Sunday 13 July 1941
Eastern Front: It is three weeks into Operation Barbarossa on 13 July 1931, and, at this point, it has been an unqualified success for the Wehrmacht. If anything, Soviet resistance appears to be waning, and all of the hopes and dreams of the German high command appear to be coming true.
The two sides exchange air raids against important targets today. The Luftwaffe bombs Kiev, while the Red Air Force attacks Ploesti, Romania. While Kiev basically is just another large city, Ploesti is the home of Romanian oil fields. Romanian oil is absolutely critical to the health of the German economy and military, and protecting the oil fields is - in Hitler's own words as spoken to Marshal Mannerheim on 4 June 1942 - one of the top reasons Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the first place. The Red Air Force raid causes widespread damage.
|Finnish bicycle battalion advancing towards Tolvajärvi at 04:37 on the morning of July 13, 1941.|
In the Far North sector, General Dietl tries to get the stalled offensive rolling beyond the Litsa River toward Murmansk by having the troops attack out of their bridgehead. However, the Soviets are solidly dug in and the attack makes no progress.
In the Army Group Center sector, the roads are bad and the panzers have difficulty making much ground. The Soviets are making a strong stand in Estonia and greatly slowing the German advance toward Leningrad. German 4th Panzer Group captures some footholds on the far side of the Luga River.
In the Army Group Center sector, General Guderian's Second Panzer Group continues its advance across the Dneipr River. Guderian lead troops (29th Motorized Division) are within 18 km (11 miles) of Smolensk, and they are past Mogilev in the direction of Orsha. Due to their speed, the panzers have bypassed several Soviet divisions, and it is up to the following German infantry to capture them. General Franz Halder notes in his war diary that "Guderian's attack is developing surprisingly well." General Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group continues its advance to the northeast of Vitebsk but Nineteenth Army is barely advancing further north.
In the Army Group South sector, the Soviets are determined to make a stand at Kiev, but elsewhere they continue to retreat. While Romanian Fourth Army is greatly weakened, it continues to advance because the Red Army is shortening its own lines. Seventeenth Army faces few counterattacks, but Soviet artillery is increasing in intensity along the Stalin Line. German Sixth Army and Army Group 1 is in a hard fight at Berdichev but by the end of the day the Soviets pull back and lose contact with the advance German forces.
|Panzers 35(t) of the 6th Panzer Division advancing towards Leningrad.|
At 12:30, General Halder, in his role as chief of operations at OKH (army headquarters), briefs Adolf Hitler at the afternoon strategy conference at the Wolfschanze in Rastenburg (throughout the war, Hitler holds two military strategy conferences every day, roughly at noontime and midnight). Hitler approves Halder's plans, which include:
- Restrain Army Group Center, meaning Panzer Groups 2 and 3, from continuing the advance on Moscow for the time being. and instead focus on encircling enemy concentrations at Smolensk;
- In Army Group South, destroy enemy concentrations southwest of Kiev around Korosten.
While Hitler goes along with Halder's overall plans, he chips in his own ideas. Hitler has had a lot of free time at Rastenburg to study the map, and this has led him to his own conclusions about strategy. While he does not take complete control over operations, he increasingly has detailed ideas about operations that above the mere tactical, but hardly of strategic import. For instance, today Hitler advises Halder:
- It is his (Hitler's) opinion that it is more important to destroy Soviet troops than to advance further east;
- Army Group North needs to prioritize advancing quickly to Lake Ladoga to cut off Leningrad;
- Hoth's Panzer Group 3 should circle back to take pressure off of troops on the southern section of Army Group North's front;
- Terror raids on Moscow to "prevent orderly evacuation of Government agencies" and counter Soviet propaganda that the Luftwaffe can't do it;
- Troops are needed in the West for political reasons.
Hitler's ideas at times have some cleverness to them. However, they also are contradictory (he wants to slow down the advance, but apparently speed it up toward Leningrad) and involve using military force for political objectives. Hitler's ideas, at least for the time being, do not interfere with the professional conduct of operations, but it is clear that he wishes to use the military in ways that the generals do not feel is best.
Hitler, in fact, is making Halder miserable. After Halder returns to his own headquarters, thinking that everything has been settled, ObdH (Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch's headquarters) calls him with the news that Hitler has been ranting negatively about the conduct of operations. In particular, Hitler wants certain divisions moved to different locations. This is a new level of interference with military operations. Hitler sends a written order to ObdH just to make sure he is taken seriously (Hitler's military orders invariably are written by General Keitel based on whatver Hitler has been ranting about, who serves the role of Hitler's office boy).
Another, much larger question remains unsettled. The army Generals continue to prefer a quick ride to Moscow, which they feel is entirely feasible. General von Greiffenberg, for instance, calls Halder (or vice versa) and opines that a quick thrust now to Moscow would find little opposition. Field Marshal von Bock sends a teletype later in the day supporting von Greiffenberg's idea. Hitler, however, is dead set against it.
|A German soldier's photo showing German soldiers standing around a Roma woman. Photographed on July 13, 1941. On the back of the photo, beside the date, is written: Langst with a female Gypsy."|
Syrian/Lebanon Campaign: With a ceasefire in place and both sides in basic agreement on the terms (the French make some fuss today, but they are in no position to argue about Britain's generous offer), the only formality remaining to wind up the war is signing an armistice. Today is spent drafting the document, which is planned to be signed at Acre tomorrow.
British 3597-ton tanker Pegasus hits a mine and sinks at Beirut Harbor. This is a friendly-fire incident, as it is a British mine.
European Air Operations: After dark, RAF Bomber Command decides to raid Bremen, as they have several times recently, with 47 Wellingtons. Bomber Command also sends 20 Wellingtons to Vegesack and 2 to Emden. Weather is poor, though, with thick cloud cover and icing conditions, so most of the planes turn back because they can't find their targets. In the final analysis, only 16 of the bombers claim to have attacked Bremen and one Vegesack, with Emden not hit at all - and just because a bomber claims to have hit a target doesn't mean it actually did. Two of the Wellingtons sent to Bremen fail to return.
|Remnants of the Belfast Blitz: Avondale Street, East Belfast on July 13, 1941.|
|The same street in 2015 (BelfastLive).|
Battle of the Baltic: It is common for some to think that the Germans never had any difficulties controlling the Baltic. While for much of the war that is true, at various times the Soviets cause - or at least try to cause - the Kriegsmarine a lot of problems in this supposedly "secure area." Today is one of those times. A collection of Soviet destroyers, motor torpedo boats and bombers attack a German convoy off the coast of Latvia. The Soviet force sinks German landing ship Deutschland in the Gulf of Riga. However, the other German ships escape.
The Kriegsmarine lays mines in the Baltic.
|July 13, 1941: HMS Nelson as seen in convoy WS9C as it forms in the North Atlantic. Picture is taken from HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck.|
Battle of the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 4813-ton British freighter Scorton about two miles west of Buoy 57C off Smith's Knoll, Norfolk. The ship is taken in tow to Immingham.
British/Canadian 1780-ton freighter Collingdoc hits a mine and sinks just off Southend Pier in the Thames Estuary. There are two deaths. The ship sinks in very shallow water, and it is refloated in barely a week and towed to Gravesend. However, ultimately the ship is not returned to service and is converted to a hulk for use at Rosyth as a blockship on 28 March 1942.
Convoy WS 9C (Winston Special) forms at sea as ships arrive at a predetermined point from Avonmouth, the Clyde, and Liverpool. Most of the convoy is ultimately destined for Malta in Operation Substance.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Taku torpedoes and sinks 2703-ton Italian freighter Caldea about ten nautical miles (19 km) northwest of Benghazi. Italian torpedo boat Montanari attacks Taku, but the submarine gets away.
After dark, the Luftwaffe conducts more minelaying operations at the Suez Canal with 20 bombers.
At Malta, the weather is poor, with low visibility, so there are only a few enemy bombing attacks. However, invasion fears remain high. The government issues an order requiring all troops to be on "constant standby" in case of enemy attack. This means that upon the sounding of the General Arm, soldiers must return to their duty stations whether they be on leave, at a rest camp, or anywhere else.
|"Williams Hold Hitting Lead in American Loop - But Boston Star Finally Slips Below .400 Average," 13 July 1941.|
POWs: Polish-Jewish violinist and music educator Henri Czaplinski (aka Genrikh Maksimovich Chaplinsky) escapes from an NKVD prison in Lvov, Ukraine during a Luftwaffe raid. He heads to the German lines and offers his services as a translator.
Spy Stuff: Japanese agent Mr. Negishi in Manila asks Tokyo for 40,000 yen. He wishes to use the money to fund three candidates (who have requested the money) during their campaigns for office in the Philippine assembly. Tokyo takes the request under advisement.
Soviet/German Relations: There are always awkward details to be attended to upon the outbreak of war, and one of them is handling the embassy/consulate staffs of your opponent who are trapped in your own capital. How this is handled during Operation Barbarossa is a demonstration of class by both sides. Today, the Soviet staff of the Soviet Embassy in Berlin makes it to neutral Turkey via Svilengrad, Bulgaria. Once the diplomats are across the border, the Soviets allow the Germans from the German Embassy in Moscow to depart as well. Thus, both sides' embassy staffs make it out of enemy territory safely despite the very hard feelings felt on both sides.
German/Spanish Relations: Spanish volunteers to the Blue Division start heading for Germany to fight alongside the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union.
Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt's crony Harry Hopkins departs by air for London.
|Man sleeping in front of Dunhill Funeral Home after a night drinking, 711 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York, 13 July 1941 (Weegee).|
US Military: The D.C. Armory, a 10,000-seat multi-purpose arena in Washington, D.C., opens. It is intended to be the headquarters, armory, and training facility for the District of Columbia National Guard.
Montenegro: There is a partisan uprising against Italian garrison troops known as the "13 July Uprising." This follows closely upon the 12 July proclamation of a restored Kingdom of Montenegro headed by an Italian regent and led by Montenegrin separatist Sekula Drljević and his supporters, known as "Greens" (zelenaši). This is part of the fallout of the recent divvying up of Yugoslavia between Italy, German and their allied partners.
The Communist Party of Yugoslavia, led by a senior Montenegrin member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Milovan Đilas, initiates the revolt. While the communists begin the rebellion, many ordinary folks and nationalists/monarchists join it. Serb nationalists also get involved. The uprising will last for the rest of the year, and
This type of incident causes a fair amount of eye-rolling in the Wehrmacht. The bitter observation that "the Italians aren't even equal to the bandits" becomes popular.
British Homefront: George Orwell writes "English Writing in Total War." In it, he bemoans the current state of English literature, noting, "Novels are still being published, but they are terribly bad ones." However, he also notes "The general level of intelligence in England is now higher than it has ever been."
American Homefront: The New York Yankees play a doubleheader at Comiskey Park, Chicago. Joe DiMaggio goes 3-4 in the opening game and also gets a single in the second game. This extends DiMaggio's major-league record hitting streak to 53 consecutive games.
Actor William Holden marries actress Brenda Marshall, whose actual name is Ardis Ankerson. This is the start of a long marriage that lasts until 1971, a very long time by Hollywood standards. Holden shot to fame in "Golden Boy" (1939) and owes his stardom to his co-star in that film, Barbara Stanwyck, who helped Holden with the role. Stanwyck in 1941 is Holden's "close friend and mentor," but she already is married to another one of her "pupils," Robert Taylor.
Future History: Robert Wallace Forster, Jr. is born in Rochester, New York. Forster goes on to become a well-known Hollywood actor, first appearing in "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967). He is perhaps best known for playing Max Cherry in "Jackie Brown" (1997), for which Forster was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Forster remains active in the film business.
|Excavation of Union Square parking garage (Powell, Post, Stockton, and Geary), San Francisco, California, 13 July 1941 (Pat Hathaway).|