Wednesday 23 July 1941
|"No 91 Squadron Spitfire pilots at the butts, Hawkinge, 23 July 1941. Archery was in vogue with several squadrons, a supplement to the more usual forms of recreational target practice." © IWM (CH 3319).|
Eastern Front: Far behind the front on 23 July 1941, at the Brest Fortress (which, contrary to legend, fell to the Wehrmacht in June 1941 and not July), there is a sudden commotion. The Germans are startled because the battle to subdue the fortress ended in June and all of the army divisions have long since moved east. However, it turns out that not everybody got carted away to the POW camps. Soviet Major Pyotr Gavrilov, later decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union, hid out past the surrender along with some comrades. They have written some inscriptions on the fortress walls, such as:
I'm dying but I won't surrender. Farewell, Motherland. 20.VII.41 [20 July 1941].The details aren't precise - some say there was a shoot-out today and that Gavrilov won't be captured until the 24th - but it's clear that he and/or others managed to elude the occupying Germans until now. By some accounts, the last Soviet soldier isn't eliminated until 8 August, when Adolf Hitler himself visits the castle. The incident is part of the Soviet lore of World War II, accurate or not.
In the Far North sector, Finnish troops of VI Corps reach the 1939 border south of Salmi on the east shore of Lake Ladoga - and stop. Everybody knows where the old border was, and the troops wait for Marshal Mannerheim to make a decision whether to cross it. Some of the troops themselves don't want to cross the border and actually invade Russia proper, because the Continuation Was has been touted as a way to regain historically Finnish lands, not as one of conquest. About 2000 troops mutiny and say they won't cross it without a direct order from Mannerheim.
On the Finnish island of Bengtskär, the initial small detachment of Finnish troops sent to keep an eye on the nearby Soviet-occupied port of Hanko and the mouth of the Gulf of Finland receive some reinforcements. They are joined by a 2 mm Madsen cannon manned by a crew of three. While not much, it is more than anyone else has in the area.
In the Army Group North sector, General Hoepner's Panzer Group 4 attacks the Luga Line southwest of Leningrad. The Soviets, who have just executed General Pavlov on the 22nd, relieve General Pyadyshev from command of the Luga Operational Group.
In the Army Group Center sector, Soviet 20th Army (Lt. General Pavel Kurochkin) counterattacks at Smolensk. A new Soviet unit, Central Front, is organized under Colonel-General F. I. Kuznetsov. The Central Front incorporates 21st and 13th Armies. This takes away some of General Timoshenko's forces at Western Front.
|Ukraine, near Lviv - A soldier of the propaganda company on a motorcycle with sidecar meets Soviet women (Gehrmann, Friedrich, Federal Archive, Bild 101I-187-0203-23).|
In the Army Group South sector, the Romanian 17th Marine Infantry Battalion occupies Tatarbunary north of the Danube Delta (about 100 km southwest of Odessa and near the Sasyk Lagoon). Shore artillery sinks Soviet river gunboat Narova. The Soviets counterattack at Monastyrishche.
In Moscow, two nights of heavy Luftwaffe attacks (no attack tonight) have led to some hard decisions by the leadership. The families of VIPs - which means Communist Party bosses and top military figures - are evacuated to the east, the first of many to head to Samarkand and similar safe spots. The Red Army general staff headquarters is transferred to the Byelorosskaya subway station because, as General S.M. Shtemenko recalls, bombs have dropped nearby during both raids. Work is begun on adapting the Kirovskaya subway station as a more permanent military headquarters.
|"A Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kondor sinking in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland, after being shot down by a Lockheed Hudson Mark V of No. 233 Squadron RAF based at Aldergrove, County Antrim, while trying to attack a convoy, 23 July 1941. This oblique aerial photograph was taken from the victorious Hudson (AM536) and shows the crew of the Kondor swimming for their liferaft which is inflating to the right of the tailplane." © IWM (C 1988).|
European Air Operations: Around noontime, RAF reconnaissance reports eagerly desired news. Kriegsmarine heavy cruiser Scharnhorst, which is known to have left Brest despite German attempts to conceal its departure by substituting in its spot a tanker with camouflage netting, has been located. The ship is in La Pallice. The RAF has been planning a major raid on Brest for today, but this information scrambles its plans. The attack on Brest for the evening is scrapped, and a new target is laid in: La Pallice. Instead of the massive raid contemplated for Brest, though, this is a minor affair with only six Stirling bombers sent to attack the port in the evening. One bomber fails to return, and no hits are made.
The RAF flies Circus missions to Mazingarbe and Bois d'Esperlecques. Another 17 bombers engage in a coastal sweep.
After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 51 bombers to raid Mannheim (none lost) and 33 bombers to attack Frankfurt (1 lost). Visibility is poor, causing poor accuracy and little damage. Bombs are strewn across fields outside Mannheim. The only casualties are three people killed by errant bombs dropped far from Mannheim. There also is a mission of 8 Wellingtons to Le Havre and Ostend.
A Hampden bomber of RAF No. 44 Squadron engages in a minelaying operation to the Frisian Islands. On its way back to RAF Waddington, it crashes into Lincoln Girls High School on Lindum Hill, Lincoln. The crash causes a tremendous blaze complete with exploding ammunition. The crew and the school's headmistress perish.
New Luftwaffe pilot Wilhelm-Ferdinand "Wutz" Galland, brother of Adolf Galland, gets his first victory. RAF ace Douglas Bader downs a Bf 109, though he only claims a "damaged" victim because he doesn't see it crash (other RAF pilots do).
Battle of the Baltic: German 462-ton submarine chaser UJ-113 (formerly fishing ship Nordmark) hits a mine and sinks in the Irbe Strait (between Estonia and Latvia). The mine apparently was laid by Soviet minesweeper T-204.
German 262-ton fishing trawler Lena Rehder is stranded at Fage Bucht, Denmark.
|A Focke-Wulf 200 Condor shot down by an RAF Hudson while attempting to attack a convoy (seen in the distance). The Condor's crew can be seen.|
Battle of the Atlantic: Operation EF, a raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo, begins today when two carriers (HMS Furious and Victorious), two cruisers (Devonshire (flagship of Rear Admiral Wake-Walker) and Suffolk), and six destroyers (Escapade, Active, Anthony, Achates, Antelope and Intrepid) leave Scapa Flow for Seidis Fjord in Iceland. The raid is supposed to be a surprise attack, but somebody apparently forgot that during the summer months, it is daylight around the clock in the far north and a fleet of ships is easy to spot.
Italian submarine Bagnolini (Cdr. Chialamberto) claims to have attacked Convoy OG-68 and sunk a freighter and damaged another. However, the ships are not identified.
The Luftwaffe attacks Royal Navy destroyer HMS Garth in the North Sea and scores a near miss. The destroyer suffers minor damage but remains in action.
Royal Navy motor torpedo boats cross the Channel to the vicinity of Boulogne and sink 354-ton German auxiliary boat VP-1508 (formerly whaler Rau III) southwest of the port.
Several ships are hit by aerial mines (Luftwaffe IX Air Corp) at Alexandria Dock:
- British 70-ton sailing ship Adamant (sinks, but salvaged)
Soviet minelayer Sokrushitelny lays a minefield across the entrance to the White Sea, likely in response to recent patrols by Kriegsmarine destroyers nearby.
A Luftwaffe FW-200C Kondor of KG 40 spots Convoy OB-346 west of Ireland. However, it cannot attack because an RAF Lockheed Hudson reconnaissance plane arrives and shoots it down.
Free French corvette FS Aconit is commissioned.
Australian minesweeper HMAS Mildura (Lt. George E. V. Owen) is commissioned.
|"The grim smile of an officer after the rescue work had been completed on the MANCHESTER." Royal Navy cruiser HMS Manchester was hit by multiple aerial torpedoes on 23 July 1941 that disabled three of its four engines. © IWM (A 4933).|
Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Substance, a major Royal Navy supply convoy (GM-1) passing through the western Mediterranean to Malta, reaches its climax. Italian submarine Diaspro attacks, but misses Australian destroyer HMAS Nestor.
Italian airplanes based on Sardinia (283 and 280 Sqd AS (SM79 torpedo bombers), 32 Stormo BT (SM79 level bombers) and 51 Gruppo BT (Cant Z1007)) begin attacking the Substance convoy at 09:42 and continue throughout the day. The planes score some hits:
Royal Navy destroyer HMS Fearless (disabled, later scuttled with a torpedo by destoryer Forester, 35 deaths)The Italians lose two bombers and five torpedo bombers to RAF Fulmar fighters flying off of HMS ARk Royal. The RAF loses three Fulmars. However, the Italian surface fleet stays in port, which is probably a good thing for the Italians because the British have posted 8 submarines outside the major Italian naval ports to await a sortie. Royal Navy Convoy MG-1, part of the Substance operation and composed of seven empty ships, departs from Malta.
Royal Navy cruiser HMS Manchester (damaged by planes of 283 Squadron, turns back to Gibraltar)
Royal Navy destroyer Firedrake (damaged by a near miss, returns to Gibraltar under tow)
British 11,000-ton freighter Sidney Star (damaged during the night, towed to Malta).
Italian Regia Marina ships conduct a depth-charge attack on Royal Navy submarine P-33. However, the attack fails and P-33 gets away.
German 7970-ton freighter Tirpitz hits a mine and sinks off Capo dell'Arma, Liguria, Italy.
Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Formidable exits Alexandria to transit the Suez Canal, escorted by minelayer Latona and destroyers Jaguar, Jervis, and Kandahar. It is headed to Norfolk, Virginia for repairs. It is under repair until 12 December.
Battle of the Black Sea: The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 4727-ton Soviet transport Adzhariya off Odessa in the Odessa Gulf.
|"Target practice on board MANCHESTER." 23-25 July 1941. © IWM (A 4932).|
Propaganda: The Germans continue to crow about the Moscow raid on the 22nd. The German News Bureau reports:
The initial reports about the air assault on Moscow reveal that the German aircrews who reached Moscow in the second assault wave, could see the sea of flame in the Russian capital while they were still almost 85 miles from Moscow. One of the pilots reports that the conflagrations were as huge and wide-reaching as those he had already viewed in Manchester or Sheffield. He spoke of the strong air defense and said that the incessant muzzle flashes from the anti-aircraft artillery could be observed amidst the houses even after they had begun to burn.
While cast as an epic in that familiar German Propaganda Ministry style, the air raids on Moscow have accomplished little. the information about the Soviet anti-aircraft fire, though, is accurate, as it has been very effective in disrupting the Luftwaffe formations.
Anglo/Free French Relations: Free French leader Charles de Gaulle remains highly put out about not being included in the treaty that ended the conflict in the Levant. The British already have made concessions to mollify him, but de Gaulle wants more. To placate him some more, the British agree to change the terms of the Armistice so that the Free French are permitted to recruit amongst the captured Vichy French before they are taken back to France. This results in about 6000 Vichy French soldiers deciding to join de Gaulle's forces. The Free French also get to use all captured Vichy French military equipment, which generally is of high quality.
Japanese/Vichy French Relations: Pursuant to the recent agreement permitting the Japanese to establish bases in French Indochina, 9000-ton IJN repair ship Akashi arrives at southern Indochina. Admiral Decoux makes the best of a bad situation and is conciliatory to Japanese demands. Heavy cruiser Ashigara also is on its way.
US/Japanese Relations: The United States is upset about the Japanese occupation of French Indochina. Acting Secretary of State Summer Welles tells Japanese Ambassador Nomura that the US may discontinue any further talks aimed at resolving issues between the two nations.
New Japanese Foreign Minister Toyoda cables Ambassador Nomura admitting that he has "not as yet determined upon a definite policy [toward the United States] because of the fact that I have not been in office very long." He notes that "our occupation of French Indo-China was unavoidable" and that the decision was made before he took office.
|"The burial service on the quarterdeck of the cruiser on the evening after the torpedo attack. The dead were all buried with Naval honours." 23 July 1941 © IWM (A 4909).|
Japanese Military: Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo issues Army Department Order No. 517. This provides that local commanders in China and Formosa should shift air units between each other in order to best manage mission requirements. This results in air units shuttling between Manchuria and China in an efficient manner.
US Military: The War Department releases its Basic Field Manual and Soldier's Handbook.
German Military: OKW Chief General Keitel signs an order which provides that legal punishments are inadequate in the Soviet Union. Thus, troops must use terror tactics to gain control over the population. This order will support the counts against Keitel during the Nuremberg trials.
|A cover letter, initialed "July 23, 1941" by President Roosevelt.|
US Government: President Roosevelt approves Secret plan JB 355. This is a proposal to establish a force of 500 Lockheed Hudson bombers in China to be organized as "The Second American Volunteer Group" under Clare Chennault's command. The planes would be manned by US crews and strike industrial targets in Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagasaki. The aim is "destruction of Japanese factories in order to cripple munitions and essential articles for maintenance of economic structure in Japan." As with Chennault's "First" American Volunteer Group, the unit would be funded through a dummy corporation and the Americans involved given fake papers.
Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall is not a fan of the plan, warning that it inevitably would lead to war with Japan and would not fool anybody about who was behind the bombings anyway. Secretary of War Henry Stimson also opposes the plan. White House adviser Lauchlin Bernard Currie, however, strongly supports the plan.
Secret Plan JB 355 never takes place despite its approval because the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor before it can be implemented.
|Merle Oberon, movie star, and Alfred G. Vanderbilt raise a din by beating pans at an aluminum-collection breakfast at the stork club in New York, July 23, 1941. The price of admission was a piece of aluminum ware. (AP Photo)|
Canadian Homefront: The Canadian Army officially takes possession of the Verdun Auditorium in the Montreal borough of Verdun. The Army uses it throughout the war for things like fundraising drives.
Irish Homefront: There is an air-raid alert at 02:00 in Belfast which sends an estimated 30,000 people fleeing out of the city in a mad panic. There is no raid.
Soviet Homefront: Soviet Commissar Nikolai Moskvin writes in his diary, "What am I to say to the boys? We keep retreating." Moskvin is no shrinking violet - he already has shot the first deserters from his unit.
American Homefront: Former Presidential candidate Wendell Willkie makes another in a series of speeches advocating unlimited aid to Great Britain.
Future History: Richard Ernest Evans is born in Westernville, New York. In the 1970s, Ritchie Evans becomes a top NASCAR driver, winning eight NASCAR National Modified Championships in a row from 1978-1985. Evans passes away on 24 October 1985 in a crash during practice for the Winn-Dixie 500 Modified Feature at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia.
|"Movies" ~ actress Carole Landis ~ July 1941.|