Monday, January 21, 2019

November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol

Sunday 2 November 1941

Home Guard 2 November 1941
"Home Guard soldiers in York prepare a roadblock by inserting metal girders into pre-dug holes in the road, 2 November 1941." © IWM (H 15191).
Eastern Front: Erich von Manstein is one of the few generals that Adolf Hitler respects - though he doesn't particularly like him. Because of this respect, earned through conceptualizing such brilliant strategies as the Panzer advance through the Ardennes in May 1940, von Manstein has enjoyed rapid promotions. Having begun the war as Chief of Staff for General Gerd von Rundstedt, von Manstein now is in command of 11th Army, which is tasked with a mission dear to Hitler's heart: conquering the Crimea. The Crimea, in Hitler's view, is essential in order to prevent the Red Air Force from using it to bomb the Romanian oil fields - although the Soviets have rarely done that. Hitler also sees the sunny Crimean beaches as a sort of Riviera of the East for top German officials. So, even though militarily the Crimea is of distinctly secondary importance in terms of German grand strategy, it is an area that Hitler has very definite feelings about.

German bomber crashing, 2 November 1941
German bomber crashing, November 1941. Location and exact date unknown.
On 2 November 1941, von Manstein takes a major step toward his current objective when his 11th Army forces - mostly infantry - reaches the Black Sea coast south of Simferopol. This cuts the key Soviet Naval Base at Sevastopol from any land reinforcement or supplies, effectively encircling it. There are still large Red Army forces on the Crimea, but they are far to the east on the Kerch Peninsula and unlikely to break through the Wehrmacht forces flooding south through the Perekop Isthmus While the Soviets can still send ships to Sevastopol, it is a hazardous journey from the nearest base at Novorossisk in the Caucasus. Sevastopol is crowded with both army and civilian refugees from Odesa so another evacuation will be a massive undertaking. Evacuation from Sevastopol is not contemplated at this time - in fact, Soviet transports are bringing troops into the port for its defense.

Le Vostre Novelle Magazine, 2 November 1941
Le Vostre Novelle Magazine [Italy] (2 November 1941).
Following customary Wehrmacht practice of the "no guts, no glory" variety, Generalleutnant Rudolf Sintzenich's 132nd Infantry Division attempts to take Sevastopol in a coup de main. The Germans make it near the town of Bakhchisaray before being stopped by Soviet 8th Naval Brigade and salvos from the 305mm guns at 30th coastal battery. After losing 428 casualties, 40 trucks, and several armored vehicles, von Manstein halts the foolhardy attack and turns his attention to conquering as much of the rest of the Crimea as he can. The Soviet Black Sea Fleet is busy taking troops off at Yalta, Yevpatoria, Feodosiya, and other Crimean ports and taking them to Sevastopol. The Luftwaffe is active, with Junkers Ju 88 bombers damaging light cruiser Voroshilov with two 250 kg bombs, which jam the rudder, flood a magazine, and start a fire in No. 3 turret. The only thing that prevents greater damage to the Black Sea Fleet is that the Luftwaffe maintains a very light presence in the Crimea - a fact about which von Manstein often complains. However, in the grand scheme of things, the Crimea is a sideshow and the real action is to the north at Moscow and to the east at Rostov-on-Don.

East End Londoners enjoying their evacuation in Blackpool, 2 November 1941
"A number of mothers and children, bombed out of their homes in the East End of London are now settling down in their new homes in Blackpool. The photo shows: A group of East End child evacuees enjoys a donkey ride along the beach in front of Blackpool Tower." 2 November 1941 © IWM (HU 69019).
The Wehrmacht is continuing its advance on Tikhvin to the north of Moscow. This campaign is a lot less flashy than surrounding Sevastopol but could be of real strategic significance. General Rudolf Schmidt’s 39th Army Corps (motorized) has made good progress since its leap across the Volkhov River in late October, but it has had to pause to regroup and restock. The Soviets today counterattack it in two places. On the north flank, what are effectively two Soviet divisions hit General Josef Harpe's 12th Panzer Division hard. However, the divisional artillery inflicts massive casualties and the Red Army attack falters. In the south, a separate Red Army force composed of 60th Tank Division and 4th Guards Rifle Division has a little better luck, but the divisional artillery is able to beat off this attack, too. These failed attacks open the gateway to Tikhvin, which is one of the most vital spots on the entire Eastern Front because it controls the roads and railways that are supplying Leningrad via Lake Ladoga.

HMS Victorious, 2 November 1941
"The 4.5" guns on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS. In the background can be seen the cruiser HMS CUMBERLAND." This photo was taken on the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious at Scapa Flow between 30 October and 2 November 1941. © IWM (A 6179).
The much-maligned Italian troops on the Eastern Front also have a good day. In combination with the XLIX Gebirgskorps (General of the Mountain Troops L. Kuebler), the Italians capture Horlivka. This has been a key strong point on the Soviet line in southern Russia, and its capture is a reflection of the troubles that the Soviet 12th Army is having. Plus, Italian successes in Russia are so rare that they are always worth mentioning. The German 15th Infantry Division also captures Aremovsk, another town that the Red Army has been defending fiercely.

Gibraltar, 2 November 1941
"A bulldozer and steamroller being used during the construction of a new aerodrome on Gibraltar, November 1941." © IWM (GM 121).
Both sides believe that the end is near for Moscow, and thus for the entire Soviet Union. General Georgy Zhukov, in command of the Western Front, gives a frank appraisal to Commissar Zhdanov in Leningrad:
We are now operating in the West [the Western Front] - on the approaches to Moscow. The main thing is that Konev and Budenny are missing all of their armed forces. I received from them only a trace - a headquarters and 98 men from Budenny and a headquarters and two reserve regiments from Konev.
Meanwhile, at Rautenberg, Hitler meets with Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr (military intelligence). As Hitler is wont to do, he looks far beyond the messy battles that still have to be won and confides in Canaris - who secretly does not think much of Hitlerism - that he plans to cleanse Slavic cities and "Germanize" them with new German inhabitants and names. Of course, it is nice and warm in the Fuhrer's headquarters, but things are a little different at the Front.

Japanese Military: The manhood assigned to the conquest of Malaya was Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita is appointed the commander of the 25th Army, based on Hainan Island. Yamashita is a burly officer who has served as military attaché in Switzerland and as commander of the Kwantung Army in China. The 25th Army is destined to invade Malaya and take Singapore.

Aleppo, Syria, 2 November 1941
"Aleppo, Syria. 2 November 1941. Martini Nabih Bey (Mouhafez D'Alep) places a wreath from the officers of the French Garrison on the grave of Sergeant D. W. Davies, of the Royal Air Force, in the French War Cemetery on French Remembrance Sunday 1941." (Australian War Memorial 030025/01).

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


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