Friday, January 18, 2019

October 29, 1941: Guderian Reaches Tula

Wednesday 29 October 1941

Junkers Ju-52 at Smolensk, 29 October 1941
A Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 52/3m W.Nr. unknown "4V+AP", Uffz. Hans Hellhake, 6./KGr.zbV. 106, Smolensk, 29 October 1941. Note the mud from the fall Rasputitsa, which also is clogging the roads.
Eastern Front: General Guderian's recent decision to combine all of his remaining panzers from the 2nd Panzer Army into one brigade, Kampfgruppe Eberbach, pays off on 29 October 1941 when the brigade reaches Tula after a speedy advance. Starting off from Mtsensk just a few days ago, the brigade has covered the 140 km in lightning speed for slow-moving armored vehicles. Oberst (Colonel) Heinrich Eberbach, commander of the 5th Panzer Brigade within 4th Panzer Division, sends a scouting party to Tula itself to see if it can be taken by a coup de main, but it is beaten off by Soviet anti-aircraft gunners firing over open sights. Tula is defended only by scratch forces of a few regular units and some local volunteer battalions, but they are committed to the defense of the town. Soviet reinforcements are arriving since the Kremlin is beginning to grasp the importance of this new danger from a different direction. After this classic Blitzkrieg advance, Colonel Eberbach camps for the night outside of Tula and prepares a set-piece assault in the morning.

HMS Tignes, 29 October 1941
"Rear Admiral Kharlamov leading members of the Military Mission off HM Submarine TIGNES which they inspected. HMS TIGNES had just returned from Russian waters." This is a visit by the Russian Naval Mission to Great Britain on 29 October 1941, during which they also inspected Home Fleet submarine depot ship HMS Titania.. © IWM (A 6140).
The other major movement of the day is in the Crimea. General von Manstein's 11th Army spreads out through the peninsula. The standard defense of the Crimea once the "bottleneck" at Perekop is breached is to defend the port of Sevastopol in the southwest and the Kerch Peninsula in the east. Both are important to the Germans, because they want the port of Sevastopol for supply purposes and because it is a major naval base for the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, while the Kerch Peninsula is a bridge (over the intervening strait) to the oil-rich Caucasus. The Kremlin places the entire Crimea under a state of siege, meaning that Lavrentiy Beria's NKVD can use whatever methods it feels appropriate - and the NKVD has some pretty extreme methods.

HMS P-38, 29 October 1941
"HM Submarine P38 leaving harbor with members of the Russian Mission on board for a practice dive." This is during the Russian Naval Mission's 29 October 1941 visit to the Home Fleet, including a visit to fleet submarine depot ship HMS Titania. © IWM (A 6141).
A bit further north, the Soviet 12th Army launches fierce counterattacks against Italian troops defending Stalino that are beaten off with great difficulty. Far to the north, around Leningrad, the Soviets call off counterattacks that have accomplished nothing. The weather in the Army Group North sector has turned sour, as indicated by a report around this time from 8th Panzer division on the Tikhvin front:
Due to the actions of previous weeks, especially of the last few days, the combat troops’ health has turned considerably unfavorable. The troops show they are not ready for the conditions of future fast marches due to the weight of the equipment they must carry. Foot disease and respiratory problems are numerous.
The Wehrmacht never prepared for operations this late in the year, thinking that Operation Barbarossa would conclude before the winter. The OKW chooses not to react by halting operations and sending winter supplies because it fears losing the initiative and feels an admission that operations must continue through the winter would be bad for morale. Still, the German advance on Tikhvin continues despite the increasingly unfavorable weather conditions.

Soviet KV-1 during the Battle of Moscow, October 1941
A camouflaged Soviet KV-1 tank during the Battle of Moscow. A standard ambush tactic during World War II was to post a hidden tank or several tanks in the woods near a roadway, then open fire as an enemy column was passing. Aside from the damage caused, on narrow roadways in forests, the destroyed enemy vehicles could block the road for some time, holding up the enemy's advance. Of course, this was usually quite hazardous for a tank's crew. October 1941.
Holocaust: Defying President Roosevelt's warning of 25 October 1941 about the massacres being perpetrated on the Eastern Front, another takes place on 29 October 1941. This is the Kaunas Massacre. There has been a continuing pogrom at Kaunas, Lithuania ever since the Wehrmacht occupied the city, but today it reaches a climax. SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca order SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann to use men from Einsatzkommando 3 to perpetrate a massacre at the Ninth Fort. This is done in the standard fashion of digging pits and then having the victims stand on the edges so that they will fall in once they are shot. Hamann has SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca of the Kaunas Gestapo assemble the Kaunas Ghetto's inhabitants in the community's central square late on the 28th, and from them, Rauca selects about one-third of the group. This group of about 9200 Jewish inhabitants (2007 men, 2920 women, 4273 children) is taken out to the Ninth Fort on 29 October and murdered.

Winston Churchill at The Harrow School, 29 October 1941
Winston Churchill gives his inspirational speech at The Harrow School, 29 October 1941.
England Homefront: As he likes to do, Winston Churchill visits his old school, the Harrow School in London, to give a speech. This turns into one of Churchill's more memorable orations, almost a battle cry, and becomes known as the "Never Give In" speech. As he memorably puts it, "Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." It is a hopeful speech, reflecting on improvements in the war situation over the past year since the end of the Battle of Britain, full of determination and spirit.

October 1941

October 1, 1941: Germans and Finns Advance in USSR
October 2, 1941: Operation Typhoon Broadens
October 3, 1941: Air Battles Near Moscow
October 4, 1941: Stalin Contemplates Defeat
October 5, 1941: Hoth Goes South
October 6, 1941: First Snowfall After Dark
October 7, 1941: Stalin Gets Religion
October 8, 1941: FDR Promises Stalin Aid 
October 9, 1941: FDR Orders Atomic Bomb Research
October 10, 1941: Reichenau's Severity Order
October 11, 1941: Tank Panic in Moscow
October 12, 1941: Spanish Blue Division at the Front
October 13, 1941: Attack on Moscow
October 14, 1941: Germans Take Kalinin
October 15, 1941: Soviets Evacuate Odessa
October 16, 1941: Romanians Occupy Odessa
October 17, 1941: U-568 Torpedoes USS Kearny
October 18, 1941: Tojo Takes Tokyo
October 19, 1941: Germans Take Mozhaysk
October 20, 1941: Germans Attack Toward Tikhvin
October 21, 1941: Rasputitsa Hits Russia
October 22, 1941: Germans Into Moscow's Second Defensive Line
October 23, 1941: The Odessa Massacre
October 24, 1941: Guderian's Desperate Drive North
October 25, 1941: FDR Warns Hitler About Massacres
October 26, 1941: Guderian Drives Toward Tula
October 27, 1941: Manstein Busts Loose
October 28, 1941: Soviet Executions
October 29, 1941: Guderian Reaches Tula
October 30, 1941: Guderian Stopped at Tula
October 31, 1941: USS Reuben James Sunk


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