Saturday, February 23, 2019

December 1, 1941: Hitler Fires von Rundstedt

Monday 1 December 1941

German POW, 1 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Wehrmacht soldier surrender at Solnechnogorsk, northwest of Moscow, on 1 December 1941 (Samaryi Guraryi).
Eastern Front: After stewing about the unauthorized retreat from Rostov for 36 hours and trying in vain to stop the troops in their tracks, Adolf Hitler fires the Army Group South commander, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, early on 1 December 1941. Named as his replacement in the teletype to the Army Group headquarters is the commander of Sixth Army, Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau, who is present on the scene and able to take over quickly. In a pattern that repeats itself throughout the course of the war on the Eastern Front, the new commander immediately ratifies the decisions taken by his predecessor and even expands upon them. In the evening, after paying lip service to what Hitler wants, Reichenau allows the fleeing troops to continue west to the new Mius River line. Field Marshal von Rundstedt, meanwhile, departs from his headquarter with his rank intact aboard his personal command train, his reputation and esteem intact despite his dismissal.

Red Army soldiers on Gorky Street in Moscow, 1 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet troops marching on Gorky Street, Moscow, Russia, 1 December 1941. Credit: RIAN, Oleg Ignatovich.
While the firing of von Rundstedt is not a decisive event in the course of Operation Barbarossa, it is a very significant sign of deeper troubles in the German invasion. Von Rundstedt is the first army group commander to be relieved, but the other two - Fedor von Bock at Army Group Center and Ritter von Leeb at Army Group North - also are in peril. All three have faced the same extremely difficult decisions about trying to bring overly aggressive operations in line with dwindling capabilities as winter closes in. Stopped at Leningrad, von Leeb has ordered his advance troops at Tikhvin to march north to Lake Ladoga, but today the Red Army stops this advance as well at Volkhov, 35 miles south of the Lake. Field Marshal von Bock, for his part, sends Germany Army commander Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch a teletype early in the morning reiterating his concerns expressed in a telephone conversation on 30 November and adds the conclusion that they could expect an impending Red Army collapse "a fantasy." Furthermore, Operation Typhoon, the final offensive on Moscow, had lost "all sense and purpose" and it was time to end it because the troops were exhausted. The bottom line, he concludes, is that that Army Group North was going to be forced to spend the winter out in the open "at the gates of Moscow" and this was a very real problem which had to be addressed.

General Anders (right) and General Sikorski (second from left) at a conference in Moscow, 1 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Anders (right) and General Sikorski (second from left) at a conference in Moscow on 1 December 1941. They are negotiating a joint declaration of friendship between the Polish government in exile and the Soviet Union. This is a relationship that goes through many severe twists and turns throughout World War II and thereafter. Visible in the background are (from left to right) M. Kot, Polish Ambassador in Russia, M. Vyshinsky, Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and M. Kalinin, the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (Rickard, J (8 April 2008), General Anders and General Sikorski in Moscow, 1 December 1941).
The Soviet generals at the Stavka also are seeing a shift in the balance of power and spend 1 December 1941 drafting up plans for a counteroffensive. However, the pleas of the German generals are undercut somewhat by some meager gains on the ground. To the west of Moscow, Fourth Army's 25th Infantry Division makes a sudden breakthrough south of the Moscow-Smolensk highway. General Guderian to the south of the Soviet capital also is planning one last attempt to shatter the so-far solid Red Army defenses at Tula and resume his drive north. He orders the 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions along with Grossdeutschland to attack early on the 2nd. Thus, despite their growing problems all across the front, German commanders continue to hold out hope that the sheer superiority of Wehrmacht weapons and willpower can overpower a very stubborn enemy.

A British Matilda tank and crew near Tobruk, 1 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Matilda tank crew overhauling their vehicle in preparation for the next phase of battle near Tobruk, 1 December 1941." © IWM (E 6864).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Following General Erwin Rommel's orders, 15th Panzer Division jumps off at 06:15 toward Belhamed. Their objective is to cut the lifeline the British have established to Tobruk during Operation Crusader. The Germans only have about 40 panzers left, but they quickly overrun the weary troops of the 2nd New Zealand Division. The British quickly move the 7th Armored Division forward to Belhamed, and they support the withdrawal of the New Zealand troops to Zaafran, about five miles east of Belhamed and northeast of Sidi Rezegh. New Zealand commander General Bernard Freyberg orders a further withdrawal to the east based upon his assessment that the British are not fully committed to holding the supply corridor to Tobruk. After resupplying, 15th Panzer combines with the Italian Trieste division to finally cut the Tobruk corridor at 16:30. The New Zealand force takes heavy casualties but withdraws its 3500 troops and 700 vehicles in good order to British lines. At this moment, it appears that British Operation Crusader has failed and that General Rommel's Afrika Korps somehow has prevailed in a dramatic defensive victory despite being woefully undersupplied and understrength. However, the battle is not yet over and the British retain a formidable concentration of forces near the Egyptian border.

HMS Harvester stops USS Excalibur, 1 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Royal Navy destroyer HMS Harvester (left) closes in on USS Excalibur, a freighter, west of Gibraltar, on 1 December 1941. The captain of Harvester wants to check the freighter's papers, which are in order. This photo was taken from destroyer HMS Blackney (© IWM (A 6922)).
Japanese Government: In Tokyo at the Imperial Conference held on 1 December 1941, Emperor Showa reviews the decisions made at the Liaison Conference of 29 November. Prime Minister Tojo presides over this conference, which formalizes the decisions already made by the military. The meeting record recites:
Our negotiations with the United States regarding the execution of our national policy, adopted 5 November, have finally failed. Japan will open hostilities against the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands.
While Hirohito has broken established rules of Imperial protocol at previous meetings to question the wisdom of war, he does not do so at this conference. His complete silence is an assent to the outbreak of war. It is decided that there will be no declaration of war, only an ambiguous note given to the United States shortly before hostilities begin breaking off relations. The date set for the attack is 8 December 1941, Japanese Standard Time, which would be 7 December 1941 in the United States.

Life magazine featuring a US Army Air Force bomber on its cover, 1 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Life magazine, 1 December 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

December 1941

December 1, 1941: Hitler Fires von Rundstedt
December 2, 1941: Climb Mount Niitaka
December 3, 1941: Hints of Trouble in the Pacific
December 4, 1941: Soviets Plan Counteroffensive
December 5, 1941: Soviets Counterattack at Kalinin
December 6, 1941: Soviet Counterattack at Moscow Broadens
December 7, 1941: Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor
December 8, 1941: US Enters World War II
December 9, 1941: German Retreat At Moscow
December 10, 1941: HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse Sunk
December 11, 1941: Hitler Declares War on US
December 12, 1941: Japanese in Burma
December 13, 1941: Battle of Cape Bon
December 14, 1941: Hitler Forbids Withdrawals
December 15, 1941: The Liepaja Massacre
December 16, 1941: Japan Invades Borneo
December 17, 1941: US Military Shakeup
December 18, 1941: Hitler Lays Down the Law
December 19, 1941: Brauchitsch Goes Home
December 20, 1941: Flying Tigers in Action
December 21, 1941: The Bogdanovka Massacre
December 22, 1941: Major Japanese Landings North of Manila
December 23, 1941: Wake Island Falls to Japan
December 24, 1941: Atrocities in Hong Kong
December 25, 1941: Japan Takes Hong Kong
December 26, 1941: Soviets Land in the Crimea
December 27, 1941: Commandos Raid Norway
December 28, 1941: Operation Anthropoid Begins
December 29, 1941: Soviet Landings at Feodosia
December 30, 1941: Race for Bataan
December 31, 1941: Nimitz in Charge

2019

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