Tuesday, December 11, 2018

September 13, 1941: Zhukov at Leningrad

Saturday 13 September 1941

Zhukov 13 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Georgy Zhukov.
Eastern Front: Throughout World War II, the Germans learn certain "tells" about Soviet intentions. For instance, when Soviet units suddenly stop using their radios and "go dark" in a certain sector, that invariably means they are about to launch an offensive there. Every army has such tendencies, though some are more subtle than others.

The presence of General (later Marshal) Georgy Zhukov in a sector was such a "tell." Zhukov was a close Stalin confidante and the hero of, among other things, the victory over the Japanese at Khalkin Gol in Manchukuo/Mongolia in August 1939. Whether or not Zhukov was a military genius, which he apparently was, he had Stalin's absolute backing and could count on whatever resources he required to achieve his ends. For the Germans, it was an ominous indication that the Soviets placed great importance on whatever was planned for that area.

TBD-1 Devastators, 13 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U.S. Navy Douglas TBD-1 Devastator aircraft of Torpedo Squadron 5 (VT-5) parked at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia (USA), on 13 September 1941. Beyond them are Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless planes of Bombing Squadron 5 (VB-5), with Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters and Vought SB2U Vindicator scout bombers further in the left background. These aircraft are from USS Yorktown (CV-5) (Official U.S. Navy photo 80-CF-55215-7 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command, US National Archives).
On 13 September 1941, Zhukhov flies into besieged Leningrad along with Major-Generals Ivan Ivanovich Fediuninsky and Mikhail Semenovich Khozin. As soon as he steps off the plane, Zhukov walks over to Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, himself one of the top Soviet commanders, and hands him a note from Stalin. It names Zhukov as Voroshilov's replacement:
Hand over the Front to him and come back by the same plane. Stalin.
And that was it. Zhukov was in command at Leningrad.

For the garrison of Leningrad, Zhukov arrives like the first icy winds of winter. He institutes the death penalty for dereliction of duty, orders immediate costly but effective counterattacks, and brings the scattered military and civilian forces available for the defense under a tight grip.

Zhukov sends General Fedyuninsky to the headquarters of 42nd Army. Fedyuninsky finds General Ivanov, commander of the army, "sitting with his head in his hands, unable to even point out the location of his troops." Fedyuninsky reports this to Zhukov, who replies, "Take over the 42nd Army - and quick."

German Diver at Tallinn, 13 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A German diver getting into the water to clear water from the harbor at Reval (Tallinn), the capital of Estonia (Dumm, Federal Archives Bild 146-2004-225).
Meanwhile, the Germans are still pressing in on Leningrad. Army Group North commander Field Marshal von Leeb is under orders to sends his panzer divisions south for the attack on Moscow, but he uses them today to tighten the grip on Leningrad. General George-Hans Reinhardt’s XLI corps (1st and 6th Panzer and 36th Motorized Divisions) and General Wilhelm von Chappius' 38th Army Corps (1st, 58th, 254th, and 291st Infantry Divisions) break through the Soviet line north of Krasnoe Sela. L Army Corps takes Krasnogvardiesk in conjunction with Reinhardt's troops.

While von Leeb does advance a bit closer to Leningrad, this does not really accomplish much. He has been ordered to blockade the city, not take it, and he already has done that. Von Leeb already is under orders to relinquish the panzers and send them south for the drive on Moscow. Small gains on the city's outskirts mean little. Using the armor in fierce attacks causes losses and wear and tear, and the panzers are already in bad shape after having had little downtime since Operation Barbarossa began on 22 June 1941. Thus, for no real benefit, von Leeb impairs the effectiveness of armor that might make a difference in the advance planned toward Moscow. This is typical behavior for the German generals, who tend to focus on their own army's affairs at the expense of the greater good of the German war effort.

Battle of the Baltic: Finnish capital ship Ilmarinen, participating in Operation Nordwind, hits a mine and sinks. There are 271 casualties or 7% of the entire Finnish naval arm. It is the costliest loss in the history of the Finnish Navy.

German Military: Luftwaffe ace Werner Mölders marries Luise Baldauf.

Wedding ceremony of Werner Mölders and Luise Baldauf, 13 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The wedding ceremony of Werner Mölders and Luise Baldauf. This is her second marriage, and she will give birth to their daughter Verena following his death in November. Luise passed away on 21 April 2011.

2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

September 12, 1941: Starve Leningrad!

Friday 12 September 1941

Napoleon versus Hitler cartoon 12 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
It is not exactly a secret to anyone that another former Corporal once tried to invade Russia. On 12 September 1941, the British papers publish an irreverent little visual that mimics a famous illustration (or pictograph) of Napoleon's drive into Russia. This time, however, it notes that Hitler "falls behind in the stretch" as he approaches Moscow - which Napoleon actually captured. There's actually more than a little truth in this cartoon.
Eastern Front: For the first time in the war on 12 September 1941, the Germans must prioritize their operations in a way that affects overall strategy. To date, priorities have been set but with the belief that everything can be accomplished given enough time. However, regarding Leningrad, decisions are made today that will have a lasting impact.

The day starts off well in Army Group North. The Luftwaffe has spent the last couple of days softening up the Leningrad defenses, and a morning attack by 1 Panzer Division (Lieutenant General Friedrich Kirchner) makes good progress. The panzers advance through Krasnoe Selo and are only stopped at the southwestern suburb of Pulkovo. Prospects for an advance into the built-up areas of Leningrad look good. With no chance of effective resupply by the Soviets, the city should fall without too much trouble.

Soviet soldiers surrendering on 12 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet troops surrender to the Germans, 12 September 1941.
However, as he has begun to do more frequently, Adolf Hitler intervenes. He abruptly halts the attack and orders the panzers and other armored vehicles and VIII Air Corps south toward Moscow. This is in accordance with his recent Fuehrer Directive calling for an offensive against Moscow, but it still comes as a shock to the Army Group. Hitler announces:
Leningrad will be starved into submission.
And, just like that, the attack on Leningrad is over.

Field Marshal von Leeb is furious. He telephones OKH Chief of Staff General Franz Halder and insists "vehemently" that he be allowed to capture Leningrad. Halder lamely notes in his daily war diary:
Of course, we shall always give him the means to bring his operation to a successful close, but the build-up for the new operation in Center must have priority.
There actually is no "of course" about it. Everyone knows that once sent away, armored troops are a long time coming back, especially from an operation on Moscow that is sure to draw rabid Soviet defensive fighting.

Colonel-General Eugene Ritter von Schobert last flight 12 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Colonel-General Eugene Ritter von Schobert and his pilot (to the left) before their last flight on 12 September 1941. Schobert, commander of the 11th Army, and his pilot perished when this Fieseler Storch observation plane crashed in a Soviet minefield.
As to whether Leningrad actually will starve, that is not at all far-fetched. Today, the Soviets cut the daily bread ration in Leningrad to 500 grams for manual workers and 300 grams for office workers and children under 12. That is not nearly enough to live on, but it may be more than the authorities actually can provide.

In the Army Group Center sector, General Guderian's Panzer Group 2 continues its breakout from the Desna River and drives further south to Kiev. The Soviets evacuate Chernigov, just north of Kiev, in the face of Guderian's onslaught.

In the Army Group South sector, General von Kleist also continues his drive east of Kiev from Kremenchug in the south. The Romanians also renew their attack on Odessa, where they have been stalled for several weeks.

There is one glimmer of hope for the Soviets. Unexpectedly, a light snow falls across much of the front. The panzer crews, frustrated by the mud created as the snow melts, break off their attacks.

Colonel-General Eugene Ritter von Schobert last flight 12 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Schobert and his pilot prepare to fly off to their fate, 12 September 1941.

2018

September 11, 1941: Convoy SC-42 Destruction

Thursday 11 September 1941

Lindbergh America First speech, 11 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Charles Lindbergh gives a speech for the America First Committee in Des Moines, Iowa, 11 September 1941.
Eastern Front: In a curt, don't-bother-me-again reply to General Kirponos' 10 September 1941 request to withdraw from Kiev, Joseph Stalin personally responds:
Do not abandon Kiev and do not blow up the bridges without Stavka permission.
The Soviet troops stay put even as the German panzers continue driving toward each other to the east to close an encirclement.

Battle of the Atlantic: On 11 September 1941, Kriegsmarine Wolfpack Markgraf, composed of 14 U-boats in a picket line, confronts Convoy SC-42 in the North Atlantic 100 miles southeast of Greenland. The convoy departed from Nova Scotia on 30 August 1941 bound for Liverpool.

It is a wild affair, with ships sinking all around, some on fire, and men in the water and in lifeboats. The action is confused and so are the historical records, with different sources identify different ships sunk on different days. However, it is confirmed across all sources that September 10 and September 11, 1941, are horrendous days for Convoy SC-42.

U-82 (Kptlt. Siegfried Rollmann), on its first patrol out of Trondheim, is in the thick of it. It sank 7,465-ton British freighter Empire Hudson on the 10th, and today sinks three ships and seriously damages a fourth in quick succession just after midnight:
  • 7519-ton British freighter Bulysses
  • 3915-ton British freighter Gypsum Queen
  • 1999-ton Swiss freighter Scania (damaged)
  • 5463-ton British freighter Empire Crossbill
However, that is not the only punishment that the Wolfpack inflicts today.

Swedish freighter SS Garm, sunk on 11 September 1941 by U-432 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Swedish freighter SS Garm, sunk on 11 September 1941 by U-432. There are six deaths from a crew of 20.
Three other U-boats get in on the action:
  • U-432 (Kptlt. Heinz-Otto Schultze) sinks 1231-ton Swedish freighter Garm
  • U-207 (Oberleutnant zur See Fritz Meyer.) sinks British freighters 4924-ton Berury and 4803-ton Stonepool
U-207's crew does not have very long to celebrate its two kills. Convoy escorts HMS Leamington and Veteran launch depth charges and sink U-207. There are no survivors among the 41-man crew.

To add to the devastation, U-105 (Kapitänleutnant Georg Schewe) finds a convoy straggler 1549-ton Panamanian-flagged freighter Montana (a Panamanian flag generally indicates that it is a United States ship).

To date, Convoy SC-42 has lost 15 of its 65 ships. It still has a long way to Liverpool, too. However, as reinforcements the Admiralty sends naval trawler Buttermere and Flower-class corvettes HMCS Wetaskiwin, HMCS Mimosa, and HMS Gladiolus from convoy HX 147 and the 2nd Escort Group consisting of the Admiralty type flotilla leader HMS Douglas (Commander WE Banks senior officer), the Town-class destroyer HMS Leamington, the V and W-class destroyer HMS Veteran and S-class destroyers HMS Skate and HMS Saladin. This armada guards Convoy SC-42 the rest of the way but SC-42 will lose yet another ship on the way to its destination.

A barrage balloon station in England, 11 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A barrage balloon station in England garrisoned by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (AP Photo).
POWs: The commandant of Stalag 318 (later Stalag VIII-F and known as the "Russian Camp"), Colonel Falkenberg, notes on September 11, 1941:
These cursed Untermenschen [sub-humans] have been observed eating grass, flowers and raw potatoes. Once they can’t find anything edible in the camp they turn to cannibalism.
Hermann Goering hears of this comment and retells it, with some embellishments, often at parties.

Japanese Military: Emperor Hirohito takes personal command of the Japanese Imperial Army. This is merely a ceremonial command, but some analysts in the United States wrongly interpret this as a peaceful gesture.

Admiral Yamamoto and his staff continue planning the attack on Pearl Harbor as he begins ten days of meetings with the Imperial Japanese Navy's General Staff. The Japanese Combined Fleet conducts a training exercise in the North Pacific.

US Military: The ground-breaking ceremonies for the Pentagon building take place in Arlington, Virginia on a patch of farmland. It will take two years to build at a cost of $83 million. The Pentagon is planned to consolidate 17 War Department buildings into one complex. It has been ordered by Brig. Gen. Brehon B. Sommervell.

FDR giving a radio speech, 11 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
President Roosevelt with Microphones, September 11, 1941 (NARA).
American Homefront: President Roosevelt gives a Fireside Chat on the sinking by a U-boat of USS Greer, a US Navy destroyer sunk near Greenland on 4 September 1941. The Germans claim that the Greer shot first and the U-boat reacted in self-defense. Roosevelt calls the incident an "outrageous" incident of "piracy" and recites a list of other grievances at sea against the Germans. FDR gives U.S. convoy escorts the right to fire at submarines on sight. He cautions, however, against overreacting to these "acts of international lawlessness."
We have sought no shooting war with Hitler, we do not seek it now.
Roosevelt vows to keep open the seas "no matter what it costs" and likens U-boats to rattlesnakes.

At an American First Committee rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Charles Lindbergh accuses President Roosevelt and his administration of engaging "subterfuge" and using "dictatorial powers" to push his "war party" toward war. His most controversial remark, however, follows:
The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.
This remark and others during the speech are similar to public statements of Adolf Hitler.

Vizeadmiral Johannes Bachmann 11 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Vizeadmiral Johannes Bachmann (KIA April 1945) inspects Schiermonnikoog 'Vredenhof' Cemetery in the Dutch Frisian Islands, 11 September 1941. 



2018

September 10, 1941: Guderian Busts Loose

Wednesday 10 September 1941

German soldiers in Norway 10 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German soldiers at Brårudåsen Fort in Horten, Norway (on the coast south of Oslo) on 10 September 1941. This is now a historical landmark. Notice how they put the biggest guy in the unit right behind the officers, he seems kind of amused by it. Norway is a backwater area suitable for training purposes by the Wehrmacht throughout World War II. However, there are some labor troubles there which require the imposition of martial law on 10 September 1941.
Eastern Front: General Guderian's Panzer Group 2 has been diverted from the road to Moscow in order to encircle Kiev. However, as of 10 September 1941, for the past week or so the panzers have been stalled on the Desna River while beating off furious Soviet attacks on its eastern flank. This has led to a furious Hitler row and the Fuehrer's meddling in Guderian's troop dispositions, which Hitler believed too far to the east.

Today, Guderian's armor shakes off the Russian attacks and breaks loose to the southeast again. His forces take Konotop, cutting the main road from Kiev to the east. Even further south, General Walter Model's 3rd Panzer Division of XXIV Army Corps (motorized) takes Romny. The grand plan is starting to come together

Central Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, 10 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Central Theater opens in Passaic, New Jersey on 10 September 1941. This becomes a favorite venue for top performers such as Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, Jerry Lewis, the Three Stooges, and Sammy Kaye, among countless others. This was where Glenn Miller gave his farewell performances on 24-27 September 1942. Notice the pronounced art deco influence. The Central Theater was torn down in 1978 and replaced by a McDonald's, which still stands there.
OKH Chief of Staff General Franz Halder notes this sudden success with puzzlement in his war diary:
Curiously, there are no attacks against [Guderian's] east flank. Perhaps this has something to do with the extensive railroad demolitions by our air efforts. On the defensive front, the danger zones west of Bryansk and east of Smolensk stand out as never before, but temporarily at least there is a lull in the attacks Nevertheless, resumption of the attacks must be imminent in view of the railroad movements from Moscow or Tula to Bryansk, and of the very heavy motorized movement toward Smolensk.
Today is usually marked as the end of the battle of Smolensk. Operation Barbarossa was supposed to go like this all along, so Halder's skepticism is a sign of how different the reality has been.

This sudden fortuitous change in events seems to confirm Hitler's recent interference in Guderian's dispositions, which adds to his growing confidence in his own military judgment. These affirmations of Hitler's amateurish interference have long-term consequences.

Not only is Guderian suddenly breaking out, but there are good signs for the Wehrmacht elsewhere as well. A couple of hundred miles to the south, General Ewald von Kleist's Panzer Group 1 also breaks out from its bridgehead across the Dneipr at Kremenchug. Soviet 38th Army counterattacks Kleist's panzers ineffectively.

A quick glance at the map shows the extreme peril of the massive Soviet troop concentration holding Kiev that is led by Marshal Budyenny. Hard-pressed by German Sixth Army's frontal assault, the Soviets holding the city now face encirclement a hundred miles to the east. This area of Ukraine is an excellent tank area for tank movements, with flat plains and relatively few waterways. While Kleist's and Guderian's panzers are far apart on the map, they theoretically could meet within only a few days. The noose around Kiev is tightening, and all of the military professionals on both sides can see it.

Junkers Ju-88 downed in the Suez Canal 10 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"RAF officers inspect the wreckage of a Junkers Ju 88 lying in the waters of the Suez Canal after being shot down by an RAF night fighter near Kantara on the night of 9/10 September 1941." (© IWM (CM 1309)).
Soviet Colonel-General Mikhail Petrovich Kirponos, in command of the Southwestern Front at Kiev, urges the Stavka to take precautions as diplomatically as he can. Instead of asking for himself, he simply "relays the concerns of others," a standard tactic when one knows the request is likely to be denied:
The enemy tank group has penetrated to Romny and Gaivoron. The 21st and 40th Armies are not able to liquidate this group. They request that forces be immediately transferred from the Kiev Fortified Region to the path of the enemy advance and a general withdrawal of front forces.
Kirponos has a good grasp of the situation and is a competent commander. Among other things, he took the prospects of a German invasion seriously on the eve of Operation Barbarossa and managed to keep his forces in better shape than other frontier commanders. However, in Moscow, Kirponos, despite his proven success, is seen as a bit of a weak figure, someone without the true offensive spirit. That Kirponos urges a tactical focus on the defensive again is seen as just another sign of his lack of intestinal fortitude. The Stavka ignores him.

Soviet soldiers in the Ukraine 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet troops under artillery fire in western Ukraine, 1941.
In any event, overall Southwestern Direction Commander Marshal Budyenny already has requested permission to withdraw from Kiev, and that request has been denied. Stalin has told Budyenny to keep his forces where they are no matter what happens. This defies tactical logic but at this point in the war, Stalin is simply playing for time. Stalin needs to prolong the situation in the south at all costs because, otherwise, the situation in the north will deteriorate faster. He is awaiting lend-lease shipments, and the weather won't stay nice forever. Stalin's forces have to continue to hold out for weeks for his delaying tactics to work, but the Germans will decide if that happens more than Stalin will.

Norway: The German occupation government declares martial law in Oslo today due to a labor strike by shipyard workers. The workers were upset that their milk rations were ended. This was the famous "Milk Strike." The authorities arrest five labor activists and shoot two of them, lawyer and Communist Viggo Hansteen and labor activist Rolf Wickstrom. There is a monumental joint tombstone and memorial to them in Oslo.

SS Winterswijk, torpedoed and sunk by U-432 on 10 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dutch 3205-ton freighter SS Winterswijk was torpedoed and sunk off southern Greenland on 10 September 1941 by U 432 under the command of Kptlt. Heinz-Otto Schultze. The Winterswijk had served briefly as USS Winterswijk for the US Navy in 1918.

2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

September 9, 1941: Germans Attack Leningrad

Tuesday 9 September 1941

Look magazine 9 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The September 9, 1941 Look magazine features an article entitled, "Why we will fight Japan - soon" by Hallett Abend.
Eastern Front: After weeks of gradually closing the vise on Leningrad, on 9 September 1941 the Germans begin their assault on the second city of Russia. Two Soviet battleships, "October Revolution" and "Marat," open fire on the Wehrmacht with their main guns. The ships are immobile because their non-gunnery crews have been drafted for the ground defense of the city. The German panzers are still about ten miles outside of the city proper, but they have cut off all land escape routes and the only way in or out for the defenders is by air or over Lake Ladoga.

The Luftwaffe mounts a major raid to soften the city up, a typical tactic for the Germans which they will follow again almost exactly a year from now at Stalingrad. Junkers Ju-87 Stukas of StG 2, accompanied by Bf 109 fighters of elite squadron JG 54, concentrate on the Soviet Baltic fleet parked at Kronstadt and Leningrad Harbor. Things go badly quickly for the Luftwaffe, as 43-ace Oblt. Hubert Mütherich, Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 54, perishes when his badly damaged Bf 109 somersaults upon landing. The Red Air Force is not much of a problem, but Soviet anti-aircraft fire over cities is deadly.

KV-1 tank burning on Finnish front, 9 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Finnish soldier watches a Soviet KV-1E burn at Jessoila (Essoila or D´essoilu), Ladogan Karelia. This particular KV-1 had been terrorizing this portion of the front for a week. It finally hit two mines and was stopped - the Soviet crew abandoned it and set it on fire. When the Finns went to push it off the road with a bulldozer the bulldozer hit a mine, too. The KV-1 was the fiercest tank on the battlefield in 1941, its main drawbacks being that it was slow and had few close-arms defenses. September 9, 1941 (colorized, SA-Kuva).
The vise on Leningrad is closing to the north of the city, too. Finnish troops reach of outermost ring defenses of Leningrad and stop according to their orders from Marshal Mannerheim. The Germans desperately want the Finns to put pressure on the Soviets from the north, but Mannerheim refuses. He views the Continuation War as one of recovery of lost territories, not conquest. The Finns dig trenches and at most let loose a few perfunctory artillery salvos to satisfy their German co-belligerents.

The Finns also advance far to the north, above Lake Ladoga. This is a far less critical sector for the Soviets, so they do not waste many units in this area. While the Finns form a very fierce and effective fighting force, the men are very leery of antagonizing the Soviet Union even at its time of greatest distress. The men in this sector grudgingly cross the old border in this area by rationalizing that a line further east would be shorter and be more defensible. The only question here is where to stop, everyone knows that Finnish troops are not heading to Moscow.

Camp Chaffee 9 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
On September 9, 1941, construction started on Camp Chaffee in western Arkansas. The first soldiers arrive on 7 December 1941 - a fateful day - and it becomes a POW camp for German prisoners from 1943-1946.
This is a moment of great peril for the Soviet Union. Leningrad is now at hazard, and far to the south Marshal Budyenny also makes his first request to evacuate Kiev today. A quick German capture of Kiev would allow General Guderian to take his Panzer Group 2, now on the way south toward Kiev, back toward Moscow. This would enable the Wehrmacht to assault Moscow according to the timetable that he set out in his Fuehrer Directive issued just yesterday. It is not inconceivable that successes now would enable the Germans to bag all three major Soviet cities - Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev - and force some kind of adverse settlement on the Soviets.

So, a collapse of Red Army morale right now would be fatal. However, Marshal Budyenny's sole qualification as a general is that he does exactly what Stalin wants. Since Stalin wants him to stay in Kiev, Budyenny stays in Kiev regardless of the hopelessness of defending it against the German 6th Army. For his part, Stalin, whether consciously or not, is following the dictate of Czar Alexander I during the Napoleonic Wars of trading space for time. The bottom line is that everyone keeps fighting, the Germans are stopped, and men on both sides keep dying.

Evening Star 9 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Washington, D.C. September 9, 1941 edition of the Evening Star claims that the Soviets are pursuing the Germans, which is true in the Army Group Center but far from the truth everywhere else. The front page shows a caricature of Hitler looking at a picture of smoking ruins and exclaiming, "According to plan." 

2018

Saturday, December 8, 2018

September 8, 1941: Leningrad Cut Off

Monday 8 September 1941

Life magazine 8 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ann Teal, a model, appears on the cover of the 8 September 1941 issue of Life magazine. She is the face of a feature entitled "College Girl's Pigtails." Miss Teal served in the U.S. Navy during World War II with the rank of ensign. She was a communications decoder in Naval Operations at the War Department in Washington, D.C. A longtime resident of New Canaan, Connecticut, Ann Teal married Charles Bradley and became Ann Teal Bradley. She passed away on 20 February 2013.

Eastern Front: On 8 September 1941, the Wehrmacht's Army Group North captures the small town of Schlusselberg on the shores of Lake Ladoga. Leningrad is now cut off from all land communication from the south, while Finnish troops on the Karelian Isthmus blocks all communications from the north. Really, though, the siege began when the Germans cut the last rail line in late August at Mga. The besieged city's only source of supply from this point forward is by ferry across Lake Ladoga. This begins the "900 days" of Leningrad's siege.

There are 2,950,000 civilians, including many women and children who have crowded into the city as refugees, and 450,000 soldiers/sailors left in Leningrad. The Wehrmacht is within ten miles of the city to the south, with 1st Panzer Division (Lieutenant General Friedrich Kirchner) advancing up the left bank of the Neva River and 6th Panzer Division (Major General Franz Landgraf) following the railway line embankment on the Moscow line. Soviet militia forces (Opolchenye) man the line and there is artillery support from navy ships in Leningrad Harbor and Kronstadt Naval Base on Kotlin Island, but those are targets for constant Luftwaffe attacks.

Hitler has a choice to make. Does he attack Leningrad, or invest it through the winter and await a capitulation or starvation? He is inclined to wait it out despite the wishes of the commander of Army Group North, Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb, to seize it quickly. The decision is complicated by the outright refusal of Marshal Mannerheim to use Finnish forces in an attack on Leningrad. Hitler ultimately decides to wait it out and use artillery to soften up the Leningrad defenses because he has more pressing places to use his troops and armor.

Newsweek Adolf Hitler 8 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Newsweek of 8 September 1941 features Adolf Hitler on the cover enjoying his "flaming war."

2018

September 7, 1941: Hitler Orders Drive on Moscow

Sunday 7 September 1941

National Day of Prayer 7 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The Commander in Chief Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Percy Noble, KCB, CVO, taking the salute during the march past at the conclusion of the Parade Service at a home port." Day of National Prayer, 7 September 1941 (© IWM (A 5312)).

Eastern Front: One of the continuing problems besetting the Germans during Operation Barbarossa had nothing to do with the Red Army. It was a perpetual lack of focus and direction. On 7 September 1941, Adolf Hitler tries to resolve the ambiguity once and for all with Führer Directive 35.

Directive No. 35 provides that the Soviet forces standing in front of Moscow "must be defeated and annihilated in the limited time which remains before the onset of winter weather." The Directive is extremely detailed in terms of unit movements, specifying not only the units to be used for specific purposes but the days on which they are to attack.

The Directive provides that an attack toward Moscow is to begin "at the earliest possible moment (end of September)." A general pincer movement past Smolensk "in the general direction of Vyazma" is to destroy the Soviets' "Army Group Timoshenko." Once that is done, Army Group Center can then "begin the advance on Moscow with its right flank on the Oka River and its left on the Upper Volga River."

Yellow Star of David badge 7 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Yellow Star of David must be worn by all Jews over the age of six within the Reich (7 September 1941 NY Times).

The important thing about Directive No. 35 is that it finally, though belatedly, officially recognizes Moscow as an important Wehrmacht objective. This is cheering to Field Marshal von Bock at Army Group Center and many other generals who feel that Moscow is the key to the entire campaign. They felt that Moscow was the obvious objective for the campaign and should have been the priority from the beginning. The remaining question is whether there is enough time before blizzards begin to reach the Soviet capital.

The main issue with Directive No. 35 which makes it somewhat problematic is that by its own terms an advance on Moscow depends upon first destroying the Soviet forces in front of that city. On 7 September 1941, the Red Army is actually advancing west through Yelnya and is hardly defeated. The Soviets will have something to say about when and how Moscow is attacked.

In any event, Directive No. 35 is well-reasoned and tactically sound despite its limitations. It is one of the few Hitler Directives which will be carried out almost exactly as stated under the codename "Operation Typhoon." However, the eventual outcome may not be as the Germans wish.

Lieutenant Colonel Hans von Ahlfen and other officers in the Ukraine, 7 September 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Lieutenant Colonel Hans von Ahlfen and other German officers conversing in the Ukraine near Kremenchug, 7 September 1941 (Federal Archive B 145 image-F016205-25).

2018