Saturday, March 30, 2019

December 29, 1941: Soviet Landings at Feodosia

Monday 29 December 1941

XP-51 at Langley, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
North American Aviation XP-51 41-038 at NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, right profile. This plane arrives at Langley Field on 29 December 1941 for flight testing. (NASA).
Eastern Front: As German Lieutenant General Hans Graf von Sponeck, commander of 42nd Army Corps, prepares to finish off the tenuous Red Army landings on the Kerch Peninsula on 29 December 1941, the Soviets spoil his plans. Units of the Soviet 44th Army arrives at Feodosia (Feodosiya) on the south coast of the Crimea at around 05:00. There are few German troops in the town and the landings are virtually unhindered. Nearby Germany artillery units score some hits on Soviet cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz and Luftwaffe attacks sink a minesweeper and patrol boat, but the Red Army units secure the port by 07:30 and begin receiving artillery and vehicles. Sponeck quickly calls off the attacks near Kerch and instead redirects Romanian 8th Cavalry Brigade and 4th Mountain Brigade to contain the dangerous new threat in Feodosiya.

MacArthur on cover of Time magazine, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Douglas MacArthur on the cover of Time magazine, 29 December 1941. Covers such as this are quite rare and valuable if in good condition.
Sponeck realizes that his troops far to the east of Feodosiya are now in great danger. He requests permission from 11th Army Commander General der Infanterie Erich von Manstein to withdraw the 46th Infantry Division - the only full division under his command - west beyond Feodosiya to avoid encirclement. Manstein refuses and orders Sponeck to counterattack with every available unit. Manstein also orders 170th Infantry Division and part of 73rd Infantry Division to the area to help in the counterattack. In a very rare act of open defiance to direct orders within the Wehrmacht, Sponeck shuts down communications with 11th Army at 08:30, and orders the 46th Infantry Division west.

USS Swordfish departs from Manila on 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
On 29 December 1941, USS Swordfish, shown, becomes the last of eight U.S. submarines based in Manila Bay to depart for Australia. From this point on, U.S. submarines only return as blockade runners. Swordfish returns twice in February 1942 to evacuate Philippine President Quezon and other VIPs. 
Sponeck's order unquestionably saves the German troops but also eliminates any possibility of preserving the German position east of Feodosiya. This order eventually leads to Sponeck's court-martial and disgrace. General Manstein now beings a long, slow process of assembling troops on a north-south line on the Crimea, essentially abandoning the Kerch Peninsula for the time being until a large-scale counterattack can be prepared. In Feodosiya, the returning Red Army soldiers are later accused by the Germans of committing atrocities against any German soldiers, including wounded left behind in hospitals, who fall into their hands. This includes beating and mutilating German soldiers and throwing wounded men from hospital windows, then pouring cold water on them to freeze them to death. A dozen German soldiers hide out in cellars and other places of concealment awaiting rescue, and they later testify to this alleged activity by Red Army troops in Feodosiya.

Winston Churchill in Ottawa, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Mr. Churchill on the steps of Government House, Ottawa, acknowledging the greetings from the crowd." Churchill is in Ottawa from 29-31 December 1941. © IWM (A 6722).
Further north around Moscow, the Germans also are in trouble. Army Group Center commander Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge feels hamstrung by Hitler's "no retreat" order. Kluge calls Hitler - not something that is ever done lightly, even by field marshals - and requests permission to order a general withdrawal. Kluge proposes to take the Fourth Army line due west of Moscow back about 10-15 miles. This, he says, will free three divisions for use shoring up the line further south at Yukhnov and Sukhinichi. Somewhat surprisingly, Hitler agrees after some back and forth, but limits the withdrawal to troops stationed at Kaluga. Kluge, who probably has accomplished more than he expected, sends the news to the local army generals. They, meanwhile, are somewhat bemused by this order because Kaluga already has been lost.

Anthony Eden and Ivan Maisky, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Mr. Anthony Eden, Mr. Maisky, Lieut General Nye, and Sir Alexander Cadogan on the bridge of the tender." This is their return from Russia to Princes Pier, Greenock on 29 December 1941.  © IWM (A 6699).
Battle of the Pacific: In the Philippines, the Japanese anticipate the US endgame in Luzon and bomb Corregidor for the first time. US General George Parker continues moving supplies as fast as possible out of Manila, now an open city but still under US control, to the Bataan Peninsula. Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur hopes to create a redoubt for an indefinite length of time. However, there are few if any usable airfields in Bataan suitable for large forces. Japanese bombers raid Mariveles and damage converted submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9), wrecking her propeller shaft and starting fires. All US submarines now have left Manila Bay. Major General Lewis H Brereton, Commanding General Far East Air Force, leaves the Philippines and arrives in Darwin, Australia. The new local commander of US Army Air Force units is Colonel Harold H. George. All he has left are units at Del Monte Field on Mindanao. These, however, are able to accomplish little, so George has little to do. Colonel (later General) George, incidentally, eventually becomes the namesake of George AFB, formerly Victorville AFB, California, which is about 74 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Winnipeg Free Press, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Winnipeg Free Press for 29 December 1941 announces the arrival of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
In Borneo, the Japanese continue to advance from Kuching and take Singkawang. The British and Dutch troops in the area continue to retreat toward the Dutch airfield at Kotawaringin near Sampit and Pangkalanbun.

British in Benghazi, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The local inhabitants of Benghazi line the streets as the British troops arrive, 29 December 1941." The British captured Benghazi on 24 December. © IWM (E 7392). 
US/Chinese Relations: US Ambassador to China Clarence Gauss sends a telegram to Secretary of State Cordell Hull on December 29, 1941, which references the Tulsa Incident. This is a misunderstanding that has arisen in Rangoon, Burma about the ownership of US Lend-Lease supplies destined for China. Local British officials have impounded these shipments from US freighter Tulsa on the theory that they need the supplies to try to hold Burma. Gauss notes that this has "aroused deep resentment on the part of Chiang against both America and Britain." Gauss suggests that "everything possible should be done by the British to make amends for their action" and that "it should be made known to Chiang that the matter has come to the attention of the President who confirms" that the supplies are for China, not the local British commanders. This is a seemingly minor diplomatic incident which has an outsized influence on future diplomatic relations between the three powers in Asia.

XP-51 that flew on 29 December 1941 on display in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
North American Aviation XP-51 41-038 in the collection of the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. (EAA AirVenture Museum).
US Military: The first North American Aviation XP-51 fighter prototype, Air Corps serial number 41-038, arrives at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia, for flight testing. The RAF has placed an order for the plane, and this is the fourth production Royal Air Force Mustang Mk.I, RAF serial AG348 (North American serial number 73-3101). Testing of this plane lasts for a year, until 2 November 1942, and leads to the design of a new aileron. The engine is a liquid-cooled, supercharged 1,710.60-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F3R (V-1710-39) single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, with a compression ratio of 6.65:1 and a single-stage, single-speed supercharger. The XP-51, after much development and use of a new engine, becomes the legendary P-51 Mustang.

Life magazine "Aerial Gunner," 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"U.S. Aerial Gunner" is the cover photo and story of the 29 December 1941 Life magazine.
American Homefront: World War I ace and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Eddie Rickenbacker cancels the 1942 Indianapolis 500 due to the war situation.

Local authorities in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington order all German, Italian and Japanese aliens to surrender contraband. Contraband is defined to include any weapons, binoculars, cameras, and short-wave radios.

Freiburg im Breisgau, 29 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A tourist snapshot of Freiburg im Breisgau showing the tram on Kaiserstraße. This was taken on 29 December 1941 by Italian embassy official Ugo Proietti. His photos show undamaged cities that wouldn't be like this for much longer (Federal Archive Bild 212-340).

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

December 28, 1941: Operation Anthropoid Begins

Sunday 28 December 1941

Finnish T-28 tank and crew, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Finnish T-28 crewmen in Karhumäki in -40° weather, December 1941 (SA-Kuva).
Battle of the Pacific: On New Britain Island in the Bismarck Archipelago, Australian National Airlines (ANA) begins evacuating dependents from the naval base at Rabaul on 28 December 1941. The Japanese already have this key naval base in their sites and are preparing Operation R for early 1942. Plan R is planned to be undertaken by the Japanese South Seas Detachment under Major General Tomitaro Horii once it secures Guam.

Muslims in the Indian Army at Woking Mosque, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Muslims in the Indian Army celebrate Id-ul-Adha at Woking Mosque, 28 December 1941 (Islamic Review, September 1942, 293-294, via Woking Mission).
The Japanese Navy considers Rabaul vital for control of the nearby Caroline Islands, which includes a key Imperial Japanese naval base at Truk. It also is strategically located along Allied convoy routes from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. The Allies also consider Rabaul important as the capital of the Australian-administered Territory of New Guinea and a secure fleet anchorage, but the Australians only first garrisoned it in March 1941. As of 28 December 1941, Rabaul only has about 1400 soldiers there in "Lark Force." The Japanese place much more strategic importance on Rabaul than do the Allies. They are determined to capture New Britain to use Rabaul as a springboard for their ambitions to the west and south.

Destroyer tender USS Melville, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Destroyer tender USS Melville in a photo taken on 28 December 1941. It services neutrality patrol ships in the North Atlantic at Bermuda and occasionally sails to Europe.
In the Philippines, the Japanese advance in southern Luzon, crossing the Agno River and approaching Cabanatuan. The Filipino 52nd Infantry Regiment retreats to Tiaong, and the Filipino 51st Division receives orders to withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula. The Japanese in the area advance along Route 1 and seize Luisiana, forcing the Filipino 1st Infantry Regiment to withdraw. The US Army Air Forces in the region continue to withdraw, with the 17th Bombardment Squadron withdrawing from Cabcaben to Limay, Luzon.

Florence South Carolina Morning News, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Florence (South Carolina) Morning News for 28 December 1941 headlines "Undefended Manila Set Afire In Three-Hour Bombing."
Dutch B-10 bombers fly from Singapore to bomb the Japanese at Kuching, Borneo. The Japanese are approaching Singawang while retreating Dutch and British troops head into the jungle toward Sampit and Pangkalanbun. There is a Dutch airfield near there at Kotawaringin which the Allied troops hope to protect and at which supplies can be received.

At Midway Island, which has recently been reinforced with troops and equipment originally destined for Wake Island, the seaplane tender USS Tangier and its accompanying ships depart. They carry with them 850 civilian construction contractors.

Wormerveer Noordidijk, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The London Margarine Factory (the white building) at Wormerveer Noorddijk, the Netherlands (just northwest of Amsterdam), burns down on 28 December 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Off of the Egyptian coast near Mersa Matruh, U-75 (Kptlt. Helmuth Ringelmann) torpedoes and sinks 1587-ton British freighter Volo. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Kipling, guarding Convoy AT-6, chases down U-75 and sinks it with depth charges. There are 30 survivors and 14 men perish.

Soviet bridge-builders at Naro-Fominsk, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
With Soviet troops having taken Naro-Fominsk near Moscow, Soviet engineers build a bridge near there on 28 December 1941. Photo: Soviet news agency RIAN.
Eastern Front: The German plan to combat the Red Army landings near Kerch is to eliminate the bridgeheads one at a time. This strategy is forced upon them because of their lack of troops in the Kerch Peninsula. Lieutenant General Kurt Himer, commander of the German 46th Infantry Division in Lieutenant General Hans Graf von Sponeck's 42nd Army Corps, uses troops recalled from the port of Feodosiya as part of a renewed effort to eliminate the three main Soviet bridgeheads near Kerch. The 1st and 3rd Infantry battalions of Infantry Regiment 97 attack at dawn. Supported by two 10.5 cm howitzers, six Heinkel He 111 bombers and a handful of Stukas, the German troops wipe out the Soviet bridgehead at Zyuk by noontime. The two battalions take 458 prisoners and count about 300 Red Army troops killed at a cost of only 40 casualties. Another German attack at Cape Khroni by Infantry Regiment 72 also wipes a Red Army bridgehead. These are stunningly successful operations that illustrate the fragility of a bridgehead if attacked quickly. Overall, the two operations take about 1700 prisoners. Sponeck and Himer now turn their attention to the Bulganak Bay bridgehead, where about 1000 Red Army troops are trying to consolidate. Once this is eliminated, it appears the Soviet landings would have been completely repulsed.

Royal Navy officers on HMS Victorious, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Air Station Hatston, Captain Fancourt, RN, talking to Sub Lieut (A) Mewton, RNVR, on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS." This photo was taken sometime between 28 and 31 December, 1941. © IWM (A 6987).
Around Moscow, German troop strength is declining fast both due to combat casualties and frostbite. The low temperatures and heavy snow are making aerial reconnaissance impossible, which, as Second Army commander General Rudolf Schmidt reports, leaves his troops "blind." General Ludwig Kuebler at Fourth Army - Army Group Center commander Field Marshal Hans Guenther von Kluge's former command - warns that even his own headquarters now is almost in the front lines. Soviet cavalry is across the Sukhinichi/Kaluga railroad and roaming far to the rear, virtually unimpeded no matter how far west they choose to go.

Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who parachute into Occupied Europe on 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
 Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, landing in the Protectorate in the night between 28 and 29 December 1941, carried out the successful assassination of the Deputy/Acting Reich-Protector Reinhard Heydrich. 
Special Operations: After extensive training funded by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík parachute into Czechoslovakia (the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) from a Handley Page Halifax on 28 December 1941. This is the start of Operation Anthropoid. There, the two men find a local priest, František Samek, who helps them to go into hiding for several months. Their mission is to assassinate the province's Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, the ruthless SS-Gruppenführer who is a key figure behind the "Final Solution" and who ruthlessly suppresses all dissent. December 28 is remembered every year in the village of Nahvizdy in central Bohemia for the arrival nearby of the two agents.

HMS Victorious, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Fairey Fulmars of 809 Squadron ranged on the flight deck for a squadron exercise." This photo was taken between 28 and 31 December 1941 apparently aboard HMS Victorious (© IWM (A 6968)). 
Australian/US Relations: The first of several Allied conferences takes place at RAAF Base Amberley Field southwest of Brisbane. This is a follow-up to Prime Minister John Curtin's New Year's Message released on 27 December 1941 in which he characterized the United States as his country's chief protector. The Australian and the United States militaries reach some formal agreements for the conduct of the war. These include building bases on a line between Brisbane and Darwin which contain refueling depots at Charleville, Cloncurry, Daly Waters, and Darwin. This is to provide for servicing of routine air traffic. In addition, Royal Australian Air Force pilots will train new US Army Air Force pilots for B-24 crews at Archerfield and for P-40 pilots at Amberley. The prescribed course will teach practice in night flying, dive bombing, and aerial gunnery. These Amberley Field conferences build a close working relationship between the Royal Australian Air Force and the USAAF throughout the war.

A US military wrecker, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A US military Diamond-T 969A 4 ton Wrecker, built to military specifications. This photo was taken on 28 December 1941.
US Military: Rather than use vulnerable civilian construction workers who now are being captured all across the Pacific Theater, the US Navy decides that it would be best to form a separate construction service. US Navy Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks Vice Admiral Ben Moreell places a formal request with the Bureau of Navigation for such units. This is the birth of the Naval Construction Battalion, more colloquially known as the Seabees for the acronym of its name.

New Zealand Military: The tiny New Zealand military has its 2nd Division fighting in Libya with great distinction. However, it now finds that it has few troops on hand to defend against a potential Japanese attack. There is little war industry on New Zealand and a complete lack of tanks, artillery, and other instruments of modern warfare. However, the time has come to start worrying about the homeland. The military begins raising three battalions and the New Zealand Navy recently has sent minesweeper HMNZS Gale to Fiji. More minesweepers are to be sent to Fiji to form a minesweeping flotilla. These can serve as troop-convoy escorts.

Burnham Camp in New Zealand, 28 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A group photo of No. 2 Platoon, D Company at Burnham Camp in New Zealand. This is the largest military base in New Zealand's South Island.
British Homefront: William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, delivers his typical English-language propaganda broadcast on behalf of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment from Hamburg, Germany. This broadcast is recorded and preserved. Joyce urges listeners to "Tell Roosevelt to keep his hands off the Royal Navy."


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

Thursday, March 28, 2019

December 27, 1941: Commandos Raid Norway

Saturday 27 December 1941

Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Commandos in action during the Operation Archery raid on Vaagso, 27 December 1941. © IWM (N 530).
Battle of the Pacific: While the Japanese have vague plans to use their submarines operating off of the west coast of the United States to shell cities, on 27 December 1941, they cancel those plans. Vice Admiral Shimizu Mitsumi, commander of the Advance Expeditionary Force (Sixth Fleet), decides that any gain would be minimal and simply invite retaliation. The submarines have been successful in generating widespread fear in California without loss, so some of the submarines are allowed to return to base to refuel and rearm. Today, I-25 spots 8684-ton US tanker Connecticut about ten nautical miles west of the mouth of the Columbia River (the boundary between the states of Oregon and Washington).

New Royal Navy fire-fighting gear being demonstrated, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
New Royal Navy fire-fighting equipment being demonstrated at Rosyth, 27 December 1941. Effective fire control was one of the secret reasons that the Allies saved so many ships during battles. © IWM (A 6660).
In the Philippines, the Japanese continue to consolidate their troops at the Agno River as it prepares an offensive to take Manila. With Manila declared an open city, US Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur works on preparing a redoubt in the Bataan Peninsula south of the city. The North Luzon Force, engaged in a delaying action, retreats to a line between Tarlac and Cabanatuan. In southern Luzon, the Japanese take Candelaria, brushing aside the Filipino 53rd Infantry Regiment. The US Navy sends half a dozen PBY Catalina flying boats (Squadron 101) to attack Japanese shipping off Jolo Island and the Pasig River, but achieve little. Japanese Nell and Betty bombers based on Formosa also are in operation, attacking Allied shipping in the Pasig River and Manila Bay. They hit some small Filipino customs cutters and motorboats and sink US freighters Ethel Edwards (395 tons) and Canlaon (667 tons in Manila Bay.

Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A wounded British officer being helped through the snow to a dressing station during the Vaagso Raid, Norway, 27 December 1941." © IWM (N 495).
In Singapore, the British shake up their command, replacing Commander-in-Chief of the British Far East Command Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham with Lieutenant General Henry Pownall. Brooke-Popham, the first RAF commander-in-chief of a joint command during a world conflict, returns to London for further assignments. The position of commander-in-chief is largely symbolic, as Royal Navy units and civil servants report through different chains of command. However, Operation Matador, the current defensive strategy on the Malay Peninsula, is Brooke-Popham's brainchild. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth troops dig in along the Pasig River, where some Americans scuttle their 1251-ton freighter Taurus.

With the Japanese now in possession of Hong Kong, US submarine Perch operates nearby and gets a little revenge. It torpedoes and sinks 7190-ton Japanese ammunition ship Nojima Maru southwest of the city.

Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British stretcher-bearers carry wounded during the raid on Vaagso on 27 December 1941. © IWM (N 456).
In Burma, the Japanese continue to occupy the southernmost portion of the country while the Allies squabble in Rangoon over the "Tulsa Incident." US General John Magruder is technically in charge of Lend-Lease shipments in Rangoon but has been outranked by naive newcomer Major General George Brett (Magruder, incidentally, later becomes a founder of the civilian Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the war). Magruder sends a detailed message to the War Department in D.C. explaining British attempts to divert Lend-Lease supplies intended for the Chinese that were brought to Burma by USS Tulsa (hence the name "Tulsa Incident"). This memo ultimately comes to Secretary of State Cordell Hull's attention. He personally sorts matters out by affirming that the supplies belong to the Chinese and not the British. Based on these assurances, Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek backs off from his threats to withdraw all Chinese troops from Burma and good relations are restored between the United States and China. However, Chiang remains furious with the British throughout the remainder of the war. The Tulsa Incident provides a huge opening wedge for United States influence in the region.

Indian soldier reading an ancient inscription in Cyrene, North Africa, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"An Indian soldier reading an inscription on a stone amongst ruins at Cyrene in the Western Desert, 27 December 1941" © IWM (E 7346).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Afrika Korps counterattacks on the Gazala Line. In a brilliant flanking maneuver, German panzers surprise the British 22nd Armored Brigade at El Haseia and destroy its tank force. This protects Ajdabiya and stabilizes the German position. However, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel does not follow this success up with further attacks. Instead, he authorizes a retreat to a defensive line anchored at El Agheila while he awaits supplies and reinforces from Tripoli.

Manila burning, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese bombing sets fire to Manila's Walled City, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines. Visible is San Juan de Dios Hospital (domed building). Santo Domingo Church is burned in this raid, leaving a roofless ruin (International News via Flickr).
Eastern Front: The weather remains bitterly cold on the Moscow Front, with temperatures hitting -15 °F during the daytime and -25 °F overnight. The snow also is a major problem, as indicated in the 27 December 1941 daily report from the Army Group Center journal:
All movement burdened by the enormous snowdrifts. Rail transport is stalled for the same reason, and the loss of locomotives due to freezing increases the problem. The shifting of the few, available reserves is stopped by the snow. For the above reasons, all time schedules are rendered meaningless. The Russians must contend with the same difficulties, but their mobile, well-equipped cavalry, ski, and sled units (the latter used to bring rations and fodder to the cavalry and to transport infantry) give them tactical advantages that, together with larger manpower reserves, they are now trying to exploit operationally.
It is often claimed that the weather is only said to have affected the Germans and not the Soviet troops. Contemporaneous accounts such as the above show that the Germans fully understand that the Red Army is laboring under the same constraints - they are just handling them better.

German patrol boat V-5102, sunk on 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German patrol boat V-5102, sunk by Royal Navy destroyers Offa and Chiddingfold as part of Operation Archery off Norway on 27 December 1941. Some sources place this sinking on 24 December.
The weather is not quite as extreme in the Crimea, but the Germans are under even greater pressure there. At 13:00, Lieutenant General Hans Graf von Sponeck's 42nd Army Corps mounts a counterattack against the Soviet landings made on 26 December near Kerch. The Red Army soldiers spot the Germans coming (the area is flat, treeless, and offers no cover) and deploy their three T-26 tanks and several infantry companies. The Germans knock out the tanks using an overworked 3.7 cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun which fires an epic 42 rounds, but the spirited Red Army response enables the Soviet troops to survive the night after they retreat into their bridgehead. The Germans hoped to eliminate the invading group today, but plan to attack again early on the 28th.

Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German prisoners (including Quislings) carry wounded on the island of Vaagso during the Command raid (Operation Archery) of 27 December 1941. © IWM (N 490).
Special Forces: British No. 3 Commando conducts Operation Archery, a raid on the island of Vågsøy (Vaagso), Norway. Following a shattering naval bombardment, 570 Commandos come ashore with plans to destroy the island's businesses. Unknown to the British, an experienced Gebirgsjäger (mountain rangers) unit is on leave on the island, and a bitter fight breaks out. The Commandos achieve their main objective, the destruction of four factories and military installations, but suffer 17 killed and 53 wounded. In addition, the Germans shoot down eight RAF aircraft. As the British withdraw, they take with them over 70 partisans and also some captured Quislings. Operation Archery is conducted in conjunction with Operation Anklet in the Lofoten Islands, which began on 26 December and concludes today. Operation Anklet proceeds virtually with no opposition, as opposed to the fierce fighting involved today in Operation Archery.

Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
On 27 December 1941, British troops embark onto HMS Prince Leopold after the raid on Vaagso.
The British withdraw all of their surviving forces from both Commando operations without incident and lose no ships, but it is a much sharper engagement than they were expecting. On the German side, Operations Anklet and Archery scare Adolf Hitler into committing heavy forces to Norway in the mistaken belief that the British intend to invade the country and not just conduct raids on it. This is considered a great German strategic error, as Norway remains over-garrisoned for the remainder of the war. There are many surviving fortifications along remote areas of the Norwegian coast to this day due to the effects of these raids.
Australian Prime Minister John Curtin, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Prime Minister John Curtin redefines his country's strategic orientation on 27 December 1941 (History Teachers’ Association of Victoria 2011 Conference) (note there is a typo in their quote). 
Australian/US Relations: Australian Prime Minister John Curtin releases his New Year's message (a little early) on 27 December 1941. Unlike one of his recent predecessors (and also eventual successors), Robert Menzies, who followed a distinctly Anglocentric policy, Curtin takes a different view. Curtin has a distinctly pragmatic (as opposed to a historical) view of where Australia's strategic future lies:
Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.
The United States already is organizing its defense of the southwest Pacific in Australia, and it remains very unclear if the Japanese will actually invade the country.

American Homefront: US citizens begin to feel the first pinches of deprivation. Rubber is needed for the war effort, so private automobile tire sales are restricted.

Commando raid on Vaagso, Norway, 27 December 1941 (worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Members of the Hearns Volunteer National Defense Corps spell the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor” at a rally held on 14th St. between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York City, 27 December 1941. (AP Photo).

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

December 26, 1941: Soviets Land in the Crimea

Friday 26 December 1941

Manila is declared an open city, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Manila, Philippines is declared an open city 26 Dec 1941 (US Army Center of Military History).
Eastern Front: Soviet troops from the Taman Peninsula land near Kerch on the Crimea early on 26 December 1941. The landings are difficult, both because of the weather conditions and local defenders. The 224th Rifle Division and 83rd Naval Infantry Brigade successfully land at Cape Khroni to the northeast of Kerch. Another battalion follows later in the day, bringing T-26 tanks and light artillery. Other landings are less successful, with an attempted 302nd Mountain Rifle Division landing at Kamysh Burun south of Kersh prevented by Wehrmacht troops of the 42nd Infantry Regiment (Colonel Ernst Maisel) firing down at them from high ground. In addition, an attempted landing at Etigen is wiped out by the German 2nd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment. Two successive landings at Stary Karantin are smashed by the German 1st Battalion (Major Karl Kraft) of the 42nd Infantry Division, but enough men get ashore to seize the docks at Kamysh Burun and establish a bridgehead.

German soldiers west of Moscow ca. 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German soldiers west of Moscow, December 1941 (original via Wikipedia and Creative Commons).
The Red Army troops have all sorts of difficulties, with some drowning, some of their whaleboats capsizing, and men freezing to death of hypothermia. However, there are no German troops nearby, so they manage to build a bridgehead. The Luftwaffe begins counter-attacking around 10:50 with He-111 medium bombers and Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, and they sink Soviet transport Voroshilov at Cape Tarhan and another ship off Cape Zyuk. About 450 men perish in the Voroshilov and 100 in the other ship. The Luftwaffe also sinks several Soviet ships off Kamysh Burun, enabling only 2175 out of 5200 Soviet troops to get ashore there.

Red Army troops retaking Naro Forminsk, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet troops retaking Naro-Fominsk southwest of Moscow ca. 26 December 1941.
Army Corps commander Lieutenant General Sponeck, in control in the Kerch Peninsula while General Erich von Manstein focuses the bulk of the 11th Army further west at Sevastopol, spends the day trying to figure out the Soviet objectives from the confused reports form the front. The German intelligence services extract information from a captured Soviet officer at Cape Khroni suggesting that the plan is to land 25,000 troops at Kerch. Lieutenant General Kurt Himer quickly orders troops east from the port of Feodosiya on the southern coast - leaving that port undefended. By the end of the day, the Germans feel they have enough troops in position to launch a counterattack against the northern landings and eliminate them while holding in the south. However, the German forces are a hodgepodge of infantry, artillery, and combat engineers who are being assigned tasks for which they are not prepared. The counterattack is scheduled for around midday on the 27th.

Seaplane tender USS Tangier, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Seaplane tender USS Tangier, which lands US Marines of the 4th Defense Battalion and their guns and equipment on Midway Island on 26 December 1941. Tangier had been sent to do the same at Wake Island, but the Japanese conquered Wake before Tangier could get there, so it was diverted. Included in this shipment are a 5-inch gun, twelve anti-aircraft machine guns, and radar equipment.
Battle of the Pacific: Mandatory evacuations of civilians from Hawaii begin on 26 December 1941. The first convoy load to the port of San Francisco is carried aboard the three Matson Liners (Lurline, Matsonia, and Monterey). The loading is frantic and the captain of the Lurline does not even know how many people are aboard until a count is made en route. Everybody is tense because there have been Japanese submarine attacks off the west coast and nobody knows where the Japanese fleet has gone since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Operation Anklet, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Operation Anklet, a British Commando raid on the Lofoten Islands, takes place on 26 December 1941. It is undertaken by 300 men of No. 12 Commando assisted by Norwegian Independent Company 1. The landings are supported by 22 ships and begin at 06:00. There is no German opposition when the Commandos arrive on the island of Moskenesøya, and the Commandos capture a small German garrison and some Norwegian Quislings at the radio station at Glåpen. The Commandos occupy the island for two days.  
In the Philippines, Lieutenant General Douglas MacArthur declares Manila an open city. The U.S. evacuation into the Bataan Peninsula is almost complete. The South Luzon Defense Force sets up a defensive line west of Sariaya. The Japanese send Nell and Betty bombers from Formosa to bomb shipping in Manila Bay, scoring a near miss on destroyer USS Peary. Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell, Commander of the Sixteenth Naval District and the Philippine Naval Coastal Frontier, establishes his headquarters on Corregidor Island while his troops burn patrol boat PT-33, which has been damaged by grounding.

Polish freighter Warszawa, sunk by U-559 on 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-559 torpedoes and sinks Polish 2487-ton Warszawa (shown) off Mersa Matruh, Egypt on 26 December 1941. There are 24 deaths and 453 survivors (mostly troops from Tobruk). The sinking is slightly unusual in that Warszawa is taken in tow after the first torpedo strike, but U-559 sees this and then pumps a second torpedo into it, sinking Warszawa. 
On the Malay Peninsula, the Commonwealth troops continue retreating south toward Singapore. While the Indian 12th Brigade Group delays the advancing Japanese at Chemor, the 11th Indian Division slips out of Ipoh just to the south. In London, Whitehall is aware of the deterioration of the British position and notifies General Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command, that it transferring four RAF fighter squadrons from the Middle East to the Far East - showing that the Japanese attack at least indirectly is helping the Germans in North Africa.

USS Tangier and other ships unloading supplies at Midway Island, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"USS Tangier (AV-8) (R) unloads supplies at Midway, 26 December 1941; USS RALPH TALBOT (DD-390) and USS BLUE (DD-387) are at left; TAMAHA (YN-440) is in the background, center. TANGIER had originally been earmarked for the Wake Island relief expedition." Naval History and Heritage Command.
On Borneo, the Japanese consolidate their position at Kuching. Dutch B-10s operating out of Samarinda attack Japanese shipping and sink a collier and a minesweeper. On land, the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment continues retreating into the interior.

HMS Triumph, which departed on its last patrol on 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Triumph (Lt. John Symons Huddart, RN). After sailing from Alexandria on 26 December 1941, Triumph lands a party on Antiparos Island and then goes on a patrol in the Aegean from which it does not return. It is surmised that Triumph hit an Italian mine and sank off Cape Sounion, Greece. 
The Tulsa Incident continues in Rangoon. US Army Air Force Major General George Brett, the senior United States officer in Burma, has control over all Lend-Lease affairs, though the War Department intends that more for negotiating purposes than for actual control over the material goods. With the Japanese advancing into Burma, Brett is determined to divert Lend-Lease supplies from their intended destination in China to the British. He is abetted in this by British determination to seize the supplies, and Governor Reginald Dorman-Smith considers the military situation to be grave enough to seize them. U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. Twitty, who actually is in charge of the Lend-Lease goods, also believes that the British need the supplies and that they cannot make it to China anyway. The British troops in Rangoon have moved all of the freighter Tulsa's cargo to a warehouse a dozen miles away from the docks even though technically they are "owned" by the Chinese. The Chinese are furious. The situation now has dragged on for over a week now and poses a growing threat to Allied relations. A Christmas day conference between representatives of the three governments turned explosive, with Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek threatening to withdraw all Chinese troops from Burma. Today, the Americans reassure Chiang Kai-shek that it is not the policy of the Americans to divert Lend-Lease goods while en route and they still are intended for China. This smooths things over for the moment, but the British remain committed to retaining the cargo.

Winston Churchill addressing the US Congress, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Winston Churchill addresses a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., on 26 December 1941 © IWM (A 7187).
Anglo/US Relations: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in Washington for the Arcadia Conference, addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress. He warns that "many disappointments and unpleasant surprises await us" and that the war will last at least another 18 months.

Construction of Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Robertson Stadium under construction in Houston on the campus of the University of Houston, 26 December 1941 (Photography by Elwood Payne, Construction by Fretz Construction Company).
American Homefront: Lieutenant General John DeWitt, Commanding General Fourth Army and Commanding General Western Defense Command, is encountering widespread sentiment in southern California to intern all Japanese-Americans. He tells the Provost General in Washington, D.C. that the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce now supports the move. However, DeWitt personally is against the move because he considers many citizens of Japanese descent to be loyal Americans.

Winston Churchill addressing Congress, 26 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Winston Churchill addressing Congress, 26 December 1941.

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