreement with the Soviet Union.

German/Arab Relations: Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop invites deposed Iraqi leader Rashid Ali, the Grand Mufti and their cronies, who have escaped into Persia, to Berlin.

US/Vichy French Relations: US Secretary of State Cordell Hull warns the French people that "The general adoption of Hitlerism would set the world back five to ten centuries."

German Military: Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander in Chief of the German Army, returns to Berlin from an inspection tour at the "front" - the border with the Soviet Union.

Soviet Military: Generals Timoshenko and Zhukov seek permission from Premier Joseph Stalin to alert troops at the border of an invasion threat and begin deploying forces. Stalin, however, refuses and discounts continuing warnings from spy Richard Sorge in Tokyo and others.

The Soviet Navy begins transferring submarines from its Baltic Fleet to the Northern Fleet via the White Sea canal

Inspection, Maintenance and Care of Army Vehicles Pamphlet 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Inspection, Maintenance and Care of Army Vehicles Pamphlet from June 13, 1941 (Evelyn Thorne).

US Military: US Marine Corps Major General Holland M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith becomes commanding general of I Corps, which is attached to the Atlantic Fleet. The provisional I Corps commands the 1st Marine Division (Holland's previous command) and the Army's 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One).

The War Department announced Lubbock, Texas as the site for an advanced twin engine training school. The city buys the necessary 2000 acres of land and leases it to the federal government for $1 per year. This becomes the Air Corps Advanced Flying School.

German Government: Adolf Hitler arrives back in Berlin after a lengthy stay in Munich and Berchtesgaden meeting the leaders of his allies. As crony Walther Hewel writes in his diary, Hitler views eliminating the Soviet Union as a military power as a way to isolate and destroy Great Britain. Reflecting doubt about the wisdom of Operation Barbarossa all around Hitler, Hewel adds:
I cannot share this belief, as the British will regard it as a weakening of Germany for a long time to come.
Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels meets with Hitler and has some explaining to do. He has had his propaganda outlets spread a rumor that an invasion of England is imminent. In fact, that day's Volkischer Beobachter - essentially the party newspaper - has a front page article entitled, "Crete as an Example," which implies that England will be invaded within the next two months in the same manner as Crete(i.e., with airborne troops, Fallschirmjäger). The article includes the line, "Mr. Churchill will be laughing out of the other side of his face" when the invasion takes place.

However, Hitler quickly confirms that Operation Barbarossa is still on. Goebbels has to send the police out to seize copies of the newspaper. In fact, this naturally sets rumors swirling and helps to hide the true operation planned against the USSR. So, the false story serves as an unintended disinformation campaign that helps maintain the secrecy of the invasion planned for 22 June. Hitler does not hold a grudge and finds the entire incident amusing.

New Mexico floodwaters 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
New Mexico receives twice the normal rainfal in 1941, the wettest year in state history (26.25 inches). This kills 28 people, 24 in flooding.  Here, floodwaters rushing over the east approach to the Bernardo, N.M., bridge on June 13, 1941, cut away half of the asphalt pavement. By the next morning, it would all be gone. (Source: MRGD via Albuquerque Journal).

Soviet Government: The TASS news agency issues a terse statement that "rumors of a German plan to attack the Soviet Union are unfounded... there could be no misunderstanding between the two countries."

Channel Islands: Adolf Hitler, who evinces an obsession with islands throughout the war, order reinforcement of the Channel Islands. This results in construction of both field-type and fortress-type concrete fortifications.

Holocaust: Vichy Premier Philippe Pétain announces the arrest of 12,000-13,000 Jews. The reason that he gives is "plotting to hinder Franco-German co-operation." Radio Lyon announces that anti-Semitic laws in the Reich are extended to Vichy France.

The Soviet Union is deporting thousands of Jews from Bukovina and Bessarabia to Siberia. In light of later events, this may save some of their lives.

Blood and Sand advertisement 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A 13 June 1941 advertisement for "Blood and Sand" at the Louisville, Kentucky Rialto.

American Homefront: RKO Radio Pictures releases "Tom, Dick and Harry," starring Ginger Rogers. This is Rogers' first film released since winning the Oscar for Best Acrtress for "Kitty Foyle." Burgess Meredith appears as "Harry" in this comedy about a telephone operator fantasizing about marrying the men whose calls she places. Burgess, incidentally, eventually gets the girl. Phil Silvers also has a feature role, as does Jane Seymour.

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. releases "Man Hunt." Directed by Fritz Lang, it stars Walter Pidgeon and Joan Bennett. Roddy McDowall appears as Vaner, John Carradine as Mr. Jones and George Sanders as Quive-Smith in this war drama about trying to kill Hitler.

King Brothers (Maurice and Frank Kozinski) release "Gangs, Inc." aka "Paper Bulletts," Directed by Phil Rosen, Joan Woodbury stars as an orphan girl who takes the rap unjustly for a crime by her wealthy boyfriend, then becomes the "Queen of Crime." Alan Ladd also stars and, when the film is released (and retitled) in 1946, he leaps to top billing because in the interim he has become a major Hollywood star.

Snake River Grand Teton National Park 13 June 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Snake River at Deadman's Bar, Grand Teton National Park, June 13, 1941 (George Grant, Harpers Ferry Center, Historic Photo Collection).


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