Wednesday 16 July 1941
|"Low-level oblique aerial photograph taken during a major daylight raid on the docks at Rotterdam, Holland, by Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No. 2 Group. The Commanding Officer of No. 18 Squadron RAF, Wing Commander T Partridge, in Bristol Blenheim Mark IV, V6267 'WV-M', leads the second wave of the attack in at low level toward the docks, seen on the skyline. Moments later he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and killed with his crew, Segreant G Dvorjetz and Flight Sergeant J Smith." 16 July 1941 (© IWM (C 1951)).|
Eastern Front: The Germans continue their giant pincer movement at Uman on 16 July 1941. This involves several Wehrmacht armies heading for a meeting behind a huge Soviet troop concentration. Soviet Marshal Budyonny is determined to hold Kiev and views assembling a mass of men in a relatively confined space as the best way to do that. The Germans also are forming a giant pincer at Smolensk further north. There are so many armies swirling about that another German encirclement here or there is not only not decisive, it is almost perfunctory.
General Halder hopefully notes in his war diary that "the enemy is softening" and "here, it seems he has nothing left in the rear." However, in fact, the Soviets always have plenty left in the rear to replace any troops the Germans take prisoner.
In the Far North sector, the 1st Jaeger Brigade of Finnish VI Corps reaches the northern shores of Lake Ladoga at Koirinoja on the eastern side of the lake. This divides the defending Soviet 7th Army, which also is defending against the Finnish VII Corps advance toward the western side of the lake. The Stavka grows concerned and begins calling in reinforcements from elsewhere along the Finnish Front.The Finns begin redeploying their forces, sending Finnish 1st Division forward to cover the eastern flank of the advance and also sending forward Finnish 17th Division (which had been left guarding the Soviet base at Hanko). German 163rd Infantry Division, the one that had traveled across Sweden by rail at the outbreak of the war, joins the attack as well. By the standards of the Finnish Front, this is a dramatic expansion of strength. The next objective is the railroad junction of Suvilahti.
Farther north, Axis Operation Arctic Fox is stalled at the village of Kayraly just beyond the road junction of Salla. General Hans Feige, commander of German XXXVI Corps, is hesitant about continuing the advance, so General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, in command of Army of Norway, pays him a visit. Falkenhorst convinces Feige to resume the advance, but Feige wins substantial time to regroup and the offensive remains dormant for the time being. The Soviets land an additional battalion of soldiers in the Bay of Litsa, reinforcing the defense of Murmansk.
|"Near Mogilev on the Dneipr. A mounted patrol has reached a burning village, the scene of fierce enemy resistance. German artillery has demolished the enemy, the village is clear, and the infantry now can march through." 16 July 1941 (Kessler, Rudolf, Federal Archives, Bild 101I-137-1032-14A).|
In the Army Group North sector, a Soviet counterattack against LVI Army Korps (General Erich von Manstein) makes some progress. The 8th Panzer Division (Major General Erich Brandeburger) takes the brunt of the attacks on the Shelon River. A large part of its difficulties arises from the speed of its advance, as it has outrun its infantry - something that Hitler has been worried about. Manstein sends the 3rd Infantry Division (Lt. General Curt Jahn) to rescue it, and the Soviets decimate it as well. The Luftwaffe supplies the German troops by air as the slower Wehrmacht troops approach from the southwest.
In the Army Group Center sector, the Soviet 16th Army hurls counterattacks against the German 29th Motorized Division and 17th Panzer Division in Smolensk. Bitter house-to-house fighting takes place in the suburbs while the Germans slowly expand their grip on the heart of the city.
In the Army Group South sector, the Battle of Uman continues. General Ewald von Kleist’s 1st Panzer Group continues to split the defending Soviet Southwestern and Southern Fronts, taking Koziatyn. General Eugen Ritter von Schobert’s 11th Field Army, meanwhile, advances north from the Romanian border, and General Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel’s 17th Field Army advances to the south of Uman. The movement of all these armies gradually tightens the noose around the trapped Soviet defenders. Soviet Marshal Budyonny is under orders to stay where he is in order to shield Kiev, and he does. Romanian troops take Kishinev.
Hans Kolbow of JG 51, a 27-victory ace, is killed in action, while 9-victory ace Kurt Sauer of JG 53 becomes a prisoner.
|View from the dorsal turret of a Blenheim bomber after bombing the docks of Rotterdam during the raid on 16th July 1941.|
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends a low-level raid at Rotterdam. The attacking 36 Blenheim bombers of RAF Nos. 18, 21, 105 and 139 Sqns scream across the Channel at mast height and score hits on a reported 22 ships (97,000 tons "destroyed," 43,000 tons "severely damaged"), including converted Dutch liner Baloeran, and harbor installations. However, the RAF loses four bombers in the process due to extremely heavy German Flak.
Five Blenheims undertake a sweep off the Dutch coast, while five Hampdens lay mines in the Frisian Islands.
After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 107 planes against Hamburg. The 51 Wellingtons, 32 Hampdens, and 24 Whitleys fly into bad weather, and only 52 planes report actually making it to the target while 52 others bomb secondary targets. The RAF loses 3 Wellingtons and a Hampden. Damage is moderate, with some fires, 1 injury and 154 people made homeless.
Battle of the Baltic: In a rare incident, Soviet battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya and cruiser Kirov, with Red Air Force support, bombard the German-held port of Riga. This is another example of the Germans' occasionally shaky grip on the Baltic being exposed.
|German Panzer III at Oinasniemi, Finland, 16 July 1941.|
Battle of the Atlantic: The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 2039-ton British freighter Elizabete off the Tyne. The ship makes it back to port in the Tyne.
Two Royal Navy gunboats, HMMGB 90 and 92, are consumed in a fire in Portland Harbour, Dorset.
US light cruisers USS Philadelphia and Savannah depart with destroyers Gwin and Meredith from Bermuda on a neutrality patrol.
Convoy OB-347 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HX-139 departs from Halifax, bound for Liverpool.
Free French Flower-class corvette FFL Lobelia (K 05, formerly HMS Lobelia) is commissioned.
U-701 (Kapitänleutnant Horst Degen) is commissioned, U-408 is launched.
|U-701 is commissioned in Stülcken-Werft, Hamburg. Note that Kapitänleutnant Degen is saluting the flag. 16 July 1941.|
Battle of the Mediterranean: Italian submarine Nereide claims that it damages Greek submarine Triton using a torpedo and its deck gun between Ikaria and Mikonos. There is no confirmation of this attack.
The Luftwaffe raids the Suez Canal with 24 bombers during the night and also raids Tobruk in conjunction with the Regia Aeronautica. The RAF raids Tripoli and Benghazi.
An Italian convoy of three ships departs from Taranto bound for Tripoli.
Partisans: The partisan uprising Montenegro - the "13 July Uprising" - continues. Insurgents in Virpazar use some small boats to trade some injured Italian soldiers for food and medicine in Scutari.
|Executions at Banjica concentration camp, Serbia, 16 July 1941. These apparently are the first at the camp.|
POWs: In an embarrassing incident for the Soviet Union, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin's son, artillery regiment Lieutenant Yakov Iosifovich Jugashvili (aka Yakov Dzhugashvili), is captured by the Wehrmacht. He is the eldest of Stalin's four children, the son of his first wife, Kato Svanidze. Yakov winds up in a POW camp near Borisov (Barysaw), and one of the other prisoners "outs" him. The Germans publicize the capture in order to use him for propaganda purposes.
Stalin, according to his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva, believes that Yakov has voluntarily surrendered at the behest of his wife, Yulia. Stalin is so sure of this that, as soon as he hears of the incident, he orders Yulia imprisoned and "interrogated" (which in the USSR of the 1940s usually means some element of torture and mistreatment).
There actually is some evidence that Yakov surrendered voluntarily because a letter written by his brigade commissar alleges that he willingly put on civilian clothes in an attempt to escape from a pocket, but then chose to stay behind and be caught anyway. Since Yakov is caught in civilian clothes, the Germans technically have the right to shoot him - but the Germans shoot anyone they like anyway (pursuant to Keitel's pre-war orders), so they don't need any special reason to do so. Instead, the Germans keep Yakov alive in hopes of using him as a bargaining chip, shuttling him between several POW camps before sending him to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Yakov does not get along with the British prisoners and slips into a deep depression.
What happens to him there is not exactly known, but he does not survive the war. There are various theories and "interpretations" of the story. It is believed, pursuant to captured German documents, that Yakov is shot by a guard for disobeying orders. However, other variants of the story have him voluntarily throwing himself on the electrified wire surrounding the camp or getting into arguments with the British prisoners and then making some kind of disturbance.
Allied Relations: General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, is startled at his headquarters in Brazzaville when he receives a copy of the Treaty of Saint Jean D'Acre that ended the war in the Levant. He cannot believe that it makes no mention of the Free French at all. In a fit of pique, he repudiates it. However, he quickly is brought to his senses and ultimately channels his anger into advocating for the self-determination of the peoples of Lebanon and Syria - something the British already have decided to do.
US/German/Italian Relations: US Navy transport USS West Point (formerly the SS America) anchors off Staten Island and embarks 137 Italian and 327 German citizens. They are former employees of the consulates that the United States closed during the recent "consulate war." At 14:55, the West Point raises its anchor and proceeds to Lison, where the quarantined foreign nationals will be dropped off.
German/Swedish Relations: After hearing some intelligence reports of Swedish ships at Göteburg loading steel for trade with Great Britain, the Germans warn Sweden not to permit any ships to head there or face invasion.
Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt's personal emissary Harry Hopkins arrives by air in London.
US Military: Chief of Staff General Marshall instructs General "Hap" Arnold, commander of the US Army Air Force, to send reinforcements to the Philippines, including B-17 bombers.
British Military: Captain J.A.V. Morse is named Naval Officer in Charge of Syrian ports with his headquarters at Beirut.
Vichy French Military: General Weygand becomes governor-general of Algeria.
Soviet Military: In another twist in a very long road of the power of commissars, every Soviet command once again is provided with both a military and a political commander of equal responsibility. These commissars have no military training, but they have a lot of opinions and their own channels to Moscow. If the military commander does not do what they say or acts "improperly," the commissars and will denounce them. This gives the commissars outsized power and influence over military commanders, who ignore them at their peril.
Commissar of State Security 3rd Rank (19.07.1941) (the equivalent rank of Lieutenant General) Mikheev Anatoly Nikolaevich, head of the political side of the Kiev Military District, provides an excellent example of how this works today when he accuses NKO Commissar/Marshal Semyon Timoshenko of treason. Mikheev points out the obvious, that Timoshenko had connections with General Pavlov and other executed "traitors," though his real motivations in making the charge may have nothing to do with that. Stalin begins to look at Timoshenko a bit differently and eventually takes away his title of NKO Commissar. However, Timoshenko remains in good standing, more or less, and gradually satisfies Stalin's suspicions.
|"Coal Mining in Illinois, Strip mining photos," Coal City Public Library, July 16, 1941 (Photo printed by Douglas-Edwards Camera Shop, Joliet, IL)|
German Government: At Fuhrer Headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia, Hitler convenes a meeting of his cronies: Hermann Goering, Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Bormann, and Hans Lammers (head of the Reich Chancellery). They contemplate something that was never decided before Operation Barbarossa: how to divide up the certain-to-be-conquered Soviet Union.
While plans remain vague, Hitler foresees Germany occupying all of the Soviet Union up to the Urals. He plans to keep the choicest and most strategic prizes for German, including Ukraine (necessary for its food production), the Crimea (as a tourist resort for Germans), the Baltic States (which have many ethnic Germans), the Baku oil fields (Germany has no indigenous oil fields), and the Kola Peninsula in the far north (considered important strategically). Of course, Germany hasn't conquered any of these places yet, but that is considered just a matter of time. Hitler also plans to annex Finland ultimately into the Greater Reich, but the time being will allow it to have its cherished territory of East Karelia.
Hitler confirms Rosenberg's appointment as Reich Minister for Occupied Eastern Territories.
Japanese Government: The Imperial Headquarters-Cabinet Liaison Conference has decided to attack south, rather than north toward Vladivostok, Russa as the Germans want. Foreign minister Matsuoka, however, greatly favors the northern strategy and drops some hints to both the Soviets and the Americans that it will join the attack on the USSR. The Soviet ambassador is startled and demands assurances that the recently signed non-aggression pact between the two countries will be honored. This causes a rift within the Japanese government, and Prince Fumimaro Konoye (Konoe) resigns to form a new cabinet - without Matsuoka. The ironic thing about this sequence of events is that Matsuoka's strategy has a lot to offer - more than drawing the United States into the war, at least.
|Miep and Jan Gies on their wedding day, 16 July 1941.|
Holocaust: The Petain government ordains that no more than 2% of lawyers can be Jewish.
The Wehrmacht permits men who are 50% Jewish or married to women who are 50% Jewish to serve.
Miep Gies gets married. Gies is one of the Dutch citizens who will hide Anne Frank and her family and four other Jews in an annex in Amsterdam. This marriage gives Gies Dutch citizenship and prevents her deportation back to the Reich where she is a citizen.
American Homefront: The New York Yankees travel to Cleveland to play the Indians at League Park. Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio goes 3-4 against pitchers Al Milnar and Joe Krakauska. While not known now, this is the last game of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak This record is never broken, and never even approached.
|Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees, hitting in his 56th consecutive game in Cleveland, July 16, 1941 (BL-5595-95, National Baseball Hall of Fame Library).|