Thursday, January 31, 2019

November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts

Tuesday 11 November 1941

Kestenga Finnish machine gun nest, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Finnish machine gun squad east of Kestenga (Kiestinki) near Loukhi (Louhi), 11 November 1941 (SA-Kuva).
Eastern Front: Finland occupies an awkward position throughout World War II. While coordinating its military activities closely with the Reich, it does not consider itself to be an ally. Rather, Finland takes pains to characterize itself as a "co-belligerent." While at first glance the difference may seem merely semantic, to the Finns it is of immense importance. Finland is the only Axis power which maintains somewhat normal relations with the United States throughout the conflict, and it is only because the Finns cling to their co-belligerent status.

Victoria Street bomb damage in London, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bomb damage at the rear of 15 Victoria Street on Abbey Orchard Street in the West End of London, 11 November 1941 (Copyright Westminster City Archives).
As of 11 November 1941, that has not interfered with military operations. The Finnish Army has excelled in the forests and marshes recently occupied by the Soviet Union during and following the Winter War. There is no question that its soldiers perform better in that environment than do attached Wehrmacht units. The Germans are somewhat mystified by why the Finns perform so well but are highly appreciative of the military assistance. However, today the Finns' double game of fighting alongside the Germans while also trying to maintain proper relations with the Allied powers creates an impact on operations in the field that is of lasting significance.

Australian War Memorial opening day ceremonies, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Canberra, ACT. 11 November 1941. Members of the RAN from HMAS Harman, RAAF from RAAF Base Fairbairn, Cadets from Duntroon Military College, and members of the Women's Royal Australian Navy Service (WRANS) participating in the opening day ceremonies at the Australian War Memorial." Australian War Memorial P02972.001.
The commander of Finnish III Corps within Army of Norway, Major General Hjalmar Siilasvuo, is commanding the portion of Operation Silver Fox which aims to cut the Soviet Murmansk railway at Loukhi. While technically the Germans command Siilasvuo through the Army of Norway headquarters, in reality, Siilasvuo is in complete operational control because the German troops are of minimal effectiveness. In addition, all supplies to all of the troops at the front are controlled by the Finns. A complete withdrawal of Finnish cooperation and assistance would leave the German troops stranded and end all operations on the extreme end of the Eastern Front. Everybody knows this, and this gives the Finns complete control, especially on the fronts where Finnish troops predominate. These fronts include the area directly north of Leningrad, where the Germans want the Finns to attack but the Finns completely refuse. They also include the front east of Kestenga, where a joint Finnish-German battle group is attempting to cut the critical Murmansk railway which brings Western Ally supplies into the Soviet Union.

War cartoons, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Old World War I cartoons reprinted in the Miami Daily News-Record in honor of Armistice Day, 11 November 1941, page 3. The paper's point is that things are extremely similar to the same date in 1914. The left cartoon shows the United States (in the person of Lady Liberty) trying to tiptoe on a high wire market "Neutrality." The top middle cartoon shows that Japanese ambitions encompass the entire Pacific Ocean. The bottom middle cartoon shows "A British suggestion for the German Invasion" with German soldiers crossing the Channel on the back of a giant dachshund.  The right cartoon shows the ghost of Napoleon asking the Kaiser, "Did you hope to succeed where I failed?", with "German Defeat" written in the clouds overhead. 
Marshal Mannerheim, the commander of the Finnish Army, is extremely attuned to the political machinations going on behind the scenes between Finland, Germany, and the Western Allies. Finland is not at war with either Great Britain or the United States and the Finnish government aims to keep it that way if it can. The Americans have demanded that Finland cease operations against the Murmansk railway because American supplies flow through it. The clear implication in the United States position is that interference with those supplies will lead to a United States declaration of war against Finland - even while the United States is not at war with Germany. This places Finland in a very uncomfortable position which it has been deliberating for some time.

Scammell Pioneer artillery tractor towing a 6-inch howitzer, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Scammell Pioneer artillery tractor towing a 6-inch howitzer forms part of a recruiting parade in a Yorkshire town, 11 November 1941." © IWM (H 15529).
On 11 November 1941, the Finns make their choice. They deliver t a long diplomatic letter to  Washington which explains at great length their situation. The Finns explain that their military is acting independently of the Reich's (which heretofore really has not been the case in most instances) and that they do not take orders from Hitler. The Finns also decide to make an object lesson of this "independence" in the field. Marshal Mannerheim issues a secret order to Siilasvuo to halt the attack on the Murmansk railway at Loukhi. The Finns realize that cutting the railway could not help but be noticed in Washington. By discontinuing the attack, the Finns hope to maintain their neutral status vis-a-vis the Americans and the British.

Australian War Memorial opening day ceremonies, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The opening of the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1941 (Australian War Memorial 130300).
The Finns do not tell the Germans about any of this. Instead, the Finns just stop attacking, with Siilasvuo making excuses about declining Finnish manpower, the heavy losses being incurred, and the difficulties of winter warfare. Finnish losses indeed are high relative to its population - they lose 79 men on the 11th - but sustainable if one is fighting a war for important national goals. The Finns continue resisting Soviet attacks, one of which they beat off today which attempts to rescue an encircled Soviet regiment west of Loukhi. However, they go over to the defensive here and elsewhere on the Eastern Front. From this point on, the Finns do just enough to satisfy German demands but absolutely no more than that. There is no question that the Finns could do more - if they were so inclined. Mannerheim from now pays more lip service to joint operations than giving actual commitments. It is a subtle but very real turning point in the war.

Der Adler, 11 November 1941, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The cover of Der Adler, 11 November 1941, showing German bomber construction.

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol

Monday 10 November 1941

Bren Gun at Tobruk, 10 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Men of the Leicestershire Regiment man a Bren gun near Tobruk, 10 November 1941" © IWM (E 6436) (colorized).
Eastern Front: General Erich von Manstein has been given the task of conquering the Crimea with his 11th Army. So far, it has gone quickly and fairly routinely as these things go. On 10 November 1941, he launches his first planned attack on the Soviet naval base of Sevastopol in the southeastern section of the Crimea. It is well-defended and surrounded by natural obstacles but defended by isolated and presumably demoralized troops. Sevastopol does not seem like much of a problem. As OKH Chief of Staff Franz Halder confidently notes in his war diary on 10 November 1941:
Good progress has been made in the Crimea, but it will take a few more days before we have cleared out the last enemy.
So, everything thing is going as planned and Soviet resistance is collapsing as everyone knew it would. Manstein uses the 50th Infantry Division to begin the assault in the area southeast of Sevastopol. It is commanded by Lieutenant General Karl-Adolf Hollidt, a recipient of both classes of the Iron Cross during World War I who is considered a true fighting general. Hollidt is just the man to roll into Sevastopol and accept the honor of the surrender.

Private Eglinton, serving with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, 10 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Private Nancy Stewart Eglinton of Adelaide. She volunteered on 10 November 1941 to serve in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and later served with the newly formed Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (Australian War Memorial P03947.001).
Hollidt's attack makes good ground in the direction of Balaklava. His men capture Uppa near the upper reaches of the Chorna (Chernaya) River, which flows into Sevastopol. As the day progresses, though, Manstein waits before expanding the attack with additional forces, which blunts the effort. Thus, Hollidt's offensive turns into more of a probing attack than a full-scale attempt to conquer the elaborate Soviet defenses, which include numerous bunkers and fortifications. The Sevastopol perimeter is 44 kilometers long, which poses problems for both armies but more so for the Germans, who have difficulty concentrating their forces for a determined attack. However, the Germans have heavy Luftwaffe support, though its effectiveness is somewhat lessened due to the hilly terrain. Manstein is confident that he can expand the gains in the morning.

USS Long Island, 10 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Long Island (AVG-1, later ACV-1, Commander Donald B. Duncan), photographed in Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage, 10 November 1941. Planes on her flight deck include seven Curtiss SOC-3A scout observation types and one Brewster F2A fighter. The Long Island was the first ship of her class and the first escort carrier in the US Navy (US Navy).
On the Soviet side, Major General Ivan Efimovich Petrov commands the Coastal Army that had been evacuated in good order by sea from Odessa, which fell to the Romanians. Petrov first had led his forces north of Sevastopol after entering the Crimea at Sevastopol to try to defend the Perekop Isthmus. However, after discussing it with his divisional commanders, Petrov then had decided to retreat to Sevastopol rather than east to the safer Kerch Peninsula (because it would be easier to retreat further east from there). Petrov's decision rests on his belief that it is important to defend this main base of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and that he has enough men to do it. Petrov commands about 52,000 Red Army soldiers, an impressive number. However, they have left much of their equipment and supplies behind in Odessa, and 21,000 of them are sailors untrained in land warfare. His best asset is 170 artillery pieces, some protected by massive concrete bunkers constructed in the 1930s that are impervious to all but the largest artillery shells or bombs. Petrov's troops only returned to Sevastopol one day ago, so the terrain is almost as new to them as to the Wehrmacht.

Lighting up a mate at Tobruk, 10 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Men of the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry lighting up their Italian cigars in Tobruk, 10 November 1941" © IWM (E 6509). Lighting up a friend is considered a mark of success and victory by both sides in World War II, particularly with captured smokes.
Hollidt's attack follows the coastal route from Yalta to Sevastopol along the old Vorontsov road which achieved fame during the Crimean War of the 1850s. This is the traditional attack route into Sevastopol by those coming by sea, as did the British 90 years earlier. The advantage of this route is that it avoids the hills in the central and northern sectors of the Sevastopol perimeter which serve almost as towering walls. However, Petrov is no fool and also realizes that the coastal road is easy to perceive as the "easy" road into the port and thus a likely avenue of attacks. He defends the area with crack troops of the first and second defensive sectors. Their objective is to give ground in the flatlands but hold the hills around Balaklava and at the village of Kamary (Oboronnoye), where the east-west valleys coming from the east end and the ground becomes flat again into the port itself. Hollidt today gets nowhere near these vital spots. Thus, while Hollidt does make some progress, he does not succeed in capturing anything vital to the Soviet defense. Manstein prepares to feed in another division on the 11th and see what happens. So far, everything still seems to be going according to plan on the German side.

Rita Hayworth on the cover of Time, 10 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Actress Rita Hayworth on the cover of Time magazine, 10 November 1941.

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction

Sunday 9 November 1941

HMS Penelope 9 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Part of Force K returning to Malta after destroying the Duisburg Convoy, 9 November 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The vast majority of tales about convoy destruction during World War II revolve around U-boat attacks on Allied convoys.  However, on 9 November 1941, the tables are turned and the Royal Navy manages to utterly destroy an Italian convoy headed from Naples toward Libya. The British have been sinking Axis convoy ships in the Mediterranean with regularity, but the Duisburg Convoy (called the Beta Convoy by the Italians) is one of the most one-sided and destructive convoy battles by anyone during the war.

HMS Penelope 9 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Penelope (HMS Penelope Association).
As often is the case during the war, the British take advantage of their "Ultra" intelligence service at Bletchley Park to identify their target. Ultra learns of an Axis convoy forming in Naples Harbor in early November 1941. The RAF sends ace Adrian Warburton on reconnaissance from Malta. Flying over Naples in his Martin Maryland, Warburton confirms the convoy. Given that the British government is unwilling to do anything that might disclose the existence of Ultra, Warburton is claimed to have "found" the convoy so that Ultra does not have to be mentioned. Based upon Warburton's sighting, Royal Navy Force K leaves Malta to set up a picket line. Force K, under the command of Captain W.G. Agnew, is composed of:
  • Light cruiser HMS Aurora (flagship)
  • Light cruiser HMS Penelope
  • Destroyer HMS Lance
  • Destroyer HMS Lively
Using its radar, Force K places itself in perfect position with the moon silhouetting the convoy and the convoy's Italian escorts on their far end of their zig-zagging.

SS Sagitta, sunk on 9 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A photo of SS Sagitta (then known as the Tremeadow) taken in the 1930s. Sagitta was one of the ships sunk in the Duisburg Convoy on 9 November 1941 (John H. Marsh Maritime Research Center in Capetown, South Africa).
The British guns commence firing at the convoy at about 5000 meters or less. The convoy is composed of:
  • SS Duisburg (7,889 tons, German freighter)
  • SS San Marco (3,113 tons, German freighter)
  • MV Maria (6,339 tons, Italian)
  • SS Sagitta (5,153 tons, Italian freighter)
  • MV Rina Corrado (5,180 tons, Italian freighter)
  • MV Conte di Misurata (5014 tons, Italian tanker)
  • MV Minatitian (7599 tons, Italian freighter)
Escorting the six destroyers:
  • Maestrale (Maestrale class)
  • Grecale (Maestrale class)
  • Lebeccio (Maestrale class)
  • Fulmine (Folgore class)
  • Euro (Turbine class)
  • Alfredo Oriani (Oriani class)
There also is a distant escort commanded by Vice Admiral Bruno Brivonesi composed of two Trento-class cruisers (Trento and Trieste) and four Soldati-class destroyers from the 13th Destroyer Flotilla (Granatiere, Fuciliere, Bersagliere, and Alpino).

Italian destroyer Libeccio sinking, 9 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Italian destroyer Libeccio sinking on 9 November 1941 after being torpedoed by Royal Navy submarine HMS Upholder.
Agnew begins the bombardment with his flagship, hitting Grecale with three salvos and leaving it a burning wreck. The Royal Navy destroyers then join in, but, in the dark, they fire at Aurora by mistake. They quickly realize their error and shift their fire to destroyer Maestrale, which already has been hit by light cruiser Penelope. Penelope and destroyer Lance then hit destroyer Fulmine, sinking it. The carnage continues in the early morning hours of 9 November. By the time it is over, all of the ships in the convoy have been sunk along with destroyers Fulmine. Italian destroyers Grecale and Maestrale are damaged but make it back to port. At daybreak, Royal Navy submarine HMS Upholder sinks destroyer Libeccio, which has been picking up survivors. The Italian distant escort, about nine miles away throughout the battle, never intervenes effectively, just lobbing a few shells at random from long range. The British ships suffer no major damage (some minor splinter damage) and no casualties while sinking about 39,800 tons of shipping.

Soviet POWs, 9 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Red Army prisoners of the Wehrmacht attempting to get drinks of water from a frozen stream, 9 November 1941.
The Duisburg Convoy is an utter disaster for the Axis. Count Ciano writes in his diary:
Since September 19 we had given up trying to get convoys through to Libya; every attempt had been paid for at a high price... Tonight we tried it again. A convoy of 7 ships left, accompanied by two ten-thousand-ton cruisers and ten destroyers....All - I mean all - of our ships were sunk.
The Italians relieve two commanders of their duties, but lack of aggressiveness and the other factors that contributed to the disaster are endemic in the Italian Navy. The real losers in the encounter are not the Italians anyway - they are the Germans in North Africa. General Rommel badly needs supplies to continue the siege of Tobruk and advance into Egypt. Without supplies, the Afrika Korps is doomed. The irony of the North African campaign is that the battles in the desert will be won at sea.

Swedish soccer game, 9 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Swedish football (soccer) match held on 9 November 1941 between GAIS and Råsunda has a record low for a paid attendance of 1589. The other matches in the league today also hit record lows due to the frigid weather and war news.

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

2019

Monday, January 28, 2019

November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin

Saturday 8 November 1941

Knocked-out T-34 tank at Tikhvin, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German troops by a knocked out Soviet T-34 tank in Tikhvin after taking the town on 8 November 1941.
Eastern Front: As dawn breaks on 8 November 1941, the German 12th Panzer Division (General Josef Harpe), supported by a reinforced regiment of the 18th Motorized Division and a combat group from the 8th Panzer Division (General Brandenburger), stands seven kilometers from Tikhvin. The town is defended by elements of four rifle divisions commanded personally by General Vzevolod Fedorovich Iakovlev, commander of the 4th Independent Army. A fierce snowstorm beats down, but Harpe sends his panzers forward.

Wren pilots at Donibristle, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Inside the cockpit of the Link Trainer, Wrens are shown the instruments, dials, etc." This is at Royal Naval Air Station Donibristle Air Training Center on 8 November 1941. © IWM (A 6234).
The snow aids the German attack by obscuring the vision of the defending Soviet troops. The anti-tank gunners on the outskirts of Tikhvin do not see the panzers until the last moment, and then they open fire and destroy several vehicles. However, the German infantry quickly catches up and eliminates the guns, enabling the attack to continue. The panzers break into Tikhvin, where the Red Army defenders defend each house. The going is slow because the panzers are of less value in the city streets, but at midday, the combat group from the 8th Panzer division makes good progress. General Iakovlev and his staff barely escape with their lives - for Iakovlev it becomes a bittersweet escape because he is immediately replaced as commander of the 4th Independent Army by General Kiril Afanasevich Meretskov.

Navy vs. Notre Dame football program, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Since it is a Saturday in November, that means in the United States it is time for college football! Here is a copy of the 8 November 1941 Navy vs. Notre Dame football program. These were very complete programs and included pictures of all the players and team histories. 
By the early sunset, the Germans hold Tikhvin. Both sides have taken heavy casualties, with the Soviets losing 20,000 men as prisoners and an untold number of other casualties. In the 12th Panzer Division, each rifle company is down from its normal complement of about 100 men. While Hitler had selected Tikhvin as the objective (rather than the nearer Volkhov preferred by his generals), he is not satisfied by its capture. He quickly sends a message to General Rudolf Schmidt, commander of  39thArmy Corps (motorized), setting Volgada as the next objective. This would entail an advance of another 400 km and take the unit further east than any other. Schmidt quickly replies that a further advance in the winter snow is impossible.

USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A view at Pearl Harbor of the USS Arizona in the distance on 8 November 1941, when she was undergoing repairs in Drydock #1 due to a collision with USS Oklahoma (US Navy).
The capture of Tikhvin is an astonishing achievement. It opens up many strategic possibilities for the Wehrmacht, including joining the Finns to the north at the Svir River or, as Hitler suggests, making a deep encirclement of Moscow. Most importantly, having Tikhvin cuts the last supply roads and railway lines to Leningrad (via Lake Ladoga). If the Germans can hold Tikhvin, Leningrad cannot hold out for very long at all. Hitler, safe in his warm command headquarters, sees the possibilities and wants to make the most of them.

The New Yorker, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The New Yorker, 8 November 1941 (cover by Peter Arno).
There are several problems with Hitler's plans, however. For one, the weather north of Moscow is getting worse with every day. Temperatures are at 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and soon fall to -40. The Wehrmacht soldiers are not properly equipped for such conditions, and even if they were, their equipment is not. The panzers have to be run almost constantly to keep them from freezing, and the supply route from the Volkhov River is tenuous at best. Most significantly, the Red Army has been pushed back, but hardly has been beaten. General Meretskov immediately begins planned a riposte against Schmidt's depleted and freezing forces in the town.

Knocked-out Panzer IV in Libya, November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A destroyed Pz.Kpfw.IV Aust-E.№-8 tank of the 15 Panzer Division in Libya, November 1941.
German Government: As he does each year on the anniversary of the 1923 Putsch, Adolf Hitler gives a speech in the Löwenbräukeller Munich to his party faithful. He does not mention the day's big success at Tikhvin for some reason, perhaps because he is not sure if the victory is complete at the time of the speech. However, Hitler has a lot to say about England, describing Winston Churchill as a "whiskey-happy gentleman" who had been counting on the Soviet Union to save Great Britain. Leningrad, he claims, is about to "fall into our hands" as a "heap of ruins." He further claims that Germany has taken 3.6 million Soviet prisoners so far and inflicted "an absolute loss of at least eight to ten million" men on the Soviet Red Army. In this, Hitler seems to be competing with Stalin, who on the evening of the 6th claimed to have inflicted over 4 million casualties on the Wehrmacht, figures which Hitler sneeringly recites and then refutes. The Soviet Union he describes as a "Mongolian state of a second Genghis Khan."

XPB2M-1 Mars prototype, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Launching of the Glenn L. Martin Company's prototype XPB2M-1 Mars at its launching on 8 November 1941. This is the prototype for the PBM Mariner patrol bomber. This prototype will be used for ground runs. Production will be delayed due to an engine fire and changing military requirements, and the first production model for the US Navy will not be delivered until June 1945 (US Navy).
Perhaps Hitler's most interesting comments concern the United States, about which he has not spoken overly much in previous speeches. Hitler blames President Roosevelt for "Poland's entry into the war" - apparently forgetting that it was Germany that invaded Poland. Hitler continues:
I have ordered German ships, if they sight American ones, not to fire, but to defend themselves if they are attacked. A German officer who does not defend himself will be court-martialed by me. If, on the President’s order, an American ship fires, then it does this at its own risk. The German ship will defend itself, and our torpedoes will not miss.
There is little question that both sides, Germany and the United States, are edging toward war. The looming question that remains, however, is what will turn this simmering conflict at sea into an all-out shooting war.

XPB2M-1 Mars prototype, 8 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The XPB2M-1 as it is launched on 8 November 1941 (US Air Force).

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade

Friday 7 November 1941

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Stalin overseeing the military parade through Red Square on 7 November 1941.
Soviet Government: World War II is a war of parades. All of the victorious powers have them, from the joint Soviet-German parade in Brest-Litovsk on 22 September 1939 until the US Military parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City by the 82nd Airborne Division on 12 January 1946. On 7 November 1941, Joseph Stalin outdoes them all and presides over the most important and memorable parade of the 20th Century. It is a massive display of Soviet military might through Red Square with the Wehrmacht standing almost within sight of Moscow. It is more than a parade, it is a demonstration of will and steel.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The 331st Rifle Division of the Red Army marches in Red Square, 7 November 1941.
The occasion is the Anniversary of the October Revolution. On the night before this 7 November 1941 military parade, Stalin gives a rare and odd radio address in which he begins by talking about the peacetime successes of the first half of 1941, gives a somewhat, um, "nuanced" summary of the current situation, and then launches into a weird attack on his western allies for not helping enough. Today is the main event, with two Soviet divisions taken from their duties on Moscow's defense line marching past Red Square.

Soviet Propaganda Poster, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A typical Soviet propaganda poster of World War II, showing Soviet soldiers heroically defending civilization from invading barbarians. The Soviet military parade of 7 November 1941 was a real-life demonstration of this theme.
It is an overcast day, which is fortunate because the clouds keep the Luftwaffe away. Stalin arrives at his reviewing podium in a special train at 07:00, stepping out first to obligatory applause before the members of his retinue follow along behind him. The thunderous applause lasts for ten minutes, long enough for Stalin to climb the podium's steps and arrange his politburo and Moscow city authority minions around him. This is Stalin's first public appearance since the May Day parade, and some observers feel that Stalin looks older and wearier - but nobody would dare to say that publicly. Then, everyone awaits the tramping soldiers.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet cavalry marching in Red Square on 7 November 1941. Horses played a big role on both sides of the Eastern Front. Particularly in difficult weather and rough terrain, horses provided an advantage over vehicles during the fighting. In addition, horses were necessary to transport supplies.
The actual parade begins promptly at 08:00. Troops, tanks, and artillery whose barrels are still hot from action against the panzers roll past the reviewing stand, through Red Square, beside Lenin's (now empty) mausoleum, and on past St. Basil's Cathedral. Their final turn is to the west, as they do not stop before rolling back to their positions on the front lines opposing German 4th Army. The parade is possible in part because 4th Army has dug trenches and assumed a defensive winter posture.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet tanks during the 7 November 1941 Moscow military parade.
After the vast array of men and machines is gone, Stalin begins to speak. The speech is basically a rehash of his radio broadcast of the night before, complete with the phony casualty figures that appear to have been made up out of whole cloth and some vague generalizations about how the Germans had underestimated the Red Army. The event is a propaganda sensation, not just in the USSR, but around the world. Stalin succeeds in establishing to a skeptical world that it is still business as usual in Moscow, that he is still there, that the Red Army still has time for parades, and that the Germans still have a lot of work left to do to win the war. In essence, Stalin ignores as beneath contempt the artillery just over the horizon and the Luftwaffe planes that could have ruined the whole thing. He demonstrates to the world how inconsequential the German threat really is. The parade of 7 November 1941 becomes the finest, and perhaps only, shining moment in Stalin's reign of tyranny and cruelty.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-129 (Kptlt. Asmus Nicolaus (Nico) Clausen at Lorient, France. This picture officially is dated 7 November 1941. However, it may be misdated because that falls right in the middle of U-129's third patrol. Still, the official German site says it is 7 November 1941, so 7 November 1941 it is, maybe it briefly returned to port (Meisinger, Rudolf, Federal Archive Picture 101II-MW-3956-18A).
Eastern Front: The war does not stop just because Stalin decides to hold a celebration of survival. The German 8th Panzer Division continues approaching Tikhvin and beats off a sharp and disastrous counterattack by 14 Soviet tanks of 60th Tank Division. After losing all but two of their tanks, the Soviets withdraw and General Harpe's division continues advancing until it is only seven kilometers from Tikhvin. Much further south, in the Black Sea, one of the great tragedies of the war unfolds when a lone Heinkel He 111 from KG 26 torpedoes hospital ship Armenia at 11:29. The ship rolls over and sinks within four minutes, killing over 7000 wounded soldiers and civilians. This is a virtual companion piece to the tragic sinking of the military transport Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, but few remember the tragedy of hospital ship Armenia.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet troops marching past the reviewing stand at the 7 November 1941 military parade. Comrade Stalin watches with approval.
There is little question that on 7 November 1941, the entire invasion of the Soviet Union is at a critical point. The Wehrmacht stands just outside Moscow but has lost its momentum. The last thing the Germans want is to have to camp out in the fields and forests through a savage Russian winter. General Guderian notes in his diary that his men are beginning to suffer from severe frostbite. There is one bright spot for the Germans, however, because along with all its problems, the winter cold is making the ground hard again. Trucks and tanks and horses and men are regaining the ability to move without getting stuck in the mud. There may be one last chance for a run at key objectives before the blizzards shut down major operations until the spring.

Stalin at the military parade through Moscow's Red Square, 7 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet tanks in Red Square, 7 November 1941.

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

2019

November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction

Thursday 6 November 1941

Churchill inspects the troops, 6 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Standing in a scout car, the Prime Minister inspects Valentine tanks and crews of 11th Armoured Division at Helmsley in Yorkshire, 6 November 1941." © IWM (H 15377).
Eastern Front: Joseph Stalin, apparently in preparation for a major military parade to be held in Moscow tomorrow on the Anniversary of the October Revolution, makes a rare and peculiar radio broadcast on 6 November 1941. The speech, given at the celebration meeting of the Moscow Soviet of Working People's Deputies and Moscow Party Public Organizations, is heard around the world (though, of course, it is in Russian and not many people outside Russia will understand it). Stalin's last such address was on 3 July 1941 when he vowed to fight Hitler to the end. The situation has only gotten worse since July, and the German panzers at the time of this speech surround Moscow in three major directions (northwest, west, and south). However, the mere fact that the Soviet Union has survived this long is worthy of celebration.

Churchill inspects the troops, 6 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Stalin delivers his radio broadcast of 6 November 1941 (capture from a film of the event).
Stalin begins the long speech in a remarkably mundane fashion (given the circumstances) by noting "successes in the realm of peaceful construction for the past year," but quickly switches to the "war with the German invaders who perfidiously attacked our peace-loving country." He calls the conflict a "war of liberation" and then says he will "sum up the results of the war for the second half of the past year" - as if he is about to go over a financial statement at a corporation.

Churchill inspects the troops, 6 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Buheirat-Murrat-el-Kubra, Egypt. November 1941. The wreckage of the crashed Wellington U for Uncle of No. 148 Squadron RAF, at Landing Ground 60 on the edge of Great Bitter Lake on 6 November 1941. 404110 Pilot Officer (PO) Hugh McMaster, pilot, was killed in the crash aged twenty-five. He is buried in the Fayid War Cemetery in Egypt." Australian War Memorial P03249.002.
Soviet media throughout World War II is never very forthcoming and always remains ambiguous about areas that have been lost. in this way, the situation is completely alien to foreign listeners who have media that do report such facts. It is typical for Soviet state media (and it is all state media) to say merely that there is "fighting in the direction of" a certain place. Savvy listeners (such as British war correspondent Alexander Werth, listening in Moscow) understand such references to mean that the place mentioned has been lost - even though the media never actually admit to that. So, when Stalin gives a precise list of places lost, it is the first time that the Soviet state actually admits to these defeats. Stalin says:
The enemy has seized a large part of the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and a number of other regions, has forced his way into the Donetz Basin, hangs like a black cloud over Leningrad and is threatening our glorious capital, Moscow.
This is a very accurate summary of the situation - though Stalin does not mention the Crimea or territory lost to Finland. What he lists is bad enough and a rare dose of honesty for the Soviet people.

Churchill inspects the troops, 6 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Crewmembers of the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) pose with U.S. and German flags, on board the captured German blockade runner Odenwald, in the South Atlantic, 18 November 1941. Life rings are present bearing the names Odenwald of Hamburg (Germany), and Willmoto of Philadelphia (USA). The German ship had attempted to disguise herself as the Willmoto, an American-flag merchant steamer. Odenwald was seized by Omaha and the destroyer USS Somers (DD-381) on 6 November 1941." This seizure of the Odenwald is of dubious legality but is later justified by U.S. courts as being a "salvage operation" after the German crew of the Odenwald attempted to scuttle the ship - because of the presence of USS Omaha. This is the last US Navy seizure in which the crew receives prize bonuses (US Navy History and Heritage Command).
Stalin also gives precise casualty figures, but these seem a bit fanciful and the product of wishful thinking:
In four months of war we have lost 350,000 in killed, and 378,000 missing, and our wounded number 1,020,000. In the same period the enemy has in killed, wounded and prisoners lost more than four and a half million men.
While German losses have indeed been heavy, they are nowhere near four million men - which is a million soldiers more than the Wehrmacht began the war with. Soviet losses at Kiev alone totaled roughly the numbers that Stalin gives for killed and missing for the entire conflict to date. Certainly, Stalin has better information than this available to him, but it sounds better to say that German losses exceed Soviet losses when the reverse is true.

Churchill inspects the troops, 6 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jewish residents of Rovno, Ukraine who have been classified as "old and infirm" with their luggage on the way to collection points. They are to be taken to the Sosenki forest outside of Rovno and massacred over the next two days along with about 15,000-18,000 others (Federal Archive B 162 picture-04231).
After noting that the Germans "gravely miscalculated," which absolutely appears to have been true, Stalin concludes with a somewhat backhanded plea for more help from his allies. He notes that "there are a number of factors unfavorable to the Red Army," which at first glance seems like an amazing admission, but which immediately turns into an implied accusation that the Allies are not doing their fair share of the fighting. Stalin argues:
One of the reasons for the reverses of the Red Army is the absence of a second front in Europe against the German-fascist troops. The fact of the matter is that at the present time there are still no armies of Great Britain or the United States of America on the European continent to wage war against the German-fascist troops, with the result that the Germans are not compelled to dissipate their forces and to wage war on two fronts, in the West and in the East. Well, the effect of this is that the Germans, considering their rear in the West secure, are able to move all their troops and the troops of their allies in Europe against our country.
Then, Stalin completely omits the help that the Allies actually are giving the Soviet Union, which is Lend-Lease supplies. After noting that "the Germans are producing considerably more tanks," he says:
There is only one way of nullifying the Germans’ superiority in tanks and thus radically improving the position of our army. This way is, not only to increase the output of tanks in our country several times over, but also sharply to increase the production of anti-tank aircraft, anti-tank riffles and guns, and anti-tank grenades and mortars, and to construct more anti-tank trenches and every other kind of anti-tank obstacle.
It is a jaw-dropping exercise in blame-shifting by Stalin. Although Germany is invading, the root cause of the USSR's troubles, Stalin very strongly implies, is the failure of the Western Allies to help out. Not only is there no second front, but they aren't giving any other help, either (at least according to this speech). This curious anti-Western attitude is one that Stalin will retain throughout the war and in the post-war years as well. Thus, this speech of 6 November 1941 casts a very long shadow that extends well past 1945.

Churchill inspects the troops, 6 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Odenwald Incident, November 6, 1941. View taken from Odenwald's bridge shows USS Omaha (CL-4) escorting the captured blockade runner to Puerto Rico." Naval History and Heritage Command.


November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

2019